“We’re after the same rainbow’s end, waiting ‘round the bend, my huckleberry friend, Moon River, and me…” – Johnny Mercer and Henry Mancini from ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s
I took a trip back in time in more ways than one on a beautiful October visit to the Bluewater area of Michigan, the St. Clair River from Algonac to Port Huron.
The somewhere in time for my husband and me was the mid-1960s in the sweet, quiet village at the bend in the river, Algonac. Back then, Henry Mancini’s Moon River – from the 1961 movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s, the pop lyrics crooned by Andy Williams – surely had to be written just for that time in our lives. For me, at least, Moon River was the St. Clair.
It was there in the Bluewater Delta, tucked remotely off the map, in the magical realm of “the river” northeast of Detroit, that we met as first-year teachers. My husband was drawn to the area because of the waterways and his love of boating from growing up in Grand Haven, on the shores of Lake Michigan and the Grand River.
I, having known only the flat expanse (everything-in-square-miles sections) of Gratiot County in the Middle-of-the-Mitten (mid-Michigan), just wanted a new adventure. It was one of those follow-your-hunch impressions after several interviews around the state. I can still recall the feeling; when I interviewed in Algonac, with its water world of canals and the big river, my heart said, “Yes.” Somehow I knew I was meant to be there.
You always remember first friends when starting out in life away from home. Among those friends was a couple who still live there, and who’ve been instrumental in helping to promote Algonac as the Hospitality Port of Michigan. During the past 13 years since we saw our friends Spencer and Mary (Ames) Adkins (Yes, they said it’d been 13 years!), they’ve found their creative calling. With Mary’s family being one of the founding families of the community, and Spencer being a history teacher, along with his love of boating, they’ve enthusiastically helped establish the Algonac-Clay Township Historical Society and museum on the river.
With busy lives, we’d lost touch except at Christmastime. Holiday notes would refer to the fun they were having with the museum and the society members. As time went along, they’d write, “You should come visit and see it.” Finally, we decided to remedy this distance between us; we packed up our camper and headed off to Algonac State Park (on the river, of course). For a long time after we moved away, we’d made it a point to get back there at
Now, how had so much time passed without us getting back? No matter; at least we went, and they had a couple of days open for entertaining visitors. Memory gets fuzzy after so much time passing, but I recall the hospitality factor of the community, even then.
In retrospect, I look back on the welcome reception I received from the superintendent’s office, and in particular, the superintendent’s secretary (yes, Mary Ames). I didn’t think of it on that day, but in later years I’d wonder how much her welcoming manner had to do with my “hunch” to move there. And, of course, I had no inkling that we’d later become best friends.
The charm of Algonac continues, I think, because it is still sort of off the beaten track; but that’s also one reason we moved away. With both our families located in west and mid-Michigan, we settled in Livingston County – like many others in the 1970s – to be nearer to the expressways.
All in all, our Algonac experience was three short years. But, we treasure the memories of friends met then – some who stayed and some who dispersed across the country, as we did. Now, it seems strange to think about the history of a community, and actually being a tiny part of it.
The Adkins and friends of the Algonac-Clay Township Historical Society are creatively, lovingly, piecing together the long legends of the community at the museum. Much history of the area, located at the bottom of Michigan’s Thumb region, revolves around the navigation of the river channels between the Great Lakes and the boat building industry established. There are the well known names of Chris Craft boats, boat racing of Gar Wood and Chris Smith, the Native American heritage of Walpole Island, Harsens Island, and communities alongside Anchor Bay, as well as cities up the river to Port Huron.
Located downtown on the riverfront, across from Canada, Algonac is the perfect stopover for the Tall Ships sailing through to Lake Huron. Nine of them visited the city this summer of 2010. Captains and crew welcomed with delight, the outpouring of hospitality from the community. You can find a beautiful photo gallery on the website for Algonac Clay Historical Society.
While living in Algonac, I grew to love the beauty of the river and the international aspect of freighters traveling back and forth along this seaway. The visit back was long overdue. Yet, between huckleberry friends, it’s as if no time has passed, even if our kids are all grown and we’re into a new phase with new adventures.
The house we lived in is still there; the neighborhood looks the same. Even though gigantic changes have taken place in the community, the home feeling was still there, too. Home is always where your heart is; and I’m of the mind that you can leave your heart in many places.
It was fun to experience the thrill again, of coming around the bend to the Hospitality Port of Michigan. Just like a tall ship slipping through the channel into view of the riverfront museum, I felt the anticipation of being in the company of huckleberry friends. I’m glad they’re among the keepers of Bluewater history and moon river dreams.
Algonac-Clay Historical Society website.
Be sure to check out the Oct. 26, Spaghetti Dinner fundraiser if you might happen to be in the area.
Tall Ships 2010 spectacular photo gallery and slide show
Video Clip of Coast Guard Icecutters at work during 2010 Winter Ice Jam on river
Other Thumb links:
The Lakeshore Guardian: Watching over shoreline interests