In case you can’t see the fine print, it reads:
FRESH PUDDLE ICE formed from the January rains collapsed under the weight of a car driven by Adam Kennedy, above right, Sunday on Otsego Lake. Kennedy and friend Matt Briggs, both of Gaylord, examine the spot where the car’s wheels rest on thick lake ice. With an assist from lake resident Wayne Miller, a tow truck on shore south of the state park arrived and Kennedy attached the 300-foot cable to the trailer hitch. Miller paced the car’s distance from shore at 288 feet before the vehicle eased out.
Now that’s what I call news!
The date is Thursday 24 January 1980. We lived on a sort of bluff at the south end of Otsego Lake and were sitting have Sunday dinner (Banquet Chicken, probably) and we saw this guy spinning donuts on the ice. Somebody wondered if the ice was too thin.
Kerplunk. Just to show that you can’t trust anything you read, I didn’t know Adam from Adam, though the paper says we were pals. And how thick could the ice have been if the car had gone through? Global Warming was a menace even then! We sure were examining the spot where the car nearly sank into oblivion, though. Our postures positively radiate examinationness, or perhaps it is examinationativity. Anyway, not much else we could have done until the tow truck arrived.
The sticker on the side of the car, incidentally, is for Alpenfest 76. The town at all times of the year dresses itself up in an ersatz Bavarianism, but during the third week of July the residents, who were predominately Polish, join in for the thing which is Alpenfest. There is the burning of the Boog, die grosse kaffeepause, the singing of Edelweiss, a Queen contest which is always the subject of intense betting, booths of cutesy country crap (crafts! I meant crafts) on the Alpenstrasse (main street), a parade in which I marched as part of the High School band, and carnival rides.
The carnies used to have the Dime Game in which bettors placed dimes on colored squares and where somebody tossed a racquetball into a pen with colored holes. The prize was candy. Loved it. But the State in its role of in loco parentis shut it down because it looked too much like gambling. Or maybe it’s because the State treasures its monopoly on that sport. Or maybe it was standard American puritanism. Whichever way, it’s gone.
Careful readers will have noted the absence of ice fishing houses in the picture. Most of these were on the north side of the lake anyway, but many took them off because of the rain.
But there’s no mistaking the foggy grayness which is a permanent fixture of Northern Michigan winters. If it wasn’t snowing, it was about to. Gaylord is the high and snowiest point in the lower peninsula. Lots of lake effect. Sunny days in winter were rare, but boy were they pretty. Perfect time to go cross-country skiing.
Or hunting. My friend Chuck Coonrod—whose dad, then a school bus driver, is coincidentally mentioned in this same issue of the stately Herald Times—would head up the hill behind his house and go an kill animals. I still remember the first time I baked a liberally salted and peppered squirrel in the oven. It was good!
Behind his house was a steep, winding hill. Chuck had metal saucers on which we would sit and launch ourselves into near oblivion. This was still in the day of cloth snow suits. The end of a good afternoon saw us drenched and steaming sitting by his kitchen table snacking on the bacon his mother always had by the side of the stove.
Soft spots in the lake weren’t the only danger. My nephew had a video which I am unable to rediscover which showed how in the spring the wind would push chunks of ice onto the land. An inexorable flow, like cold lava. It doesn’t sound much, but all that weight does damage. I got my leg stuck once and thought it would going to break off.
Good thing we can simulate all this stuff on a computer now. So much safer.
Update The horrific (placed there by my enemies) of mislocating Alpinefest to the wrong month has been fixed. Consider this a belated trigger warning.