August 13, 1969. Ithaca, Part 2

Went to Allen’s restaurant for pancakes. After lunch took the little guys to Jean Trask’s to swim. They loved it.

Marge Binder, August 13, 1969

Like most of the restaurants and small businesses Mom cites in her diary, Allen’s appears to have been forgotten like a rogue hashbrown slipping between the griddle and the fryer. But there is hope!

A few days ago we were visited here at the Lake by cousins Pam and Jen Trask, and Joan Zemmin. They had some serious intel on the fate of a very special place…

…The Polka Dot

Originally housed in a pre-fab shell just north of Ithaca proper, I went to the Polka Dot with Mom and Gran a number of times. We’d meet up with a tableful of ladies for a full-on coffee klatch that could drain a few urns and burn a full morning. What I remember most was the hard-earned dime one of them would leave on the table for the excellent service.

Thanks to the cousins’ insight we learned that the Polka Dot is now living its third incarnation, at least, now as an all-day restaurant with full bar going by the name of JJ Rubys. When Mary and I visited Ithaca yesterday (August 12, 2019) for an upcoming blog post, we stopped there for lunch. We were happy to learn that the Pure Michigan niceness is real at JJ Rubys, as is the sodium. Not a bad thing.

Aunt Margaret’s Place

Aunt Margaret made these chocolate cookies with a sweet, sour creamy dollop that were just the bomb.

She was married to Gran’s brother Dale. Uncle Dale passed away when I was very young, and Margaret and Gran remained like sisters forever after, truly. I would ride my bike over to her place on West North street to hang out on her back porch, especially if one of the cousins was passing through.

Among them were members of the Trask tribe I mentioned above. We had a nice reminisce about Aunt Margaret (aka Nonnie) and a few others, like Kim Trask. In Mom’s diary today, she references Kim’s mom, Jean, who did indeed have an awesome. Even in this socially mediated world. I’ve lost connection to Kim.

At the same time, I’ve reconnected with Mark Zemmin, a cousin for life and a best friend for a few days when we were kids tripping about Ithaca. Props to Facebook for that!

West Center Street & Hanners

West of the main drag are the stately Ithaca Fire House and what is now the Gratiot County Historical Society. The latter is housed in a home built in the 1880s. Back in my day, this home featured a little store called Hanners.

I remember a few times my brothers and I walked down to Hanners after dinner for penny candies and soda pop. It was a dark, tiny place — in my mind’s eye there is candlelight, but I doubt that. No question: it smelled like wood and sugar. There was also a rack of magazines, comic books down low, girlie mags up top.

We stopped by this area yesterday, during our visit to Ithaca; I’ll share some video in a later post — don’t wait up though.

Want to learn more about the area (and you should), Visit the Gratiot County Historical Society website. It’s a nice site with lots to dig into.

Ready to call Ithaca home?

Check out this nifty guide to everything you need to know about life in the seat of Gratiot County, Michigan.

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