My Friend, Mike Bartnikowski (Long-time teacher at Ford School)

Aside

My visit with Mike in 2011

Today (February 5th) would have been Mike Bartnikowski’s birthday. Unfortunately, he is no longer with us to celebrate. While I was living in Highland Park, Mike was a great influence in my life during my teenage years.

The first time, I ever saw Mike was while I was a student at Ford Middle School from 1966-69.  Mike was a seventh grade teacher, and I would see him walking down the halls with his class. You couldn’t miss Mike because of his size. Many of his students would affectionately call him “Big Bart”. I never had Mike as a teacher; so I really didn’t know him or even speak to him.

My opportunity to meet Mike was when he started to work at Ford Park in the summers.  I spent a lot of time at Ford Park even as a young teen because there wasn’t much else to do. I would play shuffleboard with the old men, play some table games, and play a lot of tennis. It was during these summers that I developed a friendship with Mike.

Mike treated me as an adult though I was only a young teen. He would listen to what was going on in my life and he would share things that were happening in his life. I remember that he was quite excited when his daughter, Barb, was born. Unfortunately, I didn’t really appreciate Mike’s friendship and kindness until later in my life.

One of the things that Mike greatly enjoyed was playing war games (mostly board games).  Mike and I would spend time each summer playing some of these war games at the park.  Eventually Mike started a war gamers club that met at Hackett Field House every Saturday morning. He loved the competition. One of his most favorite games was Diplomacy. He loved the deceit and backstabbing that was part of the game. Because of Mike’s very competitive nature, Saturday morning was the highlight of the week.

Mike also enjoyed playing practical jokes. One evening at Ford Park, I was playing tennis when I heard this voice over the loudspeaker say: “Mark Booth, your mother is calling you!” Many of those playing were laughing as I ran off the courts to see what was up. Mike then comes up to me laughing because he had pulled off a brilliant prank.

After I graduated from Highland Park High School in 1973, I never did see Mike again until 2011.  Like many people, we were able to get reconnected through Facebook. I enjoyed spending a couple of hours with Mike and his wife, Barb. He talked about Ford School, the teachers in the school, some of his students, and he also wanted to relive his prank that he played upon me forty years before. I am glad that we had that chance to get acquainted again.

During my last visit, Mike was surprised that I was a pastor of a Baptist Church. I shared how God had used him to greatly influence my life. I reminded him how through his advice, I was able to convince my parents to transfer me back to Highland Park High School after a very miserable ninth grade at U of D High School. This decision enabled me to eventually finish college early. If I hadn’t, I would not have met my wife, Sharon. I would not have gone to South Africa and Portugal. My two sons would not be in Portugal now. I could just go on and on.

During my high school years I didn’t know how God was working in my life. I thank God for having an adult friend like Mike with whom I could talk. I am sure Mike didn’t know until my visit two years ago how important his role was in my life. Yes, Mike is missed by many, but I will not forget Him. God is still blessing me by having placed Mike in my life.

P.S. Here is an article about the Wargamers Club that Mike started:

 If you are interested I have another blog in which I write about about spiritual matters such as “God’s Prescription for Pain” and “Verses for the Valley”. Here is the link: http://www.markjemilbooth.com

My First Real Bike

My first real bike!

My first real bike!

I have always had a lifelong passion for riding a bicycle. I enjoy exploring new places and feeling the breeze against my face. While I am on a bike, I find it easy to pray, think and even relax.  Though people in my community may find it strange that a man of my age is always on a bicycle, but I still find the urge to ride a bike to be irresistible . Where did my passion to ride a bike begin?

When I was around five years old, I inherited my brother’s sixteen inch bike. It was a challenge to learn, but my family patiently helped me to learn. I would ride this bike on our front sidewalk or sometimes in the alley. It was a bit rusty and the rubber tires were wearing out, but it was still a bike.

My sister trying to show patience with me as I learn to ride a bike.

My sister trying to show patience with me as I learn to ride a bike.

On my ninth birthday, Dad and Mom thought I was finally big enough to ride a real bike.  The bike they bought me was a real beauty, which was made by Peerless.  It had large twenty-six inch white wall tires, chrome fenders and a very comfortable seat with springs. Dad knowing my love for keeping track of speed and distances also placed a speedometer/odometer on the bicycle. I was finally able to ride in style!

