The Eastern Michigan Picards

-1-

“The Eastern Michigan Picards”

Preface

There are several parts to the story of the Eastern Michigan Picards.  “Portal to portal- Politics, Show Business and Law in Eastern Michigan and Beyond”  tells the story of Frank Picard, his family (Frank, Jr., Ruth, Pat and John) and the youngest of the Picard brothers, Joe (and family).  Frank had a rich career in the law and Democratic politics but it was his love of music and entertainment that motivated him.

“A Few Stickers on a Few Sticks” is the story of the Brothers Picard (Fred, Phil, Alex and Joe) and Vince Picard in Vaudeville and in the great railway circuses of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. It is a story of their friends, who represent a cross section of the entertainment business from the 1890s to the 1960s.

The story here (“The Eastern Michigan Picards.” is that of the family in Eastern Michigan, of Alfred’s migration from Quebec to Saginaw and his four daughters, Minnie, Victoria (Vic), Marion and  Louise).  It is the story of Alex’s decision to settle down and have a family and the story of his son Vincent who “retired” from show business at the ripe old age of 24.   Alex had three daughters, Theol (Arnold), Beatrice (Seiler) and Helen (Kretschmer) and stories of General Motors, the Michigan State Police and of course Wheat Germ.

One

“The Saloon Keeper”

(1)

Alfred Picard was born in St. Timothee, Quebec, Canada on May 22, 1846. He was one of nine children of Isaac Picard (For a further discussion of this see the section entitled “From France to the St. Lawrence Valley”).  In 1864, at the age of 18 Alfred moved to Saginaw, Michigan from St. Louis de Gonzague Quebec, taking the Grand Trunk Railway from just south of Montreal in Valleyfield, lower Canada.[1]

In 1864 Eighteen-year-old French-Canadian Alfred Picard travels from St. Louis de Gonzague Quebec to Saginaw, taking the Grand Trunk Railway. In 1868 (then a “Saloon Keeper”) he will marry Amelia Poquet of Quebec, at St. Mary’s Catholic Church. Amelia will die Mar 17, 1874, of complications from the still birth of their fourth child. Their 2 1/2 year-old daughter will die nine months after her mother, and their first-born son dies at the age of 17.

The U.S. was still engaged in the Civil War and the young man may have been liable for the draft.  There is no evidence that this was a concern. Alfred left Canada shortly before earning a law degree.  The reason for his departure so close to commencement is unknown.  An amateur athlete, Alfred specialized in performing on a type of gymnastic (pommel) horse called a “ponie.”[2] This interest would have a profound influence on the careers of four of his sons and one of his grandsons.

See below. This is most likely Amelia Poquet Picard, Alfred’s first wife.

Amelia Poquet, c. 1969.

Alfred and Amelia Poquet were married on March 24, 1868 in Saginaw Michigan at St. Mary’s Catholic Church. Amelia, like Alfred was originally from Quebec and the marriage was most likely semi-arranged. In 1968, Alfred had been in the U.S. four years. His marriage license lists him as a “Saloon Keeper.”

Alfred Picard (below) most likely with his son Alfred Junior and little Helen circa. 1872.

Alfred, Jerry LaShapelle and Alred Junior (Fred) c. 1969

A man of many talents, Alfred managed, and later owned a series of hotels in Saginaw which housed French Canadians who moved there to work in the lumber business.[3]   As many men did in that era, Alfred held various jobs during his life. He worked “as a saloon keeper, hotelier, a grocer, patent medicine dealer and Canadian agent.”  Alfred was also deeply committed to his community and was a founder of the Holy Family Church, a French Catholic Church, in Saginaw.[4]

Below is a picture from a Saginaw saloon (c. 1900)

Between 1864 and 1880 Alfred both owned and managed the Central Hotel on Water and Johnson streets in Saginaw. The Central House on Water Street was a mecca for the lumberjacks who cleared the forests of Eastern Michigan, the Water Street area was bawdy, violent and for the most part lawless. He might have seen these boy soldiers in Saginaw, re-enacting the Civil War late 19th century.

