Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Their Dreams Came True

All the information in this post comes from old newspaper clippings I recently found in a folder. All I have done is edit them, and correct a few facts.

This from the Benzie County Patriot, June 22, 1977:

Take a ride out in the country, up the Eden Hill Road to Lincoln Road and you will see a big old barn with the name "Beulahland" painted above the double doors. Drive in between rows of cherry trees loaded with ripening fruit, and you come to the barn where Betty and Bill Tompkins display the handcrafted items that they sell, arranged among some of the antiques which they love, and collect.
The house is just a few steps away.
"We have a home-made house," Betty Tompkins tells visitors, meaning that she and her husband, Bill, have created a home that is uniquely theirs. Each room has a different decor in order to use the ceramic, porcelain, and stoneware pieces they have made, and to express their creativity in other ways.

It is know locally as "the Lincoln place" They purchased the house fourteen years ago from Mrs. Lincoln, who is a relative of Bill's. Betty is a registered nurse, and Bill was a member of the Michigan State Police for 23 years until two years ago, when they both retired.

"No, I didn't mind moving so many times, wherever Bill was transferred, because we had roots here, this was real home," Betty says. They came "home" weekends from Ionia, Paw Paw, or wherever he was posted, and worked on the house. They were fortunate to find a local carpenter who would do the remodeling just the way they wanted it. This included using old hand hewn beams from her grandfather's barn in the kitchen, Betty explains, and letting Bill work with him whenever possible.

The kitchen is done in early English decor, and Betty made the ceramic bricks which cover one wall, and make a lovely contrast between the dark wood cabinets, and overhead cupboards. Her husband laid the bricks, and he also installed the tile which look like large split fieldstone, that she made for the walls of the bathroom.

The downstairs bedroom is done in blue and white with a Dutch effect, and the living room is early American. Antiques and products of their own hands sit amicably side by side in every room of the house. They have made nearly every lamp in the house, as well as many other decorative, and useful items.

Upstairs, one bedroom is devoted to family heirlooms, and the spacious master bedroom is oriental. There is no jarring effect going from room to room, as one might expect, when so many different types of decorating are used. Colors seem to blend well, and one simply feels pleasure, and anticipation at the pleasant surprises waiting around every corner.

Betty grew up in Elsie, and her family still lives there. She became a Registered Nurse, and at first did hospital nursing, but later she worked as a doctor's office nurse.

Somewhere along the line she got interested in ceramics, just as a hobby. When her instructor considered closing her shop in Paw Paw, because of poor health, Betty asked, "If I help will you stay?" She did continue a while, with Betty's help, but finally had to quit entirely.

As, about the time they bought the farm, she established her own studio in Paw Paw. It was called "Grape Village"-Paw Paw is located in grape country-and she continued to operate until her husband retired. He poured the molds for green ware, as he does now.

Katherine Atwater, a friend, came to visit and spend a few days at the Tompkins' 100 acre farm. She expressed surprise that Bill can do so many things. "I didn't know Bill was so talented until he got up here," Katherine exclaimed. "He never had the time before," Betty replied.

There are items on display for every taste at surprisingly reasonable prices. Betty does all the "hand building" on ceramics, and in addition to pouring the molds, and making pots on the wheel Bill polishes stones, makes jewelry, and builds bird houses.

One of the big attractions which they have arranged for visitors to Beulahland, is the wagon trail ride. Bill hitches the tractor to a wagon, and takes sightseers through scenic trails winding through orchards and woods, explaining points of interest as he goes.

For more ambitious people there is a hiking trail where one can enjoy nature in solitude. The hiker is given a card describing points of interest along the way. Meanwhile, Betty is enjoying her freedom to work in her studio just off the kitchen, a light cheerful room, which used to be a dining room. She all of the ceramic hand building, and painting, and creates all of the designs. The potter's wheel is in the basement, and the kiln is in the garage. "This is a dream come true," Betty smiles.

This from July, 1979

Beulahland now has a new home on US 31 next-door to the Cherry Bowl Drive-in theater, west of Honor. It was three years ago that Bill and Betty Tompkins opened Beulahland, a ceramic-antique-craft shop in their big barn atop Eden Hill.

The shop still is large and rustic. There are big sliding barn doors on their original track closing off the office, and work room. And it is an even better place than the old barn to browse for an hour or so.

There are salad bowls and ovenware which Bill has thrown on his potters wheel, and Betty has decorated, including real looking mushrooms, birds, frogs, and other ceramic "critters" which Betty has fashioned, beautiful lamps, and much more.

Bill's specialty is maple syrup made on their own farm, and bottled in a variety of attractive containers, some them products of their own kiln.

Visitors will get a chance to sample the syrup during the new Beulahland's grand opening. Instead of cookies, guests will treated to old fashioned pancakes, and maple syrup! Later on, visitors will be able to watch Betty Tompkins at work at Beulahland, but for now Betty and Bill urge everyone to drop in, and look around, and have a cup of coffee, and a taste of maple syrup and pancakes.

Final note: Mom and Dad kept Beulahland going and growing for the next 27 years. Dad added 20,000 books to the variety of items that were sold. The store brought them into contact with many people, and left them many good memories, until they re-retired three years ago.

No comments:

Post a Comment