Idlewild & The End of Segregation

Idlewild & The End of Segregation

We’re working at Pere Marquette Oaks RV Park just south of Baldwin, MI.  Just a few short miles east of Baldwin is the little Village of Idlewild.

From 1912 through the mid-60’s Idlewild was known as “The Black Eden” where scores of famous black entertainers from around the mid-west (and further) would come to entertain their fellow African-Americans in a classy resort community.  This became a very popular spot for the well-to-do where they could unwind and enjoy their idle time.  Folklore says the name may have originated from “Idle men and wild women”.

The Idlewild development was started in 1912 by four white land developers (2 from this area and 2 from Chicago) who marketed excursion trips from the African-American neighborhoods of Detroit, Chicago and other mid-west cities to this area.  They sold home sites to visitors looking for the peace and serenity that they didn’t have in the big city.

In it’s heyday, Idlewild’s summer population would grow to over 25,000 as folks came from far and wide to enjoy camping, swimming, boating, fishing, hunting, horseback riding, roller skating, and night-time entertainment.

Over the years, the area grew by leaps and bounds because of all the top-end entertainment that was featured at the Dance House and other watering holes that had opened.  This was a resort where black folks could come to where they felt welcome.

However, the end of an era came when the Civil Rights Act was enacted in 1964 and thereafter the folks who had traveled to Idlewild, could now enjoy leisure entertainment wherever they wished, often closer to home, due to the end of segregation.

Now Idlewild is a sleepy little village that still offers a lake, a post office, a bar/tavern but little else.  Many of the old cottages built in the 30’s and 40’s are now in disrepair although many folks still live here and thankfully there is an effort underway to revive Idlewild to attract new residents.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I was only a boy of 10 when the Civil Rights Act was passed.  Growing up in Detroit, I really hadn’t a clue about segregation, integration had already begun.  Although I believe in equal rights for every human being, still, it’s a shame to see that the end of segregation, so good and right for everyone, put an end to what was once a thriving economy for those that had the opportunity to travel here.

I hope that their efforts to revitalize the area are successful.  To see a short video about the history of Idlewild and the efforts to bring it back to life, see the Detroit Free Press story (written in 2014) by following this link.

To learn more about Idlewild, follow this link to the Wikipedia page

We’d really appreciate it if you would do us the favor of helping us continue to publish this RV / Travel / Workamping blog. Do you purchase any products from Amazon? If you do, it would be great if you’d use the link in the sidebar or one of the links below to get to Amazon … after that you can change your search. By making your Amazon purchases from our site, we will receive from Amazon a small percentage of your purchase and it doesn’t cost you any more. We’d really appreciate your help. Thank you, Herb & Kathy

Down to The Little Bitely Tavern

Our first night out of the park, we decided to run down the road a few miles to The Bitely Tavern where, on Thursdays, they offer their $2.00 hamburger.

THIS is where you’ll find Bitely

Bitely is a small village that currently boasts a gas station/convenience store, township hall, the “Bitely Boys” Motorcycle Club, a post office, and it’s most popular inhabitant …. The Bitely Tavern.  It used to be a station on the Chicago and Michigan Lake Shore Railroad in 1889.

The place was PACKED with folks that obviously knew each other … those that live nearby and those that come “up north” on the weekends.

Even though it was packed, we were served quickly and enjoyed our burgers AND liquid refreshment as well.  One of the fellas at the bar put money in the juke box and it blared country tunes of Johnny Cash and Jim Reeves.  The little 94 year old lady at the table next to us (right under the juke box) was there with her daughter and son-in-law.  Although she was sitting right UNDER the speakers, the bar maid had to keep turning UP THE VOLUME so she could hear!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The service was great, the food was good enough to come back again and try something else on the menu (what the hell does that mean?) and everyone there was having a good time.  We’ll go back and try the pizza next time.

In our next post, we’ll share with you the “suburb” of Baldwin that was famous for top black entertainers from back in the 20’s to the mid-60’s.  Stay tuned …

We’d really appreciate it if you would do us the favor of helping us continue to publish this RV / Travel / Workamping blog. Do you purchase any products from Amazon? If you do, it would be great if you’d use the link in the sidebar or one of the links below to get to Amazon … after that you can change your search. By making your Amazon purchases from our site, we will receive from Amazon a small percentage of your purchase and it doesn’t cost you any more. We’d really appreciate your help. Thank you, Herb & Kathy

Fisherman’s Paradise at Pere Marquette

Since we’ve been here just a few days in the “up north” area of Michigan, we’ve been able to do a little exploring.  We arrived at Pere Marquette Oaks RV Park on Sunday the 7th of May and our official work start date is not until the 15th.

