Traverse City Record-Eagle


August 11, 2013

Jack Lessenberry: Marquette, Detroit worlds apart

MARQUETTE — Technically, this lovely little city on Lake Superior is part of the same state as Detroit. They have the same governor and send representatives to the same Legislature.

Both cities operate under the same laws and lie in the same time zone, though it gets light and dark later in Marquette.

Yet though they are less than 500 miles apart, the biggest cities in Michigan’s two peninsulas are really in utterly different worlds.

“Yes, I‘ve been south of the bridge, but I don’t like to go,” says Andrea, a bright young woman who works at Doncker’s, a more than century-old candy store and restaurant in downtown Marquette.

Once, she went down almost as far as Flint. “But I really didn’t like it - no offense!” she said. Downstate is crowded and feels different, said Andrea, who is working on a master‘s degree in psychology at Northern Michigan University here.

She also resents paying the $4 fee every time she has to cross the Mackinac Bridge.

When she learned I was from the Detroit area, her eyes widened a bit. “Things are really troubled there, aren’t they?” she says, sounding as if she were speaking of, say, Syria.

From time to time, residents of the Upper Peninsula grouse that they should really be a separate state.

That’s unlikely ever to happen.

Besides all the Constitutional difficulties involved, the population is too small (311,000) and the economy too poor to make it work.

Nobody doubts, however, that if the UP were a separate state, gleaming little Marquette would be its capital.

But it would be a tiny one; there are fewer than 22,000 people.

Once, pretty much everyone in town was involved in the iron ore business — mining it, loading it onto immense freighters; shipping it all over the world.

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