i have not fished much recently as the pressure of “rat bastard time” forces me to do contest with the elusive damn dame lady muse. on my rare angling expeditions i have a favorite fishing spot in a secluded corner of lac la belle. when i wet a line and cast a nightcrawler on early mornings i have experienced good success in landing the rare keweenaw peninsula “tiger trout.” also, i am thankful for the splake fishing portrait done by henry demander. henry is a painter, poet, and the editor of “kamini press” in stockholm, sweden. a couple of years ago kamini press published a collection of my poems titled the poet tree.
socrates antioho owned and operated the bowling alley and pool hall on fifth street in calumet for many years. going to the bowling alley and pool hall was a kind of rite of manhood for the young local boys. at the bowling alley and pool hall calumet teenagers learned the experience of smoking, drinking and the challenge of adult games.
in 1970, when the copper mines closed the economy of calumet suffered. at this time antioho rented his building, and afterwards it had many other business operations and owners. when the building became vacant for a period of time, the keweenaw peninsula winters were damaging to the building’s structure. eventually the roof leaked, floors buckled, and the property was slowly destroyed.
for three years i had access to the old bowling alley and pool hall and apartments on the second floor. i used the building as a creative laboratory, shooting many pictures in both black-and-white and color film. several of my photos of the old bowling alley and pool hall were used in the splake chapbook being and becoming.
today the building is owned by james flood of calumet, and in 2012, the second story of the structure collapsed.
one spring morning i drove south of houghton to photograph the old red ridge metal dam. freda was a small village at the end of the highway, and i got curious as to what might be there. standing in the parking lot i looked down into a vast clearing and saw what resembled ancient roman or greek ruins.
freda had been the location of the champion mining company’s large stamping plant. freda was the name of the daughter of william paine, a boston financial broker who was president of the copper range consolidated company. when the champion mining operations ceased, the stamping plant was shut down and freda became a ghost town.
as a young boy i was raised on tinkertoys and erector sets, so it is not surprising that i find the quincy hoist house a fantastic place to visit. the nordberg power hoist is 60 feet high and its cylinder drum is 30 feet in diameter. the hoist’s 2,500 horsepower could raise a five-ton skip with a ten ton load at a speed of 3,200 feet per minute. the nordberg hoist and quincy hoist house is available to tourists during the summer months.
today few artifacts remain from the “boom copper” times. one can view old cobblestone smokestacks at the cliff mining site, and the old church at central mine still exists. the headframe and mine hoist of the quincy mine area above hancock have been preserved and provide an excellent educational tourist attraction.
while most of the important copper mining sites and their surrounding communities have vanished, many of the mining machines and tools have been preserved and are on display at the houghton country historical museum in lake linden, michigan.
however, the most attention-getting copper mining reminder is the old mining dredge resting against the torch lake shoreline between the village of tamarack and mason. early one morning i waded out in torch lake with my cameras, film tote and tripod tied to my body and climbed up the ladder to enter the dredge. suddenly i discovered an original art gallery unlike any other in the world.
in 1864, edwin hulbert discovered the rich copper bearing deposit later called the calumet conglomerate. shortly afterward the calumet-hecla company was established to successfully mine the copper ore. also in 1864, what is now calumet was settled under the name of red jacket. as the mining of copper ore prospered the companies needed more workers and the red jacket area quickly became a melting pot of different nationalities. people immigrated from england, germany, france, sweden, poland, and many other countries to join the boom copper mining era. after a very confusing period of history, the village of calumet was legally incorporated in 1929.
the country’s economic conditions were important for the success of calumet. during world war one and two, copper mining was very porsperous. however, during the periods of depressions, the earnings of the companies and miners was poor. in 1968, many calumet-hecla miners went on strike. when labor and management failed to reach a workable agreement, the mines were shut and have remained idle ever since.
with copper mining jobs lost and business profits long gone, many people left the calumet area to find other employment. many of them moved downstate to the detroit area and found work with the automobile industry or related business operations.
almost overnight calumet became a ghost town. this was the atmosphere that i found when i moved to calumet. there were many fine sandstone building empty with “for sale” and “for rent” signs in the windows. many of the houses were left vacant and suffered from the fierce elements of the keweenaw peninsula winters. very often heavy snow had collapsed roofs and arctic temperatures had burst the water pipes.
