Touring the town where I had my first date, my first kiss, and attended both grammar and Jr. High Schools was a nostalgic trek for me. The people who live in this house were not at home to speak to. My sister and I and three brothers all slept in one big bedroom upstairs in this two bedroom one bath house. A porch once ran the width of the front. I amazed myself at how many memories came floating back just seeing the place. If you’ve never done a trip like this, I’d recommend it.
Two houses away still lived Mrs. Clifford Jensen. Her husband Clifford and his sister Julie were very young, Bob and Nancy, both deceased, were close to my age. She kind of filled me in on changes in the neighborhood over the years. Too many friends gone.
From that house I attended St. Patricks Catholic Church, a beautiful old cathedral style church of which there are many in Escanaba. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get inside, it was boarded up, trees are growing out of the bell tower and it had been hit by lightening a week ago. The building is for sale. I sang in the choir here, two masses most Sundays. I talked to the nuns about joining the convent and when my father fund out he whisked us out of Escanaba to nearby Danforth to get me away from that Parrish with these words: “No daughter of mine is going to make a decision like that at age 11.”
When we returned to Escanaba, we lived in this duplex which also had a front porch shared by both parties. Mrs. Niderost, our landlady lived in the right half. This house had a full basement. Here I got my first kiss at age 13 from a boy named Bob Morin. (I still attended St. Patricks Church, but the subject of a novitiate never came up again.) This house is only half a block from Lake Michigan and a neighbor facing the water would let us swim off his dock and taught me to water ski.
On my one and only date, we went to a Sunday matinée at this now closed theater in town. .
After the “show”, no one said movie, we went to Saykillys Sweet Shop for a tin roof sundae. My visit to Sakilly’s saddened me. The counter was removed three years ago. The booths you can barely discern at the left side of the room, long gone. The juke box, gone, but the only constant in life is change, so I shouldn’t have been surprised. Sakillys still makes home made candy and a sells gifts, much expanded from those many years ago. I moved to California in 1954, shortly after my first date, and I thought the world would end.
Mrs. Sakilly weighing candy. She is long gone, as is her sister, Angela Kabasic. Angela and Pete owned and ran Kabasics store where we shopped for penny candy and groceries as kids. In those days we had credit at the store. Mom would send us for a pound of sugar or something and we’d say “put it on the bill.” No question. Everyone knew who you were.
The store is much expanded, modernized, and still run by a family member, George Kabasic. It at one time had a counter running the full width of the store. You walked up to the counter and Pete would go get what was on your list one item at a time. Talk about sloooow! It amazes me how they could wrest a living from the place. Kabasic was a butcher and he had good meat and they still have fresh meat in a case at the back of the store which is now twice as long as it once was. Necco wafers, bird bubblers, walnettos, candy cigarettes. dots…a nickel went a long way.
Downtown, the Ludington Hotel was considered the “Ritz”. It had bellmen. They were dressed in red uniforms similar to the little guy who “called for Philip Morris” in the cigarette ads. I remember wishing I could go into the hotel just to see what a hotel was like, it was so beautiful. It is on the State Historical Register, but it has lost its luster. Now, renting apartments and only a few rooms are rented out as a hotel, with a downsized dining room and bar. It was closed so I never did get my peek except through the door and a window.
Another place that fascinated me was Just Ask…
Gust Asp. Gus and I think his wife’s name was Dena, no longer own the business. I knew it was a cigar shop, or men’s shop. I never went inside. This time I did. It is a liquor store, fast food sandwiches, meat, cigs and all sorts of “stuff”. I shopped my babysitting dollars at Kresges and Woolworths. Woolworths had neumatic tubes that took your money to the cash handlers visible upstairs. Then the neumatic tube delivered your receipt and change to the clerk downstairs bagging your purchase. Both stores were gone and the signage covered over. (I made Jim take me back right after the sun set to capture this picture of the sign flashing its dual message.)
We went looking for the schools I attended. Escanaba Jr. High, expanded on the back side was still there. Escanaba High School the one we knew, no longer exists. My sister graduated from it. My Grammar School, likewise, completely gone.
A jut of land on Little Bay de Noc uses a crib light to warn boats and ships away from danger. It took over for the Sand Point Light House in 1939.
The Sand Point Lighthouse has been refurbished and is now a museum with fully furnished living quarters. The most fascinating thing about it is the light keeper, Mr. John Terry, died the day before he was supposed to go to work in 1868. His wife, Mary Terry took over and lit the light until 1886 when she died in a mysterious fire. This complex included the lighthouse, a rescue boathouse on rails that could be pulled to the nearby water for rescue operations; a coast guard memorial, and a wonderfully done museum and archives in a separate building, all for the family price of $5. I got a line on people I knew, (one of the docents was my older sisters age) and a newspaper picture of Pete Dube, an olympic skating trainer. He died in 1963. My dad took us out to Little Bay de Noc to see Pete Dube Skate across the bay and back when he was in his seventies.
We stopped for a beer at the Eagles Club. A brewpub on the street was closed.
There are many historical buildings in this town and the Elks Club is one of them, imprinted on the building, 1925. It has a 6 lane bowling alley upstairs according to some folks at the Eagles Club. (The Elks Club wasn’t open.) We are on picture rationing, so I’ll be doing a part two on Escanaba, tomorrow.