One of the very enjoyable forays around Michigan was quite unexpected. Fran and John rang one morning to say they would like to take us to Niagara, something we would never have thought of. They made all the arrangements and we heard that David Knapp, Minister of the Parish, was sharing the cost of the trip and it was a gift to us at the end of our time with them. We were quite overcome and appreciated their kindness. The Exchange folk at our end would have told them what our stipend was and that we paid our own way with no grants, whereas the US exchanging ministers were funded by the Church. Early in our stay John had a ‘financial discussion’ with the Treasurer who gave him a cheque from the Church. She went with him to the bank and had it changed for American Express Travel cheques of which we already had some. It was a surprise but John found out when we came home that it was normal procedure. It helped us with entertaining folk etc., we were grateful for it.
Larry and Blanche would arrive home on 11th August and we spent the previous day getting the house ready: washing the linen, changing beds and making the house spick and span. Next day, we lunched with the Knapps, then Larry drove us to the Parkers with our luggage. When John and Fran were ready we left about 2.30pm and crossed the border from Detroit to London, Ontario, in Canada. We had to show our passports but the Parkers just walked in!
It was a 6 hour journey which we enjoyed very much. We travelled along the lake then through farming country, but not our kind of farming. We saw no livestock but we saw more very large tomatoes than we had seen in our lifetimes! Field after field of them. We stopped at a rest area and had lunch, chicken etc, bought the night before. This was also a ‘potty stop’!
The farm produce changed as we drove along: peaches, grapes, and apples. On one side we had Lake Ontario, and on the other all these exotic colourful fruits! We stopped at Historic Queen’s Town which had a military history. A short way across the Niagara River on US side was Fort George. Around 1812 this area was the scene of much fighting. The last stretch of our journey was along North Parkway, a very beautiful landscaped road part of which was a horticultural college area. There was a bridge over to US which we crossed, so again we showed our passports and had one foot in each country! (I never could resist that sort of thing since, as a ten-year old, I had been at Greenwich Observatory with my parents and wee sister Annabel. My Dad invited us to stand with one foot in the Eastern Hemisphere and the other in the Western Hemisphere. If the phrase had been invented I would have said it was real cool!)
We stayed at Niagara-on-the-Lake, a little town dating back to the 1800s. The small hotel was called The Old Bank House, and had been a private bank. It had four rooms and a two-room suite. Our rooms were lovely and looked out over the lake and the river. Ours was the pine room, and both floor and furniture were pine. We could see the lights of Toronto and New York State at night from the Lakeside. The town had been called Newark when it was Capital of ‘Upper Canada’, 1791-96, and was said to be the best preserved town in Canada. We had a walk round the shopping area which was very ‘posh’, with lots of lovely shops to look at. I looked it up in Google while writing this, and it is obviously much bigger and busier and not the quiet, homely place I remember.
Next morning we had a very ‘elegant’ breakfast! Various cereals, hot muffins and jam, fruit (blueberries etc.), tomato omelette, toast, coffee. We set out for Niagara Falls (the town) at 9.30, passing beautiful gardens. Our first sight of the Falls was breath-taking and spectacular: it was all so huge! The misty spray came right over all the gardens – no wonder everything seemed so fresh. The American Falls are impressive, but the Canadian ones are something else. We took photos from every angle, gradually working our way along to the wall at the edge of the Falls, where you could almost lean over and touch the water, and we just stood there, mesmerised or hypnotised. We felt emotional, it was so overwhelming to think we were standing close to Niagara Falls!
We had all decided not to go on the boat because of the time we would have had to wait in the queue. There was a large statue of King George VI, King of Canada. The high tower had an outside lift like a wee ladybug going up the wall! Fran and George had to almost drag us from the Falls and we reluctantly turned away. We had a walk round the shops, then back to rest at Hotel. I realised I had set the camera wrongly at 200 instead of 100 as the film I used needed, so was a bit dashed and hoped the slides weren’t all useless.
