Bygones of Monroe:
MUSKRAT DINNER, 2000 EATEN
(Monroe Democrat, January 5, 1906, p.1)
ATE NEARLY 2,000 (MUSK)RATS
A Thousand People Attend Annual Muskrat Banquet. New York, Chicago, and Seattle Represented.
Here it is in a nutshell.
Number of muskrats prepared: 2,100; number eaten: 1,800
Receipts $1,500; Expenses $1,200; Balance $300. These amounts are only approximate.
Time: from 6:00 p.m., Thursday December 28th to Friday to any time Friday morning December 29th.
Cities represented: New York City; Seattle, Washington; Bismarck, North Dakota; Saginaw, Bay City, Detroit, Ypsilanti, Mt. Clemens, Adrian, Blissfield, whole of Monroe County; Toledo, Cleveland, Put-in-Bay and other Ohio points.
Chairman of committee on arrangements: Com. Charles E. Greening.
Provider of Muskrats: Com. W.C. Sterling.
Caterer: George J. Wahl.
The attendance figures and the number of muskrats consumed no doubt are disappointing to those who have depended for their information upon the glowing accounts of the advance agent and the reporters for the Detroit and Toledo dailies, according to whom over 5,000 muskrats had been eaten and 3,000 people did the job.
Preparations had been made on an extravagant scale and the expected 3,000 people could have been handled. An annex 100 by 40 feet had been built south of the Armory and almost the entire length of this was used as a bar, upon whose receipts depended in a great measure the success or failure of the project, for the $1.00 admission failed to cover the expense of the theatrical entertainment and the cost of the catering, preparing and serving the muskrats. Two reasons were mainly responsible for keeping down the attendance from out of town, rain in the evening and the fact that the day came too soon after Christmas, with not even one pay day in between. It was also a noticeable fact that outside of Monroe Yacht Club enthusiasts and business men who patronize all events given by local organizations, there were but very few Monroe people in attendance.
Many who formerly attended were absent, and when asked the reason almost invariably answered that they thought there would be too big a crowd to make pleasure possible and that they were afraid that it would be nothing more than a drinking bout. Both these fears proved groundless. Preparations had been made so complete that there was not a minute when the crowd could not be readily handled; and those who did attend were not as a rule "good spenders", but after the feast , were content to sit at ease in the theatre and enjoy the program until car time.
Of course there were many who were very liberal, as may be seen from the fact that one volunteer waiter alone took in $3.50 in tips during a few hours. work.
But after all it was a big event, the biggest of the kind given in the city. While the profits will not be very great, the main object was to give an example of Monroe Yacht Club hospitality and give Monroe unique fame, and cinch its title being the "muskrat town" of the world. They evidently succeeded, for everybody was telling everybody else what a bully good time they were having and that they would come to old Monroe again. The rhymesters also got busy and began to express their sentiments in meter adapted to popular tunes.
Detroit furnished the following, to the air of "Tammany:",
Muskrat town, muskrat town,
Detroit is all right to see,
But Monroe is the place for me,
Roast 'em brown, roast 'em brown,
Gravy, gravy, gravy, gravy,
Choke 'em down.
The Columbus Yacht Club of Chicago had a bushel of songs, but their favorite was this:
Give our regards to Monroe;
Remember us to C.E. Greening too.
Tell all the gang and Com. Sterling
That they.re the best we ever knew.
Say that in our hears we have a longing
To east muskrat here
Give our regards to the Monroe Yacht Club
And say that we'll all come back next year.
The Columbia Yacht club delegation of twenty came in a special car on Lake Shore, being headed by Com. Osborne, with U.J. Herrmann as spokesman. They marched in a body to the table of honor at the west end of the banquet hall, where they unfurled numerous C.Y.C. burgees and proceeded to have a right merry time. They were not here solely to eat rats, however. The club is the avowed champion of the 21 footer class of sail yachts and has succeeded in making it the most popular all-round boat on fresh water.
So much so that Com Lipton, of England, gave a cup to be raced for in Chicago waters under the auspices of the club, all comers to be welcome. Naturally, the more the merrier, and hence the C.Y.C. yachtsmen never neglect an opportunity to attend yachting events and to carry on a campaign of proselyting for their pet boat. Their efforts here were not without result, for plans are well matured for organizing a syndicate to build a yacht to compete in next year's event.
Detroit and Toledo of course were strong numerically at the banquet, but did not come in body, as the electric line ran an all night half-hour schedule. Among the long distant visitors were Alfred Nadeau of Seattle.who timed his visit in this city so that he could take part in the event . Henry J.Geiermann of Bismarck.did the same, but had to take an oath before he came that, if the game laws did not forbid it, he would ship a consignment to his Dakota and Chicago friends, with complete directions for cooking them. There was also a representative of Com. Oliver Iselin, of New York, famous as a member of various syndicates owning American Cup defenders.
Detroit, Toledo, and Chicago papers gave special illustrated articles on the event and the Western Union telegraph company thought it sufficient importance to run a special wire to the Armory and to send an expert down to handle it. The drill hall, where the banquet was held, never presented a more festive appearance. Flags and bunting in lavish amount decked ceilings and walls and almost the entire west hall was taken up with a huge electric "Welcome" sign. The center of the floor was left clear and here was displayed a muskrat house just as seen in the marsh. A monstrous rat was perched at its peak and the two exits, arranged with glass to give the ice and water effect, each had a big rat. It was the idea of Com. Sterling, who by the way also made the house, and it made a great hit, as fully 90% of those present did not know what a rat or house looked like.
All the catering privileges were let to George J. Wahl, manager of Wahl House. From parboiling the rats to serving them at the table, he handled all the arrangements, and the bar privileges were also his.Considering the number of muskrats served, they were remarkable good and no fault could be found with them. He brought seven professional waiters to supervise the serving, while thirteen volunteers from the yacht club assisted.The rats were stewed in sweet corn; mashed potatoes and butter, slaw, celery, bread and coffee being served with them. There was no limit to the number of helpings and on Tuesday morning we ran across an individual who confessed he had eaten five rats, but had eaten nothing since. In the annex Mr. Wahl had ten expert bar tenders from Detroit and Toledo, who specialty was "muskrat cocktails" at 20 cents per drink. Only one brand of beer was called for . that of the Koppitz-Melchers Brewing Co. of Detroit, who had prepared a special brew for the event and designed a suitable muskrat label for the bottle.
The cooking of the muskrats was under the direct supervision of Chef Ed Lemerand, the best muskrat cook in the land.Already plans are being discussed for next year's event, even before the affairs of the last one are settled.Whatever plan is adopted, it will quite certainly be different from the present one, for no two muskrat banquets can be alike.
(Monroe Democrat, January 5, 1906, p.1)