Right after we arrived Sunday night, we noticed a leak in the kitchen sink area.  First thing Monday, a trip to the local ACE Hardware in Baldwin.  WOW!  What a store.

Baldwin ACE Hardware

Large store with ample supply of what seemed to be anything anyone might need or want without the need to drive to Big Rapids or Ludington for one of the big box stores.

Just a small length of plastic pipe strap fixed the problem in a jiffy. The slip joint on the “p” trap had come loose from the jiggling as we travel down the road.

While we were in town we decided to check out some of the Pere Marquette River boat launch sites AND OF COURSE one of the local restaurants for a late morning breakfast.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

After breakfast we walked across the street to see the famous JONES Ice Cream Shop.  They have been making their private recipe ice cream in the back room for 75 years.  The parlor’s walls are lined with hundreds of black and white photos showing Lake County history from the mid 1800’s forward.  Take a look at the photos below and see the old time ice cream parlor chairs and stools at the counter.

After breakfast we decided we wanted to look around town a bit check out the river that this area is so famous for.  I’ve put together a video (below) showing some of the different walk-in sites and boat launch sites to the river and some of the lakes in the nearby area.

So far, we are impressed by the beauty of the water and the quiet that abounds.  It’s so peaceful and calming.  Our next post will be a little about the park we’re living at for the summer.  Stay tuned for more.

We’d really appreciate it if you would do us the favor of helping us continue to publish this RV / Travel / Workamping blog. Do you purchase any products from Amazon? If you do, it would be great if you’d use the link in the sidebar or one of the links below to get to Amazon … after that you can change your search. By making your Amazon purchases from our site, we will receive from Amazon a small percentage of your purchase and it doesn’t cost you any more. We’d really appreciate your help. Thank you, Herb & Kathy

Old Home Week in S.E. Michigan

We left our “old” home in Mount Gilead, OH on May 1st and headed north to Wixom, MI area where we stayed at Proud Lake Recreation Area State Park for the week.  Our intent was to relax and enjoy the spring weather and see some long-time friends while we were there.  I wrote this earlier post with some pictures of the park.  It was COLD and RAINY nearly all week, but we had a great time nonetheless because we were able to hook up with friends from WAY BACK.

Sandy is the first little girl in the bottom row, I’m the kid in the top row, 3rd from the right, striped long sleeve shirt

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We had wonderful visits with old friends.  Some of these folks we haven’t seen in 30 or 40+ years.  Thanks to Facebook, we’ve been able to reconnect to lost friendships.  It’s so easy as we get busy with our; jobs/kids/school/sports/hobbies/parents/ etc.  to lose touch with those we once considered “very good” if not “best” friends.

We left Proud Lake on Sunday May 7th and had two more visits on our agenda as we continued our travel north to Baldwin, MI for our summer workamping job.

Trip Map From Proud Lake Rec Area to Delton, Spring Lake, Baldwin, MI

Who’s in Delton you ask?  Thanks to Facebook, I was able to find George Williston.  I hadn’t seen or even talked to George since 1960 when my family moved from Detroit out to Redford Township.  I had attended Kindergarten and first grade in Detroit, where I met George.  I lived with my folks and two older sisters on Monte Vista and George lived with his family on Pinehurst, next street over on the other side of the alley.  George and I used the alley as the shortcut from his house to mine.

13116 Monte Vista, Detroit
The home I grew up in from 1954 to 1960 – Now just a shell

It’s a shame to see what the house and the neighborhood have become.  I have some great memories of that home, our neighbors (the McGraw family) where there’s now just an empty lot, and my time playing (and causing a little trouble I’m sure) with my best friend George Williston.

Kathy and I met George and his wonderful wife Kelly where we enjoyed a light lunch in their beautiful home nestled in the woods.  In addition to having been a Wood Shop Industrial Arts teacher, George is also an accomplished writer.   You can order his book “This Tribe of Mine” on Amazon.

