The year Morenci turned 100 2011.04.13

Written by David Green.


BATHING BEAUTIES—Participants in the Centennial contest (not in order) were Judy Farquhar, Grace Donnelly, Jane Brown, Betty Goodyear, Margaret Rorick, Marcella Fogelsong, Myrtle Pomeroy, Marian Rogers, Pauline Belding, Margaret Holland, Mae DeMeritt, Ardith Bachman, Dorothy Bailey, Irene Collins, Alma Ford, Twila Shoup, Jean McCaskey, Helen Davis, Rena McLain, Mabel Shulters, Audrey Cottrell, Josephine Seaman, Irene Berlin and Mary Dewey. Twila (Shoup) Knoblauch brought the photo to the Observer office. She was one of the beauties, but she’s not saying which one. Judy (Farquhar) Rorick was standing in the front when the photo was taken. The stage was erected in front of the American Restaurant where the bank now stands. Twila remembers the sandwiches sold after the Reppert Brothers donated an ox for roasting.



When the first notice about Morenci’s Centennial Celebration appeared in the Observer, the event was but three week’s away.

The Aug. 10, 1933, newspaper announced that planning was underway, but few details were given—most likely because they weren’t yet known.

The dates were listed as Sept. 3 and 4. A baseball tournament was planned and races for kids would be scheduled.

The event was billed as a homecoming week for former residents to attend, and there was mention of time being short.

In the Observer’s next issue, editors Russell Green and Walter Pinkstone had more information to report. Main Street and North Street would be roped off, an ox was to be roasted, a Ferris wheel and merry-go-round would be secured for the kids, and a 60 foot by 100 foot open air dance floor would be erected. A 10-piece orchestra would be hired.

Committee assignments were also listed, and those committee members apparently knew how to get the job done.

The Aug. 24 Observer showed a banner headline across the top of the page and told about the Five Marriotts sensational aerial act.

“It’s said to be the most daring monoplane novelty ever devised.”

The Marriotts performed in Havana for two months and in Buenos Aires for six months, and now they were coming to Morenci.

Morenci’s Boys and Girls Band would perform, along with the local American Legion Drum and Bugle corps. A string quartet was coming from Jackson Prison.

Running races, a three-legged race and a sack race were planned for kids (bring your own sack), along with a greased pig chase. Adults were invited to enter the fat man’s race.

The big event kept getting better as the date approached.

A bathing beauty contest was the new event featured in the Aug. 31 paper. Women from Lenawee and Fulton counties between the ages of 15 and 50 were invited to enter by registering at the Collins book store. The initial judging would be made at 4 p.m. to narrow the field to 10 finalists. At 10 p.m., Miss Morenci, 1933, the Queen of the Centennial, would be chosen.

An anonymous donor from Detroit gave $100 in prize money. Was it former resident and Detroit Free Press publisher Ed Stair?

The baseball tournament was changed to just two games. The Morenci Merchants, managed by Decorsey Humbert, would take on Wauseon on Sunday and the Tedrow Giants on Monday. Lefty Gulledge of Detroit would be on the mound for Morenci.

The Centennial Parade would include a large number of floats, along with a team of oxen and a prairie schooner.

From the Observer: “Only once in a hundred years can an event occur such as the Centennial Celebration, and nothing has been left undone by the various committees to make this occasion one to be remembered for the next one hundred years.”

Huge success

In the end, the celebration turned out even bigger than billed. Several additional events took place and an enormous crowd converged on the community.

“Many of the older residents were of the opinion that the largest crowd of people in the history of the village gathered here Monday.”

Business owners estimated crowds between 3,500 to 5,000. A Sunday evening service at Stair Auditorium was heard by a standing-room-only crowd of a thousand people, despite the steamy weather.

Twenty-four bathing beauties entered the contest. Miss Julia Rorick was the winner, followed by Miss Betty Goodyear and Miss Mary Dewey.

The winning float was trimmed not with facial tissue but white flowers. It featured Mary Mowry as the Statue of Liberty, Esther Rupp as Miss Columbia and Mary Elizabeth Green as Miss 1933.

On top of the Buck & Kellogg mill truck rode three generations of each family, with the children dressed in flour sacks and millers caps.

The greased pig contest caused as much excitement as any of the athletic events, the Observer reported.

