04-02-2020 Tri-City Area History

The Paw Paw River Journal

Run for your life! This is an old Hartford story… back in the day there was one car in town that made everyone get off the streets. It was a 1928 Essex, and I remember it well from when I was a wee nipper. Faded blue with black fenders, a coupe, and its owner drove down the street at about 15 mph. His name was A.C. Olliney, and some people called him “Ace.” But you can figure that out from his initials. On both sides of the car he had hung signs of a rather garish color… they read: “EXPLOSIVES!” And the trunk of that car was usually full of boxes of dynamite, because A.C. was either on the way to or coming from a job… which could include anything that needed to be blown up or out! He wore plaid flannel shirts and held up his work pants with suspenders. He loved storytelling and visiting with the old-timers about town. When he stood on Main Street, his store teeth glistened in the sunlight as he talked with his cronies. I can’t imagine why my dad knew him so well… we never needed to have any dynamiting done. But I can remember standing with him and listening to A.C. as the old blaster told his stories. Once, an old man asked if he ever had any accidents while working. A.C. replied, “Listen, Dad, if I ever had just one, I couldn’t tell you about it!” Olliney got his start working on the railroad, and from there went into the stone quarry business. Back then blasting was done with kegs of black powder and a long fuse… one for each shot. And it was done during noon hour, when the workers were eating their lunch. Later he went into business for himself and found quite a bit of work helping farmers clear their fields of stumps. He said for years he had used dynamite sticks, which were easier to handle. And he always wore gloves… easy to become allergic to the nitroglycerin present in all high-grade dynamite. It would give the handler headaches. For the same reason, he always made sure the fumes did not blow back toward him. He would survey the situation, then insert an electric cap in a stick of explosive. This was the dangerous part, because he had to dig out a hole for the cap in the end of the stick. Not a good idea to go “kicking those sticks around” either, he claimed. One job over at Sister Lakes, he was asked to remove a four-foot stump from between two cottages. A further complication was the proximity of underground water pipes. First, he cut off each root with a charge. Then, with a final one placed directly beneath the stump, he lifted the whole mass right out of the hole. The property owner, amazed, asked A.C. if he could now break up the stump halves, which the blaster proceeded to do without damage to cottages or water pipes. Another job at a farmhouse out north of Hartford, Olliney was asked if he could blast out a basement without damaging the building. The farmer wanted a basement but had built the house on solid clay. With a series of small charges, the soil was loosened sufficiently for digging, and it didn’t even disturb a refrigerator or stove right above it in the kitchen. One time A.C. said his most dangerous job was at his own, now defunct, brickyard on Hartford’s southwest side. He had cases of dynamite and caps stored in one of the buildings. And a fire started in it. An old auto headlight lens lying on a shelf had started the fire from the sun’s rays coming in a window. He called the Hartford Fire Department, and they responded quickly. Then he remembered the cases of caps lying nearby. He didn’t want any of the firemen to get injured, so Olliney shouted to Chief Bill Smith to play a hose of water over him as he entered the burning structure. They did so, and the old blaster groped his way through thick smoke to the cupboard and brought out the boxes safely. One winter he was hired to blast open the ship’s channel at St. Joseph. They badly needed supplies, and lake freighters could neither get in or out. So Olliney started clear out by the lighthouse. Setting his charges carefully, he worked his way in, blasting the ice into manageable chunks. As he neared the railroad bridge, he heard someone yelling at him. He looked up and the bridge tender was shaking his fist out of the window. He shouted, “You old fool… you’d better not come any closer!” A.C. said he just smiled and went on with his work… carefully avoiding the bridge structure. Olliney the dynamiter has been gone now for years. He was one of Hartford’s real characters… a careful man, who knew he was working in life-and-death situations every job he took. And when that Essex coupe came down the street, cars got out of his way and women shooed little kids inside until he had gone past. Now that’s respect! (Reprint from the October 27, 2005 issue of the Record.)

