Addition to Chapter 2
Living in Michigan, 1980
BELLAIRE, MICHIGAN, during the Christmas season, was like walking into a Norman Rockwell painting. Bluish-white snow powder frosted the sidewalks under the glow of overhanging street lamps. Main Street was lined with Victorian houses, their sprawling front porches outlined by twinkling lights, candles flickering in the windows, and front doors adorned with evergreen wreaths. Downtown offered a single stoplight, a grocery store, hardware store, gas station, restaurant, and Dairy Queen. The closest urban area was Traverse City, cherry capital of the US, near the Upper Peninsula. Mountains surrounded the village with snow-covered roads leading up to an array of ski lodges. Compared to the Colorado Rockies we had just left, these rounder mountains were less intimidating to inexperienced skiers like us.
My Chicago-transplant family moved to Bellaire after Dad’s second heart attack and loss of his job. With a lower cost of living in Dad’s dream environment of lakes and rivers for plenty of fishing, they hoped for a good life. Growing up, my older brother Tom thought of himself like Dobie Gillis growing up, not as a beatnik but as a geek who took shop class. My younger brother Jim, also talented in shop class and sports, teased my parents about him being an accident, because Tom and Jim were 13 years apart, and Jim and I were eight years apart. Dad’s talents in home construction became strengths in both my brothers’ lives; Jim became a talented home remodeler, and Tom became an architectural designer. Now my younger brother Jim and newlywed wife Denise lived on one end. Mom and Dad lived in a big white frame house near the middle of town and had an antique shop on their front porch. My older brother Tom and his wife Nancy lived at the other end of Main Street in a Victorian home. Peter and I leased a yellow frame house a few doors from Tom’s.
Peter had no trouble creating a job at the Hilton Shanty Creek ski lodge. He was an instant success, so Shanty Creek turned into the hot spot of Antrim county. He started as a solo keyboardist, playing on a small stage in front of massive windows with snow-covered mountains and ski lifts lit in the background. We imported nine musicians from Colorado and Houston, including Randy Cobb and Michael Jay, who did us the favor of bringing up our furnishings from storage in Houston, and formed the Peter Schless band.
We all became smitten with the charm of the winter wonderland environment, so we decided to stay. Our guest musicians moved into different rooms of our new home, and I baked bread and cooked meals for the herd. The band was a major draw for Shanty Creek, so Peter’s income as the bandleader gave us financial comfort.
Living near my family again was both a blessing and a challenge. I left Bowling Green in ‘77, but had moved away from home in ’71. Teenage girls had no knowledge that could earn a place in a conversation about anything of substance in my house. Parents were always right, and children were to be seen and not heard. My parents diminished my intellect, but encouraged certain activities. Mom’s choices for my life had been my only options, which didn’t work for me as a creative, headstrong girl who wanted to carve out my own path. I was building a life with Peter that showed we could succeed as self-employed artists, which changed everything.
We loved meeting local Michiganders, and made some lifelong friends, such as Samantha who paired up with Randy Cobb. Joe Clark, a loyal fan of the Peter Schless band, had retired as a Lt. Colonel from the U.S. Air Force during the Viet Nam war. We loved spending time with Joe, whether at his home overlooking the aqua blue waters of Torch Lake, on the golf course, sailing his catamaran, or listening to his stories of his fighter pilot days. Little did I know that years later, my friendship with Joe would come under attack by my church.
Apart from being the band mama working part-time serving drinks at Shanty Creek, I developed a business through Leiter’s selling high-end fabrics to local women from my home. Some of them commissioned me to design clothes, such as a travel wardrobe for a cruise vacation, mother-of-the-bride dresses, and business attire. My business was growing, but I wanted more.
Within a year, knowing we were off the mainstream for career advancement, we began to get restless. We fantasized about immersing ourselves in the entertainment world, being around other artists who challenged us beyond what we had yet tried to accomplish.
(Chapter 3 continues: As if in answer to our dreams…}