Thursday, February 22, 2024

Bay City’s “Lost Bands”




By Gary Johnson

The emergence of The Beatles and the other British Invasion bands prompted the formation of countless young bands in Bay City and in other communities all across the state. Band Canyon and the other teen clubs that sprouted up in Michigan around the same time provided an opportunity for these fledgling groups to play in front of large gatherings of their peers.

Forming a band and then keeping it together were two entirely different chores, however, and many of these young bands faded away almost as quickly as they had come together. The reasons were varied. They included lack of musical ability, getting drafted, going away to college, having a full-time job, girlfriend/boyfriend relationship issues, lack of money, an unexpected pregnancy, an unwillingness to fully commit to the band lifestyle, or the often-cited musical differences.

A few of the teen bands that played at Band Canyon recorded singles before they broke up. These were usually released on small, local, independent labels in the hope of garnering some radio airplay on AM radio stations in the Tri-City area or to sell at their gigs.  Most did not leave audio records of their existence and became one of the countless "lost bands" of the 1960s, living on in old photos, faded clippings, and in the memories of those who saw them play.

The Vibrations

Vibrations.jpgImage: Vibrations, provided by Gary Johnson

The Vibrations had the distinction of being the first Bay City band to play at Band Canyon in the summer of 1965. Based on their local reputation, which included a number of gigs at Daniel’s Den in Saginaw, the band was hired to back national recording star Freddy Cannon during his performances during Band Canyon’s grand opening weekend on July 2nd and 3rd. The band had recently changed its name from The Counterpoints to The Vibrations, and had performed for the first time under their new moniker at a Memorial Day dance at the Caseville Roller Rink with another area band called ? and the Mysterians.

Cannon had first gained fame in 1959 with his Top Ten hit “Tallahassee Lassie” on Swan Records. Dick Clark, who was part-owner of the Philadelphia label, promoted the song heavily on American Bandstand and brought Cannon to Detroit for the first time later that summer as one of the artists performing on Dick Clark’s Caravan of Stars at the Michigan State Fair. 

Freddy Cannon’s appearances at Band Canyon in 1965 were timely. Now signed to Warner Bros. Records, his latest single, “Action”, was the theme song for Dick Clark’s new music-based TV show Where The Action Is. The program had debuted on the ABC network on June 27th at 4:30 on weekday afternoons, and its popularity would help drive “Action” to # 13 on the Hot 100 later that summer.

Although it sounded like a dream gig for The Vibrations, drummer Bruce Sherbeck recalled in a recent interview that the experience of playing behind Cannon was not that enjoyable.

Read the rest of the story about Bay City’s Lost Bands: The Vibrations, The Intruders, The Mustangs, and The Trespassers by visiting the MICHIGAN ROCK AND ROLL LEGENDS.

1:03 pm est 

Friday, February 9, 2024



By David K. Hohenstein

Douglas Harry Hesseltine was born in Flint in 1943 to parents Harry and Hilda Hesseltine. He was the second of five children. While he was still a young child, his family embarked on a voyage, sailing from the Great Lakes to Florida and living in a boat for almost three years. In 1948, the family returned to Michigan and settled in Bay City. They lived out of the boat while they built their house. Young Douglas grew up in Bay City and attended Handy High School. During that time, he met Patricia Baumgarten who attended Central High School. They married in 1961, the same year he graduated from high school. The couple had three children together.

Patricia and Douglas both went on to study Art and graduated from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Patricia became a social worker with a lifelong appreciation and love for art, while Douglas joined the faculty at the University of Michigan. He was an artist, designer and teacher in a nearly forty-year career. Beginning as an assistant professor, he grew into the University’s Director of Design. He created at least two distinct programs in which professional designers, students, local non-profit groups, and businesses could collaborate and learn from one another. He was an advocate for design, creativity, and education.

His obituary and those in his family relay their shared love for travel and the outdoors. He seems to have had a great influence on the many students he taught and lives he touched throughout his active career. In 2012, he passed away after battling with Parkinson’s disease for nearly a decade.


This painting, signed by Hesseltine and dated 1967, is part of the museum’s collection. It depicts a dilapidated shack set among grass and reeds with the tower of a lighthouse in the upper-left corner. Douglas was twenty-four years old when he painted it, showing a high degree of skill as a painter at a fairly young age. The scale of the work is impressive, at five feet across. The artist allowed his paint to speak. To run, to blend and break and to tell a certain truth about what he was depicting; a roughhewn, blown over, rugged and almost forgotten place. Rusty reds and browns, faded gray and shadowy black all might suggest that time has worn and emptied this place, but he wants us to see it before it is gone.


Douglas Hesseltine Obituary, Bay City Times. October 18th, 2015.

Hilda Hesseltine Obituary, Bay City Times. January 2nd, 2017.

Patricia Doreen Hesseltine Obituary, Bay City Times. December 18th-19th, 2022.

Lai, Theresa. “Art Class Aids Non-Profit Groups” The Michigan Daily. Thursday, March 10th. 1988.

Schonholz, Stephanie. “Art School helps business market.” The Michigan Daily. Thursday, February 1st, 2001.



