|by Paul S. Peterson
My earliest memory of an Ann Arbor carferry had nothing to do with the vessels in the Frankfort harbor. Instead, what was etched in my memory was the model of one of the "Annies" perched over the highway as you came into Frankfort from Benzonia.
I don't remember how old I was then, perhaps four or five. But I remember my father pointing it out to me as we came down the hill just outside of town. There was no way I could have missed it, but Frankfort was where my dad grew up, and it was on the Ann Arbor carferries that he got his first job, and he was proud of the town and its carferries.
His family immigrated from Norway when he was 12, my Grandfather Edward going to work on one of the many fish tugs that sailed out of Frankfort. My dad quit school in the eighth grade, and went to work on the Ann Arbor carferries, first as a cabin boy, and then as a wiper in the engine room, eventually getting his chief engineer's license.
He was aboard the Ann Arbor No. 4 when the ship went aground at the south breakwater during a tremendous storm in the winter of 1923. A few years he suffered severe burns in an engine room accident, and while recuperating, he went to Ludington to do some fishing. It was there he met my mother, and a year later they were married. He quite the Annies and went to work on the Pere Marquette carferries. He died in 1949, at age 51.
Other than the carferry model over M-115 (which, by the way, made me jealous that Ludington didn't have such an entrance), my more vivid memories of the Annies comes from seeing them in Kewaunee and Manitowoc. During three summers while going to college, I worked on the Badger and would see the Ann Arbor Nos. 6 and 7 (I think) in those two ports. By that time both vessels were quite old.
Today, I see the Atkinson almost daily. The former Ann Arbor No. 6 is tied up alongside the Spartan at what is called the three-and-a-half slip in Ludington. The Atkinson, owned by river casino operation in Minneapolis, has been berthed there for about three years, slowly rusting and deteriorating to the point where she is now an eyesore. I am sorry to see the Atkinson turning into what she is becoming, and I know my father would be very, very sad by what is happening to her.
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