During WWII, Old Mission Peninsula resident David R. Murray published a newsletter called “Peninsula News” to bridge the miles between OMP residents fighting in the war and those who kept the home fires burning. I’ve been meaning to publish these newsletters on Old Mission Gazette, and can’t think of a better time to start than Memorial Weekend 2018.
Jack Solomonson, who owned the Peninsula Telephone Company with his wife Vi, compiled the newsletters into a booklet, which I’ll be referencing in order to reprint them in Old Mission Gazette. Jack was also a former commander of the Garland-Tompkins American Legion Post 399.
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According to David’s introduction to the newsletters (which served as his first issue), in the Fall of 1943, the Cherry Center Grange sponsored the sending of a Christmas box to all those serving during the war. Remaining funds were used to publish and mail the newsletters.
“There are 104 boys and girls that are in the various services from here,” David writes in the first issue, “and as there are 300 mailboxes on the Peninsula, that is an average of one from every three mailboxes on the Mail Route, which is 58 miles long. In the 1940 census, there were 1146 of us listed, so that almost 10 percent of our population is in uniform, which is much higher than the national average. The other 90 percent are raising food to feed the world. So you come of a people and a community that is doing its utmost for the war effort.”
Here is the March 1, 1944 issue of “Peninsula News, Published by the Home Folks of Peninsula Township” (Issue No. 2).
Dear Friend and Neighbor,
Many letters from you boys and girls have come to us since the publishing of the first issue of the News, and they indicate that you like what we have sent you so far.
Since we wrote before we have had some of that white stuff we usually have in the winter and much colder weather, which you farmers know was a greater benefit to us on the Peninsula, for if the warm weather had continued much longer, we would have been worried about the prospects for fruit crops the coming summer.
The mild warm winter we had in January enabled us to get a lot of spring work done, such as clearing land, pulling stumps, hauling manure, and many other odd jobs that we usually do first thing in the Spring. Now, with snow and colder weather, everyone is out with the pruning saw and shears, putting the trees in shape to bear as large a crop as Nature will allow us this coming summer.
Both Bays have skimmed over several times, particularly the harbors at Old Mission and Bowers Harbor, but along came a warm spell to break up the plans the boys had for fishing through the ice. It looks as though the Bays will probably stay open this winter, and the only places they may freeze will be these harbors.
The ice harvest has started at Swaney Lake and will continue until the ice houses at the North End of the Peninsula are filled. The South End will probably fill from either Boardman or Cedar Lake.
Several of you boys mentioned the fact that we told some things about the Peninsula that you had never known before. This fact has inspired a good Granger to give us more of this news and facts to be sent on to you. The following was written by Frank Phelps and we quote:
“Read ‘Em and Weep”
“Deer have been seen at Neah-Ta-Wanta and also at the Light House in the State Park. A number of foxes have been killed at Willow Point. Peninsula folks do not have to go to Northport for ‘Deep sea fishing’ as Floyd Gray, eight miles out on the West Shore Road, took out many parties last summer in his good roomy boat, and got many Mackinaw trout for his passengers.
“Within a possible radius of two miles there have been nine garages built on the Peninsula in the past eighteen months. They are mostly two-car garages and are to be used for quarters for cherry pickers in picking season. Each of these garages is built next to the road to avoid snow shoveling in the winter.
“The Grange has received a copy of the ‘Kodiak Bear’ edited by the officers and men of Fort Greely, Alaska. The copy is supposed to have been sent by Leo Cooper or Louis Kroupa who are quartered up that way.
“A contingent of 150 nurses, who left New Orleans last summer and are now serving overseas, has made tentative arrangements for a reunion after this affair is over. How about this reunion being held on the Peninsula, fellows? Do you suppose that you can induce Mom to donate the best room for such an occasion?
“The Peninsula Town Hall was built in 1876. Since that time it has been enlarged to about three times its original size. Recently a good dance floor has been laid in the main room upstairs. The basement is given over to a kitchen and dining hall where nearly 100 diners can be seated at one time. There is now a deep well drilled just outside the building, and it has been enclosed with a concrete room that is connected with the basement for easy access to the kitchen. The Cherry Center Grange makes this hall its lodge home and has installed a good piano and a fine juke box. They also have table service for about 100 persons. Incidentally, Charlie Lardie was handed the hall keys some 38 years ago and has been janitor ever since.
