Check out the article I wrote last week after interviewing Saline-based blacksmith Chad Smith.
Chad’s a great guy and extremely enthusiastic about his profession. He works half of each year as a blacksmith and farrier on Mackinac Island, and spends the other six months annually fashioning and selling bladed weapons of all varieties, as well as decorative pieces.
Chad was a fan favorite on season two of the History Channel’s “Forged in Fire,” so much so that he was recently asked back to film another episode that will be airing very soon.
As they say, watch your local listings…
I took a trip around Lake Huron and Michigan’s thumb over the weekend with my wife and daughter. There’s a road, 25, which follows the water almost the entire way. Stunning.
The whole reason I wanted to go was to find a Petoskey Stone, and I was successful with the little guy pictured.
My daughter fell in love with the beach at Albert E. Sleeper State Park and the fossil hunting was prime. Nothing like a 350 million-year-old Devonian relic to put things in perspective.
Also, the lake perch at Walt’s in Caseville is fantastic.
I interviewed local author Steve Hagood a couple of years ago about his debut novel, “Chasing the Woodstock Baby.”
It will feel very familiar to anyone who lives in the City of Saline or who comes here regularly, as the location is actually a significant character in its own right.
From my synopsis in the article, the book “tells the tale of a retired Detroit police officer aptly named Chase. The ex-cop agrees to track down a woman’s long-lost daughter who she gave birth to at the Woodstock music festival in New York in 1969 and then never saw again. After establishing several leads, Chase finds himself about an hour west of Detroit in the idyllic small town of Saline, where he quickly learns things aren’t as tranquil as they seem.”
There are still copies for sale around town at places like Carrigan Cafe, and maybe one day you’ll see Steve out and about and you can snag an autograph from him.
Although we’re all very happy here in Saline that the road work on Michigan Avenue and the related downtown streetscaping is well behind us, it was pretty cool last summer seeing all those lengths of Interurban tracks come out of the ground.
I believe the city is still selling lengths of the track in footlong sengments.
Going back a few years, Martha Churchill gave a lecture at the Saline District Library about the book she wrote on the Interurban, and I was lucky enough to cover it for The Saline Reporter.
It’s neat to stand downtown and try to imaging a commuter train going right down the middle of US 12.
I’m playing around with the format of my posts, and am going to see what it looks like to post the text directly here.
I’ll include the original link, too, of course, but I’m trying to figure out ways of keeping this important historical information circulating and not simply rotting away on a not-so-easy-to-use and hard to find Heritage archive site.
Local Author revives history of the Interurban
By Steven Howard, Heritage Newspapers
It was not long ago that automobiles faced some stiff competition in Washtenaw County as the primary mode of transportation for the majority of citizens.
According to Milan resident and author Martha Churchill, up until the middle part of the 1920s, a light rail system called the interurban ran throughout the county and beyond, offering inexpensive and efficient public transportation.
“At the time, there was mass transit and it was cheap and fast,” she said. “These trolleys used to be pervasive and no one really knows.”
Churchill shared her collection of photographs and memorabilia related to the trains with a crowd of more than 50 at the Saline District Library Sunday.
She discussed the origination of the system by way of investment bonds, its demise by way of government-backed highways and everything in between.
“This humungous mass transit system (was) funded entirely by private funds,” she said. “People bought stock. They just thought it was a good investment.”
Churchill literally wrote the book on the interurban, co-authoring a text with H. Mark Hildebrandt called “Electric Trolleys of Washtenaw County.”
The book is part of the “Images of America” series from Arcadia Publishing.
Churchill said she was tipped off several years ago that Hildebrandt was extremely knowledgeable about the light rail lines of Washtenaw County and a collector of all things railroad. She said they got along well from their very first meeting.
“It was a real pleasure to work with him,” she said.
Despite his passion for the subject, Churchill was surprised to find out Hildebrandt had never written about it.
“He had never, never written down any of the information that was busting out between his ears,” she said. “I said, ‘Mark, we should write a book.'”
Early in 2008, Churchill said she began meeting with Hildebrandt regularly, finding the photos and creating copy for the text.
I went to his house every Saturday,” she said. “By the end of ’08, we were done with it.”
Churchill said she enjoys talking about her book and the trains she wrote about because the topic has mass appeal.
“No matter where you go, people are interested in this,” she said.
Karen Johnson of Saline said she thought Churchill’s presentation was both entertaining and enlightening.
“It was very informative,” she said. “I learned exactly where the waiting room (for the trolley) was.”
Longtime Saline resident Bob Harrison was also in attendance, and said Churchill’s lecture was a trip down memory lane.
“I was pleased with the number of photos,” he said, indicating he once owned a business that was partially in the trolley’s former waiting room. “I’ve watched a lot of things happen on Michigan Avenue. When I moved here, it was two lanes.”
Though many of the historical facts surrounding the rail system were positive, Churchill did not shy away from the downside of the operation, including telling of a head-on crash west of Chelsea in which many people were killed.
She also spoke of the rail lines ultimate demise, primarily at the hands of the developing highway system.
Churchill explained that while the government subsidized roads, private companies paid for rail lines. When the operators of the trains were told to move the tracks because of a planned expansion of Michigan Avenue, Churchill said they simply could not afford it.
“When they found out they had to move the tracks, the said, ‘Well, that’s it.'”
Churchill recently published another book in the “Images of America” series chronicling the history of Milan, her adopted hometown.
“I feel a connection (to it),” she said. “I think Milan has a parallel history to many places.”
Though she works in an entirely different field, Churchill said she is a student of history at heart.
“I’m an attorney by profession, but I’m an historian deep down,” she said.
Though current efforts to revive mass transit in Michigan face serious struggles, Churchill said we can learn from the mistakes and successes of the past.
“It could show people that we can go forward with mass transit,” she said. “It would take political determination. If you don’t have the popularity to do it, it will never get off the ground.”
Steven Howard can be reached at 429-7380 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
It’s officially spring and that means a lot more fisherman will soon be hitting to lakes and rivers of Michigan. Obviously, the ice shanty people have been at it all winter, but they’re a hearty set all their own.
If you need help identifying your latest catch, check out the “Guide to Great Lakes Fishes,” which includes information on 62 common fishes in the Great Lakes basin, including detailed artist renderings and descriptions.
I interviewed the book’s author, Gerald Smith in 2010. He’s an ecology and evolutionary biology professor emeritus at the University of Michigan.