Speer: Mich-e-ke-wis evokes skating memories for many

The sunrises along Thunder Bay are absolutely beautiful this time of year.

With the bay covered in white it seems to make the reds, oranges, yellows and purples of the sunrise all the more vibrant. Sometimes clouds provide an interesting peek-a-boo effect, other times the sun seems to just sprout off the white ice on the horizon. As your gaze extends across the bay you imagine one of the fine masters of art creating the view in front of you – it’s that breath-taking.

Alpena News Business Manager Kathy Burton drives along Thunder Bay every morning on her way to work. A former speedskater, then a speedskating club coach for many years, these mornings she slows down just a bit at Mich-e-ke-wis as she glances off across Thunder Bay to see what sunrise awaits her.

She loves the view that awaits her each day. And, inevitably as she drives along, she allows her mind to drift ever so slightly back to the days she spent at Mich-e-ke-wis in years gone by.

This week, in one of those whimsical and reflective moods, she decided to share her thoughts on Facebook.

“Does anyone think back to the good old days when Mich-e-ke-wis was the best place to go outdoor skating? Every morning when I drive by it always looks like something is missing.”

Burton spent more hours each winter at Mich-e-ke-wis than she probably would care to remember. Yet now that the outdoor ice rink no longer is there – a victim of city budget cuts and cost savings years ago – she remembers fondly those times. Like many things as time marches on, all we have left are the memories.

What she discovered, however, is that she wasn’t the only one in a whimsical and reflective mood this winter. So were many others, as her Facebook “lit up” with responses and comments.

“OMG – a client and I were just talking about that,” daughter Jesse shared. “And the winter carnivals and barrel jumping. LOL”

Mich-e-ke-wis, in the winter, became the town center, said one person who commented in the thread. It was a great place for a healthy, outdoor activity.

Another person agreed, saying the rink “the rink was always filled with kids of all ages.”

Many who commented remembered fondly the rink, skating under the lights and the music that was played over the speaker system. Isn’t it amazing how closely some memories are connected with a song, and how easily it is to slip back to that time as you remember the lyrics?

Many of those who commented were former skaters themselves, some who skated with Kathy and some who skated against her.

“Every winter when I’m outside and its night time, cold and windy I can’t help but think of we skated in this crap weather … I think we were a bit crazy.”

As the thread continued, “Oh ya, no biggie – there’s only a few inches of snow covering the ice and u can only see about 10 feet in front of you, schools closed and we would still go to skate. It’s safe to say we were nuts.”

Regarding another memory, Kathy remembered that one of the people she was conversing with “went flying into a snowbank and didn’t come out.”

Kathy, for her part, was amazed at how people responded.

“It was fun remembering all those memories.”

All the world is focused today on Sochi and this year’s Winter Olympics. Yet for many Northeast Michigan residents, when they drive by Thunder Bay they remember days gone by when Mich-e-ke-wis was the center of winter recreational activity for the region – including a tobaggan run that, from old pictures, looked like it would have been a “blast” to have experienced.

Many people shared with Kathy their “great memories” of Mich-e-ke-wis.

I thought this morning, you’d enjoy that trip back “Memory Lane” as well.

Bill Speer can be reached via email at bspeer@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 354-3111 ext. 331. Follow Bill on Twitter @billspeer13. Read his blog, More BS?(Bill Speer) at www.thealpenanews.com.