23 Signs You are a Grand Rapids Native:

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Fantastic GR photo by Rachel Kramer via flickr

I’ve seen several “You know you are from Grand Rapids” lists lately, but not all of them seem like they were composed by a true native. Here’s my list as someone who was born and bred right here in GR. I know you have more, so join in. Add on in the comments, I’d love to read them!

  • You have almost as many photos of yourself as a kid on John Ball’s lap as you do Santa’s. (Extra points if you know where John Ball is buried)
  • You understand this joke: Where do babies come from? Butterworth or Blodgett.
  • You understand why instead of saying “Flowerland” we say “Fruitbasket,” (Extra points if you actually bought fruit there.)
  • You’ve ever seen a movie at “the largest movie theater in the country”, went east to Showcase Cinemas, paid $.99 for the Alpine Twin, saw “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” at the midnight movies at North Kent or went to the drive-in in Standale.
  • You occasionally crave a Mr. Fab.
  • When someone says they are going to “Thrifty Acres” you know what they are talking about.
  • You know how many Frank Lloyd Wright homes are in Grand Rapids. (Hint: One.)*
  • You know that the weather ball used to be a lot higher up.
  • You know we almost lost the Sixth Street Bridge.
  • You’ve ever shopped at Roger’s, Jacobsen’s, Ganto’s, Steketee’s, City Centre or Herpolsheimer’s.
  • You know how Division got it’s name. (And why Fulton is as important.)
  • You drive by the Lowe’s on Plainfield and want an Orange Julius and a hot pretzel. (And wonder whatever happened to Icarus.)
  • You know where the center of the universe is, and why you should eat there.
  • You know why the Grand Rapids Civic Theatre’s rehearsal rooms are “Majestic.”
  • You remember when Circle was “in the Park.”
  • You’ve seen a show at the Welsh Auditorium.
  • You have seen a production of “Nutcracker” performed by Michigan’s only professional ballet company.
  • You know why we have a monument to fluoride.
  • You know the exact location of your favorite food booths at Festival.
  • Occasionally slip and still call it the “Junior” college.
  • You still call Rivertown “the new mall” and when people mention the mall in Grandville, you think of Grand Village Mall.
  • You know why there are no “rapids” in Grand Rapids, but know there might be again someday.
  • You understand what is happening in this photo:

herpleshimer train

*Note from me: I received a private message asking if there wasn’t two Frank Lloyd Wright homes, not one. That’s a common mistake. The other home was designed by an architect in FLW’s office, most likely a woman. I learned about it on the Heritage Hill Tour of Homes some years ago, but there is a great article by Peter Beers about it here: peterbeers.net

175 comments

    1. It’s spelled Herpolsheimer’s but you were close. The picture above is of the train that ran on the ceiling of the basement for kids to ride….it was very very cool at Christmas. After they rearranged the store the toy department was no longer there and it was a bargain basement of sorts. The train kind of lost it’s former appeal and it was getting old. It wasn’t that long before the store closed and became a mall for a while. I understand it’s now located in the Grand Rapids Public Museum. Betty Ford worked at Herp’s as did my Dad in men’s clothing. This really brings back the memories.

      1. My mother was just telling me about how much she loved the ice cream at Herpolsheimer’s! She said they had a soft serve (she called it a “softie”) that was similar to the Wendy’s Frosty.

      1. Dawn, I would give $1,000 for a Herp’s ice cream softee. We went downtown just to get one. Even Wendy’s can’t come close. We called them malt cones.

      2. Dawn, we went downtown every week just to get a malt cone. I would give $100.00 for one now! I wish we could find the recipe. But it probably wouldn’t be the same. Wendy’s doesn’t even get close.

      3. My Mom had this longing look in her eye as she described it. A Frosty was the closest she could come up with that I would know, but I could tell she thought it was a poor substitute. 🙂 If we do find the recipe I would make her very happy too. (Incidentally her name is also “Jan”!)

    2. Dawn.You asked for our comments as well so here is one that was overlooked.You see bumper stickers on natives cars that read,”EVERYTIME IT RAINS IN GRAND RAPIDS S—T HAPPENS!

      1. It was! Perhaps not one of Grand Rapids’ finest moments, but so many improvements have been made since, that I bet most folks have forgotten all about it.

