Dreaming of Mackinac – For Lowell 10/21/2012

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:

Brenda,

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.

Lowell

Here’s my reply to him:

Lowell,

That would be lovely. I look forward to hearing from you. In case you missed my email somewhere along the way, it’s brendasumnerhorton@hotmail.com. Thank you for your kind words.
Brenda

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?!”

But here we are!

I’m getting ahead of myself again.

We left Lansing Thursday morning in the rain.

Lansing is Michigan’s state capital, and Jill took us through town so I could see the beautiful capitol building.

Lowell had emailed excellent directions – a whole page of turns and curves and county road numbers and names – and without them we would have NEVER found their house because . . .

. . . Lowell and Faye live in the country!

We passed beautiful old barns . . .

. . . harvested corn fields . . .

. . . and lots of pretty trees.

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.

We settled right down and started talking. That conversation started at 10:40 and lasted until we left a little after 2:00 –  an hour later than we’d planned. We had a LOT to talk about!

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 shows Jill family photos of his and Faye’s parents.

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!

On the menu was Chicken Caprese (Lowell’s own recipe), salad and Pear Cake.

While Lowell cooked, Faye enjoyed glancing through some Mackinac Island gifts we thought they’d enjoy – Terry Phipps’ Seasons of Mackinac, Robert Benjamin’s Mackinac Island: 350 Years of History, several Mackinac Island calendars, the Ice Bridge video, and – of course – some fudge!  When I talked to Lowell later that evening he said they had spent the entire afternoon reading the books and watching the video.

Lunch was wonderful, and talk continued around the table. I don’t think there was 30 seconds of silence the entire time we were there . . . almost like coming home for a meal with family.

We were running a little late leaving, but I wanted to see where Lowell wrote all those great comments to my blog. He turned on his desktop . . .

. . . and showed us all the photos he’d saved from the blog in his “Mackinac Island” folder.

Too soon it was time to leave. Jill snapped this photo of us sitting in the swing Lowell had just finished refurbishing . . .

. . . and we said our goodbyes to Lowell, Faye, and Nellie – their little chow-mix.

I saw a lot more of the beautiful autumn scenery on the way back north . . .

. . . . but when we realized we weren’t going to make the 6:30 ferry (the next-to-the-last one for the evening), we pulled into a scenic turn-out about 20 minutes south of Mac City. What a gorgeous view from there!

I believe that’s Burt Lake in the distance.

We turned into Shepler’s Gateway to Mackinac Island with 30 minutes to spare before the last boat . . . .

. . . and spent that 30 minutes all toasty under the heat lamps inside the Shepler tent, admiring their Fall and Halloween display.

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.

Advertisements

28 thoughts on “Dreaming of Mackinac – For Lowell 10/21/2012

  1. Lowell, your memories, put on paper would make a great book!. I love reading them and just like I would be the first to buy Brenda’s book (if it happens…fingers crossed) I would also be the first to buy yours. I only ask for one thing (from both you and Brenda), I would like them SIGNED !! 🙂 So happy that Brenda and Jill made the trip to visit. Aren’t they just the best! Love them both.
    Brenda, thanks for giving us a little more insight to Lowell and Faye and thank you for taking us with you to meet them. I had a great time!

  2. What a great story! Imagine, sitting on the porch and watching them build the bridge. Wish my family and I could of met you on Saturday. It was really nice to meet Jill!

  3. Lowell, I enjoyed reading Brenda and Jill’s visit with you and Faye. I’ve been reading your comments through the years, and have been wanting to tell you that I met you when you lived with Ella Chambers. My brother, Bud Bourisaw, also worked at Arch Rock. I’m not sure that he worked when you did. He passed six years ago, so I can’t check. The Douds and Chambers are dear friends of mine. My family home is next to the Windermere. It is only used as a summer home now. Margaret Doud and I used to spend a lot of time at her Grandmother’s house, and that was when I met you.
    Kitty Bourisaw Schadel

    • Well, hello Kitty. I’m sorry, but I don’t remember meeting you. That’s not surprising I suppose because, like most teenagers, I was probably all wrapped up in myself. No, I didn’t work with Bud. As far as I know Mrs. Chambers only had one teenager working for her at a time. Of course, Willard worked for her for many years, but he was “quite old” at the time I was there. When Brenda and Jill were here we were trying to figure how old he would have been. I don’t remember what we decided, but he couldn’t have been over fifty, if that.

  4. What a wonderful trip! Yes, the Mackinac magic does get to you (we just made our third trip to the island last week).
    Lowell’s story takes you back and can almost imagine him being there.

    Pat Steele
    Vernon, MI

  5. Bree, Thank you so much for sharing your visit and for posting Lowell’s trip down memory lane. I love to hear other people’s memories and accounts of the island we all are so fond of.

  6. I couldn’t wait to write a comment about Brenda and Jill’s visit, so I wrote it for the 10/16/12 blog – the one with the the picture of the ducks in the rain. It really was a wonderful thing to have them visit us at our house.

    Brenda, first off, I want to thank you for taking the picture of that old barn. I’ve wanted to take a picture of it for years, but unlike you, I never have the camera with me.

    Now, I hope you won’t be offended, but I want to make a couple of minor corrections. We (I) talked so much, and you didn’t take any notes, so I’m really surprised you remembered so much.

    First correction: Our grandson’s name is Mitchel, not Michael. I’m sure that single “l” at the end of his name threw you off. It’s a mistake that many people make.

    Second correction: We returned to Michigan on September 1, 1979, exactly 15 years after we left . It was then when we went to Houghton Lake (10 years, 7 months), then Grand Rapids (10 years 5 Months), and now here in rural Olivet since September, 2001 (11 years and almost 2 months).

