Author reflects on Michigan summers

Published 9:19 am Thursday, March 13, 2014

Alexander Rassogianis’ family spent many happy summers with friends on the beaches of southwest Michigan in the 1950s. (Submitted photo)

Alexander Rassogianis’ family spent many happy summers with friends on the beaches of southwest Michigan in the 1950s. (Submitted photo)

STEVENSVILLE — Among the perks of living along the “Gold Coast” of Lake Michigan are the white sand beaches that provide hours of enjoyment and relaxation in the warmer months. Just the thought of them has kept many residents going through this long, cold winter.

It’s not quite time to hit the beach yet—to play in the surf, to soak up the sun’s rays or to build sand castles — but if you need help getting back in the mood, Alexander Rassogianis has written a book that just might help you prepare to make the most of the coming Michigan summer.

“Return to Glenlord: Memories of Michigan Summers” is a volume of Rassogianis’ recollections from the summers that his family spent in Stevensville in the 1950s.

“I constructed the book in episodes because I couldn’t do it chronologically. I couldn’t do it justice,” Rassogianis said. “I remembered all of these activities, but I would have just been guessing as to the months and years that they happened.”

Just as childhood memories tend to come to us in flashes—not always neatly bound together with a narrative thread — so Rassogianis’ book can transport readers back to times in their own lives that they remember fondly.

“A lot of people identify with what I wrote—people who grew up in Stevensville or who grew up in the 1950s and had similar coming-of-age experiences that they’ve reflected on,” Rassogianis said.

In fact, those flashes of memory led to additions that kept Rassogianis working on the book for three years.

“Every time I thought I was finished, I would be driving in the car, or doing something else, and I would remember another story to include. I finally just had to wrap it up,” Rassogianis said.

While not always connected by an on-going plot, each of the book’s 78 chapters tells a short a short story that involves at least one of the main characters: Alex, his parents and siblings, or his several summer friends. Those characters come into sharper focus as the book develops.

Because of that structure, the experience of reading “Return to Glenlord” might remind some readers of times when they sat and listened to an older relative tell tales of their vanished youth.

Others will remember fondly their own long-lost summer days at Glenlord Beach, now submerged by Lake Michigan, the victim of erosion.

Whether or not readers experienced the time when the amusement parks at Silver Beach and Eden Springs were still open, they will find Rassogianis’ memories of those tourist attractions interesting from a historical point of view.

His descriptions of long-closed restaurants and drive-in theaters are also poignant. The inclusion of family photographs taken in some of those locations further helps to transport readers back to that bygone era.

This historical aspect of Rassogianis’ memoir is not surprising since the author earned a master’s degree in history from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and taught history for 15 years.

Another aspect of the book that will speak to some readers is the sorrow young Alex felt at the end of each summer. As a resident of Chicago, one of the most difficult things for him was the return trip home.

“We loved Michigan. We wanted to stay there forever,” Rassogianis recalled. “How depressing it was to come back here [to Chicago]. No more beach, no more friends. It took me a couple of weeks to adjust to that after every summer.”

From that perspective, “Return to Glenlord” can serve as a reminder to year-round residents that we are fortunate to call this tourist destination our “home.”

Rassogianis and his siblings still love to visit southwest Michigan, vacationing in the same home that his parents bought when he was a child.

“Every time I cross that border into Michigan on the old highway, it’s a whole different world,” he said. “It’s such a pleasure. That’s why we just can’t give it up. We just can’t sell the house.”

Whether you are looking for a book to read on the beach this summer or for a way to get back into the Michigan summer spirit right now, “Return to Glenlord” is a book you may want to spend some time with. It is available in print and Kindle versions from and Barnes & Noble, but it can also be ordered at local bookstores, including Forever Books in St. Joseph.