Some Background Information

by Pat Baribeau, esky150.org President

Escanaba was born in a period that throbbed with the excitement of the fast developing North Country… From the South came the disturbing echo of the Civil War… Iron Ore was needed to convert into steel for the armies of the North, for cannon, for ships…

At Sand Point, selected as the Escanaba town site, streets surveyed by Eli P. Royce were dotted with pine stumps… Construction of docks and railroads brought people and the need for housing and in 1863 three “boarding houses” for workmen were built—the first permanent settlement.

So begins The Century Book, published nearly fifty years ago as part of Escanaba’s Centennial celebration. It is a book still in demand today and, thanks to City Clerk Bob Richards, is available in PDF format. It gives not only a glimpse into our early history but also into life in Escanaba half a century ago.

I am old enough to remember those fifty years ago. A new Chamber of Commerce Building had been built with labor donated by local unions and materials paid through local fundraising efforts. The Goulais addition was beginning to take shape. Near Danforth, a 165-foot microwave relay tower began sending cable service that included three TV channels (NBC, CBS and ABC) as well as two FM radio channels to residents of Escanaba. City Council was discussing extending 3rd and 5th Avenues South to access the site for the new high school, and an Education Council had been formed to talk about the need for a community college here.

By 1963, when the actual celebration took place, there was more to celebrate than just our first one hundred years. Escanaba was looking to the future as well, having built its new high school and opened the doors of Bay de Noc Community College. There was a weeklong celebration that summer and the whole town as well as many visitors turned out for the festivities. There were whistles, bells and cannons, a spectacular air show, and lots of fireworks. Carnival rides were set up in Ludington Park and there were parades, band concerts, dances, sporting events, community barbecues and picnics. Women dressed in period costumes and men sported beards and moustaches.

Now, fifty years later, we look forward to celebrating our 150th birthday in 2013. And, just as then, a great deal of preparation and planning is needed to make this as memorable an event as was held in 1963.

To that end, a group of community leaders, led by local sports historian Jack Beck, met in January to begin this process. Many ideas were presented and all agreed that now was the time to begin organizing. This time around though, we have the advantage of technology that can provide for input from all who are interested in both following our progress and in offering their suggestions.

Many volunteers will be needed in fundraising, entertainment, youth and sports activities, downtown events, ceremonies, exhibits, tours, art, culture and history.

Just as in 1963, we will also be celebrating other milestones: Fifty years of Bay College educating our young people and a soon to be newly remodeled high school. The City is again looking to the future as it develops a plan for its downtown and the development of the North shore where our docks and railroads are still an economic force in our community. Who knows what we may accomplish on these projects that we’ll be celebrating in 2013!

Yes, I still remember our centennial festivities, as I’m sure many others do. It was one of the most memorable years of my childhood and I still fondly recall how the community came together in celebration of all kinds. Now is the time to begin planning for that next milestone so today’s children and all our residents can fondly remember this celebration that is soon to come. Consider what you have to offer in both time and ideas to assist us in observing the 150th birthday of our great hometown. Together, we can make this the biggest and best birthday party possible.

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