South of the small city of Leslie, Michigan, spanning the Grand River, was a nineteenth century iron truss bridge that in 1985 I decided to check out after years of passing it along US-127. Closed and deck-less, the bridge was on old US-127, and I’m sure my mother and father crossed this bridge whenever they traveled south from their gas station at Teaspoon Corners (North Leslie), at the intersection of US-127 and Covert Road. Today there is not much left of Teaspoon Corners. North Leslie Hotel, where Teaspoon Corners’ name originated, was long ago torn down, along with a one room school. Near the northeast corner was a huge apple orchard that flourished in 1948 when my family lived there and has recently been plowed under.
North Leslie Refinery Station was owned and operated by Vern and Mildred Mesler. As advertised in the local paper: Regular Gas 24c per gal., Ethyl Gas 251/2c per. gal., cigarettes, candy, pop. Vern and Millie’s gas station was located on the northeast corner near the apple orchard, and like the old, faded family photographs, my memories as a ten-year-old are fleeting memory snapshots of 1948. Along with my brother Joe and sister Rose Marie, I attended a one room school on the southwest corner, across from the gas station. North Leslie School was originally log constructed in 1845, and in 1948 it was still a one room school. I remember there was one teacher and several different age students, with the older students sitting on the right side of the classroom.
A two-story white clapboard hotel and tavern sat directly across from Vern and Millie’s gas station. One night the chimney caught fire in our house located behind the gas station. My mother wrapped us in blankets, and we huddled together in the hotel/tavern as the firemen extinguished the chimney fire. I wish there were more details to those ten-year-old’s recollections, but there is some comfort knowing old family photographs can revive some memories of a time in 1948.
That nineteenth century iron truss bridge I visited in 1985 inspired me to apply for an Independent Contractor position at Calhoun County Road Commission in 1997 for the preservation of historic riveted truss bridges for a historic bridge park, and so began my ongoing work in iron and steel preservation.
Vern Mesler 2022