The next day, the Fords left for their annual summer vacation in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. They had a cabin in the prestigious Huron Mountain Club, a summer retreat located in the densely forested area near the small town of Big Bay, which was forty miles northwest of Marquette. Fair Lane was not air conditioned, so the Fords built their cabin on the southern shore of Lake Superior, where the average summer temperature reached only into the low 70s. The Fords enjoyed the balmy weather when they were young, but now that they were in their eighties, and Henry’s health was poor, they needed to get out of Dearborn’s stifling summertime heat and humidity…
Back in the summer of 1939, Buhler had a lot of extra time to prepare the cabin, for just as the Fords were approaching the port at Marquette on the Henry Ford II, Henry decided at the last minute to test the mettle of his captain—not in a critical way, but more as a practical joke. Instead of disembarking at Marquette, as he usually did, Henry ordered Captain John Pearce to sail the huge ore carrier right up to the beach in front of the clubhouse of the Huron Mountain Club. It’s not known what the captain thought of this absurd request, but he followed orders. Patrons of the club were out on the beachside deck when they suddenly realized that the gigantic ship was heading straight for them! Recalled Fred Rydholm, a local resident who knew the Fords, the captain deftly “pushed the ship right up on the beach like a canoe! They took the water out of the front end—the ballast—and the ship got real light in the front.” As the huge bow loomed high above the clubhouse, people down on the shore were both terrified and awestruck at the same time. Who on Earth would pull such a stunt?!
They soon found out when Henry appeared at the bow with Captain Pearce. Young men down on the beach, welcoming the excitement, began hollering back and forth to each other. “And then,” continued Rydholm, “Mr. Ford took a bunch of young guys from the club on a trip around the lake. And they had a baseball game in the hold!” Several hours later, the captain “beached” the ship again in front of the clubhouse, let the young men off, and backed the ore carrier away from the sandy shore. When the ship got back to Marquette, the Fords disembarked, and Rankin drove them up to their cabin. When someone asked why Henry Ford would risk destroying one of his own ships for a practical joke, Rydholm replied, “Mr. Ford had the ore carrier just for himself!
A truly great, humorous story illustrating Henry quirky sense of humor, willingness to try anything, and of course be able to get away with it of his unimaginable wealth.