Nearly a century ago, Selina Pramstaller and Tillie Esper of Detroit wrote a simple note as they enjoyed a day at a popular amusement park on Harsens Island.
“Having a good time at Tashmoo,” their message states in neat cursive writing.
They stuffed the message in a bottle, corked it and threw it in the waters of the St. Clair River, where it sank to the bottom.
There it laid for 97 years waiting to be discovered.
That’s what happened last June, when diver Dave Leander found the bottle. It was tucked in 4 to 6 inches of dirt in about 30 feet of water near where the Tashmoo steamship once docked daily, ferrying passengers to Tashmoo Park on Harsens Island at the northern end of Lake St. Clair.
Leander, owner of Great Lakes Divecenter in Shelby Township, could read the message and brought the bottle to the surface.
The readable, intact message recently came to the attention of Bernard Licata, president of the Harsens Island St. Clair Flats Historical Society.
The society, coincidentally, is planning Tashmoo Days, a one-day event next month celebrating when Detroiters headed for Tashmoo Park aboard the Tashmoo and other lake steamers in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The park, which closed in 1951, was a favorite summer destination for Detroiters with a dance pavilion, amusement rides, bathhouse and swimming beach.
“What’s cool about this, it’s a document that’s been preserved, sent nearly 100 years ago and never got delivered,” Licata said about the bottle and its message.
Now, he’s hoping to find descendants of Pramstaller and Esper, who wrote the message on June 30, 1915, while visiting Tashmoo Park.
After bringing his discovery home, Leander and his wife, Pam, didn’t remove the message, but simply let the bottle dry out and replaced the cork. The message was written in pencil, a good decision by the writer to keep it intact, Pam Leander’s research showed.
Pam said the couple keep the bottle at their shop under paper so not to expose it to fluorescent light. She said the bottle was found almost 97 years to the day the message was written.
The message is written on the back of a White Star Line deposit ticket with a series of punch marks and the serial number 32616. Licata said the ticket is a provisioning document for dishes and flatware. The message included the writers’ addresses on Wabash and Maybury Grand, about nine blocks apart, in Detroit.