-2-

Alfred’s first wife, Amelia Poquet , died in 1874.  They had four children.  Joseph, born on February 15, 1869; Alfred Junior (Fred) born on July 22, 1870; Marie Helen Picard, born May 15, 1872 and an unnamed infant born dead February 23, 1874. Amelia died on March 17, 1874 of complications from the still birth. Helen died on December 19, 1874 at two years and seven months. Alfred’s first born son with Amelie, Joseph, died on December 9, 1886.  He was seventeen years old. “Thus ended,” Alfred wrote, “these remarkable events of this first marriage and led to the second marriage.”

A month after Amelia’s death Alfred returned to Montreal, where he married his second wife, the widow Zepherine Legault LaChapelle, in Quebec. They were married at the Notre Dame Cathederal in Montreal, on on May 10, 1874.  Together,  Zepherine and Alfred had a total of twelve children, of which four sons and four daughters survived to adulthood. Picard will manage, then own a series of hotels in Saginaw housing French Canadians working in the lumber business. His Central House on Water Street is a mecca for lumberjacks clearing the forests of Eastern Michigan.

Boys Marching in Saginaw Michigan, late 1890s

Alfred maintained ties with and visited his relatives in Canada periodically after he moved to Michigan. Between 1880 and 1883 Alfred and Zepherine returned to Canada and lived St. Louis de Gonzague. Two of his children, Alex and Marianne were born there. However, after three years, the family returned to Michigan.

Alfred became a naturalized U.S. citizen in the 1880s after his return from Quebec.  In the financial panic of 1887, Alfred unfortunately lost financial investments, both his own and probably some investments of his relatives.[5]  This would have caused strained family relations at best. The financial panic of 1887 resulted from an “excess of revenues over public expenditure” which more than doubled between 1885 and 1886 and continued to increase from over $49 million in 1887 to over $55 million by June 1887. This resulted in part from the sinking-fund act which required money be set aside for future difficulties.

Alfred Picard c. 1903.

Alfred Picard

In 1887,The financial panic hits the country, and unfortunately Alfred Picard will not only lose his financial investments, but also those of some of his relatives. On Feb 9, 1909, hotelier, grocer, patent medicine dealer, and Canadian agent Alfred Picard will die in Pontiac, a few months shy of his 62nd birthday.

President Grover Cleveland in his Third Annual Message to Congress on December 6, 1887 demanded immediate action as the national financial emergency was “suspending our country’s development, preventing investment in productive enterprise, threatening financial disturbance, and inviting schemes of public plunder.”[6] While some of this may have been the usual political rhetoric it was clear from his speech that average people were suffering from a  terrible financial burden and the resultant great anxiety. Alfred in his enthusiasm for American entrepreneurialism had succumb to this financial crisis.

Alex Picard is shown here in a school photo probably taken c. 1889.  If so he was probably in the second grade since that was the last year he went to school.  He started practicing on the horizontal bars in his father’s back yard and joined the circus in 1895. The picture was published in the Saginaw News  c. 1945.

[1] Transcription of a phone interview with of Marian Matyn with Dr. Louis Picard, 13, 2009, p.1

[2] Transcription of a phone interview with of Marian Matyn with Dr. Louis Picard on November 13, 2009, p.2.

[3]Transcription of a phone interview with of Marian Matyn with Dr. Louis Picard on November 13, 2009, p.1.

[4] James Cooke Mills, History of Saginaw, 1918 and Saginaw Courier Herald, February 10, 1909).

[5] Picard, Louis A.  Transitions: the biography of a North American Family, an illustrated history (draft document powerpoint), 2009. Used with permission of the author.

[6] Third Annual Message [to Congress] (December 6, 1887, Miller Center of Public Policy).

-Two-

“The Wagon and the Watch”

 Alex Picard and Marie Duberville in a daguerreotype c. 1902

Alex Picard and Marie Duberville’s Wedding picture, November 25, 1903.

Alex Picard Wedding Picture 1903

 

 

 

-Three-

“But he would have to leave show business”

Alex Picard’s only son, Vincent was born on August 18, 1904 in White Cloud, Michigan.  His mother was staying with relatives since Alex was still on the road with the circus.  He would continue to perform for another four years. White Cloud Hospital was also a sanitarium.  There is no evidence that Marie had TB.

White Cloud Hospital

The Young Family. Alex, Vincent and Marie Picard, c. 1906.

Young Master Vincent, c. 1907.

Vincent Picard, c. 1907

Marie Picard with her two first born, Summer of 1907.

