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History Lives Here Text

Our Early Years at Pier Cove

Jeanette Dunster Studley-Family History Tape Transcription

This cassette tape recording was made on September 19,1982 at Pier Cove, Michigan by Jeanefte Dunster Studley.

This is Jeanette Studley at Pier Cove, and today is Sunday,September 19th, 1982. I want to record some things about ourPier Cove cottage.

We first came here in the summer of 1906. That would be whenI was five years old. My father had rented the cottage for the season fromCharles W. Melcher who lived in Hinsdale, Illinois, and who was a friend of theSimonds family. The cottage was rented with an option to buy and in September1906 the house with its furnishings was purchased for $1,000. I think it isimportant to say here that when my parents bought the house it was notcompletely finished. It was in fact a cottage set on a sand dune. There wereposts holding it up and on the front porch there were locust logs in an uprightposition to hold up the roof of the porch and between these uprights was therailing which consisted only of a locust, or maybe sassafras log.

Although I do not remember this, my father used to tell thatthe first summer we were there, Walter could walk under the porch railing, andit was feared that he would run off the edge of the porch and fall down thebank. For this reason one of the first things my father did was to buy a largeroll of chicken wire which was extended under the railing and completely aroundthe porch. This acted as a sort of a protection so that children would not falloff the property, or I should say not fall off the porch.

The only trees that were around in early days were a fewlocusts and some small poplars in the yard between the house and the road andone large lilac bush. At the foot of the bank down to the beach there were,however, some beautiful large silver popular trees. Also, between, our houseand the Johnson [A. L. Johnson] house to the north there were lovely old silverpoplars and for many years we had a path running between our house and theJohnson house as we played with the Johnson children who were about our age.

To the south of the kitchen door there was a wooden wellcurb and the well with a pump which we used to pump any and all water needed.Near the pump there was a locust tree and my father built a little shelf on thelocust tree where we kept a washbasin and there was a nail in the tree also fora cup which we could use for drinking water. We also hung our toothbrushes onnails outside on the locust tree. Between the well curb to the south there wereplanks set on the sand leading out to a little outhouse which we used for anumber of years.

In those days we used the front door more than we do now andwe used to go out the front door and along the north porch to a path which lednot only to the Johnson's house new door but also out to the road. During thefirst few years that we had the cottage we went to the beach not down to thesouth of the house but we went down to the basement-I don't remember if therewere steps down there of if we just ran down the bank to the basement-wentthrough the basement to the north of the basement and then went down to thebeach on a little path there. One of the paintings that we have here in thecottage right now on the north wall over the big green chest is a picturepainted by Mrs. Melcher showing the path to the beach and the poplar trees atthe north end of the cottage. There were very few trees between our house andthe Johnson house to the north and I remember that between the two houses therewas a large homemade table that was used for picnics and this pace was alsocalled the sunset place and we used to go there sometimes with neighbors forpicnics and to watch the sunset.

I believe that the original lot that my father bought was ofcourse the lot on which the cottage stands but in about 1907 my parents boughtthe lot to the south of the cottage from Mr. O. C. Simonds. In 1914 my parentsbought what we call the Durant Land across from the Gauntlett house. TheDurants, George Durant and Annie Durant from Chicago, I believe, bought theland with the thought of building a hawse there and they had Mr. Simonds doplantings and locate a situation for the house. Mr. Durant died, however, andthat was why the properly was for sale.

In our Pier Cove book of photographs beginning in 1906 onecan see how the cottage looked in these early days. One of these pictures showsthe row of popular trees between our house and the Johnson house. I rememberthe first year we were here that my father and Mr. McWilliams a neighbor ofours in Grand Rapids put up a swing on one of the popular trees and we enjoyedthat a great deal.

There is also a picture of the old mill at Pier Cove. Mymother used to tell us that when she was working in Chicago and living with theSimonds family there, she and Mrs. Simonds came over to Pier Cove soon afterMr. Simonds had purchased the property here and they slept in the old mill.