    3. We also make a big deal about how we have our West Side to G.R. That of course means west of the Grand River because if flows north and south threw the heart of our town.
      There is something we all assume in Michigan, is when we describe if were going on vacation and were driving up north, we always say, “up north”. I never here anyone say anything like were going down south.

      1. Very true! I’ve had friends from other places say that Grand Rapidians are very focused on directions – we tend to say “east and west” rather than “right and left.” Maybe the river is part of that!

        I had to laugh about your comment about “up north.” I have a cabin which is really more east than north, but I always say I am “heading up north!”

      1. I’ve heard that a couple of times. I don’t know for sure, but I do know that the author, Chris Van Allsburg was born here in Grand Rapids. (I got to meet him once as a kid when I won our a school writing class! My claim to fame.) Someone else commented that in the film version one of the stores is Herp’s, and one of the characters is from GR.

        Oh! I just checked Wikipedia – they say is was the Pere Marquette #1225 that inspired the story. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Polar_Express

  1. I was born and bred in GR too. And, was able to relate to all except the statement regarding the restaurant that has only been around for 10 years. I’d hardly consider that bit of info to be classic Grand Rapids knowledge. But, I do appreciate the challenge of uncovering the secret. And, I have to admit, they have great food.

    1. Funny thing about that one Patrick – The “Center of the Universe” sign (which is now located in the restaurant) was painted by the local artist REB and mounted at the back of what used to be an overgrown, weedy vacant lot at that location. I’m not sure when it was hung, but it was there in the mid-90s when I moved into the East Hills neighborhood. When the restaurant was built, they named the building after it and brought the sign inside. I added it because my initial list had all business that had gone out of business, and I wanted to also acknowledge that GR is a booming city. (That’s also why I added the ones about Civic and Circle.) Thanks for the comment!

  2. I remember the old Creston Theater–watching movies and a drawing for games and toys during intermission between two feature films!

    1. You aren’t alone! I received this comment from a friend on Facebook: “Going to the matinee at the Creston Theater for a quarter and hoping to win 25 pieces of red licorice.” It seems like Creston was the place to be!

      1. Also in Burton Heights was the 4-star theatre and Burton theatre before it became the adult theatre Burton Capri both on Division and Beltline Drive in before it became Studio 28 on sw 28th st.

      2. There were so many great theaters in Grand Rapids. Awhile ago I was looking through the Grand Rapids Public Library’s digital collections. They have photos of many of these!

      1. The Beltline Drive-in did not become Studio 28 (Studio 28 was a separate building and location). In fact the parking area of the drive-in was used for the Beltline Flea Market which was still open until closing after 43 years this summer.

      1. In still have several Pow’r Kraft tools which aren’t even made anymore. Another product of Monkey Wards demise.

    1. Odd you didn’t mention the penny candy in Wards. Upstairs was a large display of shelves full of penny, nickel, dime, candy and had jars to put your money in (there was no cashier, it was based on honesty).

    1. Yes! The Roaring 20s! That’s a great one. I remember that guy who played – he was in a red coat with goal braids, half ringmaster, half Liberace. Didn’t they have crazy ice cream sundaes there too? I seem to remember that from a cousin’s birthday party.

      1. You are probably thinking of Farrell’s ice cream. I hink it as located where TGIFridays is by Woodland Mall.

      2. Yep! I was. So many people miss Farrell’s. I’ve heard lots of comments about it. Good thing we still have so many fabulous ice cream places here in GR!

      1. The tootsie pop tree at Mr. Fables! It’s funny how many childhood memories are being brought up – the free rings at Roger’s, the toys at Granny’s kitchen, the candy and prizes at Creston Theater. Proof that childhood memories stick!

  3. My grandma worked at Wurzburg’s in the luggage department. I remember standing in line at Wurzburg’s at Christmas time to see Santa and going downtown at Thanksgiving to see the decorated store windows.

  4. Sunday Breakfast at Red Lion on Bridge street!! McDonalds upstairs Balcony at Thrifty Acres! Eberhardts grocery shopping while my mom pushed me in a cart smoking a cigarette. Old Kent Bank!

    1. These were great Sabrina! I remember the McDonalds at Thrifty Acres – I also got my ears pierced at 13 at the hair salon upstairs!

