It’s fascinating how little people from this general region really know about our Bass Islands. We are still one of the best-kept secrets in the Midwest. Some “mainland” people are surprised to learn that there are islands in Lake Erie, which is why it is so much fun to learn about the myths and yarns that have developed over the years about the Lake Erie Islands.
I remember having a conversation with someone in Buffalo, New York, that had visited a “private island” with a huge lighthouse and a winery near Cedar Point. It is these juicy bits and pieces of information that feed the tall tales and myths surrounding Put-in-Bay.
Myths are tall tales, stories with unbelievable elements, related as if it were true and factual. Long time Islanders have probably heard more tall tales about life in Put-in-Bay than most. These tall tales, rumors, innuendo and myths are perennial. Islanders have probably sheepishly helped to fuel some of the myths, while others just grow and spread on their own. Some of my favorite stories include the tunnel to the mainland, the tallest lighthouse, kids can drive, and everything costs more here including the beer.
On any given weekend if you watch the ferries unloading it seems like every other person is pulling, towing, carrying or dragging an oversized cooler full of their favorite beverage. If you ask, most people will tell you that they are certain that the cost of beer on the mainland is “much much” cheaper. So for all your folks that dragged that cooler up the hill only to find our local package store sells for the same price as the mainland, this story’s for you!
This summer, with the help of young filmmaker Adam Bianchi and assisted by Jake Batt, Dan Duggan, and Elise Wallis we set out to document a few of these larger than life myths. We brainstormed on what some of the most obvious myths might be that we could investigate. So we started with “where are we?” It seems like an obvious question, but as we investigated it was apparent that even when people get here, they are unsure where they are, or even what country they are in. Many people, confused by the Border Patrol, US Customs and security check in surmise that they are leaving the country, I am not making this up. So just in case you were wondering, we are on South Bass Island, Put-in-Bay Township, Ottawa County Ohio!
The next “towering” question for us was “where’s the Monument” or “have you seen the big lighthouse? “ The War of 1812 is still a vague history story for many Americans. Shockingly, “The Battle of Lake Erie” does not even glean a flicker of recognition for many visiting adults queried. Sometimes if you drill down on the subject of The War of 1812, Commodore Perry, and the Battle of Lake Erie you get some sense of recognition when you mention the famous slogan and flag “Don’t give up the ship”, though many are surprised to hear about the connection with our island history!
So we set out to clear up this myth and establish once and for all that the tall tower is in fact the monument, aka Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial. We interviewed people from The Ohio State University and the National Park Service and they confirmed that in fact the tall building near the down town is a national monument not a light house. But just incase you were wondering, there is also a decommissioned light house, called the South Bass Island Light House, built in 1897, at the west end of the island (where the tunnel to the mainland is located).
Well anyway the tunnel story is discussion for another column, but if you want to check out the answers we got, visit our website http://www.mythsofputinbay.com and watch our videos. Tell your friends. And if you have a myth you want to share please leave us a comment.