Olivet College, Here I Come! (Leaving Highland Park)

Olivet College in Olivet, Michigan

Olivet College in Olivet, Michigan

Today, I rode my bicycle to Olivet College, my alma mater. As I rode through the small campus, I noticed a great amount activity. The students were returning to school. There were parents leaving their students and helping them get organized. As I was observing all this, the thought popped into my head: “This was what I was doing forty years ago!” Soon, the memories started to flow through my mind as I rode the twelve miles back to Charlotte, Michigan.

During my senior year at Highland Park High School, I was trying to decide where I should go to college. I had taken several courses at Highland Park Community College; so I would begin my college experience as a sophomore. After looking at various schools, I chose Olivet College because I really liked its small campus and small town atmosphere. Also, Olivet College was affiliated with the church that I attended which was the Highland Park Congregational Church.

Leaving home would not be easy. I had only been away from family and home for a few days during eighth grade camp at Camp Rankin. I would miss my Mom’s cooking and all the other things that she did to spoil me, including making my bed, and taking care of all of my clothes. Also, I would be leaving all that I had known for the first eighteen years of my life, including friends, the many bike rides through the Detroit Metro area, playing tennis at Ford Park and many other activities.  My life would be changed forever.

The day finally came when Dad would take me on the two-hour trip to Olivet College. We arrived on campus and soon found our way to the third floor of Blair Hall. As I walked into my room, I was surprised by its smallness and great simplicity. The walls were yellow. There was a single bed, a desk and chair, a dresser and a small closet. The heat would come out of an old radiator by the window. This would be home. I had a single room which was nice, but it also made life a bit lonely.

Dad looked at my room and didn’t say much, but I could tell he wasn’t real pleased.  Dad being in his late sixties was a real trooper in helping me bring up all my belongings to the third floor. After we were almost done, my Dad went to the restroom. Upon his return, he seemed quite upset. He told me in an angry tone: “The stalls don’t have any doors on them!.” This fact caused him to lodge a protest with the dorm supervisor, but nothing ever changed during the time that I was at Olivet.

Blair Hall in 2012

Blair Hall in 2012

When Dad left, I was there alone in my small room. I didn’t know a soul at the school. This would be a challenge for me because I wasn’t the most outgoing person in the world.

The school provided us with orientation activities where we would learn about the school, spend an evening with a community family, and play games to help us to get acquainted with one another. My group leader was “Big John”. He had come to school as a football player, but an injury would sideline him.  I didn’t know then, but “Big John” would have a great influence upon my life, even to the point that the following year, he would take me to the very church of which I am now the pastor.

I would soon face many adjustments. One adjustment would be the food. Breakfast was okay because I was quite happy with breakfast cereal and juice. Lunch and dinner were quite challenging. I had to eat food that my mom would never serve us. The food was so bad that the following year, the college had to hire a new food service.

Another great adjustment was my clothes. I would soon learn how to wash my own clothes. I must have walked around with wrinkled clothes because I don’t remember ever doing any ironing.

Of course, dorm life was quite different.  I soon noticed an unfamiliar smell from a room a couple of doors down. It smelled like burnt rubber. I must have been a bit a slow about this because I had never taken drugs, but I soon came to realize that my neighbors were smoking pot.

Another adjustment would be the noise level. I still remember somebody practicing with his electric guitar on full volume almost every day. The main problem was that he  played the same notes over and over again. I can still remember the notes that he played each day. There were stereos blasting away into the night. Sleep sometimes was difficult to find.

When the school year finally started, I soon made some friends. I also became involved with a group called Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship. We would meet every Tuesday night. We would sing, share and hear a Bible message. Everything was vague to me. I didn’t really understand what it meant to be a Christian at the time; however, it was a great place to meet other students.

The Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship 1973-74

The Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship 1973-74

As I started my classes, I found myself in a class called Intellectual Traditions. This class was a six-hour class that would cover four semesters. The goal of this class was to study the “Great Books of the Western World”.  My teacher for this class was William Buchanan. He looked the part of a teacher for this class. His longish beard and thick glasses hid the quick mind that he possessed. Mr. Buchanan would guide us in discussions of the “Great Books of the Western World.” The reading for the course was immense. One Christmas break, he made us read War and Peace. Mr. Buchanan had a great knack of helping his students to think deeply about what they were reading. His questions for our class discussions were sometimes vague, but they were always challenging. He would have some classes at his house and he even invited us to his cottage on Lake Michigan for a weekend. Mr. Buchanan would help me to learn to think for myself though I am sure there were times he disagreed with me.

Mr. Buchanan is the teacher in the center.

