The McGregor Library-A Highland Park Treasure

The McGregor Library as I remember it.  (Postcard provided by Pat Wion Hammond)

The McGregor Library as I remember it. (Postcard provided by Pat Wion Hammond)

Before there were computers, smart phones, video games, I Pads, and DVDs, there were books. Growing up, my mother tried her best to instill a love for reading in her children. Before going to bed, she would often read from a book.  I remember her reading a biography of Albert Schweitzer, the Great Locomotive Chase, and my favorite, a biography of Lord Nelson!

Because of Mom’s love of books, I became very familiar with the McGregor Library at an early age.  As a child, the first thing I noticed was the building itself.  It was the most beautiful building in Highland Park.  There was nothing in Highland Park that compared with the grandeur of the McGregor Library.  Even when the library was closed, the golden doors with the two figures on it were very impressive.

The Outer Doors of the McGregor Library: Photo by Courtesy of Anthony Lockhart

The Outer Doors of the McGregor Library: Photo by Courtesy of Anthony Lockhart

Once we would enter the library, I would be awestruck by the size of the library.  I would look left and see the periodical section and the adult section. Straight ahead was the checkout desk, with shelves of books behind the desk. As we entered the library, Mom would remind me that I was to be very quiet in the library. Mom didn’t have to tell me because the building itself communicated that this is a place of quietness, study and reflection.

The interior of the library (in the 1920's) Source unknown

The interior of the library (in the 1920’s) Source unknown

My section of the library was to the right of the entrance.  Mom would direct me to the bookshelves for children.  I would dig right into the books.  The first books that I would check out of the library were by Dr. Seuss.  I just couldn’t get enough of his strange type of humor and bizarre illustrations.

My favorite part of the visit was to look through the stereoscope that was in the children’s department.  The old black and white photos seen through the stereoscope appeared in 3D.  Not only was the 3D effect exciting, but the old photos gave me a glimpse of life in the past.  I would imagine going back into time and visiting the people and the places in the photos.

A stereoscope (Photo from Wikipedia)

A stereoscope (Photo from Wikipedia)

Also, in the children’s section was the famous doll house.  I didn’t spend a lot of time there, so I have this description by another former Highland Parker. “The doll house was absolutely fabulous! It was just to the right in the lobby as you entered the library. The house was a cut-away so that you could look straight ahead at all the floors. I believe it was a tri-level house (but it may have only been two). All of the rooms were furnished; bedrooms with beds; a living room with a sofa and chairs. The house had all the fixtures including miniature people and pets. The house was inhabited by what appeared to be a nuclear family.” (Pamela Galloway)

As I grew older, I left Dr. Seuss behind and the other children’s books.  As a result, my visits to the McGregor Library became very infrequent.  It shouldn’t have happened, but I became interested in sports and other activities.  Mom must have understood this because our visits to the library had stopped.

In the eighth grade, I became reacquainted with the McGregor Library.  Mrs. Smart, my eighth grade English teacher assigned us a research paper.  She mentioned that we needed eight to ten references.  The subject that I choose was the All-America Football Conference.  This football league competed with the NFL during 1946-1949.  However, I had the problem of where am I going to find these references

football4

In 1969, there was no Google; so I had to become acquainted with the adult area of the McGregor library.  The librarian was kind enough to explain the “Reader’s Guide to Periodical Literature”.  This was a handy book that catalogued all the articles each year that were written on a certain subject.  I would write down the name and date of the magazine that I needed.  The librarian would take the slip. Soon, she would return with a satisfied smile and the desired magazine.  I spent several days studying dusty, old magazines with articles on the All-America Football Conference.  I was quite happy with my time in the library, but Mrs. Smart wasn’t very impressed by evidence of the grade I received.

Readers Guide of Periodical Literature (From the City College of San Francisco)

Readers Guide of Periodical Literature (From the City College of San Francisco)

This would be my last major foray into the McGregor library.  In high school, I would study at the Highland Park High School library or at home.  I also enjoyed looking through the dusty old books in the used book store across from McGregor Library.  Yes, I would drive past the library, but the wonder of Dr. Seuss, the stereoscope and the Readers’ Guide to Periodicals was gone.

