When I lived as a very young girl in Northern Michigan, a highlight of my little existence was any errand that necessitated our taking the Ironton Ferry. I have looked for information, but have not been able to determine how long this ferry has been in service. Suffice to say, it was certainly venerable by the mid-1970s, and last I knew, one of the few remaining cabled ferry services in the country. It is also a practical way to get around the inconvenience of the protruding South Arm of Lake Charlevoix. We lived in East Jordan; the next largest towns (“largest” being a very relative term) were Charlevoix and Boyne City. To get from one to the other was a long enough drive, which the ferry made much more convenient.
Granted, on premium summer days and with visiting tourists, the four-car limit made for an occasional wait, but there are worse things to do than stand on the shore of a lake and watch the sun dapple-dance its way across sparkling water, listening for the approaching putt-putt of the ferry’s motor. That was the signal to get back into our cars and await the instructions of the often crotchety captain who may have been the same age as the ferry itself. (I have to be careful here; as an employee of the County of Charlevoix, my father had the opportunity to substitute-captain this fine craft on occasion.) Speaking of captains, I did learn in my research that long-time ferry operator Sam Alexander is listed in “Ripley’s Believe it or Not!” for traveling 15,000 miles while never being more than 1/4 mile from his home over a period of years. In recent years, I had the misfortune of being piloted by a taciturn young man in his late teens duly plugged into his iPod who never even looked at his passengers, so it was a pleasure last month to meet a wonderfully outgoing middle-aged captain who obviously enjoyed such a unique job. (Clicking on photos displays a much clarified image, depending on one’s monitor settings.)
Early as I can remember, fares were 50 cents. Now they charge $3.25 (but I think walkers are still .50, and bicyclists are charged $1.00.) However, if as part of your commute you will need the ferry service frequently, it is useful to purchase a book for $50, which contains tickets for 20 passages. Handily, our family still has our book… purchased according to the inner ledger for a whopping $6 on May 1, 1976. There are two tickets left in the book, but I doubt I have the nerve to use them.
For how many bits of our childhood disappear as we get older, I’m awfully glad this fondly remembered relic is still around. 😀