Norm Lyon Papers,   1920, 1991, and undated
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Collection Scope and Content Note

The collection consists of two main types of formats, photographic materials and papers. The photographic materials include: film negatives, strip negatives (multiple images on 35 mm film negatives), single image negatives, photographs, photograph and negative albums, transparencies, and paste-ups (for MOGN publications). The papers include: correspondence, reports, articles, newspaper clippings, obituaries, maps, and other materials.

The collection has materials from 1929-1930, 1933-1956, 1959-1977, 1979-1985, 1987-1989, 1991, and undated materials of this time period. Many undated negatives can be dated to the 1930s by the size and format of the negative material. Other papers in the collection that predate 1929 are in reality either later (ca.1960s) copies of pre-1929 materials or later (ca. 1950-1960s) notes about times prior to 1929.

The smallest part of the collection documents Norm Lyon’s family, mostly in negatives. Documented here are his wife, Phyllis, children, JoAnn and Dick, their pet dog, “Rip”, relatives, friends, and home life. The children are well documented as infants, at Christmas, 1937, 1940-1941, in Halloween costumes, on family vacations, particularly to Niagara Falls, 1941, and Leonidas (Mich.), while camping, playing with little friends and Rip, in the snow, or with their favorite toys. Phyllis is documented with the children, particularly when they were babies and toddlers, with lady friends working on craft projects, on vacation, and in general sitting and knitting. Norm is rarely photographed except for when he broke his leg and a few portrait shots, all undated The whole family is documented on vacations, camping or at Leonidas (Mich.), at Christmas, playing cards, and while visiting with friends and relatives. Most of the images are negatives and date from approximately 1935 to 1945. A few photographs, probably of the Lyon family or their friends and relatives also are included in the collection, notably in weddings, graduations, or anniversary photographs. None of these photographs are identified.

Civic and other organizations in which Norm was active, particularly the Mount Pleasant Kiwanis Club and the Pere Marquette Club, are documented in both negatives and photographs.

Norm’s work with the Mount Pleasant Daily Times recorded life in Mount Pleasant and the surrounding central Michigan area. Most of the images are negatives and include downtown Mount Pleasant parades, Christmas and Halloween decorations, downtown events and sales, politics, juries, veterans, meetings of various boards, the Indian Hall Dedication of July 7, 1940, Isabella County Fairs, 1947-1948 and 1956, the dedication of the new airport, the opening of Island Park swimming pool, paving streets, city offices, police (both state and local), accidents, fires, various clubs and civic groups particularly the Boy and Girl Scouts, American Legion, Archery Club, Elks Club, 4-H and FFA, Jaycees, Kiwanis, and Lions Club, as well as the local schools and sports teams, and the widening of US-127.

Other Michigan localities documented in negatives include the Pre-Edenville Dam, 1941, Reed City, 1940 (?), Ithaca, 1935, 1937, the Arenac Salt Plant, 1940, and Barrier Salt (Armada), 1966.

Central Michigan University (CMU) is documented as well. Negatives of the Cornerstone Ceremony at Rachel Tate Hall, 1956, the Construction of the Arts and Crafts Building, 1947, are included. Other images of note include the College Hop, 1936, Doc. Sweeney’s Gym[nastics] Troupe, 1942, the Football Team, 1934 and ca.1930s, Homecoming, including football players and a parade, 1935, as well as practice session negatives of both men’s baseball and women’s basketball, and the team image of the Men’s Basketball Team, 1942 are included. Photographs of CMU document most notably the Central State Training College Training School Fire of January. 8, 1933, general building images, and people, including the men’s baseball team, undated

Other unidentified negatives, probably documenting Mount Pleasant and the related area, include: suicides, squatters, farmers, agricultural scenes and products, and farm animals, hot air balloons, vehicles, trains, voting polls, buildings (interior and exterior shots), fires in general, and the Wolscheid Fire, 1948, in particular. Related photographs also mostly of the Mount Pleasant area, document children, buildings, the Kiwanis Club, street paving, snow storms, city vehicles, and the Chippewa Centennial Queen and Runner-up, 1967.

The largest group of negatives, as well as some of the photographs, documents oil exploration and production businesses in Michigan, 1930s-1980s.

Within the oil topics, a large number of negatives and photographs, 1930s-1970s, document men, most of whom are in groups wearing suits, usually holding drinks and cigarettes. While most of these men are unidentified, some are partially identified and other photographs or negatives are dated. It is highly likely that they all are attending Association meetings. One particular set of negatives shows men at the Mount Pleasant Country Club, watching a couple of go-go dancers, 1966.

Other negatives show groups of men who were probably connected with the oil industry relaxing, at meetings, playing cards, fishing, golfing, or hunting. A funny negative shows a group of men dressed up as women golfers. Numerous other images show men in groups either working in or visiting oil fields. The negatives of men in groups span 1935 through 1975, and undated. The photographs of men in groups span the 1960s.

There are also a smaller number of negatives of men who are working in fields unrelated to the oil business, such as in general stores.

Lastly, there are a number of negatives, 1930s-1970s, and some photographs, 1960s, of individual men in the Men-Portraits folders, some of which are identified either by surname or date. While a number of the men may be well known in the oil industry, the most famous central Michigan names associated with the Purple Gang are Isaiah Leebove, circa 1937, and Jack Livingston, undated, circa 1930s, both documented in photographs. Another famous Michigander is Spikehorn [John E.] Meyer (d. 1956) of Harrison, Michigan, 1940s, undated (photographed with his pet deer and bear, and people, including children). Spikehorn is documented in negatives and a few photographs.

