I Remember When…The First Phonograph Came To The Soo

In 1923, The Sault Evening News, put together a booklet of recollections by its readers. I will be sharing some of these from time to time. I did take the liberty to correct some of the grammar to make it easier for you to read.  

Laurie Davis

In the spring of 1874, I took some Soo folks to the Indian Mission Hill to see a sugar camp. We made the trip with a team and sleighs, following the ice on the St. Mary’s river and stopping for rest at the store at Bay Mills, owned by Joe Trempe, an uncle of Allie Trempe. In the party were Gus Trempe, Sophia Trempe, Mr. Taylor, the first telegraph operator in the Soo, and several others. The sugar camp was a cedar bark building with seats around the sides and kettles hanging in the middle. There was a hole in the center of the roof to let the smoke out. (John Fenwick, Brimley MI)

The only opera house or place to hold a show in the Sault was in a warehouse owned by the government and located on a dock where the government slip is on the northside of Water Street. A troop of soldiers from old Fort Brady gave “shows” or “entertainments” at that time. “Gassy” Smith was the chief actor. (George Blank, 717 Cedar St.)

Mr. and Mrs. Frank Sutherland, of Flint, had the first phonograph in the Soo. They brought it to the old Fletcher Hotel, which stood just south of Fleetham’s Jewelry Store, then Shellto’s. People used to stand on the hotel porch with the tubes to their ears and pay ten cents a record to listen to the wonderful new invention.
The Sault’s first vaudeville show was started by Carkeek and Harris in the building now occupied by the Great Lakes Mission. It then stood on Ashmun Street near the Temple Theater.
Our first high school occupied one small assembly room and a small recitation room 10 x 15 feet, with two instructors, the superintendent, and the principal. We used to cut firewood on the hill, where Fort Brady is located, and haul it with dog teams down to the town. We came out of the woods, near the present German Lutheran Church, on Pine Street.
A famous place to pick wild raspberries was near the present Fort Brady Hospital.
The dirt excavated from the first ship canal used to stand in high hills along the canal bank on Portage Avenue West, and trees had grown on them.
On nearly all the streets of the town, the sidewalks were abandoned in the wintertime, and everyone walked on the roads.
Dog teams were very common in the streets and used for a variety of business purposes.
Before the railroad was built, the mail came twice a week from St. Ignace, on a toboggan drawn by dog teams and driven by Indians.
Tugs burning slabs of cordwood used to tie up at the Soo, awaiting an opportunity to tow sailing vessels through the river. The Constitution was the last of these. (E.T. Brown, 1107 Bingham Avenue)

In 1876, we raised a flagstaff one September afternoon at the entrance to old Ft. Brady. The pole was placed at the gate to the right and close to the sidewalk. I remember Peter Paul, Louis Trempe, and Frank Lessard were helping. I also remember a little kid coming around with a piece of pie about as big as himself, I believe he was Allie Trempe. Frank Lessard said to the boy, “where did you steal that pie?” The little fellow said, “I didn’t steal it, I got it from grandma”. (Joseph Erard Sr., St Ignace MI)

I remember when South Street hill, from Fort Street to the roundhouse, was so full of rocks, I could hardly walk over them to school. It was then called the South Side School. In the Spring, I had to take off my shoes and stockings to get through the water. (Mrs. F.H. Flood, 314 Court St.)

Trempe and Hatch had a barrel of whiskey back on the counter in their store, with a tin cup hanging from it. When a customer came in, he got a drink free. Those were the days when whiskey could be bought for 50 cents a gallon. (Capt. Wm. Frechette, 914 Maple Street)

In the winter of 1880, the town was short on almost everything but tobacco and matches. I took two teams, and with Barney Doyle, went to Petoskey via the Straits and Cheboygan and ordered goods shipped from Grand Rapids. We brought back flour, pork, tea, and other groceries. Also, one barrel of kerosene oil, and two boxes of candles. We lost that barrel of oil several times – rolled off into the deep snow. It was a long, slow, tiresome trip from St. Ignace to the Soo. I am not yet a lover of the odor of kerosene oil. (James R. Ryan)

Laurie Davis, Columnist
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One Comment

  1. Mary Brooks

    Most interesting! Thank you. Mary.

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