Looking back, I realize how fortunate I was to have lived in a community with a library such as the McGregor Library.  It still is my favorite building in Highland Park.  The modern libraries lack the grandeur of the McGregor Library both on the outside and the inside of the building.  Perhaps, one day, people will again frequent this treasure that many Highland Parkers once enjoyed.

P.S. Here is a link of an interview that Al Jazeera did with Danny Glover inside the McGregor Library in 2009.  They give a twenty second view of the inside of the library at 1:20 minute mark of the video. http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/faultlines/2010/06/20106277219669770.html

P.P.S. Please visit my other blog: http://www.markjemilbooth.com.  I write about spiritual topics such as: “When I am Afraid” and God’s Waiting Room”.

Thoughts about My Dad (Arthur T. Booth) 1906-1993

Dad and me

Dad and me

January 5th is a day that I never forget. It is my Dad’s birthday. Twenty years ago, I was leaving with my family to return to Portugal. Dad and Mom were at the door of their house waving goodbye. Little did we know that this would be the last time, we would see Dad.  He would die later that year at eighty-seven years of age.

We don’t choose our Dad, but I am thankful for the Dad that God gave to me, because Dad was a very unique person. His uniqueness was seen in many different ways.  Those who knew my Dad would say something to the effect: “There is only one Art Booth.”

Dad worked two jobs for most of his life and he didn’t really retire until he was eighty-four years old (three years before his death.)  He made sure that we as a family had everything we needed including a mother who could stay at home with the children. Through all those years, I never heard Dad complain about working and taking care of us.

Dad may have been busy with work, but he had time to take me to all of my Highland Park Chargers Little League Football games. He also would take me to Ford Field and hit baseballs to me.  I can never forget the many times we went to see the Detroit Tigers play.  He especially liked to take us to the giveaway days, like Free Bat Day or Free Ball Day.

Dad also was never too busy to make us his “famous” pancakes on Sunday morning. I still  remember the taste of his pancakes with Log Cabin syrup poured over them. Dad also on occasion would make popcorn. He didn’t believe in Jiffy Pop or a popcorn popper.  He made his popcorn in a saucepan. After finishing one batch, he would pour the contents on the kitchen table and we would fill our bowls. This was a real treat.

Dad specialized in doing the little things that made others happy. One year for Christmas, Dad looked all over Detroit for a football game that I wanted. Later in life, when Sharon and I would come to the house, he always made sure there was Dr. Pepper in the fridge for Sharon. Our daughter loved strawberries. Dad made sure that there were fresh strawberries in the fridge. He showed his love with deeds of kindness.

When I was studying in Seminary, Dad went to the trouble of buying me a 1970 Plymouth Fury III.  He drove it all the way down to Chattanooga, TN and then flew back to Detroit.   When the car was totaled (no fault of my own), he once again came down to Chattanooga with another big car. This time it was a baby blue 1972 Chrysler Newport with a white vinyl top. As you can tell, Dad loved big cars.

Our yearly family vacation with Dad was a great adventure. Dad treated our vacations like “The Amazing Race.” Dad would choose a destination and we would drive long distances each day to get to our destination. After seeing what we came to see, Dad would say “It’s time to go.” I think we might have spent two hours at the Grand Canyon. For Dad, it wasn’t the destination, it was the driving to get there. Dad loved to drive. Because of all those trips, Dad gave Wayne (my brother) and me a love for travel to this day.

Dad never was one to talk a lot about himself. He was a man of action who kept moving and kept busy. If he wasn’t busy, he was napping or watching Big Time Wrestling. I did learn a few things about him. He ran track in high school, and he almost made the 1924 Olympic track team.  He managed an A&P for awhile. He also knew and worked for Garwood of the racing boat fame. However, I never really knew my Dad. I should have asked questions about his life, instead of living in my own world. I missed out in learning some important family history as well as the history of the early days of Highland Park.  Dad spent about sixty years in Highland Park (1916?-1977), but I wasn’t interested to hear about this history until recently. Now, it is too late.

Dad never sat me down and had a deep conversation, but I did learn a lot of lessons by watching him. He taught me the importance of never getting into debt, as well as the need to work hard. I also learned generosity towards others.  He also taught me that if something needs to be fixed, duct tape is the answer.

