Monday, May 7, 2012

My Michigan Memory : Detroit's Salt Mine

I am really excited to be linking up with Lauren at Mrs. Weber's Neighborhood for her new My Michigan Memory series! Lauren is a fellow Michigan mommy blogger, but you definitely do not have to be from Michigan to appreciate her blog! Every other Monday, starting today, you can link up your My Michigan Memory blog post and enter to win an awesome prize (note: you do NOT have to be a blogger to enter the giveaway!). This week the prize is a 4-pack of tickets to either The Henry Ford Museum or Greenfield Village! This is an awesome prize valued at up to $96! If you've never been to these museums, they are a must see Michigan attraction. Even if you don't live here, it would be worth a trip, honestly!

Since I've lived in Michigan most of my life, I have a plethora of wonderful Michigan memories I could write about. In fact, I write about fun stuff to do in Michigan all the time. But for today's post, I'm going to go back in time to a childhood memory.

When my Grandpa retired, he went from being a high-strung, A-type to a jolly 'ol guy who enjoyed taking his grandchildren on field trips. Well, sort of. Nonetheless, he did mellow considerably. One of the places he brought some of us to sometime in the mid-80's was the Detroit salt mine. Everyone had to don a hard hat, which my Grandpa filched (he liked to do that sometimes...) before taking the elevator ride down over 1000 feet under the city. Looking back, I'm not sure if the hard hats were thought to be necessary or simply added to the touristy appeal. I mean, I 'm not sure how effectively a hard hat would have protected me had the mine collapsed or something. Whatever. I thought it was cool and it made the descent seem dangerous. (In fact, to my knowledge no one has died in the mines since 6 men died during the original construction in the late 1890s).

This is what I remember. My aunt was a wee bit claustrophobic, but the mine was actually quite cavernous. Since it was really wide open, there was no stooping or slithering along tightly confined corridors. I got to keep some salt rocks (I can't remember if we were free to take them or if my Grandpa encouraged me to filch those too...), which I took to school to show my friends while bragging that I went down in a salt mine. Is that even brag-worthy? I'm not sure, but at the time I thought it was. I remember licking the rocks to taste the salt, and then  letting my friends do the same. They did seem impressed, but ewww! Gross, right? I had no respect for germs as a child. There were full sized vehicles in the mine, which had to be brought down part by part and assembled down there. And my Grandpa let me keep one of those hard hats, which I'm sure he felt entitled to keep since he had, after all, paid admission. That's pretty much it. In the era before cell phones with cameras, lots of opportunity for memory preservation was lost. I think I might still have a brochure tucked away somewhere, which I saved as a memento of my underground experience, along with the germ-laden salt rocks and the hard hat.

Now, almost 30 years later, I think it's pretty cool that I was able to tour a Detroit salt mine. I mean, no one gets to do that anymore. They do still mine - the salt is used for rock salt for the roads - but the tours ended many years ago. As a kid, I think the best part was hanging out with my Grandpa, and seeing him happy instead of grumpy. I was always doing cool things with my grandparents, and I believe they helped shape my wanderlust into what it is today. I am exactly the type of person who would be thrilled to visit a salt mine, just because, and drag my kids along with me.

If you are a blogger and want to play along, just write a My Michigan Memory post on your blog and link it up on Mrs. Weber's Neighborhood sometime this week! And don't forget to enter the giveaway!


Mrs. Weber said...

I LOVE this! You learn something new everyday. I had no clue there once was a salt mine you could tour in Detroit. Thank you so much for sharing your story! And for the record, I totally would've licked that rock too to see if it was really salt ;)

Mel said...

I had no idea you could tour the salt mines. That would have been fun. And it sounds like something my grandpa would have enjoyed taking us to.

Dominique said...

This is something I always wished I'd had the chance to do, although, like your aunt, I'm a bit on the claustrophobic side. Thanks for sharing your adventure with us!