Wishing in the Wilds

Everyone has their wishing years—years filled with the wonders of growing up, the trials and tribulations of being a kid in a grown-up’s world, and the unquestionable certainty that coming of age is only a distant dream that will probably never ever really come true.

Mine were spent in Michigan’s wild, rugged, and somewhat isolated Upper Peninsula, in a small iron mining community called Dober Location just down the hill from the rusty shafts of the Hiawatha Mine where Dad worked.

Our area’s claim to fame—besides iron ore produc­tion—was the hundreds of clear blue lakes and streams team­ing with trout, bass, and bluegills; the pine forests thick with deer, bear, and partridge; and the remains of abandoned Ojibway villages and burial grounds where it was rumored Indian spirits still stomped around in the woods. But, believe me, while this wonderful world of wildlife was a Paul Bunyan paradise for the male portion of the population, a girl could easily feel lost in the maze of woods, water, and world his­tory.

Spread-eagled in a patch of sweet purple clover sur­rounding our potato field near a steep gravel pit, I would stare, for hours, upward into space. Wishing. The sky was the limit. I could go anywhere, do anything, be anyone I wanted. I wished I were a gorgeous, silver screen, movie queen like Lana Turner. I wished I could assume a new identity and call myself by my dreamy, made-up name, Lynette Swan. I wished I knew how to drive. I wished I were old enough to get a job scooping ice cream at Lenny’s Soda Bar or taking tickets at the Perfect Theater in Stambaugh. I wished I were a bird and could fly away.

Rolling over with the stealth of a spy, I would flatten myself like a snake, slither silently to the sunburned grass on the edge of the pit and watch bug-eyed grasshoppers flex their lanky green legs, then jump and spit. I wished I could live with such abandon. I wished I could take off and go rabbit hunting like Dad and my brother John whenever I felt the urge and not have to be faced with a future of fussy female things like ironing ruffled blouses, shaving legs, and plucking eyebrows into perfectly shaped arches.

Yet, prowling the aisles of Newberry’s Five and Dime in Iron River with Mom, I hunted not for rabbits but for any hint of glamour that would take me away from the pines, the birchbark, and the fungi of the northwoods. Standing in fas­cination over the midnight blue, imitation velvet display of fake sapphires and diamonds, I became a woman of the world, a Bohemian artist, a concert pianist on world tour, not just a wide-eyed, curly-haired, broomstick-skirted girl born to the Great Lakes’ wilderness.

Wherever I was, I longed for adventure. I wished Mom and Dad would loosen up the apron strings. Sometimes, I wished I lived in Chicago with my grown up sister Corinne. Other times, I wished I could just be one of the guys and hang out with my brother John and his pals in their secret club­house hidden somewhere down by the iron ore piles, near Old Nick’s, the hermit’s, shack.

I didn’t exactly want my Guardian Angel to take a hike, but I wanted to experience danger, mystery, chance. I wished that, by some miracle, life in Dober Location, in Iron County, in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan—practically the middle of nowhere—could somehow be exciting, daring, memorable. And, as it turned out, it was. Sometimes we laughed. Sometimes we cried . . . 

A Christmas Memory


Winter Pals: Judy Coralie & Nancy

Two weeks before Christmas, my pal Judy Sporer and I bundled up in our warmest coats, wound our scarves around our necks and faces, and trudged two miles in our Stadium Boots to Iron River to do our Christmas shopping. We each had a whopping $5 in our pockets.

At Newberry’s Five and Dime, for $.39, I found a deck of miniature playing cards for my sister Connie who had recently developed a mania for playing Solitaire. Then, I spotted a pink donkey planter for Mom for $.89 which I knew she would absolutely love. But I couldn’t see a thing for Dad, or my brother John.

We slipped on down the snow-covered sidewalk to Johnny’s Men Store. The place was loaded with shirts and ties, tie tacks, and—cuff links! A high school senior, my brother wore his only pair to every special event at school. Excited, I turned the little brown box over, but nearly fainted when I saw the price—$2!

Judy and I fled up the street to Schafer’s where the scents of pipes, tobacco, and shaving lotion tickled our chilly noses. Judy bought pretty bottles of cologne for her sisters and mom and some Old Spice aftershave for her brother and her dad. I was about to follow suit when I spotted something that made my heart leap—a reindeer poised in a pretty blue globe filled with water which, when turned upside down, caused “snow” to magically spin, sweep, and swirl lazily down on the winter scene. $1.50—and worth every penny.

With $2.22 left, I figured I could buy my brother’s gift and still have enough for a malted milk at Walgreen’s. I could already taste it!

We scoured the aisles at Monkey Wards, but found nothing. At Kromm’s Department Store, we poured over the men’s socks, ties, and hankies, but I knew nothing anywhere could compare to those classy cuff links at Johnny’s. I counted my money again, hoping I’d made a mistake the first time, but I hadn’t. I looked enviously at Judy, who’d made all her purchases and still had $.50 left, but I knew what I had to do.

Johnny wrapped the little brown box in tissue paper and put it and the receipt in a small brown bag, slipped my $2 into the cash register, and smiled. I knew I’d made the right decision.

At Walgreen’s, I got a little jittery watching Judy sip her malt but my 10 cent cherry coke wasn’t bad and I was happy as a lark imagining the look of disbelief in my brother’s eyes when he opened his gift on Christmas morning.

And he didn’t disappoint me. He beamed as he opened his box, complimented me on my discriminating choice of gifts, and said he’d wear the cuff links to his Hi-Y banquet coming up soon.  I’d was absolutely thrilled.

