The term “four corners” conjures up an image of some sleepy crossroad berg somewhere on the Midwest plains or down in the deep South. However, our Four Corners, right here in the middle of Grosse Ile, was the “Hub” of the island, always active with the variety of amenities it offered.
In last month’s bio of resident Joan Strickler, this rural shopping plaza was mentioned. This had me flipping through my Rolodex of memories of this revered institution.
First and foremost, there was the full-service Texaco gas station, which was equipped with an auto repair bay. A full-service station, in case some of you don’t remember, entailed entering the driveway and running over a pneumatic hose, ringing a bell inside the station. This in turn brought out an attendant or mechanic to take your order for gas. While the gas was pumping to your desired denomination, he would then clean your windshield and check your oil, afterwards extending his grease covered hand in the driver’s window for payment (this was long before Purell).
On the north side of the “plaza” was where the Grosse Ile Cleaners was located. Two white Pomeranian dogs frolicked in the front window greeting customers. A small blue Ford panel van stood ready outside the doors to make deliveries. It was rumored that the two little dogs rode shotgun.
The Grosse Ile Market carried all of the necessities for the Grosse Ile homemaker. This included a meat counter in the rear of the store, with freshly butchered meats cut to your approval. For the kids there was a variety of candy and a freezer of various ice cream novelty treats. A large red, ice cold water-filled Coca-Cola cooler provided the cold pop to take out. This was usually our highlight of our bike trip to the store.
The south portion of the complex, next to the grocery store, was divided into a tiny real estate office and a beauty salon. A stairway led upstairs to apartments which took up the rest of the space.
Note: In the corner there was the tiny Bell telephone booth between the gas station and the grocery store. This was a memento of the “B.C. Era” (before cell phones); only 10 cents a call and no contracts.
The west side of plaza was the restaurant, “The Meet-n-eat nook.” This entity was well-named as it proved to be a warm popular place for islanders and island visitors.
The early proprietor was affectionately referred to as “Pop Buttons.” His son Dick Button was a five time world champion figure skater. He was also a twice Olympic champion skater. His pictures proudly adorned the walls of the restaurant.
All of these memories went up in smoke on Thanksgiving Day in 1977. The entire complex burned to the ground. Bereft of all of the past memories, the four corners reverted to its geographic physical description, just four corners. The vacant space is now tended by the Grosse Ile Garden Club, leaving a shrine to the past.