02-02-2017 Tri-City Area History

The Paw Paw River Journal

We watched the world fall apart

The watershed in the lives of my generation has to be World War II.  Of course, I’m thinking of those of us who were alive at that time.  The days before and the days after that are clearly divided! And I would not trade that knowledge for a million dollars.  What the heck, let’s say for a billion dollars (a million is just not the staggering figure it used to be!)  That’s what made us and the world as it is today.  For good or bad!

We were just kids, doing the millions of things kids always did.  We went to school in the big old brick building in Hartford right where Red Arrow Elementary stands today.  In cold weather, the big windows were drafty, and in hot weather we sweated.  And we learned. We worried about grades, and bullies, and whether the other kids liked us or not.

We wore regular shoes, or real tennis shoes.  My Dad always wondered how I could wear out my shoes so fast.  Well, we were pretty active.  And in cold weather a lot of us guys wore high-top boots.  Often on the side of them was a little pocket for a jackknife.  We all had jackknives too… no thought of them as weapons either.

When we were not in school, we worked at part-time jobs (if we had to) or played imaginary games… cowboys, pirates, airplane jockeys, or we built imaginary space ships.  I had the best place in the world for our neighborhood kids to play.  My Dad owned and operated the Hartford greenhouses.  Next door he planned to build two more of them, but the depression knocked that out of the ballpark.  Half completed, the place was a whole field full of boards, bricks, and cement blocks, to construct our play areas.

One platform stood about 15-feet high. Built for working on the high parts of the new greenhouses, it was now useless.  We turned it into a fort.  Protected on all sides by boxes, we were holed up there with only eagles for company (we pretended) and buckets of water to repel invaders, and rubber band zip guns.  We were never attacked… but we were ready, just in case.

That was then.  On Sunday, December 7, 1941, I was now old enough to be a drugstore cowboy.  And a bunch of us were playing the pinball machine in Clark’s Drugstore when news came over the radio that Pearl Harbor had been bombed by the Japanese. Right there… then… that was the watershed moment. But we never realized it… went right on with our pinball games.

For a while we coasted on as civilians. Then the war began to become very real with no car tires, gas rationing, food rationing, and a nationwide speed limit of 35 mph. Can you believe that? America had gone to war. And the older kids were gradually disappearing into the armed forces.  Life was never to be the same again.

Finally it came to my time… all of my friends and I either enlisted or was drafted and off to war and a hurry-up maturing into whatever we were going to be. Never to be the same again, most of us got through those perilous times and came home to start our families… and get back to civilian life that for some would never to be as great as they dreamed!

And that watershed moment when the Japanese took away our innocence and brought us crashing into the modern world is still reverberating in our lives. Because then we made some mistakes. We all know in abstract it is the fire that tempers steel. But we had suffered through some horrible times.  And too many people vowed that their children would never go through what we had to go through.

That was not the best course of action. Look what happened when that postwar generation grew up.  They fought another war that was in the wrong time and place.  Some vowed they would never fight in it and went to Canada.  Those times are now mostly past us… except in the minds and hearts of those who had to serve. And the skipper-outers… later some admitted that it was not so much a high-minded philosophy as the fear of having their butts shot off!  But we’re past that.  Except some friends of ours are still suffering from the lingering effects of Agent Orange and postwar stress.

Now guess what! That postwar generation is running our country!  How well, I leave to your political orientation. One thing for sure… there is an awakening of people who now realize that the fat is in the fire… the baby was thrown out with the bath water… and our country is in deep doo-doo.

Will we survive? I believe we will… as surely as I can see evidence that many people still have bedrock honesty.  Situational ethics will not get us out of this one. Oh no… it’s back to the fire and tempering the steel that has to be in our upcoming generations. A young lady of our acquaintance says she has thought about this a lot.  She says that Americans are 10th frame bowlers.  We will awaken and bring honesty and clarity to government.

We shall see if that happens. Can we all get together and continue on with the great promise our country offered us? Some are still dragging their feet. Much of our media still seems to be stuck in trying to make our recent election not legal. But outgoing Vice-President Joe Biden said in a speech to Congress, “Let’s get on with our lives.” Good advice. Quit carping, caviling, and complaining… this is the way it is.

We need to take a shower, put drops in our eyes, put on our big boy or big girl panties, take a hitch in our suspenders, or whatever we do to get going. And let’s make it work!!!!

