Sunday, April 19, 2015

To Learn the History of a Small Town Near Howard City @PureMichigan, Wilbo Turns to a Motorcycle Gang, the Sons of Amble.

I went into the Amble Roadhouse looking for history and it found me. It arrived in the guise of the Sons of Amble, an informal motorcycle club of ninety-nine percenters. Yes, it's an allusion to the television show, Sons of Anarchy, a club of the one percenters. Many of these sons are great grandsons of men who settled Amble 140 years ago, building log cabins of great, broad trunk trees that grew in a pristine old growth forest. The Sons of Amble is a very exclusive club indeed. 

I asked the bartender, "Who is the oldest man in the bar today who talks about the past?" "That would be the tall man with the big mane of grey hair, Doug. He owns this bar". Doug didn't disappoint. A wall of pictures awaited history tourists, and he pointed out an early picture of the 99 year old building, a brick structure that served as a bank from 1916 to when a string of banks failed. That was not necessarily Black Tuesday 1929. The brick building had been covered with modifications inside and out, the eastern wall broken out for an expansion. Doug remembered an older man named Tommy, and remembered that Tommy hadn't paid the roadhouse a visit during the winter. Tommy would know more. He made a mental note to put in a call to Tommy.

Amble had prospects when that bank building had freshly lain bricks. Farmers came to town for a game of baseball on the diamond, and everybody dressed up. Probably including the farmers, and one has to find pictures of those snappy uniforms. The only question is which set of now superseded rules were in play at those matches. Maybe the farmers on the field of Amble played by the rules of 1925, when a home run had to be run out if shorter than 250 feet. Or maybe the farming gentlemen made up their own rules, a drive over the rail tracks declared a homer?

The local farmers could bring their milk for processing at the Creamery, a picture on the wall too. The railroad station stood nearby to take urns of cream to market, and the line ran all the way to Shepard. The rails have been pulled up and the bed still can be detected on Google maps. Thinking I'll put in a call to an acquaintance at Rails to Trails because there's nothing like a hike - bike trail to rejuvenate a town.

The church in Amble appeared in two photographs, one with a Sunday School class of 1896. The Methodists who currently hold services there began at a later date, 1934. Paul and Bill joined the conversation, bearded like griots and leathered up for an April run on their Harleys. Paul had brought in those duplicates of pictures passed on to him. I remarked that the current church didn't look like the one photographed in 1896. He assured me it was the same. He offered to photocopy his book of Amble history. All I had to do was text him my address. So I wrote to him this morning to thank him for his kindness and for keeping an oral history alive for Amble.

Hi Paul, we had a pleasant conversation at the Amble Inn. I am busily studying the pictures you brought in (or was it Bill?) Each one contains remarkable data on cars, clothes & customs. For example, at the baseball game on a field near the railroad tracks, all of the cars are the same & my guess they are Model A's. So that dates the photograph to before 1927 as the Model T came out in fall of that year. In essence, the play that I am rewriting hopes to recreate a young woman of Amble born in 1906, and I'm intuiting that's the generation of your grandmothers. It is kind for you to forward a copy of Amble history to me although it sounds like a great deal of work. Maybe we could work together to get it into print again on Amazon? Yours truly, Will
 — at Muskegon River.

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