The best gift I’ve received from writing Bree’s Blog is getting to meet some of the special people who read it. Readers find me when they come to the Island, and I love that. Most know that on nearly any Monday during the summer I’m at the Stuart House, and that “meeting place” has worked out well for all of us.
But Lowell and Faye haven’t visited. I wanted so badly to get them on the Island and have a stroll down memory lane – going to all the places Lowell has told such wonderful stories about. But, after a couple of years of begging Lowell and Faye to make a trip up here, I realized that probably just wasn’t going to happen.
Lowell wrote me a few weeks ago with a plan for Ted and I to stop by and visit on our way home. He wanted Jill to drive over from Lansing and all of us to have lunch together. Well, all of you know how Ted is once he’s on the road. Getting him to veer off-route and off-schedule had about as much chance of happening as him becoming a vegetarian!
I wrote back to Lowell with an alternate plan. Jill and I would come for lunch . . . and the rest is now history.
Let me back up a bit . . .
Lowell’s first comment to this blog (as near as I can figure) was December 8, 2009. He wrote after reading one of my first Winter Updates from the Island (I was writing from Georgia and using photos friends were sending me on-line). His comment read:
The update and the pictures are beyond marvelous, especially The Grand and French Lane. I walked down that lane many times, but only in the summers when I worked on The Island in the 1950s.
I don’t remember how I came upon your blog, but I have been reading a few entries almost every day for the past week or so. When I have read them all, I would like to send an email message to you with some of my memories which you have been kind enough to evoke for me -if that will be okay with you.
Here’s my reply to him:
That would be lovely. I look forward to hearing from you. In case you missed my email somewhere along the way, it’s firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you for your kind words.
On that day in 2009, if anyone had told Lowell or me that three years later we’d be sitting on his swing on the front porch of his home out in the country in Michigan . . . . well, I think we would have both said, “Are you crazy?!”
I’m getting ahead of myself again.
We left Lansing Thursday morning in the rain.
We didn’t miss a turn and arrived at exactly 10:30 a.m. – just like we said we would.
Lowell, Faye, Timothy, one of their sons, and grandson Mitchel, were there to greet us on the front porch and invite us inside their lovely home, where they’ve lived since 2001.
And Lowell loves to talk! I so wish we’d had longer to stay because I could have listened to his stories for a lot longer. We learned he and Faye have lived quite the “gypsy life” (Lowell’s words) in their 52-year marriage. They left Michigan in 1964 and in the following years lived in Oregon, Oklahoma and in Texas, where they took a giant leap of faith and sold their new home so Lowell could attend Bible College. That led him to his life’s work as a minister for the Church of Christ. Lowell and Faye returned to Michigan on September 1, 1979, exactly 15 years after they left. Since then Lowell has served churches in Houghton Lake, Grand Rapids, and now in rural Olivet since September, 2001.
Lowell is quite the chef, and the lunch he prepared (he told Faye he was doing all the cooking that day) was excellent. I kept trying to move between Faye and Jill in the den and Lowell in the kitchen, so I missed a lot of Faye’s conversation, but it sure was fun watching Lowell put together a really impressive meal!
We were on the Island at 8:00, and I was up the hill by 8:30 (thank goodness the taxi was waiting!). What a fun trip!
It’s the stories about Mackinac Island that I wanted to hear from Lowell, and for those no one can tell them better than Lowell himself. Here are a few of them, in his own words, written a few years ago:
A WALK DOWN MEMORY LANE
by Lowell W. Greene
One sunny morning in early June of 1954 (I was fifteen years old then), I left my family’s home in Cheboygan, Michigan and walked north on Western Avenue about three blocks to Mackinaw Avenue, which was also US 23 & 27. I hitchhiked fifteen miles northwest to Mackinaw City (the Tip o’ The Mit), where I boarded the ferry for Mackinac Island.
Looking for work in the village, I walked up one side of the street (2-3 blocks) and about halfway down the other side. Finally, I got a job washing dishes at Phil Corby’s “Coffee Cup.” After working there awhile, I became a waiter.
One day I looked up and there was a member of my family. Then I saw others. I don’t remember who all was there, but I do remember my sister, Freida and her husband, my mother and my sister, Amy and her son, Bobby, and my younger sister, Sally, were also there.
