01-25-2018 Tri-City Area History

Donkey at Deer Forest (year unknown) North Berrien Historical Museum is always interested in photos, stories or information sharing. The museum can be contacted at 269-468-3330 or by email to info@northberrienhistory.org.

The most dangerous airplane

Just recently friend Tony Meloche sent a story to me by email. Guess it has become quite a tradition up in Canada… a story about an RAF pilot in 1957 who is flying his jet fighter back to England from his base in Europe for the Christmas holidays. He gets lost over the North Sea, and is rescued in a most unusual way. I won’t tell you the plot, but guarantee that it has the feeling of reality… titled The Shepherd, and written by Frederick Forsythe. That story put me right back in the days of WWII, and thinking of a story told to me by a friend Ray Dlouhy. His family built and then operated Crystal Palace for many years. They finally sold it in the early 1960s, and while it was being renovated caught fire and was completely destroyed. Ray and wife Dorothy (Warren) lived in the home they built right across from that fabled dance hall. Dorothy was a Hartford girl. They are both gone now (God rest their souls); but during the last years of his life, Marion and I used to visit Ray and talk about Big Band days, while his stereo played music from that era. One day he told us the following story from WWII, and I thought of it when I read the Tony Meloche’s story. Ray was a sergeant in the Air Force and stationed in Scotland. They had a squadron of medium range B-26 Bombers. And this was considered to be the most dangerous airplane in the Air Force. It was what pilots call a “greasy” airplane. Smooth, fast, and unforgiving. It cruised at almost 300 mph, and had to be kept at 150 mph when coming in for a landing. It would stall out at 100 mph with flaps and landing gear down. Training accidents were numerous, and the B-26 Marauder soon got the reputation of being a “widow-maker.” It was called by numerous names, including “the flying prostitute,” because it was fast and had no visible means of support. This was a reference to its skinny wing. That made it fast and prone to stalls if the pilot did not keep the airspeed on 150 after lift-off or on approach, which scared students used to much slower speeds. McDill Air Base in Florida trained pilots on the airplane, and they had so many accidents the first year they had a saying: “One a day in Tampa Bay!” Then someone had an idea… McDill needed more airplanes, so they had a squadron flown in from the factory by WASP pilots… women fliers who volunteered to deliver airplanes for the Air Force. Everyone was outside to see the new B-26s come in. They flew over the field, pulled up in a graceful chandelle, dropped their landing gear and completed the tight circle with a short field landing. And when they got out of the airplanes, THEY WERE ALL WOMEN! That would show those timid student pilots! And they did learn to fly the Marauder. It became one of the safest ships in the Air Force, had a great safety record, and delivered a lot of bombs to enemy targets. So Ray Dlouhy was crew chief for the commanding officer’s B-26 on a base in Scotland. Captain Shirley liked Ray, and they became good friends. Whenever the captain had to go somewhere, Ray went too. And it was on one of their trips that Ray had a bizarre adventure. The war was winding down, and Captain Shirley had to go to a meeting in France, which had now been freed from the Germans. When they were ready to fly home, the captain noticed a GI hanging around, waiting to find a ride back to England. He said, “Well, son, we can get you to Scotland, and from our base you can hitch a ride back to duty.” So they boarded the ship and headed for home. It was then Ray thought of something. On the captain’s ship a crew of three… now one more passenger, but they had only three parachutes!!!!! Oh well, too late to think about that. The crew settled in at cruising altitude, and all relaxed… except Ray! All of a sudden, over the English Channel one engine exploded! It threw a cylinder right out of the nacelle. Capt. Shirley immediately trimmed the ship for single engine. He closed the cowl flaps and pulled the fire extinguisher to prevent a fire. No more relaxing! He then called a “Mayday” for the nearest English Air Base and turned on a heading to get there fast! With permission for a straight-in approach, Capt. Shirley got the landing gear down, but the hydraulic system was damaged and the brakes would not work. He could pull the emergency brake, but it would lock “ON,” so he would have to wait until the last moment. They came in over the fence “hot” so the plane would not stall out, and flashed past the operations office. Then Capt. Shirley pulled the emergency brake. With tires shrieking, they slowed. Sparks flying, then one landing gear couldn’t take any more strain and twisted around. They stopped in a cloud of smoke and flames, while the fire truck and meat wagon pulled up and doused the fire. Quite a crowd had gathered, and Ray said as they crawled out, he heard one Women’s Air Force say, “You Yanks! You always have to do it different, don’t you!” Well, Capt Shirley caught a ride back to their base, leaving Ray to supervise repairs when the parts came in. He said he got to know the crew in engineering, and while he was there they went to a different pub every night! I don’t know what happened to the hitch-hiking passenger, but I’ll bet he found some place to change his pants! So that’s my story on the most dangerous airplane… and I still miss Ray, as I sit here writing this at my desk, weaving more golden threads into the tapestry of our lives in these storybook towns along the Paw Paw River.

