August 18, 2019

Growing up in the U.P.

Taken from articles I gleaned from relatives
sharing stories about Marquette, Michigan

Written by (my aunt) Janice Olsen Summersett around 2013

As far as living in the U.P. of Michigan – I can’t imagine being anywhere else. The special beauty and peacefulness around us – and we always felt safe. We could go outside and play from dawn to dark and no one worried about us. We just needed to check in at mealtime and then we could go out again.

Thank God I grew up being able to enjoy active sports and also be able to take off and ride my bike all day long, wherever I wanted to go – just so I was home for bedtime. I made my own fun and had lots of great friends. Actually, I was more or less solitary and at times enjoyed the peacefulness of the woods West of our house. I would take a lunch, sometimes cooking hot dogs over a fire (mom would have had a fit if she had known) and especially one time I wrapped a raw egg in foil and put it into the fire. Don’t ever do that!  It exploded and I wore most of it. It sounded like a shotgun going off. Scared the devil out of me.

As a pre-teen we made our own fun – baseball, kick the can, red rover and best of all climbing the corner tree at the corner of 7th street and scaring people who passed under the tree. We also spent countless hours swimming at the quarry in South Marquette and also at Picnic Rocks bordering Lake Superior. BEAUTIFUL!

Living hyperactively 

I sure managed to get into a lot of trouble just being too active. I really couldn’t help it, but no one understood that in those days – I didn’t do really bad things – just stuff a super hyper kid does. I sure gave Mom and Dad a hard time being so hyper and I suffered BIG time for it – I think I wore out Dad’s razor strap. I usually got a good whipping at least once a week. I always blamed myself for being bad, but I loved Mom and Dad very much. Poor things just didn’t know how to handle me.

Fruit and Pies

It was so great growing up in Marquette and even though we were very poor we did okay. Mom managed nicely because she was an amazing cook. She could stretch food and sure made some wonderful meals.

We all spent lots of time at our camp out on Big Creek Road. It was very solitary and beautiful and we picked lots of wild strawberries, blueberries and raspberries which were turned into the most wonderful pies and jams you ever tasted. We also had a Wolf River apple tree on family land across the road. I would climb the tree and pick the huge apples and bring them back for Mom. She could make a pie out of one apple they were so big. It was so incredibly beautiful at camp – and so peaceful. Eric, I hope you have forgiven me for burying your stuffed animal on the hillside by that tree. I was probably four at the time.

A special “bubble gum”

When we were kids during the summer the tar on the road by the house would melt and bubble up at the edges. We all chewed it like bubble gum – it was very gritty and tasted weird – but we were poor and I guess couldn’t afford gum. We found out later that this type of tar was chewed by lots of people and didn’t hurt you. DON’T TRY IT TODAY – you’d probably die!

Well that’s my life story of life in the U.P. I could have written a book – I have left a lot out.


(first published in The Olsen Chronicles, Fall 2013)


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