04-20-2017 Tri-City Area History Page

Pierce’s garage in Watervliet

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

Who are we?

 Have you ever wondered why sometimes we do the things we do?  And we may even think about it… well, why did I do that?  Either Mark Twain, or someone around that time, said, “We are all descended from ancestors!”  Well, really!  It was supposed to be funny, but there is a germ of truth in it.  There are two things that affect who we are and how we act: the gene pool from which we come and the circumstances that mold us.

At the start there is really little we can do about either one. An old comic page character named Popeye said, “I yam what I yam, and that’s all I yam… I’m Popeye, the Sailor Man!”  And that makes me think of the story about a woman who had a problem child.  She took him to see a prominent psychologist, and after that learned man had examined the little kid, he said, “Madam, there is nothing wrong with your child except heredity and environment!” Well, really!   (Again!)

So we cannot help from whence we came… for good or bad!  But I’ve known a lot of kids over the years… and I have seen some who rose above horrible family circumstances to become successful. A friend of mine (teacher) had in his middle school homeroom some kids from a local orphanage.  One was a red-headed boy who seemed so very lonely. So at Christmas, when they drew names for a present exchange, he arranged to get that kid’s name, and bought him a harmonica.

Thereafter the kid practiced until he became good at it.  So my friend conspired with the band director to get him a horn.  Soon the red-headed wonder was in the school band.  Fast forward several years, and my friend was watching a Big Ten football game on TV. Halftime show, and out came the university band.   And guess who was leading it? Yup, it was that very same red-headed kid!  So it can be done!

On the other hand, sometimes we are shaped by events so far in the past we don’t even remember them.  I can recall from my days in college… it was either in a Psychology or a Social Studies class.  There was the case of a man who had a baffling fear. He could stand to have no one behind him.  In a room full of people, he always found a place with his back to the wall.  It bothered him no end… a baseless fear he could not shake. Then he happened to visit the city of his early years.  As he walked through the old neighborhood, he came to a fruit stand run by an old Italian man.  They were overjoyed to see each other.  And the old man, while reminiscing, said, “Do you remember when you were a little kid and you used to come by here on your way to school.  And you would slip an apple or an orange off my stand. Well, one day I waited for you, and when you stole a piece of fruit, I rushed out and grabbed you from behind.  You were so scared, you dropped whatever you had… and you never came by my place again!”

Well, there you are!  And in my own case, I have found the reason for one of my fears.  I always worry about when someone close leaves to go on a trip. Worry, worry!  One time in recent years, my sister and I were talking (God rest her soul!)  She said when I was small, and our mom and dad were going somewhere, Mom would say, “Now you be good for the babysitter… otherwise while we’re gone something bad might happen, and we would never get to come back!”  It was designed to keep us virtuous, and her motives were good.  But she never knew how that affected me! And I never knew what it was that bothered me until my sister told me the story!

So… what can we do about it?  Well, I give this advice with caution… and if you blame me, I’ll deny the whole thing! Find an older relative.  Someone you can trust to have a close view of your