Monday, January 22, 2024

 Post # 92  January 22, 2024

Quote for the Day: The Keweenaw Peninsula is, "... a mere thumb of land poked like a testing finger into the cold, blue waters of Lake Superior. is as scenically -- and historically -- exciting as any spot in the United States. Angus Murdock. Boom Copper. 1943.


Mysterious Michigan: The Lonely Ghost of Minnie Quay, The Marvelous Manifestations of Farmer Riley, The Devil in Detroit and more by Amberrose Hammond

The word mysterious in the title of this consistently fascinating book covers a lot of ground. Peculiar, haunting, paranormal, unexplainable, incomprehensible, and just plain weird all fit nicely. Many of the stories deal with ghosts and the fascination of communicating with the dead, which the author explains grew in popularity with the birth of the Spiritual movement in the 1840s. Grand Rapids was an early hot bed of spiritualism and crackpot mediums. One of which talked a widow into giving  much of her wealth to her medium because she would soon be meeting her husband. The medium failed to explain it would be by way of poisoning. Not to be outdone a Detroit medium talked a sucker out of most his money then murdered him. My favorite is the story of Michigan's richest man. He died in 1875 leaving behind a divorced wife and a current one. Of course they went to trial contesting the will and one of the parties called a witness who took the stand and promptly went into a trance.

The author presents some memorable hauntings and ghost stories. One of the best concerns the ghost of Minnie Quay. Minnie was 15 and lived in a small village in the Thumb bordering the west coast of Lake Huron. One day she caught the eye of a sailor and whenever he was in town they could be seen walking together. Vicious rumors started circulating including that she was pregnant. When the rumors reached her parents they didn't believed their daughter's denials. Embarrassed, heartbroken, and ridiculed by the town she drowned herself. They say her lonely ghost can be seen walking the shoreline looking for her sailor. An autopsy proved she was a virgin. It was a local legend until a lumberjack composed a song about Minnie that spread her sad story across the state. And because of the song her story became part of Michigan's folklore. It is surprising how many of the ghostly accounts in this book have become Michigan folklore including the Devil in Detroit.

Hammond also presents several mind boggling, unexplainable paranormal stories. A home in Jackson had a poltergeist. Anything not nailed down could coming flying across the room. University professors came to witness and stayed to study it. Then there is the female dentist from Bay City who let spirits use her hands to paint stunning surrealistic paintings. She usually never even looked at the canvas while hand and brush moved across it. Critics raved about the paintings and they were hung in some of New York's finest galleries. Spirits answered questions through her and accurately predicted the future.  She defied explanation.

From haunted roads, mysterious lights, monsters, a witch killer, to 1920 when Ouija Boards out sold bibles in Ann Arbor this is a great ghostly read. 

Mysterious Michigan: The Lonely Ghost of Minnie Quay, The Marvelous Manifestations of Farmer Riley, The Devil in Detroit and more by Amberrose Hammond. History Press, 2022, 158p., $21.99. 

Brockway Mountain Stories: The History of Brockway Mountain Drive and Keweenaw Mountain Lodge by Paul LaVanway

Originally this book was two separate publications and their titles make up this book's subtitle. They first appeared as a series of stories in the Keweenaw County Historical Society's publication "The Superior Signal" before being published as booklets. Long out of print, the booklets have been reprinted and updated. They tell the stories of two Keweenaw County's most striking and memorable tourist attractions. Both have become state treasures, were work relief projects of  the Great Depression, and  significant in proving that the tourist industry could replace the playout and closed copper mines of the Keweenaw Peninsula and county.

The Brockway Mountain Drive is the highest above-sea-level road between the Alleghenies and the Rockies. To call it scenic is a gross under statement. The road climbs the spine of Keweenaw's West Bluff for one of the most beautiful and spectacular views in the Midwest. In one direction the bluff slopes down in a green carpet of trees to Lake Superior that spreads to the horizon. The immensity, and the shifting hues of the Great Lake is jaw dropping. On the other side of the road the West Bluff drops way in a near vertical wall of rock. Wherever you look the view is stunning and unforgettable. The scenic road was first suggested in the 1920s. But planning and construction didn't begin until the Great Depression work relief programs made them possible. The book is a detailed history of the planning and creation of the road. It was built by hand except for two work horses, "Nick & Dickie." 

The Great Depression proved disastrous for Keweenaw County with 75.2 percent of the population on relief. It was the highest in the country. In 1933 the Civil Workers Administration (CWA) asked states for submissions for public projects of lasting value. The Keweenaw County Road Commission was awarded funding for a Keweenaw Park and Golf Course. Thirty years later it was renamed the Keweenaw Mountain Lodge. The site selected was 1 mile southeast of Copper Harbor on a heavily wooded plateau overlooking Lake Superior. The site set the tone for the lodge. The lodge reflected the Arts and Craft Movement and camp architecture. Over 18,000 trees were cut for the fairways with pine and spruce logs debarked and set aside for the clubhouse. The hardwoods were given to the workers as firewood. The book covers the history of the Mountain Lodge in detail from public ownership to private and back to public, its expansion, discovery by the middle class after WWII, and its effect on area tourism.