Coloma Library News Read with Spirit

Spirit, a certified therapy dog will be at the library on Tuesday evenings from 6:30 – 7:30 p.m. Children may sign up for a 15-minute slot by stopping in at the front desk or calling the library at 468-3431. Reading to therapy dogs is a fun way for children to build reading confidence and fluency. Book Club The Coloma Library Book Club is meeting on Thursday, February 8 at 5:30 p.m. The title to read before the discussion is “Hidden Figures” by Margot Lee Shetterly. Generally, depending on demand there are titles available for check-out at the front desk. The book club regularly meets every other Thursday and is always looking for new members. Call 468-3431 with any questions.

Hartford Public Library News The Hartford Public Library is sponsoring a Teen Film Festival for teens ages 12-18 who attend Hartford Public Schools. This may be either a group project or individual work. Adult guidance and instruction are permissible. Films must not be more than 10 minutes long. Films must be about Hartford or Hartford Public Library. Entry forms and complete information are available on the library’s website, Facebook and at the library. All films must be dropped off at the library by Feb. 26. First place prize is $75, second place $50 and third $25. Another contest is the Van Buren County Teen Creative Writing Challenge for grades 7 through 12. Awards for the top three in three categories: fiction, poetry and cover art. The kick-off event will be a pizza party on Thursday, Feb.1 at 3:30 p.m. Visit www.facebook.com/vbtcwc for up-to-date information or email: vbctcwc@gmail.com for a complete list of rules. See also the library website www.hartfordpl.michlibrary.org.


100 years ago – 1918 Landlord D.W. Mott of the Pitcher Hotel received clarification from the United States Food Administration. Hotels as well as every home must follow “meatless Tuesday” and “porkless Saturday.” Mrs. Helen Grant gave a report of the Coloma branch of the Red Cross. We have used 75 pounds of yarn, 600 yards of gauze. Also used is muslin for hospital shirts and pajamas. We are using every scrap we have and are piecing two quilts presently. 60 years ago – 1958 An electrical sea lamprey trap has been installed in the Paw Paw River. The net will be able to kill the menacing lampreys and will not bother fish. The City Porch Light Parade for Polio is set for Jan. 30. Chairman for the city is Mrs. Willard Ridley and for the township is Mrs. Robert Palmer. The Loma Theater closed following the movie Monday evening. This marks the second straight winter Mrs. Ethel Kilmark has closed the movie house because of lack of patronage. The stockholders of The State Bank of Coloma held their annual meeting and all directors were re-elected. 30 years ago – 1988 The 1988 Coloma Queen Contest Committee will be presenting a fund-raising fashion show. Some fashions modeled by the 28 contestants will be provided by Piwacki and Carole’s Corner. To subscribe to The Tri-City Record call 463-3461. Price: 25 cents an issue. We Asked You… Will the groundhog see his shadow? Jim Woodley says, “It doesn’t make a difference, we still have six more weeks of winter.” Superintendent Clifford Tallman announces that Coloma Elementary Principal Dan Stack has been chosen as Outstanding Principal by the Michigan Principals Association. Mr. Stack is admired and respected by his colleagues. His commitment to professionalism directly reflects on the Coloma Community Schools.

