Native son: AT HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS

by Charles D Novak
I will be spending Christmas in Ely this year and when the holidays are over I will not be going home - I am home! After a memorable 34 years in San Francisco and 16 years in Minneapolis I moved back to Ely on May 10, 2016 . It’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. My homecoming by the good people of Ely has been overwhelming. The first few months walking down the street had cars wiz by me with windows open and passengers yelling “welcome back!” People have stopped and offered me rides without knowing walking is my favorite form of exercise. Talk about Ely Nice!
I was here only a few months when I found out I had been nominated by a former classmate (Dennis Cadari) to be on the board of directors of the Vermilion Junior College Foundation. I was accepted by unanimous vote on November 9 and look forward to working with the other board members on future college goals. I’m also writing a column for the Ely Echo under the title Native Son. My articles appear every other Saturday. You can also read my stories on elyecho.com. Click on “columnists.”
I have spent a lot of time walking through the old neighborhoods where I grew up in the 1940s and ’50s. At the time, I knew the names of every family in almost every house. Many people have kept up their homes with regular renovations but with the population decrease due to lack of jobs the city is left with abandoned homes on many blocks. This is heartbreaking to see.
Even the population of children has noticeably decreased. My graduation class (1959) had 134 students versus this year’s class of 37. One option that could change all this is the controversial copper-nickel mining proposal which would create hundreds of new jobs. Most people’s yard signs proclaim – WE SUPPORT MINING. The environmentalists are opposed. It’s a complicated and emotional issue.
I live in the Pioneer Apartments in the center of town. I have the beautiful Whiteside Park across the street and two grocery stores six blocks from my front door. If you don’t want to drive (think winter!) or don’t own a car Ely has two modes of transportation – Arrowhead Van or Ely Safe Ride. Rates vary between these two carriers and both have friendly and accommodating drivers. Stop and shop? They might wait for you if they don’t have any reservations pending.
Turning 70 increases our chances of needing medical assistance. I’ve had two emergency room visits and one overnight stay in the hospital which confirmed Ely has an excellent medical facility. One can also take comfort there are cures for most of our medical conditions.
Just think how primitive the system was as recently as forty years ago. My 98 year old mother (Amelia) is in memory care. The help and kindness she receives is truly amazing. A standing ovation to the staff for the care she receives. Seeing her often is one of the main reasons I moved back to Ely.
I’ve also been overwhelmed by the local theatrical scene. During my high school years I was President of the Thespian Club - a position I cherished. Now I’m content to sit on the other side of the footlights and write reviews of the performances I attend.
The two big winners so far this season was the fantastic production of Mary Poppins by Ely High School students and the Christmas Choir & Orchestra holiday extravaganza! There’s no business like show business and our town is alive with the sound of music! Will the next Ethel Merman be born amongst us?
I enjoy the peace and quiet of Ely. You seldom hear sirens. If there is a loud noise it’s usually thunder. There is no rush hour. Even the cars on the streets seldom blow their horns. People don’t pass each other on the sidewalks or in the stores without a greeting.
I looked out my bedroom window one morning at 5:30 and there were two Timberwolves walking down the middle of the street! How cool is that? I look back at my first six months in Ely and wonder why I didn’t move back here five years ago! This is going to be a special old fashioned Christmas for me and I hope you all have the same!