Saturday, August 11, 2007

Millington, Michigan

I spent Thursday taking backroads across Michigan, and due to missing the turn for state road 90, I ended up in the village of Millington. I saw this sign as I drove down Main Street:


Driving around the country on no set schedule makes it hard to remember the exact date or the given day of the week. After some quick mental calculations, I was surprised to realize that it was August 9th. I was just in time for the big party.

Millington truly is a village, with a Main Street no more than a block long, and as such the festival was little more than a few booths set up for games, some food tents, and a petting zoo.


But it was so distinctly American. The families milling about, the bored, disaffected youth trailing behind, American flags everywhere, the smell of barbecue in the air and shrieks and laughter everywhere. It made me wish I had an international friend with me who might have appreciated it on an even higher level. Small Town, America was indeed alive and well, and this only a few hours from the Canadian border.

After visiting the petting zoo, I tried my hand at one of the games. A quarter bought me three plastic rings with the object of throwing them around the necks of glass bottles set up in the middle of the booth. I hooked a coke bottle, and so I won a coke.


I then watched the local kids compete in some sort of kiddie tractor pull.


I finally decided to have dinner at the Millington Inn where I was feeling overwhelmingly American so I ordered a cheeseburger and fries as well as a house salad. The check came out to $5.94.

I finished off my tour of Millington at McKatm's Pub across the street where I sat at the bar with a Bud Light. There were three beers on tap: Bud Light, Busch, and Killians. Draught beer was served in red frat party cups, while the rest was served in cans. All of the men wore paint smeared clothes and construction boots, while the women looked like they could sweat cheeseburgers.

The women behind the bar were true barwenches. One had teased bangs a la 1987 while another had a mullet. They all had terrifically colorful dispositions. I sat and listened to the banter.

"Hey Tina, how come you don't get a bell and ring it like whenever someone gives you a tip."

Tina set the new beer in front of the man, put the extra dollar in the tip jar and said, "Ding ding. Now drink your fucking beer, Mike."

It was the greatest bar I've ever been to.

40 comments:

mike m said...

hey scott, just got the chance to catch up on the blog, still great, hope the rest of the trip goes well.

by the way, are you planning on swinging by camp before the end of the month?

Paul E. Shively said...

Scott,

This is the absolute best entry so far! I like to open the pictures as I am reading along (well, at least the ones that will open) and after seeing the one with the carnival stand (the second picture) I said to myself "wow this is truly American." I read on and could not stop laughing after I read the next line, "But it was so distinctly American!"

It's experiences like being at a bar in the middle of nowhere in Michigan with a bunch of blue collar workers that allow one to see all sides of life.

You should have asked them what they thought of gay marriage.

Kirsten said...

Hi Scott,

I haven't had a chance to catch up on your blog since traveling, but I just thought I'd say hi from Helena, Montana. We're on our way to Yellowstone (via Butte)!

Kirsten

Dad said...

Stumbling into small towns anywhere can be fun. Years ago Mom and I were in a small village in the Harz Mountains and saw a Schützenfest complete with a parade of German Shepherds. (Can't recall the town - somewhere near Braunlage, I think.) Or when we were in PEI and passed through a town on the southern coast where they had a Scottish festival and a bagpipe concert by the Veil of Athol Pipe band from Scotland. So it's not just America. But I'll have to put Millington on my list of palces to visit.

the chef said...

Hey Scott... I'm also just caught up on your blog. Camp has been nuts so I've been falling behind on my daily reading.

We just started session 5... a one weeker, and it's all almost over.

I second most of what Paul above said... I liked this one a lot.

You know what... that sign said "Old Fashioned Summer Festival"...

I don't think it's old fashioned to them... it's just a normal thing.

They probably slap "Old Fashioned..." on for tourists.

Was there ever a time in these middle American towns where the DIDN'T have "festivals" like that??

If they never stopped the tradition they couldn't be old fashioned... it would still be current fashion.

Does that make sense to you? It did when I wrote it.


Be good Scott...

ww.killykill.com

Anonymous said...

