Continuing my personal saga through the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, Bernice, Marie and I set out for Hardwood, where my father, myself and a brother were born. When I saw the Downtown Hardwood sign on the only store in this very small town, I chuckled a bit. This is it. Not even the original Robinette’s Store exists which was the unofficial “center” of town where everyone met, and exchanged a bit of gossip. “Don’t telephone, tell a Robinette,” was a tongue in cheek refrain.
Even the post office is closed. In fact, the whole Main St. (Hwy M69) has been rerouted and changed since I lived here, not surprising since we are going back over 60 years ago. The warm-hearted people we knew and cared about, finding even distant old friends, seeing my generation now the elder citizens of the community, still makes a home place precious and significant. With Bernice and Marie’s help, I was lucky enough to find some of them. Thomas Wolf said “You Can Never Go Home Again.” He was wrong.
Shirley Robinette Johnson was surprised that I remembered her Dad, Joe. I left Hardwood as an eight year old and walked into his store in 1974, a married woman with four children and said, “Hi Joe! Do you know who I am?” He said, “Yes, your are Billy Moore’s kid.” Just like that. Shirley confirmed her dad had a great memory for people and names. Joe and my dad grew up together, hunted together and were great friends.
Joe died in 1975. His son Marshall ran the store which burned down many years later. Shirley’s grand-daughter drew a picture of the store and the Robinette house right next to it.
The house is still there.
Our next stop, Betty Robinette Kerry gave us a warm welcome. Marie said, “The minute we left Shirley’s she must have called her sister.” She did. Now it is the Hardwood Hotline, instead of telerobinette. Betty is so lively and energetic and fun to talk too.
She has a good picture of her parents, Joe and Lou, that I tried to shoot through the glass with okay luck.
Next, we visited my old home site where we burned out. I stood on the plot of our neighbors, Patsy Robinson’s house looking down the road. The left turn went to Bernice and Marie Cousineau’s family farm. We lived straight ahead at the end of the road. The school bus dropped us at Cousineau’s road.
Some one bought our place and built a little camp on it. The fire scar is all grown over.
Appropriately enough, someone cut a load of cedar post and stacked it across from where we lived. Appropriate because my dad cut, peeled, and sold pulp for the paper mills and there was always huge stacks of wood in various stages on our property. Between that income and our garden and hunting, we lived off the land. It was where my dad was happiest. My dad bought the “old Peronto” place of nine forties which is the common denominator around here. That is how Bernice and Marie speak of their land. Bernice has 9 forties. Marie is down to two forties. Everything measured by forties.
We followed Massie Road to Warmuth’s place. The tar paper has been covered over with siding and a new expanded front attached and a new foundation.
This is it what it looked like when we lived there after the fire. We spent the summer there with my Uncle Marvin helping out while my dad looked for work in Iron Mountain and Escanaba. The Bishop didn’t get to rural areas like Hardwood every year. Every couple years, all the kids who missed, took First Communion together.
The railroad followed M69. Rails and cross ties are gone. My dad would deliver his wood here on the highway where it was picked up by rail and delivered to the mills. The Mill would send a check. On occasion, my dad would take us for a wild ride in his Model T on the tracks. The tires would line up perfectly with the rails and off we’d go, sailing, way too fast, as far as Foster City. “Don’t tell your mother,” he’d say. She thought it was dangerous and it probably was.
That Hardwood Downtown store is owned by Maureen (Kerry) and Bob Meghinny. My brother had a mad crush on her when they attended school. “And, I with him,” she told me. She is a real beauty all these years later, but somehow, didn’t smile for this picture. I told her my brother named his first child, Maureen. We call her Reena.
I went to school at Longfellow School in Foster City. And, my two best friends, Karen Halderson and Judy Gedvick lived there. We stopped at Gedvicks and met Anita Gedvick Mattson who lived next door to Halderson’s former house. She bought it and turned it into a Bed and Breakfast.
Anita decorated the place with old pictures of the Morgan Mill that gave birth to Hardwood, a company town, where everyone worked, including my Grandfather. Anita has pictures of Long Fellow School, some class photos, Mill Photos and other historic memorabilia.
One photo has Bernice, (bk row, 3rd from right), Maureen Kerry, (bk row 4th from left), my brother Bill, (2nd row first on right), and others we know.
An incredible wedding picture of Nurse Carlson who was the only medical person in the area at the time. She delivered babies, sewed up huge gashes, gave shots, and if a baby died, it was buried sometimes without a County Record of the birth. She literally held life and death in her capable hands and everybody loved her.
All that remains of our elementary school is this old bus barn and a degraded stone wall. Where our school stood was a gravel pit.
We were just headed out Hungry Hollow to visit Jimmy Cousineau, a cousin of mine by marriage. Bernice’s car was stalling and over-heating and finally boiled over and began steaming. It dumped anti-freeze as we parked and pulled over.
A local woman named Paula, (last name unknown.) Stopped and called Jimmy Cousineau for help. While we waited, she fed us blackberry’s she had picked.
One year she picked 50 gallons of berries. They were delicious and thirst quenching.
My cousin, Jimmy came with a can of water and got us on the road again. He followed us half-way to La Branche to make sure the car was running well. We picked up Marie’s car and continued our trek.
Back at Hardwood, we passed the Kraus farm. All that remains is an old block barn he built. Kraus was married to Lydia Moore, my father’s mother. Ed Kraus, her fourth husband, outlived her.
This community center is where all events take place for Hardwood and Foster City residents. Our school plays were held there. I saw my first movie, Lassie, that was set up by caring parents for we kids. It is now modernized with handicapped accessibility and a valued community asset.
Anita Gedvick told me one of my most cherished, childhood friends had a summer place on the lake near my cousin Jimmy’s place. We had directions and tried to find it. Then, we drove up a driveway where two guys were barbequing and asked if they knew where Karen Halderson Bruckman llived.
“That’s my wife, who are you?” This is Bob Bruckman and his wife, Karen, who were visiting Wayne Nelson. Had we found her house, we would have missed her. I think I was in shock to think I’d finally located Karen. Just to know that she was well, and happy was a long-time dream come true. What serendipity. And yes, you can go home again.