Almont shines in 'Hidden Gem'
Former resident's memories featured in history magazine
|A young Rick Liblong joins his fellow Almont High School graduates in 1966.|
January 06, 2010ALMONT — Richard (Rick) Liblong has had the proverbial ink of a newspaperman flowing through his veins for as long as he can remember.
As a young teen, Liblong was co-editor of the Eighth Grade Gazette at Almont School. In March of 1962, the hand-written newspaper's banner read, "The Only Paper in the World that Cares About the Eighth Grade of Almont."
Highlights from that edition included a "Lovers Lane" column, which noted that most of its information was gathered while spying on classmates from the back of the school bus; sports results, and notice of an 8th-grade dance, featuring DJ Robert E. Lee.
By the age of 15, Liblong was already learning the ropes of newspapering at the old Almont Times Herald, under the tutelage of Thomas A. and Nola J. Sadler.
After graduating from Almont High School in 1966, he would go on to college and become a communications manager for Dow Chemical Company. Later, Liblong would serve as communications director for a former Michigan Congressman and Senator.
Today, Liblong resides in Virginia. Not surprisingly, he continues to write. Quite frequently, his words reflect his childhood years as a resident of Almont in the 1950s and 60s.
In 2000, he began to write a series of short stories about his life and experiences.
The details from those 40 -some published articles, called "Son of Almont," are Liblong's personal accounts of meetings with former Presidents Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter, U.S. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, former Michigan Gov. John B. Swainson and actor Kevin Costner, among others.
It may, however, be Liblong's sublime recollections of his hometown Almont, that best reveal his literary essence.
In the November-December 2009 edition of 'Michigan History' magazine, Liblong shares yet more memories of his native Almont in an article entitled, "Hidden Gem in the Thumb."
While the article was condensed to just 600 words from its unedited 2,000-word original version, Liblong hopes "Hidden Gem" still captures what it was like to be raised in Michigan's Thumb region.
"I guess Almont isn't particularly unique from other Michigan towns and villages," says Liblong, "but I believe it was a great place to grow up in the calm 1950s and early 60s. It was a safe community and everybody really did know almost everyone else. Many of the kids I started kindergarten with, I graduated with 13 years later."
A history buff by nature, Liblong had written other pieces for Michigan History, including articles about Mackinac Island, the Mackinac Bridge and President Ford's campaign visit to Michigan in 1976.
It wasn't a stretch, then, that he should draft a short story about his childhood home.
"In nearly every issue of the magazine, there are one or two Michigan towns or villages highlighted," Liblong says. "So I thought, 'why not Almont?' It's the town I'm from and it doesn't get much ink. I don't think it's a very big stretch to imagine that Norman Rockwell could have moved his easel here and not missed a brushstroke."
|Rick Liblong and his dad, Nick Liblong, are shown with ‘Billy,’ the family’s notorious pet pheasant.|
In the Michigan History article, Liblong describes growing up on Teeds Street, just west of Van Dyke. The family home was built in 1946 by his dad, Nick A. Liblong, his "Grandpa Nick" and an uncle. It was constructed in about eight weeks without the benefit of plans.
"When they got up to where the windows would be, my mother (Lois) told them where she'd like them located," says Liblong. "There was no basement and it was all on one level with a small bathroom; but there was enough room for my dad, my mother, my sister Sharon and me."
Liblong recalls playing cowboys and Indians, Davy Crockett and putting Topps baseball cards in his bicycle's spokes to replicate "the sound of a motorcycle."
He remembers sitting around the black and white television with family and friends to watch programs like Soupy Sales, Sky King, Howdy Doody, Superman, Roy Rogers, The Lone Ranger and the Mickey Mouse Club.
"Moms loved the new electronic babysitter and bought the products they saw advertised," Liblong writes. "Neighbors often gathered in the evening to enjoy this modern medium together."
For these and other recollections from the life and times of Rick Liblong, pick up a copy of the Nov.-Dec. edition of Michigan History. For a catalog of his other writings, email Liblong at email@example.com.
Tom Wearing started at the Tri-City Times in 1989, covering the Village of Capac as a beat reporter. He later served stints as assistant editor and editor. Today, he covers Imlay City and Almont as a staff writer. He enjoys music and plays drums and sings with various musical groups in the Detroit Metropolitan area.