My years on Main Street

by Judi Pittaway

I want to take you on a walk down Main Street and tell you of the places I have lived and the businesses I have owned for over 48 years.
It began in 1940. My family moved here from Toledo and we lived in a house on the hill , which was catty-corner from St. Joseph Church. When I was 14, I was in a hurry, rushing out the door and down the cement steps and fell the last four or five steps, landing on my ankle. Back then, we didn’t go to the doctor unless we were near death so my mother wrapped it with an Ace bandage and I hobbled around for many weeks.
At Christmas, when the hill was icy and not salted, my sisters and I would watch the cars try to get to St. Joseph up the icy street for Christmas Eve services. The cars would weave from left to right, get a ways up and then slide back down. That was our Christmas Eve entertainment.
Big trucks would pull to the side of the street, watch the traffic light at the top of the hill at Monroe Street and when the light turned green they would take off and be able to go right through the light.
When I was a bit younger, I was sitting on the front porch swing, watching the cars go by. Across the street a car parked in the driveway, rolled down the driveway and into the street. It somehow turned and started down the street to the bottom of the hill. The owner saw this, came running out of the house and took off after his run-away car. Luckily, there was no other traffic on the street and the man’s car was not damaged.
Speaking of cars, at the bottom of the hill next to 10-Mile Creek, Carrol’s Auto Sales had their business. We would stand by the fenders, which were bowed (that was the style in the 40s) and look at ourselves.The bowed fender made us look short and wide. We would wiggle, dance, move around and then laugh and laugh at ourselves. More Main Street entertainment. Back in the 40s there were Buicks, Fords, Chevys and maybe a few more. Susi, Joan and I, again on our porch swing, would watch a car coming and yell out the make. Such fun!
Susi, Joan and I spent many a summer and winter playing on the Ten Mile Creek. We would wade in it in the summer, sometimes coming out of the water and finding blood suckers on our feet and lower legs! I have a memory of us running up the hill to our house to get salt to pour on the suckers to loosen them. In the winter, we skated on the creek, sometimes going as far as the Boy Scout reservation on Sylvania Avenue. One winter I was punished and was not supposed to go ice skating. Being the child that gave my mother her grey hair, I took off and went skating anyway. But I got caught because I fell through the ice and came home soaking wet!
There was a movie theater uptown that my sisters and I went to most every weekend. They showed two full movies, cartoons and news. Sometimes we would stay and watch the second showing – for free! That is if the manager wasn’t there to clear us all out. Another Main Street entertainment! (Have you noticed the fun we had that didn’t cost us more than the 10 cents we paid for the movies?)
We lived on the east side of the street and across the street behind the houses was a railroad track —still there. It was used to haul grain, usually corn, to the grain elevators just over the Michigan line. Late in the evening you could hear the train whistle at the crossings on Brint Road, Convent Boulevard, Monroe Street, Maplewood Avenue and Erie Street. If it was especially quiet outside, you could hear it two more times in future homes that I lived in.
After graduating from Burnham High School in 1950, I moved away from Sylvania, traveling to Livonia and Plymouth, Mich. In the 70s I returned to Sylvania. I lived off Brint Road but opened a yarn shop on the corner of Main Street and Maplewood Avenue in downtown Sylvania. I was back on Main Street. Unfortunately the shop didn’t last long.
The next Main Street home is gone now. That house and the one next door were torn down and condos now sit there.
I lived in that house with my sister Joan. While living there, Joan and I opened a needlework shop. We started out in the alley downtown but, within a year, moved to a house on Main Street across from the old post office. We had that shop for nine years.
Before selling the shop, I moved into the back apartment next door. This is a grey house owned by Gene Paul, that years before had been converted into three apartments. There were two down, one in the front and the other in the rear and an apartment upstairs. I lived there for 23 years and loved the apartment. It was just right for a single person. It has a full basement where I put a washer/dryer and a chest freezer. I had lots of storage room.
In those 23 years, I watched the carry-out become a fancy gift shop and then become Element 112. I watched the needlework shop close and become Harmony in Life. I found a rubber stamp store in a little house set back on the property beside the Sylvania Heritage Museum. I spent many hours there buying stamps, making greeting cards and when Bev moved the shop up front, I worked for her. While living in the apartment, I had a front row seat for all the parades.
When the Wingate Hotel opened, I worked as the breakfast attendant. And, of course, the hotel is on Main Street.
As much as I loved the apartment on Main Street I had to move on. It became hard to take my laundry down to the basement and hard to step over the edge of the tub to take a shower. I moved into Luther Crest, which is located on North Holland Sylvania Road. Guess where Main Street in Sylvania ends … where it turns into Holland Sylvania Road. I was still on “Main Street.”
In November 2019, I moved to Illinois to live, for awhile, with my daughter. Unfortunately, she does not live on Main Street. She lives on Heaven’s Gate…it’s not Main Street but it is a lovely name for a street.

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