May 19, 2010
Only 13 weeks until Almont's famous every five year Homecoming! This morning I have been digging through my scrapbooks to relive some of our former celebrations. Marty Heim, former publisher of the Tri-City Times, was born and bred in Almont and he cherished his memories. I love his memory of July 23, 1980.
"Only 30 days until Almont's 1980 Homecoming gets underway, And with Homecoming comes the nostalgia of years gone by, old friends, sweet memories, and beautiful only as Almont can be in the middle of August.
"Gene Lane recently said to me, "You can't look back, you've got to look ahead," and the ageless old pitcher Satchel Paige wrote a book, 'Don't look Over Your Shoulder, They May Be Gaining!' Aw, just a peek, fellows?
"Looking back is really what Homecoming is all about. The 'Good 0l' Days' if you prefer. The theme of this year's Homecoming is just that. . ..a return to the past.
"And this week I'll help refresh those memories. As a youngster growing up in Almont during the 1930s and '40s I enjoy looking back. At my desk at The Times' office I find myself drifting on occasion. Sometimes I have to pinch myself to make sure this is all really happening. And I wouldn't trade a million dollars for the feeling.
"I was roller skating down East Street, in front of Rev. Carl Anderson's parsonage, when the Congregational Church bells started ringing. It almost knocked me to the sidewalk. It had the same effect on my buddies Pat McCormick, Pidge Greenman and Don Oppenheim. We later found out the tolling was for President Roosevelt whom had died that day. Not long after the bells tolled again. It was August 1945 and the Japanese had surrendered. I was at Boy Scout Camp, at Pine Lake with the rest of the Tall Pine Council scouts and Ben D'Arcy, Scoutmaster.
"The streets of Almont were home to a lot of youngsters. Earl Tank kept them in good shape and it saved a lot of knickers and a lot of knees. Sidewalks in those days came to an end someplace. In Almont it was usually a few blocks from the four comers. That's why many of my memories always swirl back to the downtown. My grandparents, Adam and Elizabeth Bischak owned the restaurant in town (now Marias's). My Uncle Bill Armstrong and Aunt Ann, Uncle Adam and Aunt Margaret worked there too. So did Mother when she wasn't curling some lady's hair.
"Lil Hamilton, Diane and Venice Zenero, Marie Yenglin were just a few of the girls waiting tables.
"All of Almont's teachers ate at Bischak's in those days. So did the girls from Hurd Lock." (As did I when working for Leon Bishop in the Bishop Elevator Office).
Marty never lost his hometown feelings for Almont and used to write of it often. One time he was telling of the closing of one of our hometown businesses. It was the Standard Gas Station owned by brothers Clarence and Don Hart. Marty explained that it was not only a place to buy gas but a gathering spot for Almont's male citizenry, most of them being in the teenage category. "If ever Almont had a psychology clinic, management seminar or psychiatrist's couch, it was located in the building on the northeast comer of 102 North Main Street." It is now a bakery.
Marty went on to say, "Many a tall tale was hatched there and many a fair damsel fantasized into a distressful situation. 'Now don't you hang around that gas station!' I can still recall my mother demanding. But hang around we did! And learn and fantasize and tell tales we did."
Almont still misses Marty keeping us on the map. I try, but fall short of Marty.
A couple of weeks ago I mentioned The Maxine Theatre and that I didn't remember it. No wonder. I had not yet been born. Rosie Ruby of the Tri-City-Times called me and then sent an ad from the Imlay City Times of Thursday, Dec. 2, 1915. The Maxine Theatre was in Imlay City and the ad read, "The Maxine Theater changed ownership last Wednesday, being purchased by Louis Hoboth and wife, proprietors of the Olympic Theater. The latter has been closed and the Maxine, rechristened the New Olympic, was opened under new management on Monday evening of this week."
A special being offered that week was "Charlie Chaplin Carnival," 5 reels of side-splitting laughter, 10 and 15 cents.
And so it was . . . several years . . . and, many years ago.
Gertie Brooks is a lifelong Almont area resident. A 'farm girl,' Gertie is the premier historian for the Almont area, and frequently offers her memories and first-hand accounts in her 'Country Cousin' columns.