Was my Dad a perfect dad? Of course not, but he loved his family. He provided everything
we needed. He also would go out of his way to meet many of our wants. He also encouraged me to go out and fulfill my goals. The Bible says: “I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.” (Psalm 139:14)  God’s plan for my life was to make Arthur Booth my father. I thank God for the Dad that he gave me. Dad is greatly by all those who knew him.  He was one of kind!

Dad and Mom
Dad and Mom

My Childhood Memories of Our New Year’s Celebration

New Year's Eve-1937 (Before my time)  from the Mail Online (12-30-12)

New Year’s Eve-1937 (Before my time) from the Mail Online (12-30-12)

New Year’s was always a special time for our family.  Our celebration wasn’t a big affair, but it was a special time to be together as a family.  It was also the only time of the year I could stay up past midnight.

Our celebration would begin with food.  We didn’t have any special food, but we had plenty of munchies to eat.  It was also the rare occasion when we could drink pop (soda).  The only other occasion was when we were sick.  Dad believed that Vernors could cure any ailment that came our way.

While munching on the snacks, we would wait for the ball to drop in Times Square.  The only show to watch in our family was Guy Lombardo and His Royal Canadians.  I know that there were other shows, but Dad insisted that it wouldn’t be New Year’s Eve without Guy Lombardo and his special brand of music.

Guy Lombardo (New Year's Eve)

Guy Lombardo (New Year’s Eve)

Soon, Guy Lombardo would take us to Times Square and we would join the crowds via our television set.  I always marveled at the big ball coming down, then we would hear Auld Lang Syne being played.  Finally, the New Year had arrived.   My parents would give us each a kiss and I would be off to bed.  Another year had passed.

New Year’s Day would provide only one “highlight”.  Dad insisted that we watch the Tournament of Roses Parade.  We would all sit in front of our black and white television, and watch the parade with Dad.  Every year, Dad would remind us that each float was covered with fresh flowers.  This fact was impressive, but with our small black and white television it was difficult to watch this parade for what seemed like forever.

1962 Rose Bowl Parade

1962 Rose Bowl Parade

The one exception to the above routine was in 1966 when Michigan State played UCLA in the Rose Bowl.  Instead of watching the game on our black and white television, we went to my Uncle’s house on Winona Avenue, because he had a color television set.  The quality wasn’t great, but it was a unique experience to watch the game in color.

I am thankful for the memories of being with my family during New Year’s Eve and Day.  Dad and Mom made this time of year filled with great memories.

P.S. Please visit my other blog where I write upon spiritual topics: http://www.markjemilbooth.com

Christmas Memories of Growing Up in Highland Park

My brother and I (Christmas-1959?)

My brother and I (Christmas-1959?)

“The helicopter is coming!”  This would be one of the greatest highlights of my young life.  Yes, I had sat on Santa’s lap at Hudson’s and Sears and Roebuck’s, but this would be special.  Santa was arriving at Ford Park in a helicopter.   The helicopter soon landed and there he was!  Santa  climbed out of the helicopter as gracefully as possible for a man of his girth.  He then gave a hearty “Ho Ho” and passed out candy to all of us children.  I couldn’t wait for Christmas to come.

Reflecting back upon my Christmas memories, takes me to a time where life was quite simple for me.  My parents helped make Christmas the special and joyous time of year that it was.  Here are several random memories of my Christmases as a child growing up in Highland Park.

Our Christmas season would begin on Thanksgiving.  Dad would make all of us sit in front of our black and white television and watch the Hudson’s parade through the streets of downtown Detroit.  The floats were a sight to see for a young child as well as the marching bands.  However, one of my greatest memories is Dad’s complaining about Sonny Eliot talking too much during the parade as he did the commentary.  He would also say: “Why do they have so many commercials? They are wrecking the parade.”  Yet, every year, he would have us in front of the television for more of Sonny Eliot’s jokes and more commercials.

The other highlight of the parade was Santa Claus coming at the end of the parade.  As a child, I thought he was the real thing.  He sure looked the part.  To this day, I never have seen a better Santa than the one that would stand in front of Hudson’s and receive the keys of Detroit from the mayor.