The front porch as you can see in the early photographs hadan icebox along the wall and a man named Mr. Atwater used to come once or twicea week bringing us large cakes of ice. One of the things I remember about Mr.Atwater was that when he came to our house he always wanted to get a drink ofwater. As he said we had better tasting water than any place along his route.My father told us that we had the only deep will in the area and that the wellwas ninety-nine feet deep. Mr. Atwater used to use the drinking cup which was afamily cup hung on the nail on the locust tree but my mother did not care forthis so she hung out a special cup and it was always known as Mr. Atwater'scup, with our drinking more or less hidden around on the back of the locusttree. The reason for this was that Mr. Atwater had a very long droopy mustacheand he always got his mustache in the drinking cup.

One of the early summers Robin had a pet duck and we had alittle shelter built for the duck on the front porch. This was where the duckstayed at night. The duck used to follow Robin around wherever he went. Iremember one year when we had bantam chickens and they were a source of greatpleasure to my brothers and to me. But, back to the duck, at the end of thesummer one Sunday we had the duck killed and dressed and we ate it for Sundaydinner. This was very shocking to my brothers and to me, as we had become veryfond of this little animal. 1 remember Walter especially was distressed that weate the duck and trying to reconcile this, he mentioned during the dinner,"This Sunday we eat the duck next Sunday we eat the cat."

My parents used to send us to get milk for the family.Sometimes we got it at the Ensfields which was up the road where in later yearsWalter and Adah build their house. Other times we got milk at Harry Links'which was south of our cottage between here and the county park. We used to getthe milk in a tin pail with a cover on it. And I think that we went and got themilk after supper in the evening because that was when the farmers did theirmilking. I remember one time when Walter and I went to Harry Link's to get themilk and we had to wait while Harry did the milking and then when we startedhome each of us together hanging on to the handle of the milk pail, it wasgetting dark and we became afraid. We started to run because we thought that wesaw a bear on the lake side of the road. There were no houses there, just smalltrees and shrubbery. We ran all the rest of the way home, spilling the milk aswe went. And as soon as we arrived at the door we told my fatherthat we had seen a bear and that it scared us. I thought he had a good solutionfor this problem because he took us by the hand and said that he had never seena bear himself and that he was very anxious to see one and he would walk backup the road with us and we could point out the bear to him. So we went back andof course there wasn't any bear there at all.

We used to come down from Grand Rapids to Pier Cove on theInterurban first from Grand Rapids to Holland and then Holland to Saugatuck. AtSaugatuck we took the boat called the John A. Aliber to Pier Cove or else SvenBensen came with a lumber wagon to meet us in Saugatuck. We always came fromGrand Rapids with trunks and with one or two barrels filled with empty fruitcans which were taken back to Grand Rapids in the fall with fruit canned hereby my mother during the summer.

My father came down to Pier Cove on weekends but as I recallhe spent most of the week in Grand Rapids because of his business appointmentsas a dentist. On Sunday afternoon after we had had our dinner my father used totake us for a walk in the ravine. His favorite spot was at the beeches, that isthe beech grove where Emily Bensen and Jess DaIley were married years later.There was a little wooden bench there and we used to sit while papa read usstories from The Youth's Companion.

I want to say a word about the inside of the house. Thefirst summer we came here I think that I remember that as we walked into theliving room there were bathing suits hung of chairs in front of the fireplaceand these had been left by the Melcher family the summer before. As we startedliving here we had a few pieces of furniture brought down from Grand Rapids butfor the most part the furnishings were very simple.

We did however have what my mother called the big greendresser brought down and it was in this chest that mother kept sheets andbedding and other things because of the mice. One winter the mice got into thebig chest and ate a hole down a pile of probably a dozen sheets. This madeabout eight holes in each sheet and one summer after that had happened my motherhad what she called a "Mouse Party" and invited the ladies in thearea to come for a tea party in the afternoon and to help mend the holes in thesheets. Same of the ladies did beautiful handwork and the patches they put onthe sheets were indeed fine needlework.

After we started living here, I remember that for years wehad white dotted-swiss curtains in the living room. These hung straight down,were quite full and had a valance across the top. In those days too there was awindow seat that went across the northwest corner of the living room and alsothere was a corner cupboard in the northeast comer of the living room where wekept our dishes. In the kitchen there was a wood stove and sink in thesouthwest comer of the room and we had a large kitchen table. My father wasusually the first one up in the morning and he started the fire in the woodstove and heated the water for mother's coffee although he never had drunkcoffee himself. He had tea with a little milk in it in the morning. However weate oatmeal for breakfast and it was cooked by my mother.

