Last Tuesday morning, just before Barry and I drove to Marquette for a lovely pre-Valentines Day weekend getaway, my mom emailed.
The Dodge Garage building, owned by my mother, in my hometown of Yale in the Thumb of Michigan, was burning.
By the grace of God and maybe twenty-one fire departments, this proved to be the only building to burn beyond recognition on Yale’s Main Street on this cold winter day last week.
What else could have burned to the ground, to no longer exist except in memory? The Wash House, next door, owned by my brother, Scot, could have incinerated. Although it’s been badly damaged on one wall, I suspect (and insurance willing) that someday folks will once again wash and dry clothes in the laundromat.
The Yale Expositor, our dear weekly newspaper, could have disappeared from its old building. It could be no more. The owners (one of whom I babysat years and years ago in another lifetime) worked ceaselessly to save historical books and microfilm.
And further down the street, right at the corner, our family’s pharmacy still stands strong. Owned now by my brother, Scot, it still survives to fill prescriptions for those in pain, in ill-health, in need of medication. It still survives as a place where one can buy greeting cards, or Ladies Home Journal, or a gift for Grandma’s birthday.
Other buildings, on the other side of the Dodge Garage, could have ignited, just like that, never to be seen again, never to be visited, shopped, enjoyed.
Even better than the survival of all these old buildings is that no one was injured or killed in that massive blaze that brought tears to the faces of many. Thank goodness. No lives were lost.
I have a fist-full of memories of the Dodge Garage to share with you. When my parents first moved to Yale in the 1960’s, a Dodge dealership lodged in the building. Sometime along the line, my dad bought it.
(Don’t ask me why my mom ended up owning it. Probably Dad gave it to her as a Valentines Day present one year—JUST KIDDING!)
What I remember is that Dad carried excess stock from the Pharmacy and the Discount Store, another store he owned further down the block, and my job involved selling the extra paper towel, candy, notebooks, toothpaste and whatever at the Dodge Garage.
These were fun days! The local folk liked rummage sales and flea markets and scurried in to buy the cheap goods. I received my wage (probably $1 an hour in those days; who can remember? I do recall that my first wage at age 12 was fifty cents an hour.)
Even though I was a shy teenager, working at the Pharmacy and Discount Store and the Dodge Garage ignited a love of people. I liked the community members who visited regularly, who chatted, who smiled, who said please and thank you as you waited on them.
Later, in the 1990’s, our kids worked at the Dodge Garage when they visited Nanny and Papa. Christopher recalls it with great fondness. Our daughter sold golf balls gifted to her by her other grandpa who lived on a golf course and earned a very lucrative wage for a seven-year-old.
Seven years ago my mom rented the building to a fellow named Matt McNutt who owned a business called “Serious Graphics and Signs”.
We’ve heard that the community of Yale joined together to help the fire fighters, to support the City Hall, to give of their time and effort. My friend, Christie, who lives in East Lansing, messaged during the fire to say that part of her wished she could return to Yale to do something–anything–to help.
I felt the same way. But Yale is 550 long miles from the Upper Peninsula where we live.
For those who want to read more about the fire here are two links. My mom and brother are quoted in this one where it states the cause of the fire has not been determined: http://www.thetimesherald.com/article/20140212/NEWS01/302120018/Cause-Yale-fire-has-not-been-determined
(Update: they are concluding that the fire probably started in an overhead heater in Serious Graphics.)
MANY MANY thanks from our whole family for those involved in fighting this fire! All of our hearts go out to this special community…