Showing posts with label Polish. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Polish. Show all posts

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Saint Joseph Roman Catholic Mission: The Little White Clapboard Church in Whittaker, Michigan

When I can’t sleep, I pour myself a cup of milk and power up my computer and head for the Internet. I never know what direction I will go, but sometimes I get lucky and find something serendipitous. Well, to me, at least. Such was what happened the other night.

When I was a little boy our family went to Sunday service at St. Joseph Mission church in Whittaker, Michigan. We moved away in 1963 when I was 13 and the little, white, clapboard church was abandoned shortly thereafter, when the congregation decided to build a bigger, brick church with room to grow.

I drove by the old church a couple of times over the years, but when I went by a few years ago, nothing was left except the sidewalk and the foundation. I thought that age or fire had consumed the church and felt a sense of loss for a simpler time. I remember being an altar boy for a wedding. I remember a priest angrily chastising the altar boys for not knowing what the Pater Noster was. We knew the words in Latin, but had not put two and two together and realized that it was The Lord’s Prayer. I remember the little choir jammed in the tiny choir loft, and Marian Manners playing the organ and singing the lead. I remember the statues draped in purple and the Tabernacle empty on Passion Sunday. I remember the bishop coming for my confirmation and my dread that I wouldn’t know the answer to his questions about my faith, even though the answers had been drilled in my head.

Dad would drive the family to church on Sunday in one of his snazzy Desotos. I especially liked the 1959 coffee and cream version with huge fins.  We would listen to country gospel singing straight from the hollers of Kentucky on the way to church, and on the way back we would tune in The Polka Hour broadcasting from WFDF in Flint, Michigan. When my dad was on call at work and couldn’t make it to church, we went with my elderly neighbors  in their old lumbering Oldsmobile sedan that they drove to church, rain or shine, snow or sleet, every Sunday. There was many a Sunday when my mother had to stay home with the babies, but I made it to church in that roomy, rumbling Olds.

Field of Dreams Wedding Chapel in Milan was originally St. Joseph
Mission Church in Whittaker, Michigan. It was moved in 2007.
The loss of that simple white church bothered me for some reason and the other night I searched for information about the church. What I found brought me tears and joy. The little, white, clapboard church had indeed, faced obliteration by fire—as a training exercise for the fire department. The property had been sold and a housing development planned for the property. In the nick of time, someone had the idea to move the church elsewhere and rehabilitate it as a country wedding chapel. Built in the 1920s the old, clapboard building has new life as “The Field of Dreams Wedding Chapel”. I even located another website for the company, db.creations that restored the stained-glass windows. Many of the windows had been damaged in the moved, but the center panels which had been painted all survived intact.

Another website led me to an archive of newspaper articles collected by the Ann Arbor Public Library, where I found one that detailed the move of the church to its new home: 
Old News - St. Joseph's Catholic Church In Augusta Twp Waiting For The Train To Pass While Moving To Milan, May 2007. The journey was tedious and they had to cross a set of railroad tracks. The move was taking so long that they actually had to back the trailer up because of an oncoming train!


Moving the St. Joseph Mission Catholic Church in Whittaker, Michigan

One of these days, I might just make a trip back to that chapel, and spend a few minutes reflecting on a life well-spent, but regardless, I will sleep well, knowing that the little white church is still serving a spiritual purpose in the life of others.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Christmas on Florida Street and other Stories: Our Interview with NPR StoryCorp

Florida Street in Detroit, Michigan. The neighborhood was almost exclusively Polish in the 1950s.

In January, 2017, my husband, John Rush and I recorded my stories of growing up in a Polish American family near Detroit, Michigan during the 1950s and 1960s. We were recorded by folks from StoryCorps at the StoryCorps van, which was visiting Fort Myers.
Click on the StoryCorps van above to access my stories of growing up in Detroit.

Many of the stories that were recorded have companion pieces in the written stories that appear on this blog. I thought it would be a nice idea for folks and family to be able to hear the stories in my own voice. Please feel free to send us comments.

John, me, and my sister, Barbara at a surprise Shrimp Dinner at her house in Michigan.