LAMB--Oral History Narrative
Frank is easy to locate. Since retiring in 2007, his tall ramrod
slender frame and long-legged stride set him apart on Saugatuck-Douglas area
streets or beach dune trails as he hikes jogs or bikes on his daily physical
conditioning regime. His love and
knowledge of the local dune lands runs as deep as his need for physical
activity and both stimulate his travel adventures to more remote places of
natural beauty. The thoughtfully
designed home that he shares with his
wife Joan and four or five cats is filled with pictures of nature, maps and
travel books. While generally quiet and
conservative in his demeanor, Frank’s passions run deep in the defense of
friends, family, and the natural environment.
In 1940 Frank was born in Community
Hospital (now the Kirby
House on Center Street)
and remained the only child in his family.
His parents, Leonard and Emily (Urban) Lamb, settled in the area after
marrying. His father grew up and went to
school in the Glen area, attended the University of Michigan
and subsequently worked in real estate. Leonard passed at age 53 when Frank was
12. As a hunter and avid outdoorsman, he
left Frank with a love of nature. His
mother had previously created the Hollyhock Restaurant serving breakfast and
lunch in a building that has since been incorporated into the south end of Marro’s Italian Restaurant on Water Street. Emily, in addition to being a successful
businesswoman, was also an artist known for her block prints. The Restaurant building was also Frank’s home
until he left for college and the Service.
He remembers Saugatuck winters when he and a few neighbors had the unlit
downtown town to themselves.
Saugatuck Elementary and High School was the focal point for Frank’s
intellectual foundation and social activity, spending 12-13 years with the same
small group of students. He’s able to
identify the whereabouts of many of his classmates, especially those who
remained in the area. He recalls the Saugatuck Elementary School burning in 1950 when
the surviving gym and local homes had to be used for temporary classrooms.
Summers at Oval Beach with friends, and Saugatuck
downtown hangouts are among his favorite memories. Mostly, in an age without digital
distractions, Frank played outdoors year-round.
Tobogganing and skiing on huge wooden skis that strapped to your regular
shoes occurred near the second hole at West Shore
Golf Course, much as it still does. Art
and Nancy Francis (owners of Francis Foods on Butler Street) and their three sons, Guy
Rex and Mark, lived just north of the golf course and provided a respite from
the slopes. When not playing in the dunes or basketball court, Frank could be
found at the Soda Lounge. He recalls how
Mike and Vera Kenny and Ruth Wright created this store that served as an
informal “youth center” on Butler
just south of Kilwin’s ice cream parlor. At Christmas time the owners would throw a
party with free food and drinks for area young people.
Frank’s favorite teachers during his
elementary school years were Mrs. Knox, Mrs. Martin, Mrs. Waugh and Mrs.
Loretta Biller. He recalled how Mrs. Biller would bring cultural artifacts from Grand Rapids museums to her geography
classes, and how she would manage misbehavior with firm grip on the offender’s
scruff of the neck. Being tall and
disciplined, Frank played three years of varsity high school basketball during
several successful team seasons. He was
also a member of the Student Council.
In his late teens, Frank spent a summer rowing the ferry that replaced
the actual chain ferry from 1950-67, sharing the job
with John Sanford who was then a summer visitor. He also worked as a night clerk at Coral Gables. In 1958
Frank began classes at Michigan
State University. Not having a clear direction his majors went
from education to landscape architecture to hotel administration before he
dropped out for a breather. With the Viet Nam war period draft, Frank entered the
Army and did his basic training at Fort
Knox and was subsequently sent to Bangkok, Thailand
to serve for 14 months as an intelligence specialist. This total of a three years respite and
broader life experience helped him recognize his innate skills which he then
put to use to complete his degree in General Accounting at MSU.
While finishing up at college Frank began a part-time job with Lloyd J.
Harriss Inc., the frozen pie manufacturer in
Saugatuck, a very short distance from his home.
When he graduated from MSU in 1967 he stayed on at Harriss
full-time until 1983, remaining through the years the company changed hands
rising through the ranks to become a Senior Vice President. He tells how Mr. Harriss,
who began the business as a small enterprise with his wife, refused to visit
the factory again after the teamster union was voted in by his employees, whose
needs he felt he had been sensitively meeting.
Frank finished up his career at J.B.
Laboratories, Inc. in Holland
where he served as the President until 2007 when he fully retired. J.B
Laboratories is a contract pharmaceuticals manufacturer founded in 1978. Since retirement Frank devotes his time to
remaining physically active with running, hiking, biking and skiing. Traveling to places of natural beauty in the US and abroad
and serving as a volunteer reading mentor for local primary grade children also
fills his time.
There are numerous Lamb relatives living in the area including the
children of Frank’s uncle L. W. Lamb who built the current Saugatuck-Douglas Bridge
in 1936. Frank has two
daughters, Laura and Paige, who graduated with both athletic and student
leadership accomplishments from Saugatuck
High School. He has six young grandchildren.