Grandfathers, part 1
There’s nothing like an old family photograph to bring tears to your eyes during a family Christmas gathering, is there?
This photo of my maternal grandfather has been hanging on the wall in my parents’ house for as long as I can recall – but is no more, as it was presented to me as a gift this past Christmas. As gifts go, this is for sure one that will remain a treasure to me.
That’s him, Elmer Sicotte, at the lower left, the good-looking one . He’s really the patriarch of the family, not only in real terms but in terms of physical appearance as well. I’m not usually good with picking up on family resemblances, but with my mother’s side of the family they’re obvious even to me. My cousin, my nephew, and my younger daughter – just for a brief list – all look remarkably like my grandfather. All these fabulous good looks kind of bypassed me, though. Alas!
My grandfather was as much at home on a pair of skates as he was not. I’ve heard my mom recall on occasion how he was known as “fastest man on skates” among those in the know in Michigan’s upper peninsula a century ago. He coached the Michigan Tech U. hockey team in the early 1920s, in two nonconsecutive seasons. While it’s been ages since I’ve seen it, my nephew will assure you that grandpa’s photo still hangs prominently in the MTU Huskies’ ice arena on their campus in Houghton. Another of my family’s treasured photos is one of grandpa at that arena talking with John MacInnes, who coached the team for 26 seasons in the 1950s through the 1980s and is a legend in American hockey lore himself.
What with a skating legend father, and living in the chilly hinterland that is the UP of Michigan, it’s no surprise that my mother learned how to skate as a child. She moved to Lansing with my father upon their marriage, and my sister and I grew up here. The four of us spent many a winter Sunday afternoon at a local rink skating together. I was never bound for a career with the Detroit Red Wings, but I could certainly get around the ice as well as the next kid. I didn’t keep up with it, though, and so my guess is now I’d look pretty foolish trying to maneuver an ice rink. Perhaps it’s in the same realm as riding a bicycle – once you learn, you don’t really unlearn?
I think I may have just talked myself into taking the family on an ice skating outing one of these days…
Anyway, back to this picture – it was taken at the Houghton jewelry shop owned by one of my grandfather’s teammates in the photo. Carlos Haug, the tall gentleman in the center, ran Haug’s Jewelry for a hundred years (that may be a family exaggeration). According to my mother, whose engagement ring is from Haug’s Jewelry, the store was an exceedingly nice establishment, and sold silverware and dishes as well.
The word is that this is a portrait of the Portage Lake Lakers hockey club, which brings up the obvious question of what the big H on their sweaters is for. I’ll leave that for another time.