About Growing Peaches


In the 1920-40 period, the Fennville area produced the largest volume of peaches. 

 Bob heard from an Army friend who was attending the horticultural school at the University of North Carolina that a professor had shown his class a map indicating where the best peaches were grown.  The map indicated that the Michigan side of Lake Michigan had the perfect conditions for developing tasty peaches. The cool prevailing breezes off of Lake Michigan slowed the maturing of the fruit to maximize flavor.


The Crane farm began to specialize in fruit tree production in the late 1930s but began significant expansion when Bob returned from the Service in the late 40s.  As time went on, they introduced new and better varieties and more efficient farming methods.


Peaches were initially shipped by boat in Douglas-made baskets from Pier Cove. Bob recalls that in later years he would load up his truck with peaches and drive them down to Hartford where they would be unloaded, packed, cooled down and shipped by train to Chicago.  


Bob’s father eventually trained Lue to drive the truck and she became the best-looking hauler in the area.  She reportedly held the farm record for the most number of hauls in a day because, as she says, “Everyone got out of my way when they saw me coming.”  They currently grow nine varieties of peach but apples are currently their primary fruit crop.


Bob Crane’s family began general farming in Fennville in the 1870s.  During the Great Depression, Bob, the youngest of six children, recalls his family farming with six cows, chickens and a pair of horses. He recalls having to come home from basketball practice at Fennville High School to milk the cows, which was no problem because most of his teammates did the same thing.  


Rob, the oldest Crane son, designs and runs the annual cornfield maze challenge and the very scary haunted maze.  In the latter venue, a crew of spooky folks in a variety of macabre outfits terrorize paying customers.  One monster-player, Fabian the chainsaw operator,  while waiting in the tall corn to spook an unwary patron overheard a young woman customer tell her friend that she had to relieve herself.  Fabian fired up the chainsaw and leapt out of hiding behind the embarrassed lass who shouted, “Wait until I finish.”  During the first year of the haunted maze, a woman emerged to report that a gorilla was attacking people in the maze.  Rob reassured her that there was no gorilla among their haunted actors.  She insisted she had been accosted by a gorilla and again she was reassured that she must have been mistaken.  Later that evening Rob ran into one of his crew who reported having snuck in a gorilla outfit without telling anyone.  Such is entertainment on the Crane farm. 


Bob as a Flyer


In 1935 Bob obtained a ticket for a flight on a bi-plane.  At 15, during the war, he, his father, mother and brother Albert learned to fly in a Piper Cub at the Park Township field.    At that time gasoline was free for private airplanes to encourage more people to develop flying skills. The government encouraged people to take free basic flying lessons in an attempt to eventually increase recruits for the Army Air Corps.  Although only 15 at the time, Bob was allowed to train and eventually solo.  Bob gives his grandmother, born 1862 and having ridden in everything from an ox cart, her first plane ride.  He took off from Lake Hutchins using skis in the winter.  


Bob recalls landing in corn fields and flying out of the old Douglas airfield.  Both his father Bob and Lue met when Lue just finished high school and Bob was out of the Service.  Lue’s protective father allowed her to date Bob only because he knew Bob’s brother Albert to be a fine person and assumed Bob would be equally upright. The young couple’s first date was when Bob flew a plane to pick her up in Port Huron, much to her father’s chagrin.  Lue’s brother-in-law had been one of Bob’s teachers in high school.


Several generations of Cranes attended the small brick district school at M-89 and 60th.  


During the Great Depression, “The cities had the soup kitchens, but the country had the farmers who typically fed anyone who came to the door.”  He and his sister Beth took turns feeding folks at the door.  No one had money but they always had food, fresh and put up in Ball jars.  


Around 1934 when Bob was starting high school he recalls classmates talking about who was rich and who was poor.  His mother explained that they had no money but they did have plenty of food and good health.  


The death of one of the horses, part of a team.  The team of horses were eventually sold on Mackinaw Island where they were well cared for.  When they visited the island later they found the team with significant recognition.


Flew with 4 kids in their own plane to Iowa.   Gary and Ken took lessons and Bob at 50 did instrument qualification.