03-30-2107 Tri-City Area History Page

This is a view of East Main Street Watervliet and Dill’s Restaurant.

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.

From the photo collection at the North Berrien Historical Museum

300 Coloma Avenue, Coloma

The Paw Paw River Journal

Go Fly a Kite!

Do kids ever fly kites any more when spring rolls around?  Would kids in upper el and middle school grades even know what kites are?  I’m not sure, because most of them seem to be wandering around exercising their thumbs as they talk to each other on a little computer.  What made me think of that is the weather today.

Beautiful and spring-like!  I know, I’m writing this in February, but it seems more like March.  Outside the big window in front of my desk the sun is shining, birds at the feeders, and it will probably be in the 60s today.  Now if we had a March wind (and if I were a kid) I’d be thinking about going out into the fields and putting up a kite.

We always did that.  I had a nice one, red and blue, and on a windy March day, I put it up so high I ran out of string.  As I remember, I attached it to another ball, and ran that kite up so high, I could barely see it.  Back then there were few airplanes to worry about, so no problem… I’m not sure how it would be now.

Springtime was magical!  One year in March my sister and I both came down with measles… she had it worse than I did.  We were incarcerated for days, and the town health officer, a little old man named Mose Cullen, came by and tacked a red sign on our house that said, “MEASLES.”  Thus we were off limits for well people, and I felt almost like we were in prison.

Then on a windy March day our dreary spots had disappeared, and we were turned loose on the world again.  I went outside and breathed deep.  Next to my dad’s greenhouses he had a huge garden field.  I was so excited I ran clear across that field, leaping into the air… free at last!  And could go kite flying!

I don’t know if spring is magical like that for kids now or not.  We lived for the outside.  The best time of the school day was recess.  We had the usual playground stuff, and some you never see any more.  One device was like a Maypole.  It was a post that could rotate, and around it were hung chains with hand holding bars attached.  Kids hung on the chains and ran around until the Maypole was spinning like a top.  And if you could hang on, you got the ride of your life.  It’s a wonder some of us didn’t get brained by those flying chains, but I never heard of anyone getting hurt.

The schoolyard became a bare earth, scorched, hard packed field from all the kids’ games and running.  I know when summer vacation came we couldn’t wait to get out of that prison.  On the day we burst from that building, running wild, shouting, and so excited to have a whole summer before us.  “No more pencils, no more books, no more teachers’ dirty looks!” That was a chant from back in that day.

And we went about our summers’ business.  We had home chores, and some responsibilities; but there were days and days of games.  Baseball.  Building forts.  Exploring.  We had bicycles and knew every street and back alley in town… all the back yards where vicious dogs were chained… and sometimes loose.  For some reason spinning bicycle wheels attract dogs, and they often want to get a piece of the rider’s leg.

One time a friend and I, Ron Weston, rode our bikes out to Keeler and back.  I didn’t know it then, but later he would marry my sister, and we would have many adventures over the years (God rest their souls). Why on earth we would want to go to Keeler is anybody’s guess. But we did… and on the way back, coming down Drullinger’s Hill a vicious dog came out in hot pursuit.  I’ve never ridden faster than that day, and we outran him!

Sooner or later someone would get the idea of visiting the old school yard.  What changes summer had wrought!  Our playing field was now green with new grass… no kids’ feet to torture the earth.  We took with us each a waxed bread wrapper.  No plastic packaging in those days!  We played on the swings, swung on the Maypole chains, and ‘round and ‘round on the merry-go-round.

Then the tubular fire escapes!  When that old high school was first built, they had iron stairs for fire escapes.  But those were too dangerous for kids, so they installed huge metal tubes from the top floor.  There were three of them.

We usually climbed the one on the south side that came down from the 5th grade room.  Lack of use had made them rusty.

Hot, breathless, iron-scented as we worked our way up to the top.  There we perched, eyes to the crack in the doors that opened out to let kids slide down. Quiet room, desks in rows, and the smell of floor wax and varnish coming through the crack.  And on the far wall ticked the old school clock.  It’s a wonder the face was not worn right off with kids looking at it to see when they would be turned loose.