I know that it has been nearly a year since your adventure in Millington, but I cam across this blog in preparation for my 10 year high school reunion, Which is being planned in conjuction with "The Festival." I did grow up in this small town, but haven't been back for a while. It should be interesting. This blog is HILARIOUS!!! Thanks :)

fishingnick said...

Scott,
I also grew up in Millington and absolutely love the post. I live in Atlanta, GA now and have taken a few friends to Millington to show them true America. It was a great place to grow up and I am glad you enjoyed it.

Old Millington Guy said...

Scott:

I ran across you blog post recently and found it most interesting ( a year late, eh?). The local guys really got a kick out of your description of McKatm's. In the old days we used to joke that you could smell the urinals one block away. Of course, its been sanitized in recent years.

We are happy that you enjoyed you brief stay in Millington. -Best wishes.

skoie said...

Oh, my! I just ran across your blog as well. Born and raised in Millington, I had to smile. Your description of our tiny villiage was very good. I am so glad you enjoyed yourself at the Old Fashioned Days. I think you must have missed the biggest attraction though, the Frog Jumping Contest! You will have to come back to town for that one. I have to admit that I know quite a few people in the pictures and think I might know just the "barwench" you are speaking of!....Ah, life in a small town.

hunter said...

Hi there! im from millington and im glad you got to enjoy our festival!

Anonymous said...

I too am from Millington. I live on the outskirts of Phoenix, Arizona now and I tell my boys about Old Fashion Days all the time. It was great to be able to show them your blog.

Thanks for stopping and I hope you visited the beer tent!

Anonymous said...

Haha funny blog post.

btw the lady in the church barn thing on picture 2 got arrested for animal cruelty - aka not feeding her horses... thought i'd share...

Scotticus said...

I reread my old blogs from time to time and just found all of these comments from natives of Millington. Thanks for reading, and glad you liked this entry! Maybe I'll do a sequel in a few years and come back!

Jeff Weiss said...

The Chef, it's not Old Fashioned just for the tourists. Nobody goes to Millington as a tourist!

Scott, nice timing on hitting my home town. Any other weekend, and there would've been absolutely nothing that would've made you remember our Podunk Junction. Thanks for stopping and taking the time to check it out. Too bad you didn't hit the Red Garter Saloon (that's the festival beer tent)!

Anonymous said...

I am also from Millington. The festival is the big highlight of the year. If you would have stayed a couple more days you could have seen the big parade, the concert on the old football field and the fireworks. They are pretty good
I think I know the Mike from the bar. I can see him saying something like that.

Anonymous said...

I see a lot of Millingdoggers have stumbled upon your blog. I too grew up in Millington, and found your blog to be hilariously accurate. That sign is the same sign that they have used for as long as I can remember, and the ring toss was a favorite game as a kid.
The Old Fashioned Days Festival brings back memories of my brother, now an arborist, climbing the grease pole to win the $20 bucks at the top and me and my sister competing to win $20 in the spelling bee. Good times :)

Anonymous said...

I am now 19 years old and have been going to that festival since long before I can remember. Thanks for showing the people from that town an outsiders view, and a good one for that matter. We are glad that everyone from out of town enjoys our festival, we try our hardest to make it the best experience we can! Thanks!

Anonymous said...

I also grew up in that small town of Millington, MI. Usually McKatm's, the letters are the first letters of the children of the lady who owns the bar....is packed...but during the festival the block long beer tent..the red garter saloon takes over...just for a few days...grew up looking forward to the festival...haven't been to one in years...thanks for the write up...Millington could be the poster-child for small town America, and it's wonderful values...and 'us' citizens...currently living there or not are very proud of that...Because once from Millington, always from Millington.

Anonymous said...

Scott, you are doing exactly what my husband and I want to do - travel this great country! My hubby is from White Pine, MI. We now live in Avondale, AZ, but are going to visit his family in Sandusky, MI this August. We are going to take a trip to Millington, now more than ever, because of your blog. Thanks! I wish we could have raised our kids here, too. They don't have a clue what 'small town America' is truly about. Sad. God Bless America!!

ChristineInSanDiego said...

