Infamous 'Leaning Barn' on the corner of Old Mission Road and Center Road, Old Mission Peninsula | Mark Melichar Photo, circa 1977
Infamous 'Leaning Barn' on the corner of Old Mission Road and Center Road, circa 1977 | Mark Melichar Photo

Today’s Reader Photo comes from Mark Melichar, who took this great picture of the infamous “Leaning Barn” on the corner of Center Road and Old Mission Road in June of 1977.

I gasped with joy when I opened Mark’s email and saw his beautiful high-resolution photo of the barn (I actually gasped – ask Tim), because it’s so much better than the one I have, which was probably taken with my Kodak Instamatic 110 camera around that same time.

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You can check out my photos of the barn here, along with a few of Rob Weber and his Jaguar XKE. We were out riding around that day and stopped to take a few pics of the barn. There may have been other shenanigans involved.

Mark said he took his photo of the barn one day when he was on a driving trip with his mom, up from downstate where they lived. “It was one of the few longer trips I was able to take with her alone,” he said. “Needless to say, I have a fond sense associated with that whole trip.”

I asked Mark about his name, because there are Melichars in the Traverse City area. Some of you may remember Anne Melichar, who passed away in 2006 and was very active in the Traverse City community, working at Milliken’s downtown and serving on various boards throughout her life.

Mark hails from the St. Joseph area in southwest Michigan, but said he’s curious about other Melichars because the name is not that common.

“I remember learning about Anne Melichar’s family sometime in the 1990s,” he said. “It turns out that as a percentage of the local population with the name Melichar, Traverse City ranks among the highest places in the U.S., after Lincoln, Nebraska.” Who knew?!

He added that he hopes to take a selfie one day soon with the Melichar Drive street sign in Elmwood Township.

As for the infamous Leaning Barn, it was fascinating because it leaned in the wind, as you can see in Mark’s photo, but if the wind was blowing in the other direction, the barn stood up straight again. The barn finally blew over many years ago, but I believe you can still see the foundation from Center Road, in the field behind the house.

Tim and I still call it “Barney’s Barn” whenever it comes up in conversation, because our friend Barney Kramer lived in the accompanying house on the corner there at the time. I remember that he had a great antique barber’s chair in that house. I seem to recall that he either restored it himself or had someone else restore it. He loved that chair.

Barney, whose family owned (and still owns) the Kramer farm on Center Road near the intersection of Bluff Road, later died in a car crash, the victim of a drunk driver. Tim and I had a band at the time, and Tim wrote a song about it called “Where’s Barney.” At the beginning and end of the song, we included the noise of diners at the Old Mission Tavern (it took us a few tries to get just the right recording there). If we ever get around to digitizing those songs, I’ll post it on the Gazette.

Barney was a great guy, the truest friend you would ever know. When Tim and I lived in my Grandma Stella’s house on the corner of Peninsula Drive and Kroupa Road, a bunch of us got snowed in there one weekend, including Barney. He was learning sign language at the time, so he could communicate with Rob Weber’s deaf siblings.

The totality of the sign language I know – which is very little – I learned from Barney that weekend. On a related note, I was always fascinated by how Tim could communicate with the Webers, even though he didn’t know any sign language. But they always seemed to know exactly what the other was saying.

By the way, Barney’s mom, Ruth Kramer, only recently passed away in 2016 at the age of 103 at her home in Midland. After Barney’s death in 1982, she worked tirelessly to form a Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) chapter in Traverse City and devoted many hours to making that happen. Her obituary notes that “she was an important contributor in toughening drunk driving laws and implementing crime victim rights in Michigan law and the state constitution.”

Ruth was also involved in Farm Bureau activities to ensure that cherries were seen as an important product in the community. She was a member of the Archie Junior Women’s Club on the Old Mission Peninsula, Eastern Star, and Central United Methodist Church for more than 50 years.

More about Ruth’s long and fascinating life from her obituary…

As a young girl she moved with her mother to Traverse City, where she attended Traverse City High School, graduating in 1930. She attended Michigan State College, earning a Bachelor of Science degree in Medical Biology in 1934. She worked as a medical technologist first at Women’s Hospital and McLaren Hospital in Flint, Michigan and then later in Traverse City where she worked for Munson Hospital along with several medical offices, ending her career at the Beaumont Medical Building in 1978.

She married Arthur A. Kramer in Flint on October 30, 1938. They shared 62 years together until Arthur’s death, always working as a team. While in Flint they owned Kramer’s Mobil Oil Service Station and drive-in restaurant.

In 1952, they sold their business and bought a cherry farm on the Old Mission Peninsula, first named Cherry Chick Farm, later re-named “Kramer’s” farm. There they also grew pick your own strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries, and for many years had a chicken business producing local eggs and commercial pullets.

I can confirm that the Kramers had the best berries at their farm. A little bit of Old Mission history for you on this cold February day, and a big thanks to Mark for sending the photo along.

Do you have a photo you’d like to share with Old Mission Gazette readers? Email it to me at [email protected], and let me know when and where it was taken, who’s in the photo, and any other details you’d like to convey. (I am hoping that someone has a good picture of the “Tootsie Roll.”)

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