Tale of the Twin Pines: The Final Chapter
By Andrew M. Coulson,
Clare County Historical Society member
About six years had passed since the Twin Pines of the Harrison School watched Tom and Hazel walk out the doors of the Congregational Church, a newly married couple. Tom was at his most dapper and Hazel was breathtaking. The Twin Pines missed them very much. Occasionally, they thought they caught glimpses of them in the distance. Years went by and it was now 1971. Plans for a new high school were being made offsite on the south side of town. This meant that the Twin Pines would soon miss the last four years of the children's education, but at least they would still get to see the little ones grow into young adults.
The Twin Pines couldn’t believe it when they saw the little versions of Tom and Hazel walking down the sidewalk. Each of them holding on to a lunch box, just like in the old days. It took a minute for the Twin Pines to realize who was holding onto the children’s other hands. Tom and Hazel were now the proud parents of twins, a little boy and a little girl. The Twin Pines couldn’t wait to find out their names!
Such is the circle of life. The Twin Pines of the Harrison schools are probably about 65 years old today. They haven’t even hit middle age, as far as white pines go. They have seen three or four generations of children pass them by. Some children have noticed them, and some have not. The privileged few have taken shelter in their shade.
School buildings also face the circle of life. The two-story structure behind the Twin Pines, being 81 years old, is slated for demolition. It is most likely in the hands of a select few people whether the Twin Pines are left standing as the old building comes down. If you are one of these people, please consider the pines. If you know one of these people, please tell them how you feel. Time is running short. The cleared area where the two-story structure is now, will likely be used to expand the Veterans Freedom Park. The Twin Pines could easily be incorporated into the plans for this expansion and at the same time provide two beautiful examples of Michigan’s state tree.
In a few years there will be no Harrison school in this location. As of this writing, there has been continuous teaching in this exact location for 138 years. Hopefully, for generations to come, if you listen carefully, you will still be able to hear the children laugh within the pine cone filled branches of the mighty Twin Pines.
Tale of the Twin Pines: Happily Ever After
By Andrew M. Coulson
Clare County Historical Society member
It was the last week of high school for Tom and Hazel, the class of ’65. They had both attended the Harrison schools together having practically every class together since kindergarten. They were best friends the whole time, walking to and from school nearly every day. Gradually, that friendship turned into love. Now that they were graduating, their first plans of adulthood were to unite in marriage. The community couldn’t be happier for them.
The Twin Pines of the Harrison school are located just outside the front doors of the school. The Twin Pines, still young themselves and with this graduating class, have had the privilege of witnessing their first generation of children grow up. If left alone, from their vantage point on Main Street, they hope to see many more generations of children pass through those hallowed doors.
Also, from the Twin Pines’ vantage point were other landmarks of downtown Harrison. They were not yet tall enough to see Budd Lake. Across Main Street were the sheriff department and a new court house was being planned. They could see the county newspaper office, The Clare County Cleaver. Across from this building is the Congregational church, where they will be getting married in a few short weeks.
On a bright, sun-shiny day during the first week of June, the Twin Pines heard the now familiar exclamation of, “No more teachers, no more books...” Most of the kids ran out the doors, but the last two out, Tom and Hazel, stole away to their old, faithful meeting place behind the Twin Pines for a minute of seclusion. It was surely a bitter-sweet occasion for the two young adults. Hazel, adoring her engagement ring, listened as Tom reminisced about old times. He ended with the story of when they had been fifth-graders. Unbeknownst, they had both saved a pine cone gathered from the walk to school that morning and thrown them at each other in play ambush at this very location.
Tom took something out of his lunch box. Hazel could not make out what was hidden in his hand. With his other hand, Tom picked took Hazel’s left hand, the one with engagement ring on it, turned it over and placed the object into it. It was a pine cone. He told her how that, all those years ago, he had not one, but two pine cones hidden in his lunch pail, and planned on throwing this cone at her as well. But after Hazel’s had hit him, he knew that he wanted to spend the rest of his life with her. He couldn’t bring himself to remove the second pine cone from his lunch pail. It had been in there ever since.
Tale of the Twin Pines: True Love Realized
By Andrew M. Coulson
Clare County Historical Society Member
Tommy and Hazel are now in high school. They still make it a point to walk to and from school together. It isn’t as easy as it used to be, as both their lives have been steadily getting busier. High school is an exciting time. The classrooms in Harrison are set up in the building according to age. The kindergarten classroom was just inside the front doors. The high school classes are located on the second floor, an entire world from the front doors. Hazel imagines this is probably why it is called “high” school.
