A TRIP THROUGH TIME AND SPACE
The former software engineer
Formerly known far and wide as
Norman A. Sandin
If you have read this far (and I assume you have read this far or you
wouldn’t be reading this) (or this) (or even, this) (enough), you may wonder
what the hey is going on. OK, I owe an intro, and here it is (assuming
you’ve read this far).
My father started work for the Michigan State Highway Department soon after I
was born. The job required a fair amount of travel, so Dad built a trailer
to live in while he followed the jobs. Mom and I followed Dad. After
high school and for several years off and on, I worked for the MSHD as well.
The result is a BUNCH of Michigan towns in which I lived, went to school,
worked, or otherwise spent time. Upon retirement at the end of September
of 1998, I determined to revisit all of these towns that should hold memories
for me. I made an Excel file on my ‘puter with every month of my life
represented, and filled in my locations. Then I selected all of the
Michigan locations. Then I chunked the state into logical divisions
(logical to me, that is) and chose a path that touched on every one of the 30 or
40 towns I “know”. For most of these towns, some key events or memories
exist. For others little or nothing exists. For still others (e.g.,
Perry), a wealth of memories exist. As I pursued this quest, old memories
came forward, and new observations occurred. I decided to record a near
“stream of consciousness” as I made the trip. (This is not entirely true,
since you will not find “Boutros Boutros-Ghali”, “Phom may day phuut phasaa
Thai”, “I did it my way”, “He mau pua nani loa kl”,
or “It’s a girl, my Lord, in a flatbed Ford” in the writing, even though all of
them reached my stream of consciousness. Well, maybe you’ll see some
of them.) At any rate, I jotted down notes as they occurred to me.
Please excuse and hopefully, enjoy.
I took the redeye from Maui to San Francisco, arriving just in time to see the
sunrise as we were landing. A brief stop and the traditional flight to
Minneapolis – I don’t know why, but I always fly into MSP to go to Michigan.
Check in at the Holiday Inn Express, freshen up a bit, and off for a traditional
“shop until I drop” at the Mall of America. Now stop asking questions,
this is what I ALWAYS do.
Went to bed early due to a very confused body and woke up early, so I hit the
road. I love the drive across Wisconsin and meant to use all the daylight
I could get. I got to Cumberland around 8 am, stopped and walked the main
street. Cumberland has always fascinated me – the surrounding water, the
neat main street, the Rutabaga Festival – this time I meant to experience it.
Stopped at a real estate office and got a line on a couple of rentals in case I
decide to spend the color season there. Then I skipped out to the golf
course and played 18 holes. It was great, but I still had a ways to go
until my next motel.
Now that the snowdrifts are nearly gone, all the winter road kill has been
exposed. The crows have eaten so much they are barely interested in the
occasional newly killed skunk, cat, or raccoon.
I reached the motel in Hurley about 4:30 in the afternoon and checked in
quickly. I unloaded the car and walked over to Kopps with anticipation.
The dealer there was OUT! I rushed back, got in the car again, and drove
to Ironwood. I know a dealer there named Joe who always has a
supply. I managed to wait until I got back to the motel for my fix.
Later I felt guilty because I knew Hub and I planned to share a fix tomorrow,
but never mind, I’d be ready. I didn’t tell Hub about last night’s fix,
and we shared another one at his house before a long ride with remembrances.
Saturday went by with visits to relatives and I let it go using the “one day at
a time” mantra. Sunday, on the road to my next destination, I found the
Wakefield dealer closed and nearly panicked. Every town I passed through I
searched for signs of a dealer, but didn’t find one until late afternoon.
After waiting nearly two full days, that fix was really sweet. Monday
morning I got one to go from the same dealer and also picked up his web site
address. I’ll never be without again! PASTIES are really
To help the reader relate memories to time, I’ve included information about
periods of residence or association with a town wherever it seemed pertinent.
You will see overlaps and missing periods. For example, I lived in several
different places during the 11-year period during which I pursued college, and
in fact part of that period I was not in Michigan. As you will see, the
order of presentation is roughly chronological. Where I lived in a town
more than once, it will show up only once, roughly the first time I lived there.
N10306 Sunset View St.
