Our Promised Land



Arthur G. Thayer

Thayer Coat Of Arms

Copyright © 1983 with all rights reserved by Arthur George Thayer



      During the depression, people from Detroit came to our area hoping to work for room and board. Gee, we'd been poor since 1923, but we always had potatoes, a pig, beef, a deer, milk, butter, cottage cheese, and buttermilk. Mom would can peas, corn, beans, tomatoes, cherries, peaches, etc.

      One Detroiter, Tommy Thompson, stayed with Dad and Mom for several years. He had been in the painting business and our white plastered walls and ceilings were painted as soon as Dad could afford the cost of the paint. Tommy's ability to select and blend colors was first class and he knew how to best handle a brush for quick and thorough coverage.

      On weekends Tommy "called" at the square dances in the various halls and was known throughout the area for his distinctive voice and rhymes. He loved to hunt and once or twice we broiled a day's bag of partridge.

      During the summer, one or the other of two brothers stayed with us, hoeing, milking, cutting wood, whatever the job. Their home was in Detroit, but their Dad had built a cottage along the lake. When the war started, they entered the Air Force and both died in basic training, one in Texas, the other in Kentucky.

      Uncle Merl Thayer and his wife Ida lived in Erie, Pennsylvania. Grandpa rode with them from his home in Atlantic to Hubbard Lake in the summer of '29. Grandpa was 92 and rather deaf; you had to shout at him and he would shout back at you. Dad asked him if the trip was good. Grandpa said, "It's so dry here, there is no damn dust!" (The gravel roads were treated with salt to keep the dust down.) After looking around awhile he announced, "I wouldn't give a square inch of Pennsylvania for the whole state of Michigan." Grandpa died in 1923 when he was 96 years old.

      In the early '30s, Dad had to have his lower teeth removed. He wanted a dentist who would use gas to put him to sleep. When he found one, he went to see him. I waited in the waiting room and heard some awful groans. The dentist would give Dad gas, remove the mask and start working. Dad would wake and groan. The sounds were too much for me so I left and came back after an hour. There was Dad with a wide grin and no teeth. "Gee, what happened?" The dentist was afraid of Dad's age and persuaded him to use novocain ---it worked!

      For Christmas one year, Mom received a gas-powered washing machine and the washboard was retired. Mom was a hard worker. She enjoyed being on the go ----- hoeing, milking, feeding the pigs and chickens, churning butter, feeding us, and nursing our wounds. She was truly a wonderful woman.

      While in Oil City, Mom had what she thought was appendicitis and bought two dozen bottles of a pinkish liquid. It was half oil of some sort and half water with something in it. She'd shake the bottle hard, drink a glass, and wince. Finally in April of '35 she went to Bay City to have her appendix removed.

      One clear, cold night in the winter of '31, we and the Larson's were at Uncle Fred's home for a birthday party. We all went home around 11 o'clock and were about to go to bed when Oscar Larson drove over, yelling and beeping his horn, "My house is on fire!" We dressed and rushed to the scene.

      Oscar had a telephone, but the fire had fused the wires. A tall, slender neighbor came over. One of Oscar's sons grasped his ankles and lifted him high enough to cut the wires with wire clippers. That restored telephone service; however, with no fire trucks and little water available, it was impossible to quickly extinguish the fire. We did get some things out -- dishes, a sewing machine, chairs, and some blankets, but Oscar`s fine home sustained a terrible loss. The barn, garage, and a small cottage were saved thanks to little wind and the efforts of the neighbors.

      Dad was always happy to talk with someone and one evening a tourist couple came for a visit to discuss the problems of the day. Now our living room, as well as the other rooms, was covered with a slippery linoleum. As Dad was talking, he coughed and his upper false teeth popped out and bounced on the linoleum. By the second bounce, Dad jumped over, caught them, and put them in his mouth, hardly missing a word in his conversation. Mom laughed quietly and covered her mouth with her hand. The guests never even smiled. I thought it so hilarious I had to leave.

      Collie was our dog all right, but he never understood the idea of "getting the cows". He'd chase them any old which way or simply ignore them. He loved to chase rabbits, he would kill a skunk and smell for a week or two, and he never learned not to tangle with a porcupine. His mouth would be full of quills and Dad would have to use a pair of pliers to remove them as a quill will continue to imbed itself unless yanked out. He'd chase a garter snake and then leave it unless I sicked him on it. If I did, he'd finally grasp the snake, shake it until the head and tail flew off and then puke. Oil or perspiration on a snake must be awful.

