Return to Glenlord: Memories of Michigan Summers

Overview

For author Alexander Rassogianis, spending the summers with his family in southwestern Michigan during his school years in the 1950s brought the greatest joy and the fondest memories. In Return to Glenlord, he reminisces about this era of old-fashioned resorts, quaint little cottages, sandy beaches, long walks on country roads, and the permeating scent of pine.

In this memoir, Rassogianis recalls being a part of a vibrant Greek community that transported itself from Chicago ...

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Return to Glenlord: Memories of Michigan Summers

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Overview

For author Alexander Rassogianis, spending the summers with his family in southwestern Michigan during his school years in the 1950s brought the greatest joy and the fondest memories. In Return to Glenlord, he reminisces about this era of old-fashioned resorts, quaint little cottages, sandy beaches, long walks on country roads, and the permeating scent of pine.

In this memoir, Rassogianis recalls being a part of a vibrant Greek community that transported itself from Chicago every year. He includes anecdotes about memorable and humorous characters and events, including getting into mischief with his three buddies, falling in love six times before the age of twelve, and going on excursions to Glenlord Beach, the outdoor movie theater, the amusement park, Deer Forest, and the House of David.

Return to Glenlord shares the remembrances of a carefree time and of being part of a beautiful world that no longer exists. Although the resorts and cabins of Rassogianis's youth are a thing of the past, his memories of summers spent in Stevensville, Michigan, can never be replaced.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781475992250
  • Publisher: iUniverse, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 6/18/2013
  • Pages: 262
  • Sales rank: 819,420
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.59 (d)

Read an Excerpt

Return to Glenlord

Memories of Michigan Summers


By Alexander Rassogianis

iUniverse, Inc.

Copyright © 2013 Alexander Rassogianis
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4759-9225-0



CHAPTER 1

On Our Way


When my mother and father told us we were going to Michigan the next day or in a few days, it brought on an exhilarating feeling in me that is hard to describe. We would never say we were going to Stevensville, the name of the town where our home was. It was always "Michigan." The mere mention of this name was more exciting than anything else I could possibly think of. I just couldn't wait to get there. It was fairly close in distance, and yet, at the same time, it was an eternity away. Images of being there flashed through my mind like a windmill going round and round and never stopping. The sand dunes, the beach, the outdoor theater, the warm summer sun, and the House of David Amusement Park were all significant parts of this. Of course, it also meant the end of the school year and the beginning of a carefree summer, which didn't exactly hurt any kid. It made me very happy. I realize now that not many children had the privilege of spending an entire summer away from Chicago. We just took it for granted.

After several years of staying at resorts, namely Clamor Court and Arigoni's Riviera Resort, my father bought five acres of land on Ridge Road and had a home built. It had a spacious living room, a full-sized kitchen, three bedrooms, an attic, and a large basement. The walls were made of knotty pine wood, and it really resembled a summer home. There was a certain country pine tree scent in the air every time we walked in the house. My friend Jimmy Demeur's home, which was located directly next door, also had the same summer pine scent. It was dominant almost everywhere we went. Our house had a prime location. It was only blocks away from Glenlord Beach on Lake Michigan, and we had plenty of fruit trees, including pear and cherry. Far in the back of the house we had grapevines and even blackberry bushes.

CHAPTER 2

The Long Journey


There were no expressways in the early days, and getting there from Chicago seemed to take forever. I believe the journey took at least three and one half hours, and I remember going through the downtown sections of Gary, Hammond, East Chicago, and Michigan City, Indiana. We would always stop in East Chicago, where my godmother, Elaine Katzourakis, lived with her parents, Theo Spiro and Thea Evangelia (Uncle Spiro and Aunt Evangelia). Theo was the Greek word for uncle and thea was the word for aunt. All relatives and even friends of my parents were referred to as theo or thea. I guess it was a way of showing respect to people who were older than you and were close to your family.

Theo Spiro owned two movie theaters in Hammond—the Calumet and the Pix—up until television exploded in popularity in the early fifties. Prior to owning the theaters, he operated an ice cream parlor in Indiana Harbor known as the Royal Ice Cream Company. My godmother, Elaine, became a music teacher. She also had a wonderful voice, and it was always a pleasure to listen to her play the piano. Thea Evangelia grew up with my mother in Goritsa, Sparta, in Greece where they had been next-door neighbors. Elaine baptized me at the Assumption Greek Orthodox Church on Chicago's West Side when she was only twelve years old.