After our lunch and a nice walk around the property, we said goodbye to George and Kelly and headed further west and north to Spring Lake, Michigan where we met up with Brian Barker and his wife Connie.  Kathy and I went to Junior High and High School with Brian and we had a lot of great memories to talk about.  I had seen Brian and Connie when they lived in the Cincinnati area back a while but it’s been at least 20 years.  Kathy had never met Connie and hadn’t seen Brian in at least 35 years.

Herb, Kathy, Brian, and Connie

Brian and Connie live in a beautiful home just across from Spring Lake.  Great view and it’s easy to carry their kayaks over for an afternoon cruise.

Again, it was great to spend time with old friends and catch up on some mutual memories.

My next post will be an introduction to Baldwin, MI and Pere Marquette Oaks RV Resort.

That’s all for now.  Stay happy.

We’d really appreciate it if you would do us the favor of helping us continue to publish this RV / Travel / Workamping blog. Do you purchase any products from Amazon? If you do, it would be great if you’d use the link in the sidebar or one of the links below to get to Amazon … after that you can change your search. By making your Amazon purchases from our site, we will receive from Amazon a small percentage of your purchase and it doesn’t cost you any more. We’d really appreciate your help. Thank you, Herb & Kathy

First Day in Michigan @ Proud Lake Recreation Area

Our “home” parked in front of the bunkhouse

We left Mount Gilead on Monday morning May 1st.  We had parked in the driveway for the month of April, were able to see our doctors, get our taxes done, attend worship at our church, and have plenty of time to visit with family and good friends.

While we were “home”, we took advantage of the time available to us to sell a lot of what we had left behind when we started this new full-time RV’ing lifestyle last September.

Sara & Stu

Since our daughter and son-in-law were renting the house from us in our absence, it made our departure much easier as we had literally left nearly everything behind.

But now that we have confirmed that this full-time thing is for us (at least for the next few years), we want to sell the house so that we can be totally debt-free.  Selling the house will free up money that will allow us to pay off what little debt we have.  Craigslist and Facebook allowed us to sell thousands of dollars worth of household and yard/garden tools & equipment in very short order.  I sold Dewalt drills, a Mastertow Tow Dolly, Agrifab lawn sweeper, Cushman golf cart, and a whole lot more.  It was amazing how quickly things sold.

We’re not worried about where we might live when the time comes to hang up our keys to the coach.  We still own four rental units in Mount Gilead with great renters in each, but if push comes to shove we could ask any of the tenants to leave and we could take their place.

Another alternative is for us to take advantage of the life-time RV Lot lease program at any of the Escapee’s Co-Op Parks around the south, southwest, and northwest parts of the country.  Depending on the park and the amenities, lifetime leases are available for anywhere from about $7000 to $25,000 (one time payment).  Once the lease is paid, the only on-going costs are electricity and an annual Operating & Maintenance fee that usually runs $600-$1200 yearly.  And the really great part is that when we are “done” with the lot, whether it be 1 year later or 20 years down the road, we turn it back over to the Co-Op and get 100% of our lease money invested back!

But that’s on down the road a bit.  Right now our plan now is to spend a week here in Southeast Michigan where we can visit friends and family that we’ve known for 40 years or more and then we’ll move on up the road at the end of the week to the Grand Rapids and Holland, Michigan areas to see more “old” friends and then up to Baldwin, Michigan (near Ludington) to start our summer workamping job by May 15th.

We are camped at Proud Lake Recreation Area just off Wixom Road in Commerce Twp, MI.  This is just north of I-96 about 5 miles.  There’s about 4700 acres of wooded wilderness here with miles of trails and the campground offers 130 (electric) sites along with a small beach and boat launch.  The shower house was built new in 2016 and offers very attractive and comfortable private bath and shower rooms.  Here’s a slide show of a few pictures of the campground facilities.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Today (Tuesday May 2nd) we spent a few hours (and lunch at a great Mexican Restaurant) with Jeff & Sandy (Overmeyer) Houghton.  Sandy is the cute little girl with blond curls on the left in the first row (our 2nd grade class picture)

Mrs. Fosmoe’s 2nd grade class, Bulman Elementary

Jeff, Sandy, Kathy, and I all were in High School together and graduated in 1972.

We’ve got more planned for the rest of the week and we’ll fill that in as we go along.