During her studies in the upper classrooms, Hazel would now and then daydream. When things were quiet, she would find herself gazing out the windows. The windows to the east revealed a view of the Congregational Church, their stained glass colorful in the sun. The windows to the south, which received the most sunlight, were Clare County's second court house and the newly-constructed sheriff department. But directly outside those windows were two majestic white pine trees, their tops barely visible. She would watch the birds and squirrels play in their branches. She remembered a few years back, not too long ago, when she felt just as carefree, playing childish games with Tommy. She wondered if the pines were listening in on the school lessons. If so, was the tree located closer to the open windows that much smarter for being so located?
These days, Tommy, or Tom as he now went by, and Hazel would almost always have extracurricular activities after school. Sports and study clubs were the norm in Harrison High School, designed to expand the malleable minds of the next generation. When possible, they would coordinate the events with each other. If one got done before the other, the Twin Pines in front of the school were always the point of rendezvous.
Other kids started to notice how much time Tom and Hazel spent together. Neither one noticed nor thought about this before it was pointed out to them. They did notice, however, a growing fondness for each other and a strong desire to prolong their departure from their rendezvous underneath the Twin Pines.
It was only a matter of time before, behind the shelter of the Twins Pines, two hearts pounding as one, Tom and Hazel shared their first kiss. The daily walks to and from school were now hand-in-hand, neither of them remembering the walk itself. The walks felt both fleeting and lasting an eternity. Tom and Hazel had found a love that would truly last a lifetime. Each time the couple would meet under the Twin Pines, the trees could feel the love radiate into their uppermost branches. This was a one-in-a-million love, and the Twin Pines of the Harrison school wept their pine cones in joy.
Tale of the Twin Pines: In the Beginning
By Andrew M. Coulson
Clare County Historical Society Member
Hazel and Tommy were best friends. They lived close to each other, on the south side of a small city in the middle of the Michigan's mitten by the name of Harrison. They had both entered the fifth grade a few weeks earlier and were in walking distance of the Harrison school buildings. The year was 1957 and Harrison had just built a large addition onto its school. At this time, nearly the entirety of northern Clare county children, eight townships, went to school within the buildings here. The new addition had many rooms and the two children could not help but feel the shared excitement and grand sense of pride that everyone had for the new building. The two children would meet every morning on their way to school, enjoying each other’s company. Most of the time they would be carrying a book or two, but always in their possession were their lunch pails. Lunch usually consisted of a sandwich and a piece of fruit. If they were lucky a cookie for dessert. A cup was also located inside for use at the school water fountain.
As kids will be kids, sometimes a bit of boredom would set in on the way to their classes. A portion of the road was lined with pine trees. If the pine cones had been off the road, the children probably would have paid them no mind, but as fate would have it, a few of them littered their path.
Hazel was in front, kicking small pebbles ahead of her. Tommy spied the pine cones and picked up the nearest one. He would never hurt her, but he would make a little fun at her expense. He took careful aim, tossed it ahead of him and hit Hazel square in the back.
This took Hazel a bit by surprise, more because she was lost in her daydreams than because she would never expect Tommy to do such a thing. Of course, she could not leave this attack unanswered. Hazel went to pick up the nearest pine cone when out of the corner of her eye, she saw Tommy winding up for another toss in her direction. Hazel jumped to her side, however being a little closer to the side of the road than she realized, she tripped down the side of the small hill.
Hazel caught her balance without much problem. As she poked her head over the hill, she happened to see Tommy, with his back to her, sneaking a pine cone into his lunch pail. Hazel quickly lowered her head and looked around. Plainly, Tommy was planning on a future attack. Hazel copied his action, quietly but quickly placing a pine cone into her lunch pail.
Before long, they were at the school. After classes were over, Hazel made her way to the double doors on the south side of the school to meet back up with Tommy in preparation for their walk home together. A few minutes passed. Hazel stood patiently, watching the other children filter out of the school. Tommy was nowhere to be found.
Just as the last kids were leaving the school, Hazel heard a sound from a few feet away. To the side of her was a broad but shallow hole in the ground that hadn't been filled in yet from the recent construction. She looked over just in time to catch Tommy's head duck down from inside the hole. He didn't know that she had seen him. She removed the pine cone from her lunch pail and sped over to the opposite side of the hole and jumped in.
As they gathered the bearings, both children laughingly unleashed their single rounds of pine cone ammunition onto each other. Both rounds hit their targets, then gently dropped into the soft soil below. Unnoticed by anyone, upon return to school the next day, the shallow hole that played witness to a brief but loving moment between two children, had been filled in. But inside that freshly tilled earth, two lives of a different kind, whom would forever be intertwined as a Harrison school landmark, had begun.
Tale of the Twin Pines
By Andrew M. Coulson
Clare County Historical Society Member
The city of Clare has its Lone Pine Motel. Before it was a motel, it was a small gas and service station with a few cabins in the back. Over the years, it grew into a full-fledged restaurant and motel. But it was always named after the lone pine.
