04-09-2020 Tri-City Area History Page

Ready for a parade? Are you this young lady? Were you ever in a parade as a child? What was your parade experience? Can anyone identify the car in the background? 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

The Paw Paw River Journal

More dynamite My column on Hartford dynamiter A.C. Olliney provoked some comment. Must be that quite a few people around here remembered him and his Essex coupe with the “Danger Explosives” sign on each side. From down St. Joe way came a memory from Ray Sreboth. Not only was he an ex-Hartfordite, he was an educator of many years and superintendent of schools.

Ray said, “Dear Scribe Davis, just finished reading your column in the Tri-City Record, the subject of which was Mr. Olliney, the dynamite man. Of course it stirred a memory or two. Mr. Olliney made several visits to the farm where we lived. There was a low spot on the property, some distance from the house and north of the very large kitchen garden. Apparently there was some sort of a ‘hard pan’ below the surface, and water would collect in the area over what was tillable soil. From time to time my dad would employ Mr. Olliney. He would arrive in the car you so aptly described in your piece, collect supplies from the trunk and proceed to set off enough explosives to drain the pond. After a few days we could get on the land and work it because of that man’s skill and courage. “That is one memory… here is another. When the work was pretty well caught up on the farm in the summertime, my dad would slip into town for some cool refreshment at The Stag Club, located kitty-corner from Ely Park. “You may or may not know that quite often there was a card game or two in progress in the back room of that establishment. While I do not recall if he was a participant or not, I do know that Mike Salnave may have been in the tavern as well. Mike worked for his dad, Ollie Salnave, in the butcher shop on Main Street and had a reputation as a prankster. “At any rate, one warm summer afternoon, Mike rigged up some large firecrackers which he fastened to the underside of the Essex, parked in front of the meat market. He must have had a collaborator or two in this prank because as Mr. Olliney came down the street on foot, the bundle was detonated; and Mr. Olliney nearly had a heart attack. “After the smoke cleared, everyone had a good laugh, including my dad who had witnessed the event. I suspect that word had been spread around the business district that Mike Salnave had something going that day, so there must have been several witnesses. Perhaps J.S. Elder (Stu) saw it from his vantage point in Clark’s Drug Store. “In my mind’s eye, I can still see that Essex with the trunk that was box-like over the back bumper and not integrated into the total flow of the body structure of the vehicles of today…”

Yes, Ray… A.C. (“Ace”) Olliney will live in the annals of Hartford history forever. And he mentioned the Salnave Meat Market… another well-remembered bit of Hartford. Before our time it was owned by Dunbars. In his marvelous book, “How It Was in Hartford,” Willis Dunbar details that history. Salnave & McCotter bought the place; then after a falling out, Oliver Salnave bought out Ray McCotter. I can remember of a Saturday night everyone in the area came to Hartford. Walking along the south side, I noticed a small crowd had collected in front of the meat market. And I could see that the weekend’s festivities included some consumption of old John Barleycorn, a practice with which Ollie was quite familiar. Someone had bet Ollie that he could not stand on his head. Right there on the sidewalk he proved he could… waving his feet in the air! That shop had an excellent reputation, and my dad used to trade with them regularly. He said one day he was in there and looking at various cuts of meat in the showcase. A lady came in and said to Ollie that she would like a couple of pounds of hamburger. Having already sold what was prepared, Ollie told her he would go out in back and grind some more. Now, their various cutting and slicing machines were all run by an overhead shaft in back, turned by a huge old electric motor. Ollie went out there, took some stew meat and put it in the grinder. They had a little rat terrier they kept to get rid of mice and rats. He lay sleeping under the machine. As Ollie reached for the switch, he stepped on the dog’s tail. The dog protested with a loud “Yipe!” Then the machine started up, grinding, and with a huge “Roaaaar, roaaaar!” My dad said the waiting lady heard that, and the color went right out of her face… turning around she hurried back out of the door… leaving a mystified Ollie and my dad in stitches. And yes, Ray, the Salnaves were just larger than life, and son Mike was a dedicated practical joker. They are all part of our past. And they have contributed some of the brightest golden threads… woven into the tapestry of our lives along the Paw Paw River. (Reprint from the November 24, 2005 issue of the Tri-City Record.)

Hartford Public Library follows Governor’s directive; postpones new library opening The Governor has ordered the public libraries to remain closed until April 13. Hartford Public Library will announce when they will be permitted to open. In the meantime, their WiFi is connected so library users may be able to access the internet. They also offer Hoopla.com and