My parents gave me the boundaries in which I could ride the bike. They said that I could go around the block on the sidewalk and I could also ride in the back alley. I wasn’t allowed to cross any streets or ride on any street with it. I would accept these limitations temporarily, but as time went by I would explore other neighboring blocks while staying on the sidewalks. I still had a great respect for cars and what they could do to a child on a bicycle.

My first day, I was so excited about my new bike that I rode it around the block continually.  By the end of the day, I had ridden my bike twenty miles! I had felt a freedom that I never felt walking or even riding my sixteen inch bike. Having this new bike was like I had reached a milestone in growing up.

There was a problem that I soon discovered with my bike. The bike had to be left outside.  We had no garage to store the bike. Dad purchased a tarp to place over the bike which was placed on the side of our back porch. This helped, but my battle with rust seemed like a never-ending battle. Rust would appear on the fenders as well as the rims. I would try to use a cleanser like Ajax to take off the rust. Unfortunately, it seemed to take away the luster of the chrome as well.  This battle with the rust was very wearisome.

Like most children during our era, I also enjoyed placing a baseball card in the spokes, which would make a noise that I could pretend was my engine. I sure hope I never placed a Mickey Mantle card there!

In my preteen years, I never did ride too far from my neighborhood. I would ride around the sidewalks at Ford Park. I would also sneak off and explore the other side of Woodward Avenue, as well as an area of Detroit that was north of McNichols and west of Oakland Avenue. My first real bike would last into my early teen years.

Later in my teen years with a different bike, my urge for exploring would take me throughout the Detroit Metro area, including Windsor, Canada. Yes, in those days, one could ride a bike on the sidewalk of the Ambassador Bridge. Even when I had a driver’s license, this inner urge to ride would take a hold of me and I would ride thirty or forty miles in a day.

My first real bike is now a distant memory, but my love for riding a bike is still with me. I  enjoy exploring new roads, towns and bike trails. Maybe, I do this because it is the one thing I can do as an older adult that I did as a child. Little did my parents know what they did when they bought me my first real bicycle.

Highland Park: City of Trees

As a baby, on Candler Ave.  Notice the trees in the background

As a baby, on Candler Ave. Notice the trees in the background

While growing up, when people entered Highland Park, they would see a sign: “Highland Park: City of Trees”.  Trees lined every residential street of our city. When a person would walk or drive down a street, they would find themselves in the middle of a tunnel of trees.

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Growing up in Highland Park, I always took our tree-lined streets for granted. The elm tree in front of our house was the smallest on our street.  I would look at our skimpy tree and think: “Why do we have the smallest tree on the street?”

The trees in Highland Park not only provided beauty, but they also provided shade from the hot summer sun. Our house never had air-conditioning; so the shade from the trees gave us some welcome relief from the sun.  The trees also played an important part in our games of hide n seek.  We would use the neighbor’s tree as the place where we counted to ten before we would search for our friends. The trees along the street also provided a great place to hide.

Our backyard also had two trees. One tree was a large maple tree.  This tree provided a great amount of shade for us and our neighbors.  The spot under this tree provided a great place to do battle with plastic soldiers.  We also made small roads in the dirt for our small toy cars and trucks.  The one negative of our maple tree was the amount of leaves we would have to rake in the fall.

One day, we had a terrible storm. The thunder and lightning were frightening. As the storm progressed, we heard a loud bang just outside of our house. What had happened? We looked out our back window and we saw that lightning had struck our maple tree. One very large branch had fallen into our backyard.  Thankfully, it didn’t hit our house. This would be the end of our beautiful maple tree. Dad would have the tree taken down. This tree would be greatly missed.

The other tree in our backyard was a cherry tree. I hated this tree. Yes, the tree would have beautiful white blossoms in the spring, but that was its only redeeming value. We never ate the cherries from the tree because Dad never treated it for pests. The cherries would be filled with worms and eventually they would fall on the ground. I hated mowing the grass because I would constantly squash these cherries with my shoes. I always wanted to see this tree die, but it was still there when we left our house in 1976.

