Historical Winter Activities Alive in Tri-Cities
This article was originally published in the Grand Haven Tribune in February 2015, written by Meredith Meyer, Collections Manager
Winter doesn't seem to be going anywhere anytime soon, and though it may seem harder to enjoy as the months wear on, there are plenty of winter activities that are still enjoyable. Many of which have been loved by residents since the early 1900s.
Sledding and skiing are winter activities that continue to be a favorite winter pastime, and though many families count Duncan Woods or Mulligan's Hollow as their favorite spot, in the early 1900s sledding down Second Street hill was the premier location. Though it wasn't the tallest hill in town it was the only plank street, and with permission from the city the older boys used fire hydrants nearby to ice it, creating an ideal run.
Children would line up with their bobsleds. Most were homemade and used a plank with a sled runner bolted in the rear and another up front on a swivel for steering. For those able to spend $20-25, Jake DeGlopper's blacksmith shop on the northwest corner of Third and Fulton made bobsleds, the largest fitting twelve. Because there were few cars in the 1910s, the interurban streetcars were the major traffic concern for the sliders. Peter Volkema was the lookout at the corner of Washington and Second, and would swing his lantern to let the riders know when it was safe to go. Many claimed to coast all the way to the South Channel! But by the 1920s, there were too many cars on the street to safely cross traffic and Second Street hill was closed to sliders. Though it was an end to a much loved recreation spot, it pushed residents to explore the city for other options. Today, sledding and skiing can still be enjoyed at Mulligan's Hollow.
Mulligan's Hollow was not always the community recreation center that it is now. During the Great Depression of the 1930s, the country embarked upon a land refurbishing and stabilization campaign using a work force of young men without jobs. In 1939, the Civilian Conservation Corps' Camp Grand Haven was built at the base of Five Mile Hill. One of the most well-known CCC projects of our community was the beach grass planting on Dewey Hill, an effort to delay erosion of the dune.
In 1942, Congress disbanded the CCC to free up young men who were needed for the WWII war effort. The CCC Camp Grand Haven shut down and was re-opened as an advanced boot camp for the training of Coast Guard recruits. The camp accommodated up to 500 recruits over the course of eight-week training sessions. By 1945, over 5,000 men had trained at the facility learning service protocol and discipline, military drills, assault maneuvers and self-defense, scaling boarding nets and manning pulling boats. Grand Haven embraced the recruits by opening up a Servicemen's Center at 105 Washington Ave., now the Down to Earth retail store.
The camp closed in 1945 with the end of WWII, the buildings falling into disrepair until the only structure still useful was the old mess hall. It became the warming hut for the Mulligan's Hollow Ski Bowl, which opened on December 22, 1963 and much to the enjoyment of residents, continues to operate each winter.