Then we sat on our waxed bread wrappers and slid down… slowly at first, but after a few times the tube was bright and shiny again.  Then we carefully climbed up, hands on the hot metal sides for support.  And now when we slid down, we’d whizzzzzz to the bottom and right out on the sandy ground. We’d mark how far out we flew to set a new record! Ah, the magic of summer!  And, believe it or not, when autumn came and the school bell rang, even going back was an adventure!  See all of our friends again.  Maybe, if we were lucky, a new pencil box.  I have deliberately not mentioned any of the down sides of those days… bullies, frustrations… no, I wanted this to be a delicious, sunny, back-in-the-day sort of remembrance.

I hope you have many of those memories, stitched in golden threads into the tapestry of your life in these storybook towns along the Paw Paw River!

Coloma Library News

Baby and Me Program

The library will be offering a “Baby and Me” program on Fridays at 10:30 a.m. through April 28. This program is for babies, young toddlers and their parents/caregivers. Join Miss Holly for a short story, interactive play and songs as well as an opportunity to introduce babies to the library. If you have any questions please call the library at 468-3431.

Fandom Fest

Announcing Fandom Fest! On Saturday, April 1 from 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. at The Mendel Center at Lake Michigan College all geeks, nerds, and fans of nerdy, geeky culture are invited to this “comic-con” style event that will host artists, exhibitors, a gaming space, maker activities, a LARPing demo, costume contests, and more. Do not miss out on this unique, free event. Fandom Fest will appeal mostly to adults and teens, younger children who wish to attend with their families are encouraged to come between 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. for a special family time. For more information visit the event’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/swmfandomfest.

Read with Spirit

The library is offering a program for children to read to Spirit, a certified therapy dog, on Wednesdays from 6:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. Children may sign-up for a 15-minute slot by stopping in at the front desk or calling the library at 468-3431. Reading to therapy dogs is a fun way for children to build reading confidence and fluency.

Story Hour

Story Hour meets on Wednesdays at 10:30 a.m. Join Miss Amy for a story, craft and song time. Story Hour is a free weekly program for toddlers and preschool-aged children, it does not require sign-up.

Book Club

The Coloma Library Book Club is meeting on Thursday, April 13 at 5:30 p.m. The title to read before the discussion is “The Secret History” by Donna Tartt. Generally, depending on demand there are titles available for check-out at the front desk. The book club regularly meets every other Thursday and is always looking for new members.

Watervliet District Library News

Story Hour

This one-hour class is offered Wednesdays at 10:30 a.m. and Thursdays at 1:30 p.m. for children ages 3 – 5. Join us for stories, crafts, show-and-tell and snacks every week through the end of April.

Toddler Time

Thirty minutes of music, stories and activities on Tuesdays at 10:30 a.m. in April and May for little ones age 18 – 36 months designed to inspire the love of books and learning.

Yoga every Monday morning at 9:00 and Wednesday evening at 7:00

Teen Table Project for March

Teen tech is on the table! Pick up a tech challenge sheet; complete the tasks to be entered into a $20 Amazon gift card prize drawing.


100 years ago – 1917

Sawatzki Bros. are building an addition onto their wagon shop at the corner of Paw Paw and East Logan.

Home for vacation: Melvin Peck, who is attending the Ferris Institute at Big Rapids and Ada Lorenz, who is attending the State Normal School at Ypsilanti.

When the alarm of fire was sounded, the firemen responded to the call, but the fire truck failed to do its duty. Hugo Sawatzki made several attempts, with the truck finally getting pushed by hand to the cistern. The blaze was put out with the chemical extinguisher before the truck was put in working order.

60 years ago – 1957

Mr. and Mrs. William Veit of North road entertained family and friends for dinner. The afternoon was spent viewing slides and movies.

Rancher Glen, the guitar playing health troubadour will perform for the students. This is part of the Michigan Tuberculosis Association education program for school children.

Farmers: Verial alfalfa seed is selling for $10 more per bushel than Ranger alfalfa seed. Expect to more than make it back in the first year’s cuttings. Buy your seed now.

30 years ago – 1987

Coloma Middle School North and South will have their annual student variety show. Singing, dancing, magic and comedy will be some of the fun acts. Admission is $1.00 for students, $2.00 for adults. This year’s circus theme should appeal to all ages.

Electrolux Sales and Service – Call Phil Gargano – Coloma

Hometown Flowers – floral arrangements, plants and grave blankets.  Center Street, Coloma

Coloma High School students visited SMC machine tool laboratory. Participating were Mike Kavanaugh, Darrell Gatchell, Chris Frank, Bryan Fellman, Steve Tavolacci, John Walter and Mike Tavolacci. A workshop and “hands-on” lab were part of their day at the college.