Trees also graced the front of Ford Park. This area was a great place to find shade and relax and read a book. I had one favorite tree just outside the entrance gate of the tennis courts.  This tree was quite young and small, but it provided enough shade for me to lie down and look up into the clouds when I took a break from playing tennis.  Under this tree was my daydreaming spot.  I would daydream about my future, about family vacations, about why I was here on the earth, and many other matters.

Another tree that played an important role in my life was the large, lonely tree in the midst of Ford Field. This was a place where we would play our pickup baseball games. It was great to be the batting team, because we would always find shade under this mighty tree.

Towards the end or our time in Highland Park, our trees started to disappear as result of Dutch Elm disease.  When I return to visit Candler Avenue today, it looks totally desolate.  Yes, many of the houses are gone, but the trees are also gone.

Today, I am thankful that I had the privilege of growing up in a community which had the foresight to plant trees along every residential street as the city developed. Yes, in my memories Highland Park is still the “City of Trees.”

P.S. Please visit my other blog where I write upon spiritual subjects such as: “God’s Waiting Room” ” When there is No One Else: Confiding in God” Here is the link:
http://www.markjemilbooth.com

Ford Park-My Summer Hangout

From my elementary school years through high school, there was one constant in my life. I spent a big part of my summer at Ford Park. This park provided hours of fun, as well as the opportunity to learn how to play tennis, and shuffleboard. Ford Park was also a great place to meet people and develop friendships.

Ford Park had a lot of amenities that larger parks didn’t have. Coming from the Woodward Avenue entrance to the park, large trees greeted each visitor. There were picnic tables and grills placed in strategic locations. On the south side was the maintenance building which was the central location for the maintenance equipment for all the parks in Highland Park.

After the picnic tables and grills, came the playground area of the park. There was the typical playground equipment. I always enjoyed playing on the rocket. Within the playground section, there was also a cement area where there were sprinklers which were turned on during the summer for the children to play and to cool off. I was never much for water, so I never spent any time there.

To south of the playground was an open field of grass which was used to play field hockey each evening.  We used plastic sticks and a plastic ball. Every night, this would be a big treat to play. Beyond the open field were five shuffleboard courts. As I became older, I enjoyed playing with the “old men” who came each day to compete.

Going further east in the park, there was the pavilion, which was a shelter for ice skaters in the winter. In the summer it became a refreshment stand that sold pop, candy and popsicles. Within this building, there were table games that would be given out, as well as the shuffleboard equipment.

To the north of the playground were ten tennis courts. These courts had lights and were well maintained. When I turned thirteen, I started to have a keen interest in tennis. These tennis courts would be my home away from home for several summers. I met some great people on the tennis courts. To this day, I still enjoy playing tennis.

Ford Park was more than the equipment, the tennis courts, and the large trees in the front of the park. It was a place where dedicated adults brought fun, happiness, and skills into the lives of the children who came each day. The Highland Park Recreation Department hired these adults to work throughout the summer at Ford Park.

The first recreation director I remember at Ford Park was Stanley Zubel. Mr. Zubel worked in the Highland Park school system during the school year and then at Ford Park in the summer. He kept the park moving with activities. I still remember painting the molds of various things such as an Indian chief and a dog. I also made some pot holders using a loom. Table games were great fun as well.

A potholder loom like we used at Ford Park.

A potholder loom like we used at Ford Park.

In the evening, Mr. Zubel had two very special activities. The first was Tiny Tot softball.  This was for children ten years old and under. If you were older, Mr. Zubel would let you play, but you had to bat with the opposite hand. After Tiny Tot softball, we played field hockey. This was always competitive. Sometimes, Mr. Zubel would penalize us for various infractions of the rules. This meant that we couldn’t play for a certain amount of time. Even as a ten-year old, I could tell that Mr. Zubel had his heart in what he was doing. Two years ago, Mr. Zubel died. I wished I could have thanked him for all of his good work. Here is a link to Mr. Zubel’s obituary: http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/theoaklandpress/obituary.aspx?page=lifestory&pid=150279186#fbLoggedOut

Mr. Zubel would leave when I was about eleven years old, but there were other directors who did a great job. There was Mrs. Lang, and Katie Street, who taught art at Ford Middle School. Another director whose name escapes me would come to work in a Plymouth Road Runner with a spoiler bar. I was quite impressed with his car.