After dinner we went to Theatre in the Round to see ‘On the Rocks’ by G.B. Shaw. It was well done but long! We got back about 11.15 and had a good night’s sleep. In the morning, we had a stroll to look at the river and lake, then left for Jackson. We had a detour by accident which slowed us up. We had been meant to bypass Hamilton but drove through it! John and I quite enjoyed the chance to see a large Canadian town. We stopped downtown for lunch. We learned that John P. collected clockwork money-boxes and would stop at the Henry Ford Museum in Detroit where he might see some. We had been to it a few weeks ago but it was only an hour till closing time so John and I just browsed around admiring the massive rail cars, etc. There was also the President Gerald Ford Library in Ann Arbor. It was quite interesting but when you’ve seen one Presidential Library you’ve seen them all, if you aren’t a native!
We stopped to buy steak which John P. cooked on the outside fire while I got some washing done. The two John’s ‘shucked’ green corn, I set the table and Fran took care of the rest. David and Jane Knapp came by and gave us an album she had padded and covered with fabric with an embroidered panel ‘Memories of Jackson’, which is now on the desk beside me. John P. (obstetrician) had to go to the Hospital to get records for the operations he had to do next day. So we were late to bed, but all up and breakfasting at 7am. This all happened at the end of our Michigan time, so I’m back-tracking now!
Going back a few weeks, we had had a surprise call from Marvin Rosa a U.M. minister in Traverse City, northwest from Jackson. He and his wife Annette would like us to come and spend a few days with them. They had had an exchange with someone in England who knew John. We had to ask our ‘committee’ who also seemed to think we were tourists not workers! They thought it was a good idea and began planning. Probably if we had said we’d like to visit the moon they would have got in touch with the Space Centre! Lee and Helen Zimmerman would drive us there and visit friends. We set off at 8am and arrived at the Rosas about 3pm. The scenery was lovely, so many small lakes. Lee had decided to go via Leland, the fishing town of Michigan which is on two lakes, large Michigan and tiny Lelanau, and very attractive. There was so much to see and we enjoyed finding out about the fishing which was a major industry. We passed a place called Petoskey which was famous for stones full of amoeba fossils easily found on the beach. We got some of them later and were delighted. I still have a few, having given some to my granddaughters. I hope they have kept them! We got a great welcome from Marv and Annette, and Lee and Helen went off to stay with their friends. Two of the Rosa boys were at home, Mark and Marv Jnr, both friendly and charming lads. We all went to a Farm Market to get sweetcorn for dinner and to see the Main Street and the Lake.
They took us to see the replica of the ‘Bounty’ of mutiny fame. We were amazed to hear it had been built by MGM specially for the film about the mutineers. It was a beautiful ship as the photograph shows. We felt very much at home with the family and they obviously had good feelings towards us! On the first night we were there we heard they were all going to a wedding out-of-town. It was at a place where he had been minister for some years and Marv was to officiate. We were rather taken aback but they were happy for us to be there. They went off next day leaving us with the key and their lovely house and garden to play in! The house was furnished in what would be known as Shaker style, dating from the 1800s. Shakers were a religious group who did a lot of dancing hence the name, or so we were told! Many of them were furniture makers and their style was ‘plain but elegant’. They were among the first to make rocking chairs and there was a very comfortable one in our temporary home.
Like most U.S. homes we’d been in it was ‘perfect’. It was almost like a museum, full of interesting things. The Rosas collected old things: china, clocks, dolls and glass oil lamps were the main items. Most rooms had at least one oil lamp (which reminded me of my Kilmacolm Grandparents’ house where the lamps were the only source of light.) The Rosa lamps were collector’s items and very ornamental. The dolls, every kind you could think of, were all beautifully dressed. It was a real delight to be able to handle them and wonder about their history. The old china was nicely displayed and you couldn’t miss the clocks! We had no transport but we walked down to the shops and all around the area, getting some funny looks from passing car folk. Walking wasn’t fashionable at all! There were no foot paths and some of the roads we walked had grass at each side and we were walking under fruit trees laden with fruit. We stocked up with postcards and stamps. Traverse City is the Cherry Capital of Michigan but we were either too early or too late for it, I forget which. We saw some ‘harvesting’ by people on a very high rising platform called (surprise!) a cherry-picker. We were sorry to have seen Marv, Annette and the boys for so short a time but we had a very enjoyable time nevertheless. We left before their return but kept contact for many years.
The blog will be taking a short rest now while I recover from a cataract operation. I will be back once I have my new glasses and can see clearly again.