It’s an absolute delight to open the old Advance books bound together preserving editions of our local newspaper and step back in time. It’s a very short list of people who get to actually do it.
I’m super thankful to be on that list, and while thumbing through history this week, I have come up with a theme: historical moments that happened on years that end in eight.
Let’s start with the headline at the top of the Aug. 20, 1998 Presque Isle County Advance stating: “Ownership change announced at The Advance.” Richard Lamb became publisher of this weekly publication and his wife Riconda became vice president of Presque Isle Newspapers, Inc.
While the Lambs have run the newspaper for the last 20 years, Rich, as we all call him around here, that’s everyone calls him, worked at the newspaper for a decade before Richard Milliman transferred ownership over to the Rogers City native.
Rich was hired as editor and general manager in late 1988, training for a month at Milliman’s daily newspaper in Three Rivers. He took over at the Advance in Feb. 1989.
So, the Lambs have owned the newspaper for 20 years and continue to focus on local news and events, with a big emphasis on local, but the newspaper has been around for 140 years.
That’s a lot of candles, and considering what happened here 12 years ago at the corner of Third and Erie, that’s way too many candles around here. I’m referring to, of course, to the Feb. 2006 fire that claimed our former building. The Advance is Rogers City’s oldest continually run business, tracing its roots back to 1878. Frederick Denny Larke founded the Advance way back then.
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The Whiteley family, Harry and his father Hal, owned the Advance for decades and covered some of the biggest moments in our history.
Harry Whiteley was fortunate to cover one of the greatest moments in the history of northern Michigan.
It was the four-day celebration to dedicate the Mackinac Bridge. It occurred in June 1958, six months before the sinking of the Carl D. Bradley.
The bridge opened to traffic just in time for hunting season, Nov. 1, 1957. There was a ribbon cutting then and again for the party of 1958.
Harry wrote in the July 3, 1958 edition: “The immense structure which stands as a monument to engineering genius was dedicated by the tying of green ribbon that stretched from shore to shore.” Gov. Mennen Williams held one end and Mackinac Bridge Authority chairman Prentiss Brown the other.
“Only a few people including myself ever thought a bridge would be built to span the Straits of Mackinac,” Harry wrote just recently in a letter to me. “I fished and hunted many times in the Upper Peninsula and Canada and rode the car ferry across the Straits. It was usually an ordeal during the deer season to wait for the next ferry. Sometimes the line stretched halfway to Cheboygan.”
Presque Isle County was well-represented at the dedication.
Sharon Davis, the Presque Isle County queen, took part in numerous activities, including the mile-long parade in Mackinaw City.
Presque Isle Bank had a colorful float with charmers Sue Blake and Betty Konieczny waving to the crowds, as did the Posen Chamber of Commerce with Kathleen Buza riding high with a big Posen smile to represent the Potato Capital.
Rogers City’s eight homecoming princesses were guests of the Michigan Limestone Division aboard the Str. John G. Munson during an open house at the St. Ignace pier. They included Pat Kelly, Jean Viegalahn, Janice Klee, Sally Krueger, Jackie Kreft, Sally Gibbs, Kaye Kile and Carol McLennan, who was the first Limestone Queen.
And Harry brought up a very fascinating fact about the bridge.
After the caissons were driven into bedrock they were filled with tons of limestone furnished by none other than the Calcite Plant here in Rogers City.
“I was fortunate to go out on a workboat several times and watch a Bradley boat unload tons of limestone into the caisson,” stated Harry.
Let’s hear it for the rock that built Rogers City and its longtime voice, the Presque Isle County Advance. Reasons to celebrate years that end in eight.