GTPulse: Boughey Hill Summertime Tradition

In season one of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, comedienne main character Midge says to her audience, “I live in the large house on the hill”. I always thought that sounded nice, to live in a big house overlooking a city. Traverse City has its own variation of that, and like Midge I now live in a house on the hill. I often walk around the little neighborhood that is Boughey Hill and wonder about the people who live in this quiet little corner, and this past Sunday I was able to meet some of the very people I’ve wondered about; I was invited to the Boughey Hill block party.

I’ve never been to a block party before, and if I’ve noticed anything about Traverse City in my short time here it’s that there are a lot of families and a lot of people who have been here a long time, in short – I was nervous. The flyer that had been stuffed into my mailbox said to bring a chair, a dish to pass and BYOB. I made my pasta salad, grabbed a chair and walked over to the cul-de-sac in the center of the neighborhood.

When I arrived an hour late I walked in to a woman standing in the center of everyone and telling stories past of the neighborhood. Many of the families have been in the neighborhood for generations and back in the 50s, 60s and 70s many of the families had upwards of five children.

I heard stories of Newman’s, Dean’s and Deering’s. I was also able to hear the stories of people who have lived here as a child and now as an adult.

Jennifer Perkette lived in the neighborhood as a child and bought the home she grew up in from her parents and said that there are three other families in the neighborhood that have done the same. She has many memories of the neighborhood and even worked for Tom Deering, who lived in the neighborhood and owned Tom’s Market. Although the recent Boughey Hill block parties have been going on for four years now, Jennifer remembered the neighborhood throwing block parties when she was a kid.

“I had a picture of a block party we had when I was probably five. They’ve always been on Center Lane. It’s just a potluck where you can meet your neighbors, that kind of a thing.”

I was fearful that going to a neighborhood party where so many people already knew each other would make me feel like a loner, but the people were kind and welcoming, and not everybody is from old blood.

Betsy Colburn and her husband moved into the neighborhood four years ago, and although she hasn’t been here as long as some of the other residents, she could have fooled me. She knows all of the sweet neighbors and enjoys the little community on the hill.

“When Marty got the job we had to have a house now, and there’s not a whole lot available in Traverse City in the summertime. We found the house up here and it was perfect. God was good to us.”

Betsy wasn’t the only one who hasn’t been in Traverse City their whole life. Laurie Rowe and Kelly Hawkins are the masterminds behind the Boughey Hill block party and Laurie has only been here four years as well.

“She’s a retired flight attendant so that’s a part of the reason she likes to do this. She likes to be social,” Betsy said.

Lauri said that she and Kelly wanted to bring back the block parties because they knew that people in the neighborhood would enjoy them and that the cul-de-sac was a perfect location for the party. 

“We knew there were about four or five families that were still living in their childhood homes up here. Kelly had a flyer made up and me, her daughter and I took it to all the houses and we had 70 people show up that first year.”

Lauri told me about the past few block parties that have been put on, and they all revolve around the best things in the world; storytelling and good food. The woman who I had the pleasure of listening to when I first arrived at the party was carrying on a tradition of every block party, and that is to reminisce and talk about the neighborhood’s past. There is something very old-school and tribal about gathering around food and sharing memories, memories that I was happy to hear. She talked of the large families, being a kid during Halloween in the neighborhood, the closeness of the community and she said something that really stuck with me.

“This was a great place to grow up, there’s nothing beyond this. All road’s lead home here.”

What a lovely bunch of neighbors that inhabit this little corner of Traverse City, and what a lovely place to call home.

“We all watch out for each other here,” Lauri said. “We’re all our brothers keeper.”


Categories: GTPulse