This is an important addition to Michigan history and should garner readership from the thousands who have visited these two remarkable sites.

Brockway Mountain Stories: The History of Brockway Mountain and Keweenaw Mountain Lodge by Pail LaVanway. Mudminnow Press, 2023, 90p., $25.95.

A Father's Arms: A Diary by Captain Robert A. Maynard

The author spend nearly a year in constant combat either on or near the front lines during WWII. He survived Anzio, the invasion of the southern France, and the hard fought battles when the Allies finally set foot on German soil. When he returned home and for many years thereafter he avoided talking about his war times experiences. In 1980 when he retired from Cadillac and moved to Suttons Bay, partly from memory and partly from a diary he kept for a year in combat, Capt. Maynard wrote his wartime diary. He says he wrote it for his family and hopped it would be handed down to future generations. It will be and not just because his daughter had it published. This book is a living testament to the men who served our country and sharply illustrates that those who survived WWII carried it with them for the rest of their lives. It is also a testament to the remarkable character and devotion to duty of the author.

This slim book is filled with great stories, plenty of photographs, and concludes with a profound question. After Pearl Harbor he tried to enlist in both the Navy and Marines but failed to pass their physicals. So he tried the Army. He was told to strip naked and sit in a small room and await the doctor. The doctor opened the door, didn't enter the room, and told to Maynard to stand up then bend and touch his toes. That was the physical and he passed it. He quickly learned Army rules. One of which was, "Do as the Army does, not what you think is best." Then there is the memorable experience of taking communion at Anzio while being the target of German artillery. He was trained as a field artillery officer but when he reached Europe he was transferred to tank destroyers. Why, because they found tank destroyers were often used as supplementary artillery and it was easier to train field artillery officers to be tank destroyer officers than the other way around. 

In the final piece of the book he graphically describes seven times during combat his life hung by a  single thread of a spider's web. Like the time he and two others heard an incoming artillery round and all three dove for the same small depression. The round exploded and knocked Maynard senseless. He somehow was the first into the slim dip in the earth. The other two who landed on top of him were dead. How had he survived seven separate occasions during the war when death seemed certain? It is a profound question that seems unanswerable. He must have lived with it for the rest of his life. 

Robert Maynard's children have stipulated that all proceeds from the sale of this book will be donated to to the Veterans of Foreign Wars of Michigan. 

A Father's Arms: A Diary by Captain Robert A. Maynard. Mission Point Press, 2023, 125p., $29.95.

Detroit Style Pizza: A Doughtown History by Karen Dybis

A Detroit style pizza, who knew? I sure didn't, even when I'd eaten one. But I knew what I'd just ate was different and awfully good. This book is nothing less than a culinary history of the Detroit style pizza from its originator to chefs who have taken the humble pizza to the level of high cuisine.

Gus Guerra the owner of Buddy's Pizzeria is given credit for serving the first Detroit style pizza in 1946. His mother-in-law is said to have brought the recipe from Sicily where it was a traditional Sicilian street pizza. They tinkered with the recipe endlessly before putting it on the menu where it quickly became a hit. The steps in making a Detroit style pizza differ significantly from making the traditional pie. First comes the dough which has a higher water-to-flour content than the average pizza dough. Next Pepperoni is pressed into the dough. Cheese is the next layer. It is a blend of shredded or cubed brick cheese spread to the very edges of the pan. Finally a light tomato sauce is  carefully ladled over the cheese or applied by flicking it off the end of a spoon. Some pizzerias apply the sauce before baking the pie while others add it after the pie is baked. Either before or after the pie is baked in a square pan, with high sides that are slightly angled outward.

The book does a nice job of covering the chefs who have refined and added their own touches to the Detroit style pizza since it was introduced in the 1940s. It also clearly explains why it is a recognizable  style the equal of either the Chicago or New York styles. The book presents a short history of Russo's chain of take out Detroit style pizzas. That's where I got my first taste of one and probably I'm just one of thousands. The Detroit style became known world wide when it won first prize in the 2012 World Pizza Expo. In a fitting conclusion an appendix contains recipes for a Detroit style pizza sauce and The "Loui Loui" Detroit Style Pizza with "Assembly, Baking and Finishing Procedures."

Detroit Style Pizza: A Doughtown History by Karen Dybis. American Palate, 2023, 145p., $23.99.


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