|by Thomas H. Cubberly
My fascination with ferry boats began in 1955. My Dad's vacation was the first two weeks of August every year and we drove to Mackinaw City enroute to the Upper Peninsula. On this occasion traffic stopped miles short of the old State dock. A man in a car drove South with a loudspeaker saying "The ferries are on strike!" It was a long wait of several hours before moving again. I remember playing in the birch trees along the road.
But we made it on board! I can still remember doors slamming shut on the car deck echoing back. We tossed popcorn from the upper deck to the gulls which swooped to catch it and rarely missed. Then at St. Ignace I can still see the men tying her to the starling looking up at us with the green water swirling beneath.
The best part is that we did it again in 1956! The ships had names and we hoped we would get the one we had before. I think it was the "Wonderland." While waiting to drive on I remember the sparkles on Lake Huron from the morning sun. The tower at the State dock was a wonder to a seven year old. I can still see the "Mighty Mac" bridge, not quite complete, her span not finished.
Just last year my Mother found slips of paper where she had written notes on those long ago vacations. On one she had jotted down simply that on the way home, in the back seat of that 1952 Buick, "Tommy played ferry boat." I guess I did. And still do!
Over the years I have ridden many smaller ferries on the Lakes. But in 1982 I discovered Ludington and the Badger. I gazed with interest at her two sisters, the City of Midland and the Spartan berthed there. That did it! I would be back shortly for a ride on the Badger first. I rode the Midland as long as anyone could to Kewaunee. The Badger rides to Milwaukee were grand for their length of sailing. I make Manitowoc twice a year now with regularity. I guess I still like the sparkle on the water…and playing ferry boat.
Thomas H. Cubberly
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