The director that I had as a great friend during my teenage years was Mike Bartnikowski. Mike taught at Ford Middle School, but spent his summers as the director at Ford Park.  Mike was great fun because he had a great sense of humor and was addicted to war games. Every afternoon, some of us would gather together at the park with Mike and fight famous battles such as Waterloo, D-Day, and Midway. Another favorite was a game called Diplomacy.

One evening, Mike played a prank on me that I have never forgotten. While I was playing tennis (I was probably sixteen.), Mike got on the PA system and announced that there was an important message for Mark Booth. Then he announced your mother is calling you. The people on the tennis courts had a great laugh as I ran off the courts, only to find a laughing Mike Bartnikowski at the pavilion. There was no call from my Mom.

As a teen, I always found that Mike would listen to me and some of my concerns. He was more than a director, but a dear friend.

Photo taken in 2011. Mike passed away last year.  Here is a link to my article on Mike Bartnikowski. http://markjemilbooth.com/2012/10/20/goodbye-mike-bartnikowski-thank-you-for-everything/

Photo taken in 2011. Mike passed away last year. Here is a link to my article on Mike Bartnikowski. http://markjemilbooth.com/2012/10/20/goodbye-mike-bartnikowski-thank-you-for-everything/

Another embarrassing memory at the park involved my bicycle. I had inherited my brother’s two-speed Schwinn bike. I rode this bike all over the Detroit area. I would always ride my bike to Ford Park. There was a boy who came to the park who asked to ride my bike. I consented and he would always return it. One day, he took off on my bike. As time went by, I sat on a picnic table waiting and waiting for my bike to return. It never did.

My stolen bike looked a lot like this.

My stolen bike looked a lot like this.

Those years at Ford Park were wonderful. Today, children in my community don’t have a place like Ford Park with activities and great adult supervision. I was very privileged to live in Highland Park during the years when there were funds to offer so many opportunities to have fun and a safe place to play.

P.S. Please visit my other blog: http://www.markjemilbooth.com.  I write about spiritual subjects such as: “Do I Have Spiritual Amnesia” and “God’s Waiting Room”.

The Tree Diamond (Playing Baseball without Adult Interference)

Green field and a lonely tree

Imagine a time when kids played baseball without uniforms, without schedules, without the pressure of having to win, and without adults “helping” them play better. It has been a long time, since I have seen children play a game of baseball on their own. Please join me for a trip back to the 1960s, when as a child, I actually played baseball games without an adult in sight.

Back in the mid-sixties, before the Highland Park Community High School was built on Woodward Avenue, there was a place called Ford Park where children played on the playground equipment. Families had picnics. Older adults played shuffleboard, and people played tennis at the tennis courts. There was also pavilion to warm up after ice skating on the manmade skating rink east of the pavilion.

Going east from the pavilion was a large field that went all the way to Oakland Avenue.  This field had a quarter-mile running track. Beyond the track was a regulation size   baseball diamond, and three softball diamonds. This field was also the place where the Highland Park Little League football team, the Chargers, practiced.

Near Oakland Avenue, in the middle of Ford Field, one lonely, large tree stood tall, as to say: “I am alone, but I will not surrender my strength to anything.”  This tree would provide us a place of shade and our own homemade baseball diamond. There were dirt spots about equal distant from one another that made up the bases for our games. The largest dirt spot was our home plate.

Playing baseball at the “tree diamond” was a summer ritual for many of us children who lived in the northeast side of Highland Park. We never had an organized time to play, but when there were six to eight of us looking for something to do, we would get our mitts, bats and a ball and head over to our Tree Diamond.

There were several rituals that we had when we played our games.  First, we had to choose teams. We did this by having two of us become captains. To decide who would choose first, one of the captains would toss a bat to the other captain. He would catch it with one hand. Then the first captain would place his hand above the other captain’s hand on the bat.  The two captains would continue this ritual until there was no more bat to hold. The one whose hand was the highest on the bat could choose first.

