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.

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”.

MIchigan Week Memories


Once again, Michigan Week is upon us.  One website writes: “Michigan Week, an annual tribute to the best of the Great Lakes State, began in 1954 as a way to promote state pride among citizens and to celebrate the rich heritage and unique features that make Michigan special.”

Growing up, I didn’t need Michigan Week to create pride in our state. My dad was the forerunner of Tim Allen and his “Pure Michigan” ads. Dad would speak about Detroit and Michigan as though no other place could reach up to its standards. Michigan had the best roads, the best fruit, the best recreational options, and the best people. We even had Soapy Williams. The strange thing is that Dad never said that we had the best weather.

As for me, Michigan Week meant that school would soon be over for the summer. Yes, we would have a bulletin board about Michigan Week. We would also have a lesson or two about the greatness of our state, but none of those lessons have stuck in my mind.

The highlight of Michigan Week was the parade! Dad never took us to the Hudson’s Thanksgiving Day parade. I always wondered why this never happened. We only lived a few miles from the parade route. Was my Dad shunning the crowds? I can’t give an answer, but every Thanksgiving we would sit in front of our black and white television set and watch the parade. Dad always enjoyed Sonny Eliot’s jokes during the parade, however, all the commercials annoyed him.

The Michigan Week parade would be the only live parade that I would see until I became an adult. We would visit my aunt on Beresford and then proceed to park ourselves on the curb in front of the Russell Kelly building (On Woodward between Beresford and Davison). You would think that I would remember the Highland Park band, the clowns, and the old cars, but I don’t. The only thing I remember about the parade was the candy! When the candy would fly out unto the street, I quickly moved into action to get as much as I could. Candy was a rare treat for me.

The Highland Park Marching Band in the early seventies.  Sorry for the photo quality.

The Highland Park Marching Band in the early seventies. Sorry for the photo quality.

Michigan Week also consisted of a fair with rides, food and those games where you would win a prize if you accomplished some difficult task. When I was little, my parents limited me to the kiddie rides, such as going in a circle in a small boat, or in a car. There was also the merry-go-round. When I was eleven or twelve, I attended the fair with friends. I never liked the more “daring rides”. The most adventuresome ride that I would tackle was the Tilt-a-whirl. To this day, I don’t go on any rides that appear risky.


The food at the fair was not much of a highlight. The only thing I would ever buy were the sno-cones. I could eat this wonder of ice and syrup all day long.

The magic of the parade and the fair have disappeared, but I am still very grateful that I was raised a Michigander (Michiganians was never used in my house). Yes, I have lived in other places in America and overseas. I have learned that Michigan is not the only great place to live, but I will always be proud to be called a Michigander.

P.S. Please visit my other blog where I have articles of spiritual nature such as: “God’s Waiting Room” and “Does Jesus Care?” http://www.markjemilbooth.com

Facing My Greatest Childhood Fear: Swim Class

The Liberty School Pool as seen recently.  The school and pool are closed.  A special thanks to Kennedy Baughman for the photo.

The Liberty School Pool as seen recently. The school and pool are closed. A special thanks to Kennedy Baughman for the photo.

My elementary school years went fairly smoothly until fourth grade.  This is when we were introduced to swim class.  My greatest fear would be met head on, and I would lose the battle for several years.

Midland school didn’t have a swimming school.  Every Tuesday afternoon, we would take a school bus to Liberty school for swim class. The bus ride was the highlight of this most difficult time in my life. The bus driver always seemed quite cheerful and talkative; however, his cheerfulness couldn’t help ease the pain of my worst hour of the week.

Hank is the first one on the left. He is remembered by most of the students during my era.

Here are some of the bus drivers.  Seth is the one I remembered the most.

After arriving at Liberty school, we were introduced to our routine for the year. Mr. Munro, our teacher, told us that we were to totally undress. This was difficult for me because I had never done this before in public. What even made it more difficult is that we were not to wear swim trunks. We would be spending the whole time in swim class in our birthday suits. To this day, nobody has given a satisfactory explanation to this rule. The girls wore swimsuits during their swim time. Why didn’t my parents complain? Why didn’t any parent complain?! Why didn’t some newspaper expose the practice? I can’t imagine this happening today.