  5. Add: When describing the mall across the street from Woodland, you still call it “Eastbrook Mall.” Also: You know the difference between The Beltline and the East Beltine. Please note that the East Beltline is still the name of the street that runs north and south, also known as M37, though many people, especially traffic reporters on radio, refer to M37 simply as “The Beltline.” Another add: You remember going to movies at “Little Studio.” You remember “riding the circuit.” Really, Dawn, how long have you lived here? Apparently you’re not that old, either.

    1. Hi there – great comments! I was just talking with someone on how Centerpointe will always be Eastbrook to me! I was born and bred right here in lovely GR. I’m a “Butterworth baby”. 🙂

    2. Riding the circuit, big thing in my day! What is little studio? ….you don’t mean studio 28 ?!

  6. I worked at the Movies at North Kent for many years, but it was the Movies at a Woodland who always ran the Rocky Horror Picture Show at midnight on Saturdays. We ran midnight movies on both Friday and Saturday nights, but I don’t remember running THE RHPS.

    1. It was Woodland – saw RHPS there at midnight many time!!! And I do crave a Mr. Fabulous and onion rings – also the holiday season started for me on Thanksgiving night when we would drive downtown to see the candle – then the day after Thanksgiving walk around to see all the amazing holiday window displays in the dept store windows (that was in the 60’s and early 70’s)!!!! Great memories of growing up in GR – even though I have lived in AZ for over 30 years GR is sill home!!!! Another thing that should be listed is eating a yesterdog……….:)

      1. Yesterdog definitely should have been on this list! It’s a GR classic for sure. I should have had something like: “You know you are a native if you know how to properly order at Yesterdog.”

        Glad I could bring back some memories!

    1. Yep! That bunny was a kid classic. There was also a small restaurant upstairs in Roger’s. I remember the “men folk” going up there for a cup of coffee while the ladies shopped.

      1. Does anyone remember what the fancy restaurant at the top of the Pantlind Hotel was called? We used to go there for a really good burger once in a while for lunch. Don’t forget the Backroom Saloon in the basement of the Pantlind in the back, they had the coolest etched glass beer goblets and peanut shells littered the floor way before Logan’s did it. Also, I remember when Kendall College was on College Ave. (I think it was College anyways).

    1. Loved the Glass Hut! Knew everybody that worked there. There used to be a small bar at the top of the Pantlind that served steak soup with toasted french bread that was fabulous. I think it was called the Penthouse. Also the steak and eggs in the restaurant (the knife and fork) at street level was perfect after a night of drinking anywhere

      1. Great comments! Steak soup with toasted french bread? Sounds awesome! …and it reminds me of the Onion Crock restaurant! (I still see their soup being sold at places like Kingma’s.)

      1. There was also another Backroom Saloon in the Pantlind Hotel, it was right above the street level Backroom Saloon, they opened it up on the weekends, or whenever it got too busy downstairs. I worked there as a bar-tender in the late 60s.

  7. Does anyone remember the dollar drive in moves, or looking at the Christmas display in Wurzburg’s window downtown or when TV !3 was in the Patlind hotel

    1. A lot of people have mentioned the Christmas displays downtown, especially at Wurzburg’s, but you are the first to mention TV13 in Pantlind Hotel! Cool! (Was it TV13 that had the Bozo Show?)

      1. Yes, TV 13 did Bozo and I think 8 did the Buck Rogers Show (I was on it once) and I think the Romper Room Show too. I loved the Christmas window displays downtown. My folks took us to look at them for some years. Good times for sure.

      2. Yes I was with my son on the Bozo show, and I was on The Buck Berry show when I was little, twice.

  8. Toss in Arlans on South Division and on Plainfield. Or try Atlantic Mills on Turner near Ann. Or is it West River?

  9. How about Fingers restaurant for their chicken? Or Schensuls (sp?) I still miss Bill Knapps and Mr. Steak on Plainfield. And Longeliers. 🙂

      1. Jungle theme reminds me of the Sambo’s Restaurant on the east end of 28th Street. Don’t remember the menu but do remember the paintings on the walls. Also Guthrie’s Digs by the Ramblewood apartments on 44th Street.

