"Do You Remember When?"
By Capt. Fred Davis
Published: Monday, November 23, 2015

It seems forgetfulness is going around. Now, what was it I planned to write about? Oh, yes, it was remembering.

When we chatted with newcomers to our county, and as our youngsters were growing up, we reflected upon what they had missed. Do you remember when Huron Street East and West was the main business district in Bad Axe?

Do you recall the A&P Grocery store and where it was located? How about Dibble’s or Kretchmer’s? And across the street the Ben Franklin. They were all on East Huron and everyone shopped at those stores.

I remember Pat’s restaurant was on the corner of East Huron and North Van Dyke. You could get the best blueberry pancakes and any other breakfast meal plus great coffee. There were actually two men’s stores on East Huron (one is still at the same location). The Mill End store had everything. If they didn’t have it, you didn’t need it.

Huron Medical Center was once Hubbard Hospital and it was located on East Irwin Street, right in the heart of the city.

Hubbard Bank was an imposing structure on East Huron and the Bad Axe Theatre still sits right alongside of it. Remember the Bean Pot where many met for lunch? Goebel Motors was a Chevrolet dealer located on East Huron.

The village of Kinde, eight miles north of Bad Axe, became known as a town that had a number of big fires such as a hotel and later two elevators at one time. The elevator fires lit the sky for miles around. There was a branch of the Hubbard Bank in the middle of town. You can still see its vault when you visit the Pasta House, a great place for Italian cuisine and a reputation for never failing to fill you up. Currently, Kinde is famous for the Polka Fest held each year in September.

Port Austin, another seven miles north, is one of the county’s tourist destinations. In years past, perch fishing was the reason many traveled to the area. Small vessels would travel offshore and return with garbage cans full of the yellow bellies as they were described. Who remembers the roller rink right on the corner of M-53 and Spring Street? Young people in the town flocked there to enjoy a popular pastime of yesteryear. There was also a great tavern at the location that overlooked the waterfront. Both burnt to the ground in the late 1960s and another fire raged through Port Austin’s elevator later.

Another popular hotel of bygone days in Port Austin had a strange name, it was called the Snake Pit — anyone remember why? The town’s Civic Center, at the main intersection was where events were held and groups met. It was successfully moved two miles east of town to become a historical museum.

Traveling further east on M-25 you arrive in Port Hope which is a great little town that remains almost the same as it was in the past. You can still get a great hamburger (Leroy Burger) at the hotel and the all-you-can-eat fish fry packs them in each Thursday and Friday. The county maintains the historic Port Hope Chimney on the waterfront in the campground. It can be seen for miles offshore as boats pass by.

As you head a little further east you arrive at Harbor Beach where they boast of having “the largest man-made, freshwater harbor in the world.” The harbor is home to the area’s U.S. Coast Guard Station, which dates back to 1881. Does anyone recall that the station sat out on a catwalk from shore? I remember that coasties who served at the time would throw dirty dishes out the window to avoid cleaning them.

The lake bottom around the station was littered with dishes and cutlery. Another not too pleasant memory was DTE’s coal piles that blew coal dust all over town when a big wind visited.

If you turned west in Port Austin and traveled 18 miles you arrived at what used to be the quiet little village of Caseville. “Cheeseburger” has changed that description, but it only lasts 10 days in the summer. Not too much has changed in the little town. They have a nice harbor area and a private marina; Hoy’s Saginaw Bay Marina. It dates back to yesteryear and is still operated by the same family. The once-famous Lumber Yard is no more but it was recently opened as a restaurant.

The sun still rises and sets over our Thumb’s small towns and the waters of Lake Huron lap at their shores. These daily events live on, and many of our memories do as well.

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