We did not have electricity in those days of course and weused kerosene lamps which had to have their chimneys washed every morning whenthey were brought down to the kitchens from the bedrooms. As I remember it wasmy job to wash the lamp chimneys and to see that the lamps were filled withkerosene.

After a few years my father put a toilet in the basement.There was a hose that went from the toilet up to the pump and it took thirtystrokes of the pump to fill the tank which flushed the toilet. At one time toomy father experimented with a shower. This consisted of an open trough whichwas hung from the porch floor at the southwest corner of the porch. Then therewas a little hose that went from the bottom of the tank to the ground below. Myfather's theory was that when the lake was too cold to go swimming the sunwould warm the water in the shower tank in the afternoon and he could go downand take a shower. As I recall this did not turn out to be too satisfactory.

We children had a great time here at Pier Cove in the summerand I know that we loved those early days. As soon as we arrived we took offour shoes and stockings and went barefoot all summer. When we went back toGrand Rapids just before Labor Day Mr. Bensen used to come with his lumberwagon and take us and our trunks and barrels of fruit either to Saugatuck orelse down to the pier at Pier Cove. As we left the house, my mother made uswear our shoes and stockings. And I remember sitting in the back of the Bensenwagon and crying because my shoes pinched my feet and also because we wereleaving Pier Cove.

It was not until 1929 that the Pier Cove families groupedtogether and paid to have electricity along the shore road but I do not thinkit went even as far as the Curtises because the Curtises had a Delco electricsystem of their own and did not need the power line.

We had no cars in those days of course and we did a lot ofwalking. We walked cross lots over to Ganges where there was the Wolbrinks'store where we could buy groceries. As I recall the Wolbrinks came around oncea week with a horse and wagon and you could get staples. Also occasionally wehad farmers in the neighborhood who would bring garden produce. I rememberespecially that Mr. Plummer, Bertha Plummer's husband, used to bring usvegetables now and then.

Even my mother who was not an enthusiastic walker used towalk with us to the Bensen farm which was located on. what is now M-89 andabout 3 or 312 miles from our cottage. Sometimes Mrs. Bensen used tobring my mother home from her house using her horse and buggy. I remember onceriding from the Bensens' back to Pier Cove with Mrs. Bensen and her horsebecame frightened because a car was coming along the road. That was very unusualas there were few cars before the 1920s. Mrs. Bensen quickly turned her horseinto a driveway at a farm along the way to prevent a runaway.

I think we had our first Ford car about 1920 and I rememberone time when Walter and some friends and I walked from our cottage to [Mt]Bald Head at Saugatuck taking with us a picnic lunch. Then we climbed Bald Headand ate our picnic lunch and walked down to a place near Bald Head where papamet us with the car and drove us home. I think I remember that because I was sotired by the time we had walked to Saugatuck and climbed Bald Head. and it wasdelightful to find that we were going to be able to get a ride home.

During the first World War we had a war garden of vegetablesover on the Durant land and we had to go over and weed the garden frequently. Idid not enjoy this task and as I remember it, our garden over there was neververy satisfactory. For years however we had a garden south of the house-flowersand vegetables but this garden had to be fenced in in order to keep out therabbits. My father made a gate to the fenced-in garden and on the rope thatopened and shut the gate he had a large lucky stone-that is a stone with a holein it. It was only a couple of years ago that Donald Trull, Julia Bensen's son,was telling me that when he was a little boy he remembered that enormous stonewith a hole in it that operated our garden gate.

I think it must have been in the 1920s that we started to goto the Big Pavilion in Saugatuck. This was a great attraction because there wasmusic and dancing and there were a lot of young people the age of my brothersand me who were allowed to go the Pavilion as a group and stay maybe as tong as10 o'clock. As I said before we went to the Pavilion in Saugatuck as a group,perhaps six of us in the Simonds' or the Johnsons' car. At the Pavilion wedanced or went to one of the movies held there. There might very likely bethree boys and three girls going to the Pavilion together and coming home. Oneof the rules was that we were not to come home along the Lake Shore Road afterleaving the Pavilion. The reason our parents wanted this was that the road wasvery narrow and right on the edge of the bank to the beach and I feel that ourparents were afraid that we might get to fooling in the car and tip over. So wewere supposed to come back to Pier Cove by a road away from the lake. However,as I remember, we very often disobeyed this and came along the Lake Shore Road.