We played the game with a hard ball, but we only lobbed the pitch over the “plate”.  There were no balls or called strikes. A person could only strike out if he missed the ball three times. This could make for some long at bats.

If we had only three or four people per team, we would only play half the field. The batter would have to call out if he was going to hit to right or left field.  If he hit the ball to the wrong field, he was out.  Also, with only a few players, the “pitching mound” would be first base.  When a ground ball was hit, the fielder could throw the runner out by throwing to the pitcher because there was no first baseman.

Another problem we would often confront was that we didn’t have enough baserunners.  Our solution was quite simple. We had invisible runners. The invisible runner would advance as far as the runner behind him advanced.

Our “tree diamond” was not a perfect place to place. In the middle of our left field was a white pole that was the right field foul marker for the regulation baseball diamond. This obstacle was always to be watched when chasing a fly ball.  On one occasion, I had forgotten about the pole while chasing a fly ball. The pole came out of nowhere and down I went as the side of my head and the pole had a meeting.  I came out the worse for it.

Another problem with our “tree diamond” was an old barbed wire fence that divided the Ford Field road and the Ford Motor Company property. The road was our home run marker for left field, but the ball occasionally would roll under this barbed wire fence.  One day, I decided to climb this fence to fetch a baseball, instead of going all the way to Oakland Ave and go around the fence.  As I tumbled over the fence, I ripped a nice two or three-inch section of my wrist.  I still have a nice scar to remind me of those days at the tree diamond.

The nicest thing about playing at the “tree diamond” was that we were kids playing baseball the way we enjoyed playing the game. We didn’t have adults interfering. It was our time to play as kids. There was no real pressure. There were no awards, There was no keeping track of how many wins we had.

As I reflect back to those great times of playing baseball together with my friends, I feel  for children today, who never seem to have time to go out in a field somewhere and play a good game of baseball without having adults interfering. Are we making our children grow up too fast?

P.S. Please visit my other blog: http://www.markjemilbooth.com.  I have several posts of a spiritual nature, such as “Clinging to God”, and “God’s Waiting Room”.

My Fourth Grade Memories of Midland Elementary School

Midland School, a few years ago.  It is now torn down.

Midland School, a few years ago. It is now torn down.

How did I lose a whole year of my school life?  Out of all my years of schooling, my fourth grade experience is probably the one with the least memories. Perhaps, my fourth grade memories were erased by my first year of swim class (See my post: Facing My Greatest Fear: Swim Class). I would go to school every Tuesday with a great dread of the afternoon trip to the Liberty School swimming pool. Such a bad memory probably clouded many of the good experiences in fourth grade.

My fourth grade teacher was Mrs. Jung. I don’t remember a lot about Mrs. Jung except that she was middle-aged, and she wore glasses.  I also remember that Mrs. Jung was the most lenient teacher I had at Midland Elementary School. She allowed the class to have an abnormal amount of freedom. An example of this freedom was that she allowed us to place our desks in groups of four. Two desks would face two other desks. I don’t remember the point of this exercise, but looking back I could see that it was problematic.  Can you imagine the mischief we were able to do in such a setting? I don’t remember if this was a typical situation or a temporary experiment.

Speaking of desks, I had a full desk which had a top that lifted up. Inside the desk was where we were to place our books, folders and other essential educational materials. I often had a problem with my desk.  My top wouldn’t close!  This wasn’t because of a defect in my desk, but a big defect in my neatness.  I think I had the second messiest desk in the class. The person with the messiest desk will remain unnamed.

One of the highlights of fourth grade wasn’t in the school, but after school.  Fourth grade would be the first year that I participated in Highland Park Little League football.  I was on the Freshmen team. The practices were at 4:30 P.M. each night at Ford Field. This was great for me because I could walk to practice from my house on Candler Ave. Yes, I would have to cut through two yards to get there, but this was never problem in our neighborhood.

Being part of Little League football was my first experience in organized athletics.  Our coach was the Mayor’s son, Mark Storen Jr.  I guess I didn’t become a star because I was on the blue team, which was a nice way of saying the second string team. We played one set of downs each half and I played offensive guard.