A classmate of mine (Amanda) orignally sent me the link to your blog which I reposted on our alumni pages.
I had tears streaming down my face reading your perspective on our hometown. We are currently in the process of planning our class reunion to which I was told, " If it is not festival weekend, don't bother!" As you may have guessed, we succumbed to the pressure and are holding it during the Old Fashioned Summer Festival. Should you be in the area on August 13-15, 2009, please stop in as we would love to meet Thee Scott that made our little town famous in his Travels with Black Betty blog! We will be at the Cobb Hall on Sat night for our reunion or if you would rather meet us up at the Red Garter Saloon (aka the beer tent to the local population) just let the DJ know you are in the house! LOL! Bring Friends! A good time will be had by all!
I think yours is the best blog I have ever read! Thanks for the great humor and perspective!

Anonymous said...

As someone who grew up in Millington (and couldn't wait to get out), I appreciated you description. It was accurate and nostalgic. By the way, I go out of Millington to another small town about 40 miles away. It is amazing that no far or how fast we run, we end up (at least most of us) treading water. When I was growing up, McKatm's was Walt's bar and Schumakers was the place to get a burger (The Millington Inn was the Millington Hotel but it blew up in the 1950's from a gas leak). Anyone else from that era still around. '69 alum of MHS GO CARDS!!

Anonymous said...

Hey Scott,
I too was born and raised in Millington, Michigan. I left at the age of 18 because my parents moved to Phoenix, Arizona due to my fathers health problems. I have lived in Germany, and Arizona and I can tell you their is no place I call home more than Millington. Yes, It is only a "village" but it is our village, our small town, our home. The people here have the warmest heart anywhere in the world. You know your neighbor and they are your friends. Can you say that in your neighborhood? The town has its stories. People have their stories. If you ever get the chance, go back and talk to the people. Better yet go back for the festival. The whole festival. I encourage anyone to visit our village for it's the best in the world. Great place to raise your children. You may move away but you will always go back, and it will always be home....

Anonymous said...

Saw this on Facebook and had to read it-I grew up in Millington and after moving to Chicago, I really do miss the "small town feel" of that place. We've all made fun of it, calling it podunk and hillbilly, but there are few places like that around. I always tell people the story of our 98 people graduating high school, and how I could have told you the first, middle, and last name of every person who walked across that stage, and how the board member who "read" our names actually looked at our faces and said our names instead of reading the cards. I miss it there, and driving here in the city streets where you're in everyone's way is much different than driving 35 behind tractors and waving at people you know driving down the roads. I wish I could still go to the Old Fashioned Festival! You must have missed the parade, which is the (yes-the, as in singular) cop car and fire truck, and the boy scouts and cheerleaders and about fifty tractors. The whole parade used to take about ten minutes. Good old times!

Anonymous said...

Hey Scott,
You should have stuck around for the bed races and so many other activities. It is really a nice
festival.

Matt Coggins said...

Well thats cool. Alot of people in Millington take it for granted, but it's nice to see someone travelling through the town take time and appreciate how cool the festival is. I've always loved it, as do all my friends and everyone in the Millington area, even those emo kids who claim they don't like anything. It's a fun meeting place to see friends you missed over the summer, and the annual Teen Dance can be viewed as something almost romantic. I'm glad you appreciated our little town.

Anonymous said...

Great blog! I remember the first year for the festival. Somewhere around 1972 or '73. It was a big hit that year and it's been big ever since. I moved shortly after that. I went to a city, and after about 10 years, I had to get out so I moved to another small town. this town doesn't have the atmosphere of Millington, though. After 38 years being out of high school, I still have friends I talk to and get together with from that town. although I probably would never move back, it was a special place to grow up.
I remember after I got married (my wife isn't from Millington) I took her to the festival where we went to the "Red Garter Saloon". She looked around at everyone dancing and started laughing. When I asked her what was so funny she said "Everyone here dances like a bunch of farmers". I looked around and realized they had their own unique way of moving on the dance floor, ways you didn't see in the city clubs.
What fun!

Erik said...

Scott,

Awesome blog dude! I also grew up in Millington and just have to take issue with one of the comments that the "Pop Ring Toss" was the best game at Old Fashioned Days. The best game was the Goldfish Bowl Toss! Don't tell me it's not there anymore! It was probably in the kiddie games/rides section. You had to throw a ping pong ball into one of many small fishbowls up on wooden shelves. Every parent hated that game! Ha ha! It seemed like every kid was running around with a baggie of water with several "prize" fish in it after the festival. They always died like a day later.

