March 28, 2012 - BY TREVOR KEISER
Clarkston News Staff Writer
Ever wonder what it was like to be a student growing up in "Old Clarkston" during the `40's and early `50's? Then check out Renaissance High School on this year's 30th SCAMP Home Tour, June 2-3.
To give a little tour down memory lane, Class of 1953 Clarkston High School graduates Tom Bullen, Ric Huttenlocher, and Chuck Robertson sat down with Clarkston News, Toni Smith, director of Clarkston Historical Society's Heritage Museum, and Beth Huttenlocher Kirchner, who is working with SCAMP.
The old high school at 6558 Waldon Road, currently Renaissance High School, was built in 1930 and served as a K-12 building until around 1960. The three friends entered kindergarten in fall of 1940, just before the start of World War II.
"There were two entrances facing Church Street, which was the main entrance and the gym, which was in the middle," Huttenlocher said. "The gym separated grade school from the junior and senior high."
Bullen and Roberston would walk to school from their homes on Robertson Court, meanwhile Huttenlocher made the trek from Middle Lake Road.
"In winter, we would walk across the ice to school everyday when Parke Lake would freeze," Bullen said.
"It cut our time in half," added Robertson.
When not in school, the boys enjoyed time at Cheesman's, eating ice cream or shooting Red Ryder BB guns at squirrels and girls.
"Everybody had guns," noted Bullen.
"You could walk down Main Street with a .22 on your shoulder and no one would look at you," Robertson said. "It was just common thing."
Fun also included pulling pranks at Halloween, whether it was throwing tomatoes at cars as they drove by, hanging road scrapers from flagpoles, or taking outhouses and placing them under the street light at Main Street and Washington.
"It was great fun," said Robertson. "There wasn't much entertainment back in those days."
"Clarkston was just a hick town," he said. "We had nothing here."
"Anything you did, you had to invent it yourself," added Bullen.
As a source of income, the boys would set traps to catch minks and muskrats. Huttenlocher recalled being paid $30 per mink pelt and $1 per muskrat pelt.
"One year I got 22 minks, so I got $660," he said. "That was a lot of money."
Robertson noted muskrat tasted good.
All three also worked as paperboys. Bullen delivered the Detroit Free Press every morning before he went to school and delivered on Sundays too. He was paid 45 cents a week.
"I only had 100 customers and that was the entire town," he said. "I would try to get my customers to pay in advance, so I wouldn't bother them. I had a little money bag I carried with the receipts – they called me 'Money Bags Bullen.'"
Huttenlocher and Robertson delivered the Pontiac Press after school. They would have to pick their papers up at the Pool Hall, which was "The Dairy Bar."
"We would be a little late with our papers because we'd be getting these games (of pool) going and wouldn't stop," Huttenlocher said. "Our parents finally figured what we were doing, but we were in there playing pool with all the old men."
"We got really good playing in there everyday, we could run eight ball in five minutes and pay a nickel," Robertson added. "The table cost a penny a minute."
The paper route led to Bullen's first car, a 1936 Ford with a rumble seat for $150. Robertson and his brother got his dad's 1947 Pontiac, when his dad bought a new one in 1950. Huttenlocher had a 1947 Plymouth. Gas was 13 cents a gallon in the '40's and went up to 20-22 cents a gallon in the '50's.
"All the first cars we had were pre-war cars," Bullen said. "You couldn't get a new car because there was such a demand for new cars after the war, so the only way you could get a new car was if you put your name on a list at the dealer. Then if you paid so much under the table, your name would go to the head of the list."
Kids could get a driver's license at 14-15 years old.
A typical date included a drive-in restaurant, and a drive-in movie.
"First, you take her to a drive-in movie in Waterford and then you go to Silver Saddles which was a 'necking/parking' area," Robertson said. "Back then, Clarkston was pretty isolated, if you wanted to get by yourself there were plenty of areas you could go."
One of the popular drive-in restaurants was "Ted's," located at the corner of Squirrel Lake and Woodward Avenue.
"If you were seriously looking for girls, you would cruise around Ted's," Robertson said. "They had some pretty cute girls too. Most of them wore roller skates."
Bullen said Pontiac was the theatre district.
"There was no R rated movies then or X movies," he said. "There was a system. Movie actors and actresses couldn't lie in the same bed."
The only school sports were baseball, basketball, football and track. All three boys played on the football and basketball teams – 1953 was the first district basketball championship trophy Clarkston won. Bullen also ran track.
"Back then, if you did all four sports and received varsity letters, starting freshmen year, you could earn a total of 16. I won 15, which is still a record to this day," he said. "Now you can only earn three letters a year, for a maximum of 12 letters."
The only field trip they went on was a senior class trip to Washington D.C. Bullen recalled getting on a school bus to ride to the train station in Detroit and taking the train all the way to Washington, then getting off to stay in some "sleezy hotel."
"We could all hardly wait to get to Washington because you could drink at 18 years old," he said.
"If you were really nice, you could talk them into getting the hard stuff," noted Robertson.
After graduation, Bullen and Huttenlocher went on to the University of Michigan. Bullen became a CPA for 15 years and eventually went to law school. Huttenlocher majored in economics and went on to get his Masters.
He took over his dad's business and sold insurance. Robertson graduated from Albion College, with a degree in microbiology. He worked for his dad's Feed and Garden business until his father retired and then went to work as a microbiologist for Parke-Davis, which eventually became Pfizer.
Huttenlocher said they were an "unusual" class because 70 percent of their class of 60 students went on to college.
The three men still get together quite often, along with other classmates to reminisce about days gone by.
"We have a class reunion every five years," Bullen said. "We're the only class that does that. The next one is in 2013."
For more information about the SCAMP Home Tour call 248-623-8089 or visit www.clarkstonscamp.com.
Trevor graduated with degrees in English and communications from Rochester College. He wrote for his college and LA View newspapers before joining The Clarkston News in May 2007.