I want to say something now about our steps to the beach. Myfather designed the cement steps. A man named Lou Warner who was Mr. Simonds'hired man helped father in the construction of these steps to the beach. Theymust have had to bring the cement in a wheelbarrow down from the well curb, andthey would have used sand and gravel which they brought up from the beach pluswater from the pump. None of the men in the Pier Cove community thought that myfather's plan for cement steps to the beach was practical. One of them saidthat built on sand they would crack and disintegrate about us as soon as theywere made. Another friend of my father's predicted that the sand would blowover the steps and that in a year or two no one would be able to find them. Iwant to say that these steps were completed on August 22, 1911, and in the cementsquare at the top of the steps this date has been written in cement. It nowbeing 1982, and the steps are still being used, it is obvious that they havegiven us good service.

In our Pier Cove Book of photographs there are pictures of apicnic held at the Orchard House where the Simonds lived, on July 4th, 1910.Some of the families seen in the picture include my mother and father andWalter and Robin and myself. Also the A. L. Johnson family, who lived next doorto us including: Dorothy, Marion, Albert and John. Also in the picture we seethe Simonds family: Mrs. Mattie Simonds, and some of the Simonds childrenincluding Donald and Robert Simonds. Also in the photograph is Mrs. JulieFletcher who was Mr. Simonds' sister and who had a cottage here at that time.There was also the Bensen family present at the picnic. And in the photographswe see the Bensen children: Glion, Julia, Emily and Roger. Mrs. Harriet Curtisthe wife of Dean Curtis was at this Fourth of July picnic. She was a greatstoryteller and loved to entertain children as well as grownups with thestories about B'rer Rabbit and such tales. Looking at the pictures taken in1910 you can see how very interested all of the children were when she wasentertaining us. The Phoebe Johnson family was also at the Fourth of Julypicnic in 1910 and in the picture we see: Aunt Phoebe, Aunt Elizabeth, Laura,Agues, Marjorie and others. I tell this because now in 982 the descendants ofthese original families are all still at the Cove. That is: the Simonds, theBensens, the Johnsons at The Porches, the A. L. Johnsons across the road, theStudleys and the Curtises.

Our cottage originally was constructed of wood that wasplaced perpendicularly from the ground to the roof. As the years advanced,these timbers shrank so that finally the wind came in through the boards andalso the rain came in. In 1938 my father ordered lumber and started puttingsiding on the house. These wide pieces of siding were each one painted beforeit was put on the house. Part of the house was done in 1938. My father died inMarch 1939 but the following summer that is in 1939 my mother had the sidingput on the rest of the house. This made a great difference and the house wasmuch more weatherproof than it had been before.

At Pier Cove in the early days, we had to manufacture ourown entertainment and one summer as you can see by the pictures in the CoveBook, we had a production called "Jack the Giant Killer". All of us,that is the children in the neighborhood, participated in this drama. Mrs.Harriet Curds coached us and the production took place at what is now known asthe Curtis farmhouse. The main characters in the play were Dean Curtis, JohnJohnson who was about three years ofd at the time and Marian and DorothyJohnson. The rest of us were pages, ladies-in-waiting, guards and that sort ofthing. This was the high event of that summer season.

I might add now something about the Glion Curtis family.Glion Curtis was Dean Curtis' only child. He and his bride Isabel came to PierCove on their honeymoon which was spent at the A. L. Johnson cottage next doorto us. The Curtises, Glion and Isabel had flue children. The oldest was GlionJr. who was somewhere between 8 and 10 years younger than I. Then after Glioncam Tom, William, Ernie, and Jim although at this moment I'm not sure that Ihave them in the correct order. Except for Bill Curtis, the other four Curtisboys have built houses in Pier Cove. [Bill and Fran have since built a cottagein Pier Cove).

In speaking of early days at Pier Cove, I think I should addthat my brother Robin very often went to a YMCA camp in the summer instead ofcoming to Pier Cove. The name of the camp he attended was Camp Barlow, locatednear Middletown, Michigan. I don't remember how many summers he attended the camp.