Norton Bretz: Leaving Eastport Thursday

Posted on September 14, 2011


I am devious.  If you are from Around Here you undoubtedly trotted right over to TLV to see what on earth was going on at the north end of Torch Lake that would make Norton Bretz of all people even think about leaving Eastport, particularly on a Thursday.  (The title I was going to use to lure those of you from Away was “Naked Monkeys of Central Michigan” but I didn’t want to wade through all the spam.  Be patient.  We’ll get to the monkeys in due course.)

Now that I have everyone’s attention.  Norton has been mining the Pearl family archives in search of insight into his grandfather, Norton Pearl, who grew up in a very small town in very rural northern Michigan as the last century turned.  Norton the grandfather graduated from the Eastport School and went into the woods the way that many later generations would go into the auto plants.  But there was this itch to see the rest of the wide world . . . and that is what his grandson’s presentation is about on Thursday.  As it turns out, Norton the grandfather saw a good deal of the wide world.  His grandson chose a college football photo (Norton the grandfather is in the middle row, second from the left).  Guys.

I would have chosen this one of the miscreants at the Blakely Hotel.  Wimmin.  We’re suckers for those good looking bad boys.

As he prepared his presentation, Norton pondered various titles.  Leaving Eastport came to mind – after all, that was the essence of what the young Norton Pearl did.  But then, thought the grandson, does anyone ever really leave Eastport?

No.  I would have to say, definitively, no.  Thomas Wolfe, who was a generation younger than Norton Pearl, said we can’t go home again, but I’m pretty sure he had it wrong.  I think we can’t ever leave, no matter how far we travel.  Of course, that’s just me.  And, um, quite a lot of Pearls, too.  Anyway, the title is School Days: The Education of Norton Pearl, Central Michigan Normal College, 1901-1906.  It should have been Naked Monkeys.  I have had a sneak preview of the presentation and I know these things.  There will be naked monkeys.  In a tree.  One of them is Norton, but I’m not sure which one.  The early 20th century was not really the way we think it was.  Neither, for that matter, is this one.

I recommend that you trot down to Elk Rapids on Thursday–which is probably today the way things are going.  You want to go to 301 Traverse, which is the former Methodist church and the new home of the Elk Rapids Area Historical Society.  The program begins at 7:00 and is a bargain at $5.  There will be homemade cookies.  (No, not mine – good homemade cookies.)  I don’t see how you can go wrong.