I shall always remember that shopping day as one on which Judy and I discovered the true meaning of Christmas. Our joy was found in doing something special for those we loved. As we sunk our Stadium Boots back into the snowy drifts that covered the sidewalks, and set off for home in Dober Location, we smiled and hummed our favorite Christmas Carol, “Joy to the World.” We’d never felt so proud, so grown up, or so peaceful in all our eleven years. Knowing we had found presents that would surprise and please our families was the best Christmas gift of all.


A Little Snowfall in the U.P.


This is how our backyard looked a few years back in the U.P. A little snowfall…nothing big, just a few flakes. Then the sun came out to celebrate. Don’t you love the Upper Peninsula of Michigan’s weather? If not, wait five minutes and it will change! Never a dull moment!

A Tree Grows in Trout Creek ~ Update

A Tree Grows in Trout Creek

1,800 BOOKS SOLD ( 12-20-2012):

1,000 BOOKS SOLD ( 10-22-2008):


Over 1,000 copies of A Tree Grows in Trout Creek have been shipped since publication on October 15.

The Wishing Years, Coralie Cederna Johnson’s earlier book is also available. Go to ORDER BOOKS above to order your books at a SPECIAL DISCOUNTED PRICE and pay with a charge card through Paypal.

SPECIAL DISCOUNT PRICES: $12.95 each book (+ $5.60 priority shipping for 1st book & add $1 for each additional book).

You may also order by mail by sending your check or money order to:?Wildwood Press, 1112 S. Durand St., Jackson, MI 49203.


900 BOOKS SOLD ( 12-20-2007):

800 BOOKS SOLD ( 12-10-2007):

600 BOOKS SOLD ( 11-2-2007):

Book Launch Party ( 10-30-2007):

The new book, A Tree Grows in Trout Creek, was only released less than two weeks ago and I have sold 579 copies to date! My Women of Words (WOW) writing group friends held a book celebration party for me this past Sunday afternoon and it was wonderful! Jennifer brought fancy chocolates. Karen baked red velvet cupcakes. Robbie brought fresh apple cider. And Carol, just home from a trip to China, brought me a gorgeous strand of real pearls from Hangzhou! What a memorable event it was!

A Tree Grows in Trout Creek: The Books Have Arrived! ( 10-15-2007):

The new book, A Tree Grows in Trout Creek, (which has been in publication for the past six weeks) is finally in print! And it’s beautiful! Copies are here and ready for shipping. I’m getting them autographed and to the post office as fast as I can. So hang on…yours (if you ordered) will be on its ways shortly. I can’t wait to hear how you like the stories! Sweet memories!!!

If you haven’t had a chance to order yet, go to ORDER BOOKS on this website and send in your order (credit cards accepted through Paypal)!



Lost Sheltie!

Tues evening is when it happened. I looked out in the backyard to let my sheltie “Carrie” into the house and discovered to my alarm that the gate was ajar and she was gone. We later learned that the meter person had been here while we were away and left the gate unlocked. A strong wind opened it.

[Read more…]

Book Signing in Chicago!

Finally back home again after a wonderful Thanksgiving visit with family and friends in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan!  Of course, Thanksgiving is always a time for celebration in our family and so are the family birthdays that happen just about the same time each year. I was born on Thanksgiving day and my sister Corinne was born three days later and ten years earlier. So this year we traveled from the U.P. to Chicago to celebrate with her. She held a Book Signing Party at her home for me with several guests to share the afternoon of visiting and readings. It turned out to be a great success and super fun day!

Author Treasures U.P. Childhood


Published Sunday, November 18, 2007 4:25:26 PM Central Time


Globe Staff Writer

In the title story of her new book, Coralie Cederna Johnson writes:

“Nobody wanted to go to Trout Creek. There was nothing there. Nothing but a lot of trees. Trees, trees and more trees.”

Overlooking the forest for a single tree, Johnson’s Finnish grandfather from Minnesota was bringing a small mountain ash tree to plant at the home of relatives in Trout Creek.

To a 9-year-old girl, this made no sense.

In “A Tree Grows in Trout Creek,” Johnson, of Ypsilanti, tells tales from her Upper Peninsula childhood.

[Read more…]

Book Signing ~ Ypsilanti ~ Wonderful Audience!

Last evening’s book signing for A Tree Grows in Trout Creek was so much fun! The audience at our Normal Park Neighborhood monthly meeting was terrific. They enjoyed the brief history notes and then the humorous story called Skunked. They laughed in all the right places. What more could an author ask for! And I’m going to be invited back for a second book reading and signing for the seniors. Can’t wait!

For more information on purchasing the new book online, go to ORDER BOOKS above.

Book Signing ~ Ypsilanti!

I have my first book signing this evening for our neighborhood monthly meeting and am really looking forward to it! I’ll read from my new book, A Tree Grows in Trout Creek, and then take questions as time allows. I’m going to read two short excerpts, one of Michigan history and the other strictly for humor. The book is a collection of memoirs about growing up in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and follows my family, friends and me as we make out way through times of laughter, tears and triumph.

(To purchase the book at a discount price go to ORDER BOOKS above, make your choice and pay with a credit card through Paypal.) (Same day shipping!)

Turning Clocks Back An Hour – Dogs Not Impressed!

With the new time change we are experiencing this week, I’m trying to get the shelties to understand we’re doing things differently. But it’s not working! It may only be 3 a.m. but to Ginger, Carrie and Bonnie, it is 4 a.m. and time to get up! I keep telling them, they’re wrong…but they just bark a little (well, a lot) louder. Maybe I can get them trained by springtime when we turn our clocks one hour forward. You think?