Kathy, Herb, Sandy, & Jeff

 

We’d really appreciate it if you would do us the favor of helping us continue to publish this RV / Travel / Workamping blog. Do you purchase any products from Amazon? If you do, it would be great if you’d use the link in the sidebar or one of the links below to get to Amazon … after that you can change your search. By making your Amazon purchases from our site, we will receive from Amazon a small percentage of your purchase and it doesn’t cost you any more. We’d really appreciate your help. Thank you, Herb & Kathy

A Beautiful Day In A Beautiful State Park

Since we are spending two nights at Raccoon Valley RV Park at Heiskell, TN, we had today to do a little sightseeing.  We decided to check out Norris Dam State Park and if we were up to it after that we’d drive on in to Knoxville to see the Sunsphere tower adjacent to the Knoxville Convention Center.

The state park was very beautiful and peaceful.  It seemed as though we were the only ones there.  We started our visit by stopping at the dam West End Overlook.  From there we had a great view of the Norris Dam, the spillway, and the hydro-electric plant.  From there we drove on down to the marina and then to the drive over the top of the dam and on into the campground area.

I don’t know how many campsites they have, but they have over 20 really nice cabins.  We only saw one occupied camp site and all of the cabins were vacant.  It’s mid-week and the season really hasn’t begun just yet.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

After leaving the dam and the campground, but before exiting the park, we stumbled upon another attraction at the park; the old water driven Grist Mill and the museum.

There were a few kids playing in the stream at the outlet side of the mill while their mothers watched nearby and just a couple of other visitors to the museum.  Here’s the video of the little ones playing in the stream.

The slide show below contains pictures from the museum in the park.  All of the artifacts in the museum had been collected by one couple, Mr. & Mrs. Will Lenoir.  They had been collecting for over 60 years and wanted to help preserve Tennessee’s heritage by giving their collection to the State Park.  It’s quite a collection and we spent much of the early afternoon there.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Leaving the park we drove on through the little town of Norris.  There were a lot of pictures in the museum of early days in Norris, when the TVA built the dam (1933-1936) and I’m guessing that’s how the town came to be, from all the workers employed while building the dam.  The pictures showed the “Norris Drug Store”, the “Norris Gas Station” and so on.

It’s a cute little town, reminded me of the Andy Griffith show and Mayberry – everything clean and tidy.  Too bad I didn’t stop and get any pictures to share with you.

Back at the park we’ve met 3 different couples.  Our new next door neighbors Jerry and Marsha from Florida on their way to Kentucky for an off-road event (see the pix of their rigs)

 

That’s an off-road buggy, a BMW motorcycle, AND a canoe under the buggy (that’s a spare tire for the buggy up front)

 

 

 

450 hp diesel with the trailer attached measures 70′ long! Four slides (two on each side) on the coach

Then Kathy and I had a nice visit with Jon & Cathy from Milford, OH on their way back home from Florida.  They are members of S.O.W.E.R.S. (they volunteer their time working on various mission projects around the country).

As I was taking the trash down to the dumpster, I met Karen and Lino, also from Ohio.  They are on their way back home from Florida where they had flown down one-way to purchase their new (used) 5th wheel trailer and pick-up truck.

Karen has retired recently and Lino hopes to retire by the end of the year and then they’ll become full-time RV’ers and Karen may revive her home-based graphic arts and web design business working from the road.

Although we’ve been blessed with seeing much of the country and that’s certainly a perk of this lifestyle, I think what’s even more of a blessing is having been given the opportunity to meet so many great people from all over the country.

 

 

We’d really appreciate it if you would do us the favor of helping us continue to publish this RV / Travel / Workamping blog. Do you purchase any products from Amazon? If you do, it would be great if you’d use the link in the sidebar or one of the links below to get to Amazon … after that you can change your search. By making your Amazon purchases from our site, we will receive from Amazon a small percentage of your purchase and it doesn’t cost you any more. We’d really appreciate your help. Thank you, Herb & Kathy

Familiar Faces in New Places

It’s been a wonderful two weeks since we left our (new) good friends at Rancho Verde RV Park in Camp Verde, AZ.

After spending 6 months there living and working side by side with these folks, they became more than just “other RV’ers” and we’ll certainly miss them and look forward to when we are out in AZ again and can renew those friendships.