The "real" Santa Claus-Photo by permission from: www.retrokimmer.com

The “real” Santa Claus-Photo by permission from: http://www.retrokimmer.com

The next step of the Booth Christmas was to check out the Christmas lights in downtown Detroit as well as a brightly lit neighborhood somewhere off of West Outer Drive.  The lights in Downtown Detroit gave me great joy as I would say: “Look at those lights!”  There was nothing like the lights in Downtown Detroit during the Christmas season.

Hudson’s Christmas lights-1960: With permission from: www.retrokimmer.com

I also enjoyed the lights on Woodward Avenue in Highland Park.  Early in my childhood, the lights would be surrounded by real evergreen and wrapped around the light poles.  The real evergreen around each light pole made Woodward look classy during that time of year.  I never did like the artificial lights that the city eventually used on each pole.  I am sure it was cheaper, but it also looked cheaper.

After the parades and lights, the next step in the Booth Christmas was the Christmas tree.  I have shared this adventure in my previous post, but looking back I appreciate all that my parents did to make our Christmas tree a sight to behold, at least from the perspective of a young child.

During our preparations for Christmas, Mom loved to decorate the house with all sorts of Christmas decorations.  She always loved to make the house as joyful as possible during this special time of year.  She would also lay out several Christmas books.  My favorite was “The Night Before Christmas”.  I would love for Mom to read it to me. It made my anticipation for Santa’s coming even greater.

Christmas Eve created a great amount of excitement in our home.  The lights on the tree were lit.  The cookies and milk were placed by the tree for Santa Claus.  Once, when I was a bit older (maybe six years old), I asked my parents, “How can Santa Claus come into our house?  We don’t have a chimney.”  Dad had the perfect solution.  He told me: “We will leave the front door unlocked for him.”  At the time, it made perfect sense to me.

Before going to bed, the last thing I remember doing was turning on the television and checking out Santa’s present location.  At that time, a local commentator would come on throughout the evening giving us the location of Santa and his sleigh via “radar”.   Dad and Mom would then say: “He is getting closer, you need to get to bed.”  I didn’t argue.  Six o’ clock in the morning couldn’t come soon enough.

Christmas Day began early for us.  Looking back, I realize that it was because of me everybody would wake up at 6: 00 A.M.. We would head downstairs to check out what Santa Claus had brought.  Every year, Santa would bring exactly what I had placed on my list.  I always was excited about the toys and games that I received from Santa.  However, the one gift from my parents was always the same, clothes.  This didn’t bring me much excitement.

My parents went out of their way to make my Christmas a special time of year.  They sacrificed a lot to keep the wonder of Christmas for us.  I never thought about thanking them for everything they did.  As I reflect back upon my early years, Christmas revealed how self-centered I was.  Christmas seemed to be all about me and what I wanted for Christmas.

It wasn’t until later did I really understand the true meaning of Christmas.  I remember songs like “Hark, the Herald” and “Joy to the World”.  I knew that there was a baby born in a manger named Jesus, but I didn’t know Him.  I didn’t know that He (God in the flesh) came to earth to die for my sins.  When I was nineteen years old, I finally received the greatest gift.  The gift of eternal life from Jesus Christ, my Lord.

There are many other memories of my childhood Christmases, such as the Ford Rotunda, and Hudson’s 12th floor, but I will save those for a later post.

P.S.  Please check out my other blog in which I write upon spiritual topics.  Here is a link to my Christmas post called: “The Wonder of the Babe in the Manger” Here is the link: http://markjemilbooth.com/2012/12/20/the-wonder-of-the-babe-in-the-manger/

P.P.S.  Here is a link for more photos of the old Hudson’s store: http://www.retrokimmer.com/2010/12/j-l-hudsons-12th-floor-christmas-in.html

The Great Christmas Tree Hunt

My brother and I enjoying the tree.  (1961?)

My brother and I enjoying the tree. (1961?)

November 15th is the beginning of hunting season here in Michigan. For many a young person, it is a thrill to go with their father (or mother) as they hunt for deer. Growing up in Highland Park, I never went on a big hunt for a deer. However, once a year Dad would take me on a great hunting expedition. We didn’t hunt for deer, but for that elusive Christmas tree that was cheap, fresh and good-looking.

