Tuesday, September 06, 2022

Who Wants to Go to 'Boblo'?

If you grew up in Detroit back in the day, then your childhood summers pretty much revolved around going to Boblo Island, an amusement park tucked in the waters between the U.S. and Canada. Although the rides and the cotton candy were great fun, it was getting there riding along the Detroit River on the famed "Boblo Boat" that was the real adventure -- the anticipation of it all! -- especially donning one of the island's signature sailor hats.

Although I don't recall if I knew it at the time, apparently there were two different boats -- the Steamer Ste. Claire and the Steamer Columbia, which could hold about 2,500 passengers each. When the amusement park shuttered in 1993, it was truly the end of an era for Michiganders. (Now you had to make that long drive to Sandusky to go to Cedar Point!) My family had long moved to Phoenix by then, but its closing solidified that I could never go home again. 

I hadn't heard a word about Boblo in years until it popped up on Netflix’s "Unsolved Mysteries" reboot a couple years ago, when JoAnn Romain’s body was found in Canada offshore near the island after she disappeared following a church service in Grosse Pointe Farms. So it's heartwarming to hear about it again in a more upbeat context with the release of "Boblo Boats: A Detroit Ferry Tale," a new documentary that follows the efforts of a doctor, psychic(!) and amusement park fanatic to save their beloved steamship from the scrapyard. (What they’re planning to do with it is anyone’s guess.) It also examines Boblo's racist past, including a lawsuit that reached the U.S. Supreme Court in 1945.
Interweaving local lore and mythology, "Boblo Boats" explores the whitewashed history of amusement parks and one crew's crusade to bring back the memories.

Sounds like a riot -- and bonus points for having Martha Reeves narrate! 

Driver's ed


This was a cherished gift I got from my brother Bill years ago. 

UPDATE: Matt came across this!


Jack said...

Reminds me of my childhood Amusement Park on the shores of Lake Minnetonka in Excelsior, MN.

j said...

I grew up in New York City and across the Hudson river we could see Palisades Amusement Park which made New Jersey look wonderfull