Friday, September 26, 2014

Road Trip with Grandma: Henry Ford Museum, Canada, Visiting Family

You may have heard this already but in case you haven't, my Grandma and I went for a road trip up to Detroit, Michigan. Grandma was keen on visiting family and I was looking forward to exploring the old places my Dad grew up in. I have been back for a while now but I haven't been able to find the time to write this post. Actually right now I really want to go to bed but I figured I had to get this out. In that light, this post won't be as detailed as I want but here we go.



Grandma and I left Wednesday, September 10 and stopped for the night in Kentucky. At one of the rest stops we saw a horse track with a bunch of people standing around. We didn't see any horses though just people and cameras. We arrived in Michigan the next day and stayed at a nice hotel in Troy, about thirty minutes from Detroit. Dad grew up in Royal Oak, between Troy and Detroit.

Friday we spent our time visiting the old family haunts. We went to Hermann's bakery in downtown Royal oak for breakfast. Grandma used to buy birthday cakes for my Dad and uncle there.

Hermann's Bakery was built in 1902. That's 112 years ago!

After breakfast we visited places around town. We went to the first post office where anyone had ever gone postal, and according to my Dad and Grandma where the term was coined. Dad says he was riding his bike their and was stopped from going in by the police. There was a crowd of people there and crime scene tape was all over the place. We also went to Frentz Hardware store where my uncle used to work. I had to buy a knife there to cut up my lemon I had gotten from Whole Foods earlier that morning. Frentz Hardware is one of the places the infamous Dr. Kavorkian, inventor of a suicide machine, used to shop. We stopped by the Oakfield Cemetery in search of my great grandparents grave. We weren't able to find it, which is disappointing.

We also stopped by the preschool my Dad went to. I looked down in the shady courtyard and watched the children playing, wrapped up in their little jackets, laughing and yelling. I imagined my Dad down there as a little two or three year old and thought of my Grandmother a young mother in her twenties. It was a strange picture that came to my mind but made me smile. We drove by the high school my Dad attended. I saw a group of kids file out onto the green grass and saw the running track. They just shuffled along but in my mind I saw Dad in his terrible short shorts they wore back then, running around the track for the cross country running he took. That made me snort and chuckle.

Another place we visited were the houses my family used to live in.

 This is the house where my grandpa lived. The current owner was home doing yard work and was kind enough to let us in.
Underneath the bathroom sink is a place where Grandpa signed his name in big bold letters, probably all caps, "HOWARD" I didn't see it. Grandma and the lady talked about the house. Grandma told us where things used to be, and she showed us how things are now. My Grandpa used to sleep on the front porch because his parents boarded some ladies in the upstairs rooms. Grandma and Grandpa lived there for when they were first married before they got their own house.

 My Uncle Cal and his brother Robert lived across the street from my Grandpa and they each married one of my Grandpa's sisters. Each couple bought houses on the same street, so there is a cluster of family houses here. 

Just down the road a bit from these houses is the grocery store the family used to shop. We walked over and picked up a few things. Inside was a picture from the 1950's of what the store used to look like. It was interesting to see what my Grandpa used to see in that photo.

Next we headed over to the house my Dad grew up in.

This is where my Dad lived. Grandma says it looks much nicer now than it used to. 
After prowling the neighborhood we went to visit my Aunt Lillian, Grandma's sister. Grandma and Aunt Lillian had moved up to Michigan before Grandma and asked her to come out with her. My Grandma did. She went to nursing school there and that's how she, a poor Alabaman fisherman's daughter, met my Yankee city boy Grandpa. Grandma has interesting stories of growing up. She went to the grocery store by boat, spent nights helping her Dad on the boat, a job she hated, she worked in a potato shack for a while, she scraped barnacles from the sides of the boat, and hauled buckets of water to the house for heating. My Grandpa left home at thirteen and got his first job as a bell hop at a hotel. His mother sent him off with a sack of apples. I wish I could have heard more of his stories.
Anyways, Aunt Lill. We visited in her house, and then when her daughter Kathy, Grandma's niece came we went out for dinner.


This is a nice picture of my Grandma!

Friday we went to the Farmers Market where my dad and uncle used to sell candy for their school. They would stand outside the doors much as the school band members I saw did when I was there. I bought some honey there to go with my lemons from Whole Foods, I used it for my tea along with other home remedies to keep at bay the sore throat and cough I had been battling. Grandma bought some brownies.

I was walking up and didn't get this picture the first time so I asked Grandma to go back over there again.
He's sharpening a knife.
After the market we went to the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village. Here are some pictures. I won't tell you all the history about it, because I am trying to keep this quick. If you really want to know you can look it up, or even visit it someday. It was really an amazing place! But, I can't resist.... did you know this museum covers twelve acres of land?! The ceilings are forty feet high, heaters are built into the support columns, (you can see in the picture below), and the entire grounds, Greenfield Village included, is somewhere around eighty acres! [update: I think I read that bit about the eighty acres wrong in the book I got from the gift shop. I think it's more than that actually.]

National 3M is the sign painting company that my Grandpa worked for, so its' possible he may have painted this sign. It would have been only the lettering though. I remember once I showed Grandpa my drawings when I was young and told him I wanted to be an artist. He told me to ditch that idea and to paint letters for signs instead. Hahaha. :)
This little chartreuse car was one of my favorite pieces in the museum.

