NORTH END OF FIFTH STREET

Erkkila's Garage and my fathers Garage are separated by the Whore House (left side of picture) between both buildings. Bob Erkkila was my first friend as I was barely a year older than him (four years old). Our common playground was my father used car parking lot. Bob's parents lived in an apartment overlooking the parking lot. When Bob's mom saw me outside, she would send Bob out to play. This was handy for her as she could keep an eye on things from her kitchen window. Bob's father (Rieno Erkkila) was one of five sons of John Erkkila who started the garage business in the building pictured below.

   John Erkkila bought one of the first cars in Calumet area when he lived in Centennial Heights at that time. John took that new car all apart just to see how it worked. The locals quickly heard about it he became their mechanic when anything went wrong with their cars. He became so busy, that it was necessary to move into this building. The building was originally built as a movie theater around the turn of the century.
 Bob and I weren't very old (maybe six years old) when his grandfather John retired from the garage business and moved to a new house on the corner of Elm and Eighth Street. At that time, Bob and his parents moved in upstairs of the garage when his grandparents moved out.
 

 Back in the day this place hummed with activity. There was a complete auto parts store on the left, Texaco gas pumps out front and often the glow of an arc welder coming out from the open roll up door. Five of John's sons worked the business but mostly Westly, Rieno and Russell. They did all kinds of repair including body work. They operated a reliable wrecker service on top of that. When I visited there this summer, I was pleased to know that an Erkkila is still running the garage, even thou it's a one man operation

Notice that the brick street has been restored after the area was deemed a historical district by the first George Bush.

 

  Across the street

I'll start with the yellow building on the left. The Manzini family operated a grocery store that was before my time. When I was a young teenager, a Manzini moved back in to start his dentist career. I broke part of a front tooth playing hockey and he installed a plastic cap (new technology) to cover it. It kept coming off so I lived without it to this day. I met the new owner who came here from California, liked the building and decided to fix it up for something to do.

 

Gorshe Bicycle Shop

A couple brothers ran this place even thou they never seemed vary busy. I found out later "why" when I was about ten years old when walking in the front door. There wasn't anyone around up front among the rows of busty bikes and the place was very dirty and unkept. After all, people weren't buying bikes like they did during the Copper Boom years. Most of the families had left to find work in Detroit or else where. I kept walking towards the back of the shop as there was an open roll up door that was letting light through and the sound of voices. They finally saw me and asked, "what do you want"? I think what I wanted was some parts for the coaster brake on my Lincoln bike. They had boxes and boxes of stuff and came up with what I needed. I then asked what they were doing to the car they were working on and one said, " we're doing a valve job." Found out from my Dad, they had been running an auto repair shop for years out the the door in the alley, thus very little front door business.

They had another brother who died in a motor cycle accident.

My mother called motor cycles "Murder Cycles" and never allowed my to have one, but years latter after I left home I had a couple of them. The first one was an Allstate sold by Sears. I was built in Eastern Europe and when the Russians invaded the country, they stopped all export sales and parts suddenly.

 

 Skufca's Restaurant and Pool Hall

The store front on the right was the restaurant, the Pool Hall on the left may have been closed when I lived in that part of town. Stan and Bimbo ran the restaurant as it took a couple guys keep it open from early in the morning to ten at night. They had one of the best Hot Beef Sandwiches of any place I'd ever eaten at in my life. Their hamburgers were extra tasty as the bun was browned on the grill in butter. You didn't have to bite though a cold soggy bun to get into the warm meat, yuk.

There was a Nickel Pin Ball machine to the right as you came in the door. My parents told me to never play it as it was a waste of money. They lived through the Great Depression, Both World Wars with rationing and knew what hard times were.

Cigarettes, .22 cents a pack

There was money for cigarettes as both my sisters and dad smoked. Joyce would send me over there to get her Winstons from the vending machine. I may have been only six years old when I started doing this and no one paid attention. You put the Quarter in the slot. pull the appropriate knob, and out comes the cigarettes. Then I noticed the three Pennies inside the cellophane. That was your change from the Quarter

 

 Mullen's Dry Cleaners

The building front was covered with Blue Porcelain panels when Joe Mullen and his wife ran the business. It of coarse was the cleanest looking building in town. After all, who would trust bringing their good cloths to one of those other dingy buildings on the block.

My folks would visit with Mullen's some evenings in their up stairs appartment as it was common for the buisness owners to live upstaires as we did.

Notice the Coal Chute Door just right of the entrance. We all burned coal in those days. When I walked to school in the morning, the snow that had fallen the previous day, was now covered black with coal soot.

 

Fifth Street was very narrow and worked out when the cars were small in those days. There was parallel parking on both side and reasonable room the cars to meet. Sometime in the late fifties, they made it a one way street which it still is today. Sixth street was made twice as wide with angle parking and was supposed to be our main street.

Real Estate speculators had inside information about this and bought the properties, but they overpriced it. The merchants then chose 5 th Street as it was more affordable and set up shop there. Sixth Street did eventually become developed with some large building, however, fifth was always the shopping area of Calumet.

 

 Sagoff's Store

This guy was a frightening character.

He spent ten years in the big house for killing his wife. He came home one day, found his wife in bed with another guy. For this sin, he stomped up and down on her until she died. Not only that, he looked just like Nikita Khrushchev, the party boss of Russia at the time (short and stocky).

The older boys in town knew he had a violent temper and would provoke him by walking by giving him the "bird sign" and run as fast as they could. Sago would come running out swinging an awning crank, jumping up and down and screaming profanities. From the time I was a little kid, this happened several times during the summer and it frightened me so much I'd quickly sneak inside our front door lest he come after me for watching.

Ever have your heart stop?

One hot summer day, my Dad's head mechanic , Leroy Maki came out from the shop and into the new car showroom, He saw me standing there and said, "Philip, come with me and I'll buy you an ice cream cone." He grabbed my little hand (I was probably five years old) and before I realized where we were going, it was across the street to Sago's store. I was certain Leroy was the strongest man in the world as he proved it by me holding his little finger and then lifting me off the floor. This would now be a test of my courage and trust that he would protect me from this beast. Sago handed us our ice cream cones, and then Leroy popped the Question, " is it true what I heard, that you killed your wife?" How can one disappear when your heart stops pumping, I thought, Sago realizing Leroy was twice his size, calmly answered, "Yes I did". We both walked out calmly and amazed, but I never went in that place again lest he stuff me in a burlap sack never to be seen again.

 

 North End Bar

It was Raudio's North End Bar for the first few years I remember it. I see some newer brick work on the front, but it still looks like its' appearance hasn't changed much over the years. Calumet boasted of having 47 Saloons in town, but by contrast, there were also 47 Churches. The south End of Fifth Street had Five Churches and was referred as God's little Acre

I lived on the North End were many of the Saloons were(seven). There was a law on the books that stated that all Saloons must have their curtains drawn closed on windows facing the street and the doors closed. The puritans in town demanded this as women and children should not have to by chance be looking inside the dens of iniquity as they walked down the street.

If the Johnson Hardware building was still standing on the corner you wouldn't see Perco's Bar just right of The North end Bar.

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