We take an unusual autumn trip in my column in the Saturday, October 17th edition of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Here is a part of the column….
It’s nearly Halloween and what better destination for an autumn road trip than to Hell and back. That’s right. I said Hell; as in Hell, Michigan.
Halloween, as you might expect, is the big season in Hell. Each Saturday in October they have a costume parade for kids at 2 PM with face-painting and live entertainment. There will also be a maze constructed for the kid’s enjoyment. They have cruise-ins with classic automobiles and other family activities.
Hell, a short distance from Ann Arbor, has a population of 72 and proclaims itself as a “Little town on the way up.” There are several versions of how the town was named but the one most likely is credited to a pioneer named George Reeves who first settled in the area and when asked what he wanted to call the place responded,” I don’t care, call it Hell if you want to.”
Today the self-proclaimed “Mayor” of Hell is local businessman, John Colone, whose unique sense of humor and background makes him the right man for the job. Colone grew up in Hell, and spent some time in the real Hell of Vietnam combat and was so seriously wounded in battle that he was declared dead and had been placed in a body bag when someone noticed he was still moving. He spent 22 months in a hospital recovering. He later became a car dealer in nearby Pinckney, Michigan. In 2000, when a couple of businesses came up for sale in Hell, he decided to try to help make the town a family friendly tourist stop utilizing the unique town name.
For openers, he has a restaurant named “Hell’s Kitchen” that offers pizza, sandwiches and some daily specials. Inside the restaurant-souvenir shop is the official U. S. Post Office for Hell. Colone says, “We do a big business sending out folk’s alimony checks. We singe each letter and stamp it, “I’ve been through Hell””. Next door is the official U. S. Weather Station in Hell. (Hell does frequently freeze over each winter). Colone also operates Screams Ice Cream Parlor and Halloween Store, the Hell Creek miniature Golf Course (the largest handicapped miniature golf course in Michigan) and the Wedding Chapel in Hell, a small non-denominational building that seats 12 and is in great demand for weddings. In fact, they already have 9 weddings scheduled for the tiny chapel on Halloween this year. Colone says that when he opened the wedding chapel several years ago he had some opposition from local folks who were concerned about the propriety of using religious symbols on a building in a town called Hell so he had a large metal question mark fashioned and it now sits atop the chapel steeple.
…….You can read the rest of the story in the October 17th Plain Dealer or on their website at www.cleveland.com
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