    However, there is one thing about which you were not mistaken. You wrote, “…Lowell loves to talk.” Most of my childhood school report cards said that I would get more work done if I didn’t talk so much. And, by the way, I was voted the most talkative boy in my senior class. So you see, I have a reputation to take care of.

    I will be saving the pictures of the Fall Foliage that you took. They are beautiful. I wish I knew more synonyms for that word. I use that one so often about your pictures.

    • Lowell, I have made those corrections (hope I got them right). I KNEW I should have made notes, but when I do that I’m so busy writing that I miss the next three things people say!

    • Lowell, I enjoyed reading your remembrances. I am a few years younger than you but also worked on the Island, in the 60’s. I remember the Carriage Lantern well. It was my Mother’s favorite place to eat and we had to put on our nice dresses and black leather shoes to go there. I also walked across Arch Rock, slipped and almost fell. My mother screamed which scared me more than slipping. Good thing they have that fenced off now.

  7. Brenda, loved reading your blog about your visit with Lowell and Faye. I love reading about Lowell’s time spent on Mackinac Island. He really should put in all his adventures in a book. How long has it been since Lowell last visited the Island? He needs to return and make more Island memories.

    • Lora, I think the last time my wife and I visited the Island was sometime during the summer of 1986, over 26 years ago, but if all works out, we’ll be able to visit again next summer.

  8. Brenda and Lowell, I loved both of your stories. Thank you so much Brenda for putting your blog of not only what is happening on Mackinac Island but what is happening down in Georgia as well, I always look forward to reading them.

    Lowell, as I was reading your memories I was picturing you as a young boy doing all of these things, it seems as if they were happening now, not back in the 50’s.

    Thank you both.

    • Well, Judi, believe it or not, once upon a time I was a young boy. It doesn’t seem like it was so long ago, but I know it was. Memories from “back when” are nice to have.

  9. What a great post! Lowell-you and Faye have a lovely home! There was a swing just like your’s on the front porch of the house I grew up in. Many, many hours were spent out there with my dad-thanks for reminding me Thanks to both of you for sharing both stories and I look forward to many more!

  10. What. A lovely story. Lowell coild write his own blog, just based on his memories. That would be wonderful. What beautiful pictures of the trees and of course, Lowell.

  11. Brenda, thanks for the lovely trip to see Lowell and Faye. I feel like I had lunch with all of you. Your photos are always so beautiful…..love the country barns and gorgeous trees. You and Ann certainly looked like you were having a wonderful time.

    I am especially glad to see a photo of Lowell and Faye. I have always enjoyed his posts. Lowell, my 12 year old granddaughter has gotten the same comment on her report card! She is very “social”. Sometimes that can get us in trouble with our teachers!! I agree, you should start a blog, but I know you may be too busy for that. I do love your stories. I will be 74 in March. We probably graduated the same year ’57. I would have loved to have been working on the island when I was a teen. I thought it was wonderful living at a beach on Lake Erie in Monroe County!!. I always loved winter because I could skate on the lake. I would have loved all of the snow on Mac Is. I don’t care how you end your sentences, I don’t know all of the rules of grammar anyway. You always paint a lovely scene and that is all that matters!! I don’t think any of us readers are concerned about the “rules” here. Just keep writing! Thanks again Brenda. What a lovely day you all had.

    • Judy, you have mentioned something I’ve mentioned to Lowell a number of times over the years. HE NEEDS TO WRITE HIS OWN BLOG!!! See, Lowell, I’m not the only one who thinks so!

  12. Lowell – You and Faye look so cute together! It is fantastic to hear that you have been married 42 years. Congratulations to you and your “young” bride!

    Your posts on the blog are so fun and interesting and I get concern when I don’t see them for a couple of weeks. I hope you and Faye are staying healthy.

    I live in southeast Iowa and usually fly to Traverse City and then drive to Mackinaw City or St. Ignace but if I drive up sometime I am stopping by your house and dragging you and Faye to the island myself! LOL!

  13. I agree that it was nice seeing a picture of Lowell and his lovely bride. It’s nice to put a face with a name. I picture Lowell as being the kind of person you could sit and talk to all day and never get bored hearing his life experiences….so thank you for sharing.
    There’s nothing better than the drive up north in the fall….we make a point to come north every fall! Now, would love to hear the story of how Jill ended up on the Island!

  14. What a beautiful post…by both you Brenda and Lowell.
    Not everyone “feels” or “understands” the “draw” or the “magic” of Mackinac Island. My husband and I have been coming back for 20 years ever since our honeymoon and now with our kids. We come up 3 or 4 times a year and people always say to us, “Why don’t you go somewhere else for vacation?” They don’t get it. And that’s ok. Some folks don’t have that “connection”. But for myself and my husband, we are some of those who instantly fell in love with the beauty, history, and magic of Mackinac. I’m so glad our children have as well. Thanks for always keeping us connected when we can’t be there. -Melody

    • Melody, I feel the same way about the Island. No one in my family shares the same “connection” as I do. But that doesn’t keep me from visiting 3 times a year on my own. It is my own little special place. I can’t wait until my next visit. But in between visits, I have Brenda’s wonderful blog to keep me connected and maybe Lowell could share more of his Mackinac stories during the winter months. I bet Jill has a lot of great Mackinac Island stories.

  15. There are few people gifted with the talent to write with sentiment and pure feelings. I am soooo blessed to have “met” two of them from this blog!

  16. Lowell, you are truely a blessed man with all your storys and I as well have loved reading all of them. You have a special charm to them and you do need to think about either writing a book or starting your own blog as well. Brenda what gift this must have been for the both of you. I know exactly where you about went and it is beautiful country and what special people meet. Be Blessed

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s