A few Michigan politicians are also found in the collection, probably while campaigning, and include governors Soapy [G. Mennen] Williams and Kim Sigler (in negatives) and George Romney (in photographs).

The largest and arguably the most important part of the collection documents the oil exploration and production business throughout the state of Michigan, 1930s-1970s. A few images of the oil business in Texas, Florida, Ohio, and Illinois are also included.

The collection documents in detail the entirety of the oil business, from maps, drilling, core samples, construction of rigs, storage tanks, shipping oil, fires and other disaster, to seismology. Changes and developments in field equipment are recorded, from horse-drawn vehicles, wooden derricks, and using tractor-powered vehicles to sink well pipes to diesel-powered equipment and full-scale production refineries.

Major topics related to the oil exploration and production business in Michigan are well documented by negatives in the collection. These topics include the Association meetings, parties, and other outings, usually baseball or golf, 1940-1974, undated, and Buildings and Plants, most of which are identified, including non-Michigan locations. Plants with a large number of images include: Gaylord, 1967-1971; Gulf-Bateson, 1935, 1940-1942, undated, Gulf-Bay City, 1939-1941, undated and Gulf-General, 1941; Hilliard’s in Roscommon County and Vogel Centre, 1941, 1967; Kalkaska, including Shell Oil Co., 1969-1972, 1974; McClure (various locations), 1966, 1969-1971 and 1975; Porter fields, 1933, 1936, 1939-1940, undated; Pure Oil Co., 1930s, 1936, 1939-1940, undated; Reed City (MI), 1941, Roosevelt Refinery, Mount Pleasant, 1940, 1943, 1947, undated; Saginaw, 1937, 1941, 1975, undated; Shell Oil Co., 1970-1974; Sun Oil Co., 1940-1941, 1965-1966; Tekonsha, Michigan,1966-1967, 1969; and Wise Township (Isabella County), 1940-1941, undated.

Other oil business subjects well documented by negatives include Derricks, both identified and dated, 1930s-1970s, and those neither identified nor dated, including rigs blown down, destroyed, off-shore, and tilting. Fires are also well documented, particularly the Roosevelt fire, 1933, Six Lakes fire, 1974, Struble Well fire, 1934, and the Woods Well fire, circa 1930s. Gas and Gas Plants, Gushers, and Land Leases, Sales, and Landsmen are fairly well documented. The Oil Expos[itions] of 1935-1937 are well documented, showing various exhibiters, their equipment, signs, salesmen, and attendees. Oil Scouts, Pipes, Pumps, and Storage Tanks are also documented. Negatives of refineries, mostly undated, which are well documented included McClanahan Refinery, Toledo Pipe Refinery (Ohio), 1935-1936, and Total Refinery (probably located in Alma. Well sites are well documented in Buckeye, 1936-1938, Durbin, 1935, and Sherman Rocks, 1937.

Brine and gas exploration, laying of lines or pipes, plants and gas stations are also documented, mostly by negatives.

The oil business is also documented in photographs, which mostly dated from the 1960s. Buildings and Plants documented here include Bay Refining Co., and Belle River Gas, 1967, Simrall Pipeline Corp., and Durbin Station. Other topics covered include: Core Samples; Derricks, including Hilliard and McCloud for 1961; Fires, 1961-1963, Florida (Orange County), 1965; Gushers; McClure Drilling Co., Equipment on a Ferryboat, 1961, Pumps; Sinkholes, Storage Tanks; and Wells Sites, including Off-Shore sites.

The Transparencies also document the oil business in Michigan. The Slides nearly all document the oil business in the early 1970s, including the Crawford Well Fire, 1976; Derricks; Kalkaska; seismology, rigs, equipment, fires, core samples, pumps, storage tanks, various people, McClure, equipment, etc.

The partial reels of 35 mm film all are labeled in some form. One partial reel found in Box 11 appears to be personal. Otherwise, all the partial reels in Box 12 document an oil hearing, 1971-1973, McClure, Natural Resource Commission, etc.

The Oversized Folders include photographs (2 folders) and paste-ups (1 folder), all related to Norm’s publishing work with the oil industry.

The Papers are a small part of the collection. Found here are articles and reprints of articles about the Michigan oil business; an oil drilling notebook reports, maps, and other oil related materials. Pigeon River, and the blowout at Williamsburg, 1973-1974 are specifically documented here. The rest of the Papers documents Norm Lyons in biographical information, including correspondence, obituaries notices (of Norm and Phyllis), newspaper clippings, notes, and speeches, and information about the Mount Pleasant Kiwanis Club, particularly their 50th Anniversary in 1983. Other people, probably his friends or oil associates are documented briefly in correspondence and newspaper clippings.

Processing Note: This was a challenging collection to process for several reasons. First, it arrived in a state of complete disorder. Many of the images, negatives and positives, were without any form of identification. Secondly, a number of negatives were often in one wax-paper sleeve with either little or no identifying information or a lot of information that did not always seem to apply to the contents. For example one sleeve might have 15 negatives of different men and the names of only two men on it. Norm’s writing was often difficult to read, particularly when he used his own style of abbreviations. Students and Marian tried mightily to identify and read his notations. Also, some of the photographs were identified by Norm as belonging to various years. As we could, we maintained that grouping. That is why there are photographs in a folder 1965-1967 (we do not know which individual photographs date from which year) and other photographs in a folder strictly labeled 1967 only. Simply sleeving the collection took nearly three months while sorting it took longer. Some items were identifiable only using a lightbox and loupe.

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