Straight as the Pine chronicles history of Leelanau School

PineandOakFrom staff reports

Northport resident Michael Huey has written a new book, Straight as the Pine, Sturdy as the Oak, a history of Camp Leelanau for Boys, the Leelanau School, and the Homestead resort, from their inception in 1921 until 1963. These institutions shaped Glen Arbor during the 20th century, and continue today. The publisher is Vienna, Austria-based Schlebrügge. The 500-page hardcover book, which includes 300 vintage images, will soon be available for purchase at the Cottage Bookshop in Glen Arbor.

Beginning in the 1920s, two sisters from Madison — Cora and Helen — and their adventure-minded husbands — Skipper Beals and Major Huey — boldly create a utopian boys’ camp on an idyllic site in the Michigan wilderness. Out of the camp grew an unorthodox boarding school, which, in turn, lead to the founding of a popular summer resort. The three ventures, originally conceived as the “legs of a three-legged stool”, still exist independently today.

Organized along a year-by-year timeline, Straight as the Pine, Sturdy as the Oak follows the arc of change in the peaceful Sleeping Bear Bay region from its late 19th- and early 20th-century fishing/farming beginnings toward the development of the vacation industry that marks it today. (Eventually, the natural beauty of the area lead to the establishment of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.)

In the early years, campers and students were taught self-reliance and encouraged to figure things out on their own: in between Latin and history lessons they built boats, studied aeronautics and helped grow vegetables and raise animals to feed themselves. At the same time, they were led to see that “they can camp in the woods all summer and still be real gentlemen.” The spirit of learning in and from nature was carried forward into the later years, even when campers, students and guests no longer arrive by steamer from Chicago.

Richly illustrated, the book’s 1920s boys’ camp snapshots are reminiscent of the world of Thomas Eakins, while its later professional photographs prefigure the work of contemporary artists such as Bruce Weber. Caught in between is the family itself, appearing in staged “private” photos that define their exceptional role as a symbolic family to which campers, students, and sometimes even summer guests belong, but also as a constant thread — from the ’20s through the ’60s — in the history of the camp, the school and the resort.

Learn more about Michael Huey’s book by visiting the Facebook page. And stay tuned for news of upcoming readings and signings.