Mr. Buchanan is the teacher in the center.

When my Dad left me that day forty years ago, I realized that my growing up days in Highland Park were nearly finished.  Yes, I would return home for a couple of summers, but life would never be the same. Highland Park was now in my past. My future was ahead of me. My two years at Olivet College would be life-changing in many ways.

P.S. Please visit my other blog: http://www.markjemilbooth.com.  This is where I share my views about spiritual matters and contemporary issues from a spiritual perspective.

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Remembering Graduation from Highland Park High School-June 14,1973

Saying goodbye to Highland Park High School on June 14, 1973

Saying goodbye to Highland Park High School on June 14, 1973

One by one the graduates passed by before me to receive their diplomas. I was sitting near the front of the Wharton Center auditorium as I watched the graduation ceremony of the Charlotte High School class of 2013.

As I watched the graduates joyfully receive their diplomas, my mind went back to June 14, 1973.  I was wearing a dark blue gown with my cap. The 1973 graduating class of Highland Park High School was sitting in the front of Ford Auditorium in Detroit. Proud family, and friends packed the auditorium as we walked across the stage and received our diplomas. With the receiving of our diplomas a chapter of our lives was over, and we would be starting a new chapter in our lives. Like my classmates, I didn’t know what the future would hold, but I was excited to have this one chapter of my life finished.

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My Mom kept a record of the events of graduation week. I imagine she did this; so I wouldn’t forget what was happening throughout the week. The week would be filled with memories, as well as excitement as I looked forward to my future. There would be goodbyes said, and many a person would drift away from my life, never to be seen again.

Mom's list of events for graduation week

Mom’s list of events for graduation week

One of my special memories of graduation week was the Honor Society dinner. This dinner was held the evening before our graduation. Mr. Spencer was our sponsor, and he arranged for us to have our final goodbyes at Sinbad’s, which was a nice restaurant off of the Detroit River. I didn’t know it, but it would be the last time I would ever see Mr. Spencer. He would leave for South Korea for the new school year. He planned to teach there, but he died of cancer at a very young age.  I never thanked him for all that he did for me as my counselor, as well as our Honor Society sponsor. His advice influenced my life even unto this day. Recently, I wrote a tribute to him (http://markjemilbooth.com/2012/07/20/franklin-spencer-iii-a-man-who-greatly-influenced-my-life/)

Mr. Franklin Spencer III

Mr. Franklin Spencer III

The day of graduation was filled with preparation as my family made sure that they would have photos of me. I was glad that my only living grandparent from Pennsylvania could be with us. Grandma Solomon would die in three years; so I treasured the time with her.

Dad and Mom with me before graduation.

Dad and Mom with me before graduation.

Our graduation ceremony was not memorable. The speeches have been forgotten, but I do remember the noise and shouting that resounded in the auditorium for some of us who received our diplomas. When they called my name, I heard a faint clapping and cheer from my family. The ceremony seemed lengthy, but when it ended, I knew that my life would never be the same.

The program for our graduation.

The program for our graduation.

I had invested thirteen years of my life in my schooling and now, it was all over. I would never see any of my classmates again. My teachers would become a distant memory. I would never step foot again in the halls of Highland Park High School.

Highland Park High School closed in 1977.  The halls now remain silent.

Highland Park High School closed in 1977. The halls now remain silent.

When I look back upon my high school years, I do have some regrets. I did keep pretty much to myself. I was quite defensive, and I had a certain lack of contentment. I had a spiritual void during those years as well, but I didn’t know where to find the answer. In the next chapter of my life, I would find the answer to this spiritual void in the person of Jesus Christ.

However, there were many positives of my high school years. I did enjoy the friendships that I made in the Honor Society, as well as the tennis team. Being President of the Honor Society gave me some very important lessons in leadership which have helped me even today. I also learned that the most effective leaders were those who go beyond what is expected of them. The night after graduation, Mrs. Banton, my Latin teacher, invited a few of us to her house for dinner. She prepared a delicious meal for us. Talk about going the extra mile. I still need to take her example to heart even today.

Forty years ago, I finished the Highland Park High School chapter of my life, but the effect of my high school years are still real in my life today. When I left Ford Auditorium that night, the adventure of my life was only beginning. When I read “Cry, the Beloved Country” in tenth grade English, I never would have thought that I would live eight years in South Africa.  I never would have imagined that I would live four years in the land of the great Portuguese explorers that we studied in history class.

When I look back upon my years at Highland Park High School, there were difficult times and good times. However, I realize that God had a great purpose for my life in having me attend HPHS.  My life today still is a product of those years in high school. I thank God for each teacher that I had in school, as well as for every friend that I had during those formative years in my life.

