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Mason County Memories

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

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

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david k petersen

Maritime photographers over the past 100 [and some] years have provided us with a rich and diverse view of the ships that have plied the Great Lakes. Without their talent and efforts we would have lost much of the visual records that we have come to appreciate. This is especially so since those days have passed and the ships have made their way to either the bottom of the lakes or the scrap yards to be dismantled. Collectors scramble to find those cherished scraps of history that are left, from newspaper articles to brochures and schedules, keys to the staterooms, and other salvaged pieces of the ships themselves. How would you like to have the nameplate from the PM 18 hanging in your kitchen, a life ring, or as Captain AK Hoxie did, put a porthole in his house. As the story goes though his wife would only allow him to have a porthole in the house if it was built into the closet. [and it was] Photographs are the next best thing to being there, and I think it has not been the professional photographers that have given us the best records but rather the amateur and semi professionals that have provided the images that seem to catch our interest more. It's especially so for those individuals who worked aboard the boats themselves and were able to catch the grand old ladies of the lakes on both their best and worst days. Some of the photographs I enjoy the most are those taken by Erhardt Peters during those years he worked aboard the Pere Marquette 22 and The City of Flint as a wheelsman. He had an unprecedented access to many parts of the ship that were not available to the traveling public and he was able to capture candid and spontaneous life on the ship as it occurred day to day. He was a prolific photographer having taken thousands of photographs starting in the 1920's while still in High School of scenes in and around Leland Michigan, his hometown. Erhardt was born in 1904 to John and Anna Peters in Leland. Erhardt's father had previously worked on North Manitou Island at the Lifesaving Station and by 1916 was back at work for the Lifesaving Service as Chief Engineer of the Lightship Manitou. Erhardt started his college education in Geology at the Normal School in Mount Pleasant but left after a short time and went to work for the Pere Marquette Carferries here in Ludington. As before he carried his camera with him everywhere and through his lens captured a rich kaleidoscope of rare and detailed images of the ships he worked on and that he observed while working in the pilot house. Each time a new freighter comes into our harbor you will probably notice several people coming down to capture the view on their camera, they too are performing an important role in the preservation of our maritime history In fifty years it will most likely be their photographs that are sought out by collectors and historians as they continue to research the ongoing maritime history that has made our area rich in more ways that money could provide. With the Carferry festival on the horizon in mid June, and the anticipated Maritime Museum in the old Coast Guard building it might be a good time to think about those relics and images of our maritime history that may be stored away in your closet. I'm certain that White Pine Village will be looking for additional artifacts and other items to further preserve our maritime heritage and help create displays in the new museum. Preserving our local Maritime as well as all the other history of the area is important, and the best resources are often in the hands of individuals rather then societies or museums.

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