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03-12-2020 Tri-City Area History Page

Omar Stineman, Watervliet city worker holds a turtle with an unknown boy. Are you that boy? Have you ever caught a large turtle? If you have any information on this photo or a turtle story to share, please contact North Berrien Historical Museum at 269-468-3330,, 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

If he had only lived… Christmas, 1945… the war was just over and I made it home in time for the holiday season. I was also just in time to go to the funeral of a high school friend. Cleo Van Woert was known as ‘Squirt Van Woert’ by his friends, and he was a lightning fast baseball player – a pitcher, in fact. He was not known for making friends, but we all liked him. One thing that was kind of off-putting was that he was always throwing things. He’d throw tomatoes at a bull’s-eye on the barn… stones at a telephone pole. Every kid in the neighborhood he would ask to catch for him while he pitched. We all tried to get out of it because his favorite was a fireball, and any kid that caught pitching practice for him ended up with a sore hand. He had a kind of strange pigeon-toed walk, and a habit of spitting as we would see professional baseball players doing. We didn’t know it at the time, but something dark and devastating was creeping up on Squirt. His heart was weak and getting weaker as time went by. He also must have been attractive to girls because he dated some of the really nice ones. I only learned in recent years how he got around the heart problem. He didn’t go for the team physicals. But somehow he got a hold of the forms and filled out his own… even forged the doctor’s name. Then he turned them in every year and no one was the wiser. At this stage I wonder if maybe some people of authority knew about it and just looked the other way. I don’t know how he did it when it came to running, but somehow he did it. And those years he was pitching Hartford’s team what it was. Oh, we had other pitchers – and good ones, too. Leo Shindeldecker had a tricky fastball, and was sometimes a little erratic. Dave Moore had arm muscles that bulged and a fireball that was a screamer. But when it came to polishing off the opposition it was Squirt Van Woert that finished things! The only field we had to play on was south of school a couple of blocks. Nothing there but some old bleachers and a field full of sand burrs. I hadn’t remembered about the sand burrs because I never went out for football. But friend Ray Sreboth told me every fall the first football drill was duck waddling across the field in a line while the coach watched them. And they picked all the sand burrs they could see. The day Squirt Van Woert pitched his no-hitter was cool and sunny. Larry Olds got on his protective gear for catching. He told me a pickup backed over the catcher’s mask and bent the cage in a little. If he took one in the face, would surely tweak his nose! But he caught all those fast balls, and I maintain that if Cleo had lived, he would have had a career in the big leagues. It started out as an ordinary game… high schools played seven innings. The away team came up to bat, faced that extraordinary pitcher, and promptly got struck out. Second inning people were starting to watch. Same thing happened! Third inning Squirt walked out to the mound with that unusual pigeon-toed gait. The infield watched him. The outfield watched him. The opposing batters stood with their mouths open as he mowed them down. They were getting anxious now, red-faced, and would swing at almost anything. This helped Squirt psychologically. Then in the quiet something happened that almost blew the whole thing apart. The infielders started a little chatter, and one, I think it was Gordy Kime said, “Atta boy, Squirt… we’ve got a no-hitter going!” Oh, we were afraid it would break the spell. Indrawn breaths! You just don’t do that! Squirt just looked around, took a stance, and calmly struck out the rest of those batters! And so it went the rest of the game. I’ve never forgotten that day. We all went on, were graduated with the dark clouds of war gathering over our heads. I lost track of Squirt Van Woert. I know he couldn’t get into the Armed Forces. So he spent the war years doing whatever jobs he could. I heard he delivered rural newspapers, and he had a girlfriend. Now fast-forward to Christmas, 1945. I came home from the war, sick as a poisoned pup with some tropical bug. I was sent to an army hospital down near Indianapolis. They still couldn’t find why I was running a slight fever. Finally they decided they would let me go home for thirty days and then check me again. Okay with me! Marion and my folks were just as glad to see me as I was to see them. On my dad’s advice, I went to see a new doctor in town, Carl Boothby. I didn’t realize it at the time, but he’s the one who started me on the road to recovery. I also got some startling news… Cleo Van Woert had just collapsed with a fatal heart attack. Wintery day with snow blowing, I went to the funeral… only other friend there was a classmate of mine, George “Sonny” Morris. He was himself a baseball player of some reputation. The minister spoke kindly words, and we stood hunched against the bitter wind at the cemetery. I felt pretty much down that day because I knew Squirt Van Woert would have gone on to weave some golden threads into the Great Tapestry of Life in these storybook towns along the Paw Paw River. But we’ll never know for sure now.