One other memory that still sticks in my mind was the Christmas gift exchange for our class. I had bought a rather expensive gift to exchange. It was a plastic bowling set that cost almost two dollars. I was excited when I received my gift in a large Hudson’s box.  What could be in such a large box?  I opened the box and found a twenty-five cent rubber baseball. I felt quite disappointed. This showed that I had a long way to go in learning the joy of giving.

The rest of my fourth grade experience is quite a blur.  Yes, we had the usual recess.  The visits to the library. The same lunch that I always brought to school. The same walk home from school going through the dreaded Second Avenue tunnel.

I am sure that Mrs. Jung was a fine teacher and she taught me many important things, however, I don’t remember anything in particular that I learned in class.  I  am thankful that she did care for her students.  I am also thankful that I survived swim class!

Winter Memories in Highland Park

My friend and I in 1959 (Candler Ave. between Brush and Oakland)

My friend and I in 1959 (Candler Ave. between Brush and Oakland)

In spite of being in my fifties (I do hate to admit this), I still have a love for winter that I had as a child. Winter was not only Christmas, but it was also a special time of year for me.  My memories of winter are probably similar to other people who grew up in the fifties and sixties.

The memory of snow coming down excited me. The snow meant making snow forts, snowmen, and having snowball fights. Unfortunately, the snow in the playground at Midland School was wasted during recess because snowball fighting was not permitted.    I never tried to break this rule; so I never did discover what the punishment would have been.  It was one of those rules that I didn’t understand in elementary school.

Winter also meant cold weather. As a Safety Boy, my corner was at Brush and Ferris. It was the furthest post from Midland School. The winter meant cold mornings doing what I thought was a very important job. When the temperature reached ten degrees, all the Safety Boys would get free hot chocolate in the gym. This may not seem like a great perk, but at the time the hot chocolate sure tasted good.

One day, in second grade, the temperature went down to minus twelve degrees.  Mom didn’t see a problem with the cold; however, she did drive me to school that day. There were only four other students in our class. This made for a very long day for the five of us as well as our teacher, Mrs. Schlabach (sp?).

One year, we experienced a big snow storm.  I am sure that we had a couple of rare snow days. When we returned to school, several of us on our walk home took a detour through Ford Park. We were quite pleased to see that the city had dumped a lot of the excess snow by the track. These dumps made perfect snow mountains where we could play, hide and toss snowballs from our hideouts. This lasted for several days, which made for a very slow walk home.

Whenever we had snow, the city would do a great job of taking care of the snow on the streets and even in the alleys. Dad didn’t appreciate the snow being thrown upon his car, but we didn’t have a garage. There was also the small snow plow that plowed all the sidewalks. This was an expensive luxury which in my later teen years had ceased to exist.

As I became older, I also learned that winter meant work.  I soon would be recruited to shovel snow on our sidewalks.  To me, it seemed like our sidewalks never ended. Obviously, shoveling the snow was not my favorite part of winter.

Winter also meant that I would spend more time inside the house, watching more television than I should.  Of course, there was Captain Jolly at 6:00 P.M. and then there were the Hanna-Barbera cartoons at 6:30 P.M.  My favorites were Quick Draw Mcgraw, Yogi Bear, and Huckleberry Hound. I felt fortunate that there was an alternative to the 6:30 P.M. news. Living in the Detroit area meant that we had access to Channel nine out of Windsor, Canada.

Captain Jolly

Captain Jolly

Besides watching television, we would have family game time. We enjoyed playing Jeopardy, Password, and especially Scrabble.  I always enjoyed trying to make up my own words with the tiles given to me.  My favorite sentence was: “Is this a word?”  My mother was quite patient with me during these games, though my older brother was not amused.

One last thing about winter that I remember was how cold my bedroom would become. The heat from the basement barely made it up to my second floor bedroom.  After reading me a story mom would cover me up with several covers and give me a kiss goodnight.

The winter appeared to go on forever. The snow stayed on the ground for three months. However, the snow would eventually leave the ground. The temperatures would rise, and spring would arrive. The snowballs would be replaced by baseballs. The hot chocolate would be replaced by Hires Root Beer. With the warmth, we would return to the alley to play our favorite games. However, the joy of winter would come again.

 

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

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

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.