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History Lives Here Text

SCHOOL PICNICS ON BALDHEAD

BYJEANNE MILEHAMHALLGREN

From thebeginning Mt. Baldhead has held those specialqualities that add up to a good time. The Indians are said to have held their pow-wows there; the earliest visitors climbed to the top andlong ago it became the favorite spot to hold school picnics -- the specialend-of-the-year celebrations held by the rural schools.

At least fourgenerations of my family have come to know Baldhead. My 87-year-old mother,Ruth Galbreath always went to Baldhead on her schoolpicnic when she attended Peachbelt School(on M-89 and 63rd Avenue).This is the way Ruth Galbreath Doane remembers it:

 

Probably earlyin April we had a meeting before school started. Possible sites for the annualschool picnic were suggested and then we voted by ballot. The result was alwaysthe same, Baldhead by a unanimous vote. Then we began to make plans. Usuallythe picnic was held on the third Friday in May. School got out earlier then.

I'm sure thekids volunteered what their mothers would bring for the bounteous lunch. Ourmother always brought potato salad decorated with egg slices on the top,deviled eggs and lemonade. And she probably brought fried children too, itseems as though Mother didn't go to any dinner without taking her famous friedchicken. I can remember helping to make the lemonade on the site. We rolled thelemons to loosen the juice, sliced them, added sugar and water and it wasready.

Mr. Koning was always on hand with his teamof horses and hay wagon, lined with sweet-smelling hay. He met us at the schooland we all climbed aboard and rode the seven miles to our destination. Therewas much laughter and singing on the way. As we left the main road at Douglas the road became very sandy and most of the biggerkids got off and walked. the older boys would evenpush on the wagon to help the horses pull their heavy load.

When we gotthere everyone climbed off and headed in all directions. Some of the biggerboys climbed Baldhead a couple of times before lunch. I guess the parents wentahead because dinner was usually almost ready for us when we got there, a huge,huge lunch.

At that timethere were no steps to the top of the hill. We went straight up where the stepsare now, but coming down we took a more diagonal route, less likely to end upwith broken bones. There were a lot of grapevines which made great swings. Manyof the boys would claim to climb the hill ten, twelve, even thirteen times. Thegirls were more prone to wander around the paths.

On the other side of the hill, which Ibelieve is the highest dune along the lake, was Lake Michigan, the lighthouse and several small cottages. To the leftof the hill was a section that was called the "Forward Movement." Itwas composed of winding roads amid small cottages. There were little hills andvalleys, very pretty and lots of spring flowers. It was a nice place to wander.I suppose it was too early in the season for the owners to be around, we neverencountered anyone in our wanderings. To the right of the hill and farther backfrom Lake Michigan was the Ox-Bow Artists'Colony. We never went in there.

There was asmall building on the Baldhead side of the Kalamazoo Riverthat was the powerhouse for the water supply for Saugatuck. I don't think it isin use today. [The little building nowhouses the Saugatuck-Douglas Historical Museum.]

Across theriver was Saugatuck and a ferry boat ride would get us there for a dime(probably round trip). We would enjoy going into Saugatuck. For several years [1919to 1924]the luxury liners North American and South American were berthed inSaugatuck. I think maybe they were there for the winter. We could also climbaboard them and go on an inspection tour.

After climbing and meandering wemade our way back to the picnic spot, climbed aboard the hay wagon, tired buthappy, for the ride home.

 

 

* * *
Jeanne Mileham

 

Eachgeneration sees changes and yet some things don't change very much at all. Inmy generation we went by car. I think everyone had a Ford of some kind. We wouldall gather at base of Baldhead and before the cars had rolled to a stop thechildren were pouring out and headed for the stairs that led to the top. The race was on, and what we did we do upon reachingthe top of the stairs? Why, run right back down along one of the many sandtrails. Of course the contest for the day was to see just how many times onecould climb to the top and run back down again. Our boundary seemed to be up tothe top and down. I don't remember anyone being adventurous enough to run downthe backside toward the Oval Beach, or wanderingaround the cottages, like my mother did.

While all of this adventurous climbing was going on,the mothers were busily laying out the picnic dinner they had brought along. Itdidn't take too many trips to the top and down again before everyone was redfaced and panting for breath and ready to sit down and enjoy the lunch.Pitchers of lemonade quenched our thirst, I can remember a lot of baked beansbeing there, that must have been the easiest to fix and take along and JELL-0that always had bananas in it in those days; it was quite a treat but thebananas always turned brown before we got ready to eat it. There were alwayslots of pies and cakes for dessert.

