Sunday Cruise

Photo courtesy of – Please click on this link to view it in all of it’s amazing detail.

From - Detroit, Michigan, circa 1912. "Daily river excursion steamers. Sidewheelers Tashmoo, Owana and City of Detroit III at White Star Line dock." 8x10 inch dry plate glass negative, Detroit Publishing Company.

Look close, these are the faces of your ancestors. Slavs, Poles, Micks, Croats, “Hunky’s”, Eye-ties, Krauts, and others. They have come here on a summer Sunday to escape the heat of the city. Spending a few hard earned coins on a cruise across the thickening river to an island in the middle of the stream. A tree lined place where pike still leap and strike at the flies, despite the rainbow colored eddies along the banks.

This was your past.

The hazy sky blurs with the silver sheen of the water on the horizon. Out here on the river the oppressive silence of the city is left behind, replaced by the cry of circling gulls, looking for scraps of food on the docks.

Your are the fruit of this vine. Look it in the eyes, and remember.

They have disappeared into yellowing photographs, and shadows in the mirror. Their memory fades as generations settle like silt on the bottom of the river. It would take an archeologist to raise their bones from the deep, and reconstruct their lives. Names and dates, tied together to build an image of the past. Skeleton facts, revealing little about the blood that beat so warmly within the bone cage.

The sounds of the steam whistle breaks through the silence. The ropes are loosed. The engine thrums through the planks of the deck. The gap between the dock begins to widen.

Take one last look into their eyes. Reach out and caress the lines of the faces. Someday they will be ours.


17 thoughts on “Sunday Cruise

  1. Must be the week for revisiting the past. I spent Monday night reading letters my grandfather sent to my great grandmother while he was off in WWII, and looking at his photographs. One in particular, of a random man, in the middle of a field, on the back, it merely says “Mr Greugenmeun”. He had never mentioned him to any of us and we had nevr seen the photo before. The intrigue is killing me!!

    By the way, when I posted on FB about my trip down memory lane, my eloquent words were more like “awesome and so cool”, huh, way to make me look lame!

    • Last month I got suckered into a free trial of so I’ve been digging into the trailer trash roots of the 20 Prospect clan. So far I’ve gotten to a Bavarian trailer park just outside of Munich in 1600, and a double wide trailer just north of Naples in 1800.

    • I wonder if she’ll make her entrance wielding an ax like Jack Nicolson in The Shining, or just burst through the door in her fur bikini astride her pet woolly mammoth.

  2. yep my great aunt was on those cruises, kinda like the ladies you might see strutting around hotel bars during the olmypics or world series. total ho bag. but dayum she sure could rock a hat. kate middleton, take heed.

    • I also found out from my Mom that my great grand pappy used to be a captain on one of these excursion boats on Lake Erie. So that would explain my sudden cravings for spinach, and a corn cob pipe.

    • Don’t blame us. We were still living in the trailer parks of Central Europe when they kicked you off the land.

      Blame Paul Revere and the Raiders

    • Thanks Neil. It’s a good question. When I wrote this I just made the assumption that this was a day trip steamer out of Detroit, so I did a little research. This boat made a circuit between Detroit, Harson’s Island in Lake St. Clair, and Sarnia, Canada.

      Most of these folks were headed out to Tashmoo Park on Harson’s Island. It was their “Coney Island”. Most industrial cities on the Great Lakes had similar amusement park destinations either on an island, or across the lake, accessible by boat in the days when no one had a car. In my parents hometown of Buffalo, the place to go was Crystal Beach, Canada. I blogged about it a few summers back. These old amusement places fascinate me. I should have been a historian.

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