Traverse City Record-Eagle

Northern Living

October 6, 2013

Loraine Anderson: Time marches on, but don't forget Foster

I’ve been trying to figure out what Con Foster would think of the new Bijou movie theater marquee that will block his name over the door of the Con Foster Museum-turned-movie theater at Clinch Park.

But how can anyone living in the “me” generations of today answer a question like that about a man so popular for his generosity and public service that the city named a museum building for him in 1934?

The museum was built by government workers in 1934 and opened in the summer of 1935.

Con Foster is an important character in Traverse City’s history. He’s the guy who lobbied for cleaning up the dirty industrial waterfront in the late 1920s and 1930s to create Clinch Park to beautify the city and make it more presentable to tourists.

According to late Traverse City historian Larry Wakefield, Foster used his own money traveling all over the Midwest to obtain collections of pioneer and Indian relics for his museum.

Wakefield, in his 2006 book “The Way It Was,” described Foster as a visionary, a showman, a fellow who cared about money — not for his own sake or for himself but for the common good. In fact, one friend said that it cost him money any time he met Foster on the street.

I don’t have an opinion on the Bijou marquee as long as the Traverse City Film Festival follows through with the promise to have a visible, handsome and large enough plaque to pay tribute to Foster.

I want to share an excerpt from a front-page Record-Eagle memoriam to Foster published on April 3, 1940, the day he died of a heart attack at age 65.

“We give Con Foster a major part of the credit for leading this community out of mediocrity toward the commanding position it now holds. If you will think back to the time when Traverse City’s water front was a rubbish heap ... you will recall that the community was struggling to hold its own and made no attempt at progress.

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