“Last cherry time 50 to 60 girls and young women were quartered in the Community Hall at Old Mission, as part of the Women’s Land Army. They did not rate high as pickers, but they were not too hard on the eyes.
“This community rates ‘Hank’ Lardie as one of the outstanding men of the Peninsula, if not in Michigan. ‘Hank’ used to get his store goods from the wind-jammers that put into Old Mission. Coal oil came in barrels, as did brown and coffee ‘A’ sugar. Salt pork also came in barrels of 500 pounds each. A stage brought the mail daily from Traverse City to the Old Mission post office, which was also run by the Lardies. When ‘Hank’ sent in his resignation as postmaster a few years ago, he received an autographed picture of James Farley, then postmaster general, and a letter of congratulation, which stated that Mr. Lardie was the second oldest postmaster in continuous service in the United States. Mr. Lardie was succeeded by his daughter, Gertrude, and his granddaughter, Nancy Cook, was sworn in as substitute postmistress. As this makes three generations serving in one post office, we doubt if it can be matched anywhere in these United State.
“Don’t blame me for it – you asked for it.
I am sure that you are all glad to have these historical and present facts about your own community that many of us had forgotten or did not realize.
I know that you will be glad to know the little and big things that go on here at home in your absence, and that is one of the main purposes of this letter. The Fourth War Loan drive is about completed and your township was assigned the large quota of $30,000, which seemed almost impossible to attain. However, that total has been far exceeded and when the final figures are in we should find it more like $35,000, which is a lot of money for a farming community to make, after a 10 percent cherry crop last summer. The Red Cross drive is about to commence. Last year our Peninsula had a quota of $250 to raise and more than doubled that figure. This year the quota is $500 and the solicitors expect ot make it and more.
The Cherry Center Grange, headed by Master Roy Hooper, has been very active this winter, with over 40 new initiates having joined the ranks. Two weeks ago they entertained the Pomona Grange of which Roy Hooper is also master this year, and the largest attendance at Pomona in recent years filled the hall.
Every two weeks this fall and winter the Grange has given a dance for the young people and old of the community. These parties have been very popular with all, and you service boys and girls are always admitted without charge if you should come home on furlough. The music for these dances was furnished by a Peninsula boy’s band, Ben Murray and his Rhythm Kings, until a few weeks ago when Ben joined the Army Enlisted Reserve Corp and was sent to the University of Illinois for training until he is 18.
The Grange and the Peninsula Home News have received many letters from you boys and girls in service during the past month and we are very glad to get them. They are read in Grange meetings for the pleasure of all. Letters have been received from Ray Carroll, Leslie Swaney, David Murray, Oakley Lardie, Paul Miller, Reba Kirkpatrick, Monty Kelly, Al Carroll, Roy Ghering, Tom Johnson, Jim Kilmury, Bill Tompkins, Jimmy McClusky, Charles Pelizzari, Waldo Hughart, John O. Hutchinson, Max Kitchen, Axel Lardie, Marvin Seel, Tom Valley, Bob DeVol, Bob Lardie, Ebb Warren, Harry Wollam, Les Gore, Lawrence Andrus, Marshall Griffin, Len Lyon, Hugh McManus, Arthur Gray, F.H. Lannin, Noble Youker, Don Foust, and Fred Dohm.
I want to quote from Fred’s letter: “I should like to learn the whereabouts of the boys and girls from home in the armed forces. Since I left the States about a year and a half ago, I have met one lad from the Peninsula; it was Elmer Warren. Even though he was in an Army truck and I didn’t get a chance to talk to him, he recognized me. Several times I suppose I have been within stone-throw of some of the Peninsula boys, but wasn’t aware of it. I was fourteen months aboard a battleship and recently was transferred to the Fleet Gunnery and Torpedo School in the Hawaiian Islands. I have been assigned to the staff as an instructor and like my duties very much.”
We hope you meet up with some more Peninsula folks, Fred, and that you will get a chance to talk over the best spot on the Globe.
Harry Wollam, Jr. writes from Sebring, Florida, Hendrick Field, “Yes, I, for one, would like very much to see some of that good old snow again. You get to missing that morning chore, going out and clearing the snow away from your front door, and trying to get warm on those sub-zero days. I would still settle for a little of it.”