After we took off our clothes, Mr. Munro told us that we had to shower before we entered the pool area. After the shower, he would inspect each one of us by rubbing our collarbone area and our wrist. If no dry skin came off, we were good to go. Eventually, we learned that we only needed to clean our collarbone area and our wrist.

Now, the worst part would soon come.  We were to get into the pool.  The pool at Liberty, looking back, was not very large, but it looked like an ocean to me.  The largest pool I had ever entered was my bathtub.  I would have been quite content if it had remained that way.

When I entered the pool, I lived in the shallow end. I may have ventured out a bit with a board to keep me afloat, but I still didn’t go any further than where my head could stay above water. Mr. Munro probably taught many a boy to swim, but I wasn’t one of them.

There were many Tuesdays when I would come to school feeling quite well, but by afternoon, I would develop a stomach ache. I wasn’t making this up, I was so afraid of swim class that I would literally get sick. I would be sent to the nurse’s office and she would give me some kind peppermint to settle my stomach. The bus would leave and I was spared one week of agony in swim class.

When I arrived at Ford Middle School, I think Mr DeSantis, our swim teacher, took me on as a personal challenge. It seemed like I was the only student in sixth grade who couldn’t swim. Mr. DeSantis tried and tried to get me to leave the float board and start swimming.  Soon, he threatened me with an “F” if I didn’t start to swim. Finally, the day came when I actually swam the width of the Ford School pool. I had learned to swim! I avoided my “F”!

However, Mr. DeSantis was not done with me. In eighth grade, I had a new challenge.  Mr. DeSantis said that I must JUMP into the deep end feet first and hit the bottom of the pool and bounce up and swim the LENGTH of the pool. If I didn’t accomplish this feat, I would receive an “F”.  I don’t know how many weeks passed, but every time I would get to the edge of the pool, I would think that I would never survive the JUMP.

You also had to know that Mr. DeSantis was a bit overweight. Could he save me if I were to drown?  I had even asked him once: “Why gym teachers tended to be heavy?”  I do not know what possessed me to do this, but he chuckled and said: “When we were younger we ate a lot and we exercised a lot.  When got older we kept eating, but we didn’t exercise as much.”  I have not forgotten this lesson in my life.

Finally, judgment day came. If I didn’t jump, I would get a big “F” on my report card.  With great fear, I looked over the side of the pool. I looked at Mr. DeSantis, who said: “Don’t worry, you can do it.” I don’t know how I did it, but I jumped in and my feet hit the bottom of the pool and I bounced back up and swam the length of the pool. That was the last time I have ever jumped into a pool.

Even today, I am not much for the water, but I can swim a few laps in the pool, and maybe swim enough to save myself.  I am thankful for Mr. DeSantis and his great patience with me.  He helped me to finally meet my great fear and win the battle.

P.S. Please visit my other blog where I talk about spiritual topics such as: “Candid Thoughts about Crowds”, and “Five Great Promises as I Travel this Life”. The address is: http://www.markjemilbooth.com.

Dr. Winston Wreggit, My Highland Park Doctor (1908-1992)

Dr Winston Wreggit and his wife Elizabeth.  Her parents served as medical missionaries for several years in India.

Dr Winston Wreggit and his wife Elizabeth. Her parents served as medical missionaries for several years in India.

There are many treasures that we receive from our parents after they leave us. One of the treasures that I received from my Dad is a 1925 Polar Bear Yearbook. Looking at the pictures of life during my Dad’s time as an older teenager is quite interesting.

While looking at the Senior Class of 1925, I saw a familiar name, Winston Wreggit.  I looked at the photo. and I recognized that this is a photo of our family doctor for all the years that I lived in Highland Park (1955-1977)! My mind couldn’t help but go back to my many visits to Dr. Wreggit’s office at 79 Highland Avenue, which was located across from the Bell Telephone Company building.

