Growing Up Lapeer: Missing Some Favorite Places

If I say “swamp-water,” what comes to your mind? Green algae with unseen beasts waiting just below the surface to bite off a toe if you dare step in? Lilly pads? Frogs? Snakes? Large-mouth bass?

Swamp-water is none of those things, except, I guess it could be if I were talking about a real swamp. Swamp-water is a mixture of A & W root beer and orange drink. It is delicious! In the old days, a quart of swamp-water came in a cone-shaped container with a round cardboard top on it like the ones on milk bottles. That was way back when there were milk bottles made of real glass with the dairy name embossed on the side of the bottle. They’re still available. In antique stores.

I loved A & W, and swamp-water was my favorite drink. A frosty mug of root beer was also great. I think A & W used to sit where Wendy’s is now, on South Lapeer Road.

When we lived on Farnsworth Road, we used to get three-gallon containers of maple nut ice cream at the red Moore’s Ice Cream barn at the end of Daley Road on M-24. One time we had homemade waffles with huge scoops of maple nut in between. Little did we know someone would make millions of dollars with waffle cones many years later. I think the big red ice cream barn burned down some time after my family left Lapeer.

The A & P grocery store was another great place in town. I think it used to be on Clay Street where all the law offices are now.

Do you remember Yankee’s? In today’s social climate, a name like Yankee’s would probably be frowned upon. Maybe not. Yankee’s was a forerunner to all the big box stores where one can get everything from a gold-plated carton of real eggs to carburetor gaskets to laxatives to fishing poles. Oh, and worms.

Without a doubt, my favorite spot in Lapeer when I was in high school, was Cliff’s Hobby Shop. Cliff’s was owned by John Church, who was kind enough to help me get started in model railroading. The little shop was in the garage at his house on South Saginaw Street. I remember John’s dad, who I assume was Cliff, sitting in a rocking chair near the door. The old gentleman must have been hard of hearing, because if he said something, John answered in a very loud voice.

I traded my first diesel locomotive for a small metal 2-3-0 steam engine at Cliff’s. I once bought a Southern Pacific Cab-Forward Locomotive there for a whopping $25.00. That same engine is now over four hundred dollars at a hobby shop. I bought a Nickel Plate Road 2-8-4 Berkshire steam locomotive for $10.00. Those were the days. The only item I still have from Cliff’s Hobby Shop is a roll of fiber railroad ties in the original Atlas box.

I mentioned Poddy’s Barbershop in a previous post. I noticed a vintage photo at Brian’s Family Restaurant showing the car dealership that became Poddy’s.

I never attended White Junior High, but I had the privilege of substitute teaching there several times in the early 80’s. It’s sad now to see the empty field where White lived. White Junior High will always have a special place in our hearts because of performing there in a musical, alongside the girl who has been my wife since 1973. We will celebrate our fiftieth anniversary in December.

Once when I was on a subbing assignment at White, I snuck into the old theater and went backstage. I looked at all the names painted on the wall and in the silence, I heard sounds of music, laughter, and lines perfectly recited. I stood on the spot in the left wing where I said, “Mary, would you be willing to go on a date with me?”

Herbert Murr was not a place. He was an incredible piano instructor of classical music. I learned great works by Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, and Debussy. I didn’t realize what a treasure Mr. Murr was until long after I stopped taking piano lessons.

We used to love going into H & S Market. It was like walking into history. Creaking wood floors, old shelves, an old building, all contributed to the sense of walking through a looking glass into forgotten years.

The Vesley company manufactured Apache campers at their plant on North Lapeer Road, near the intersection of Daley. I didn’t know anything about them at the time, just that they made campers. It’s sad to see the facility sitting empty now.

Where Coulter Road meets M-24, there was a small general store on the west side of the road. I don’t know who owned it, or when it closed and was ultimately torn down. I just know my mother went there with me so I could buy cigarettes for a biology class experiment.

Why is it that we don’t realize we should be paying closer attention to the places and people around us until after they’re gone?

My parents and I went to the Rolling Hills Restaurant for lunch in the summer of 1968. They had just taken me to the high school office to register for classes before our move to Lapeer from Saginaw. That was the only time I ate at Rolling Hills. The restaurant was eventually lost to a fire.

5 thoughts on “Growing Up Lapeer: Missing Some Favorite Places

  1. Dale, I enjoyed reading all about Lapeer~it’s people, places, memories,…especially the girl! 50 years coming up! Congratulations you two! I loved A & W as a little girl (not to make you two feel old but I was only 3 when you got married~technically I could be a daughter? Sorry!) at the fair each summer we’d get small jugs of root beer to have. And a tiny miniature glass mug I still have! I do think some wait too late to reflect upon the people and places that paved our lives! I hope you are well and safe! Stay blessed!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello, Karla, thank you for your kind comments. Yesterday we celebrated the anniversary of our first date in 1971. Bowling and Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlor. I hope your move went well and you’re settling in at your new home. Hang on to that mini A&W mug. When you’re old like me it will be worth at least $10.00! Best wishes, hope you’re feeling well.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You’re welcome, Dale! What a fun first date celebration you had! I’ll hang on to my little mug. That $10 might buy a bottle of water in 20 years! Lol
        I’m hanging in there, Dale. I could be better, but I’m walking and living in joy, no matter what! Stay blessed and safe! All of you! Oh,…and I love my home now. It feels like home!

        Liked by 1 person

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