God willing that it will be thus in our storybook towns along the Paw Paw River, and all across this huge land of ours!

Coloma Library News

Book Club

The Coloma Library Book Club is meeting for a book discussion on Thursday, February 16 at 5:30 p.m. The title to read before the discussion is “The Shack” by William P. Young.  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. If you are interested in more information please stop in the library or call 468-3431.

Story Hour

Story Hour will resume meeting on Wednesday, February 22 at 10:30 a.m. Join Miss Amy for a story, craft and song time. Story Hour is a free weekly program for toddlers and preschool-aged children; it does not require sign up.

Watervliet District Library News

Buy a brick from the Watervliet District Library as a legacy gift to honor the cherished people in your life.  Help create a new Garden Park for our community.

Story Hour:

Wed. 10:30 – 11:30 & Thurs. 1:30 – 2:30

This class is offered for ages 3 – 5 years and includes stories, crafts, show-and-tell and snacks every week until the end of April.

Adult Reading Program – “Exercise Your Mind”

Jan. 16 thru Feb. 25, 2017

Anyone 18 years and older is invited to warm up those brain cells with winter reading. Great prizes await. 1st prize — water bottle (+ flavorings) after reading the first two books; 2nd prize – adult coloring book & pencils after books three & four; 3rd prize — Subway gift card after reading books five & six; Grand Prize drawing includes everyone who has read six or more books – Garmin VivoFit Fitness Band, keeping you in shape 24/7. Amaze your cranium and celebrate winter with a good book.

Teens Table

January 2017 is community coloring table, all set up to commune around. Stop in any time and add to the design. The finished project will be framed.


9:00 a.m. every Monday morning and Wednesday evening at 7:00 pm

Adult Coloring Class:

Last Monday of every month, 6:30 – 7:30 p.m.

Thank goodness we can finally admit that coloring is fun!  Join us in a relaxing evening of creativity with colored pencils and paper. Background tunes and snacks will help set the mood. Come prepared to sit back and unwind! All supplies are provided; give us a call to register. Already caught the coloring bug? Feel free to bring your own!

For more information or to register for any of these programs, please call the library at 463-6382 or stop in.

100 years ago – 1917

One hundred men attended the banquet at the I.O.O.F. Hall. The Commercial Club of Coloma was formed with William H. Ball as President. V.P. is Ernest M. Jones; Secretary, Phillip B. Friday; and Treasurer, Harold R. Grant.

Asahel H. Woodward suffered serious injuries when his automobile was struck by an interurban car in Indiana. They had safely crossed one track and didn’t see the train on the second track.

60 years ago – 1957

 Two accidents claim the lives of local men. Harold Anthony was killed when his automobile slammed into a tree at the intersection of Friday and North Branch roads. Millard Fox’s automobile was hit by a Chesapeake and Ohio freight train near Ludington. Coloma mourns these fine gentlemen.

March of Dimes chairman, Mrs. Dorothy Hansen announced that $1,104.21 has been collected in this campaign. Mrs. Leon Brown, city polio chairman, served refreshments at the conclusion of the porch light parade.

Mr. and Mrs. Charles Kraiger attended the Stanley Home Products convention in Washington, D. C.

Gary Dorstewitz had a special 9th birthday. He and friends were interviewed over station WHFB, during the Lullabye Parade program.

30 years ago – 1987

 Township Supervisor Rodney Krieger reported that appraisals are complete. Property owners will receive notices of any changes.

We Asked You… Should more condominiums be built on Paw Paw Lake? Kathy Osborne thinks the lake is busy enough.

Paul Ravitch, Coloma Community School’s in-school suspension administrator, participates in a panel discussion at the high school library. The topic is “Generation at Risk.”

Coloma Las Vegas Night – Hosted by the Coloma American Legion; Proceeds go toward the Coloma H.S. Band for Azalea Festival. Admission is $2.00; Cash bar and food available.

Mrs. Eileen Hart, special education teacher at Coloma Elementary, was recipient of the Golden Nugget Award.


100 years ago – 1917

Mr. and Mrs. Wm. M. Traver narrowly escaped a serious accident Sunday evening while returning to their farm northeast of the village. They were riding in a top buggy to which sled runners has been attached. In crossing a railroad track where the snow had disappeared the breaking of a bolt detached the front runners and the buggy seat and top became loose, throwing Mr. and Mrs. Traver forward over the dash where they were pinioned beneath the top. Both were thrown forward against the heels of their horses, but the animal was stopped before it took serious fright, which probably saved them from more serious injuries.