Coloma Library News

St. Patrick’s Day Book Sale The library’s giant St. Patrick’s Day book sale is Saturday, March 14; 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. STEM Night A fun STEM night hosted by National Honor Society volunteers from Coloma High School takes place Wednesday, March 18 at 6 p.m. Kids can explore Merge Cubes, Google Cardboards, Bristlebots, and more. Saving Michigan’s Hemlock Trees Join the SWxSW Corner CISMA at the library on Thursday, March 26 at 6:30 p.m. to learn more about how to protect Hemlock trees from invasive predator, Woolly Adelgid. Keeping hemlock trees healthy is good for the environment and property values. Pre-K Story Times Miss Alicia will host Story Times Tuesday mornings at 10:30 a.m. These interactive story times also include a craft activity. Registration is not required to participate. Yoga Basics for Adults Vicki Shoemaker will teach Yoga Basics for Adults in the Community Room from 6:30-7:30 p.m. on the following Tuesdays: March 24, 31 and April 7, 14, and 28. Pre-registration is required. Register by 5 p.m. on the Monday before class. There is no fee to participate. It is recommended to bring a yoga mat, though there will be a few extras on hand. Class attendees must be willing to sign a health waiver. Call 269-468-3431 or stop by the Help Desk to register. Book Club The Coloma Public Library Book Club is meeting on Thursday, March 19 at 5:30 p.m. The title to read before the discussion is “Call Your Daughter Home” by Deb Spera. This title is a sequel to Kitchen House originally published in 2010. Copies of both titles are available for check out at the front desk. New members are always welcome.

Watervliet District Library News

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-Projects for March Do-it-yourself whenever you’re there! Michigan Author Trivia – We’re more famous than we knew! Find out who wrote what in our state, try out a neglected author! Great Women of History – March Paper dolls – free to take, throughout the month, while supplies last. Find your inspiration! In Stitches Knitting Group March 13 – 2:30 to 4 p.m. Second Friday of every month, take your current project or your interest; they’ll help you get started. One on one instructions, too! Third Monday Book Club March 16 – 7 to 8 p.m. Great books, fabulous conversations! Ask for a copy at the desk. This month – Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See Computer Upgrade The library continues to make progress but needs help meeting the goal. 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). Story Hour Story Hour for ages 3 – 5 is on Wednesdays at 10:30 a.m. and Thursdays at 1:30 p.m. (choose one) for the months of October to April. Picture books, crafts & fun designed to inspire the love of reading!


100 years ago – 1920 Only 112 ballots were cast by both men and women electors. New village officers are: President, William N. VanDerveer; Clerk, William Hocker; Treasurer, Smiley W. Hamilton; Trustees, Albert J. Jackson, John A. Rorick, James K. Guy; Assessor, Lowell S. Guy. Everybody walks the streets of Coloma and everybody sees bits of paper and refuse on the streets. Everybody, take pride in your town, help to keep your town clean. 60 years ago – 1960 Dominick Howard, 17, succumbed to injuries from an automobile accident. A best friend expressed the thoughts of the whole student body at Coloma High, “Dom was a happy-go-lucky guy, he was one of the greatest.” Mrs. Graydon Pinyard is serving on the committee to raise funds to build a chapel at Kalamazoo Mental Hospital. A request to change the name of “Short” to “Spring Hill Road” in Coloma Township has been granted. The pantomime “Seven Little Girls in the Back Seat with Fred” will be featured at the Ingraham School variety show. The citizen’s advisory committee advised the purchase of land for the new senior high building. 30 years ago – 1990 Miss Coloma Tiffany Bailey is among the 29 community queens hopeful of gaining the Miss Blossomtime crown. The contest takes place at Lakeshore High School. St. Patrick’s Parade Grand Marshal is Bill Spearritt. Shirley Eggermont is Honorary Marshal. This is the 10th annual celebration. “If Leprechauns granted wishes, what would yours be?” Bonnie Schultz, Eunice Ott and Roy Wilcoxson all wish for peace in the world. Mary Tackett wishes for a new car while Fred Lull wishes people would turn back to God. Governor Blanchard has proclaimed March as Reading Month in Michigan. Coloma Elementary will be doing a variety of projects to celebrate, including a read-in.

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.; Tue, Wed & Thu, 10:00 a.m.-8:00 p.m.; Sat, 10:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m. Phone: 269-468-3431


100 years ago – 1920 The farm house on the John Hanold farm, in the southwest corner of Hartford Township, burned to the ground with some of the contents owned by Mr. Hanold. The house was occupied by Frank Wagner and family. The loss on the home is estimated by Mr. Hanold at not less than $1,800 with insurance of $600. The roof of the house on the V.W. Olds farm across the road became ignited from flying sparks, but the flames were quickly extinguished. Arthur Gleason is the first Hartford man to report the sight of a robin – the usual harbinger of spring. He was trapping along the river Friday when he heard the song of the red-breast and hunted about until he discovered it perched in a bush and emitting its melodious spring song. 75 years ago – 1945 Josephine O’Malley, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. J.B. O’Malley, has enlisted in the WAVES. Miss O’Malley was graduated from Hartford high school in 1942, the valedictorian of her class. Mrs. Ivan White was elected president of the Thursday Club of Southwest Hartford at the group’s annual meeting at the home of Mrs. Glenn McCray. The club will hold a guest day March 15 at the home of Mrs. Laura Bush. Members will respond to roll call with “What’s New in the News.” Each member will bring a guest to the meeting. 50 years ago – 1970 Miss Cheryl Vint, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Jack Vint, was chosen Miss Hartford of 1970 from among 22 other contestants. Runners up are Miss Marilyn Miller, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. William J. Miller and Miss Karen DeMorrow, daughter of Jack DeMorrow. The new queen was crowned by Miss Hartford of 1969, Miss Regina Moore. The Hartford American Legion oratorical contest was won recently by Ronald Ward, David Rose won second place and Ward’s sister Lauren took third. Ward also won the district contest and will compete in the zone contest to be held at Battle Creek. The Oratorical contest is a national project of the American Legion. Modern Mothers Club will meet at the home of Mrs. James Walter. Mrs. DeWayne DeNeff is co-hostess. The program will be in charge of Mrs. William Weeden and Mrs. Bruce Dowd.

Submitted by Librarian Stephanie Daniels at Hartford Public Library from microfilm copies of the Hartford Day Spring. Hours: Mon, Tue & Wed, 10 a.m.-7 p.m.; Thu & Fri, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sat, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Phone: 269-621-3408


90 years ago – 1930 Miss Mildred O. Shelters, supervisor of music in the Watervliet schools, and Herbert Gilchrist, senior student, are in Chicago this week attending the biennial meeting of the Music Supervisors’ National Conference. Herbert sings in the National Chorus. Raymond Moody, Watervliet, and Ross Ketzmiller, a fellow student and assistant instructor at the University of Michigan, left here to drive to Washington, D.C., where they are conducting some history research work at the Capital Library. The members of the B.C.C. enjoyed a delightful afternoon at the home of Mrs. M. Rosenberg, when they assisted her in celebrating another birthday anniversary. 60 years ago – 1960 Excerpts from Pearl Playford reminiscing: With the winter months almost gone and springtime very near (officially, at least), my thoughts turn back to the days of long, long ago when one of my greatest pleasures was to go to the woods to pick wild flowers. Years ago it was a pleasant pastime on a Sunday afternoon to stroll through the fields and wooded areas and come home with a handful of wild flowers. Or we may go for a buggy ride into the country where every fence corner and all along the country highways one could see the blue violets that carpeted the ground and enjoy the delightful fragrance of the sweet Williams that bloomed so profusely. These were the “good old days” when one took time to see and enjoy the wonders of nature. Mr. and Mrs. Orville Martin, Watervliet, are the proud parents of their baby girl, Sharon Louise, born March 12, 1960 and weighed 8 pounds and 1/2 ounce. 30 years ago – 1990 Mr. David Wheeler, Watervliet Junior High School, has been selected “Employee of the Month” for March 1990. David has been in education for 16 years. He graduated from Michigan State University with a major in physical education and a minor in English. In 1976, David received his master’s degree in health education. In 1985 he received the “Teacher of the Year” Award from Andrew Jackson Middle School in Titusville, FL. Mr. Wheeler is a teacher who is highly respected by his colleagues and sought out by his students. He sets high standards but never fails to demonstrate care and understanding toward those around him. WHS proudly announces Mary Calvert as the 11th grade “Student of the Week”. Mary plays on the WHS softball team and her position is center field. She plans to go to Michigan State University and become a teacher.

Submitted by Sally Q. Gonzalez from files at Watervliet District Library of the Watervliet Record newspapers donated by the Tri-City Record. Hours: Mon & Wed, 10 a.m.-8 p.m.; Tue, Thu & Fri, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sat, 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Phone: 269-463-6382


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