now the principle attraction of calumet is as a summer retreat for visiting tourists. however, this is not the solution for establishing a sold year round economic foundation. the creation of the new keweenaw national historic park with its visitor center in the old calumet union building may help the larger local economy. also, there seems to be a recent increase of artist and their creative talents settling in the calumet area. so, for an optimist, the future of calumet looks good for a slow, but steady, growth.
as i reflect upon the time i spent living in calumet, i feel the following are the more important historical features of calumet:
in 1889, the community had an enormous surplus in its treasury and the government decided to build an opera house for the local citizens. the calumet opera house and theater is the historical gem of the present day village. it is a two-story renaissance revival structure constructed from yellow-brown bricks. a porte-cochere covers one entrance and there is a clock an bell tower on top of the theater building. inside the calumet theater there are five marvelous murals on the proscenium.
italian hall memorial
the italian hall memorial and memorial park is dedicated to the memory of those who perished in the 1913 christmas eve party held in the italian benevolent society hall in calumet. when someone mistakenly yelled “fire,” seventy-three people, sixty-two of them children, were crushed to death trying to escape the building.
keweenaw national park visitor center
in 2011, the keweenaw national park administration renovated calumet’s old union building and created a visitor’s center for those interested in learning more about calumet and its mining history. the center is open around the year, however, there is a shorter operating schedule during the winter months. the visitor’s center has three floors of outstanding historical exhibits, including many artifacts and photographs.
the pasty was a meat pie meal made popular by the cornish miners. the miners used to warm their pasty lunch with a small fire under their mining shovels. a typical pasty is a mixture of meat, potatoes, rutabega, carrots, and onions wrapped in a crust of flour and lard. calumet now has an annual pastyfest celebration in agassiz park with a parade, music, and of course a pasty baking contest.
the calumet-hecla copper miners were very thirsty men during the time of the “boom copper” heydays. arthur w. thurner in his book calumet copper and people, stated that in 1907, red jacket with 4,000 residents had seventy-four taverns, and its sister city, laurium, with 8600 residents had twenty-five saloons. today the village of calumet still has a good number of taverns. there is luigi’s, jayne’s l&l bar, randy’s, the northend, and the up pub. the michigan house restaurant has pete’s pub, and also operates the red jacket brewing company as a brewpub.
like the abundance of taverns, calumet also used to have a large number of churches serving many different denominations. however, when calumet’s economy declined and its population decreased, many of the churches either merged or simply ceased to be. today, the twin spires of the st. paul the apostle church rise above the calumet community and serves many of the catholic faith. st. anne’s, once the church for the french catholics, was deconsecrated in 1966, and now serves as the keweenaw heritage center in calumet.
in its recent history, the village of calumet has enjoyed an increase in art gallery operations. it is interesting that all of the present art galleries are located on fifth street in the calumet community. the fifth street galleries are the omphale, gallery boheme, hahn hammered copper, copper country associated artists, and ziyad and company. in addition, there is the calumet art center which has an extensive program of creative workshops. students at the calumet art center can take pottery, weaving, and copper making classes. there are also occasional music concerts and poetry readings held in the calumet art center.
it seems that all my adult life i have had a place to drink an early morning cup of coffee and reflect upon recent personal failures and future successes.
as a high school teenager i drank coffee at the truckstop on highway m-31 in three rivers, michigan. while attending western michigan university, i often got my coffee at the quality bakery on south westnedge street in kalamazoo, michigan.
during my years as a professor at kellog community college in battle creek, michigan, i was a coffee regular at “hoties hideaway” on calhoun street.
while living in munising, michigan, for ten years i had my morning “cuppa” with j.b. kolbus at his superior street bakery.
upon moving to calumet, michigan, my first early morning coffee location was john’s family restaurant on fifth street. when john’s restaurant closed, i moved up fifth street to my “orson welles booth” at the evergreen cafe. for many years patrice and mary served me my morning coffee.
when the evergreen cafe went out of business, i established the “richard brautigan table” at the new conglomerate cafe on fifth street. the conglomerate cafe was sold to a young couple, carly and pat, who hanged the name of the coffe shop to the rosetta cafe. before the rosetta opened for business, for a short time i got my morning coffee at the burger king restaurant out by the calumet city limits. however, i found the burger king not a convenient place to do any serious thinking. also, the surroundings were too sterile and felt just like any other burger king establishment in the united states.
jacob heikkinen of traprock valley recently purchased the coffee house and is the new owner of the rosetta cafe. my morning espressos are prepared and served by the cafe’s prime barista, kathleen storm.
now the morning place where i daily get my coffee, review yesterday’s literary labors and look into the new creative projects is called my “camus corner.”