Courtesy of Anuta Research Center
William “Bill” Hasenfus was an established resort operator in the Manitowoc region when he was lured to Marinette by the M&M Light & Traction Co., forerunner of Wisconsin Public Service, to assume leadership of Lakeside Inn. The utility company operated a street car service that moved passengers from Menominee and Marinette to the bayside resort. The resort, owned by a Menominee business group, was being liquidated and the utility wanted to keep its street car customers coming and going to the resort. It was not unusual to see 2,000 men, women and children flocking to the Lakeside Inn and surrounding beach areas to enjoy the days of summer.
Courtesy of Anuta Research Center

William “Bill” Hasenfus was an established resort operator in the Manitowoc region when he was lured to Marinette by the M&M Light & Traction Co., forerunner of Wisconsin Public Service, to assume leadership of Lakeside Inn. The utility company operated a street car service that moved passengers from Menominee and Marinette to the bayside resort. The resort, owned by a Menominee business group, was being liquidated and the utility wanted to keep its street car customers coming and going to the resort. It was not unusual to see 2,000 men, women and children flocking to the Lakeside Inn and surrounding beach areas to enjoy the days of summer.

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The hustle and bustle to lure tourists to the Marinette and Menominee areas has been an ongoing campaign for more than a century. The present-day crusade may have more cash for marketing purposes than it did in earlier years, and it may have more choices to offer visitors, but the intensity levels were as fever-pitched as they now are.

There were generally two classes of society a century ago the rich and the poor. Although opinions may differ, we submit that we now have a third group to categorize — the middle class. The latter is especially mentioned a lot every time a politician talks.

Just four years into the 20th century, “Lakeside” and “Oakwood” on the shores of Green Bay were favorite gathering spots for Marinette families and their guests. For those unfamiliar with the two resting spots, Lakeside and Oakwood would be in the general vicinity of the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay campus in Marinette.

Visitors to Lakeside and Oakwood retreats relied on street cars and horse-driven carriages to reach the locations where they danced away the afternoon or evening in a pavilion, or settled for a relaxing cruise on the glittering waters of Green Bay in one of the many rowboats tied to mooring docks along the waterfront. And let the record show that history tells us the beforehands knew how to have fun.

A few steamboat companies offered transportation from local docks to Fish Creek and other resort choices across the bay.

The Marinette Daily Eagle-Star ran a news item in one of its March 1908 editions noting that Marinette businessmen were poised to “open a campaign for more of the resort business.” The M&M football game was only 14 years old (1894) at the time, and it wasn’t the only rivalry in the Twin Cities. Businesses went toe-to-toe for the retail dollar, from the two downtown business districts to the resort attractions that stretched just beyond the two city limits where a family getaway was considered a journey.

The following lead story in the Eagle-Star gives you a clue on how intense the drive for business was:

“Marinette people are going to make more of an effort this year to get their share of the resort business, which heretofore has gone wholly to Menominee. The resort business this year promises to be heavier than ever with the addition of several new boats on the river to and from East shore summer resorts. In order to reach resorts, the reporters came to Marinette and Menominee hotels by train and wait until they can get boats directly to the resorts. Menominee was getting practically all of this hotel business until last year a Marinette businessman began to cut in and get a small share of the hotel and livery business.”

The newspaper story continued: “Every reporter stopping in the cities, leaves quite a sum of money which is paid out in hotel and livery bills and in the purchase of novelties and merchandise.”

To bolster its campaign for the tourist trade, Marinette pointed out that “Ogden Street had new pavement and new walks would be laid this spring to help attract visitors to Marinette and the line of work planned by local businessmen should help the city get its full share of the resort trade.”

Social life had a bounce to it in Marinette and Menominee during the lumber boom. Menekaunee in Marinette and the downtown district in Menominee were choice entertainment stops for lumberjacks, sawmill workers and fishermen. Marinette had 21 hotels, 10 boarding houses, 45 saloons, five restaurants, five livery stables and five steamship lines available to tourists.

Menominee offered pretty much the same in the race for tourist business: 21 hotels, 12 boarding houses, five livery stables, 44 gin mills, five restaurants and four steamship lines. For two small cities, still in the development stages, that’s a high number of establishments to satisfy the tourists of three or four generations ago.

Some 50 years after the 1908 turnaround, Menominee County had another campaign to pull in tourists. Then, like now, the county had to rely on its natural resources because the community lacked the amusement bait that was offered in other cities. Also, local units of government struggled to muster a sizeable budget to devote to tourism promotions like other competing cities, so they concentrated on the basic come-ons at their disposal.

Gail Bowers, a kind and gentle agriculture agent for Menominee County when I was on the news best in the 1950s, directed the countywide tourism efforts from his office at the courthouse. He worked closely with the Michigan State University Extension Service on many projects. A 1958 survey conducted by the MSU Extension Service showed food sales made up 28 percent of the tourist dollar.

The four-month canvass covered June through September. During those months of the tourist season, according to the survey, food sales totaled $532,037 in 1957 and grew to $1,900,132 in 1958. Bowers noted that farmers, grocery stores, food processors, restaurants and other businesses benefited from the tourist season in Menominee County.

Unlike now, the Michigan economy was in shambles. Automobile plants, the backbone of employment, was laying off workers and slashing production schedules. The Upper Peninsula Development Bureau, which included tourism in its litany of multiple tasks, worked with U.S. Rep. John Bennett, who represented the U.P. in Congress, to encourage the auto industry to send engineers and survey teams to the peninsula to investigate potential sites for industrial development.

The bureau was hoping to convert abandoned factory buildings, copper and ore mines into industrial sites and underground storage facilities, even suggesting the possibility of underground defense plants in some mines.

Lloyd Manufacturing Co. was the top employer in Menominee County at the time and one of the largest in the 15-county peninsula. Employment was at 926 and the annual payroll at $1,962,632, plus $421,997 in fringe payments for workers. The company paid $83,280 in city and county taxes, plus $14,000 in the state’s business activity tax.

Bowers used the Lloyd plant as a prime example for the need to attract more industry, retain existing industry and promote tourism to jump-start the local economy. Without workers having steady good-paying jobs, families have no room in their family budgets to take vacations.

Whether it’s 1908, 1958 or 2019, the struggle to coax tourists to Menominee and Marinette is a work in progress. History tells us that much.