2007-07-14 / Editorials


Ling Horn Deserves Credit for Lilac Day Idea
To the Editor:

It is my wish that everyone visiting Mackinac Island this year on Lilac Day had a beautiful Lilac Day and that businesses thrived for those people in business. For years, June was a very quiet month on the Island until Lilac Day was conceived, not by Stella King, but by Evangilene Horn, "Ling" as she was known by the Islanders. She lived her whole life on Mackinac Island and conceived the idea when she was a very young girl, long before she married Ty. For years she tried to interest the businessmen downtown in her idea, but to no avail. She thought because she was so young, and not in business, no one would listen to her. Ling had been employed for some years in the summer months by Tom Shama at his linen store on Main Street, so she was well aware of what was going on downtown.

Finally, one day, after she was married with five children and still hearing the complaints of the business people, she took the bull by the horns, gathered some of the young women together, including Stella, and proceeded with her plans for a Lilac Day celebration.

Our family lived in the Mission, next door to the Horn family. I remember well a conversation with Ling just two days before the Lilac Day parade. Two of her youngsters had come down with measles.

"I have to turn this over to someone, and I think Stella will have more time to devote to it. The other gals all have young families, like me," Ling said.

I remember I was disappointed because I wanted her to receive credit for her idea and hard work, and, of course, she didn't.

Her exact words were, "I'm sorry, but I have a young family to raise, and now this. I don't have a choice."

So the first Lilac Day celebration came off smoothly; we even had two bands. The tourists that day were few, but the several hundred people who showed up enjoyed the parade.

One might ask why I am so informed. It's because we had a float, if you could call it that, consisting of my brother, Don, dressed in loincloth, moccasins, and a western Indian chief's head dress, dragging three blond-haired little Indians on a blanket, and a deer hide fastened to a couple of poles. We won the very first Lilac Day first prize.

As the end of the parade passed Astor Street, I ran up to my little shop and opened the door, just in case someone would find their way up there. No one used Astor Street in those days.

Some minutes later, a little boy came running back to my tiny kitchen. He was very excited. "Little Bob, you won first prize," he said.

"What is first prize?" I asked. He said it was a new Schwinn bike and it was really neat. I jokingly said, "If it's red, I'll take it." The boy told me it was red. He asked if I wanted him to get it for me. I told him to bring it up.

A few minutes later, he was struggling to get the bike through the screen door. So in he came, all smiles, excited that I had won. It was a beautiful girl's bike with shiny silver fenders, and lilac in color. It was a little beauty. I would have rather had a boy's bike, but a girl's bike was less apt to be stolen. No big tough guys would be caught dead riding a girl's bike unless he found one in front of the Palm Cafe at 2 a.m.

I offered the boy $5, but he refused, saying, "Naw, I don't want anything."

"Are you sure?" I asked, waving the bill in his face.

"Naw, my dad gives me money when I need it," he explained.

I asked him his name, and who is dad was. He told me his name was Steven, and his dad was Francis Doud.

I always remember that curly hair and that happy little face as he presented me with the bike. He was as happy as I was that I had won.

The world has turned over many times since that first Lilac Day, but every year when the lilacs bloom again, wherever I am, I think of Ling, whose brainchild became the first Lilac Day, and now a weeklong festival. The birth of an idea she had harbored so long ago.

So, Ling, if you happen to be reading the Town Crier today, you will know someone out there is celebrating your day and the future Island historians will understand a little better the correct Island history of Lilac Day. I am sorry it took so long to correct it.
Bob "Little Bob" Hughey
St. Ignace

Editor's Note: Mr. Hughey is a former mayor of Mackinac Island. Ling, Stella, and Steven have all passed away.

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