October 23, 2014

Local man authors book about Standish

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STANDISH — In 1872, Standish became a town. Now, after 138 years have passed, local historian and Standish native Gene Gillette has authored “The Story of Standish: “The Way We Were” in History and Pictures.”

With pictures prominent throughout the inside pages of the book, Standish residents of the past and present will have the chance to remember the small town’s past before it’s too late to remember.

After he attended his 50th high school anniversary, Gillette said he thought something should be done.

“When I attended my 50th high school reunion in the fall (of 2009), we chatted a lot about how things were,” he said. “That really gave me the beginnings of how someone needs to do something before we forget. It became a passion.”

Gillette, who is 69 years old and now lives in Bay City, spent most of his childhood in Standish.

Though Gillete has written another historical book called “The Black Diamond: The Story of Coal in Bay County, Michigan,” and another book called “What to Do, See, and Eat in Bay City,” the Standish-raised man, said it just seemed logical for his next book to be about Standish.

“When you do historical research, you need to focus your topic, otherwise you would go a little bit crazy,” he said. “Since I grew up in Standish, it seemed logical to focus here. I know a lot of people here.”

With the invention and the evolution of cameras, and record-keeping technology improving over time, many may think that it would be easy to find historical photos and information.

Gillette said that’s not necessarily true, as a lot the historical record has been destroyed over time.

Though many historical items just simply don’t exist anymore, Gillette said that he put as much as he could into the book, and that it was fun making it.

“I put as many interesting pictures in as I could. This area, from Bay City north, there is a lot of history,” he said. “There is probably eight or 10 towns that no longer exist.”

Growing up a as paper delivery boy for the Detroit Free Press in Standish, Gillette also had the chance to get to know almost everyone in town when he was growing up in the ’40s and ’50s.

“We had a paper route. I delivered the morning Detroit Free Press to every section of town seven days a week on my bike. A truck brought the papers to the old depot, where I picked them up to deliver to the houses and businesses,” Gillette wrote in the prelude section of his book. “We kids pretty much knew everyone in town and they knew us.”

Even his diploma is part of Standish history, as in 1959 he was part of the only class ever to graduate from Arenac Central High School.

Arenac Central High School existed right after Sterling High School and Standish High School converged in the fall of 1958.

The school changed its name to Standish Sterling-Central High School in 1960, making his class the only one ever to graduate from Arenac Central High School.

With the two schools being rivals in sports, Gillette said that even though they got along, it made for some anxious times.

“Sterling was the Hawks and Standish was the Golden Arrows. We chose the Panthers,” he said about the current SSC mascot. “We got along very well. But there were a lot of anxious moments. 1959 was the only class of Arenac Central.”

Though his new book is finished and ready for sale, Gillette said he had so much fun doing this book, that he might possibly do another one about the founding families of Standish.

“I just wrote a letter and sent a book in the mail to an 80-year-old lady, (and) she married into one of the original families, and she was (also) from an original family. I hope she has a treasure chest,” he said, about a source he didn’t wish to reveal since he didn’t have permission. “Some of the town fathers and families, I knew them.”

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