By Craig Hastings
Tonight there are just seven days remaining of my son’s summer break. My oldest turned 16 in July so he’s driving a car and hanging with young adults now instead of his old adult father. I’m hanging on tight to 14-year son Lukas though for as long as I can. Lukas and I are still doing the late night golf cart cruise for an hour and half a couple nights a week but just as a duo now for Payton has moved on. When the warm nights have passed this year I expect I will have just the summer of 2018 left with Lukas as my golf cart co pilot. In May of 2019 Lukas will be driving a real vehicle so I’m sure he will consider the golf cart midnight rides a kid thing. Something that a kid would do with their dad, and he will no longer consider himself a kid.
Tonight Lukas wanted to drive through the outlet mall and take a look at the property at 1 a.m. with the lights off. Little did I know this detour from our regular route through Tuscola would spark this story tonight. A quick rewind of the mall’s history recalls its construction sometime over the years of 1993 and 1994 with the first few stores opening in November of 1994. Before any earth was moved, the general contractor came to me and asked me if we had enough police officers willing to work site security during the build. It seems there were some union worker conflicts going on between the contractor and the different union bodies. Sabotage was the concern, I believe, as was theft of materials.
This project was a big deal not only for Tuscola but at the state level also. Everyone wanted to see this build and final retail operation completed on schedule. I called an employee meeting to see who was willing to hire back on the security detail. Every one of the officers wanted to help out. We were set up in a construction trailer that was air conditioned and comfortable and given an ATV to patrol the property from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. every single night. When the delivery of some of the more expensive building supplies was anticipated, two police officers were requested to be on site for several days at a time. However, when just one of us was on site the on duty county and city officers would always stop by and check on us.
Once the store fronts started to become their own designated space and secured by locked doors, we moved from our trailer and into any of these buildings we chose. Our vantage point to watch the entire property improved dramatically. As the weeks and months passed it seemed the concerns of the general contractor were sound. On several occasions we ran suspicious persons off the property at all times in the early morning hours. They all had the same story: “We’re only curious as to what was being built, sorry officer, we’ll leave now.” Now wouldn’t you better be able to see what was going on during the daylight hours?
Anyway, tonight during my drive through with curious Lukas all of these events from the late nights in the wee hours of 1993-94 flooded my brain with memories. Tonight I’m able to recall some of the most intricate details of the nights I spent myself on site of the outlet mall build in 1993-94. These were years well before my own two sons were born and before I ever thought I would father my own children. Nope, no ball and chains for this young police chief. I was on the move organizing a police department given to me in 1986 at just 29 years old. No time for a family…so I thought.
Twenty-three years later and tonight I’m back on the property I remember as a security detail I worked with my fellow off duty police officers for $8.50 per hour in 1993-94. I’m here tonight at the same time I would have been back during the build. I can see stacks and stacks of materials unloaded in the middle of the property. There were smells then that I imagine that I can still smell tonight. It’s a smell of black dirt and clay mix, wood, aluminum, and the most odorous of them all…diesel fuel. Lots and lots of diesel fuel.
I’ve lived in Tuscola my entire life. It’s good to remember how its grown but not so good remembering how it used to be and how much new has replaced old. I liked the old better. The Rt. 36 corridor is the new downtown Tuscola. Thank Interstate 57 for this and cars that get 30 plus miles per gallon. Bring back those 15-miles-per-gallon cars and trucks and you’ll see five times the traffic coming off of Interstate 57 to visit our little town. Remember having a dozen gasoline stations in Tuscola? I do, and I worry. I can sit at this simple computer tonight and buy a new car, new furniture, dry grocery goods of any sort, cloths, auto parts and tires, tools, bank on line, and I can even shop for a new house on line. Produce, meat, and most refrigerated groceries are still a bit of a challenge to purchase on line, but for how much longer?
Maybe some of this fast-paced world is why I find relief driving a golf cart around with my kids after 10 p.m. The electric golf cart is quiet and slow so we get to see and hear a lot we would miss in a car. The electric golf cart is quiet so I have a captive audience of my sons. They’re forced to listen to my old Tuscola stories. The golf cart is slow so it takes us an hour and half to make two laps around town so we’re forced (fortunately) to look at things longer than we would just whizzing past them in a car. The golf cart is quiet and slow so capturing unforgettable moments with my kid is inevitable. Maybe we all need a slow and quiet electric golf cart. If you do I’ll catch up with you at Festival Corner. It might take me a while, and you won’t hear me coming because the golf cart is slow and quiet. Would we have it any other way? I think not.