Coloma Public Library News Closure By government mandate the Coloma Public Library is closed until further notice. However, patrons can access numerous resources 24 hours a day, 7 days a week online through the Coloma Public Library website at: www.colomapubliclibrary.net. The Library Administration can be contacted by email at readcoloma@gmail.com or by messaging through Facebook. OverDrive’s Libby App Patrons can use their Coloma Public Library card to check out eBooks, audiobooks, and music that can be downloaded to their devices. They need to click the link on the right-hand side of the home page to get started. Newspaper Archives Want to do some local research while staying at home? The library has an extensive archive of local newspaper editions including the Coloma Courier, Watervliet Record, and Tri-City Record. The link is found on the right-hand side of the Library’s home page. A library card is not needed to access this wealth of historical knowledge. Michigan eLibrary Michigan’s eLibrary or MEL has a database for everyone. The link can be found on the library’s home page or go to https://mel.org/welcome. eLibrary Kids Parents turned homeschoolers can find help with databases such as School Center from Learning Express Library. With School Center, kids in grades 4 through 12 can improve math, writing, grammar, and social studies skills. Go to MEL’s main page and select the option for “Kids”. eLibrary Adults Find scholarly information on health at Alt HealthWatch or Consumer Health Complete databases. Interested patrons can browse information on complementary, holistic, and integrated approaches to healthcare and wellness.

Is this a photo of you as a child? Do you remember having such an outfit for cold weather? Notice the wool leggings, hat and sweater. 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 facebook.com/ NorthBerrienHistory/. The museum is closed until further notice. From the photo collection at the North Berrien Historical Museum 300 Coloma Avenue, Coloma


100 years ago – 1920 Citizens’ deaths mourned. The angel of death claimed Mrs. Helen Hosbein after sixteen weeks of suffering. Residents are in deep gloom with the passing of prominent and esteemed farmer, Charles Stonecliffe. Death came to Mrs. Blanche Camp, daughter of Mrs. Frank Smith, after great suffering of the disease tuberculosis. Governor Sleeper calls upon all communities to adopt Eastern Standard Time. It is causing confusion to have Benton Harbor and St. Joseph work under Eastern Time while the remainder of the county does not. 60 years ago – 1960 “Old Doc,” a comedy in three acts, will be presented by the junior class in the high school auditorium. Cast members include: Jim Martin, Dave DeFields, Jerry Jollay, Elaine Emhoff, Annette Gaipa and Beverly Lawson. Twenty girls vie for Miss Coloma. Contestants include: Beverly Danneffel, Ruth and Sally Baes, Gyl Johnson and Kay LaVanway. The 1960 Census of Population and Housing gets underway. Census takers will begin their rounds, visiting every dwelling unit. A few dying embers are all that remain of the home of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Frazee on DeField Road. 30 years ago – 1990 An investigation into illegal drug trafficking ended with arrest warrants being issued. This countywide drug dragnet included a handful of people in Coloma. The Narcotics Unit asks for continued support from the residents. The class of 1965 will hold their 25th reunion at the Ramada Inn. Friday night will begin with an “Icebreaker.” Saturday evening will be a banquet and dance, with Sunday morning featuring a brunch. Miss Laura Allen has been selected as fourth in Michigan’s tenth annual Homecoming Queen selection. Free umbrella with purchase of table and 4 chairs… Nancy’s Furniture Middle school students work in computer labs. Atari 800 computers and Atari 810 disk drives have been purchased. Word processing is taught. Submitted by volunteer Sandi Musick Munchow at Coloma Public Library from the Coloma Courier newspapers donated by the Tri-City Record. Hours: Closed until further notice. Phone: 269-468-3431


