(Editor’s Note: Thanks to Bob Munson for this story about his memories of growing up on the Old Mission Peninsula in the 1950s, including attending the Old Mission School. Now owned by a private owner, the school is located just north of the Old Mission General Store on Old Mission Road. – jb)
In 1955, my father moved our family from Cadillac to Traverse City. He bought a piece of property on Center Road (M37), 1/4 mile south of Gray Road, on the Old Mission Peninsula. East Bay was across the road, and it was the last property on Center Road before the highway veered away from the shoreline. The property consisted of 40 acres of land and 730 feet of bay frontage, and included a 3-bedroom colonial house, a 3-stall two-story barn, a six-run dog kennel, a boat house, and a tool shed with a fruit cellar. All this for … are you sitting down? … $25,000.
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I was almost nine years old and had no idea what an ideal spot this would be to grow up. We had a pear orchard of about 20 trees. Our first autumn, we had a huge crop of pears, but never again. My mother had a half-acre garden, which I got to plow each spring using a borrowed tractor. My dad bought Mom a ’48 Ford pickup, which I learned to drive using the flat part of the 40 acres (the rest was woods and hills).
Dad built a raft for my sister and me, as well as a dock for our boat. Before I could drive (legally), I used the boat to commute to my summer job for a lady who lived about five miles down the shore. Between the truck and the boat, I learned skills which have stuck with me. Of the many things my parents gave me, the freedom to learn was high on my list.
In September of 1955, my older sister Cathy and I began attending the original Old Mission School. Because we had moved from Cadillac, I was considered to be a “city slicker.” I think this was meant to be an insult, but wasn’t, because I didn’t know what that was. My mother told me it was “nothing,” and I took her at her word.
The various elementary schools were located all over the Old Mission Peninsula. Fifth and sixth grades were located in Old Mission School. Our school had two classrooms, one for each grade. When the “new” Old Mission Peninsula School (OMPS) opened on Island View Road, all of the former schools were sold and became residences.
Our heating system at the Old Mission School consisted of an oil stove in each room. Abe Lincoln had nothing on us, except we had oil instead of wood. They have similar school houses in Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Michigan. Memories linger.
Next to the school was a candy store (editor’s note: the current Old Mission General Store, known then as Lardie’s and owned by George Lardie at the time), which probably sold groceries, considering how far away the next store was, but all I remember is the candy. We were not allowed to leave the school grounds during recess (perhaps at the request of the store owner), but we could go there after school – except the bus was waiting, and we DID NOT want to miss the bus.
A few years ago, Cathy and I did a nostalgia trip to the Old Mission Peninsula. We visited the store, which I observed had received an addition, confirmed by the owner. A gentleman asked me how I knew about the store, and I told him my sister and I went to school “right there.” He was very surprised to hear that, as almost everyone else that he met “these days” was from somewhere else.
My sister and I, of course, rode the bus every day. The route was up Center Road and down Old Mission Road to the school, or sometimes down Bluff Road to Old Mission. It was about twelve miles, and when the new school opened, our commute was cut to about five miles.
The biggest change in the new school was the HUGE number of students, and there were now kids below us in the pecking order! This was especially important at recess. I suppose the school also had a library, more room, more staff and different teachers for different subjects – all of which mattered to my educational achievement, but that was all beyond my vision at the time.
Editor’s Note: Here are a couple of photos of Old Mission School students from “A Century of Service,” published by the Peninsula Telephone Company in 2008.
A NOTE FROM JANE: I started Old Mission Gazette in 2015 because I felt a calling to provide the Old Mission Peninsula community with local news. After decades of writing for newspapers like the New York Times and Los Angeles Times, and magazines like Family Circle and Ladies' Home Journal, I really just wanted to write about my own community where I grew up on a cherry farm and raised my own family. So of course, I started my own newspaper. Because the Gazette is mainly reader-supported, I hope you'll consider tossing a few bucks my way if I mention your event, your business, your organization or your news item, or if you simply love reading about what's happening on the Old Mission Peninsula. Check out the donation page here. Thank you so much for your support. -jb