2012 looking back

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2012 Special Historical Section


  • Wheeling around the dunes

    Looking Back over the yesteryears includes a big thank you to those who have supported this special section. Following are the names of sponsors and their advertising messages are listed on the various pages:

    Arts Tavern, 6Bahles, 15 Bayshore Oil & Propane, 13

    Becky Thatcher Designs, 14Bonek Agency, 10Boskydel Vineyard, 12Buntings Market, 14Cedar Auto Repair, 7Cedar Tavern, 15Cherryland Electric, 9Coxs Piano Service, 5Deerings, 5Devette & Ford Insurance, 14

    Dorseys on Glen Lake, 2 Excel Rehabilitation, 15Fischers Happy Hour, 5Forget Me Not Florist, 14Fountain Point Resort, 4Gabes Country Market, 12Kal Excavating, 11Kiss Carpet, 2LaCross Horse Logging, 3Leelanau Cheese, 13

    Life Story Funeral Home, 4Lil Bo Pub & Grill, 7Lima Bean, 7Manitou Marine, 14Maple City Health & Fitness, 12MC Short Stop, 14Northern Lumber, 3Northport Bay Boat Yard, 6Northwood Kitchens, 14Penning Group, 3

    Riverfront Pizza, 14Salon Chenneaux, 7Seeco Contracting, 10Shady Trails Camp, 13St. Mary, 10Stander Marine, 16Tampico, 5Trend Window & Door, 12Vans Garage, 5Yarn Shop, 12

    Thanks to our sponsors

    By Chris OlsonOf The Enterprise staff

    Anyone who visited Leelanau County during the summer months from 1938-78 likely took a ride in a Dunesmobile, a motorized excursion into what is now know as Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore of-fered by Louis Warnes and his fam-ily.

    According to information pro-vided by the Empire Area History Museum, Warnes modified his fam-ily car with large tires to drive in the sand area his family owned in 1935. The idea appealed to a lot of folks, so he started offering tours.

    By 1938, Warnes had the Sleeping Bear Dunes Wagon Dunes Ride up and running. From the end of May to the end of the fall color season you could catch a ride on 13 mile loop on a hard-pack road from the bottom of the Sleeping Bear Dunes to the top and back.

    Daniel Boone Harriger of Em-pire and Charlie Bennett, originally of Glen Haven but now of Frankfort, spent many summers working for Warnes on his dune rides.

    Bennett said he was already fa-miliar with Sleeping Bear dunes as he spent his summers at the family home near Glen Haven. He enjoyed driving his beach buggy up and down the dunes.

    I was going to apply to work for the car ferries that ran out of Man-istee, he said. I had stopped by the old Empire Bar, now the Village Inn, for lunch and met up with Boone Harriger.

    Warnes saw Bennett and Harriger, and heard Bennett say he was apply-ing for a job. Warnes had his fore-man offer him a job.

    Louis, he knew my family, Ben-nett said. The supervisor he came over and said Louis wants to know if you want to go work for him. That was all it took for me, he said.

    Bennett and Harriger worked to-gether to build his first beach buggy. At the time Bennett lived on Niagara Street in Empire, in the last house on the right-hand side before you get to the villages Lake Michigan beach.

    Charlie would drive all over there, Harriger said. On the beach, on the sand, on the dunes. You could do that then, it wasnt against the law.

    Harriger said he started working with the dunes ride after he married Warnes niece Marion.

    She always worked at the dune ride, so I got a job there, too, he said.

    A typical work day for Harriger and his fellow drivers was to first make sure the road was in good shape, then perform maintenance on the dunes ride vehicles.

    At noon, Id go take a shower, put on a fresh set of clothes, then drive until the end of the sunlight, he said.

    The Warnes family has a long his-tory of providing tours in what is now the dune climb area off M-109 in Glen Arbor Township.

    Before they had cars, Louis and Marion offered horse riding tours on the dunes, Marion Harriger said. The tour would start at the store, then they would ride up to the top of Mother Bear, go across the top of the dunes, then come down what is now the dune climb, and head back to the store.

    They usually did two or three trips a day with the horses.

    The vehicle he drove most was truck No. 31, a modifi ed 1965 Ford pick-up.

    Some things you cant do anymore, at least legally

    NED PLOWMAN is driving this happy group of people in one of Louis Warnes 1938 Sleeping Bear Dunesmobiles. Photo by Fred Dickinson

    LOUIS AND MARION Warnes ran their Sleeping Bear Scenic Dune Rides business from this spot in front of their general store in Glen Haven for at least 40 years.(Concluded on Page 2)

    Not to sound like a fuddy-duddy, but things just arent the same in Leelanau County.