100 years ago – 1920 Hartford was apparently at the rim of the tornado which swept over Illinois and Michigan last Sunday noon, claiming nearly two hundred lives and causing a property loss estimated at $2,000,000. Local damage was continued principally to the dislodging of small farm buildings, the wrecking of windmills and the leveling of orchard and forest trees. The wind reached a velocity seldom equaled in this section, while at the height of the storm the rain fell in torrents. E.J. Robinson is the latest recruit to Hartford’s army of muskrat hunters. At his home on South Center Street, Friday, he was removing from his garden a barrel in which cabbage had been buried when he found one of the animals that had taken up its abode in the barrel. He dispatched the creature and sold its pelt for $3.75. 75 years ago – 1945 Hartford firemen were called to the Martin Seel farm, four miles south of the village, when a grass fire got out of control. Brush which Seel was burning in a cleared area ignited a small patch of dry grass. Fanned by a strong west wind, the flames raced 100 yards through an apple orchard before the fire was checked. Hartford Art Study class met Monday afternoon at the home of Mrs. Marie C. Finley. Mrs. Nellie Smith presented the lesson on Mary Nimmo Moran, noted woman etcher and wife of Thomas Moran, known for his paintings of western scenery. The art class recently viewed an exhibit of drawings and paintings by Mrs. Nellie B. Warren, Hartford chiropractor who paints as a hobby. 50 years ago – 1970 Dr. Frederick Margolis, Kalamazoo, will speak on Sex Education at the Hartford High School cafeteria. The meeting for adults is sponsored by the Hartford Mothers Club. A film, “Parent to Child” from Wayne State University, will be shown. The Van Buren youth camp will this summer offer its widest variety of programs in more than 20 years. Activities offered will include riflery, archery, swimming, canoeing, sports, nature lore, creative crafts, handicrafts, camping and Indian lore. Other activities not as classes are fishing, folk dancing, cookouts, hiking, boating, folk singing, river trips, overnight camping and individual sport challenges. In addition to the general camping program, the youth camp will offer two leadership workshops. Submitted by Librarian Stephanie Daniels at Hartford Public Library from microfilm copies of the Hartford Day Spring. Hours: Closed until further notice Phone: 269-621-3408


90 years ago – 1930 At a recent meeting of the Watervliet Board of Education, Superintendent R. Shelters was formally tendered a two-year contract to remain at Watervliet. Mr. Shelters is now completing his third year as head of the Watervliet schools. A horse owned by L.J. Palmer of East Watervliet and driven by his son, Gilbert Palmer, staged a lively run-away on Main Street Wednesday morning. The wagon to which the horse was hitched carried a small load of coal and a breeching strap came unfastened, allowing the vehicle to roll against the animal’s legs. He broke into a wild run. When the hill across the river bridge was reached, the horse was stopped. 60 years ago – 1960 Area Paw Paw Lake residents were keeping a watchful eye on the lake level last week. The lake rose fast with the warm weather and melting snow and overflowed its banks in several places creating a severe hardship for township residents at a number of the lake landings. Last Friday, April 1, the lake reached its peak — 32 inches above normal, flooding basements and yards and even roads. The city commission named Jim Camfferman as Watervliet’s second police officer. His appointment fills the vacancy left by Nick Bruecks, who resigned last December to enter the Sheriff’s Department. 30 years ago – 1990 “Steamboat’s a-comin’!!” as part of the Greater Watervliet Independence Day Celebration. From June 22 through July 2, Paw Paw Lake will move back in time to the days when Chicago residents looking for respite from the heat of the city traveled to St. Joseph by train or boat and then rode the interurban through Coloma to the Ellinee where they boarded the steamboat Margaret. The fun will be rekindled with the launching of “The Spirit of Lansing” on June 21, at the Paw Paw Lake Marina. Watervliet High School congratulates LaTonya Mcintosh, the 9th-grade “Student of the Week.” LaTonya resides in Watervliet with Mr. and Mrs. Howard Litaker and their son, Howard. LaTonya is an excellent volleyball player and is on Coach Steve Miller’s volleyball team for the second year. Paul D. Epple, son of Doug and Sue Epple, is a recent graduate of Western Michigan University. Paul graduated with a science degree in food merchandising and a minor in general business. He is currently employed in Fort Myers, Florida, in a large grocery chain, Albertson’s, as assistant produce manager. Submitted by Sally Q. Gonzalez from files at Watervliet District Library of the Watervliet Record newspapers donated by the Tri-City Record. Hours: Closed until further notice. Phone: 269-463-6382


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