Where I Live

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beaver islander

It was suggested that if I were to have another day where I could think of nothing to write about, I could write about Beaver Island.

Today is that day.

Though there are many wonderful and interesting things to tell about this place, first and foremost, Beaver Island is my home.

My father was raised here, as were his parents.

In Lapeer, Michigan, where I grew up, we often had visitors from Beaver Island. Those visits were full of laughter, stories and reminiscing, and always put Dad in a cheery mood. We knew from a young age that Beaver Island was a special place.

We came here on vacation when I was a child. We roamed the fields, climbed the trees and played in the barn at the farmhouse where my father had grown up. We spent long days on the beaches, then snuggled under warm quilts in the big iron beds at night. When vacation was over and we boarded the ferry to begin our long trip home, I was the kid hanging over the rail, sobbing, because I couldn’t bear to leave.

When I was able to come here to live, I did.

Beaver Island is the largest of the islands in Lake Michigan. It is about four times the size of Mackinac Island, which sits over in Lake Huron, and quite a bit more remote. As the crow flies, we are about ten miles from the mainland, whether the shores of the Upper Peninsula or Cross Village in the Lower Peninsula. Transportation to the island – either by boat or small plane – comes from Charlevoix, about thirty-two miles away. The ferry ride is two hours long!

Beaver Island has about five hundred year-round residents, and about triple that number in the warm seasons.

When my Dad was growing up here, the main industries were Fishing, Farming and Logging. That changed drastically just after World War II. The fishing industry fell off, I think in part due to the introduction of the Lamprey eel. The last of the virgin timber had been logged and hauled away. Shipping rates made profitable farming nearly impossible. In addition, the G.I. Bill created a lot of opportunities elsewhere. Between 1940 and 1950, the population dropped from possibly about two thousand residents to barely one hundred fifty.

Today, there is some logging going on here, as well as fishing, farming and building. We have teachers and medical personnel, electricians, plumbers and carpenters. Tourism is our main industry, though, and the bulk of jobs are in the shops, pubs and restaurants that cater to them.

Winters are long and lonely and cold; Summers are so busy there is little time left to enjoy all the wonders here. Wages are often lower, and the cost of living higher than in most other areas.

When I answer questions that, “Yes, I live here year-round,” and, “Yes, I love it,” I often also add, “I have several brothers and sisters that think I’m crazy to want to be here all year…”

It is certainly not a place or a lifestyle that is for everyone.

Speaking only for myself, Beaver Island suits me just fine.

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12 responses »

  1. When I grew up….you know thank you for writing this about that special period in your life and how you really enjoyed that time. After reading it and I have a little tough time reading most things it connected me with the time I grew up in New Jersey. The time we all felt like there was no other time period and we were caught in a time period. How it felt to good and nothing better. You certainly made me connect to what you went through and my time. Thank you for that…best!!

    • Thanks, Joseph, for reading, and for these thoughtful comments. Yes, there is that time in our lives where we are the center of that small universe…no other time or place is important. It’s nice to relive those feelings now and then!

      • For sure…I really know what you are saying…I live in a small town where it was at one time such a great place with all historic buildings and great times. My family was all over and had a butcher shop and a few others ones. Now my brother and family still has a business here but I find now I want to leave because its my time and its not the same..Many memories and but not the same…For the moment when I think of the good times there its ok..but now its in another place….thanks best!

  2. Cindy
    Thanks for the excellent write up of Beaver Island. As a Geographer I enjoyed all the details. I now understand why you live there. Regards.
    Bill

    • I’m second to the oldest, and standing on the far right in this photo. I am responsible for my own bad haircut, and the haircuts of most of the little girls in this picture, too! I don’t know why we allowed Cheryl to grow her hair long…the rest of them were our test subjects! As for the choice of clothing of many of the little ones (Robin – of the too-short pink pants and stripey shirt -has told me I should never show this picture), we drove six hours through the night to meet the eight AM ferry boat, and many of us suffered car-sickness. Those little ones had probably gone through their pajamas and two or three other changes of clothes already!

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