Chrissy Gorzen (center) and her "museum buddies" are excited to bring back history to their town on the Canadian border. Photo courtesy the St. Clair Historical Museum
Chrissy Gorzen (center) and her "museum buddies" are excited to bring back history to their town on the Canadian border.

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ST. CLAIR, Mich.—During the pandemic, the St. Clair Historical Museum closed down in their small town on the Canadian border. From an exhibit on a shoemaker’s shop to the last lingering memories of the once-famed Oakland Hotel, the town’s history has been in isolation.

Chrissy Gorzen is hoping the doors can open again soon. 

Thanks to the vaccination campaign that has delivered well over 3 million doses to Michiganders including her, the other side of the pandemic seems closer than ever before. That means Gorzen and her fellow history buffs can safely return to the museum.

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“My museum buddies are all older than me, and they were very, very active,” Gorzen told The ‘Gander. “I’m looking forward to working, and spending time with them. I was heartbroken when we couldn’t open the museum last year. We were not going to argue about the masks with people. But, there was such a tone of sadness with them, that certain parts of society found them to be expendable. Not worth the community effort.”

The museum was remodeled before the pandemic, and it was a disappointment to the staff that they couldn’t show the renovations off last year. But Gorzen understood the need to protect vulnerable museum staff. 

And as one of the museum’s core volunteers, she’s excited to teach people about the town’s history with shipwrights and the famous Diamond Crystal Salt produced in St. Clair. The salt is one of Michigan’s marks on food alongside giants like Kellogg and is unique among kosher salts, being one of St. Clair’s greatest points of pride.

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Gorzen also sees an opportunity to add to the museum the history of her town during the coronavirus, for future residents to learn from generations from now. 

“As people visit again, they will bring us more history as well,” she explained. “With stories, photographs that they let us borrow to scan. I’d love to collect stories from people’s experiences.  As I would have enjoyed knowing about how the Spanish Flu changed people’s lives back in 1918.”

The museum is how Gorzen is looking forward to recapturing what her life was like before the pandemic. While she looks forward to reflecting, just 25 miles north in Lakeport, vaccinated community college professor Patricia Frank is looking to move again. 

“I can’t wait to run marathons again,” Frank told the ‘Gander. “Running alone is fun, but the payoff for all the hard work is race day and the after-party with other athletes.”

Frank has been teaching from home, designing online courses for students at St. Clair County Community College. With retirement on the horizon, Frank is looking forward to spending her last year or two in a classroom again. And she’s looking forward to getting far, far outside the classroom as well. 

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“I also am itching to travel again,” she said. “I was supposed to climb Macchu Pichu in Peru last summer, but I hope to get there soonish. I also plan to visit Ireland, France, Spain, and Switzerland with my husband, and India and China with my sister in the next few years.” 

For women like Frank and Gorzen, the vaccine means the world can slowly wake up again and their passions from the past to far-off destinations can be reignited.

“I miss gossiping about history, having people tell me their secrets, that I need to hold until they pass,” Gorzen said. “It seems as if we all went into hibernation.”