Winston Wreggit's senior photo in the 1925 Polar Bear Yearbook

Winston Wreggit’s senior photo in the 1925 Polar Bear Yearbook

My Dad knew Dr. Wreggit from his high school years. For this reason, Dad felt a special connection to Dr. Wreggit. Dad knew that Dr. Wreggit would take good care of his family, and he had the utmost confidence in him.  Because of this confidence, I would never know another physician for the first twenty-seven years of my life.

A visit to Dr. Wreggit began with opening the door of what had been a first floor flat. Entering the door, we (Mom and I) would be greeted by Dr. Wreggit’s nurse, receptionist and office manager (all in one person!). The nurse would then direct us to the waiting room.  This room was rather spartan in its looks, but I liked sitting in one of the straw chairs.

A former patient (Kennedy Baughman) in front of what use to be Dr. Wreggit's office.

A former patient (Kennedy Baughman) in front of what was Dr. Wreggit’s office.

The highlight of the waiting room was the Highlights magazine. I would enjoy looking through the magazine, especially finding the hidden objects in the picture. Later on, when I was older, I probably picked up the Time magazine or some other magazine.  I don’t ever remember that we ever had a long wait.

After some time, our kind nurse would call us into one of the rooms that Dr. Wreggit used to see his patients.  One of the things that amazed me were all the file folders. There were file folders on the desk, as well on top of his cabinet. Everything was a bit cluttered, but I am sure there was some organization in it all.

While I looked around, Dr. Wreggit would enter the room and greet me with his deep bass voice. Then he would open up his file and perhaps say: “It is time for your tetanus booster” I don’t know why but it seemed like every time, I would see Dr. Wreggit, he would give me a shot.

Being merciful, Dr. Wreggit wouldn’t begin with the “shot”. He would first take my blood pressure. Then he would say: “Please take off your shirt.” With his stethoscope, he would begin to probe my chest.  Then he would probe my back. As he was probing, he would say the words that I can still hear in my head: “Take a deep breath, let it out.” Then he would say: “again” several times.  After this he would check down my throat and pronounce me healthy.

The next part was the hard part. I saw the needle in his hand. He would swab the target spot on my arm with something clear. It didn’t seem to help with what was coming. He would inject me as I tried to show courage and not cry. After the shot was given. he would reach up to the top of his cabinet and grab a box. As he opened the box, I could see that it was full of suckers. I grabbed one and off I would go, another satisfied patient.

There were a couple of occasions when I was sick that I didn’t go visit Dr. Wreggit. He would come and visit me. This just seemed natural in those days. Dr. Wreggit would come into our house with his black bag filled with all the instruments that he needed to sort out what needed to be done. He would go through the same basic routine that I experienced at his office. Those words: “Take a deep breath and let it out” were repeated. He would tell my parents what to do for me and then he would leave.

After leaving Highland Park, I never visited a doctor for many years. However, in 1983 Sharon (my wife) and I needed a physical to get a visa to move to South Africa as missionaries. I told Sharon about Dr. Wreggit. Dad still went to Dr. Wreggit; so it was only natural that we would go to him though he now had his practice in Southfield.

This would be the last time, I would ever see Dr. Wreggit. He was in his mid-seventies and though he looked older than I had remembered him, his voice was still strong. I heard for one last time those words: “Take a deep breath and let it out.” He also gave us his favorite shot, the tetanus booster. This time, there were no box of suckers. As we left to pay, he told us that we owed him nothing.  For some strange reason this didn’t surprise me. My Dad had told me how generous Dr. Wreggit was with his services.  He charged my Dad seven dollars per visit until he quit his practice in the mid-eighties.

Like so many people in my life, I never really knew the real Dr. Wreggit. I saw him as a kind, and committed doctor, but I didn’t know the whole story until I was preparing to write this post.