“His temper was not the best after the grease had been applied, and when he was turned loose, the crowd lost no time in giving him the right of way. Rex Fletcher made a flying tackle and brought him down under the band-stand, only to lose him a short time afterwards.

“The pig was last seen in the vicinity of the Ohio & Morenci depot, and still remains a mystery as to the identity of the ultimate consumer of said pig.”

The fat man’s race was described as “another startling scene,” with Harry Dennis breaking the tape, followed by Ross Stong and Cop Rorick.

Historic year

The T&W Railroad was sold in 1933. School salaries were cut by 60 percent due to severe financial troubles. Diplomas were issued to 42 seniors and a heat wave brought a record high of 102°.

A new swimming pool was constructed at Riverside Park—actually a new dam constructed across Bean Creek—and the Gem Theatre had new owners. The theatre was redecorated and renamed the Rex.

The football schedule included a game against an alumni team and wrapped up, as always, with the Thanksgiving Day game against Hudson.

The village council discussed citizen complaints about damage inside homes from smoke drifting away from the United Milk Products facility. Council was loathe to order changes during tough economic times.

Unpaid water bills were becoming a serious problem and, by year’s end, 40 unemployed Morenci men found work through the federal Civil Works Administration for 30 cents an hour.

As Christmas approached, a quartet (Ida Belle Knox, Margaret Rorick, Arthur Brewer and Dick Sims) sang carols from a third-floor window in the hotel. Below, hundreds of children lined up to receive bags of candy, nuts and an apple—plus a ticket to the Rex. In the end, 950 bags were given away.

1933 was a challenging year as the Great Depression rolled on. But the people of Morenci, at least, had the memory of its greatest party.

  • Front.cowboy
    A PERFORMER named Biligbaatar, a member of the AnDa Union troupe from Inner Mongolia, dances at Stair District Library last week during a visit to the Midwest. The nine-member group blends a variety of traditions from Inner and Outer Mongolia. The music is described as drawing from “all the Mongol tribes that Genghis Khan unified.” The group considers itself music gatherers whose goal is to preserve traditional sounds of Mongolia. Biligbaatar grew up among traditional herders who live in yurts. Additional photos are on the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.base Ball
    UMPIRE Thomas Henthorn tosses the bat between team captains Mikayla Price and Chuck Piskoti of Flint’s Lumber City Base Ball Club. Following the 1860 rules, after the bat was grabbed by the captains, captains’ hands advanced to the top of the bat—one hand on top of the other. The captain whose hand ended up on top decided who would bat first. Additional photos of Sunday’s game appear on page 12 of this week’s Observer. The contest was organized in conjunction with Stair District Library’s Hometown Teams exhibit that runs through Nov. 20.
    VALUE OF ATHLETICS—Morenci graduate John Bancroft (center) takes a turn at the microphone during a chat session at the opening of the Hometown Teams exhibit at Stair District Library. Clockwise to his left is John Dillon, Jed Hall, Jim Bauer, Joe Farquhar, George Hollstein, George Vereecke and Mike McDowell. Thomas Henthorn (at the podium) kicked off the conversation. Henthorn, a University of Michigan–Flint professor, will return to Morenci this Sunday to lead a game of vintage base ball at the school softball field.
  • Front.cross
    HUDSON RUNNER Jacob Morgan looks toward the top of the hill with dismay during the tough finish at Harrison Lake State Park. Fayette runner Jacob Garrow focuses on the summit, also, during the Eagle Invitational cross country run Saturday morning. Continuing rain and drizzle made the course even more challenging. Results of the race are in this week’s Observer.
  • Front.bear
    HOLDEN HUTCHISON gives a hug to a black bear cub—the product of a taxidermist’s skills—at the Michigan DNR’s Great Youth Jamboree. The event on Sunday marked the fourth year of the Jamboree. Additional photos are on page 12.
  • Front.crossing
    Crossing over—Jim Heiney was given a U.S. flag to carry by George Vereecke (behind Jim in the hat), turning him into the leader of the parade. Bridge Walk participants cross over Bean Creek while, in the background, members of the Morenci Legion Riders cross the main traffic bridge on East Street South. Additional photos appear on the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.hose Testing
    HOSE safety—The FireCatt hose testing company from Troy put Morenci Fire Department hose to the test Monday morning when Mill Street was closed to traffic. The company also checks nozzles and ladders for wear in an effort to keep fire fighters safe while on calls.

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