When we finally got on the road again, we knew it wouldn't be long before we were there. The state of Michigan always had blue license plates for its vehicles, and I would always be on the lookout to spot them, for it meant that we might be getting closer. I was also looking for anything that resembled a sand dune. I didn't have much patience. When we approached the Michigan state line with Indiana, we could see the sign towering over the old highway in big bold letters: Michigan—Water Wonderland. That's what it was—a wonderland. It was my idea of heaven and paradise, my Brigadoon. What a welcome sight it was. It was only a few hours from Chicago, but it seemed like we were entering a totally different world and never wanted to look back. One time my father shouted out to my brother, John, who was sitting in the backseat, "Look, Johnny, we're leaving Indiana." My brother, in a condescending tone of voice, yelled back. "Phooey, what good is it?" I guess that said it all.

Was being in Michigan that much of a difference, or was most of it in my mind? I could look at the trees, the homes, the grass, the greenery, the people, or anything else I wanted, and all of it looked better to me simply because I knew I was in Michigan. Is that crazy or what? I felt like a totally different human being the whole time I was there, and it almost seemed as though I was in a foreign country. When I looked at the splendor of the evening sky with thousands of stars splattered magnificently from one end to the other, it was a wonder to behold—and a scene that couldn't be matched in Chicago. When I heard the sound of owls hooting in the night and crickets chirping somewhere in the dark, I knew I was in the country and miles away from the bustle I had left behind. The sound of the waves crashing against the shoreline took hold of me and never let me go. It relaxed my body, my mind, and my senses all at the same time. This was the extent to which it affected me and I suppose most everyone else too.

CHAPTER 3

Our Town


Stevensville was made up largely of old wooden frame homes, with a section of summer homes and resorts located closer to Lake Michigan. Most of these were on Marquette Woods, Ridge, and Glenlord Roads. Downtown was farther inland and was about a block and a half long. I always referred to it later as "metropolitan" Stevensville. Three businesses that stand out in my mind were the IGA grocery store, the corner Rexall drugstore, and the Stevensville Hardware store. My uncle George could never pronounce the word hardware and always called it the "Harvard store" instead. There was a personable college-aged guy who worked at the drugstore for years. His short blond hair stood straight up in a crew cut, which was fashionable at that time. His shirts were always button-down, and you could always see the top of his white T-shirt embracing his neck. He wore Ivy League pants, with the traditional buckle in the back above the pockets, and was the type of person you would like to have as a friend. He would always greet us as we entered, "Hi, guys. How are you doing? What's going on?"

There was always at least one bar and one restaurant in town, but I'm not sure I recall the names of either. Perhaps the eatery was named the Stevensville Inn. It seems like they were always changing hands. There was a bank on the northeast corner of downtown, and it has remained so. The business district was only a block and a half long, but it somehow managed to maintain a constant vitality. The parking spots were always taken. People were coming and going. You would think it was a small city with the way the traffic was continuous. When someone said they were on their way to downtown Stevensville, you never asked why. There was plenty to do.

It could be reached by two different roads, both of which connected to Red Arrow Highway. One of these, my favorite, passed by the local cemetery and was almost parallel to the railroad tracks, which ran through downtown. It was the type of winding road that would fit into any small-town country setting. There were huge oak trees with thick, dark trunks and old wooden-framed homes separated from the road by soft-white wooden fences.

Sometimes the train would pass us on the way to town, blowing its prominent whistle and warning everyone that it was near. I had always hoped that it would be there when we were going into town, because I always loved trains. From a car going thirty-five or forty miles per hour, a train racing alongside of us and finally pulling away was quite a sight.

CHAPTER 4

Glenlord Beach


Going to Glenlord Beach was the highlight of every day. In fact, it was almost a ritual. We could walk there because it was only a few blocks away. Many times we would go there early in the morning to see how the water was. We always wanted to know if it was wavy or calm, and this was part of the anticipation. If it was calm, it meant great swimming and fun. If it was wavy, it meant the thrill of "catching a wave" and riding it in to the shore. Sometimes these waves would make us drift southward to the point that when we emerged from the water, we were the equivalent of several blocks away from where we left our beach towels.

There was a long stairway leading down to the beach, with a bench halfway down for those who needed a rest. There was also a rest spot made of concrete at the top where we would brush off all of the sand before getting into our cars or walking home. It was a beautiful and spacious beach with a white lifeguard stand propped up right in the middle. There were small, hilly sand dunes with beautiful poplar trees situated prominently and leaning somewhat toward the beach. This was the same for miles in each direction.