I visited Brother-in-law Frank ‘Hub’ Holevac, Cousin Roland ‘Lolly’ Lindberg
(I’ll bet no one calls him that anymore) and wife Carol, and Lil Tillner (wife
of late Cousin Dougal Tillner). Roland had some pictures from his
late parents’ estate that he shared with me and Lil had some from Uncle Carl and
Dougal that she shared. Hub and I took the traditional ride to the Black
River Harbor where I washed my rock in its home waters. I drove around
some also, seeing the site of the Newport Hospital where I was born. The
hospital, of course, was razed long ago, and the site is congested with rubble
so that it can never be used again. Memories of this area would fill a
I passed “Massati’s farm” on US-2 between Wakefield and Lake Gogebic. We
were parked there for part of a summer early in our travels. I put the
name in quotes because I have no reason to believe any significant farming ever
took place there. There is a building on the north side of US-2 and a pond
on the south side. I think it was Grandpa Tillner who called such tiny
ponds “oncadoms” (spelling is phonetic – may be a genuine Swedish word or a
variation). I remember sugar cookies. I think it was Mr. Massati who
made them. Not sure if this is a first or second hand memory. Also
vaguely remember chickens and dogs wandering loose. I think for a while
there were several trailers there and Dad called it Olsenville because several
of the trailers belonged to Olsens.
Permit me an observation. This actually came up in a discussion with
Cousin Roland Lindberg, but I’m sure I’ve put my own spin on it. I
remember the concept of “cottage-on-the-lake” in terms of “different-from-home”.
Home consists of work/school, store nearby, comforts, neighbors nearby, dry
land. COTL consists of play, take-everything-you-need-along, outdoor
plumbing, disconnect from other people, connect with family, and the lake.
Tillner’s cottage on Lake Gogebic was always full of aunts, uncles, cousins,
nieces, nephews, grandparents, parents, siblings, and FUN! Card games,
drinking, joking, swimming, fishing, boating, laughing, telling stories,
remembering, eating, swinging on the porch, picking raspberries, chasing bears,
hiking up to Alligator’s Eye, sleeping all together in cramped quarters, farting
and laughing some more, smelling the coffee beans Grandma put on the wood range
in the morning, and then getting up and doing it all again. People
probably still have fun at cottages, but TV, electricity, plumbing, foul weather
gear, bug spray, fishing and hunting licenses, smaller families, and dispersion
of families has changed things. I miss the wood range, the coffee beans
dancing on it, the two-holer where Lolly and I shared a poop and a rhyme, Aunt
Rubie, Aunt Marge, and Auntie ‘Ola always ready for double solitaire or Old Maid
or whatever our age allowed, swimming in the icy water until our lips turned
blue, picking raspberries until every pail was full and then fooling Grandma
into thinking we only got a few, catching brook trout until we couldn’t carry
any more and then having Grandma cook them for breakfast, hearing the stories of
earlier summers from the adults as I got sleepy in the evenings, feeling the
warmth of the kitchen on a crisp morning. I wish I could bottle these
memories. There must be a market for them. Maybe I could sell them
to folks sitting in their “homes-on-the-lake” pretending they have
STEPHENSON, GLADSTONE, AND WATERSMEET
Stephenson and Gladstone hold no memories at all. Watersmeet has one
memory. It rained one day across the road from our trailer, but the rain
never touched us. Watersmeet feels right though, like the place I lived.
Every village, town, and city in Michigan has a sign announcing its limits.
So it has always been. Now, however, every entity announces its past
prowess in terms of high school achievements, to whit, “Home of the 1983 Class D
Synchronized Swimming Champions”, “Home of the 1998 Runners Up 4-H Sheep
Shearers”, or in terms of some other attribute, “Smallest Town in Michigan”.
Now, I don’t think geopolitical entities should hide their lights under a bushel
basket, as they say, but first one should determine if the light is as least
equivalent to that of a firefly.
I have a couple of memories of Iron River but the visit did almost nothing to
refresh or recall them. I think we had our trailer parked behind a
restaurant. I remember a girl my age who was daughter to the owner.
One day we were both in the restaurant and she yelled, “He’s doing it again.”
The tone of the yell implied trouble, so I ran out to the trailer and hid (as if
it’s possible to hide in a trailer). The girl and her mother followed and
I swear, I have no idea what I did, what agreement Mom made with them, how it
was settled, or what happened afterward, but having written it all down, I am
released, and I will never feel guilty again! (About that, anyway.)
