Osswald Crumb to visit White Pine Village.

August 31, 2016
C. Dale Bannon as Ossawald Crumb.

C. Dale Bannon as Ossawald Crumb.

#MasonCountyHistory

PERE MARQUETTE TOWNSHIP — If you ask C. Dale Bannon why he enjoys pretending to be somebody else, he’ll say,” I have a little ‘theater’ in me.” Bannon has become a mascot at Historic White Pine Village over the past few years. You’ll see him portraying Ossawald Crumb, Mason County’s own legendary Paul Bunyan-like folk hero, at most of the village’s special events and even in parades and festivals in the community.

“I resemble ole Ossie, what with my bald head, my long white beard, my granny glasses, and my lumberjack costume,” he said. :

“I like to meet and greet people. I have an abundance of knowledge about the area. I wanted to be able to tell the stories of Justus and Robert Stearns.”

Bannon will be presenting his characterization of Ossawald at Historic White Pine Village’s Lumber Day on Saturday, September 24, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Along with storytelling, craft and artisan demonstrations, and a lumberjack breakfast, he will bring spice to the day’s events, with his tales of lore.

  Just who is Ossawald Crumb? Ossawald was, despite the realism that Bannon creates in his portrayal, a fictional character created in 1932 by Robert L. Stearns, son of famed lumber baron Justus Stearns. Robert was a successful businessman in his own right, but found the arts, especially illustrations, a relaxing and fulfilling endeavor- he was actually published in the Saturday Evening Post.

Robert Stearns published two booklets on Ossawald Crumb in the 1930s, and his original black-and-white drawings of Ossawald were later replicated by a friend, Fletcher C. Ransom. These images hung for many years in the Ossawald Crumb Tap Room within the Stearns Hotel, now the Stearns Motor Inn.

So, what was the fabled Ossawald’s story? The axe-toting, word-wielding, lumberjack of a man, was, according to the fable, the first white man to establish a permanent home in the city of Ludington, near the site of the Stearns Motor Inn. He was also the first man to bring a team of horses in Mason County, had a pet panther named Horace, and was one of the kindest hearted man that ever lived, who loved to plan all sorts of things for others- a true captain of industry. It was interesting that he allowed others to do the “heavy lifting” in his successes- even his wife was seen chopping wood, sharpening his axe, and hauling water from the well.

Bannon’s story is a little more believable. He moved to Ludington from Traverse City in 1942. “Been here the rest of my life except for five years of Western Michigan University, three years of being in business, seven and a half years of the United States Air Force (Vietnam War), and two and a half more years of Michigan State University,” he said.

  A page from Robert L. Stearns book describes how Ossawald came to have a pet panther.

His connection to Ossawald began in the 1950s. “In 1953, five people formed a committee of, what might be called today, the Ludington Chamber of Commerce.  My father was one of the five on that committee. That committee had one (or more) ceramic mold(s) manufactured to make figurines of Ossawald Crumb, each to be sold and the money used to promote the Ludington area,” he said. “The first order of figurines was to be for 10,000, each to be hand painted. I have one of these figurines. I have also met the man who bought the house that had the figurine molds stored in the basement. And, he tells me, ‘Of course, I didn’t know what I had.’ Yup.  He destroyed the molds.”

  Bannon has been involved in many community-oriented groups, including being a Boy Scout assistant scoutmaster in Troop 1190 in Ludington and Troop 25 in San Benito, Texas. He even had a part in the beginnings of Historic White Pine Village. “In 1976 (the bicentennial year of our country), my Boy Scout troop (I being the Scoutmaster) camped on (the someday to be called) ‘Chapel Hill’ so that we could present the flag ceremony at the official grand opening of Historic White Pine Village (then known as Pioneer Village).”

  He has served the American Red Cross, Hospice of Michigan, United Way, Habitat For Humanity Of Mason County, and the Kiwanis Club of Ludington. He is a member of the Pere Marquette Historical Motoring Club, as well.

  His support for the Historical Society and Historic White Pine Village outdates the Village itself. “Long ago, I voted yes to tax ourselves to get the village started and running,” he said.

Today, the historical society is an independent non-profit organization that no longer relies on the support of tax payers.

  The Mason County Historical Society is grateful for such a unique and supportive volunteer in Mr. Bannon, and invites everyone to come meet him at their Lumber Day event. Or rather, Ossawald Crumb in the flesh.

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