A meeting of the stockholders of the Hartford Fruit Growers and the Farmers Exchange has been called at the town next Wednesday afternoon, for the purpose of meeting R.H. Killsworth, a field agent of the U.S. Department of Markets and Rural Organizations, with a view to improving the organization and methods used by the Exchange in the co-operative shipping of fruit and farm products.

75 years ago – 1942

 The Hartford Garden Club will meet at the home of Mrs. Belle Wood on Friday afternoon, February 6 at 2:30 o’clock. Roll call will be answered by a name of a bird found in Michigan during spring and summer. The topic for discussion will be “new methods of gardening”.

The Hartford Art Study class met Monday afternoon at the home of Miss Marcia Corbyn. The lesson was presented by Mrs. Kate Carney, whose topic was the life and work of Violet Oakley. She was a pupil of Howard Pyle and was selected to complete the murals of Sir Edwin Abbey. These murals depicted the life of William Penn, and are in the state capitol in Pennsylvania.

Mrs. Leo Cheney was hostess to the members of the Hartford Mother’s Club at the home of Mrs. Herschel Miller on Monday evening. After a short business meeting each member was presented with a sample copy of the cookbook which is being compiled by the club members.

50 years ago – 1967

 Hartford’s city snowplow was a casualty of the storm, breaking down on the first day of the big snowfall. Contractor’s equipment was brought in to substitute. A road grater and a couple of bulldozers paroled the city streets, but so fast did the snow fall that the best they could do Thursday and Friday was to break single lanes on most of them.

L.Cpl John M. Keith, son of Alfred (Irene Weckley Keith) Gonzales has been stationed in Okinawa since July as a radioman. He celebrated his 18th birthday Jan.3 and received his warrant of promotion to L.Cpl Jan.6, then left for the area of Chu Lai, Vietnam on Jan. 18. In his letter he writes he is in hopes of contacting Larry Larsen at Da Nang.


90 years ago – 1927

J.N. Olmstead, son of Mr. and Mrs. Wm. Olmsted, Watervliet, is on his way to the Philippines or China with the U.S. Marine forces that are being dispatched to the Orient because of the uprising against foreigners in the Chinese Republic. He is top sergeant, 21st Company, stationed at San Diego, CA, and has been in the army service seventeen years.

About thirty-five neighbors gathered at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Frank McConnell on Feb. 14, 1927 and helped them celebrate their 35th wedding anniversary. Ice cream and cake was served and a good time was enjoyed by all.

What is believed to have been a record attendance for a dancing party at Carmody Opera House was that of the fifth annual ball given by the Watervliet Fire Department on Feb. 11, 1927. Around 150 couples danced to the music furnished by Johnson’s orchestra.

60 years ago – 1957

 On Feb. 4, 1957, Troop 61 of Watervliet was honored at a Special Court of Honor at the Seely-McCord School. Three members were awarded the highest rank in scouting. Tom Willmeng achieved the coveted Ad Altare Dei medal. Tom and Bob Baiers are registered to attend the National Scout Jamboree at Valley Forge and Gary Blough had the privilege of attending the Junior Leadership Training Course at Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico.

Mr. and Mrs. Donald Barnett are the proud parents of their baby boy, Bruce Kevin, born Jan. 29, 1957 and weighed 8 pounds, 8-1/2 ounces.

Mr. and Mrs. Milton Lamplot are the proud parents of their baby girl, Susan Marie, born Jan. 30, 1957 and weighed 6 pounds, 10-1/2 ounces.

30 years ago – 1987

 Dixie Birmele and Duke Seymour were crowned queen and king at the annual Winterfest on Feb. 6, 1987.

WHS and Michigan School Band and Orchestra solo and ensemble participants include Mike Grear who earned a first-division rating for his trombone solo and a second for his trombone duet; Shannon Hanks who earned a second-division rating for her flute duet; Andy Bodfish who earned a second-division rating for his trombone duet; Lynn Wise who earned a second-division rating for her flute duet; and Todd Bannen who earned first-division ratings for a saxophone solo and a piano solo. These WHS musicians competed in solo and ensemble festival on Feb. 7, 1987. They are now eligible to advance to state MSBOA competition at Western Michigan University on March 28, 1987.


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