The sights and sounds heard at the beach were prevalent almost every day. There was always a transistor radio somewhere blasting rock 'n' roll songs on WJJD, the most popular station at the time. It was a sure bet that "Don't Be Cruel" by Elvis Presley and Percy Faith's "Theme from a Summer Place" would be heard several times a day. People were talking and laughing all around.

Little kids would dig in the sand and use it to construct stately looking castles near the water until a strong wave would ultimately come along and wash them away. Parents would yell at their children to come closer to the shore because they thought they were swimming too deep. Teenage boys played catch with a football, always having it "accidentally" land next to some pretty girls.

What I enjoyed the most was looking way out into the lake and watching motorboats race across the water at high speeds, water splashing around on all sides. The sound resembled a power saw ripping through lumber, and the buzzing sound it created lasted almost all afternoon.

Taking a walk on the beach was something we did almost every day. Looking for seashells was always the highlight of these strolls if we were lucky enough to spot any. There was a large abandoned home near the cliff farther down from our beach that we referred to as the "haunted house." We never knew who used to live there or why it was abandoned, but I guess that was part of the excitement of walking around and inside of it. I remember old and decayed furniture and broken glass all over the largest room. We would make up stories as to who had once inhabited the old rickety house and why they had left. Could someone have been murdered there? Were there any clues left behind? There were plenty of tales to go around. After these walks we couldn't wait to get back to our beach and jump back into the water.

Being in the water was absolutely wonderful. Sometimes we would stay in for so long I think we were actually turning blue. Our brothers, sisters, and fathers and everyone else would be yelling at us to come out of the water. I remember them yelling, "Get out! Get out! You're going to get sick."

"No, we won't. We feel good" was our expected reply.

"Come on out now."

"Five more minutes" was our usual answer.

We couldn't care less. The water was home, and we could stay in forever. One of the most enjoyable things to do was to take part in the act of dunking. This was to swim under the water, lift someone onto your shoulders, and then throw them backward. It was fun doing it and even enjoyable to be on the receiving end as well.

Another pleasure was to swim out to the sandbar, if one existed that day. There was always something peculiarly fascinating about a sandbar. I compared it to being in a desert and suddenly coming upon an oasis. Someone would always yell out, "There's a sandbar! There's a sandbar! Let's swim out to it." It was always as if they had never seen one before. I always thought it was such a peculiar sight to see people standing around and talking at such a great distance from the shoreline. Getting back was always more fatiguing than swimming out.

One afternoon when we swam out, my brother John almost found himself in serious trouble. He swam to the sandbar with no problem because he was wearing a pair of flippers. It was a fairly easy swim. While a group of us were standing around talking, someone asked him if they could borrow his flippers. Without thinking much about it, he said yes. During the swim back to shore he realized he had made a mistake by giving them away. He was struggling. He didn't think he was going to make it. Just as he was about to go under the water, Spiro Coulolias, my friend Alkie's older brother, was very alert and saw what was happening.

"Spiro!" John yelled out.

"Grab my hand, Johnny," Spiro shouted. "Grab it and hold on tight."

He reached out to him. John grabbed his hand and was pulled to shallower water. Within seconds he was able to touch the sand on the bottom. It was a petrifying experience for him and one he would never forget for the rest of his life. If Spiro hadn't been there, God knows what would have happened. John was saved and was very grateful.

When Jimmy Demeur, my good friend and next-door neighbor, and I were probably eight or nine years old, his mother would sit on the beach at the water's edge, perhaps a few feet away, so she could keep an eye on Jimmy. She even made him wear a yellow bathing suit so she could easily spot him at all times. My mother and some of the other ladies would try to convince her to sit with them and talk and to not worry about Jimmy so much, but she just couldn't do it. She figured that if something happened to him, she would be very close to help.

Her intentions were admirable, but there was just one problem—she couldn't swim. In an emergency, she would have been almost useless. Her husband, Dr. Demeur, told her, "What good is it if you can't swim?" I guess she felt as though she was somehow protecting him, because nothing could bring her away from the edge of the water.

It was a wonderful feeling lying on the warm sand after spending hours in the water. I could never understand at that time how most of the girls on the beach would lie there and never go in. As I think of it now, lying in the sun all day must have been torture. Many times we would eat outside at home after an afternoon at the beach. My father had a grill, and we had a picnic table on the rear patio in the back of the house. What an appetite we had. The best hot dogs and hamburgers I ever had in my life were the ones my father would make on the grill after we spent the entire afternoon at the beach.