Very few fathers ever went along on these picnicsbecause the end of May was the time when they were busy getting the crops in, and they just didn't have time to spend a whole day at apicnic. After an afternoon of running through the sand and climbing the steps afew more times, there were ice cream cones. I can't recall the way it arrived, surely someone brought it some time in theafternoon. Cones were dipped from a heavy brown insulated canvas pack. The packmust have been frozen, too, as I remember it was always very cold. Ice creamcones were never more delicious than on those picnic days.

My particular school was the McDowell School in CascoTownship, but I know that all of the rural schools in the surrounding townshipscelebrated the end to their school year by going to Mt. Baldhead for a picnicduring those last weeks in May. I can't recall there ever being another schoolgroup there on the same day that we went, but there probably was. (Maybe theteachers worked out a schedule for use of the park.) It was always a wonderfulday of good food and good fun with all of our good friends.

** *

In the early 1960smy husband and I moved to Saugatuck and our children grew up there. Theirassociation with Mt. Baldhead differedsomewhat from our own, it was not a once-a-year outing, atrip over on a weekend afternoon to climb the stairs was a frequent thing. Mydaughter, Jill, when just a little tyke, was always frightened at each landing.She was certain that she would fall through the spaces between the boardsbefore she could get to the next step and would crawl on her hands and knees toreach the safety of that next stair step.

 

As the kidsgrew older they would take the chain ferry over and climb to the top. In the winter they would take their sleds andtoboggans and slide down the backside, always half frozen by the time they camehome, but full of ideas for the next time. At the end of each school year therewould be field trips, usually with sack lunches, but nothing to compare withthe good old school picnics of my day.

We lived onthe north end of Butler Streetand each year about a month before Christmas the star would be lighted on topof Baldhead and shine throughout the holiday season. We always looked forwardto that with great anticipating, everyone wanting to be the first one to seeit.

Now there is a great-granddaughter inour lives and we are certain that one of these days in the not too distantfuture she will be the next generation of our family to be introduced toBaldhead. I hope she enjoys it as much as all of us have.

Passenger Boats inPort Saugatuck

 

The arrival of theFrench-registered cruise vessel Le Levant (the sunrise) in Saugatuck June 21,1999, has been hailed as the "return" of "cruise liners" toSaugatuck, but this may be misleading.

In earlierdays there were many boats that carried passengers and stopped at Saugatuck.The first were sailing vessels that would carry passengers when asked. In 1859the 165 foot steamship Huron under charter to Albert E. Goodrich and George C.Drew, planned a regular route on the east shore of Lake Michigan.Three times a week the Huron would travel from Chicagoto Muskegon; on Saturdays, according to an earlyad, the vessel would "enter the port at the mouth of the Kalamazoo river."

 

 

Charles McVea outward bound ca 1898

 

On August 1,I868, the Ira Chaffee, a 127-foot steamer built in Allegan began regular tripsto Chicago.Afterwards the work was taken up by many different boats, most carrying bothfreight and passengers including George P. Heath, R. C. Brittain,Kalamazoo, Saugatuck, J. S. Seaverns and A. B.Taylor, Pilgrim, Bon Ami and Bon Voyage of the Rogers and Bird Line.

By 1900 thesummer resort trade was booming and there was an effort to get the Graham & Morton line, thathad been calling at Hollandfor many years to stop in Saugatuck, but to no avail. From 1909 to 1913 theCrawford Transportation Co. made daily trips from Chicagowith the H. W. Williams (later the Tennessee)and other boats. In 1914 the Indiana Transportation Co. took up the work withthe United States endingservice abruptly when the Eastland went over in Chicago harbor threatening law suits.

 

 

Tennessee docked at Pavilion ca 1915

 

In 1922 Graham& Morton finally succumbed to public demand and began calling at Saugatuckand Douglas during the summer and into fruit season. In honor of the occasionthey named one of their boats the City of Saugatuck,but it was the smaller City of St. Joseph that usually made the trip. In 1924 they werebought out by the Goodrich Transportation Co. which continued to call atSaugatuck until the end of the season of 1929. As near as can be determined theGoodrich boat, probably the City of St. Joseph, which left Labor Day weekend of 1929 is thelast passenger boat to call at Saugatuck.

The only realcruise boats (boats that did not just go from destination to destination, butcalled at several ports) that visited the area would have been the NorthAmerican and the South American which wintered in Saugatuck harbor 1914 to1924. Although the first cruise sometimes originated from Saugatuck it was nota regular port of call.

And then theLe Levant arrived in June. -- Kit Lane