What motivated him to practice medicine in order to help others?  Why would he treat many of his patients for only what they could afford or for free?  In Dr. Wreggit’s childhood, he made two very important decisions that would rule his life. One decision he made was to accept Jesus Christ as his Savior as a result of the ministry of the well-known evangelist, Billy Sunday. He would continue to follow the Lord and serve Him for all his life. He was also faithful member of Highland Park Baptist Church.

At the age of ten, Dr. Wreggit made another decision that would change his life. He was near death as a result of spinal meningitis. As he was lying on his hospital bed in old Grace Hospital, he made a promise to God that he would help other people as a doctor if he would get better. God answered his prayer. Dr. Wreggit would practice medicine almost until the day he died.

Over the years, I have had a few other doctors, but none of them were like Dr. Wreggit.  Here was a man who cared about others. Not only that, but he cared about a little boy growing up in Highland Park. For this reason, I wanted to write this post about him.

P.S. Here are a few more photos of Dr. Wreggit.

Dr. Wreggit served in the US Army during World War 2. He was an army surgeon in New Guinea. He reached the rank of Lt. Colonel

Dr. Wreggit served in the US Army during World War 2. He was an army surgeon in New Guinea. He reached the rank of Lt. Colonel.

Dr. Wreggit and Elizabeth at their son's (George) wedding.  George followed in his Dad's footsteps as a doctor.

Dr. Wreggit and Elizabeth at their son’s (George) wedding. George followed in his Dad’s footsteps as a doctor.

Dr Wreggit at a reception in honor of forty years of service at Grace Hospital.

Dr Wreggit at a reception in honor of forty years of service at Grace Hospital.

P.P.S. Please visit my other blog: http://www.markjemilbooth.com.  I have several articles concerning our spiritual lives including, “A Heart to Walk with God” and “The Joy of Morning Prayer.”

My House, Growing up in Highland Park

The front of our house in 1959?

The front of our house in 1959?

A home is more than rooms, walls, furniture and a roof.  A home is a place of love, learning, and fun.  I am grateful that I spent the first twenty-one years of my life being raised by my parents in a home where I was loved, taught, and encouraged to grow up and live my dreams.

My home was on Candler Avenue between Brush and Oakland. My parents bought our home in 1955, just before I was born. They needed more space because there would be three children in the home. Like most of the houses on my block, it was a very simple wooden frame house. The house had two stories with a small basement. There were three bedrooms and a bathroom upstairs. Downstairs, we had a living room, dining room, kitchen, a hallway, a half bathroom and most importantly a small room that we called the sunroom. This was so named because we had a large window facing south looking into our backyard.

However, a house is more than rooms, it becomes a home because of the people who live there. My family consisted of my parents, my older sister and my older brother. We also had a few pets join our family from time to time. We had a couple of parakeets. Baby Face was the name of our first one. Herman (for Herman’s Hermits) was the second one. For awhile we had a cat that we called Flash; until we realized that Flash was a girl. We changed her name to  Flashina.  Unfortunately, Flashina met an unfortunate end. Mom was tired of Flashina’s fleas. After having the home fumigated twice, Flashina disappeared. I didn’t understand what it meant to “be put down” at the time.

Though my house is gone, I can still see every room of the house. If I close my eyes, I can still see my Dad lying down on the couch in the living room. He is trying to stay awake watching Big Time Wrestling with the Sheik, Bobo Brazil, and a whole cast of unique looking characters. Our television had a round screen. It was a black and white Zenith.

The Zenith Television-1956

The Zenith Television-1956

If I look more closely, it is Christmas. Dad has placed our real tree in the front of the living room. Mom as usual has decorated the living room. We are ready to open our gifts. Mom not only enjoys decorating the living room for Christmas, but for all the special holidays. I am glad that she enjoys the holidays.

As I move to the dining room, I see not only my family around the table, but also my Aunt Francie and cousin Audley.  Aunt Francie has come over to make her specialty, raw kibbee (kibbeh).  I can’t wait to dig into this Middle Eastern delicacy.  I pour the olive oil over the meat and put it in Pita Bread and enjoy this very special treat.

