Monday, September 8, 2008
Labor Day 2008 in Ontonagon
The 51st annual Labor Day celebration in Ontonagon will not soon be forgotten. Early Sunday morning a fire of yet undetermined origin broke out taking with it almost an entire block of buildings. Strong south winds carried embers across the street, gutting another business, and damaging several others. The embers carried for blocks, raining down on tinder dry grass in yards of homes east of the river from River Street back as far as Amygdaloid Street. (It brought back to me disquieting memories of the blaze which burned the Elk Hotel in the sixties where the old jail in which we resided two blocks from that fire was cascaded with large chunks of pine embers still blazing as they landed on the roof.)
In a strange twist of fate, author Henry Kisor had only several days earlier taken some striking photographs of the block which burned, showing the false fronts of the buildings, popular when they were built. You can view the before the fire pictures on one of his blogs, The Whodunit Photographer. His other blog, The Reluctant Blogger, has some wonderful photos and commentary on the aftermath of the fire.
My father tells me that Joan Volek Gersten, coloratura soprano, lived upstairs in the pink building on the left growing up. My great-grandfather, Ira Dowd, had his shop in the Connie's Place building (ice cream shop), and Uncle Walter Scott's barbershop was next door (video store) according to local genealogist (and cousin) Andy Lockhart.