    There was a time when you could dip smelt in the Carp River. If you were thirsty you could get a pop from a gen-uine soda fountain. If the mood struck, you could load up a group of friends in the back of your pick-up truck and take them for a ride.

    Most of these things you cant do anymore. Its legal for people ages 18 and older to ride in the back of pick-ups. But smelt runs are largely a thing of the past in Leelanau County, and the soda fountains and dune rides are long gone.

    A little snip-it on each subject fol-lows. Enjoy the look back.

    * * *

    Smelt dipping in the Carp (Leland) River

    You can still head out and catch smelt on inland lakes, including Lake Lee-lanau, and many ice fi shermen do. But there was a time when smelt, a fresh-water sardine-like fi sh, ran in suffi cient numbers that hundreds of anglers would gather each spring to fi ll their buckets.

    Smelt, it seemed, were found all over, from the mouth of tiny Belanger Creek in Suttons Bay Township to large venues such as the mouths of Crystal River in Glen Ar-bor and the Leland River at Fishtown.

    There were so many of the little fi shies that Carlsons Fish Market in Fishtown would host a smelt fry each spring.

    Those smelt fries at Carlsons were

    a big event, said Wendy VerSnyder, a life-long Leland Township resident. Her husband, Jim, has worked at Carlsons in different capacities over the last 40 years. Dark clouds of the tiny fi sh once attempted to make their way from Lake Michigan over the Leland dam.

    Theories abound as to why the smelt population took such a dip, and it may be that a combination of changes in the Lake Michigan watershed conspired to reduce smelt populations. Smelt are still prevalent in Lake Leelanau, although large catches are rarely reported.

    Youll still fi nd a few die-hard smelt dippers in Fishtown toward the end of April, lights beaming into the Leland River with hopes of a resurrection of smelt runs of the past. They may be

    rewarded with the sighting of a couple stragglers or even a good pull but, as for now, smelt dipping in Leelanau County is more a thing to the past than a way to fi ll the freezer.

    * * *

    Getting a good, ol fashion soda pop at a soda fountain

    The traditional soda fountains of old are also long gone. As recently as the late 1960s you stop in Empire or Sut-tons Bay and get an old fashion root beer through the magic combination of soda water from a fountain and fl avor-ing syrups. David Taghon, keeper of all things historic in Empire, said Marshalls Drugs was where Empire residents went to quench their soda thirsts.

    (Concluded on Page 2)

  • I believe its one of the trucks used by the Grosvenors out on S. Manitou Island, Harriger said.

    Driving on the dune, especially up on top, provided a new experience every day.

    It was gorgeous, the views, Harriger said. Every day the view was something different. Being cloud cover, bright sunlight, over-cast, even rainy, the perspective was always a little different.

    Bennett said he and Ned Plowman of Empire built Warnes first dunes ride truck.

    It was a three-door Internation-al Travel-All with a crew cab, he said.

    On the first dunesmobiles they took off the windshields as part of the modifications.

    We learned pretty quick it was a better idea to keep the windshields on, with all that sand blowing around, Bennett said.

    Changes came when the dunes area became a state park. Instead of driving all over the dunes, Bennett said the state required Warnes put in a road and that all the tours stay on the road. When the entire area be-came federal property in the early 1970s, Bennett said Warnes knew the end was near.

    I worked for Louis right up un-til about a year before it closed, he said. I hated to see it go. It wasnt hurting anything. It wasnt a thrill ride, it was a scenic ride. We drove nice and slow.

    By 1978 the rides were shut down as the National Park Service (NPS) banned driving on the dunes for eco-logical reasons.

    Bennett was glad to see the NPS did incorporate part of the Warnes' road system in with the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive.

    The original superintendent, he wanted to take all of that out, he said.

    Harriger said Warnes was strict about making sure his dune rides did not harm the sand dunes or the surrounding area.

    We were very careful where we went. When we drove down by the beach, we never went into the water. he said. I think we were doomed after a group of guys came up from down Detroit way with their dune buggies.

    They destroyed the area, Harriger recalled.

    They went out on the beach by Otter Creek, tore south towards this sand bowl area, and just tore it up, he said. I know the park service was leaning towards banning driv-ing on the dunes anyway, but those

    guys sure speeded up the process. Harriger said Warnes was a de-

    manding, but fair boss. He made sure things were safe,

    and you had to keep your car clean, he said. He was fanatical about maintenance. If you had a problem with a car, you heard a grinding or squeak, you were expected to take