Friday, November 19, 2010

The SS Meteor is the last of the remaining whalebacks, ships so named for their rounded hulls. Designed by Captain Alexander McDougall, the Frank Rockefeller, as she was originally named, launched from Superior in 1896. Over her many years of service, she carried a variety of cargos on the Great Lakes, including iron ore, grain, cars, and oil and was originally registered at nearly three thousand gross tons. She was big and sleek and ran throughout the Great Lakes until 1969. In 1972 she was brought home to Superior and is now permanently berthed on Barker’s Island.

It always causes my head to fill with romantic visions of brave men spending sleepless nights keeping the ship on course when the winds of Lake Superior blow cold and fierce. It brings to mind the men of the Edmund Fitzgerald.

Maybe that has always been a part of the draw for me to the Great Lake among the Great Lakes. Hard work, perseverance against stacked odds, a hand-numbing cold, life hanging in the balance - literally - on an ice-covered deck.

In any case, that summer of 1997, my sister Pat and I took Nick and Val into the belly of the SS Meteor. Granted, she was cleaned up for tourists and sitting still, harbored forever in the city of her birth, but in her narrow passageways, it was easy to run a hand along her cold steel and know where she had been, the stories she still stored away in her spirit.

Wow. Was that a little bit too much?

The next place we visited that day was Fairlawn, a mansion built in 1890 by wealthy lumber and mining baron, Martin Pattison. The fascinating story behind this house is that it was a children’s home from 1920 to 1962.

That’s where my imagination really took off. And someday I am going to write a story about some of the nearly 2000 children who called Fairlawn their home. Anyone want to give me ideas for plot lines?

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