One Man's Opinion: Yearning for simpler times
It starts every winter in northern Michigan. The cold, the overcast gray skies almost every day, the trudging through the snow, the sleet which needs to be scraped off the car’s windshield, the wind off the lake, the shoveling of snow off the sidewalks or snow blowing the driveway. Then somebody always questions as to why we don’t you go south for the winter?
We enjoy Michigan winters. Even with its’ lousy weather. We already bought all the equipment to battle the February elements brought to all of us who live north of West Branch. And you sunshine lovers who vacate their summer homes don’t realize what you are missing — especially if have never ever had to experience the turbulent times of extreme winter in Northern Michigan. So, take it from someone who has spent most every — December thru April — in Northern Michigan. You just must adjust to the joys of winter and ignore all the fun your friends are having in their “points south” hideaways.
As a passing thought, we must realize that many of the downtown summer shops, long ago, were smart enough to figure it out they could have the best of both worlds. The summers in the Petoskey/Harbor/Charlevoix areas and the winters somewhere south. They made the tough decision to move to Florida and/or Arizona in the winter and parts in-between. As many of the locals surmised, they were just following the money. It was a brilliant business move.
Bringing their familiarity of their summer products to customers who fled with them to points south. Some of those Petoskey summer businesses came back north by housing their staffs in rentals in Petoskey. Who doesn’t like northern Michigan in the summer? This was a unique and wise business move. It didn’t hurt either, that the summer shops brought those customers back north with them for the summer season. They built in a client base to live in their summer homes and keep purchasing the familiar goods and services. They all too gave themselves the best of both worlds.
My bride and I do take a winter vacation. It usually is in Hilton Head, S.C.; Gulf Shores, Alabama, and around Sarasota, Florida. Our winter vacations are not more than 10 days to two weeks. We plan it around the weather and usually drive to our destinations. Gives us lots of time to talk. And yes, we do get excited about the sunshine.
Now getting back to the story I wanted to tell. As a kid in Petoskey there was plenty to do during the winter. It may have been below zero many days, but you dressed for it. There was sledding, tobogging, bump jumping, skiing, hockey, speedskating, ice fishing (which I disliked very much). We even waited at the intersections which had stop signs for one of those big DeSotos or those huge Plymouths to stop so we could hold on to their back bumper and take us for a short ride up the hill to the Petoskey winter sports park. Stupid? Yes, but fun. A great time to laugh and take a chance.
The cars during the 1950s had huge metal bumpers and most friends of mine took the challenge. And proud of it. Parents never knew, I think, what their kids were doing on the way to the ice rink. We walked everywhere in those days. We had to make our own fun. I feel grateful for growing up in that era of the early 1950s in Petoskey. Sometimes I wonder if Beaver of “Leave it to Beaver” was written about me. Gee Beave could have been. He is still today a lot like you.
I am not envious for the kids today who have never had the chances I had during the winters of Northern Michigan. All seem to have their own cellphones. They stare into that screen for hours and are connecting with their friends, but also to the world. We had to use our imaginations. And we did.
So, buckle down for the rest of the winter. February is great month to enjoy what the good Lord has given us. I can’t do many (any) of those things I did in the doldrums of February when I was a kid. My memories, though, are clear and emit emotions that I haven’t had since I was just a lad. I look at it as a blessing that when we get 5-8 inches of snow. I get to go to my outside gym and shovel as much as I want. And at my own pace. You can do that when you are retired. As for now, I am enjoying my later years of life writing my memories. Can’t do much else but love my children and their children.
If you happen to live in points North (or anywhere in Michigan), enjoy what you have. We will welcome all of you — even Kendall Stanley. He must get away from the politics of Arizona and regain his sanity back in Northern Michigan (while he still can). As usual, this is just one man’s opinion.
— Jerry Donnelly is a Petoskey native who was an educator downstate. His column, One Man's Opinion, appears monthly. Donnelly can be contacted via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article originally appeared on The Petoskey News-Review: One Man's Opinion: Yearning for simpler times