Belle Isle Pony Rides, 1953

Belle Isle is an island park in the Detroit River. There used to be a ferry that ran from Detroit to Belle Isle but it hasn’t run for years, decades. You can drive, bike or walk across on the Belle Isle Bridge.. From one side of the island you can see Canada, and from the other, Detroit.  There are, or use to be, a Conservatory, a petting zoo, a herd of  Fallow Deer (I believe disease got them), an aquarium, an exclusive yacht club (Did it ever integrate?), a casino, riding horses, horse drawn buggies, ponies, ice skating, a wonderful fountain that had colored water in the summer (It was done with lights), fishing, picnicking and swimming.  We spent a lot of time on Belle Isle when I was growing up. My mother told us that when she was growing up, people slept there during heat waves. In the last few years Belle Isle has been made into a State Park and there is a charge for visiting.

From Google Maps

My mother, sister and I seem to have spent the day at Belle Isle with some family friends.  Harold and his family are the only family I remember my parents taking us over to their house to visit, as a family.Harold was about Pearl’s age and there was a sister, Andre, and a brother, Edward, who were older than we were.  Andre’s mother made her get rid of her Betsy McCall paper dolls at some point because she was “too old to play paper dolls.”  Many years later there was a younger daughter, Michelle.

“Kris, Pearl, Harold. Belle Isle 1953”  Harold Keanau holding Pearl’s horse, I am bringing up the rear.
This carousel horse was sent to Disney World
according to the Belle Isle Conservancy page.

It says “Belle Isle” on the back of the photos.  I don’t remember so many houses or buildings as you can see in the background.  Corrections or confirmation from other Detroiters welcome.

The picture of the horse to the left looks much fancier than the ones we are riding above.

“Kris and Pearl. Belle Isle 1953.”  Cigarette smoking man belts Pearl in while I appear ready to ride.
“Dodie, Connie, Kris, Pearl, Harold, Belle Isle 1953”  Dodie was Harold’s mother.

 Connie was my mother’s best friend from Eastern High School. She and her husband, Warren, lived on the East side in one of the new little houses built after WW2. We lived on the West side and we only went to visit once or twice a year. It wasn’t in another city though and I don’t quite know why the visits were so infrequent. Perhaps my mother was too busy to go during the school year and Connie didn’t drive because I never remember her visiting us.

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Other posts with photographs taken on Belle Isle  Skating Champions and  Mershell Cunningham Graham, Jr   From a different blog, a post about outtings at Belle Isle back in the 50s and 60s. With photos of various places around the island – Detroit Chinatown: Blast from the past Belle Isle.

15 thoughts on “Belle Isle Pony Rides, 1953

  1. I remember Belle Isle in another context when we were discussing Coney Island and lawsuits. Glad to see you have fond memories of it.

    1. Kathy, that was Bob-Lo Island. It was further away. A destination you arrived at by boat. As far as I know Belle Isle was never segregated.

  2. Lovely childhood memories Kristin, and once again some delightful pictures to accompany them. How sad that the two ladies weren’t able to get together more often. These days with cell phones and Skype we are quite spoiled.

  3. Awh!! Pony rides!
    Always a sure bet with kids.
    I loved those myself!!!
    Hoping you’ll solve the Belle Isle enigma.
    Maybe someone wrote that on the back by mistake.
    It happens…

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