02-20-2020 Tri-City History Page

Studio photo of Lewis Umphrey as a toddler with a dog … does anyone remember posing for studio photos? Photo taken by Austin’s Studio of Watervliet. If so, please contact North Berrien Historical Museum at 269-468-3330, office@northberrienhistory.org, or stop by Tues-Friday 10am-4pm they would love to hear your stories. From the photo collection at the North Berrien Historical Museum 300 Coloma Avenue, Coloma

The Paw Paw River Journal

Pearl diving

Back when I was in the Air Force, when we were on KP and doing the dishes, we called that pearl diving. For me the name has stuck and I still call it that. In basic training we had to take turns on KP. Just no getting around it! Now in civilian life I had to go pearl diving at certain times. And I feel so lucky that we had girls who were able and willing to take on the dishes chores as they grew up enough to do it! So, why don’t we have a dishwasher? Marion has always loved antique dishes and you just can’t do them in an automatic dishwasher… it will blast the designs right off from them! That’s how they get all the gunk off your pots and pans. Just check the market on antique dishes! They are not worth what they were formerly… because many young people are unwilling to go pearl diving. When we were first married we lived in an apartment on N. Center Street in Hartford. It was upstairs in a big old place called the Gleason house. We had spent weeks cleaning, painting, and if I say so myself it was a cute and stylish place. Marion worked at Dr. Carl Boothby’s office on South Center, and I was driving to college classes at Western. In many ways it was an idyllic beginning to our long married life. We had a circle of friends and would get together to play dominoes or cards. Just one little problem… after a few months Marion started having bouts of morning sickness. We didn’t realize it initially, but it was the first announcement of the upcoming arrival of a beautiful daughter, Debbie, and that she would add whole dimensions to our lives for the next 71 years. Back in those days I could pearl dive with the best of them, but how many dishes will two people use at a meal? We needed better wheels, so we took stock of our finances and decided to buy a car… a new one! There were still shortages from the recent war. We got on the list of a new Ford dealer in town. Rich Rademacher had just started his dealership in the former Clare Leach garage on Main Street across from the park. I owned a ‘39 Chevy from back when I had just come home from the war. In fact, I was the third owner… the first being our biology teacher, Ernest Froehlich. He sold it to a friend’s uncle. Ron Weston was later to marry my sister. She said she could remember when Ron would borrow his uncle’s car. They would park on a hill and listen to the radio until the battery ran down. Then they would coast down the hill to get it started again! Anyway, I bought it from Ron’s uncle, and I drove it until after we were married. It was a cute brown two-door and I loved it. Top speed was 71 mph. I know because Howard Bishop, who married Marion’s sister Dolores, had a black four-door ‘39 Chevy. We ran them off one night on a country road. His Chevy would do 72 mph, and he just slowly pulled away from me! Our new Ford finally came in… a coupe with a back seat. We loved it. I sold my Chevy to a friend and recouped part of the cost of the new car. The first trip we took in it was to Florida. We got married in October, and when Christmas vacation came around at WMU, Marion’s folks were going down there. They invited us to come down and stay with them. What’s to refuse in an offer like that? We had a ball! No responsibilities! We practically lived on the beach… sun and sand and two people in love. Just one little problem. Marion was starting to have an uneasy stomach in the morning. And that’s how our eldest daughter, Deb, announced her future arrival! All the years thereafter have blended into burnished golden memories. We wound up with three girls and a boy. I lucked out there on the pearl diving! All three girls willingly helped do the dishes. Rob helped with the yard work. And we did some guy things. One time when he was in his early teens, I told him I thought we needed to have a talk. I said, “Rob, you know we live in a houseful of women. And sometimes you have to walk a little softly if they are having a bad day.” He said, “I know, Dad, I already ran into that!” And so all those years! Golden memories! I’d do them again in a heartbeat! And we finally found ourselves alone, all the kids grown and out on their own. Just Marion and me. I was back pearl diving. Actually, Marion washed the dishes and I dried. So life went on for some years. Before my time there was a popular kid story about a boy who runs away and joins the circus. That seemed to be the dream of every kid who wanted to leave home and go on his own. Toby Tyler was the boy’s name and there were several books about his adventures. The reason I mention him is because he figures in this story. In the late 1990s Marion fell and injured her hip. It really began to bother her, so we found a good surgeon and she went into the hospital to have it replaced. This put her out of business for a while, and now I was doing all the dishes. I was pearl diving one day and sort of feeling sorry for myself. I said to her, “I feel like Toby Tyler… I’d almost like to run away and join the circus!” She took me seriously and before I knew it, she was back out washing dishes and I was drying again. Now I don’t have to do any dishes anytime, and I’d gladly go back to feeling like Toby Tyler if I could just have my Chief Accountant with me. But we have woven those golden thre