Dark at noon
Q. An "unanswered question" listed in a previous column was, "In the middle of one day in the early 1940s, why did it get very dark?"
A. Mark Thompson, Presque Isle County Historical Museum director, sent this information. "The person that asked about the time it got dark in the middle of the day back in the 1940s was probably referring to a day in May of 1948 that heavy smoke blotted out the sun. The smoke came from a massive forest fire in northern Ontario. Known as the Mississagi River Fire of 1948, it burned more than 323,000 acres of pine forests in a sparsely settled area north of Blind River and Thessalon. Before it was over, the smoke reportedly extended as far south as Texas. The fire was slightly larger than the Metz Fire of 1908 that burned large sections of Presque Isle, Montmorency, and Alpena counties. My father was police officer in Rogers City at the time, and even though I was only three years old I remember the day very well. The police department was getting dozens of inquiries and one of my aunts was worried that the world was coming to an end."
There were several other e-mail and phone responses, some of which are described in the next answer.
Dark noon memories
Q. There are varying reader responses to the question above, but everyone, like Mark Thompson in the preceding question, has a strong emotional recollection of the day that darkness blotted out the sun. Responses included Denny Bowen's saying that he will never forget when it went so dark at noon that you needed a flashlight to see. He was 10 years old and was hunting with the Alpena Grouse Club, running the dogs on field trials, off the Rockport Road. Around noon or 1:00 the sky went dark. He remembers it was Mother's Day. And he remembers the women arriving from town ... wives, girl friends ...s ome carrying Bibles, some crying that it was the end of the world. Church bells in town were ringing and St. Anne's, St. Mary's and St. Bernard's churches were filled with people frantically praying their rosaries.
Reader Kathleen Hall writes, "I recall the "Day of the Dark Sky." We had gone to St. Bernard Church for the 9:30 Sunday service. Going to church it was a sunny day. When we exited the building an hour or more later, it was overcast and grim looking ... it was a funny yellowish color. t didn't take long before we got the word on WATZ radio station that there was a huge Forest Fire across Lake Huron in Ontario. The wind was blowing from the east and the smoke rolled in ... It did scare many."
Beverly Bodem checked the Internet and found an article about Black Sunday which occurred Sept. 24, 1950. About this later fire, she states "It says the sky was so dark you could see stars. It had been caused by a forest fire in western Canada and I remember it being very scary as it was dark all day." Others have commented that it was "black as night, so dark the street lights came on."
Please send questions and comments related to the questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or to "Questions, Anyone?", Alpena News, 130 Park Place, Alpena, MI 49707.