Up until last week, whenever we’ve had people over I’ve sort of rushed them up the stairs to the second level. Our entrance area was pretty far down on the priority list of “rooms” to decorate, and it was basically just an empty hallway with a slight left turn leading to the bedroom, flex room, bathroom, and laundry. With Amber (A. Clore Interiors) and her brother Jim’s help, all that “rushing up the stairs” ended. Now the foyer is not only beautiful, but it tells a story very dear to Ted’s heart (and mine too since it’s about his childhood).
A little history first. As most of you know, Ted grew up spending his summers at his grandparents’ cottage in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan (the Les Cheneaux Islands). This was before there was a Mackinac Bridge and before I-75 was built (early 1950’s). The trip from their home in Ft. Thomas, Kentucky to the Michigan cottage would take two days (including a long wait for the car ferry to cross the Straits of Mackinac from Mackinaw City to St. Ignace).
In the 1920’s, Ted’s grandfather and grandmother, Arthur and Ruth Zimmerman, purchased a large boat (a long-time dream of Arthur) from a gentleman in Norfolk, VA. The entire family – Arthur and Ruth, their five sons, (Ernie, Jordan – for whom our granddaughter is named – Cabel, Ollie and Arthur Jr.), their daughter Sylvia (Ted’s mother and for whom the boat was named), and Mary (Ruth’s mother and Ted’s great-grandmother) – traveled to Norfolk, boarded the boat, and piloted it to their cottage in the Les Cheneaux Islands. The trip began on June 20, 1924 and ended on August 9 – a distance of approximately 800 nautical miles – with many stops in between for sightseeing.
In the early 1940’s the Sylvia was sold to a ferry company in the area, and for many years she shuttled passengers between Cheboygan and Bois Blanc Island. Her history after that is largely unknown – although the family eventually learned that the Sylvia sank somewhere between those two points (year unknown).
For many years, the artifacts the family removed from the Sylvia when she was sold were displayed at the family cottage in Michigan and later in the home of Ernie Zimmerman, the youngest of the six children. They were passed down to Jan Jolley, Ernie’s daughter, who still lives in Ft. Thomas, KY. Several years ago Jan very graciously presented the artifacts to Ted, and over the years we displayed the Sylvia’s wheel in our condo on Mackinac and later in our lake house in Georgia. We never had the space to display any of the other items . . . until now.
I so wish I could share the entire journal with you. Mary was a wonderful writer, and the stories she tells of the trip are entertaining, funny, and filled with adventures. Here’s one in her own words: “Two of the boys decided to take a swim before dinner and soon had on their suits. They both dove overboard at once and came right up and were back in the boat in less time than it takes to tell it. As soon as they got their breath they said that as soon as they hit the water they felt a sting like an electric shock. On looking them over to find out what the trouble was, we found clinging to their bathing suits a number of (leeches, or so I suppose they were) objects about the size of a minnow but soft as a snail and black on top and red beneath. Looking into the water we found that it was literally alive with them. This settled the swimming and everyone took a hand in the cooking.“
Ted and I couldn’t be prouder of how this all turned out. Amber took a few sketchy ideas we had of showcasing the Sylvia’s history and somehow turned them into a wonderful hall of memories. We’ve shared the photos already with family members, and we’re excited they love how these family pieces are being displayed.
To Jan – a huge thank you for sharing the artifacts with Ted. You already know how much they mean to him, but your thoughtfulness and love overwhelmed our hearts.
The Sylvia now lives on in our Florida home. I like to think she feels right at home here – close to the sea and with her namesake’s son – and we feel blessed to house all her memories.