I didn’t actually grow up in Lapeer. Saginaw, Michigan was home after our family moved from Detroit in 1960. The neighborhood was brand new. Ours was one of several houses on the block that didn’t even have grass. It was a great place for kids, with lots of streets for bike riding, an elementary school that was a block away, and baseball fields.
In 1968, my dad got a new job which meant our family would move to Lapeer, about sixty miles southeast of Saginaw. When it was almost time for school to start, my parents still hadn’t purchased a house. So, to make it possible for me to start my sophomore year of high school in our new town, arrangements were made for me to stay with a couple who lived in Lapeer.
For a kid who was timid about anything new, going to a different school and living with strangers was high on the list of all time uncomfortable situations. Ed and Marguerite Hanson did everything they could to help me feel like family.
As I understood it, which might be totally wrong, Mr. Hanson owned the Sunoco Oil franchise in Lapeer. My father intended to buy his business and combine it with another oil company in town. For some reason, the merger wasn’t allowed to happen. Such is business, I guess.
Before my family moved, I stayed with the Hansons through the week, then went back to Saginaw with my dad on Friday. He was driving back and forth every day.
I’ll never forget my first day at Lapeer High School. My dad dropped me off in the parking lot, and as I got out of the car, he said, “Just remember, there are lots of kids who feel just like you.” I doubted it.
That was the day I was introduced to the infamous Richard Schadel, loved by many, feared by most. Mr. Schadel was the notorious director of the Lapeer Marching Band. Douglas MacArthur High School in Saginaw, where I attended as a freshman, had a marching band and an orchestra. I played cornet in the orchestra, so marching was a new experience.
Holding my horn to my mouth and actually playing anything that even remotely sounded like a fight song was difficult at first. It was like trying to drink a cup of coffee while doing jumping jacks.
Ed and Marguerite lived on the main highway that runs through Lapeer. They had a beautiful home with a large in-ground swimming pool. My bedroom was the basement. In my bedroom was a pool table that I used every day. After school, I went right downstairs to do homework, I played a game of pool, then went swimming. The pool was amazing, and I felt like I struck it rich.
Meals at Ed and Marguerite Hanson’s house were just like home because Marguerite was a terrific cook. I noticed they drank coffee that wasn’t actually coffee. The Hansons were of the Mormon faith, so, for reasons I didn’t know, instead of real coffee they drank Postum, which actually tasted good.
After dinner that first day, Ed and Marguerite took me to a little ice cream place north of town. The small log cabin is still there after all these years, although it’s no longer an ice cream parlor.
Ed and Marguerite had two daughters. One was married, her husband’s name was Glen. They came over quite often, and Glen beat me at pool every time. He would line up a shot and say, “That ball is gonna jump in there like it had eyes!” It usually did. Glen and I watched the Detroit Tigers win the World Series.
The Hansons had a younger daughter named Helena, and I thought she was beautiful. She owned a navy blue 1966 MG Midget convertible, and she offered to let me take it for a drive. She didn’t know I was only fifteen. Rats.
Living with Ed and Marguerite Hanson quickly felt like home. Ed called me Daniel Boone because I talked about hunting all the time. Unlike the neighborhood where we lived in Saginaw, the Hanson’s home had open fields behind it, perfect for pheasant hunting. I couldn’t wait.
I was a normal goofy kid with no common sense when I lived with my temporary family. I got black shoe polish on the white living room carpet and hid it by pulling the couch forward a little bit. Why was I polishing my shoes in the living room, you ask? That’s a great question.
I was mowing the grass and accidentally ran over what I thought was the neighbor’s bush. I told Marguerite and she said, “That was ours, I’m glad you told me.”
In late October, my parents closed on the purchase of a house with a pole barn, a hay barn, and forty-five acres of farmland. I thought I had died and gone to Heaven. I could take the shotgun and go out the back door to shoot any time I wanted to.
Fifty-four years later, I still live near Lapeer. I often pass by the house, which is now an animal hospital, where Ed and Marguerite Hanson lived. There is never a time I see the house that I don’t think of the lovely couple who welcomed me into their home and treated me like family.
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