Lake Michigan, Michigan - Dale Phenicie
My father grew up on the shores of Sandusky Bay, back in the 1920s, perhaps earlier, and because it was in the 1920s, you graduated after you were done with high school. At the time, he and his family lived on property owned by a commercial fisherman; so in the summers, he worked for the fishermen, and he learned to man the nets, and other things like that. He also spent a lot of time on the water; in particular in the winter time when he would sail this iceboat that he had out on the Sandusky Bay. So all my life growing up with him, I heard all these stories about his time on the Sandusky Bay which he really treasured, and he would take our family there to see where he grew up; he would take us to Sandusky Bay, Put-In-Bay, and tell us stories about Port Clinton. So those are all important places to me because he told us stories about his life, and I’ve been there several times as well.
But from there, he moved over to the west side of Lake Michigan, and that’s where I grew up. I was actually born in Celina, Ohio, so along the edge of the basin, I guess you’d say, on the shores of Lake St. Mary. But then, we ended up living in southwest Michigan and St. Joseph County Michigan, on the St. Joseph River. So we were a bit inland, but we always had a strong connection to the lake and we’d go to the Lake Michigan lake shore quite often. We’d go to St. Jo, we just called it “St. Jo” back then, and we’d go to Warren Dunes State Park to climb the big dunes and swim on the beach. My father was an avid fisherman, and he would take me over to the pier in St. Jo, and we would catch cisco. Of course, there aren’t cisco in the Lakes nowadays, but there were back then, lots of them. We used long cane poles to fish, and the thing that he thought was so novel was we fished on the pier where one side of the pier was the St. Joseph River that closed into the lake, and the other side of the pier was the lake. And so he would put a net in the river to collect minnows, and then we would bait our hook and catch the fish on the other side of the river. We would take literally bucket loads of fish home with us, so I sometimes tell people that part of the reason why we don’t have anymore ciscoes in the lakes no longer is because I caught them all. It was a very productive fishery at that time. We used long cane poles and we’d throw the hooks out there; we’d have maybe four to six hooks on a line and we’d catch four to six fish at a time.
Anyway, that was when I was very young. But all through my days growing up in that area, in addition to all that, he was also very connected to the rest of the lakes, so he would take us to all the lakes. One of his favourite fishing spots was up in Georgian Bay. It was a fishing camp up there, near the town of Spanish, Ontario. We would travel that rim of the lake up there, and we would go all the way up to Sudbury. For several summers we would go up there. So I have a connection with that part of the lake as well. And he, in particular, was very interested in Lake Superior, the mighty Lake Superior with its depth and shipping and all that. I have a pair of books; one is called “Lore of the Lakes”, and I don’t quite remember what the other one is called, it was something of the lakes, but I’m not sure exactly what it is. And I still have those volumes. The lore is all about the native people’s customs or spiritual connection with the lakes, where the other one is more about the shipment and shipping on the lakes: the shipwrecks in particular, and all that. In fact, my mother used to complain that anytime we went on vacation we only knew one way to go and that was north, somewhere on the waters of the lakes.
So that’s kind of my story about my connections with these lakes as a child and in my childhood. In later life, I studied paper technology and industrial chemistry in school and I went off to work in paper industry for a long time. Then, I had the opportunities to work with the Counsel of Great Lakes Industries connecting industries to Great Lakes policies, and that’s what I do now. I enjoy doing that because I’ve had this lifelong connection with the lakes that actually goes back to before my time, and I feel very privileged to have had this connection with the Great Lakes my entire life.