This weekend I stole my wife from her lecture preparations and headed the rental car up north. Northern Michigan to Sault Sainte Marie, to be exact. My grandfather celebrated his 90th birthday on Thursday and his kids arranged a surprise party for Friday.
My grandfather, Ernest Winling, spent his youth in the Soo, enlisted in the Navy in 1942 and spent the war years overseas, then returned home to the Soo to marry his next-door neighbor, work as a painter at the Kincheloe Air Force Base and as a freelance house painter, have three kids with my grandmother, and has spent the last 35 years as an outdoorsman, fishing and hunting his way through the seasons.
The Soo is a quite small town (~14,000), but I always enjoy visiting. There are two main attractions and drivers to the economy, the Soo Locks, an Army Corps of Engineers project dating back to the 1850s to facilitate Great Lakes shipping through the St. Mary’s River falls, and Lake Superior State University, a 4-year college of 2500 students. Whenever I’m thinking about a site in the American landscape, I turn to the digital collections of the Library of Congress, and the LOC does not disappoint. The Historic American Engineering Record (HAER) documented the hell out of the Locks in 2000 (probably before the latest lock was rebuilt) and has pretty much everything you could want for visual information.