      Each spring Dad would buy one or two 6-week old pigs. In the fall we'd butcher them and the hams and bacon would be smoked. Some of the pork would be cut into chucks Mom could put in quart jars and can for summer meat.

      After haying in July, a car full of people would drive to Traverse City and pick cherries for Mom to can. We also picked delicious sweet cherries and we'd eat a tummy full. After an hour or so, the cherries would act like a laxative. When the urge came, one had better get to the outhouse immediately. If we hesitated a minute or so, it was too late. (Perhaps if the constipated farmer at the hospital had found a gallon or more of sweet cherries, his woes would have been of short duration.)

      Dad was a short man. He used tools and equipment and a lot of ingenuity in making things go. It was fun finding out what was wrong with a mower or a tool. Dad and I each tried to fix the unit first, but I could not make Bill's outboard motor work without using a battery (and I blew out the muffler).

      Gradually the Sampson tractor gave up the ghost and it was sold for $50.00 or $100.00. I believe the magneto lost its charge. To work on it was tiring, because we had to crank it. Then Dad bought a used Farmall or Allis Chalmers with rubber tires and a starter. By that time I was at Michigan State University.

      Not only tourists came after '23, but our relatives came for their vacations. Uncle Dan, Aunt Lydia, Uncle Merl, Uncle Arthur Dow, Uncle Lou, and all their respective families enjoyed Hubbard Lake. They came from Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. All were welcome. It was a break from chores and farming. Mom always worked hard feeding them with big meals of chicken, pork, string beans, corn, mashed potatoes, homemade noodles, a freezer of ice cream, pies and angel food cakes. Much of the time was sunny and everyone was active. But a strong west wind making waves on the lake or heavy rain would slow everyone down, be it tourist or relative.

      In '31 when his Dad was very old, Dad went to a Thayer reunion at Atlantic, Pennsylvania.

One of Mom's angel food cakes with Mom, Dad and Arthur Hazen at a reunion.

One of Mom's angel food cakes with Mom, Dad and Arthur Hazen at a reunion.

Also sometime in the '30s Mom and Dad drove to another Atlantic reunion and Chris and I were quite busy keeping the place going.

      The government strung power lines through the area in 1938. Mom's washing machine was wired to an electric motor and lamps were activated, including power to the barn. We had had a hand-operated water pump in the kitchen with the barrel in the basement and a pipe extending through the basement wall and into the well. Now an electric water pump went into the basement and a spigot in the kitchen replaced the hand pump.

Kindergarden to 8th grade at the McDonald Country Grade School at Spruce, Michigan, spring of '36.

Kindergarden to 8th grade at the McDonald Country Grade School at Spruce, Michigan, spring of '36.

      The McDonald grade school near Spruce hired me as a teacher in '35. They offered the job again the next year, but teaching did not suit me and I enrolled at Michigan State University for engineering studies.

      Before going to college in the fall, Mom and Dad seized the opportunity for a short family vacation. All of us (including Ruth, Mary and me) traveled to the Soo. We drove through Rogers City, Cheboygan and into Mackinaw City where we boarded the ferry. We were just ahead of the last car on the first car off so we did not have to wait.

Dad and Mom on the ferry going to St. Ignace..

Dad and Mom on the ferry going to St. Ignace.

      We looked at the shops in St. Ignace and at Castle Rock and stayed in a cabin halfway to the Soo. It was a beautiful day and so was the next. At the Soo we walked across the locks to the rapids. There we could see the water rushing over large brown rocks with green algae and white foam that rose from the blue water.

Mary watching the rapids at the Soo.

Mary watching the rapids at the Soo.

The white, blue, brown and green colors were beautiful. Nowadays the area has been fenced off by the military.

      We traveled along Lake Superior to a beautiful sandy beach. Mom and Dad watched us swim as freighters sailed by creating waves that rolled us. We drove home that afternoon and evening.

                      Other Chapters

                        1.     Atlantic
                        2.     Silica
                        3.     Oil City
                        4.     Boat Trip
                        5.     Chris's Home
                        6.     Hubbard Lake
                      7.     Hunting and Fishing
                        8.     Our Farm
                        9.     Schools
                      10.     The Depression and the 30's
    Next - - - 11.     Michigan State University
                      12.     Jobs
                      13.     Our Home
                      14.     Boating
                      15.     Trips
                      16.     The Tropics
                      17.     With The Kids
                      18.     It Is Written


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Copyright © 2001 with all rights reserved by William V. Thayer

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