The other thing I “remember” about Iron River is a park or something with a rock
construction (fountain? garden?). The reason I remember this is that
a picture of me in this environment exists. I stopped in downtown Iron
River and asked an old guy about the rock area. He thought he remembered
something like that but before he could dredge it up he had spit tobacco on my
shoes a couple of times, so I thanked him profusely and walked away quickly.
The forests of Michigan are teeming with wildlife. Each night they
congregate and draw lots to see who gets to go out on the roads and play in the
traffic. Of the “winners”, only nine out of ten come home in the mornings.
I’ve seen about one raccoon per mile, one opossum per five miles, and one skunk
per twenty-five miles or so. One pheasant and a few rabbits were seen.
The “locals”, cats and dogs, are more protected, but I’ve seen a lot of them as
road kill, as well. There are also fresh deer – not the frozen and thawed
variety. And today I saw a Canadian goose. There is something for
Michigamme memories are of recovering from my appendectomy and of having a tent
along a white picket fence. The appendectomy story starts in Ironwood or
Bessemer. Mom and Dad and I were visiting Pavlinski, the insurance
salesman we had policies with when I started having severe pains. I have a
vivid picture of rolling around in pain on the floor of their front porch.
The rest is pretty blurred until I was picked up from the Grand View Hospital
after the operation and driven to Michigamme to take up residence. Mom had
a fit because when I got outdoors I walked out on the wall by the front steps –
she was sure I would do more damage. I believe Bud drove Dad’s ‘37
Chevrolet on that trip because Dad was working. It may have been Bud’s
first solo. At Michigamme, I had to go to the doctor many times because my
stitches were having trouble dissolving or coming out, and festered a lot.
Each time the area was cleaned and cauterized. The resultant scar is
atrocious. Once when I was being treated, an emergency came in with blood
all over the place. Mom couldn’t take it and left, but sent Bud in to stay
with me. It took weeks for that scar to seal and heal. The tent was
the product of the little-girl-playmate-in-residence and I. It was just a
blanket attached to the fence, but we put up signs calling it the Deer Tail Inn.
That’s Michigamme. A forest fire closed all roads to Michigamme, so it is
the one and only hometown I missed seeing.
Public Radio! Throughout Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan, the same
thing has happened. When I turn on the radio and seek something to listen
to, I get through the C&W and the R&B and the All News and All Bible and finally
find classics or interesting discussion. Then a few minutes later they
have a station break and – Public Radio! What did we do before?
I lived in Marquette in 1940. I recall that our trailer was behind a house
on a fairly busy street, near a playground, a couple blocks from a small creek.
The street out front was flat and across from us was a good sized building – a
school, business, hospital? That’s about all I remember about the town of
Marquette. I drove around town and two things became clear immediately.
The College dominates and the Lake dominates! My memories don’t include
either one, so I don’t think I have a chance of recovering anything relative to
where we lived. I do have several vivid memories of life in Marquette.
My teacher gave me a jackknife for my 7th birthday. I promptly
cut my left middle finger seriously enough to need attention. Then I
managed to let the car door slam on it for still more damage. A playmate
lived with his father by the creek in a tarpaper-thatched shack and ate mashed
potato sandwiches. That image provoked me to have a fit about Mom dying.
Construction was going on (sewers?) in front of our place, and I went out with
bottles of water and made lots of tips. A bus went by and clipped one of
the sawhorses used to guide traffic. The horse went over and took me with
it, breaking the water bottles. I remember jumping up and counting my tips
– no damage – no loss. We acquired/adopted a cat. I remember Dad
coming home from work and playing with the cat. I don’t remember any
jealousy. I went home after school one day with Geraldine Papineau Olsen.
I didn’t let anyone know and stayed late. Mom and Dad were livid.
Geraldine had a slight lisp and Dad would never let me forget her name – said
with a lisp. (I just looked up Olsen in the phone book and found a FULL
page – out of a total of about 144 pages – and that’s just the one spelling.
There are only 4 Papineaus though, so I’m tempted to call.) With memories
like these, how can there be room for trivialities like a College or a Lake?
I’ve seen trees resplendent in dark red leaves, blossoms of bright yellow,
white, and pink, catalpa trees with their unique upside down candelabra flowers,
tulip trees, white and violet lilacs, forests carpeted with violet, white, and
yellow – and that’s just the natural flora. Around the homes and bordering
the streets are crocuses, violets, pansies, tulips, and all the colors of the
rainbow. Spring in Michigan is an explosion of color.