    1. I remember Farrell’s! I didn’t know they were still around! It’s too bad they are gone, but we have some fabulous ice cream places – Jersey Junction, The Parlor, and the new Furniture City Creamery on Cherry. (None of them have a candy store you have to walk through, but Jersey Junction in Gaslight comes close.) 🙂

  10. The Northtown Twin. Saw Up in Smoke there. Ice skating every winter at North Park School. Loved that!! Used to get my hair cut at Steketee’s downtown. Remember buying 45s at Woolworth’s downtown. They were 99¢ each. Pastoor’s grocery store on the corner of Michigan & Coit.

    1. The Atlantic Mills is the Deltaplex now. How about the Town Theatre on Bridge street where you could see a triple matinee? My dad was a projectionist at the Vista Drive In in Standale. The dollar drive in nights were called Eberhard night.

      1. The Plainfield Drive-In too. Aladdin’s Castle at the mall. North Kent Mall was THE place to be on Saturday when i was a teen.

      2. The VISTA!!! Thank YOU! I was wracking my brain trying to remember the name of the drive-in in Standale. (I saw E.T. there.) Glad you commented!

      3. They weren’t called Eberhard night, they were called big “E” night. 😉

  11. Every person born and raised in Grand Rapids would know about the fish ladder.That should be on your list on the top.

    1. You are the second person to mention that John. I admit, I never noticed it before, but I will from now on! I live by Lake Drive myself. (And used to live by Lake Michigan Drive.)

    1. Village In Pizza – the site of many gatherings (and dates) when I was in High School. I used to work at Best, the Witmark competitor when I was in college. The Witmark on Plainfield is still there, but I am sure someone will redevelop it soon.

    1. You know, I am still thrown by people talking about “Millennium Park.” According to the Kent County map, the two are next to each other, but I still think of that whole area as Johnson Park. I remember my dad taking me to the dog sled races there, I wonder if they still do those?

  12. Cool memories!! I’m a Butterworth baby, born 6/9/1951 and was adopted through Bethany Christian services, am looking for my birth Mom and have recently found out I have a sister 2 years older that was given up for adoption through the Catholic services and a brother 4 years older that my Birth Mom kept. My Birth Mom worked at a dept store as did my adoptive Mom who worked at Herps.

    1. Farrells has been a definite favorite – lots of people have mentioned it. I don’t think anyone has mentioned Yankee or Zodys, though. I used to work at Best, way back in the day!

    1. Burger chef was much better than McDonald’s or Burger king.. and there use to be a little place on s division, one was wimpees, and another I think was chickees that had chicken in a box…soo good, a piece of chicken, fries, a biscuit/honey and sole slaw. Anyone remember?

  13. Cooks Root Beer stand across from the old Meijer store on Eastern by the railroad tracks. BTW most people from GR call Meijer, Meijers.

  14. Eberhards on Knapp and Fuller,Montgomery Wards, Towne Club pop, Club Eastbrook,Top of the Rock “words to the weatherball song” are some that people may recall too.

    1. Good ones Adam! I came really close to saying something about The Reptile House, Top of the Rock, Electric Avenue or Club Eastbrook. This gentleman has some TotR photos if you want a flashback http://gr-retro.blogspot.com/2011/02/top-of-rock-aka-club-911.html

      And I still sing the weatherball song every time I drive by:
      Weatherball red, warmer ahead
      Weatherball blue, colder in view
      Weatherball green, no change forseen

      …and blinking means precipitation.

      It really is too bad that that last part doesn’t rhyme. 🙂

  15. Mr fables was an off shoot of kewpees located on s. Division…..the mayo recipe is still a secret:-)

  16. You know your from Grand Rapids if you know our original Hockey team was called the Owls and not the Griffins, and the games were held in the Delta plex, and the guy who had the red crank siren at every home game.

  17. Fingers restaurant was mentioned…..for the males in the group who went there, you surely remember peeing in the cave in the restroom. And yes, it was actually a cave you peed in. All standing shoulder to shoulder.

  18. How about Olan Mills, where everyone had their pictures taken at some point in their life. Usually with a fake split rail fence and a cheesy background.

  19. The Dutch oven restaurant on south Division, and the BiG water tower in Wyoming, across from theBeltline Drive In. dose anyone else remember when there was a mini-golf course in front of the screen?

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