Sunday, January 19, 2014

Bad postcard of the week: Life and death of Grindstone City, a one-industry town

Somewhere, off in the distance, there is a camera-shy kid.

Here’s a little-known fact about Michigan: The very tip of the Thumb was once a thriving center for grindstone production.

Not that this week’s bad postcard gives us much information.

The back reads: “MICHIGAN THUMB SCENERY: Grindstone City – Marker – in memoriam – 1938 passing of the once thriving industry.”

I see lots of random dashing and capitalization in there, and not a lot of information.

The front is full of mysteries.

Why, for example is the photographer so far away? Seriously, Casey Kasem accepted long-distance dedications from people who were closer than our shutterbug and his subjects.

But far away photos are a classic bad postcard genre, so we like that.

Why are the people climbing the grindstone facing away from our photog? Are they camera shy? Why did they climb the stone in the first place? Is this some sort of Thumb thrill-seeking? What if that thing toppled over? Splat! Maybe the photographer was getting ready for what he expected to be a newsy photo of grindstone disasters.

What about the kid in the red pants? Did she help the others up? Did she decline the climb, fearing the imminent disaster?

We just don’t know.

I did discover a blog that explained some of the town’s history.

In a nutshell, a captain pulled his boat into the natural harbor during a storm and his crew found a bunch of flat stones along the water front. The captain took samples to Detroit where there was paving planned, and the powers-that-be decided the rocks were superior to stones from Ohio. Of course.

The crew also determined the stones were great for grinding, and an industry was born.

And, as soon as people discovered a cheaper alternative – carborundum – an industry died.

Activity in Grindstone City grind to a halt in 1929, and the city suffered from putting all of its economic eggs in a one-industry basket.

Did other Michigan cities learn from Grindstone City’s one-industry mistake? Well, I worked in Flint for 10 years.

People living in the Thumb are certainly proud of their scenery even when it’s not especially scenic.

My “Michigan Thumb Scenery” collection includes this beauty of the Blue Water Bridge. Well, a close-up view of the bridge’s guard rail.

Such wonderful scenery!
Let’s face it, when you have a guard rail that cool, you must show it off.

My other “Thumb Scenery” makes it painfully clear that thelumber industry is based in the Upper Peninsula and not the Thumb.

Someone was very proud of his pruning abilities.

Here's a link to the other Thumb postcards and others from the MLive days.

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