P.S. Here is a link to an article written about Mrs. Banton.  This is by another one of her students.  https://growingupinhighlandpark.wordpress.com/2013/03/01/262/

Playing Tennis in Highland Park

The 1972 Highland Park High School Tennis Team

The 1972 Highland Park High School Tennis Team

Our trip to Epps Sporting Goods would affect my life even today. Dad took me to buy my first tennis racket.  I was about twelve years old and I had decided to learn to play tennis because my older brother played tennis and I wanted to be like him.

Dad checked out the cheap tennis rackets and found one that would fit into his budget.  He didn’t want to buy an expensive racket because he didn’t know if my desire to play tennis was just a passing fancy.  When we arrived home, Dad gave me my first and only tennis lesson.  He took me out in the backyard.  Then, he handed me a tennis ball and told me to keep hitting the tennis ball up in the air. This would get me use to hitting the ball as well as keeping my eye on the ball.  I continued to do this every day.  I began to imagine myself becoming the next Rod Laver.

By the time, I was in eighth grade, I would take my tennis racket to Ford Park and hit the tennis ball off the tennis court wall. The problem was that I would often hit the ball over the wall, which meant I spent more time retrieving my ball than hitting it.  Eventually, I could hit the ball with some regularity. Now I was ready to hit with anybody who was willing to hit with a young person who had a great desire to play tennis, but not much ability.

One man, who took a special interest in me was Ed.  He was a man in his late fifties or early sixties.  I was always excited to see his large white Chrysler park in the alley behind the tennis courts.  Ed patiently would hit with me, which soon gave me some confidence in playing tennis. There were others who hit with me because I was never shy to ask anybody who didn’t have a tennis partner to hit with me.

My getting ready to go play tennis at Ford in 1969.  Notice the Highland Park Recreation Baseball T-shirt.  I played in Class F for the Royals.

Getting ready to go play tennis at Ford in 1969. Notice the Highland Park Recreation Baseball T-shirt. I played in Class F for the Royals.

My first experience of playing organized tennis was in ninth grade when I played on the
U of D High School tennis team.  I definitely was the low man on the totem pole, but going to the practices and hitting with others helped my game. My coach once encouraged me by saying the my serve was so slow that he could catch it with his bare hand. However, I wasn’t going to quit. I was determined to succeed in tennis.

In tenth grade, I was back at Highland Park High School, and I joined the tennis team.  Tennis was not an important sport at the school; so I became the number one singles player in my junior and senior year.  This may sound impressive, but when we played schools like Grosse Pointe South, it meant that if I won a game or two, I was doing well.

There were perks to playing on the tennis team.  At the beginning of the season, we received three or four pair of tennis socks, four cans of tennis balls and the best of all, a brand new pair of Jack Purcells tennis shoes. These shoes were the top of the line.  By this time also, I had graduated to a Jack Kramer Autograph racket.  This was the top of line in rackets.

A Jack Kramer Autograph Tennis Racket with a bracket to keep the racket from warping.

A Jack Kramer Autograph Tennis Racket with a bracket to keep the racket from warping.

Another perk was that I received physical education credit for playing tennis. This was a big perk because it meant I didn’t have to take swimming class or gym class during my time at Highland Park High School.

Practicing at the Ford Park tennis courts.

Practicing at the Ford Park tennis courts.

One problem about being on the tennis team was that our coach never played tennis.  We never did any drills. We never received any instructions on how to serve. He basically would go with us to matches and tell us to try harder.  When we played schools like Ecorse, River Rouge or Ferndale, our lack of ability didn’t show; however when we played Grosse Pointe South, Monroe or Dondero, it was embarrassing.

Speaking of Monroe, this was our favorite place to play. After getting beaten by Monroe, the coach would take us all to a restaurant and we could eat all the chicken we desired.  It definitely made the thrashing that we had received go down better.

In my senior year, Highland Park was no longer in the Border Cites League. This meant that our competition was more on our level.  We actually won a few matches during the season. At the end of the year, the Detroit News selected me to be on the All-Detroit tennis team. My photo was in the Detroit News with the other players who had been named for this honor. Before I could get too proud, somebody in the school told me that the Detroit News writer who selected the All-Detroit team was a graduate of Highland Park High School. This took the wind out of my sails.

After I graduated from Highland Park, I would continue to play tennis.  I played on the Olivet College team as a freshman; however, I soon played less and less tennis.  It has only been in recent years that I have taken up tennis again. Playing tennis again brings back memories of those great days of playing tennis at Ford Park in the early Seventies.

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

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.