The line was eight persons long. Once I stepped behind the last one I was number nine. I methodically checked out how many of the eight ahead were actually purchasers and discovered there were only two pair. The first appeared to be a mother in her late fifties and her daughter in her thirties. Maybe the two women weren’t even relatives, but they seemed to share a family resemblance in a number of ways. Only mother had a purchase in hand. The other couple was a husband and wife duo, both white haired and he looked bored. (Guess that is why I decided they were married). She had a couple of sofa or chair pillows in her hand and he, nothing. They stood silent directly in front of me.
Just as I was about to become resigned to a long wait to pay for my purchases two additional clerks appeared on the scene with big smiles on their faces. I suspect they had just completed their lunch break with a good story. With expert maneuvers the first intersected waiting purchasers in front of me at number three in the line and swept them and the woman behind her to a second cash register just as her friend motioned number six, seven and eight to follow her to a third cash register. I was left to step forward behind the woman and her daughter. Now we were two, so to speak.
As I stood waiting my turn I found myself entranced with what it was all nine of us were buying. No two were similar; not even close. This led me to compare the appearance of the other eight as they stood waiting. Absolutely none of us appeared like any other. All women except for the bored husband we shared nothing in our appearances or our purchases. No wonder the store was so large and yet packed with merchandise. It had a much diversified clientele. Today’s version of yesterday’s department store this large ‘box’ store was one of many outlets of a national retail franchise across our extensive land.
One of Boyne City’s outstanding features to its residents and visitors is the absence of the national ‘box’ stores. Within our town the stores are almost entirely owned by local business men and women who take a very personal interest in the store’s inventory and the needs of the shopper. There is uniqueness about those items that line the shelves, display cases and racks. And the price ranges have been carefully selected to appeal to both the local and out of town shopper.
It is small wonder that upon entering a shop we feel that ‘small town’ welcome which accompanies knowing the owners and clerks by name. They also may be near neighbors, belong to the same community group we do, be a distance cousin a couple of times removed, a member of our church or even a close friend. Recently I had need to go to Barden’s Lumber Yard for a hunk of shelving. While standing at the large checkout counter waiting for assistance I noticed the owner seated back in the office area busily talking on the phone. His resemblance to his father, the Mr. Barden I met when we moved into Boyne back in ’61 struck me as amazing.
I suspect he saw me staring his way as he rose and come out to greet me. We talked about the resemblance and he told me how much it had bothered his father that he, the son, had grown taller and bigger than his dad. But then, that is so often the case in this day. My grandsons are all taller and larger men than their fathers were. Our Nancy is taller than I am and her niece, my granddaughter Laura is taller than both of us – each generation has gained at least an inch. And I was considered unusually tall at 5’9” in my youth. I suspect the regulation height of 6’8” for doorways used for so many years by builders will become a thing of the past. It already has disappeared in many public buildings. Seven foot and even eight foot door openings are becoming common.
More and more shopping is done on line as time passes by. Perhaps it is the congeniality and help I find in Boyne City’s stores that causes me to do very little online shopping. I am at my computer every day but for writing and research. Once in a great while I will web hunt for information about a product and where it is available. Admittedly what I seek may not be found here in our small burg, but such a possibility is rare. I am constantly amazed at the great variety of goods that is here at our fingertips. Add to this the beauty of the trees, flowers and walkways that wrap themselves into and around our shopping area which, although it has expanded both north and south off its main area on Water Street remains edged with the beautiful water and shore of Lake Charlevoix, the banks of the Boyne river and all its peaceful parks.
With two ice cream shops only steps away there is always that invitation to take a few minutes to sit on a park bench while happily enjoying a cone and watching summer evolve right before your eyes. The recent Thunder Boats were such an addition to this opportunity that Ray and I found ourselves content to spend a number of hours in the midst of it all. And that night, during the Stroll the Streets festivities in the SOBO District we were transfixed with a group of musicians which played at the corner of South Lake and Main Street. The air was permeated with the feeling of peace and pleasure.
While listening I found myself engrossed in ‘car’ watching. I was transfixed as one after the other autos of all makes and designs slowly passed by. One three-wheeler was so unique I wanted it to park so I could examine it more. There were antiques and the latest models, one passing after another. An ancient Rolls-Royce drove by like a mountain in comparison to its companions. It was of a lasting beauty.
The easy moving breeze off the cold lake water found itself up into the town and without intrusion brought to each of the evening’s spectators the perfect ‘air-conditioning’ as they strolled the sidewalks until dusk enveloped. Someone that evening observed, “This little town has really changed in the last ten years. I can’t believe how much.”
I nodded in agreement but disagreed mentally. Boyne City has been in the act of ‘changing’ since its first days. The dirt streets, sidewalks, non insulated wood frame homes, rock foundations and Michigan basements with their dirt floors, outdoor biffys and artesian wells have all but been replaced. Ed called Boyne the miracle of vinyl siding and I had to agree. To me it was the national observance of our country’s two hundredth birthday in 1976 that prompted its residents, businesses and community groups to begin the ‘beautification’ of its streets, water front, parks and private yards. I am certain no other town in this great country has done a more thorough and beautiful job, no matter its size and resources. I have been impressed at the bit of reforestation that has been accomplished throughout the downtown as a result of the small tornado which passed through just a few years back taking down a swath of trees.
We are so fortunate to have the leadership we do in both the city government and our Chamber of Commerce. Over the years they have had and remain working with a vision that maintains those qualities about our town which generate these fantastic feelings of pride and satisfaction we share as well as the enjoyment that is with us all. How have they done it? I believe as the old adage charges; taking a stitch when it is needed has saved us all from having to roll up our sleeves and plunge in to mend the mistakes lack of foresight so often generates. It is then that the proverble ‘nine’ stitches must be taken; wasting both time and money.
For more of Anne’s writing, visit www.boynegazette.com