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Original cross on Dewey Hill was a TV antenna

Kevin Collier • Jul 22, 2015 at 10:52 AM

Marie Havenga's Oct. 22 article outlined a historic timeline of the cross, how it came to be and where it literally stands today.

Perhaps the most amusing little-known fact about the original cross erected on Dewey Hill is that it was actually a TV antenna covered with a Masonite frame.

The antenna was secured from P&V Antenna, which still operates as a business at 1445 Waverly Ave. in Grand Haven today.

The cross — which has become an iconic symbol of Christianity, and the subject of church vs. state debate — had a simple beginning. The intent of the original cross was almost as simple as its construction — it was merely an observation of Christmas.

The sound system intended for the Musical Fountain, which would not be operational until 1963, played accompanying Christmas music — “only sacred music,” according to the Tribune at the time.

The people behind constructing the original cross included Musical Fountain chairman Dr. William Creason, Larry Bailey of P&V Antenna, City Councilman George Purcell, Harbor Industries President Henry Parker and Bernie Boyink of West Michigan Sound Co. Citizens had also participated by donating funds for the project.

Work began over the weekend of Dec. 1-2, 1962, and assembly of the cross on Dewey Hill began Dec. 3 when the TV antenna was delivered along with materials.

According to the Dec. 3 edition of the Grand Haven Tribune, the TV tower, which measured 48 feet high with a 24-foot cross arm, was enclosed in a Masonite frame and painted a reflective white color. In all, 125 square feet of board was used in the cross construction.

Committee members and volunteers built the frame around the tower and the project was completed during snow flurries on the afternoon of Dec. 5. It was erected, lit and on display that evening on Dewey Hill for the first time.

During the holidays, the cross was lighted evenings from 5 to midnight. Fifteen flood lights in all were used to light the original cross — five at the base of the cross, five at the fountain location and five at the foot of the cross.

Much has been made about William Creason coming up with the idea for the original cross — but, according to him, it was someone else.

“The idea for the cross originated with Bernie Boyink,” Dr. Creason pointed out in the Dec. 6, 1962, Tribune.

Bernard Boyink II was born in Muskegon on May 19, 1913, and moved to Grand Haven with his parents, Bernard “Red” and Gertrude (Stang) Boyink, when he was 6 months old. On Oct. 16, 1936, he married Charlotte Moll. The couple had two children, Rick and Brent.

For 23 years, Boyink was scorekeeper for basketball games and for 20 years “down marker” for football games at Grand Haven High School. He was also a veteran of the Buccaneer Banquet Committee, president of the American Business Club, once exalted ruler of BPOE 1200 and the first director of the Grand Haven Community Center. He was also a member of Second Reformed Church.

At the time of the original Dewey Hill cross project, Boyink was an area representative for the West Michigan Sound Co.

While news of the new cross on Dewey Hill made the pages of the Tribune, talk was already making print about the committee's next plan — a Nativity scene. But appearing next on Dewey Hill was a 44-foot star, engineered by Dake Corp., which took place on Dec. 6, 1963.

In his book “Grand Haven: In the Path of Destiny,” Dr. Dave Seibold relates the inception of the Nativity scene occurred in 1962 with Betty Ellis, a local artist, who came late to the craft in her 50s, and was the architect of the display. Ellis supervised the construction, painting and the arrangement — which included 22-foot angels, 8-foot shepherds and 32-foot camels.

The Nativity scene on Dewey Hill took made its debut on Dec. 9, 1964, with much fanfare. Gov. George Romney dedicated the it to much fanfare.

The one day after the original cross on Dewey Hill went up, a blizzard struck the Tri-Cities, blanketing the area with 6 inches of snow and ice. Winds of 50 mph broke the guy wires and the cross collapsed at about noon Dec. 6, 1962. It was repaired and back up on display on the evening of Dec. 8.

It's hard to imagine what Bernie Boyink would think about the battle over the cross on Dewey Hill taking place today. But Bernie left this world on a special day. He died July 4, 1976 — the 200th anniversary of the nation's independence.

While faith and the Constitution battle it out, Boyink rests at peace in Grand Haven’s Lake Forest Cemetery.

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