03-26-2020 Tri-city Area History

HIGH STREET IN COLOMA… Is the man on the right Homer Strasser? Who are his friends? Is this a hearse? Do you remember ever seeing a vintage hearse? Perhaps you’ve seen one at a car show? If you have any information on this photo or a story to share, please contact North Berrien Historical Museum at 269-468-3330, info@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

Les Bicyclettes… …de Belsize. That’s the name of a song by Engelbert Humperdinck. It is from his 1969 album “Engelbert.” Now I am not really a red-hot fan of his florid, overly romantic style of singing, but I do love that song. It is the only one I have ever heard about riding bicycles… my subject for discussion today. I don’t really know how kids feel about their bicycles now… except a lot of them are riding. And adults! Many of them ride bicycles as though their lives depended on it. This is really good exercise… as long as they do not run smack into something solid head on. The bicycles I want to discuss are the ones we had when I was a kid. They were an integral part of our lives, and we went nowhere without them. Giving a kid a bicycle was like putting wings on a wild cat. We could even outrun all but the most swift and mean dogs! We knew every back street and alley in Hartford… and the surrounding countryside. My first experience on a bicycle was when our dad bought one for Wilma and me. Being a practical man, he figured that we could both ride a girl’s bike, so he bought a really old-style model from Toppy Walling’s shop on North Main. I rode it for practice (when no one was looking), but I wouldn’t be caught dead on it downtown! I had friends with bicycles… a neat kid in my elementary class named Bob Farrell had a mid-sized boy’s model with balloon tires. He came down to our neighborhood to play, and he was very generous about riding it. Also, Leo Shindeldecker lived just west of us. He was one of the “big kids”, and he let me ride his full-size bike whenever he was around. My friends and I got all bicycled up as we grew older. Russell Kime had a Ward’s Hawthorne. Ron Weston and Jim Tollar both owned Sears Elgins. George (Sonny) Morris had a silver racer, and Bick Beckwith, a Schwinn. How he got enough money to purchase that Cadillac equivalent I’ll never know, unless it was with money from his paper route. I had a silver streak too… with a built-in speedometer. That is, I had it until one night I left it parked outside; and in the morning it was gone forever. Thereafter I was riding shinbone express again… until my dad felt I had learned a lesson. Then he took me over to the famous bike shop on East Main in Kalamazoo. There, he helped me buy a used model. I took good care of that one. That bike store was still there until a few years ago when the owner (same man) was shot in a robbery. What a horrible way to end a long career of helping kids gain freedom to ride like the wind! We went everywhere! Russell broke a rear axle jumping dirt hills over by the playground. We rode out to pick up chestnuts in a grove south of Hartford on Macy’s Stone Road. We filled our pockets with those delicacies… long gone now in the chestnut blight of the late 1930s. Jim Tollar bought a speedometer for his Elgin and rode out toward Keeler to try it out on Drullinger’s Hill. This is the same hill that Johnny Erwin zipped down and up the other side in his Model A on the famous 5-minute trip from Keeler to Hartford. It has since been leveled out some. Anyway, Jim said he got up to 31 mph on the southbound slope, when he met a car. Next thing, he was lying out in the gravel looking up at the sky. His pedal had hooked a guardrail. But there was no serious damage. What put the finishing touch on our bike riding? A driver’s license! One of the last memories I have of my bike is riding Marion up to Clark’s Drug Store one noon hour. She sat sideways on the bar in front of me, and her long hair blew back in my face. That day lives forever in my memory. I sold the bike to Bob Kling, who was destined to be one of my brothers-in-law for lo these many years… as was Ron Weston, who married my sister, Wilma. I don’t know what happened to Ron’s Elgin, but Bob kept his bike until he, too, got his driver’s license. He then sold that Easy Rider to George Olds Jr. And he said he didn’t take a loss on it either. Those were days of glory, brought to mind whenever I hear Engelbert singing about the bicycle riders of Belsize. Back in the day we never knew we were weaving golden threads into the tapestry of our lives along the Paw Paw River… golden threads that shimmer in our memories for all time. (Reprint from the April 3, 2003 issue of the Record)

Coloma Public Library extends temporary closure

To help protect the community, the Coloma Public Library will be closed by Executive Order of the Governor’s Office until April 13, 2020. During the closure, there will be no overdue fines charged. Patrons with materials checked out are welcomed to hang on to them until the library is open again. Patrons may also return items to the outside book drop. The library has left on WiFi access 24/7 so people can check devices from outside the front doors. As of Monday, March 23, staff is remaining home in order to mitigate risk from COVID-19. The Library Administration can be reached for questions at readcoloma@gmail.com. Any information regarding further changes to the library’s status will be announced on the website as well as Facebook page.