My Aunt Francie in 1987 with our children, David and Anna.

My Aunt Francie in 1987 with our children, David and Anna.

On another day, I see all of us around the table (except Dad because he is working) with a Scrabble board in front of us.  I am the youngest person playing; so I try my best to make words out of the letters. Sometimes I frustrate the rest of the family because I take too long and keep putting letters down that don’t make words. The words: “just put something down” are echoing in my ears.

The dining room is also the special place where we celebrate our birthdays. Yes, there is cake, ice cream, friends and gifts, but the highlight is to hear my Uncle Hussy sing Happy Birthday.  He doesn’t sing it very well, but he does sing it with all of his energy. He is heard above everybody else.

My birthday party in our dining room (1960)

My birthday party in our dining room (1960)

Continuing the tour of my house, I can smell the popcorn popping on the stove. Dad is home and making his favorite dish, popcorn. After the popcorn pops, Dad pours out the popcorn, like it is gold, on our small white kitchen table. Popcorn is always a big treat. Dad also makes some great pancakes once in a while on Sunday mornings.

While in the kitchen, I notice on one of the walls, there are pencil markings.  This is where I stand straight with my back to the wall.  Mom than takes a pencil and marks where the top of my head is.  Look, Jemil, (my middle name) you have grown again. I turn and look at the new line and smile.

My favorite room is the sunroom. This room has a glass door that separates it from the dining room.  My friends and I often play table games here.  I also like the quiet of this room when I am reading. The sunroom also features a phone jack so that we can have some privacy on the phone. This is helpful when the teenage years come.

Some friends in the sunroom with my favorite hockey game.

Some friends in the sunroom with my favorite hockey game.

The sunroom also features a sixteen inch television that Dad bought because he wanted to get channel 50 (UHF). This is where I once watched Neil Armstrong land on the moon. For some reason, I taped the event on a reel to reel tape recorder. It is also the room where I watch the Lions continue their losing ways.

Before going upstairs, my thoughts drift downstairs to the basement. The basement isn’t finished, but it has a small area where there are shelves of table games and some comic books that are stored for safe keeping. In the center of this section of the basement is a small table with a Carrom Board.  Some of my friends are down here with me and we are  playing different games using the Carrom Board.

In the basement playing with the Carrom Board.

In the basement playing with the Carrom Board.

I don’t want to forget that down in the basement is also my grandmother’s Victrola. Dad has played a record on it once. It is a great piece of history.

Did I mention that the basement occasionally floods from the sewers backing up? We are presently experiencing one of those floods. In other words, the comic books aren’t so safe.  My brother has taken his comic books outside in a futile effort to save them by having them dry out in the sun. I don’t think this is going to work out for him.

Now, it is getting dark. Soon, I will be going to bed. Mom sends me upstairs to take a bath. The best part of this time is several of the toy boats that I have floating around in the water with me. The worst part is when Mom comes and washes my hair.  It always seems as though the shampoo gets into my eyes.

Bedtime has arrived.  Mom places me in the bed and then she begins to read a book about Albert Schweitzer. I can’t wait to hear the next chapter. After reading, I say my prayers and Mom kisses me good night. She leaves the room with the door cracked a bit, because I am afraid of the dark. I should not be fearful because I have a six-foot poster of Spiderman behind my bed.

The years have passed by quickly. Dad and Mom are no longer with us, but I thank the Lord for the fact that my parents gave me more than a house. They gave me a warm, loving home. Yes, my children may never see my house as I remember it, but I hope they will appreciate the home that is still there in my heart and mind.

P.S. Here is a link to an article about kibbeh.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kibbeh

Here are a couple more photos:

Here I am with our cat, Flashina

Here I am with our cat, Flashina

Our house in 1972

Our house in 1972

P.S. Please visit my other blog : http://www.markjemilbooth.com.  Here are a couple of subjects covered: “Imagine…Being with Jesus” and “The Goodness of the Lord in Troubled Times.”

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


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

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.