Memories of a family fish shack

ESCANABA – Fish shacks have come a long way ever since I was a youngster. My earliest memories of going out to the Shack was my Uncle Martin’s shack off of Massonville. Martin’s (Blubs) shack was made out of 2x2s and aluminum “tin” from the Delta Reporter still with the image permanently fixed on the inside.

Any decent fish shack builder would always put the print side to the inside so it didn’t show through the exterior paint. Of course shacks back then were just that – shacks, built of whatever leftover or free or real cheap stuff you could cobble together to provide shelter out on the bay. Shacks back then didn’t have fancy insulation as they typically do these days. So when you first got your shack warmed up, it rained on you from the melting frost.

The stoves which heated the old time shacks were usually wood stoves which could burn trimmings from the “Birds Eye” or cedar scraps from “McGillis & Gibbs.” The real nice shacks had fuel-oil stoves. Uncle Martin’s had an oil stove, complete with the oil tank screwed to the wall above the stove thus allowing the oil to flow by gravity down and “drip” into your stove at a controlled rate.

Every once in a while, the oil petcock was mistakenly left open too far and thus flooding your stove. It was real common back then for your holes in the ice to have a mini oil slick floating on the ice water.

Uncle Joe built a “deluxe” fish shack downstairs in his basement in wall sections so it could then be disassembled carried outside and re-assembled back into a shack. The only downfall with this shack was it turned out to be real heavy to move since lots of the 2x2s were doubled up in the corners. Since Uncle Joe’s deluxe shack was heavy, he and I, with help from his younger brother Dennis, built our “portable” shack, which was built light for easy moving to keep up with the fish.

The portable shack began as a homemade wardrobe the neighbors had tossed out for the garbage. We took the frame, which was only about 32×50-inches, and covered it with “Papermill” felt. The only thing we needed to do was seal up the porous felt with paint. We put all of our old “car paint” together with a few donations from Edward’s Auto Body – enough to make a nice green coat.

Shacks now are usually collapsible light easy to move and completely wind resistant. But they also come with a much higher price tag than those of the past. They also lack the character of their predecessors.

Mark Rose is the brother of Lifestyles columnist, Karen Rose.