Quote for the day: "God, you've got a job on your hands in Detroit." Billy Sunday, famed evangelist during his month-long revival in Detroit in 1916.
The book is a wonderful tribute to a man who fans worshipped for his accomplishments on the ice and interaction with them off the ice. But only a few close friends and his family knew the extraordinary family man and humanitarian giant he was in private life. Murray idolized his father, and held him in awe. He wanted to be just like his dad and for a long time that meant trying to be a NHL hockey player. It took years for Murray to realize what he really wanted to be was as great a father as Gordie and that the best hockey player in the world was an even better person off the ice.
Murray reveals that his father probably suffered from dyslexia and was teased unmercifully in grade school whenever he was called on to read out load. Gordie seemed to channel that embarrassment into hours and hours of skating on western Canadian ponds and rivers. He also never forgot being bullied and woe to the player on the opposing team who picked on Gordie's teammates.
Both Gordie and his wife, Colleen set sterling examples of behavior for their children, and backed up their parental role models with talks on personal conduct and behavior. Murray was often at his side as Gordie treated every fan as a friend. He always had time for the public and he treated every person he talked to as, at that moment, the most important person in the world. Gordie was always more interested in a person's character than their financial standing. He often told his son that, "It doesn't cost anything to be nice to someone."
Gordie and Colleen constantly stressed humility and the couple avoided anything and anyplace that even hinted at elitism or exclusivity. Whenever Gordie was lavished with praise he always told Murray, "you're only as good as your next game." During a game at the old Olympia Murray was in the arena's gloomy, nether regions playing floor hockey with some kids when he bragged that his father was Gordie Howe. No one believed him, so he bet each kid a buck Gordie was his dad, and the rag-tag bunch of boys followed him up to where his mother was sitting. He told Colleen that the boys didn't believe he was Gordie Howe's son and asked mom to set them straight. In so many words she said, "I don't know who you are young man, but if you don't leave me alone I'm calling the police."
Murray and the rest of the family knew Gordie's joy and sense of purpose came from serving everyone around him. Murray says "He absorbed their happiness, multiplied it, and reflected it right back at them." Murray would always take Gordie on his errands and on a visit to a grocery store they were walking to the car when Gordie spotted a kid struggling to push a long cart train back to the store. The 87-year-old hurried over and inserted himself between the kid and the last cart, and pushed the carts back to the store while the somewhat embarrassed young man trailed behind. Murray rushed over, and told the kid who the guy was who just stepped into his job. The young man was ecstatic with joy that Gordie Howe had just given him a hand. The cart corraler pulled out his cell phone and took several selfies with a smiling Gordie Howe draping an arm around the kid's shoulder.
The book is filled with memorable stories, many touching, and most of them funny. Gordie set the perfect example of savoring every day and enjoying it to the fullest, never taking himself seriously, and being unbelievably humble. Gordie and Colleen were once sharing a ride with SNL star Mike Myers and his girlfriend. Mike was mortally embarrassed when the girlfriend turned to Gordie and asked what he did for a living. Gordie laughed and said he was a golf caddie. Murray writes that money meant little or nothing to Gordie, "his time, talent and treasures belonged to the world, not to him."
Simply put, this is a celebration of a man loved by his family and millions of fans for both his talent and his character. And now that he is gone there is no better example of that character than the son who loved him dearly and wrote this wonderful book.
Nine Lessons I Learned from My Father by Murrary Howe. Viking, 2017, $24.95
Digger and Wayne, two Yoopers and best friends, get summer jobs in the lower forty-eight’s least visited national park. Instead of waiting one day and traveling to the island on the national park’s Ranger III, a 165-foot ship, the two fools left a day early and made the 50-mile crossing of Lake Superior in a 14-foot aluminum boat. It almost resulted in their deaths, from ice, fog, and hypothermia. The author admits he did cross Superior in a small aluminum boat and nearly died doing it.
A Yooper’s Summer on Isle Royale by Dan Kemp. IUniverse, 2013, $23.95.
The authors present a short introduction to each section of the book and identify and provide background information for each photograph. Chapters include Wildfires, Floods, Severe Weather, Snowstorms, Shipwrecks, and an entire chapter on the U. P's. greatest snowstorm know as "The Storm of 1938." Photos of ten-foot high drifts, lakeside houses coated with 8-inches of ice, and towns literally buried in snow are not just interesting but addictive.
The book also serves as a photographic record of Lake Superior's worst sailing season 1913, the historic Washington Day Blizzard of 1922, and the destruction of Ontonagon by fire in 1896. The fire destroyed 344 buildings, including the Diamond Match Co., leaving some 2,000 people homeless. The book is also a record of the"stylish" swim wear and winter outerwear of a hundred years ago
There are too many striking photos to count or even book mark so the reader, or at least this one, kept returning to the book day after day, fascinated by photos of snow removal from city streets by horses, wagons, and snow shovel wielding men and boys. I was especially struck by a photo of dozens of Great Lakes freighters frozen in ice off Whitefish Point in late spring. Even more powerful were the many photos of both sailing ships and ore carriers tossed on Lake Superior's shore like crumpled tin cans.
The many photos add up an intimate look at the U.P. and how its people faced the worst nature had to throw at them. And to just add balance, the authors include photos of pre World War I U.P. bathing beauties trying to escape extraordinary 100 degree temperatures in Marquette.
Everybody talks about the weather, some even get paid to talk about it, but Karl and Jack went a step further and created a book on the subject. The result is yet another unique and always interesting book that once again proves Michigan's Upper Peninsula is a world unto itself. The book will always remain in easy reach of my desk so it can be taken down and browsed through whenever I get tired of a Davison, Michigan winter.
Sunburns to Snowstorms: Upper Michigan Weather in Pictures & Stories by Karl Bohnak & Jack Deo. Cold Sky Publishing, 2017, $28,30.
Mission Point Press of Traverse City, MI, (the town was hit by the storm) asked those who were caught in the grip of the storm to write about their experiences and share their photographs. Seventy photographers sent in pictures. Campbell explains clearly and concisely the origin of the storm and presents a brief narrative of its destructive path across Benzie, Grand Traverse, and Antrim counties. Each chapter recounts the storm's assault on a specific town, or location with a short page or two of narrative followed by a stunning collection of photographs of the storms impact or approach. Scattered throughout the photographs are quotes by those who witnessed the storm.
The book contains many arresting photographs of monstrously ominous clouds that seem to herald the approach of Hell. They are called bow echo clouds and are considered rare in Michigan. This reviewer can't ever remember seeing one and they are not something one would easily forget. The record of destruction is impressive and miraculously no one died.
The book is also a record of how the towns and neighborhoods responded to the storm and tells of neighbors and strangers who came together to clean up and rebuild their homes and communities. Storm Struck is a great example of how small publishers can be so important in helping record the history of regional or localized events within the state.
Storm Struck by Robert Campbell. Mission Point Press, 2015, $21.48 pb.