Our Christmas tree hunt began a couple of weeks before Christmas. We would get in the car and begin the hunt. We would go from place to place in order find our prize tree. The perfect Christmas tree was usually a Douglas Fir. It also couldn’t be tall, but it could be a bit fat. Dad would check every tree from head to toe to make sure it would fulfill his specifications. Dad would then barter with the salesman. Once he had his price, he triumphantly would place the tree in the trunk of the car. Dad always believed in big cars with big trunks; so transporting the tree was no problem.

After buying the tree, the fun had just begun. I don’t know if there was such a thing as a tree stand in the fifties or sixties, but nobody told Dad about buying one. Our tree stand was a fairly large pan with a cement cinder block in the center of it. Dad would cut the bottom of the tree to try to fit it into a hole in the cinder block. With great time and effort, he would eventually coerce the tree into the block. Success was in his grasp, but the tree was not yet stable. Then Dad’s scientific mind would go to work. He would use wire and nails in strategic places in the wall to make the tree straight.

The tree was now up, but there was yet the “fun” of decorating the tree. The lights were always stored wrapped around wrapped up newspapers. In theory, this would keep the lights from tangling up. However, every year the lights would somehow become tangled  while being stored. The lights were also a special challenge because if one light was out, the whole string of lights would be out. Then, we would have to find by trial and error the one light that didn’t work!  Eventually, the lights would go up. The bulbs would go on next. These would have to be put on carefully because many of our bulbs were easily broken if one of them would fall to the ground.

My favorite part of decorating was putting the tinsel on the tree. I would put the tinsel on in bunches. I always thought the more tinsel on the tree, the better. However, looking back, I could see that my parents were quite patient with my sense of beauty.  When I was away,  Mom would repair my messy job with the tinsel.

Finally, the grand finale was putting the angel on top of the tree. This angel was the highlight of the tree. To me, the angel was beautiful, and It looked great sitting on top of the tree. I have never found this angel again after all these years.

With the completion of the Christmas tree, I was now ready for Christmas, Santa Claus and the gifts. Looking back, I never really appreciated all that my Dad and Mom did to make Christmas a joyous occasion for the whole family. They not only sacrificed with all their work on the tree, but in many other ways.  I wish I could call them and thank them for all that they did, but that will not be possible.

The Alley: My Favorite Playground

The alley between Candler and Ferris (West of Oakland Ave.)

The alley between Candler and Ferris (West of Oakland Ave.)

When I would visit relatives in the suburbs of Detroit, I couldn’t figure out why they didn’t have an alley behind their homes.  “Where do they play?” I would ask myself.  When I was a child, the alley behind our house on Candler Avenue was my favorite place to play.

The alleys in Highland Park were used by the residents to park their cars in their garages or in a lot behind their house.  The alley was also used by the sanitation workers to pick up the garbage.  Early in my life, Dad would put the garbage in a large oil drum that most people used for their garbage.  I always had sympathy for the sanitation workers who had to lift those heavy drums and empty its contents into the truck. Later, the city passed a law against using those large oil drums.  I am sure this was a relief to the sanitation workers in Highland Park, but my Dad wasn’t happy because he would complain about the smaller trash cans getting damaged.

A sample of the large oil drums that we used for garbage.

A sample of the large oil drums that we used for garbage.

For me, however, the alley was my playground while I grew up.  It was a handy meeting place for all the children to meet, but more importantly it was a great place to play until the lights in the alley would come on at night and we would all have to go home.

We would play a variety of games in the alley.  We would play softball in spite of the fact that a couple of garage windows fell victim to an errant softball.   Of course, hitting the ball in a backyard was an automatic out.  We discovered that kickball would be a safer choice.

Some other games that we played was touch football.  I don’t know how we were able to play this in our narrow alley, but we did.  In the winter, we also would play hockey on the iced over alley.  We would use tennis shoes, but we felt like we were Gordie Howe with a hockey stick.

One of the most problematic games in the alley was basketball.  One of the kids in the neighborhood had a backboard connected to their garage.  This was great except the lady behind this house worked on the night shift.  She would always complain about the noise though we were playing during the day.  If we continued to play after her complaint, she would call the police.  We didn’t scatter when the police would come down the alley.  They understood our predicament; however we would be back playing basketball a few days later.

There were other games that we would play including hide n seek.  This would be played in the alley as well as several yards where the owners surprisingly didn’t mind having a bunch of children running through their yards, as well as hiding in them.  I wonder if this behavior would be acceptable today.

