(from Summer, 2015 Macomb Now Magazine)
By Denis LeDuc
The summers of my youth were slow and lazy, seemingly neverending. School was only vaguely somewhere far over the horizon. I would spend my long, hot days skipping stones, running the woods with my brother, building forts against Indian attack, and fishing. Now I wonder where those summers slipped away.
Usually we fished from shore or along a breakwater, but several times a year Dad rented boats. Old, heavy wooden boats that took real muscle to launch. Dad liked the quiet of the water, so not motor was ever tolerated. Besides, why bother? He had two strong boys to row. I still remember the blisters. My Dad was not a particularly enthusiastic fisherman. Once, though, he caught a northern pike on his bated safety pin. Mostly there ws the slow passing of time with his sons. Water lapped against the hull, and the wooden planning creaked with the gentle sway of the water as the boat drifted slowly with the current.
It must have been just such a summer day captured in our photograph. The heavy, wooden, summer excursion boat in our photo taken on the Clinton River in Mount Clemens, circa 1915, recall s the wooden boats my father rented. Across the river are the Park Annex Hotel and Original Bath House (what is now McArthur Park). The wake of the boat reaches right back across the river, so the passengers are likely guests of the hotel being ferried across to Garvey’s Park Springs where our photographer is standing.
In addition to the curative power of the sulphur baths, visitors came to Mount Clemens for the healthful natural spring drinking water. There were numerous spring water pavilions throughout the city and several, like Garvey’s Park, could be accessed from the river. These were gathering places to socialize, play cards, write letters and postcards, and drink the natural spring water. Many also had music and wooden dance floors, definitely, a place to pass a slow, gentle summer’s day.
Notice the men all have white shirts, dark trousers, with straw boater hats or fedoras. To the far left on the boat, one gentleman sports a newsboy cap, and the gentleman in the white fedora at the rear of the boat is paddling it with a single oar. The women are bare-headed and in belted, white summer dresses. Reflection of the hotel, bathhouse, boat, and passengers can be clearly seen on the calm water
Having disembarked at Garvey Park, our group will be joined by others on the extensive lawn and deck. The crystal clear spring water is only 5 cents per glass. “The water here is very fine.” Wrote one woman on her postcard home. “The river is beautiful, come join us?”
Navigable by small boats, canoes, rafts, and kayaks upstream of Mount Clemens and by large boat downstream, the Clinton river is an important recreational part of Macomb County’s growing blue economy. Volunteers interested in helping clean and maintain our beautiful river should contact Clinton River Watershed Council at crwc.org.
Photo courtesy of Mount Clemens Public Library.