Marie Picard with Children

 1910-1919 (The Teens)

The Picard Family are shown below with their children, Vincent, Theol and Beatrice, C. 1911.  There must have been an outbreak of lice at Holy Family School.

Alex Picard and Family, 1911

Alex Picard Family, c. 1911

 

A young but active twelve year old.  Vince Picard, summer of 1916

“Foolish Days & Foolish Ways” reads the caption in the picture above. Vince Picard was a mature looking twelve year old in 1916.

Below. Vince Picard was thirteen years old in 1917 (center with the tie) when this picture was taken.

Images of Grandmere

Zepherine Legault Picard (See Below) Garden at Atwater Ave.

Zepherine Picard, c. 1912

See Below, Zepherine Legault Picard, c. 1915

Zepherine Legault Picard c. 1915

Zepherine Legault Picard, c. 1920

Above, Zepherine Legault Deslauriers Picard (Grand-mère)

(circa, 1918)

Zepherine and Marie Picard

Zepherine Legault Picard , far right, with Marie Picard (Alex’s Wife center) c. 1922.

 

1920-1935

Vince Picard and Friend, 1921. He was a very mature seventeen year old.

A Man on the Town, Vince Picard, 1923

In 1923, Vince Picard was nineteen years old.  He had already been performing professionally in vaudeville and the circus for close to three years.  As he says in the caption he is in his “Sunday Best.”

Below. Alex Picard and Al Arnold on a fishing trip in 1925 in Mio, Michigan.

A man at home.  Vince Picard out of the circus.  Summer of 1928.

Vince Picard c. 1928

Alex Picard and Vince Picard c. 1928.

1935-1950

From the pictures it doesn’t seem like the depression.

(See below). Alex Picard and Family, circa 1936. Helen, Vincent, Theol, Marie, Beatrice, and Alex Picard.

Frank Picard wrote a description of his older brother in 1938. “As the train stopped at the Woodward Avenue Depot ,” he said, [we] looked out the window and seated in the ‘Cannon Ball’ – that’s the train that leaves Saginaw for Detroit at 7:45 in the morning and gets back at 9:00 in the evening – was my Brother Alex. Of course he couldn’t see us [in the other train] and you know it isn’t any real news when one of my relatives rides in a passenger coach.”  Frank A. Picard, February 28, 1938.
(Above) Louis Alexander Picard (“Alex”) circa 1938.

Louis A. Picard was a war baby, born on May 18, 1943. Vince Picard would celebrate his 39th Birthday in August of that year.  Kay would turn 27 on June 5.

Mary Margaret Picard was what they would come to call a baby boomer, born on January 4, 1947.  Her father was 42 years old.  Her mother was 30.

James Vincent Picard says of himself that he was an afterthought, born on December 30, 1952, just short of being a new year baby. Vince was 48 and Kay would be 36 on her next birthday.

Vince and his Sisters

The Arnolds

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Art, Theol, Artie, Al and Theol Marie Arnold in 1947

The Seilers

The Seilers c. 1946

Howard Seiler and Beatrice Picard Seiler, Nancy and Jack Seiler, c. 1946

When Howard Louis Seiler was born on August 14, 1910, in Michigan, his father, Howard, was 30 and his mother, Irene, was 23. He had two daughters with Beatrice L. Picard. Jack  died on February 9, 1973, in East Lansing, Michigan, at the age of 62.

In the picture on above, Howard  L. (Jack) Seiler Jr. in uniform at the back, at the Jackson State Prison Riot, April 1952. Jack Seiler, became Superintendent of the Michgan State Police.
The Kretschmers
Charlie (Charles) Kretschmer invented Kretschmer’s Wheat Germ in 1936. Three years later he married Helen Picard, Alex’s youngest daughter.  Until 1965, the Wheat Germ was produced in Carrollton Michigan, a suburb of Saginaw.

 Kretschmer Wheat Germ is now made  in Manhattan, Kansas. What is now eaten by many as a health food,  Kretschmer Wheat Germ has been a fixture of the American diet for decades.

