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Mason County Memories

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Tan Bark Bill and the news of September 16th 1944 History column Dave Petersen Today I'm looking back through some back issues of the Ludington Daily News from the 1940's to pick out a few stories and advertisements for this weeks column. Tan Bark Bill, now there is a nick name from the days when they knew how to give them. Tan Bark Bill aka William E Alexander who began his work career for a local farmer after his mother moved to Salem Massachusetts to work in the textile mills. After several years of this type of work William went to work on the canal boats and in Lake Erie about 1858. From there he sought work on the larger lake boats, and then the river boats working on the Mississippi for several years. Eventually his work on the boats brought him to Milwaukee where he stayed on shore loading boats at the dock for a time making 15 cents an hour. It was the promise of an increased wage for the same work, 20 cents an hour that brought him to Ludington to work on the docks loading freight in the break bulk boats. It wasn't long before William secured a job at Ward's South Mill for 45.00 a month, this involved 11 hour days (Sundays off) His journey to the woods and his new moniker had begun as it was not long before he made his way to the pinery and was cutting railroad ties in the Porcupine Swamp near Ludington. ( can anyone recall where that was?) William moved into a room at the Andre Hotel in Scottville in order to take advantage of the work afforded him the Hemlock forests near Scottville. The bark from these trees was of the most value as the barks were used in the tanneries and the peeled logs had little value at the time. As a result acres upon acres of hemlock logs were left in the forest to rot. William's prize possession was his spud, which he referred to as "old faithful". Bill explains that in those days the trees were chopped down rather then sawed and that the bark was then notched in four foot lengths so that the peeler could use their spud to relieve the log of its bark. Thousands of cords of bark was hauled to Scottville And piled on the railroad siding in preparation for shipping. William worked to produce a minimum of 11 cords a week at 1.75 a cord and thus was dubbed Tan Bark Bill by Dr. Thomas of Scottville and the nickname stuck. After several years he purchased land near Fountain and became an independent logger, eventually building a house that in 1944 was the site of the John Budzynski home. At the time of the article on Tan Bark Bill's life he was 96 years old. A Flying school for Ludington? Adolph Bulkavic from the Detroit area arrived in Ludington with his wife, and three others, Bob Hamlin, Jack Hunter, and Grace Gazvoda, all pilots. They brought in three airplanes and plans to open a flying school. Pic 1 Lt Edwin Piotrowski of Manistee is shown here with his dive bomber Jeanne Marie Pic 2 This is a circa 1910 photograph of a couple of local lumberjacks taking the bark off from a felled tree. Pic 3 This photograph shows a good view of the bark being peeled off in about 4 foot lengths and you can see the stack of bark in the background bundled up and ready to be taken to the rail yards for shipment. Pic 4 Does anyone remember Russell Beauty Salon? 21 New Polio Victims Listed. The year to date number of cases identified as of September 16th 1944 was 621. Headline "Yanks Tear at Reich along 500 mile Front." The world was still at war this day, only 315 miles away from Berlin but it would be another 8 months before the end of the war in Europe. What else was going on in 1944? Elementary school teachers were taking part in the issuance of Gasoline ration books, so the kids had a free day off. Three youths were apprehended by Scottville Policeman Walter Harris for stealing used cars from the rear of Max Jenks filling station. Russell Vorce bought the Dowland building at 231 East Dowland Street and has plans of moving his grocery stocks and offices there from 714 S James St. The Wolverine Firm will move into the Haskelite building on North Rowe St. In the classifieds we find a wanted to buy ad for a suitcase, a new Miller horse drawn bean harvester is for sale, Ray Sherburn has tomatoes for sale, the Old Hamlin has a help wanted female ad for a waitress, and the Daisy Mae Bakery is looking for a boy to work in the Bakery. How would you like to go shopping and pay these prices? 18oz box of cornflakes, 13cents, 32 cents for 5 pounds of sugar, 2 pounds of coffee for 51 cents, 25 pounds of flour for 1.01, and Flounder for 24 cents a pound. Prices sure have changed in 53 years. If you have local stories and photographs and wish to share those with our readers please feel free to contact me at 757-3240, davep@blackcreekpress.com or mail in care of the Ludington Daily News PO Box 340 Ludington Mi 49431.

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