Memories of Ferndale, MI Meetup at the Elks

By. Crystal A. Proxmire


A Facebook movement culminated in an evening of story-swapping and good old fashioned revelry at the Ferndale Elks as generations of Ferndale residents gathered for the Memories of Ferndale, MI Meetup on May 14, 2010.  The club was packed, with Ferndalians spilling out into the alley behind, where they enjoyed hot dogs and beer and trading stories of good times in the city.  There were also many people who had grown up in Ferndale, but have moved to other places.


Former Mayor Bob McGee was there, as was former Recreation Department employee Sue McCleary and Councilperson Mike Lennon.  “I’ve been here 53 years.  The only thing I can tell you is when you’ve been raised in Ferndale you can never really leave this City,” Lennon said.  “Something always makes you come back.”


In 1941 sisters Florence and Peggy Carter moved to Ferndale with their family.  They attended St. James, where Florence (married name now Beaupied) graduated in 1948 and Peggy (married name now Murphy) in 1949.  “The only thing that has really changed in Ferndale is the stores,” said Murphy.  “All the stores are different now except for Whitmore’s, that was there.  I miss the dime stores, and that old Ferndale Pet Shop that was there at Troy and Woodward.”  When asked why they remained in Ferndale all these years, they said simply that this is their home.


Another group of friends at the Memories of Ferndale, MI Meetup was made up of Donna Korfel, Leslie Lawson, Sharon Stilger and Chris Lawson.  Leslie’s favorite Ferndale memory was of being crowned Miss Ferndale Elks 1973.  Her father, Al Serridge was known as “the exalted ruler” of the Elks in the 70’s, Lawson said.  She remembered having bowling nights and family picnics, and coming to the Elks on Fridays for fish frys.  “There is a group of seven of us – one I knew in kindergarten all the way through – who get together once a year for a ‘girls weekend,’” Lawson said.  “The deepest friendships I’ve ever known were my friends from Ferndale. There is unconditional love in Ferndale!”


Korfel added, “We get together because of sanity reasons.  We ground each other.  You can go insane from your kids and your husband will drive you nuts but your friends will always bring you back.”


One of the most popular guys at the party was Mike Avery, who is known as “Mister Ferndale” by those who grew up with him.  The Avery family was one of the first eleven that started Ferndale in the early 1900s, and when Mike Avery turned 40 (several years ago) stores throughout Downtown put signs up in his honor.  His sister, Mary Jo Avery (German), explained, “They call him Mister Ferndale because he knows everything about this City.  Mike has Asperger’s Syndrome so he is very smart, but he’s like Rain Man in that he doesn’t pick up social cues.  But he can ask you for your name and he’ll tell you where you lived and what’s your phone number.  You can take him to the Museum and ask him any question and he’ll know exactly where to go to find it.  It’s amazing.  And everyone in Ferndale has been so good to him.  They made him an honorary fireman and his picture is up on the wall at the station.”


Family friend Mary Ann Page said that her favorite Ferndale memory was when Mike Avery hugged her at Kevin Curtain’s Funeral.  Curtain was owner of Spaulding and Curtain Funeral Home on 9 Mile in Ferndale.  “We are all very close families,” Page said. “It was a very emotional, hard day.  And Mike came up and gave me a big hug and it was so unexpected.  Mind you, Mike shakes hands.  And when he shakes hands it’s very softly and he doesn’t really grip.  So him giving me a hug was a huge deal that day.”

Over 200 people showed up for the event, which started as a way for Ferndale grads to meet up with their former classmates, who they’d reconnected with on Facebook.