1950-1963

The Family
Below. Alex Picard’s 69th Birthday (1953)
“I am not sure if I have told you this story about your father or not. When I was in the hospital in 1950 with polio starting in September through January your Dad visited me regularly bringing me a book to read, some I could keep and others were from the library. Mostly dog and horse stories and then into Nancy Drew and Judy Bolton mysteries. But that Christmas season he got a radio from somewhere and I was able to use until after Christmas. Remember no radios or TVs were available for the hospital rooms and many places. I am not sure which radio station he worked at then but every time the tune Silver Bells was played it was dedicated to Vince’s niece in St. Mary’s Hospital. Today still it is my favorite Christmas song and always remember Uncle Baa.” Theol Marie (Arnold) Wasco.
(See above). Vince Picard, C. 1955. WSAM Saginaw.
Below. Before the Ball 1957.
 Vincent Picard and Family, circa 1960

-Six-

“The Four Sisters”

 

 

 

Scan

Marion (Mary Ann) Picard (1908)

Mary Ann Rosalia Picard was one of two children of Alfred and Zepherine born in Canada (The other was Alex). She was born in St. Louis de Gonzague, Quebec on August 30, 1884. She married Henry C. Hemmiter on January 9, 1908 at the age of 23. Henry sold automobiles in Pontiac Michigan where they lived until his death in 1916 of carcinoma of the intestinal track. She never remarried but moved to California in 1954 where she died in Los Angeles on August 3, 1969).

Scan 1

Marion Hemmeter (1916). At the time of Henry’s Death.

Scan 2

Marion, Alex and Louise in Los Angeles (October, 1951)

This picture was taken in California in the Fall of 1951.

Scan

According to Louise (Picard) Kuiper, on a visit from Los Angeles in May, 1963:  “The Boy (James) is Alex Picard’s Grand-son- Vincent Picard’s Son.  The girl next to me is Mary Picard, Vincent’s Daughter.

1960-1965

Getting an Education

Delta College (1961-1963).

The College of Letters was an experimental program developed at least in part the stealth.  Only a few hundred students were admitted to it.  Most admitted were well qualified for admission.  The program was pan-disciplinary, open class room and for many who taught in it, Socratic in its method.

Lou Picard 1963
Lou Picard Still at Home, 1963

University of Michigan (1963-1965)

There were a number of academics at UM who had an impact on me.  These included:

James K. Pollock- German History, Constitutional Law and Goverment

L. H. Laing

B. Perkins

K. Reichenbach-

William Zimmerman

J. Higham

Jim Picard, Early 1960s
Somewhere in time: “One snowy night around Christmas time, Drew McKinnon and I went Christmas shopping in down town Saginaw. It was a Saginaw long gone…Morleys was going strong, the windows decorated with animated displays…dancing reindeer, and waving Santas…..Just as Hudson’s was Detroit’s Macy’s, Morley Brothers was our Hudson’s. It was right between the Second National Bank building, (the tallest building in town..12 floors!), and the Temple Theater…We’d had plenty of snow, and it was snowing big flakes as we walked around town. It was lit up big time….Colored lights sparkling things and people were everywhere. All the stores were decked out in their finest…Music was playing. The words hustle and bustle come to mind…..We went into the store that had the little baskets that carried payment and receipts somewhere up stairs and back on little wires. Watching them chug along was really cool…we walked through Kresge’s, checked out the fish and the birds and the turtles for sale. There were a lot of stores to go through back then. We had french fries and cokes at Cunningham’s or someplace, and we watched pretty girls. Pretty sure we made some juvenile comments….Drew wanted to get his dad an umbrella for Christmas. He bought it at Morleys….The problem was that his dad was coming to pick us up. How do you hide an umbrella? Well, the solution was simple to us. The problem could be solved by good old fashioned Christmas deception….(Yes, it was my idea.) We didn’t hide it. We said it was mine. When they dropped me off in the driveway, I walked stiff legged from the car, through the headlights, as if I had the umbrella in the leg of my pants, into the carport and up on the porch and out of view. When I got inside, Dad asked me why I was walking like that. I told him and he laughed…..”
Jim Picard, December 9, 2011.
Images of Saginaw Michigan, 1960-1975
Jack Rabbit Bean Co. c. mid-1960s.
The Hoyt Library.
Washington at Genessee.
Saginaw Country Court House.
Downtown Saginaw in 1965.
The 1970s
Below: It was a good day. Vincent Picard c. 1970.
Current Images (2000-2014)
Spatz’s Bread is good bread.
Below. Tom and Theol (Arnold) Wasco, December 2010.
Summer of 2010.
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