Do you remember: Growing up in Reed City

By Richard Karns

Special to the Herald Review

Let me tell you about some people who influenced me while growing up in Reed City.

Growing up in the 1940s and '50s, Reed City was very different than it is for those growing up here today. I have wonderful memories growing up in our neighborhood.

There was always someone to play with, whether in a large group playing tin can alley, capture the flag, hide and seek or just a few going swimming. My childhood friends were Jim Carlson, Karl Jonsson and Phil Peffer.

We had such imaginations. The neighborhood kids would play at the “rock” (several cement slabs) or at the old mill and pretend it was some castle, pirate ship or anything else we could think of. I remember one year when Karl’s folks built their new house. The big pile of dirt that was left over from digging the basement was a great place to play cars. We would ride our bikes and were with each other all the time when we were pre-teens. As time went on we each found new things to occupy us. Change and time doesn’t stand still for anyone, and it didn’t for us either. I still like to remember those times.

I remember those neighbors that were my parent’s age, and some older. I grew up visiting them, too. It was interesting to hear what their lives were like growing up and listening to their stories. Mr. and Mrs. Alfred Knapp and Mrs. Hesselsweet lived across the road from us, and it wasn’t uncommon at all for me to go visit them. They never seemed to mind and paid attention to me. I remember Mrs. Knapp always had cookies on hand. Mrs. Hesselsweet would tell me stories from the books she had on her shelves. She was wonderful and full of all kinds of knowledge. I remember sometimes coming home from school, and would see Mrs. McInnis, Mrs. Wing, and sometimes my cousin Louisa Carlson sitting on Mrs. McInnis’s side yard and I would stop and talk to them. I don’t remember what we talked about, but enjoyed being with them. I think they enjoyed me too. Growing up the youngest of 12, I didn’t do any thing new, it had already been done by my siblings, so at times it wasn’t easy fitting in. Being part of these people’s lives was significant to me, because it helped me fit in with those around me.

Looking back, maybe they needed me as much as I needed them.

Mom and dad would not let us go down town unless we had a reason for going. We couldn’t go just to look around. When I was old enough to go by myself, I would ask mom if I could have a penny to buy a two-for-a-penny candies. Going to Star’s or Ben Franklin’s was always the destination.

Ida Sharlow, Midge Puff and Eva Kienitz were like an extension of my parents, making sure we didn’t get into trouble, and if we didn’t act like we were suppose to, our parents knew it before we got home. Was this meddling? My parents never thought so, and really, we knew what was expected of us. They were there as a reminder.

My sister Arlene worked at the Red and White Grocery Store on the corner going north on Higbee and Upton. One of her co-workers was Vera Morlock. I would go there with mother, and Vera would smile and say to me that she knew what I was there for. Arlene would buy me two hot dogs and I would eat them on the way home. To this day a hot dog cold out of the package is still one of my favorite treats.

I remember Alberta Norman. Of all the teachers that ever took an interest in me, she had the biggest impact growing up and to this day. She was the music teacher for the Reed City Public School and directed the choir of the Methodist church my family attended. The lessons she taught me: your voice is like any other instrument, you need to take care of it and exercise it. She told me annunciation was just as important as hitting the notes, and that all the words of the song were important. Those listening should hear them all clearly.

Ronald Telviti was the band director and glee club director. He gave me some singing lessons that helped build up my voice and vibrato. He had me sing "Oh Danny Boy," and "Moon River" with the high school band during two concerts.

Nine of my older siblings were born in Irish Town, and is where my mother’s mother and six of her siblings lived. When we would go there to visit, we were able to go to Houseman’s store, which was just across the street. My Uncle Erv Dolley was the janitor and bus driver at the school. I remember in one of the early grades I called him Uncle Erv, and was told to call him Mr. Dolley by my teacher, and I said to her that he really was my uncle.

Life was simpler then. There seemed to be more rules and the whistles were apart of them. There was the 8 a.m., 12 noon, the 5 p.m. and the 9 p.m. curfew. We always needed to be home, or on our way by the 9 p.m. curfew. Do you remember when the stores stayed open until 9 p.m. on Fridays? This wasn’t only for shopping, but socialization as well. I remember that on some Fridays, both sides of downtown Upton Avenue were full of cars.

Although times have changed and many of the people I have mentioned in this article have left this world, I think it is good for the soul to remember those who have influenced your life and helped you become who you are today.