|by Phillip Laronge
My father, Virgil LaRonge (1909-1981), was a hydraulic engineer who, for the first half of his long career, worked in field service for Vickers, Inc. of Detroit, installed and maintained hydraulic equipment on ships--mostly Navy ships, but also merchant vessels, workboats, ferries, fishing boats--you name it. As a coincidence, we lived in Detroit, but most of our relatives lived in Wisconsin and Minnesota. Since our summer vacation every year consisted of a trip to the midwest to visit relatives, we were frequent riders on the C&O and Ann Arbor ferries.
When I was about seven years old (I'm 53 now, so this means back about 1952 or '53), we were driving back to Detroit after the usual visit to the relatives. My mother's sister was with us. We had a reservation on the noon boat from Manitowoc to Ludington, but heavy traffic and detours made us late. So we had to switch our reservation to the midnight boat, which included staterooms.
As a result, we had about 8 hours to kill in Manitowoc before it was time to board the ferry (they used to let you on at 10:00 so you could go right to your stateroom and get a good night's sleep before your arrival in Ludington). As my dad already knew from having spent weeks on end in Manitowoc working at the shipyard there, it is not exactly what one would call a tourist town. It's just a dirty little seaport of about 30,000 population or so with few diversions for people stranded there. So we were just sitting in the waiting room at the C&O terminal, waiting endlessly it seemed, when my mother, who was reading the local paper, remarked that a movie she wanted to see was playing at some theater in downtown Manitowoc. So my dad drove them to the movie house, after we which we browsed around downtown ourselves for a while before returning to the docks.
My dad and I were sitting in the waiting room about 3 hours later when the ticket agent motioned for my dad to come to him. He had a telephone call--my mother and my aunt were at the police station! So we hurried down there to see what was the matter. As it turned out, after the movie was over the ladies went to the restaurant next door to get a bite to eat. Then, as they left the restaurant, two drunken sailors tried to pick them up! Both my mother and my aunt were mortified, so they ran down the street until they encountered a policemen who took them to the station house and called the C&O.
By the time we got back to the docks, it was time to board the boat. As we got on, my mother and aunt recognized two of the deck hands--it was the two guys who tried to pick them up downtown! So we hurried to our staterooms and my mother and aunt locked their door and didn't DARE emerge until we got to Ludington.
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