100 years ago – 1917

An alarm of fire last Thursday called the department to the Nathan Taplin house in the east part of the village where flames originating from a chimney had ignited the roof. The roof was badly damaged before the blaze was extinguished.

A good crowd greeted the home talent play “A Poor Married Man” presented at the opera house last night by the L.O.O.P. lodge of Bangor. The offering proved an exceptional piece of comedy, and various members of the cast acquitted themselves with credit.

Friday evening the friends and neighbors of Mr. and Mrs. George Borst gathered at their home, north of town, until the house was full, and all danced until midnight when a bountiful supper was served. Afterward they tried dancing again and all enjoyed the pleasure, the old as well as the young. As the roosters began to crow and daylight was appearing, they wended their different ways toward home declaring Mr. and Mrs. Borst ideal entertainers.

75 years ago – 1942

The war in the Atlantic struck close to home with the recent sinking of the S.S. Texan on its way from New York to Buenos Aires. Included in its cargo was a shipment of gladiola bulbs from the J.C. Van Lierop Company in Hartford.

The Southwest Hartford Thursday Club met at the Brague school house on Saturday, March 28, to sew for the Red Cross. At 9 a.m. the members began to arrive with sewing machine, quilt frame, etc. During the day hospital gowns were made and five coverlets completed. The tops for the coverlets were pieced beforehand by various members of the club.

With Hartford merchants offering their full cooperation and the Van Buren County nutrition war board completing plans for the program, the Day Spring Cooking School gained momentum this week. The cooking school demonstrations under the direction of Mrs. L.G. Howlett is not of the ordinary type but has been streamlined to meet wartime food problems with practical, economical suggestions for recipes and menus. The school is a two-day event, Thursday and Friday, April 9 and 10. It will be conducted from the stage of the Heart Theater.

50 years ago – 1967

Charles Gent retired last week as rural carrier on Route 1 after 35 years of postal service. Gent, whose home is in Bangor, will be employed there by Du-Wel Metal Products. Gent was a railway mail clerk before he joined the Hartford post office staff in 1951 as a clerk, succeeding Frank Tollar. Three years later, he switched places with Fred Rose who then was the Route 1 carrier. Gent served three years with the marines between the two world wars.


90 years ago – 1927

Watervliet is to be featured in an early issue of the Chicago Herald and Examiner and in the big Blossom Week issue of the Chicago American. Representatives of these two papers attended a meeting of the local Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber of Commerce was asked to purchase 1500 copies of each issue and the $90 was quickly subscribed by local business men and resort owners present. The papers are running a series on Western Michigan towns. Watervliet will be highly featured on the Blossom Week Festival which The American features every year with a big illustrated section running in all the editions for one day.

60 years ago – 1957

Janice Lamp was selected as the winner of the Wolverine Girls’ State Award, given by the Watervliet American Legion Auxiliary, while Joe Barnak and Dan Frietas were elected delegates to the Wolverine Boys’ State from the American Legion and Chamber of Commerce respectively. Candidates are selected by the Watervliet High School faculty from members of the junior class. Selection is based on character and potential abilities rather than on a single achievement such as excellence in scholarship or proficiency in athletics.

James R. Collis, aviation electronics technician airman apprentice, USN, son of Mr. and Mrs. Robert H. Collis, Watervliet, is attending the Basic Aviation Electrics Technician School at the Naval Air Technician Training Center, Memphis, TN.

30 years ago – 1987

Ray Howley, local agent for Farm Bureau Insurance Group, has been named one of the company’s top agents of 1986, based on his excellent record of sales and service for the year. He received Farm Bureau Insurance Group’s All American award during the company’s recent annual sales convention in Grand Rapids. The award, reserved for the company’s top producers, recognizes agents for their outstanding achievements and superior client service.

Mill Creek now open – Jackie Forrester, owner, and Jan Couturier, manager, of the new home accessories shop in Watervliet. Some of the services to be offered at Mill Creek are: custom ordering, bridal registry, decorated cakes, person gift registry, customer mailing list, gift certificates, gift wrapping, and hundreds of decorating accessories and embellishments for the home.


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FAX: 269-463-8329

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