It’s all over, but the snow and the cold

December 29, 2016

by Julie Traynor
Correspondent           

Marionites have always hardily welcomed the New Year. We’ve embraced the fresh slate and new start thing and through the years have gathered for countless oyster suppers and other such holiday cheer. And once the clock strikes the magic hour and it is a new year and month, we take a deep breath, embrace the winter and the snow, cold, wind and ice which comes with it, and get on with life in Marion, Michigan.

The January 28, 1904 issue of the Marion Dispatch noted that ‘Sunday night was probably the coldest night we have had this winter. The lowest report we have heard of yet is 26 degrees below zero, which was shown by a thermometer on Hoover & Snyder’s building. Monday all day the thermometer stood at about 10 above and Monday night the same thermometer registered 18 below.’

Main Street Marion Michigan circa 1900’s.

Main Street Marion Michigan circa 1900’s.

Life went on. In February 1909 over 500 tough souls turned out for the grand opening of the new Marion State Bank. The free souvenirs and music furnished by the Marion Orchestra certainly didn’t hurt. Marionites were justifiably proud of the new two story building, which would also provide a home for the telephone company’s office and switchboard.

Marion State bank opened in 1909 with 500 tough souls showing up for the February opening.

Marion State bank opened in 1909 with 500 tough souls showing up for the February opening.

Early and long time Middle Branch Twp resident Elva Williams Sneary kept track of the local news for the Marion Press for many years in her column Marion Route Five. She not only reported the social comings and goings of her neighborhood, but noted the weather, school news, illnesses, her thoughts on what was happening in the Village and so much more. Elva was a correspondent ahead of her time and a standout among Press writers.

In the February 7, 1929 issue Elva noted: Our mail carrier is again making his trip with his snowmobile. The roads are good now so why complain? Things could be so much worse. In just a few weeks Elva wrote that roads were indeed worse. Some things never change.

Gilbert Johnson sits in his horse powered snow cutter circa 1862-1926.

Gilbert Johnson sits in his horse powered snow cutter circa 1862-1926.

 The man delivering mail on Route Five was Marion native and MHS graduate, Gilbert Johnson, youngest son of Dr. Donald Johnson. He was in those 1920’s winters rather new to the postal profession. In 1928 he and fellow long time Route 3 carrier Clinton Foster bought snowmobiles. These were not snowmobiles as we all know them, but were Ford Model T’s built to take skis in place of the front wheels and a caterpillar type track propelling the machine at the rear. They did the job and got the mail through. Needless to say these machines caused quite a stir about town and gained mention among the correspondents who wrote about it when the mailman drove the machine.  Gib Johnson was a postman for 44 years, most of them on Route 5.

Gilbert Johnson snowmobile circa 1927.

Gilbert Johnson snowmobile circa 1927.

Mailman Johnson’s father was Marion’s Dr. Donald Johnson, MD (1862-1926). For the good doctor, mobility was essential. When a patient called, the doctor went, be it by horse and cutter, horse and buggy or wagon, or as in his later years, with a driver and a car. This early photo taken on the Main Street of Marion is from a glass negative and courtesy of the doctor’s granddaughter, Jane Johnson Hall.   

By 1970 the personal snowmobile ruled and Marion’s own Swiler’s Sports Center was the king in our town. Snowmobiles to dirt bikes, Swiler’s had them all.  

Swiler Sport Center parade entry 1970.

Swiler Sport Center parade entry 1970.

No matter how you get around in Marion, Michigan in the snowy months ahead, above all, be safe.  May we all enjoy a prosperous New Year.



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