Q. Reader Kristen Schnell asks, “When were the popular Winter Carnivals held in Alpena, and what happened to them?
A. The first Alpena Winter Carnival was held Jan. 24, 1935, according to Bob Lyngos of the Alpena County Library’s Special Collections. It lasted over 25 years, but its popularity waned and in 1963 it was canceled. There were several revivals but icy conditions or warm temperatures and lack of snow forced some events to be canceled. In 1974 Olympic trials were held at the carnival.
Mary Meharg Fletcher was the first queen and Agnes Walchak King was the second queen. In an interview she described her “coronation on a throne of ice blocks at the winter sports park at Michekewis.” Over the years, Winter Carnival activities included speed skating and figure skating exhibitions and championships, a dog sled derby, a queen’s ball, hockey matches, and a three-trough, 1100 foot toboggan slide near Mich-e-ke-wis (now Starlite Beach area).
Winter carnivals were extremely popular. Each winter a snow train brought many winter enthusiasts from Bay City, Detroit and southern Michigan to join in the excitement and festivities in Alpena. The whole town, along with the queen, would turn out to welcome the snow train.
This information was summarized from Detroit Free Press and Alpena News articles (by Sean Harkins), from Bob Haltiner’s writing, and from the Writers Program’s book, “Michigan: A Guide to the Wolverine State.”
More on Alpena Plants in WWII
Q. Following is more information in response to a reader’s question in the last Q&A column about Alpena’s war efforts in World War II.
A. The following excerpts are from “The Town That Went To War” by the late historian Robert Haltiner. “And in September, Fraser Products Company was contracted to make one million pairs of leggings for the army before January 1, 1943. An average of 13,000 pairs per day would have to be met. The company was also turning out ‘pup’ tents at the rate of 4,500 daily. 425 people (mostly women) were employed at that time working 2 nine hour shifts 6 days a week.
“New war orders came to the company in June, 1943 for another 1,000,000 pairs of leggings and immense quantities of barrack bags, bed rolls and tent shelter halves. More women workers would be needed.
“For many months the Die Tool plant (now Thunder Bay Manufacturing), with a payroll of 160, was producing machine gun parts for two different types of machine guns. On March 30, 1945, the company announced that another machine gun part was contracted to be made-extractors for army machine guns used in airplane and as field pieces. 50 more women would be needed to fulfill that contract.
“Fletcher Paper Company was active all through the war years with production of various special papers for military use … special papers for field maps, special packing materials, sturdy papers for use in the field, on ships, as well as in command posts.
“Alpena Tanning Company’s total output of sole leather was going to the government for military use … mainly combat boots …
“And Huron Portland Cement Company, almost immediately, became involved in the war. Cement was vital to new construction of army and navy bases, roads, and airfields … and would remain of great importance for reconstruction at war’s end.”
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