But, it was time to head east (and north) so we can see friends and family in Ohio and then on to Michigan for our summer workamping gig.

The trip so far has been uneventful (with regard to problems) and that’s a good thing.  The coach has performed flawlessly and we are hoping that we have now addressed all the issues there and that we’ll have smooth sailing for the foreseeable future.  We know that something will happen eventually, but treating her kindly (gentle driving and regular scheduled maintenance) will hopefully serve us well as we continue this new journey in our lives.

By “Uneventful” I meant that the parks we stopped at along the way were, for the most part very nice parks, the roads were smooth, there were no traffic jams.

We stayed 3 nights at the Escapees “Rainbow Plantation” in Summerdale, AL and one of those nights we decided to take advantage of their invite to dinner.  There were 140 of us in the clubhouse for lasagna dinner that night and one of the name tags caught my eye.

The name “Don Phelps” sounded familiar and so during dinner I studied his face trying to figure out if I knew this man.

After dinner I was nearly 100% sure this was “the guy” and so I approached him, asked if he used to live in Michigan, and if he

Don (from Xerox) and Elaine Phelps at the table next to us.

had served as a Field Service Manager at Xerox in the Detroit area.  Yes, this was the guy I had worked with at Xerox when I was there in the ’70’s !

After visiting the historic railroad museum in Foley, AL the next day and driving down to the beach in Gulf Shores, AL to see the ocean we then packed up and moved on east to Pensacola, FL where we took in the National Naval Museum and what a treat that was.  Not only did we get a free guided tour, but the Blue Angels had just returned to the base and we got to see them in action during their practice flights – super impressive!

After the museum, we drove a little further east and checked in at Eagle’s Landing RV Park at Holt, FL just a little west of Crestview.  That night we met my sister Marilynn and brother-in-law Rick at a nearby Cracker Barrel for dinner.  They live in Jacksonville and were traveling from

Herb, Marilynn, Rick, and Kathy

home to Pensacola for a Florida Dental Association mission work trip and so we were able to hook up along the way.

We stayed another night at Eagle’s Landing and spent most of the day Thursday with Dave and Robyn who live at Crestview, FL.  Dave and I have been friends since about 4th or 5th grade.  He lived a few blocks north of me in Redford Township, MI and once we were old enough to ride our bikes off our block, we met and have been life-long friends since.

Dave and Robyn

Dave and Robyn took us on down to Destin, FL where we boarded an excursion boat and went through the harbor and out to the gulf where we spotted dozens of bottle-nose dolphins.  Then enjoyed each other’s company some more at a great local seafood restaurant.

Here’s a few pictures of the harbor and our search for dolphins.

Friday we left Eagles Landing and drove to Jacksonville, FL where we checked into Fleetwood RV Park, spent a quiet night and then Ed & Sandy drove up from Orlando on Saturday and the four of us spent the day together at the Jacksonville Zoo.

Ed and I met in 1962 when our family moved in across the street from Ed in Redford Township (a suburb of Detroit).  We still talk almost weekly.

By the way, all three of us are ham radio operators.  We all took the same class back in the late 60’s and our original call signs issued by the FCC were WB8BHK, WB8BHL, and WB8BHY.

The Jacksonville Zoo is beautiful .. they have a lot of boardwalks that are suspended above the animal pens so you can really see a lot.   Here’s a video playlist of some of the zoo and then there’s a slideshow of more of the animals.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

After seeing everyone in FL, we headed up I-95 through Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and now we’re in Tennessee at the Escapee’s Raccoon Valley RV Park.

We’ll probably stay here a couple days, work our way up into Kentucky for Thursday nights stay, and then back in Mount Gilead on Friday.

It’s been a long trip (I’ll tell you how many miles when we’re done), but it’s been a great adventure, we’ve met a lot of wonderful people, and we’re excited about what’s to come.

 

We’d really appreciate it if you would do us the favor of helping us continue to publish this RV / Travel / Workamping blog. Do you purchase any products from Amazon? If you do, it would be great if you’d use the link in the sidebar or one of the links below to get to Amazon … after that you can change your search. By making your Amazon purchases from our site, we will receive from Amazon a small percentage of your purchase and it doesn’t cost you any more. We’d really appreciate your help. Thank you, Herb & Kathy
NOTE: We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.