2011-05-14 / Letters

Recalls Another Mackinac Island Tame Bear

To the Editor:

I enjoyed the article about Tony Eckle’s bear “Cubbie” [Mackinac Island Town Crier, February 2011]. The picture with Esther Williams was taken in 1946. Having been born on the Island and living there as a young child, I remember another bear that Tony Eckle had prior to the Cubbie in your article. We moved to the mainland in the summer of 1942, and Tony’s bear before 1942 was an adult bear. Between 1936 and 1943 we enjoyed taking our mainland guests out to Stonecliffe to visit Tony and his “tame bear.” Tony would stand in his kitchen, put a piece of food in his mouth, and the bear would rise up and take the food from Tony’s mouth. When the bear walked under the kitchen table, he would hump his back and the table would rise. My most vivid memory of the bear was while downtown in the barbershop, waiting for my mother to pay, my brother and I stood with our noses pressed to the glass to look out at Tony and his bear (collared and on a leash) on the street. All of a sudden the bear reared up and slammed his paws on the glass in front of our faces. Needless to say, mother had quite a time calming two screaming children.

Another related memory was when we took a four-seater carriage filled with mainland guests out to see Tony’s bear. That had to be about 1939 or 1940. My brother, David, and I sat on the driver’s seat with our dad. My brother fell asleep and fell forward onto the whippletrees, frightening the team, then fell to the ground, with a rear wheel barely missing running over his head. That team was up to a fast trip back to the Fort. Dr. Cook came to the house immediately, sutured an ear back on, tended to many other cuts, and straightened loose teeth, but he couldn’t do much about the broken nose. For much of the summer, David looked like a mummy, with his head swathed in bandages.

I’m wondering who else might remember that particular bear, and [curious about] their recollections of him. Obviously, that bear was no longer with Tony in 1946, and I wonder what happened to it.

Lorna J. Bergsma Lombard Traverse City

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