Submitted by volunteer Sandi Musick Munchow at Coloma Public Library, from the Coloma Courier newspapers donated by the Tri-City Record. Hours: Mon. & Fri., 10:00 a.m.-5:30 p.m.; Tues., Wed. & Thurs. 10:00 a.m.-8:00 p.m.; and Sat., 10:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m. Phone: 468-3431


100 years ago – 1918 For an entire week ending last Sunday, Hartford was without freight service. Following the blizzard of January 12 the railroads were so thoroughly blockaded that no freight trains were moving, and only an occasional passenger train reached the village for days. Airplanes are flying over Hartford. More than a score of people watched an airplane Sunday night as it glided directly over the village, flying westward at a high altitude. The machine was clearly outlined against the clear winter sky, its lights were visible and the hum of the motor plainly audible. 75 years ago – 1943 The Hartford Junior Mothers’ Club met at the home of Mrs. Ann Lee on Wednesday, Jan. 20. A short business meeting was conducted by the president, Mrs. Lou Keech. Plans were made to entertain the husbands of the club members at a party at the town hall on Friday. The bake sale held at Conaway’s studio was a success and the club members express their appreciation to all those who assisted. Usually VBC means Van Buren County to residents. During the week of February 8 VBC will mean VICTORY BOOK CAMPAIGN in our county. Books and barrels will be ready to receive your books for the men in our armed forces. 50 years ago – 1968 Pvt. Richard G. Bachman is taking army basic training at Fort Knox, KY. He is the son of Mr. and Mrs. Donald Bachman. Cpl. Lawrence L. Larsen, son of Mr. and Mrs. Aage Larsen recently received his discharge from the Marine Corps upon returning from Vietnam where he had been stationed for a year. Herschel E. Miller, son of Mr. and Mrs. William H. Miller is taking army basic training at Fort Knox, KY. Miller is a graduate of Hartford High School and of Western Michigan University. The largest gross profit in its history was reported at the annual meeting of the Van Buren State Bank, and the net was described as second only to last year. John Olds, bank president, was also given the title Chairman of the Board, a position held by the late Milton M. Weed.

Submitted by Librarian Stephanie Daniels at Hartford Public Library from microfilm copies of the Hartford Day Spring. Hours: Mon., Tues., & Wed., 10 a.m.-7 p.m.; Thurs. & Fri., 10-5 p.m.; and Sat., 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Phone: 621-3408


90 years ago – 1928 Twenty-three members of the Watervliet Paper Mill Fire Company enjoyed a banquet served at the Palm Restaurant on Jan. 23, 1928. The company was organized to combat an outbreak of fire in the plant. They are furnished equipment by the paper company and have yet been called upon to battle a fire but are prepared. Deldee Myrick of Watervliet is one of 27 students of the Western State Teachers College to be chosen for the debate squads which will represent the Hilltop School in intercollegiate debates. J.P. Morgan, proprietor of the Watervliet Candy Kitchen, is an artist in the making of candy fudge. His product is eagerly purchased by confectioners of neighboring towns and cities. 60 years ago – 1958 Gail Van Drasek, son of Mr. and Mrs. George Van Drasek, was honorably discharged from the U.S. Navy and has enrolled at Michigan State University. Mr. and Mrs. Harold Jones, Watervliet, are the proud parents of a baby boy, Robert Allen born Jan. 9, 1958 and weighed 8 pounds 11 ounces. Donald S. Leslie, president of the Hammermill Paper Company has been named president of the Watervliet Paper Company, a subsidiary company. Fred Bahrenburg has been named executive vice president and general manager at Watervliet. 30 years ago – 1988 The Watervliet Pompon Squad attended a competition at Kenowa Hills High School and brought back seven second-place ribbons and two third-place ribbons for speed learning. They also doubled as a flag corps for WHS Pride Band during football. In January 1988, the Watervliet DDA approved a $277,250 development project. Included in the project is pedestrian crosswalks, benches, trash receptacles and light pole banners. A 16-foot tall, free standing clock tower is included as well as tree replacements. Southwestern Michigan College Dean’s List for the fall 1987-88 semester include from Watervliet Daniel Focht and Carole Kiernan.

Submitted by Sally Q. Gonzalez from files at Watervliet District Library from the Watervliet Record newspapers donated by the Tri-City Record. Hours: Mon. & Wed., 10 a.m.-8 p.m.; Tues., Thurs. & Fri., 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; and Sat., 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Phone: 463-6382


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