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  • Writer's pictureKurt J. Kolka


2017 / By Kurt J. Kolka

GRAYLING -- When Fay Christenson left Grayling to attend college, her goal was not to come back to her hometown.

“But, then, I made the mistake of bringing my sailor boy home with me and he fell in love with the place,” says lifelong resident, Fay (Christenson) Bovee, 92. “Bob had never been north of Mount Pleasant [before then].”

Fay had lived through the Great Depression as a child here, a time which she feels made her and others better people.

“We didn’t know what new was. Everything we had was used. My family didn’t even have a radio.”

She remembers her childhood playing hopscotch, rolling hoops down the street, kicking the can, playing Annie Eye Over, playing basketball at a neighbor’s house and baseball in the Martin’s empty lot.

Fay says, as an only child, she spent a lot time with her father. She went with him to watch them cut ice out of the lake, learned to cut limbs off of trees, bowled and even learned to drive by age 11.

“I didn’t know women weren’t liberated.”

Her father was a good natured man to whom locals gave the ironic nickname, “Vinegar Bill.”

Fay’s mother was socially aware and took in people who had come down with a serious flu epidemic before she was born.

Another influential person in her life from Grayling was Mrs. Clippert, the wife of a local doctor, who taught her piano lessons. Fay had planned on going to a business school after graduation, but Mrs. Clippert encouraged her to try out for a music scholarship through Central Michigan University (CMU).

That, she says, is how she “accidentally” became a teacher.

It was also at CMU she met her future husband, Bob Bovee, who also went into teaching. For their first date, they went to a movie together.

One aspect about Bob which stood out even then was his love of children. As Fay recalls, they were walking to the theater when they spotted a mother with her young daughter. Immediately, Bob went up and started a conversation with them, especially the girl.

Bob and Fay were married in December 1945. She remembers it quite well as Bob was running a 102 degree temperature and ended up being hospitalized for a month afterward.

Bob was the first to be hired as a teacher in Grayling. When the youngest of their two daughters Dena went to school, Fay put her effort into getting a teaching position. Her first teaching assignment was taking over a third-grade class when their former teacher became pregnant.

Former student Michelle Lee Noirot says she has fond memories from being in Fay’s fifth-grade class. She notes there was an activity period each day.

“She would have us play with tinikling sticks, which were bamboo poles. We’d clap them together, dance and hop around. It was a lot of fun. She also taught us how to square dance,” says Michelle.

While Fay spent more than 30 years in teaching, Bob later became a high school counselor.

Fay also found time to write for two newspapers during those years. She sent reports from the Crawford County Sheriff’s office to the Bay City Times via the midnight train from the old depot in town.

She also had a semi-regular social column in the Crawford County Avalanche for many years called, “Bits O’ Talk,” where she wrote about what residents were up to.

During her childhood, Fay had wanted to travel and see places like Hawaii and Europe, which during the Great Depression were only dreams. However in later years, after their daughters had grown, she and Bob bought some stock in IBM through their older daughter, Billie. This was before home computers became a necessity for many. As the stocks climbed, they discovered they could indulge in some of their life-long dreams.

The couple would eventually travel to Europe several times visiting countries like France, Austria, Switzerland, Belgium, Liechtenstein, Germany, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and England, sometimes taking other family members with them.

In recent years, they became interested in history, especially family history. Bob traced his family back to ancestors coming over on the Mayflower. Fay’s ancestors, the Stephans, were some of the earliest residents in Grayling, and could be traced back to the 1300s.

Although Bob passed away a few years back, Fay remains quite active. She continues to study local and family history, works on puzzles and other projects.

Recently, she was asked to write again, this time for the Gaylord-based newspaper, “Weekly Choice.” Her current column is a take-off of the one she wrote for the Avalanche for many years. It’s called “Bits O’ Grayling.” Once again it is about what local residents are doing.

She is amazed at how many people read her column. Because of the Internet, it is even being read by people across the country who used to live in Grayling, allowing them keep up-to-date on the happenings in their hometown.

Fay admits she has had quite a life in the town she wanted so badly to leave all those years ago.

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