Another game that we would play in the alley was strikeout.  This game was played by making strike zone on the garage across from my house.  We had didn’t have a garage, so  our parking lot would be the pitcher’s mound.  This game would work out well until the owner of the garage would check out the damage on his garage from the rubber baseball constantly hitting his garage.  The amazing thing is that he never really kept us from using his garage as a strike zone.  If the batter hit the ball in my backyard, it would be a double.  If he hit the house, it would be a triple.  Over the house would be a home run.  There were a few broken windows, but we still enjoyed playing like the Detroit Tigers.

One of the most terrifying times in my life came when I was about seven years old.  I was at a friend’s house.  A storm was coming so I started to go home through the alley on my little sixteen inch bicycle.  The thunder, lightning and rain surrounded me.  The alley had never seemed so dark to me as I sped home. I cried all the way.  I still remember my Mom trying to stop all of my tears because I was much afraid.

As time went by, the alley would become silent.  Many of my friends would move away.  Those of us who were left would go in different directions.  I soon found myself spending less and less time in my favorite playground. I had found other interests including playing tennis at Ford Park.

After all of these years,  I still haven’t forgotten all the great times and all the friendships that I made in that little stretch of concrete that we called our alley.

P.S. Please visit my other blog: http://www.markjemilbooth.com.  I have articles such as “God’s Waiting Room” and “Moving Beyond Fear to Courage”.

Thanksgiving: Memories of being Raised in Highland Park, MI

Candler Ave. Between Brush and Oakland

The Bible says “In everything give thanks”. As I reflect upon growing up in Highland Park, almost all of my memories were positive memories.  Yes, there were the couple of times, I was attacked at school and once in walking home from HPHS.  Yes, there were some parental disagreements that I didn’t enjoy hearing.  Yes, there was the death of my grandma.  However, when I look at the whole picture, I thank God that He gave me the family that He did as well as giving me the opportunity of growing up in Highland Park.  Since reconnecting with several Highland Parkers via Facebook, I have thought more of my past. This has helped me to see the sovereign hand of God in my life even when I didn’t know Him as I was growing up.  Here is a list of things for which I am thankful concerning my life growing up in Highland Park.  I am thankful for:

1. A loving family who always provided for my needs.

2. The many friends that I had growing up

3. The schools that I attended and the teachers that taught me

4. The opportunity to attend Highland Park Community College while in high school so that I could finish college early.

5. The alley beyond my house where I spent untold hours playing with my friends.

6. Ford Park where I would spend hours each day during the summer.

7. The tennis courts at Ford Park where I learned to play tennis

8. The bike rides I could take around the Detroit area because HP was centrally located.

9. The opportunity to go to all the stores on Woodward Avenue

10. Little League football (I enjoyed the four years that I participated)

11. The Highland Park Recreation Department fast pitch baseball leagues for young people.

12. My first experience with fast food at the Red Barn.

13. The opportunity to interact with people who were from different backgrounds.

14. The many field trips that we took while at school.

15. The lessons that I learned about myself

16. The desire that God put in me to read His Word all the way through (at 16) though I didn’t yet know Him as my Savior.

17. A little church called Coltman Memorial Baptist Church (Located on Hamilton near Puritan in a building which was a funeral home) which I attended after I was saved (19 years old) and where my Mom accepted the Lord and was baptized.

18. The great times I had with my involvement in the National Honor Society at HPHS.

19. The opportunity to play on the tennis team at HPHS.

20. The Victor Bakery and the fresh-baked french bread.

21. Red Hots, which was a great place to eat a Coney.

22. McGregor Library (especially the stereo scopes)

23. The impromptu baseball games we would play under the big tree at Ford Field.

24. The tree-lined streets that were like a tunnel of trees.

25. Eighth Grade camp at Camp Rankin.

26. The friends with whom I have I reconnected on Facebook as well as new friends that I have made from HP via FB.

I could continue to list more.  Yes, I have several regrets from my years in Highland Park.  There are things that I wish I had done, and there are things that I wish that I had never done.  I thank God for His mercy and forgiveness and that my sins have been covered by the blood of Jesus Christ. I thank God that I can be called an Highland Parker and for all of His blessings of my childhood and teen years in Highland Park.