Seems like I usually hear about major disasters, even though I live on an island
in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. I hear about and even track hurricanes
off Florida. I know about tornadoes that hit Oklahoma and floods along the
Mississippi. Why then didn’t I hear about October 5, 1997? On that
day many square miles of forest in the UP were leveled. I don’t mean
annoyed, I mean leveled. Not only are all trees and bushes down, they are
mashed like they had been in a tornado. A small sign records the facts –
“Damage caused by high winds on October 5, 1997”. Paul and Sandra and
Glenn and Julie say they didn’t hear about it either and they live in Michigan.
Who is this guy driving all over the UP with a silly grin on his face? It
can’t be Norm, the guy with a constant frown and a world-class case of
procrastination. Norm would be sitting at home postponing the dishes,
laundry, trip to the post office, and even postponing making reservations for
golf. And why the grin? I understand it, but can I explain?
It’s things like signs for pasties and boiled dinner, smelt fry on Wednesday and
fish fry on Friday. Things like Indian, French, Scandinavian, and other
European names on towns, rivers, lakes, places, and people. I’m writing
this on Big Bay de Noc. Lake Gogebic, Escanaba, Ishpeming, Manistique, and
Naubinway are all around me. Towno Aapala used to do carpenter work for
Dad, Paavo Nurmi is known and loved by all in the UP, Dregina Elibosich was an
early girl friend of Bud’s, Mutsy Jurokovich and Mario Zadra were neighbors in
Anvil. Andersons, Olsens, and Johnsons are more common than Smiths.
Things like leftover piles of snow, tall, skinny houses, white-haired kids,
crows and robins and seagulls, lakes and ponds and rivers, ancient stout brick
buildings, bluffs and forests and farms, people with the easily recognizable UP
accent, and memories. They all keep me smiling.
I drove around St. Ignace and found a place on the East Side of town that just
FEELS like where we had our trailer. I recall going to school with the
local Indians and after a winter in the wind and sun reflected from the snow,
looking just like them. The Wells family was there also. I saw the
Wells parents once at Mom and Dad’s in Bessemer just before they moved into
Hautamaki’s. Buddy Wells was my age and Wanda was his sister.
I didn’t recognize contemporary photographs. I remember the smell and/or
taste of butterscotch candy related to St. Ignace. I have tried ever after
to recreate that sensory memory, to no avail.
In Mackinaw City I had to do laundry. I started it and found a bench
outside at the intersection of Old US-31 and (supposedly new) M-108. I sat
on it. Nothing happened. I found an interesting rock but it was too
big to carry in my pocket. Nothing continued to happen. I found a
black rock – it was a chip off the bituminous roadway. Twin blonde ladies
about 34-22-36 or a little younger stopped their flatbed Ford and asked me if I
wanted to go to bed with them. I woke up because it had started to rain.
I moved my laundry to the dryer. I sat and watched it. My purple
shirt dominated! I wondered if purple molecules are heavier than other
colors – or just nastier. Two brunette ladies stopped their flatbed Ford
and asked me for directions. I flipped them off and went on sleeping.
Two Ojibwa ladies with coal black hair stopped their flatbed Ford and asked me
if I would like to get my crud out of their dryer. I obliged.
Breathtaking! Ten or fifteen miles of M-119 south from Cross Village is a
drive not to miss. Picture twenty feet of paved road with no shoulder,
trees on both sides leaning toward the center of the road, with white
lilies-of-the-valley carpeting the forest floor. The tree leaves are all
light green miniatures giving what seems like a green glow to the gray light
filtering down. Awesome! (Notice. This drive must be
undertaken on May 7th at 10:30 am with Interlochen Public Radio
playing the classics to make the experience total!)
Wakefield has only one memory. The owner or operator of the service
station we had our trailer parked behind “helped” me build a huge kite out of
newspaper. We flew that thing up as far as we had string for it. The
string broke and we watched the kite come down in the hills about a mile away.
Dad drove me all over that area but we didn’t find the kite or even the string.
OK, there it is, the first quarter of a month in Michigan reliving memories!
I’m not sure if I enjoyed the memories of my LIVING those years or RELIVING
them! I hope you got something from one or the other. I warn you,
three more episodes are coming.
I’m tempted to make massive changes to the text, but I fear it will change the
spirit of “stream of conscious”.