There are many lone pine stories in Michigan history. The lone pine stories hale back further than the lumbering days, probably having their origins in First Nations lore. Scattered over the state during the lumbering era were majestic white pines that were spared the ax, due to legends surrounding their life. It was considered extremely bad luck to fell one of these trees. They survived wind storms, lightning strikes and forest fires and for reasons only the Maker knows, towered over their surrounding as giant sentinels looking over their dominion.
This is not a story of a lone pine. This is the story of two White Pine trees, blessed with the opportunity to live their lives within the company of one another, and here afterward referred to as the Twin Pines. 1879 first saw activity of an industrial nature on the west bank of Budd Lake. The Wilson mill was a bustling affair. Just to the west of the lake was the chosen location for the new county seat, Harrison. By 1881, Harrison had built its first dedicated school building. This was located roughly in the same location as what is now Hillside elementary. This location first housed K-12. The high school changed location in the 1970s. When the middle school joined the high school in the 1990s, only the elementary remained. Still, Harrison has had a school in this location ever since day one.
Nothing of the original structure remains, but during the course of its expansion, there came a time during the 1950s, when there were structures from at least four different time periods that made up the school complex at this location. Along Main Street there was a nook where three of these building came together. It was inside this nook, made up of the stone community building built around 1934, the three-story brick structure, built in 1938 that still exists, and the one-story structure built in 1956-57. It is during this time period, in the nexus of these three buildings, where the story of The Twin Pines begins.
It was a very proud time for the Twin Pines. They were at home, living in the very soil where their ancestors had lived for eons. Man came eventually, as he always does. The white pines were all but completely taken. A little place was being built on the bank of a large and lovely natural lake. The place came to be known as Harrison. In the very vicinity where the Twin Pines took root, was said to be the location of one of the tallest white pines in the entire region, perhaps the entire state, chopped down to make way for progress and profit.
A school was built, a noble endeavor to be sure. Soon, an addition was built, then another. It was in the confluence of these three buildings serving a common good, that our Twin Pines found their calling. It is not certain whether these twin pines found their origins as naturally grown beings, or if they were planted there as a call-out to the state tree by some school children. There were a few other trees in the vicinity at the time. But before long, the twin pines outgrew their fellow lawn mates. The stone community building was taken down, and it was probably at this time that the other trees were removed. But the Twin Pines endured.
Decades passed and the Twin Pines standing proudly next to the front doors of the school, observed many a school child come and go, grow into adults, have children of their own and send them through the same school doors. This process was undertaken many a time over the decades. Over and over again, as the little ones grew, they entered and exited the school doors on Main Street and played under the Twin Pines shade. The Twin Pines witnessed the children's joy and witnessed the children's pain. They laughed with the children and cried with the children.
During the summers, when the children were home, the Twin Pines would watch the streams of tourists pass by. They would see the same people drive by at the same time every year. Families with their children, then the children’s children. The Twin Pines would wave their branches “hello” in the wind. Once in a while someone would wave back.
Eventually, the main entrance to the school fell into disuse. The Twin Pines did not see as many children as they used to. This made them very sad. But the sense of pride never died within the Twin Pines. They could still hear the children and the lessons being taught. They still saw a few pass by the building. They still served as sentinels to the school and to the passers-by. A veterans park was built next to them, as a place to honor those who served to protect the soil in which they grew. This gave the Twin Pines a whole new reason to be proud, and a whole other reason to cry.
A new chapter in the lives of the Twin Pines is currently being wrote. It has become known to the Twin Pines that the life cycle of their school is about to come to an end. The big structure behind them is scheduled for demolition, in conjunction with a new elementary school to be built off-site. This makes them sadder than ever before. They realize things change. They had their beginnings at the very height of school activity. Now they only have a short time left of seeing the little ones walk by. Probably only one more year. A short time left of little ones playing under them. A little one finding a place to cool off in their shade. A last chance of a little one eating lunch under their protection. No more witnessing families growing up together. As the school is tore down and the veteran's park expands, the lives of the Twin Pines may very well be in danger.
The Twin Pines hope that this is not the case. They hope that they will be allowed to serve as shade to veterans park. They wish to remind the visitors of why the white pine was chosen as the state tree. They hope that people will wonder what stories they have witnessed. The hope of a picnic lunch or two is still possible.
The Twin Pines will continue to wave their hello. As you pass them by on the way home, to work or on vacation, be sure to wave back, take the time to share a story with them; while you still can.
The Twins Pines have seen enough stories in their lifetime to fill volumes. If you like this story, let the editor know, and more tales of their adventures will be published.