11:00 am est 

Thursday, February 1, 2024



Metal Press Plate: The image is of the former Martin Keit building on Seventh and Washington, Bay City.  According to the Bay City Times, the building was razed on July 23, 1935.

In 1856, Frederick Keit came to Bay City from Germany at the age of 20 years old.  He and his wife Margaret “Maggie” raised their family in the area.  At the turn of the 20th century, the Keit family purchased land for a greenhouse on Euclid and several years later opened a flower shop.  Frederick’s son Martin grew up learning the gardening trade.  He died in 1954, and his obituary contained hints of the changing times: “For 20 years, Mr. Keit delivered celery and other produce to Saginaw stores and markets with a horse and wagon.  Later, he bought the first new truck in Bay City for carrying produce.”  Martin Keit operated a florist business out of the building shown on the metal press plate.  The image appeared in a Bay City Times article “Old Landmark Razed” that ran on July 23, 1935.  It claimed that Martin Keit was the former occupant of the building and that he had moved his business to 609 Washington.

The image of the Keit building is on a metal press plate, which is part of a collection donated to the Museum by the Bay City Times.  According to the Chicago Tribune Store, press plates were instrumental in the mass production of newspapers.  They were made from metal, plastic, rubber, or paper.  The metal plates were heavy, durable, and created a clear picture.  The front of the plate with the image is rough to the touch.  It consists of tiny bumps which are created during the photochemical process called prepress.  The plate is attached to a cylinder on the printer press, and the image is transferred first to an intermediary cylinder and then to paper using ink and water.   The process allowed for easy duplication of the picture.


Bay City Michigan Map, 1890

Bay City Times (published as The Bay City Times Extra), “Martin Keit, 81, Florist, Passes,” March 31, 1954: 11 

Bay City Times (Bay City, Michigan), November 25, 1915: 4

Bay City Times (Bay City, Michigan). ”Old Landmark Razed,” July 23, 1935: 3

Bear, Jacci Howard. ThoughtCo., “The Role Printing Plates Play in the Printing Process” March 7, 2020.  Found:,imaged%20areas%20of%20the%20plate.

Chicago Tribune Store. “Press Plates.”  Found:


11:47 am est 

Thursday, January 25, 2024



by Sam Fitzpatrick


(Black & white photo: Four men working on or around large transformer hung from overhead crane with other machines and factory windows behind them.)

Located in Bay City’s South End, on 26th Street between Garfield and Jefferson, is the former Kuhlman Electric Company building. The company was founded in 1894 by Etna Kulman in Elkhart, Indiana. As the company grew and prospered, it made several moves to accommodate its expanding needs. By 1915, it found a home in Bay City and situated inside a 15,000-square-foot one-story building. The company manufactured electrical transformers primarily used by power distribution companies for power, welding, street lighting, furnace work, etc. The plant held its formal opening on October 28, 1916. Tours were provided for the Board of Commerce, who helped relocate the company to Bay City.


The company was busy from the get-go. In 1916, Kuhlman Electric received an order from the City of Milwaukee for 3,404 electric transformers for its new streetlight plan. This was one of the largest orders ever for a transformer manufacturer. In addition, the City of Chicago submitted an order for 100 transformers for the Lincoln Park neighborhood. By 1929, it was still the only company in Michigan making electrical transformers. Their presence grew nationally, with orders filled for clients as far away as the Pearl Harbor Navy Yard.


The plant was noted in The Bay City Times as being a “daylight” plant. It was built at the convenience of the employees with large glass panes for increased visibility while working. In 1926, the plant grew in size to 35,000 square feet.  By the 1930s, the company had grown to 300 employees. In 1936, the company acquired two conjoined buildings, which doubled its size to 87,000 square feet.


Advertisement source: Polk City Directory, 1944: 32.


During the 1930s, a large portion of Kuhlman’s market was the result of the electrification of rural United States. In 1936, the Rural Electrification Act (a part of President Roosevelt’s New Deal) was signed, which provided rural America with access to electricity. At this point, nearly 90% of America’s farms did not have electric power as it was cost-prohibitive. Through this Act, companies like Kuhlman Electric were able to produce parts to make this possible. By 1950, nearly 80% of American farms had electric power.


Before World War II, the plant had grown to 450 employees. During the war, the Army awarded Kuhlman contracts reaching in the $1 million range, which resulted in the need for an additional 40-50 employees. Throughout the war, Kuhlman Electric produced transformers and Detroit Electric Furnaces.


On March 3-7, 1944, a "War Exhibit" was showcased at the Bay City Armory. It exhibited items produced by Kuhlman Electric, Bay City Chevrolet, Defoe Shipbuilding, and other industries. Kuhlman displayed a huge rocking electric furnace weighing 350-500 pounds.