Grandma was interested in the plane exhibit. 
I must say though, my favorite thing there was the Cornerstone of the Henry Ford Museum. Thomas Edison sunk Luther Burbank's, the famous botanist, shovel into the concrete, and if I remember right, he signed his name as well. I watched a short video clip of the event. It was incredible to watch the man walk across the wet concrete, and then to see his footprints right in front of me. History froze here. Originally the museum was called the Edison Institute. Here is some footage I found on YouTube. It's not the same I saw and doesn't have as good as an angle. Skip to around 1:50 to see the part I watched at the museum.

Across the courtyard from the Museum is Greenfield Village. That was a neat place too.

Behind us you can see a bit o the museum.

We saw the Wright brothers childhood home and their bicycle shop...

The house where the Heinz company got started...

A jewelry shop with an exquisite clock... (That's why Ford bought it in the first place)


The reconstructions of the "Wizard of Menlo Park"'s (Thomas Edison) laboratory and workshop and other buildings....


An English country cottage that was just adorable...
Grandma tells me that the owners wouldn't sell this so Ford stole in by night, dissembled the structure, numbered all the pieces, brought it back to Greenfield and had it reassembled. Not sure if that's true or not, but its a fun story.
Luther Burbank's garden office...

There was so much more we saw and did at the museum and Greenfield I can't possibly tell everything. We did ride on a carousel though!

Sunday we attended Mariner's church, the one the family used to attend. Dad and my uncle used to be acolytes (alter boys) there. I enjoy hearing Dad's stories of church there, especially of the massive organ. He told us stories about a lady, Sophia Ellis, and I got to meet her! She is one of the amiable persons I ever met. Here is what the church looks like. I didn't get a picture of the organ unfortunately. 

Mariner's is right next to what used to be the Renaissance Centre. (Or is that center? I mix up olde tyme spellings and English spellings. Is it grey or gray?) It's the GM headquarters now Dad tells me.
This picture does not do the beauty of this place justice.
This one is in the back of the sanctuary behind the organ where nobody can see it anyway. And they still made it beautiful! The boat in the middle is part of the church's history.
Behind the church is the tunnel to Canada...

Which is where Grandma and I went next!


I really wish that motorcycle guy wasn't in the picture. This is looking north across the Detroit River at the Renaissance Center.
We ate lunch at a burger joint nearby and on the way back got mixed up on the one way streets. I thought I was smarter than my GPS and was trying to take a short cut....

Monday we left our hotel in Troy and started our drive up to Traverse City to visit my great Aunt Vera and her son Bob. On the way there we stopped in Frakenmuth, a town established by German Lutherans who were fleeing persecution in their country. The ministered and witnessed to the natives there and carved out a living. The town is beautiful!

Sorry this picture is so crooked. The man taking the picture for us was kind of clumsy with the camera. I am really glad it has a neck strap.

We also stopped at Hartwick Pines State Park. It used to be a logging camp. Besides trails to hike there was two log cabin museums about the history of the land and about the logging industry in Michigan. I have not had the opportunity to learn much about logging so I was excited to stop here. I was most interested in learning about how they made their roads in the winter. They used a huge roller pulled by oxen that packed the snow down, then the had a machine that sprinkled water over it so that it would freeze and make a slick icy surface and there was also a sled with runners that they used to make ruts. I don't know if they put the water on first or made the ruts. 

The roller
The sprinkler
The trees! Don't worry this is just the road, the trails were actually in the forest. It felt so good to be back under the trees! I've always felt so much peace when I am in the woods. I love being surrounded by all the trees. Where I live now we only have two trees.

Once we got to Traverse City we had supper with my aunt. I was so glad to meet her. We stayed with her two days. I enjoyed visiting with her. We played scrabble and I played piano for her. Bob took us to Olive Garden for lunch on Tuesday and then we went to his house and had some apple pie and mint ice cream. Aunt Vera showed us all of Bob's projects. He's a good carpenter, does stained glass and is a talented painter. Here is the only picture I got while we were there. 

Grandma tells me it's lady like to hold my hands like that. I think it looks kind of funny.

Oh wait, here's one more. I took this with my phone as we were driving down the road.
It's Lake Michigan. It was so gorgeous that day. It's a shame I couldn't capture it in a photo.
Wednesday we left for home again. My favorite part of the trip was visiting Aunt Vera and going to the Henry Ford Museum. 

Wednesday night we spent the night with my Aunt Rita. She and her son Jerry cooked us up a delicious chili for supper. Grandma and I went for a walk in the park behind her house while they were making it. I told Grandma my stories of coming here to her new house and to her old farmhouse when I was younger. I forgot to get a picture until later so its just me and Aunt Rita here.

Aunt Rita said she was embarrassed to have me post this picture but I told her that a smile makes everyone pretty. 
And that was our trip! I hope yall found this interesting. I tried to curb my ramblings this time but I am not sure I succeeded. Grandma and I had a wonderful trip. We are good traveling companions; the driving was not too monotonous. I am thankful that I got to spend so much time with my Grandma. She really is a gem among women.

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