August 8, 1969: Ithaca, MI 48847

Got new glasses for Tim and new shoes for Mike and me. Dried out the tent and sleeping bags.

Tim’s been effectively blind since his glasses flew into a campfire back on July 22 in Oregon. Now that we’re staying put in Ithaca, Mom can take care of some other business as well.

“My” Ithaca

I’m going to continue my romanticization of this idyllic little town in the middle of Michigan. In previous posts I covered the circumstances for Gran settling down here with Mom and Uncle Harold in the 1940s. The kids went off to college and then stayed within a few hours’ drive of here, while Gran retired into a cottage across the street from the stately county courthouse. Ithaca, you see, is the seat of Gratiot County, something that I was raised to be quite proud of.

We visited Gran every summer after we moved to Virginia. For a few years in the mid-70s I got to spend a couple of weeks here, just me and Gran. I had a bike and free reign to pedal about wherever the day might take me. Gran’s Ithaca was a kid’s paradise, at least through my eyes.

Gran’s Place on Newark Street

This is Gran’s home, current day. Looks like it’s been barely maintained for the last few decades. Back in the day, I can assure you, it was a magical little place full of warmth, love and ice cream. There was nary a weed in the entire yard — Gran paid a dime for pulling a full weed, a nickel for just the above-ground part. That made for me having some serious walking-around change to blow downtown.

Gratiot County Courthouse

The courthouse was across the street from Gran’s place. This photo is not taken from that POV — that view is now impeded by unsightly county offices (and the jail). As I write this, I realize that I never once stepped foot into this building, but I sure did revere it.

The stoplight in this Google-grab, I think, is new — at least, since 1980. There was one at the intersection a block behind the camera. One is enough for Ithaca, if you ask me.

Downtown Ithaca

Ithaca’s main drag was two blocks from Gran’s place. As I recall, it had a couple of grocery stores, a movie theater, a few small restaurants, and various other businesses that a kid had no use for.

The Downtown Dime, on the left side of this photo, occupies the same space as the 5&10 back in the day. Back then, it had a little soda counter where we got sundaes and milkshakes. Our visit in 1969 might have been the time when, after I had inadvertently ingested a red-hot candy and started screaming my head off, Mike hustled me here for a cherry pop. Epic big brother move!

Center Street had back-out parking, as it does today. Gran piloted a big rolling barge made of solid lead (not really), and she was notorious for leaving impressions on passing cars that failed to yield her backward-moving intentions.

The Funeral Home

Here’s the view from Gran’s place to the Beebe-Dewey funeral home on the corner. I remember a few occasions when, after reading the morning paper, Gran would get dressed up and walk across the way to say goodbye to an old friend. No drama, all very normal, I suppose.

The funeral home was bought by a chain who closed it down a few years back, according the the internet. They built a new place out near the highway where they boast better parking and three chapels, including one designed for big groups. Seems like the death business is recession-proof.

The Church

This is where Mom and Dad got married in 1950. It’s a few blocks from Gran’s house but walkable. I attended services with Gran a few times over the summers I was there. She loved to sing and did so with grand, unbridled, way-off-key enthusiasm. You go, Gran!

In a later post, we’ll visit some of the happening places on the west side of Ithaca, including stops at Aunt Margaret’s house and Hanners.

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