Anonymous said...

Well, Scott - looks like you have become "famous in a small town" ...I found your blog awhile back and posted it for my fellow "Millingtucky" friends, and we all loved it, just as we love our little town! Thanks for the great outside perspective - I think it reminds all of us that we have a lot to be thankful for!

Matt Rasch said...

Unbelievable at all the posts. I googled Millington old fashioned days and your blog was the second post. By the way the old fashioned days is this weekend. I to grew up in Millington, graduated in 2002. I now live in North Carolina, yet my parents and siblings all still live in Millington. I think of Millington everyday and all of the fun we used to have as kids during old fashioned days, the teen dance, first week of high school football, and later the beer tent. Man I miss that place.

Scotticus said...

Hi everyone,

I can't believe how many comments this blog has gotten over two years later! I can't thank you enough for reading and commenting!

I got an e-mail from Christine a few months ago inviting me to this year's high school reunion during the festival. I'm currently in South Korea teaching English, but there is no doubt I would have come if I was still in the States.

Within a few years I plan to do a sequel to this blog, and I WILL come back to Millington. I genuinely admire a place that has produced so many people who remember their roots and appreciate where they grew up.

Thanks again everyone!

Art said...

Your comments and others bring back memories of growing up in this small town. One never forgets the innocence that a small town offers. I grew up in Millington in the 50's and 60's. Certainly before many who read this were born. It is kind of sad that business's in Millington today are not like those so many years ago. Falls 5c and 10c - Henderson Drug store - Haun's Bakery - Cobb's store and restaurant. At least Schmakers (spelling) is still in the old building. Great place to grow up. Always will have fond memories. Thank you small town America for those memories.

Anonymous said...

WOW!!!! This blog was great to read. After graduating from Millington in 1990, I went into the Army, and for four years came back home for a month. I miss Millington, I miss my family and the values we were raised with. I miss my senior year camping out at the school, then finishing finals the next day.....anyone else remember that one??? I am glad we didn't get arrested....

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
Haha funny blog post.

btw the lady in the church barn thing on picture 2 got arrested for animal cruelty - aka not feeding her horses... thought i'd share...

Replying to this.

She did feed her horses. I also fed her horses. So did 2 other people.

What she DIDN'T do was call a vet out to get bloodwork. After she was convicted, the woman who took the thin horse got the bloodwork and found that he had a blood disorder that made it almost impossible to gain weight.

Anonymous said...

Well it looks like I'm a little late on reading this blog...but I'm still laughing at how accurate it is :) I too am Millington born and raised...and probably will never leave. As mentioned before, I'm sure all of us know which "barwench" Scott is reffering to :)

Anonymous said...

i think that barwench served a lot of us our first drink when we turned 21. i know she served me mine, and ripped on me for making a face at a nasty shot. thanks for seeing what we all already knew.

Anonymous said...

Почему регистрация не работает ?

KC Mae said...

If definitely a little late at finding this. But I'm glad you enjoyed our small little village. Come back sometime, We would be glad to have you.

Anonymous said...

The Millington Old Fashioned Summer Festival is coming up...Aug 11-13, 2011!

Just an FYI for anyone that wants to experience the fun first hand!

Anonymous said...

Gotta love Millington and the memories of growing up in a small town. It's many generations of families, the local businesses and the true-Americana of this little village need no fanfare. Everybody comes back here, sooner or later-- be it the Festival, a class reunion, wedding or funeral. It's all a part of life. Thanks for visiting our hometown and bringing a smile to those of us from Millington, MI : )

AJ said...

Millington.. what great memories. Like the memories of a good frined. In the 60's,IGA was a big store, Hauns Bakery, Henderson drug store and even one other, the hardware, Rocks Sporting good store, 3 or 4 gas stations etc. etc. Times have changed. People these days shop at Walmart, Target, look for the best price. A town like Millington must be supported or it too will go by the wayside. Millington is like a good friend.. friendship requires nourishment or you lose a friend. Millington is a friend, don't lose her.