Growing Up Lapeer: Downtown

I remember riding into downtown Lapeer for the first time and noticing the cars were all parked against the sidewalk diagonally. I don’t know why that impressed me. The second thing I noticed was the long lights bending over the street.

We spent a lot of time downtown, as did many other people. The only place I didn’t like going was Poddy’s Barbershop, which sat on the corner of North Saginaw and East Nepessing Streets. I think it used to be a car dealership or a gas station because it had an overhang cars could drive under. At Poddy’s, I was required to get a haircut that left two finger widths between my eyebrows and hair. There would be no Beatles haircuts in our house.

As much as I love trains, it’s a wonder I didn’t spend any time watching them pass the old Michigan Central Depot on East Nepessing Street. One night I was driving home from town and when I reached the train tracks crossing East Nepessing, there was a locomotive sitting next to the store with its lights on. It scared me half to death!

My mom used to shop at Lyon’s and Smith’s all the time. Pendelton’s was another favorite, especially because she bought stuff for me.

Vincent’s Drug Store and Stephen’s & Weston’s were favorites.

I purchased my Lapeer High School class ring at Polk’s Jewelers, just like everyone else. I still have my class ring, by the way. It’s sitting next to my wife, Mary’s, class ring, in a memory box my mother made for me when I was in college. The box also has a watch my grandmother gave me, a New Testament I received in Sunday school when I was five, a lock of Mary’s hair, a picture of Mary and I in our formals we wore on Mackinac Island at the “Night To Remember,” church-hosted event in May, 1971, and other meaningful things.

I remember our first Lapeer Days experience in 1969. The rides were right in the middle of town on Nepessing Street! I couldn’t believe it! I rode the “Parachute” right in front of the Lyric!

There were two Penney’s stores. The Lyric Theater was still a theater. The Pix was showing movies every week. Although, I, as a holy church child, never went to a movie until we saw “Paper Moon,” at the Pines Theater in Houghton Lake on our honeymoon in December, 1973. I know that’s hard to believe, but you’d have to know my ultra-strict, religious, righteous, legalistic, growth-stunting, brow-beating upbringing to understand.

I got my first of many school loans from Lapeer County Bank and Trust.

We shopped for groceries at the A&P Store, and went to Branson’s Ice Cream where the bank parking lot is now.

I will probably get arrested, or investigated by the ATF, or have CIA and FBI black SUVs sitting in front of our house for writing this, but we used to love “bombing town.” What a blast that was! Nepessing Street was bumper to bumper with kids driving cars with the windows down, yelling at each other, honking horns, waving, laughing, seeing who was with who and wondering why, and just loving being kids.

When we came back to Lapeer in 1981, some thoughtless group had put cement islands at the ends of Nepessing so traffic could only go one way. How dumb. We were happy when, some years later, the boundaries were removed.

Lapeer was a great place to live my high school years. I remember Christmas shopping downtown and it was crowded! People bumped into each other just crossing the street at the corners. Ah, memories.

The song was right. “Things will be great when you’re downtown…” (Petula Clark.)

8 thoughts on “Growing Up Lapeer: Downtown

      1. Julie Murch

        I was class of 76. The last full class to graduate from West. And we were still bombing town. Downtown was still vibrant sand the place to be.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. Rick Chisholm

    I was also a railroad fanatic as a kid. We lived on Mason St. until I was six, and early in the morning I could hear the trains on the Flint/ Port Huron run as they pulled into town. I remember the Streamliners before they went out of style and there were still steam engines in use and I could hear the chugging as they pulled through. After we moved out of town I remember riding into town with my grandparents for Saturday morning shopping. Grandpa parked near the courthouse because it was central for Grandmas shopping He and I would sit on one of the benches in front of the courthouse where he would smoke a cigar and get caught up with the latest news from his friends. Occasionally we would wander to Lapeer Hardware to pick up a tool for his carpentry shop.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello, Rick, thank you for your comments. I am so jealous of your having been able to watch the steam locomotives roll through Lapeer. I would love to have been around when they were still going strong. Trains are the best.


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