Reflecting on Harvest-time, Debunking Myths

October is a month of the brightly colored leaves, the fall harvest, and Halloween ghostly tales.  The present edition of the Grand Traverse Journal addresses all three topics.  Amy Barritt reflects on the splendid arboretum surrounding the former Traverse City State Hospital, a park conceived by James Decker Munson, the first superintendent of that institution.  Certainly, the leaves of sweet gum, tulip trees, and copper beech can be collected there before the first frost.

The autumn harvest is celebrated in our mystery photo of a sculpture called by that very name.  It was created far away in a place formerly regarded as enemy territory–part of the USSR–the Republic of Georgia.  Readers should send in their thoughts upon its location as well as find out the answer to last month’s mystery photo.

Apples certainly comprise a bountiful share of the autumn harvest in Northern Michigan, but what about “oak apples?”  Richard Fidler explains how oak trees can produce swellings that superficially resemble apples, but hardly make ones you can eat.  Not every “apple” has a crunch.

The lead article of this issue comes from Julie Schopieray’s examination of a famous building and a famous ghost tale of the Grand Traverse region: the Mission Table restaurant of Bowers Harbor (formerly known as the Bowers Harbor Inn).  Not to give away the story, we will only say that the clear-cut splendor of an architectural treasure is to be appreciated more than a tale constructed from speculations and gossip.

In the same vein, Richard Fidler looks at the widespread belief in ghosts present in the 1920’s.  A home in our area had a major outbreak of the supernatural variety—or so it appeared.  Alternatively, mischief could have been afoot, the ghosts staying clear to avoid the clamorous antics of curious onlookers.  Read Fortney’s Ghost to learn about Traverse City’s fascination with the occult in an age of séances, mediums, and spiritualists.

Finally, under Celebrate the People, we present an oral history recorded by the Women’s History Project of Northwest Michigan concerning Gretchen Votruba.  The transcript dates from 2002 and only now, in 2014, we are able to publish it in abridged form.  The Grand Traverse Journal encourages submissions of oral histories because they represent a form of history telling that intimately connects the life story of a single individual to an audience of readers.