Still later, I went to the “Carriage Lantern”, a more upscale restaurant across the street from the Chippewa Hotel, and washed dishes for a little more money. It was while I was working there that I had my mother come over to the Island and took her to dinner for her birthday at that restaurant. I had bought her a birthday present of beautiful candle holders at one of the stores on the Island and painstakingly wrapped them in a box. I was so proud. It wasn’t until many years later that I realized it wasn’t really a very nice gift because our house was furnished in Early American and the candle holders were very Danish modern. Of course, she never let on that they were anything but wonderful and they sat on the piano or a table in the living room until she had to move into a nursing home about a year before she died. I have those candle holders now (My mother died Dec. 1, 1983) and I keep them in a cupboard.
One of the waitresses at the Coffee Cup was Joyce Chambers who lived on the Island. She was married to Pat Chambers whose mother was Ella Chambers. Mrs. Chambers was also the mother of Jeanette (Chambers) Doud of the Windermere Hotel and grandmother of Margaret Doud, the present Mayor of the village. There was another son, but he didn’t live on the Island and I don’t remember his name or where he lived, but I think it was Chicago. Anyway, Joyce told me that Mrs. Chambers had a room that she would rent to me. I rented the room, which was upstairs in a very nice house a few blocks down the street from the Grand Hotel. It was the second or third house from The Little Stone Church.
The next two summers, 1955 & 1956, I worked at the “Arch Rock Curio Shop” which was about fifty feet, as you are looking toward Lake Huron, to the right of Arch Rock. I actually walked across Arch Rock once. Oh, the things we do when we are young and foolish.
Every morning, the owner of the curio shop, Ella Chambers (who was in her 70s), Willard Van Hall and I walked down Cadotte Avenue to Market Street and across to Marquette Park. We walked across the park to a trail and stairway that went up to the East Bluff and then through the woods for about three and a half miles to the shop.
In the woods we’d see flowers like white Trillium, Michigan’s state flower and yellow Lady Slippers. There are also pink Lady Slippers, but as far as I know, none of the pink flowers grow on Mackinac Island. I remember that one time I picked a nice bouquet of the yellow lady slippers and took them to Zella, the sister of Joyce Chambers. Zella owned and operated a small restaurant and she put the flowers in a vase and set them in the window for all to see. It wasn’t very long until someone from the Mackinac Island State Park system happened to be walking by. He immediately went into the restaurant to tell Zella to get those flowers out of sight because it was against the law to pick them. I could have been arrested. It was a good thing he was a nice guy.
By the way, I think it was the next year that Zella and her sister Joyce opened the tea room at Fort Mackinac. I don’t know if there had been a restaurant there before or if they were the first to have one there. All I remember is that they had red checked tablecloths on the tables.
On Sundays, I went to church at The Little Stone Church, which was only two or three doors up the street from where I lived. It was only used from late Spring until early Fall.
There were times when I was able to care for the children of Joyce and Pat Chambers when they went out for the evening. They lived in the house next to the Episcopal Church.
There were many times when I sat in a rocking chair on Ella Chambers’ front porch, looking through binoculars at the construction of the Mackinac Bridge “The Mighty Mac,” which spans the Straits of Mackinac, connecting the five mile distance between the Lower and Upper Peninsulas of Michigan. The binoculars were very good and it made everything look so close that it seemed as though I should have been able to talk to the workers.
One afternoon Pat Chambers took me in his little rowboat to visit the Round Island Light House. I had dreams of someday buying Round Island, restoring the light house and living in it. I think the island was in private hands then, but my dreams never came true. The interior of the building was not in good shape then, but it was still a good solid building. I’m so glad it has been restored and is being taken of. (Yes, I know a sentence isn’t supposed to end that way, but it works for me. I hope it will be okay with you.)
When we were going back to Mackinac Island from Round Island, a lake freighter came through the channel between the two islands. We were very close to it and WOW, was that boat ever big! I don’t mind telling you, I was scared.
Well, I guess we’ve come to the end of my Memory Lane for now. Thank you for joining me and I hope you’ve enjoyed the little trip. Please have a pleasant evening as you watch the sun set behind the Upper Peninsula west of Mackinac Island. Lowell
It’s not something that happens a lot, but occasionally you meet someone (even if it’s on-line) that you connect with instantly. That’s how it was with Lowell’s first comment to Bree’s Blog. His words made me smile, of course, because they were flattering. But it was the overwhelming Mackinac connection that touched me so deeply. Here was a gentlemen who had spent three summers on the Island and who – over 50 years later – was still feeling the Island’s magic. It happens like that a lot, I think, to those of us who step off the ferry for the first time and feel the draw of this place. The magic seeps into our blood and skin and – especially – into our hearts.
Lowell’s heart is still full of Mackinac. He’s lived his 74 years all over the United States, but Mackinac Island still calls to him. We’re hoping one day – soon – he’ll make it back.