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Tag Archive | "winter travel"

Winter Comes to Michigan


Rediscovered film a blast from the past


Scenes of winter fun from the “Winter Comes to Michigan” film. Elaborate toboggan runs and outdoor public skating rinks were popular winter pastimes once reliable winter travel made it possible for Michiganders to get out and enjoy them. (MDOT photos)

Scenes of winter fun from the “Winter Comes to Michigan” film. Elaborate toboggan runs and outdoor public skating rinks were popular winter pastimes once reliable winter travel made it possible for Michiganders to get out and enjoy them. (MDOT photos)

toboggan run

toboggan run

from MDOT

After spending decades in a basement in the eastern Upper Peninsula, a 1930s-era newsreel from the Michigan State Highway Department has resurfaced to remind us of the challenges—and the fun—of winters past.

The film, “Winter Comes to Michigan,” created by the precursor agency to the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT), gives us a black-and-white window to the era when Murray Van Wagoner, a future Michigan governor, ran the department from 1933-1940.

A scene from Suicide Hill ski jump in Ishpeming from the “Winter Comes to Michigan” film. (MDOT photos)

A scene from Suicide Hill ski jump in Ishpeming from the “Winter Comes to Michigan” film. (MDOT photos)

The film was one of several reels found by sisters Nancy and Barbara Sleeper of Newberry. They discovered them in their mother’s basement and wanted to preserve them as part of their family heritage.

“Our grandfather, Sanborn Sleeper, was the superintendent of the Luce County Road Commission from 1928 until sometime around World War II,” Nancy Sleeper said. She believes he acquired the films during that period.

Sanborn Sleeper was instrumental in bringing the Snogo, an early snow blower, to Michigan, Nancy said. Some of the reels featured film of the Snogo equipment being tested near Newberry.

“We saw the ‘Winter Comes to Michigan’ film and thought, gee, this is some great footage of those old-time busy highways,” Nancy said. “They were so interesting, we couldn’t see just holding onto them.”

So the Sleeper family donated the original reels to MDOT. They’ve now been digitized, restored and uploaded to the department’s YouTube channel at  https://youtu.be/NH20lpFu_3Q

The film’s “man against nature” theme focuses on the challenge—as real today as it was then—of keeping roads open during Michigan’s harsh winters.

“Winter maintenance is a gigantic task for heroic men and efficient machines,” says the film’s foreword. “It is a public service fraught with grave responsibilities. OUR HIGHWAYS MUST BE KEPT OPEN!”

Winter travel before modern highways was not an easy ride. The season was something to be survived, not enjoyed.

“Yes, winter is a season of unusual beauty,” intones the narrator. “Only a brief score of years ago, however, the idyll of winter brought only the sad realization of a long season of isolation.”

Modern highways and winter snow removal equipment changed all that. With the advent of reliable winter maintenance, the film suggests, the state’s growing highway system opened up winter as a playground for sports, recreation and tourism.

The film shows residents enjoying outdoor winter fun at locations such as Ishpeming’s Suicide Hill ski jump, fledgling downhill ski areas, outdoor public ice skating rinks and an elaborate toboggan run. Filmmaker and author Bill Jamerson, whose documentaries have explored winter sports and other aspects of state history for Michigan Public Television, said many of the film locations were probably in the U.P., while the toboggan run scene was probably filmed at a winter sports park in Grayling.

Most of these winter parks started in the late 1920s, Jamerson said. His “Winter Wonderland” documentary looked at the golden age of winter recreation from the 1930s through the 1960s, made possible via better automobiles and snow removal equipment.

“Winter driving was hazardous, so this film goes a long way in showing that progress had been made,” Jamerson said. “Remember, up until WWII, snow trains brought people up to the Grayling winter sports park from Detroit. So, rail was considered the safe option for most people. Trains were also bringing people from Chicago and Milwaukee up into Iron Mountain.”

Transportation, even in this period before the Mackinac Bridge, helped boost the state’s winter tourism by allowing safe and reliable winter travel. It also may have helped end this golden age. When air travel became routine, more and more Midwesterners headed to the higher slopes and newer resorts in the west.

“I think an important thing these films do is remind us who we are,” Jamerson said. “For example, there once was a day when skating rinks were overflowing with families. It could happen again!”

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Tips to prepare your auto for winter travel



(ARA) – The cold snap has arrived and the stormy winter days and dark evenings are here. It is time to prepare your car for the winter months to minimize the risk of a breakdown. Such breakdowns could be avoided by carrying out regular checks, so motorists are advised to follow these steps to minimize the risk.
“There’s nothing worse than breaking down on a cold winter night, stranded on the side of the road,” says Jim Fults, auto insurance leader at Fireman’s Fund Insurance Company. “A few basic and regular checks can dramatically reduce the risk of getting stuck on the road.
“We urge motorists to set aside some time to carry out a series of simple checks,” says Fults. “Some may seem like common sense, but you’ll be surprised at how many drivers forget after the summer. For example, it is crucial to ensure all your lights are clean and working properly. Always replace any broken bulbs immediately. If you don’t, you will not only find it difficult to see the road clearly, you run the risk of not being seen by other drivers.”
Make sure you minimize the risk of breakdown this winter by following some tips from Fireman’s Fund:
Fireman’s Fund winter auto safety tips:
* Get your car checked: A professional check is worth it, for added peace of mind.
* Check your tires: Rain, snow and ice can make roads lethal. Check your tire tread and make sure the air pressure is okay.
* Light the way: Keep lights clean and make sure they are working.
* Get charged up: A dead battery is the main cause of breakdowns, so get it checked and replaced if necessary.
* Cooling system: Ensure this is checked and that the anti-freeze content meets the manufacturer requirements.
* Wipers: Check windscreen wipers and replace if they fail to clear the screen correctly.
* Fuel: Ensure you have more than enough for your journey.
Be prepared and take the following items with you:
* A fully charged cell phone
* Shovel in case of snow
* De-icer and a scraper for windows
* Blanket and warm clothing in case the worst happens
* Sturdy shoes or rubber boots
* Some snacks, such as energy bars
* Extra fuel
In addition, it is a good idea to put together an emergency winter survival kit so that you are prepared should you breakdown. Remember to include a flashlight, blanket, ice scraper and a first aid kit.

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