03-05-2020 Tri-City Area History Page

Little League baseball players… perhaps an All Star team? Left is Manager Fred Birmele. Do you know any of the others? Is one of the players a younger version of you? 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


Kids ‘n cars

Rites of passage are those ceremonies by which we mark changes in our life from one stage to another. We all have them, and can you imagine what one of the most important is for a boy growing up? No, I don’t think it’s his first real contact with the opposite sex. For many boys it is getting his first wheels! Somehow a car is a symbol of maturity like nothing else. I never had a car when I was in high school. I got to take the family sedan one night a week. After I met the Chief Accountant, that night was to take her on a date. I got my first car the summer after I was graduated from high school, and we had broken up by then. Later I watched Marion’s two brothers as they grew up and bought their first cars. I must say her folks did it the right way. Those boys saved money to buy that first car, and they paid for it entirely. And I wanted to talk about her youngest brother, Louis. His friends all called him Louie, but to me that was his dad’s name. I watched him through the progress of his senior year. The new car process was all important and thorough. Louis decided he wanted a Ford. The year was 1953, and he settled on a black two-door. One most distinguishing feature about it was a continental spare tire kit on the rear end… made it look like there was an external spare wheel in a cover. That Ford was certainly a looker… not only could you see him coming, you could hear him too. He had an exhaust system that was almost a straight pipe. It had a glass pack muffler with very little back pressure. I don’t know where he got the idea, but it was a doozy. He drilled a hole in the exhaust pipe the size of a spark plug. Then he threaded it so he could mount a spark plug therein. Then he wired a Ford coil into a hot line and through a switch. He also had a choke for cold-weather starting. If you know cars, you know what’s coming next. He drove down Main Street and in the middle of the block pulled the choke to make the gas mixture rich. Then he hit the switch sending a hot spark right out into the exhaust. I didn’t see it, but Louis told me flames roared out the exhaust pipe enough to scorch the bumper of the car behind him. He said it was so dramatic he headed for home and dismantled it before he could get in trouble! Later on when he was in service he came into possession of two large brass artillery shells. They were about the size of car mufflers. When he got home he designed his own dual muffler and tailpipe system using them instead of regular mufflers. Oh, that car had a rich sound. When he was coming down the road you could hear him almost a mile away. Then Louis told me the story… he was over in Watervliet one night and started for Hartford. As he drove up the cemetery hill, he noticed the old town Constable following in his squad car. Then the minion of the law turned on his flashers. Louis pulled over immediately and waited with his hands in sight. The policeman asked to see his driver’s license and registration, which he promptly produced. The old guy said, “Well, Son, that looks like a pretty fancy exhaust system you got here! Step on it and let’s hear how it sounds!” Louis obliged and mashed his foot down on the gas pedal! The Ford responded with a roar that rattled windows and almost toppled the tombstones in the nearby cemetery. The policeman then hauled out his pad and wrote Louis a citation for excessive noise! Later on Louis allowed as to how next time he would tell the policeman to do it himself, so he would be the one making the noise! I was very lucky in not running afoul of the law. One time Marion and I almost got into it with a state policeman. We were out on a date and had parked in the driveway of a deserted farm to watch the moon come up. This was on what we called Macy’s stone road, a black top heading out into the countryside southeast of Hartford. As we watched, around the corner came a car followed by a state policeman with his lights flashing. They stopped just past where we were. I wanted to see what that was about so we started up and drove slowly past the trooper who was now talking to the girl driving the car. It was Anna May Brandt, one of our Hartford cheerleaders. We passed them, and the policeman immediately hopped in his car, turned on his lights. I stopped and he walked up to my window. He asked to see my driver’s license, and thereafter started writing a citation on his pad. I said, “Wait a minute! Just what law have I broken?” He scratched his head a moment, then put the tickets away with the comment that we should just stay out of trouble! Meanwhile, Anna May, having been turned loose, drove past us slowly craning her neck to see who the policeman had now. Next day it was all around school… the news that we had been busted whilst parking out in the country. I must admit it made our reputation as a couple who had woven a couple of golden threads into The Great Tapestry of Life in these storybook towns along the Paw Paw River.

Watervliet District Library News

Computer Upgrade Stop by the library and check out their Envelope Fundraiser: pluck an envelope off the wall & fill it with the amount requested (between $1 and $100). 2020 Census Be counted in Berrien 2020. Watervliet Library can help! They have dedicated a computer to this year’s online Census count. Questions? Just ask! Hands-On