By STEVE BROWNLEE, Journal Staff Writer
MARQUETTE — So you think this summer is hot?
Well it is, compared to a typical summer. The hottest daily average temperature for Marquette is 77 degrees and it comes during mid-July. Area thermometers have been well above that mark recently.
But this summer’s heat wave has nothing on a mid-July week in 1936, when all-time temperature records were set over a huge expanse of the United States and Canada, according to records kept by the National Weather Service.
All-time state and provincial records still stand from that summer in Midwestern states like Nebraska and North Dakota, where it reached 121 degrees, east to Pennsylvania and New Jersey, and north to Ontario and Manitoba.
The Upper Peninsula wasn’t spared triple-digit temperatures, even though with three Great Lakes surrounding it, the area is usually one of the last to see 100-degree days.
From July 7 to 13, 1936, the high reached between 101 and 104 four times in Marquette, according to Kevin Crupi, meteorologist and climatologist at the weather service office in Negaunee Township. Places from Ironwood to Iron Mountain set all-time temperature records, while Newberry had it even worse, with six straight 100-degree days.
In addition, Michigan’s hottest temperature ever, 112 degrees, was recorded in the northern Lower Peninsula town of Mio on July 13.
Even though this all happened 71 years ago, there are still a handful of residents that remember the scorching heat.
Sarah Bottrell of Marquette was 31 years old that July, taking her summer break in the midst of a 41-year teaching career.
Now a chipper 102, she recalls in detail the heat of that summer.
“I was with a friend in Kansas City when it really started getting hot,” she said. “It’s not unusual for it to get hot there.
“But when we returned, it was so hot here, too.”
She reminds us that there was virtually no air conditioning available — nor many other luxuries, considering that the mid-1930s was the depth of the Great Depression.
Bottrell, who never married, was living with her parents in the same house she still resides in along North Third Street in Marquette.
“We didn’t have any fans, at least I don’t remember us ever having one,” she said. “That week, we pulled a mattress out on the back porch.”
“That hot weather must’ve lasted about a week after we got back from Kansas City. It seemed like we never had any relief that summer.”
Surprisingly, she doesn’t remember dips in nearby Lake Superior being that popular at the time.
“I do remember one night our family went up to Presque Isle and stayed until about midnight,” Bottrell said. “I don’t think you can do that anymore.”
Another area resident recalls the miserably hot days.
“We slept outside and went down to the Michigamme River whenever we could,” recalls Bob Tapio, 82, of Republic.
Even though he was only 12 years old by the end of the summer of ’36, as one of four children in a fatherless family, he began working .
“I was able to work for some farmers around Republic,” Tapio said. “You drank lots of water.
“My mother used to make ‘kallia.’ It’s a drink with the consistency of molasses. It gave you lots of energy.”
Longtime Negaunee resident Ken Gleason was living on Cleveland Hill between Negaunee and Ishpeming in 1936, not long after he married.
“I can remember everything just being so quiet,” said Gleason, now 93. “Nothing was moving around as hot as it was.”
He said favorite swimming holes were in the Carp River in Negaunee and in Cedar Lake and Second Lake between Negaunee and Ishpeming.
The heat of a summer so long ago makes Bottrell question the whole idea of global warming.“How do you explain how hot it was in 1936, if it’s only getting hotter now?” she asks.
Somewhat surprisingly, neither the hottest nor second-hottest days ever recorded in Marquette came during the 1936 heat wave, according to Crupi’s search of NWS files.
They came even earlier — on July 28, 1917, when Bottrell was only 12. Marquette reached 105, while the all-time record goes back even further, to July 15, 1901, when a 108-degree day scorched the city.
5 months ago