02-22-2018 Tri-City Area History Page

The Paw Paw River Journal


Sauntering through the past! Saunter is a verb meaning to stroll, wander aimlessly, or leisurely. Thus it is I want to stroll through the past years I have been writing “The Paw Paw River Journal.” They have been good years. Karl and Annie Bayer provided my first forum for writing. I should mention them, and daughter Amy, Bonnie the computer typesetter gal, whose husband, Ken Bannen, is one of my all time favorite school superintendents! And all the others who make the newspaper go. When I started this column, years back, I knew nothing about newspapers. But I did know about writing and literature. That’s what I was teaching all the years previously. So I felt my way along. And I had some help from local old-timers. When I wanted to dip into Hartford’s past, I could go to Bob McConnell, Leta Benjamin, Charlie “Trapper” Simpson, Bud Colman, Rich Conklin, Larry Olds, Rodney and Mildred Lynch, Lee and Edith Davis (my parents)… when my Dad told me stories, I listened! There were Louis and Minnie Kling (Marion’s parents), Loren Pawling, Historian Sherrill Aberg, and Editor Don Cochrane of the “Hartford Day Spring.” When I was but a wee nipper, I enjoyed his local column called “Around Town & Elsewhere.” I’m sure there are others that I cannot recall… all gone into the dim mists of the past. I miss their advice and storytelling! And the old-timers and not-so-old timers who are still with us: Col. Don Alsbro, Stu Elder, Larry Blyly, Dick O’Hara, Bill Minshall, Arlene Ward, Emma Sefcik, Bev Brooks, William Hansen, David Kline (who published an online newspaper called “The Benton, PA, News”), Tony Meloche, Bill & Jerri Williams, Rod Austin, Connie Hatch (recipe lady out in PA), and more! If I have left anyone out… failing memory! I feel them all peering over my shoulder as I write, in a way. Probably the greatest influence on my writing career is my ever loyal Chief Accountant. Mark Twain’s little daughter Susie once said “Pappa writes books and Mamma expurgates them!” Meaning that the beautiful Olivia Langhorne Clemens kept him from saying things he shouldn’t! My beautiful Marion functions much in the same way, and I depend upon her judgment more than I care to admit. Our children: Deb and Gary, Becky and Jim, Rob, Laurie and Jim have all exerted an influence upon my writing career as have our grandchildren. They have all provided comfort, support, and a lasting influence upon my life and writing. I should mention all the teachers and students I have known over the years. The kids with bright and shining morning faces that have gone through my English classes inspired me to impart a love of storytelling and writing that only boosted my own. I used to require them to write in a daily journal. Then one day in 1977, I decided in all honesty I could only practice what I preached. So I started writing daily! That was 126 journals ago! I admit my journal writing has slacked off a bit now. Some of my columns come from going back through those past scratchings. All of my students have conspired to make me what I am! Until 1999 I wrote all of my columns on the typewriter. Then I either took them to Karl, or sent them in the mail from wherever we were. At this time a momentous happening! I got my first computer! The kids had all been urging me on… join the online generation! And we did! Becky’s Jim-in-law helped set it up and get us online. In only two days I learned to turn it on and off… the rest was up to chance. First time I sent out a message, I got one back from friend Bud Colman. In it he said, “The sky opened up, the clouds parted, and a voice from on high said, ‘Bud Davis is now online!’” I guess some people were really astonished that this old-timer had made the transition! And I could email my column to Karl any time and from anywhere. Now email is old stuff to kids! Walt Whitman, writing poetry about the time of the Civil War said in “There was a Child Went Forth…” that everything we see… everything that happens to us… makes us whatever we are. Now I realize that doesn’t take into account the factor of genetics. But he said: “There was a child went forth every day, and the first object he look’d upon, that object he became.” And, Whitman said that everything became part of that child who went forth every day… and who now goes, and will always go forth every day! That’s us! All of us! Plato said through his character of Socrates, the ancient Greek Philosopher: “The beginning of wisdom is the realization of ignorance.” And sometimes it seems the longer I am at this game, the more there is to learn. One time we were vacationing in Ft. Myers, Florida. An elderly priest said at the church we attended, “We are all like McGregor Boulevard out there (which was under construction)… we should have signs around our neck that say… ‘WORK IN PROGRESS!’ That’s what we are, and I feel privileged that you have been reading this column, giving me feedback, and also providing a forum. In a sense we are all children going forth every day… into a new world. We may not always like what we see, but it is forever interesting, as we weave golden threads into the tapestry of our lives in these storybook towns along the Paw Paw River!

Recognize any of these paper mill guys? 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.