The Day I Made The Front Page!

I am the fellow on the left, age 15.
I am the fellow on the left, age 15.

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!

Sign of the old times.
Sign of the old times.

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.


  1. John B

    RE: And how thick could the ice have been if the car had gone through? Global Warming was a menace even then!

    Yes, didn’t 1977 or 1978 mark the turn around from “The Ice Man Cometh” to the first rumbling of “Man-Gore-Pig”?

  2. Sheri

    Safer, yes. As educational and entertaining, no! I refuse to use computer simulations for all those things Mythbusters says not to try at home! (Too late on several of the warnings anyway!)

    On the same topic, America’s Funniest Home Videos seems to offer a vicarious trip into what not to try at home—like diving off the roof onto trampolines, etc. All is not left to computers as long as you can make $10,000 for showing the world how really stupid you are!

  3. An Engineer

    Love those Michigan town names: Gaylord, Grayling, Charevoix, Petosky, Kalkaska, Alpenia, and others. Makes me think of railroad conductors announcing “next stop Charrrlavoy.” The UP is a cold place, even in summer. Got stuck in a snow drift in mid June outside Ishpeming doing field work for Cleveland Cliffs Mining Company. Evidence of glaciation was all around. Exposed cliffs along the shore of Lake Superior were scoured and polished by hundreds of thousands of years of glacial ice miles thick. Glaciers gouged out bowl shaped depressions in granite that became swamps, but the swamps were on top of the hills! So add lots of glacial ice to the seasonal inexorable flow of lake ice each spring. Climate sure was different but 10,000 years ago. In Michigan, the geology and topography, tell the story. Town names add color!

  4. “From Gaylord”

    Now I understand the high occurrence of some topics! 😉

  5. Briggs

    Amen. Happy joyful ruler, Hans. Cheerful and bright landowner.

    An Engineer,

    Say “Sault Ste Marie” three times fast.


    If I could’ve made money from acting stupidly, I’d already be a billionaire.

    John B,

    To think that I was there at the beginning!

  6. Yawrate

    Woke up in East Jordan (same latitude as Gaylord but further West) on Sunday to 14 inches of lake effect snow. It’s a little early for that much powder but it’s not exceptional. It made the opening of firearm season more difficult. Much harder to walk to your stand.

  7. DAV


    why is it called a stand when one mostly sits in it?

  8. John B

    To wit:
    (From a 2007 post of the International Maritime Organization)

    Through the National Meteorological and Hydrological Services (NMHSs) of its 188 Members, WMO has played a crucial role in detecting, and alerting humanity to, climate change and is now at the forefront of responding to this challenge. Its work in this area has included: the publication of the first authoritative statement on the accumulation of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and the potential impact that this process might have on the earth’s climate (1976); the establishment of the World Climate Research Programme (1979) and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) (1988); and the development and adoption of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (1992).

    STRESS :: the first authoritative statement

    It’s authoritative…

  9. John B

    This one is even better from the horse’s mouth ballyhooing its 60 year existence (1950-2010) … PLUS
    a special booklet that outlines the WMO’s historic achievements and illustrates sixty ways that WMO makes a difference in our daily lives (DAILY! How can I get one?)

    read more:

  10. John B

    It was kind of hard to find (at least for me had to wade through a few downloads before I found what I wanted – there’s even a cute picture of a little girl hugging the world)

    Sorry for the inundation, wanted to get this right (I knew ’88 was important – Hansen’s appearance before Congress but I heard rumors about the mid-seventies – as Alarmist pooh poohed that any true scientist bought into the Time/Newsweek Ice Age scares of the 70s)

    This is all

  11. Sheri

    John B: Shouldn’t it be a little girl hugging a polar bear? 🙂

  12. Nowadays, that car in a “puddle” would invoke actions by hundreds of those “concerned” with environmental cleanup; taking weeks; and environmental reports on the impact of species, etc. being sent to the EPA. Before the vehicle is allowed to be moved.

  13. Yawrate

    DAV, It’s also called a blind yet you can see out of it.

  14. Sheri

    Love those “hunting blind” observations!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *