03-15-2018 Tri-City Area History Page

The Paw Paw River Journal

The Devil in the Bottle! Back in the 1920s there had been a huge outcry against the evils of liquor. Banning the sale of Old John Barleycorn would solve a lot of our problems… so people thought. And prohibition was voted in! Here in Michigan the choice was left up to counties… each one had to vote “wet” or “dry.” And Van Buren County voted to ban the Devil in the Bottle! Not so in neighboring Berrien County. Saloons did a rip roaring business there, and the railroad was most happy with the arrangement. They had trains running back and forth between Hartford and Watervliet several times a day… carrying people to lay in supplies of liquor, or just to get out for a few hours and “hoist the elbow.” Now, Hartford was not entirely dry. Whiskey was thought to have certain medicinal values, so drug stores could carry it and sell to customers who really needed a stimulant. And I suppose if a patient put on a hang-dog look, his doctor might say, “Hmmmmm, yes, a stimulant may help to get you going again!” And thereafter he would write out a prescription for a small bottle called a “10-cent vial.” Back then Hartford had three drug stores. All of them were said to sell many of the popular small bottles. Drinking in the stores was taboo, but thirsty Hartfordites could buy a 10-cent vial, slip it in their pocket, and go elsewhere to drain it. Long rows of the little “10-centers” reposed on the prescription room shelves filled with what customers called “Pop Skull,” “Paint Thinner,” “Rot Gut,” and various other names. When a customer came in, he never called for whiskey. Instead, he would say, “Give me a 10-cent vial.” There was also a “15-center” for confirmed drinkers who desired a stronger shot. But what to do then with the empty bottle! A few brought them back and slipped them to the druggist. Others dropped them along the street. Some stashed them in barns. In 1948 a local Hartford stock buyer named Charles S. Hammond came upon a startling proof of this transgression. He decided to tear down an old livery barn in Hartford. In the wall space between the siding and the interior sheathing of a horse stall he found baskets full of the small glass bottles. And there they had reposed since the days of prohibition! All along the alleys in back of Hartford’s Main Street stores stood outhouses. Inside plumbing was still a new fad then. Some old-timers even said superstitiously that sitting over running water would give a person rheumatism! Many of those back alley outhouses became the repository of the empty little bottles. A thirsty man who wanted to take a drink out of the range of spying eyes could retreat to one of those places, drain the bottle, and then easily dispose of it. This illegal trade flourished for several years. Then someone got the bright idea of amending the local option law, so that druggists had to keep a record of their sales. Liquor could only be sold for medicinal purposes and thereafter buyers were required to sign a register and specify their ailments in order to get whiskey. The law gradually cut off the confirmed topers. Their names did not look good on the register that was periodically inspected by enforcing officers. It was a popular wisecrack for old customers to tell the druggist they had “housemaid’s knee,” which the pharmacist usually wrote as “lumbago’ in the register. A spin-off industry for local druggists was in the sale of empty wooden whiskey barrels. They were much in demand for making “pickled peaches.” The repeal of prohibition brought an end to the lucrative trade in illegal liquor. And to us in modern times it seems quaint indeed to consider the lengths to which some of our citizens would go to satisfy their thirst for “Red Squirrel,” or whatever they called it. And long after the fact, Charles Hammond tore down an old livery barn. Out of the wall tumbled all the little bottles, mute evidence that people will get what they crave, illegal or not. Hard to believe that prohibition became the law of the land almost 90 years ago… and it lasted for 13 years, mostly in name only. It gave rise to a whole generation of gangsters and lawbreakers who found much profit in the desire of people for the Devil in the Bottle. One great film that chronicles those times is “The Untouchables,” starring Kevin Costner, Sean Connery and others. It is the story of how some federal agents brought down Al Capone and his empire… finally getting him on tax evasion! All the people from back then are gone now. They too are part of the fabric, the glorious tapestry, of life in these storybook towns of ours along the Paw Paw River.

Watervliet District Library News

Local Expert Series: How to Brew March 12, 6:30 – 7:30 p.m. Presented by Arclight Brewmeister Edward Nash, learn about the day-to-day workings of this favorite brewpub at the library then take a tour of Arclight Brewery. Third Monday Book Club March 19, 7 – 8 p.m. Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger. Great books, fabulous conversation! Ask for a copy at the desk. Adult Crafting: “Pinteresting” March 26, 6:30-8:00 p.m. Shabby Chic Easter Eggs: Have fun trying out a Pinterest inspired craft on the library! All supplies provided; sign up required. Teen Table Projects: March Teen Tech Challenge: Complete them all to enter the Ring Spinner giveaway! Challenge sheets are on the table. Zachary, the read to me dog Saturday, 1:30 – 2:30 p.m. Meet Zachary – a certified therapy hypoallergenic labradoodle. He has a Good Canine Citizen Certificate and is a member of the American Kennel Club; loves to be read to by kids. Story Hour Wed. 10:30 a.m. & Thur. 1:30 p.m. Thru April, Show-and-tell, stories and crafts for children ages 3 – 5 and their families. Sign up to share this structured literacy program with your preschooler! Library Garden Park Purchase a Legacy Walk brick and celebrate a memory! Bricks are $75; 13 characters, 2 lines. Pick up a form at the library. Yoga Monday 9 – 10 a.m.; Wednesday 7 – 8 p.m.; Chair Yoga, Wednesday 6:00 – 6:45 p.m.

North Berrien Historical Museum St. Patrick’s Day Scavenger Hunt for kids March 17

The North Berrien Historical Museum is excited to join in Coloma’s St. Patrick’s Day activities for the second year. From 2:30-4:30 p.m. on Saturday, March 17 the museum is inviting families to bring their children to participate in an Irish theme scavenger hunt around the museum in search of the hidden pot of gold. In their quest for the hidden treasure, participants will also learn about Irish-American history! There will be light refreshments to follow. This free program is designed for kids 6-12. No RSVP is required. North Berrien Historical Museum is located at 300 Coloma Avenue in Coloma. For questions, contact the museum at (269) 468-3330 or kristen@northberrienhistory.org.


100 years ago – 1918 The Methodist church will host a convention on Friday. The program being prepared for this institute is aimed at bringing our Sunday school workers closer together and provides inspiration and co-operation. Allen C. Stark has resigned his position from The Courier and has “gone back to the farm.” This is Allen’s way of “doing his bit” for his country, by raising food for civilians and soldiers. 60 years ago – 1958 Six additional fair beauties have entered Coloma’s queen contest. They are: Janet Traxler, Susan Brass, Ronda Sherer, Sharon Reris, Gail Steele and Judy Kalafut. Charles “Nick” Carter will be the speaker at the Chamber of Commerce annual dinner, talking on “Encouragement.” As past president, Jim Barricklow will be toastmaster for the affair. Mercy Hospital is the site for registered nurses to take refresher courses. Coloma nurses attending are: Mrs. William Semand, Mrs. Edgar Brown, Mrs. Robert Faulkner, Mrs. Ernest Cleff and Miss Marie Furman. 30 years ago – 1988 The Coloma Fire Department and Lions Club are jointly sponsoring a pancake and sausage breakfast. It will be held at the new fire station in Coloma. Superintendent Clifford Tallman’s financial summary shows the school with an $842,000 operating deficit. Norma Somers, Charles Nelson and Rose Coble were appointed to a committee to review the school system’s financial condition. Fourth-grader Andrew Pupedis is presented with a certificate acknowledging 100 percent success on the MEAP test. Teacher Marilyn Schultz and mom Julie Pupedis proudly observe the presentation. Janice M. Groendyk has been appointed Assistant Vice President of LaSalle Federal Savings and Loan Association. She has been with LaSalle since 1977.

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.; Tues., Wed. & Thurs. 10:00 a.m.-8:00 p.m.; and Sat., 10:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m. Phone: 468-3431


100 years ago – 1918 An alarm of fire Thursday evening called the fire department to the Henry McKenzie home on Olds Street, but the call proved a false alarm. The use of a flashlight led neighbors to believe that the house was ablaze and an alarm was turned in. Food Administrator Volney W. Olds has had some unusual requests for sugar. The requests came from beekeepers who declare that they must have sugar to keep their colonies from starvation. 75 years ago – 1943 Three fire alarms within 24 hours kept the Hartford Fire Department busy answering calls Tuesday night and Wednesday, but property damage was held to a minimum with only one of the fires having gained any headway before firemen arrived. Most damage was done at the Merri Lou restaurant on Main Street. The Hartford Philharmonic Club enjoyed an evening of Irish music, history, poetry and stories at the home of Mrs. M.C. Mortimer on Wednesday, March 10. Donald F. Rose, son of Mr. and Mrs. Fred Rose of 103 North Center Street, enlisted in the Navy’s new flight training program for 17-year-old high school seniors and graduates. He will not be called to active duty, however, until he has graduated from Hartford High School. After graduation he will begin the flight training course, lasting 16 months, which is designed to enable him to earn his Navy Wings of Gold. 50 years ago – 1968 The Small Business Administration has declared Hartford a disaster area as a result of a fire which destroyed six store buildings in the south business block Feb. 22, but this does not mean that a flood of Federal tax money will be forthcoming. The declaration makes businesses hit by the fire eligible for consideration for disaster loans. An effort is being made to start a basic education class in Hartford. Mrs. Marie Oliver, neighborhood aide for Tri-Cap would like to reach persons 16 or older who need help in reading, writing and mathematics from the first to eighth grade levels.

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


90 years ago – 1928 Printed on Feb. 24, 1928: Electricity has contributed more to the health, comfort and education of the human race than any other agency of modern science. Practically all modern business, as well as the comforts of home and public places depends upon the intelligent application of electricity. Wonderful as has been the progress in the electrical world, the science of electricity still is in its infancy and none can predict the marvelous uses to which this magic force may be harnessed in the future. Abolition of the use of electricity would precipitate a world crisis that would be more terrible than the World War. Printed on Mar. 23, 1928: How I know Spring is coming. Spring is coming! This I know; ‘Cause a little bluebird told me so; I was in the garden when I saw a bluebird wee; Yes, the tiniest of bluebirds sitting in a tree. Spring is coming: This was his little tune; And I’d like to have stayed and listened, but it was almost noon. 60 years ago – 1958 Dwight Horton plans to leave on Mar. 23, 1958 with his son, Frank, who has been assigned to Fallon Navy Base in Nevada. They expect to visit points of interest en route, including the Grand Canyon. Mr. Horton will return to Watervliet by plane after his son resumes his duties. Mr. and Mrs. Jack Clark are the proud parents of a son, born Feb. 17, 1958 weighting 7 pounds, 13-1/2 ounces. Ronald Hurley was home from Great Lakes, IL to spend the weekend with his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Hurley. 30 years ago – 1988 After 15-1/2 years of being principal of WHS, this outstanding person decided to move on. Mr. Ken Bannen will now be serving the district as Administrative Assistant for Curriculum and Special Projects. His new responsibilities include migrant and special education and federal programs. On Jan. 29, 1988 the Winterfest King and Queen were named; Kevin Lewis and Shannon Hanks were crowned during the halftime of the game. Kevin hopes to go into the Air Force and Shannon plans to major in business and pre-law.

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


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