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Superiorland Yesterdays

EDITOR’S NOTE: Superiorland Yesterdays is prepared by the reference staff at the Peter White Public Library in Marquette.

30 years ago

NATIONAL MINE — When Dennis and Joyce Topel started working with furs 11 years ago, it was just for fun. One of their first projects was to create a coonskin cap complete with head and tail. When someone offered to buy it off Dennis’ head, a business was born. Today Ely Creek Furs keeps the Topels busy year-round. They work out of their home buying raw furs, doing custom tanning and creating fur garments. Last year they sold nearly 300 hats. They also make fur coats to order, along with gloves, mittens, earmuffs, vests and moccasins. Many of the furs they use are trapped locally, and some are bought from dealers around the nation. The Topels strive to make quality garments that people are proud to own and to show to others. Nancy Trudell of National Mine, who works part time in the Topel’s business, used a fur machine, a heavy-duty sewing machine, to sew a lining into a fox hat. Joyce also demonstrated cutting strips from a fox fur as part of the process of “letting out” coats or vests. After they are cut, the strips are stitched back together in such a way as to make a wide panel from a narrow one. Some of their other products are the raccoon coat, red fox hats, gray fox hats, and muskrat mittens.

60 years ago

CHATHAM — The 325 Upper Peninsula 4-H Club delegates assembling for 4-H Club Week at Camp Shaw this year will find camp life somewhat different than those who attended 40 years ago in 1919. Camp Shaw has beds to sleep 400, and kitchen and dining facilities to serve 500. This facility, which is located on the grounds of the U.P. Experiment Station in Chatham, was built by Michigan State University in 1938, and has been constantly improved since that time. Members who attended that first 4-H Club Week lived in tents along the banks of the Slapneck Creek. Plumbing was a bit “primitive,” wind and rain sometimes made camp life uncomfortable, and some of the livestock and farm equipment had to be moved to provide temporary meeting and dining quarters.