Lawrence Andrus, S2/C, writes from the USCG Training Station at Groton, Conn. “I went through boot training at Manhattan Beach Station (15 weeks) and was assigned to this school (Motor Machinist’s Mate). We are learning to service and operate gas and diesel engines, and it lasts 16 weeks. We have a good chance to get a petty officer’s rate here, and if we do we will be assigned to a boot’s training with the type of engines we have learned to operate – destroyers, patrol boats, or landing barges. We are supposed to get a leave when we are through here – about ten days leave. It will seem good to get home and see the people on the Peninsula again.”
LeRoy Ghering writes, “If there are any of you who care to write, I’ll be glad to answer each and every letter.” His address is in this issue with the others. Roy’s younger brother, Eugene Ghering, is one of the recent departures into the Navy. He is in boot training at Farragut, Idaho.
Al Carroll writes from Camp McCain, Miss., “Most of us in the service are many miles from the Peninsula – some thousands of miles. We have become acquainted with newfound friends, buddies who may one day have to give up their lives that this world of ours be free again. In spite of this, I know that we from the Peninsula are looking forward to the day when we all hope to return home and see once again the familiar faces we had been so accustomed to.”
By the way, this paper is open to suggestions from all quarters regarding that monster homecoming we are to have when you all come back. Surely you ought to have something eloquent to say on that subject.
Jim Kilmury, Army Air Forces, writes from Pratt, Kansas, “I’m out in Kansas now doing work on planes. I had been stationed at Chanute Field, Ill., going to school to learn aircraft metal work, which I find very interesting. I took my basic training at Jefferson Barracks, Mo., and from there I went to Chanute Field. I haven’t had the luck of meeting anyone from the Peninsula since I have been back in the service.”
Tom Valley of the Marines writes, “At the time I received the Christmas package I was stationed on Guadalcanal and could not write. The contents of the package were deeply appreciated, more at this particular time, as I have just come from the fight on Tarawa Islands in the Gilberts. Our sea bags with our personal gear and clothing have not caught up with us as yet.”
Graham Reay writes that he does not see why we sent him a comb (he is bald) and that he saw Clyde Griffin in Oran.
Les Swaney sends us this word. “It is needless to say that I miss all the good things back home and look forward to the day that I’ll be hitting the Peninsula Highway again. So far, I have met with no one that I knew, out here. The work here has not been too bad, but the country is a desolate place to live in. There is snow all around us on the mountains, but none right here at the post. Had my first Army leave of several days a short time ago. Went to Terehan, the capital city, and saw many interesting things.”
Ray Carroll sent a V-Mail letter from Italy which was of particular interest to this cherry country. “Now and then we get some of those famous Grand Traverse cherries. I used to be proud of them back in the states, where the cooks have facilities to make them into pies. Over here, though, in the field, I am afraid I cannot report that the boys think much of water pack straight from the can. I can’t quite understand why they are shipped overseas.”
A letter from Jimmy McClusky just received says, “Your first edition of the Peninsula News reached me today and was surely fine. You are doing a fine thing for the fellows in the service and I am sure you will find their appreciation of your work will be as great as mine. Soldiers look forward to receiving the news from home more than anything, and your letters will be a welcome item in their mail call. As you may know, I am in the Hawaiian Islands. Just now I am on the island of Oahu at jungle training school.”
At the end of this letter you will find the names, rank, and mail address of each boy or girl from Peninsula Township. If they are not correct I hope you will tell us. Probably some of you have been promoted since we had your address and have a different rank, or soon may have one. Let us know about it when you write, and we really would like to hear from all whenever you have the time and urge.
With best wishes from,
PENINSULA HOME NEWS
by David R. Murray
A NOTE FROM JANE: I started Old Mission Gazette in 2015 because I felt a calling to provide the Old Mission Peninsula community with local news. After decades of writing for newspapers like the New York Times and Los Angeles Times, and magazines like Family Circle and Ladies' Home Journal, I really just wanted to write about my own community where I grew up on a cherry farm and raised my own family. So of course, I started my own newspaper. Because the Gazette is mainly reader-supported, I hope you'll consider tossing a few bucks my way if I mention your event, your business, your organization or your news item, or if you simply love reading about what's happening on the Old Mission Peninsula. Check out the donation page here. Thank you so much for your support. -jb