Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Gitche Gumee And Some Family History

It's still raining so I'm still writing.  In the last post, I rode across the Mighty Mac at noon on Monday 8/27 and stopped at an observation tower just west of St Ignace to take a picture of the bridge.  My next stop was another couple of miles west on Highway 2 at Lehto's Pasties for lunch. Many believe that Lehto's makes the best pasties in the UP.  You can't eat there...they don't even have a picnic table, but a half mile to the east is a roadside park with tables, toilets, water, and a view of the lake.  They make one kind of pasty at Lehto's, containing beef and potato, and it is large and very good.  I sat at a picnic table in the park looking at the pasty and thinking there was no way I could eat it all, but once I got started I couldn't stop until it was all gone...and then I licked the paper.

I left the park full and satisfied and continued westward on highway 2 to highway 77 north, to 28 west into Au Train, a small town on Lake Superior, twelve miles west of Munising. A little west of Au Train on Au Train Bay is where my foster cousin Ruth and her husband Mark purchased a "camp" a few years ago.  The camp consists of a two BR cabin and a large out-building where they store all manner of vehicles and equipment.

I should explain "foster cousin".  My Finnish mother, Aina Ellen Syrjanen, was brought to the UP by her mother in 1920 at age 10.  Her father Gust Syrjanen preceeded them by 7 years and operated  a bakery in Marquette and later in Chatham.  When their mother died young, Ruth's father, Paul, and his sister, Signe, were partially raised by my grandparents and my mother.  Ruth and Mark, who were both raised and live in Florida, have taken a keen interest in the Syrjanen family history, and have done a tremendous amount of research including two trips to Finland and many many trips to the UP culminating in the purchase of their camp where they now spend summers.  They now know a lot more about my mother's family than I ever did and probably ever will. I love getting together with them and learning more about the Syrjanens. This is a shot of the Lake Superior shoreline that lies just beyond the trees in the shot above.

Monday evening, we drove a couple of miles east on highway 28 to eat at the Brownstone Inn which is also right across the street from the lake and has been in operation since 1946.

The dining room is rustic and the food is good.  I enjoyed the Lake Superior White Fish.

The current owner is jolly fellow Jeff Van Bremen.

The bar is both rustic and cozy, just the way you want it in the far north woods.

Tuesday morning, we headed about 10 miles south to Chatham, where my grandfather's second bakery in the UP was located. Before leaving the Lake Superior shore, I stopped to look at a cabin my Uncle Jorma used to rent as a summer getaway.  Current rent is $1,000 a year if you are interested.

The shortest route to Chatham from Jorma's cabin is south on Rock River Road, a beautiful gravel lane through the north woods.

The current population of Chatham is about 230.  The entire village burned to the ground in 1925 with the exception of two brick buildings...the Pacific Hotel, shown here, and another building across the street.

Today the hotel operates as a restaurant, and that's where we ate breakfast.  I had "Fish In The Boat", Lake Superior lake trout with fried eggs and hashbrowns, yum yum.  Here's an old photo of the original Pacific Hotel.

My grandfather's bakery was one of the casualties of the fire. This was the original Chatham bakery.

And this is the bakery after the fire. That's Grandpa Gust Syrjanen 2nd from the left.

The bakery in Chatham was rebuilt, along with most of the rest of the town, and operated as a bakery for several more years, but has since been torn down.  Gust died in 1933 at age 65.  His son, my Uncle Jorma, built a bakery in 1928 in Trenary about 12 miles south of  Chatham.  That bakery is still in operation and ships "Trenary Toast" nationwide.  That story coming in a future post.

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