Kuhlman was comparable to Industrial Brownhoist and Defoe Shipbuilding in terms of industrial might. It was one of Bay City’s largest employers until falling on hard times during the early 1970s. Changes in the market saw a decrease in orders. As a result, the headquarters in Birmingham, Michigan, decided to suspend operations for the first quarter of 1971. In 1973, Kuhlman Electric signed a new three-year contract with Local 778, United Auto Workers (UAW). At the end of the contract in 1976, the building was closed. Ownership transferred to the City of Bay City, which leased the building to the National Insulation Company of Cheboygan, Michigan. In March of 1977, the remaining production equipment was auctioned off. Some areas of the building still had pieces of electrical components made during World War II. In late 1979, the pension program set up in 1958 for Kuhlman retirees went broke while being managed by a Detroit firm. After a court case, payments resumed to pensioners in February of 1981.


Since Kuhlman's closed, the site has seen businesses come and go. Currently, the site is vacant.


“Kuhlman Electric Had Steady Growth”. The Bay City Times. February 28, 1937.

“Checks finally arriving for Kuhlman retirees”. The Bay City Times. February 22, 1981.

 “End of Kuhlman eyesore may be in sight for city”. The Bay City Times. September 7, 1980.

“Kuhlman Electric Co., The Men Behind it and What it Produces”. The Bay City Daily Times. October 27, 1915.

“Formal Opening of Kuhlman Plant”. The Bay City Daily Times. October 13, 1915.

“Will Supply Its Transformers to Milwaukee”. The Bay City Times Tribune. September 23, 1916.

“Kuhlman Planning Further Expansion”. The Bay City Daily Times. November 17, 1929.

“Firm Plans Program of Expansion”. The Bay City Times Tribune. April 20, 1936.

“Kuhlman Given New Army Job”. The Bay City Times Extra. September 16, 1943.

“Kuhlman to Suspect Bay Plant Operation”. The Bay City Times. November 23, 1970.

“Kuhlman Pact Sees New Jobs”. The Bay City Times. January 9, 1973.

Honsowetz, Duane. “City Oks Leasing Kuhlman Property”. The Bay City Times. July 26, 1977.

“Kuhlman Equipment Auctions”. The Bay City Times. March 14, 1977.

“Tear Down Kuhlman Plant, Planners Say”. The Bay City Times. December 17, 1976.

“Recycling Business is succeeding here in once-abandoned Kuhlman facilities”. The Bay City Times. November 9, 1981.

“War Show”. The Bay City Times. May 4, 1944.

Kuhlman Electric, ”The Men and Women of Kuhlman Electric Cordially Invite You To Visit Their Booth at the Bay City Industrial War Exhibit”. Advertisement. The Bay City Times, April 30, 1944, page 14.

McBride, Brandon. “Celebrating the 80th Anniversary of the Rural Electrification Administration.” USDA, May 20, 2016.

10:52 am est 

Thursday, January 11, 2024



by Claire Clark

Planning is currently underway for our next exhibit which will feature amusements and carnivals at Wenona Beach, Tony’s, Deer Acres, and the amusement park that never was, Little Michigan.

John Rabior was credited as being the original architect of the Wenona Beach amusement park. He was born in Canada and moved to the United States as a seven-year-old boy. He later married and went on to have four children, John Jr., Frank, Rose and Marie (Mary). He owned the Bay City Saginaw Gun and Fishing Club and operated the Bay Shore Hotel, which was across the street. The Hotel was attached to his large home and hosted many of the beach performers such as the Marx Brothers and W.C. Fields. The hotel burned down in 1916, but his attached house remained unharmed. The Cavanaugh Fish Company had a lease on the land and planned to reclaim the property. To avoid losing his home, Rabior planned a covert operation. Late at night on a Sunday in 1916, Rabior used logs and oxen to move his large home across Patterson Avenue. His seven-year-old granddaughter, Peg Campbell, was asleep inside the home as it moved to its new location. Rabior fenced in his new property to create a pond and raised ducks and chickens which he in turn sold to area restaurants.

John Rabior was also the owner of the soft drink saloon at the entrance of Wenona Beach. In April 1924, he was arrested for violating prohibition laws. A raid led by State Police Sergeant Joseph Kearney, yielded enough evidence to arrest Rabior and lock him up in the county jail.  Found were two gallons of alcohol and 104 bottles of beer.  He was charged with possession of liquor and another charge of keeping a place where liquors are stored. Arraigned by Justice of the Peace Robert L. King, Rabior pleaded not guilty and posted a $1000 bond. He was scheduled to appear in court on April 8, 1924, but no more information could be found on the conclusion of the trial. After prohibition ended, Rabior’s Inn legally sold alcohol to Wenona Beach visitors.

John Rabior died on March 13, 1934, at the age of 71. He is buried in St. Patrick’s cemetery in Hampton Township.

The Bay County Historical Museum’s exhibit on the amusements of Bay County will debut on April 15, 2024. Please contact the museum at 989-893-5733 if you have any memorabilia or relevant items from the four Bay County amusement parks.


Watson, James R., Wenona Beach, Bay City, Michigan: J.R. Watson, 1988.

The Bay City Times Tribune, April 2, 1924, 215 edition

The Bay City Times Tribune, April 4, 1924, 217 edition

The Bay City Times Tribune, March 15, 1934, 74 edition

Bay County Historical Society Archive

12:42 pm est 


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