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Mason County Memories


"You can't depend on your eyes if your imagination is out of focus" ~ Mark Twain


History Columns are arranged by year of publication in the Ludington Daily News



david k petersen

Armistice Day November 11th 1940 started out as a mild late fall morning, one where people would venture out often with no coat or went duck hunting with light gear in the marshes across the Midwest.

They were unprepared for what some called the "Winds of Hell" that were barreling across the country and cutting a 1000 mile wide swatch of destruction. They didn't see it coming. It wasn't just that we didn't have the technology, they knew a storm was coming, but the Chicago Meteorological Office was closed overnight and no one was watching.

City of Flint Ludington

The last forecast? A little colder and a few flurries. Only the Great Blizzard of 1888 which caused the deaths of 400 people, sank 200 ships, brought 40 inches of snow and drifts up to 50 feet deep in New Jersey, Connecticut, New York and Massachusetts topped the Armistice Day storm of 1940.

It came in fast, 50 to 80 mph winds, rain, ice and snow up to 26 inches and drifts up to 20 feet deep in some places. Temperatures which had gone up to 70 degrees in some areas dropped to single digits. Stories of the storm and the dramatic tales of death, destruction and survival endure today. Like the storm of 9-11 those who were old enough to remember Armistice Day 1940 can tell you where they were and the impact it had on their lives.

The William B Davock with all hands were lost, the Novadoc was broken in two off Pentwater as well, the City of Saginaw was 6 hours overdue but made it to Milwaukee safely and the City of Flint failed to navigate the harbor entrance and beached off the shore. The last carferry to go agound was the Pere Marquette 19 near Big Point Sauble in 1916.

There were at least 2 people amongst the hundreds of spectators that documented the drama photographically, one, who was aboard the Flint, a Pere Marquette carferry employee that I only know at this time nicknamed Jibber Jabber and Harold T Holmes of Holmes photography in Ludington that put together a seldom [if ever] seen series of photographs over November 11, and 12th 1940.

Pere Marquette 32

The Holmes Studio at 114 West Ludington Avenue caught fire and burned in 1955, with most of this extraordinary photographers negatives and photos. Harold , who is still referred to as Holmey by some of our locals began working for the Home Photo Service studio in 1929 and opened his own studio in 1935. He spent over 30 years capturing our community on film and I'm pleased to be able to share these surviving photos of the Armistice Day Storm of 1940 with you.

These photographs were in a small pocket album, and numbered from 1 to 26, most likely to take orders for re-prints, I found 4 of this series in my Great Grandmothers photo album as example.

Coast Guard

0] Starting with the first call, "Hello! The biggest storm in years hits Ludington and Lake Michigan,

1] The City of Flint is aground and sitting on the bottom, the water compartments filled to minimize pounding by the surf, Jens Veevang in command. 2] The Coast Guard shoot a line for the life buoy

3]The line is up, 45 crew members and 4 passengers are aboard but in no immediate danger.

4] Sending out the buoy to bring in the first man.

5] Ernest Delatowski is brought to shore on the breeches buoy, making much of the trip in the water and taken to Paulina Stearns hospital as a precaution.

6] Safe on Shore but cold and wet. Luther Ryder was the second man brought to shore. The remaining crew and passengers ride it out.

7] Coast Guard is going out to pick up a body afloat. Life preservers on the bodies indicate that the crew of the William B Davock that sunk to the south near Pentwater are washing ashore.

8] The storm is washing the bodies to shore and the decision is made to wait and pick them up on shore.

9] Coastguard's men back with their feet on the ground and thankful.

10] 12 bodies were recovered by Wednesday and held at the Salvation Army Headquarters at 108 South Rath Street.

11] A view from the Pier during the storm 12] Not a very safe place to be during one of the great storms of the 20th century.

13] The Coast Guard coming to remove the 4 passengers, the crew remained on board.

14] Passenger being lowered over the side, November 12th about 1 PM view from the pier.

15] Lowering a passenger to the life boat

16] Taken from on board the City of Flint, now how did he do that?

17] After two days of worrying

17a] Another view not in the original album showing passengers coming ashore after being taken off from the Flint.

18] Finally ashore. and safe at the dock

19] The big job of moving,

20] Tug John F. Cushing of Chicago and the Pere Marquette 21 are working to free the Flint on November 14th.

21] City of Flint, being pulled into deeper water

22] On her own again, and heading in.

23] Ice on the sub chasers

24] An Iced up ship

25] After removal of the ice it was found that the ship was virtually undamaged.

26] Another view of an iced up City of Flint.






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