While we were lying on the sand one afternoon, it started getting very cloudy, and then a light rain began to fall. The people on the beach went into a panic. They started gathering their belongings and made a mad rush to the stairs and to their cars. We walked to the beach that day, and there was no one we knew who would give us a lift home. Since we were already wet from swimming, why should we be so concerned about the rain? Water is water.

We walked slowly all the way home with just our swimsuits on, and it poured the entire time. The rain bouncing off of our tanned and sun-drenched brown skin remains one of the most wonderful sensations I have ever experienced. It was a very pleasant afternoon. We were hoping it would happen again someday, but it never did. It was an exhilarating feeling!

My father built a special shower in the basement to be used after we came home from the beach. It was in the northwest corner, and it had two wooden walls. After a long, hot day of swimming and then a cool shower, we would sit outside on the patio and just relax for a while. We felt so refreshed and relaxed we didn't want to get up and do anything.

CHAPTER 5

Linda and Rita


One day at the beach Jimmy and I met two girls named Linda and Rita. We were eleven or twelve, and they were a little older. They were playing catch in the water with a small beach ball, and we decided to take the ball away from them to see if they could get it back. We had a lot of fun playing keep-away and dunking them. I remember having Linda on my shoulders, and it felt so good having her there that I didn't want to throw her in the water.
(Continues...)


Excerpted from Return to Glenlord by Alexander Rassogianis. Copyright © 2013 Alexander Rassogianis. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Contents

Preface....................     xi     

Acknowledgments....................     xv     

1. On Our Way....................     1     

2. The Long Journey....................     3     

3. Our Town....................     5     

4. Glenlord Beach....................     7     

5. Linda and Rita....................     12     

6. The Riviera Resort....................     14     

7. Clamor Court....................     16     

8. The Outdoor....................     20     

9. The Little Store....................     23     

10. Silver Beach....................     25     

11. The House of David....................     28     

12. Deer Forest....................     30     

13. Twin Cities....................     32     

14. Hunters....................     35     

15. The Expedition....................     38     

16. Buddies....................     40     

17. Holier Than Thou....................     45     

18. The Quiet Protest....................     49     

19. The Meeting Place....................     52     

20. The Reluctant Immigrant....................     55     

21. Neighbors....................     59     

22. Down the Road....................     62     

23. Hot Dog John....................     66     

24. Lowering the Bar....................     68     

25. Edgewood Court....................     70     

26. Boyland....................     73     

27. The Grande Vista....................     75     

28. Watch Your Language....................     79     

29. Quo Vadis....................     81     

30. Movie Mimicry....................     83     

31. The Mediator....................     86     

32. Do We Have a Problem?....................     88     

33. Troublemakers....................     90     

34. Smoke Gets in Your Eyes....................     93     

35. Someone Watching Over Me....................     96     

36. The Greatest Day....................     99     

37. Across Ridge Road....................     101     

38. The Evening Walks....................     103     

39. Rebel Rouser....................     104     

40. Music to Our Ears....................     106     

41. The Flip Side....................     108     

42. It's All in the Label....................     110     

43. The Greatest Pizza on Earth....................     135     

44. Scared out of Our Wits....................     137     

45. The Story of Mary....................     139     

46. Mrs. Demeur....................     142     

47. A Line Is Drawn....................     144     

48. Sweet Yiay ia....................     148     

49. Fruit of Our Labor....................     150     

50. Trail of the Serpent....................     153     

51. Emil the Barber....................     155     

52. Thoughts of My Father....................     158     

53. Camp George....................     162     

54. The Stover Boy....................     164     

55. It Takes a Little Muscle....................     166     

56. An American Tragedy....................     170     

57. Master Spies....................     172     

58. The Border Feud....................     176     

59. Visitors from the East....................     178     

60. Ann Marie at the Beach....................     180     

61. Very Impressed....................     185     

62. Mysterious Grand Mere....................     188     

63. Boys Will Be Boys....................     190     

64. We Have Met the Enemy....................     192     

65. The Tree House....................     196     

66. Pranksters....................     200     

67. Lazy Lumberjacks....................     202     

68. The Mystery Man....................     205     

69. Aliens among Us....................     207     

70. Under the Weather....................     211     

71. Pass the Spoons....................     212     

72. Preteen Crushes....................     214     

73. Sights and Sounds....................     218     

74. Straight from the Kitchen....................     221     

75. No Games for Us....................     224     

76. The Unthinkable....................     227     

77. That Fateful Day....................     231     

78. Desperation....................     233     

Epilogue....................     236     

Etched in My Mind Forever....................     239     


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