I love the Public Museum and have visited many times, but I never expected to find an artifact with a connection to my own Grand Rapids history. I’m not a native; I moved to GR as a young adult in 1984 (and frankly, for years thought of it as a stepping stone to the next place). And although my husband and I and our teenage sons claim GR as part of our home turf, I wouldn’t have looked for personal nostalgia among its artifacts.
If you were a child here in the 1950s you may have ridden the “Santa Express,” a tiny three-car monorail train, suspended from the ceiling, that trundled around Herpolsheimer’s department store. When I first encountered that train it was sporting a dinosaur/jungle motif, and the old Herp’s building had become Mackie’s World.
I recall that wet, chilly weather had sent my son Evan and I in search of an indoor venue for our day of “exploring.” As a working mom who never quite got comfortable with her little ones in daycare even part time, I treasured my “exploring” days with my sons, and on that day I was happy to have Mackie’s World.
I don’t remember much else from the place, but that ride combined his two favorite things – trains and dinosaurs – and it captivated my boy! I hadn’t thought much about that day in long time until I saw the train again recently, but I can still see his shining eyes and hear his little voice saying, “Go again!” He doesn’t remember the ride, but I remember how it touched that mother-spot in my heart that catalogs those beautiful moments…the ones that make you wistful when you turn around to find your children nearly grown.
Blogging about the archives was meant to be an exercise for my boys, teaching them to discover their own connections to their hometown and the value of preserving the things that represent community. The surprise was the lesson for me: when a place brings you your partner in life, your children, a professional community you love and awesome friends, it is home – and it’s worth keeping your eyes open for the artifacts that remind you of these gifts.
Pam Ralston-Hunt lives in Rockford with her husband Steve, teenage sons Evan and Collin, and a neurotic rescued lab mix named Ranger. She has owned a PR/marketing communications business since 1996 and enjoys blogging.
Additional images from Life Magazine December 19, 1955 issue.