Thursday, July 7, 2016


Washington Island, Wisconsin -

Jim Anderson has written a book about his family's freighting business, carrying goods to and from Washington Island with the American Girl, often with the petroleum products tanker Oil Queen in tow.

We may know Jim as a lifelong Island resident, and perhaps even better as the friendly owner and ever-present manager of the Island Outpost retail shop.  But, less known at least to members of the most recent generations, was Jim's involvement in his family's business, Anderson Transit Company.

From the time when ice left the harbor to when winter set in again, the Andersons hauled fuel, freight - anything that needed to be transported by water.  From his days as a young man, Jim worked alongside his Grandpa Jack, Uncle Jackie, and his dad, Cecil.  Their business required daily attention, with very few days, or even partial days, given to relaxing before having to prepare for another trip, generally to and from Green Bay, Wisconsin.

Jim writes with intimacy about those times during the1950s through the early 1970s, when the bulk of Island goods - for Island stores, service providers, farmers and fishermen, came or left by freight boat.  The American Girl was 25 years old when the Andersons brought her to Detroit Harbor, and she was sailed and used extensively through 1971, when it was sold with tanker barge to a new owner on Beaver Island. A great part of the book is about the operation of that vessel, a commercial tug that is still in operation and closing in on 100 years of service on the Great Lakes.

The stories Jim tells, some of them written down almost 40 years ago when the details were still fresh in his mind, take us back to a time when plenty of physical labor was necessary in loading and unloading their vessel.  Freight was not yet palletized (or if it was, it had to be broken down into smaller packages anyway, for stowing on board).

The times were different, for certain, and the efforts expended by the Andersons to service the Island community were considerable.  Delivery trucks with regular routes to the end of Hwy. 42 in northern Door County were minimal then.  There were no daily package shipment services, such as Fed Ex or UPS, bringing household or business items to the Island.  The American Girl was of utmost importance in keeping the community going.

Although that period of time remembered by Jim was approximately 50 years ago, so much has changed since then.  But that change, looking back, is only part of what makes his stories interesting.  There are the close relationships of the men in his family as they worked together.  Jim was the youngest member of the crew, and his heart was in his family's work from an early age.

You'll see this setting through his eyes and words:  heartfelt, humorous at times.  And it reads easily, the sort of book I've always found to be highly entertaining.

Working closely with Jim to bring his stories to publication, I am now expecting his finished product (96 pages; $17.00) will be available by the weekend of July 16-17.

Within a day or so, it will be possible to place advance orders online at    If you can, stop by to visit with Jim at his book launch (date + location soon to be announced).  Or, pick up a copy of his book when it arrives at your local Island bookstore, or at the Ferry Terminal.

 -  Dick Purinton

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