A few entries ago in this space, I wrote about my annual trip to The Pin Shoot in Central Lake, Michigan. I’ve spent a bit over 29 June weeks there since 1976, which may qualify me as one of The Summer People. The place is classic small-town America. The one butt-wipe I’ve ever had to physically fight in Central Lake had come from out of town, and that was back in the ‘80s. Accustomed to visitors and tourists, the locals have always been pleasant and welcoming.
WiFi and cell phone reception aren’t the best, so when the Evil Princess and I need to get some work done there, we often go to the local library. Well stocked and well kept for its size, it has a whole separate building, a large cottage, where they sell used books. There’s always an excellent selection of history and biography, and occasionally shooting and other outdoor sports titles; the prices are right and the volunteers who work the place are always friendly.
Remember “five and ten cent stores”? Central Lake has one: Bachmann’s is an institution there. It’s your classic general store. Candy and books. Clothing. Shoes. Tools. Lubricants. About whatever you need can be found there: maybe not exactly what you were looking for, but something that will do.
Of course, some things change. You used to have to buy beer or liquor at what is known in Michigan – this part at least – as a “party store.” Things have changed. One little convenience store is now about 50% liquor store…but they have the right brands, at least for us. On the other hand, the party store where we used to buy beer is now a pot shop. Time moves on.
Hey – it’s vacationland, it’s the year 2022, and different people have different definitions of “party.”
The library emphasizes its children’s section. There’s a church sponsored recreation center for kids. Even at the range, there was a sponsored and carefully supervised shooting event for the young teens from the community who come out to serve every year as timers at the Pin Shoot, and the sub-teens (dubbed “brass rats” ?) who police up spent casings. A community that cares about its kids is the kind of community you want to live in.
It may not be the same every year, but Central Lake, Michigan is a town to which I’m always happy to return.
When Thomas Wolfe wrote “You can’t go home again,” he wasn’t entirely correct. Things will inevitably change over time…but the soul, the essence of a community like this, seems to remain constant, and to always beckon you back.