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04-23-2020 Tri-City Area History Page

Are you the young lady holding an adorable kitten in this photo? Do you remember when young ladies always wore dresses? Have you ever held fresh picked cotton? If you have any information on this photo or a story to share, please contact North Berrien Historical Museum at 269-468-3330,, or on 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

The silent silver screen

Hartford has always had a movie theater… at least as long as I can remember. When I was but a wee lad, it was named “The State.” And the first film I can remember seeing there was a Tom Mix western. Silent movies were before my time, but I can remember on that occasion my folks talking about how great it was to have the people up there on the screen really talking. I must have been about 5 years old. The State Theater was owned by an attractive young couple named Woodward. A handsome guy, he had dark hair and a moustache. She was a blonde lady with curled hair and skillfully applied makeup. At night when lights circled around the marquee advertising the film then playing, she sat in the ticket office waiting for customers. She looked like a doll in a glass case. Then tragedy struck. She died in childbirth, and her husband was devastated. I can remember seeing him once later out at Sister Lakes when a bunch of us went swimming. He still had a haunted look. And he sold the theater to a couple from, I believe, Decatur… Mr. and Mrs. Pennell. When their marriage split up, Lil Pennell must have gotten the Hartford film palace in the settlement because thereafter she ran it… and they renamed it “The Heart Theater”. Thus it is to this day. I first got to go to the theater when I was 6 or 7, and a bunch of us walked downtown to attend a special matinee. I don’t remember what the occasion was, but those kids wanted to line up in the front row and make noise. This hugely irritated me, because I had to sit with my head tipped way back and I couldn’t hear the dialogue. The kids were all trying to be cool. So I moved to the back amidst a quiet group who really wanted to listen to what was being said. I was fascinated by films then, and I have been ever since. Small towns were considered safe back in the day, so our folks let Wilma and me go to the show together on a night when we did not have to get up early the next day. I could get in for kids’ rate (10 cents), but it cost my sister a quarter. I’m afraid I used to tease her about that. And I kept the kid’s rate going past the time I should have paid more… kind of slouching up to the box office so I would look a little shorter. Irene Yeckley, an older Hartford girl and in later years a good friend (God rest her soul), was now the ticket taker. One evening I worked my way up the line to get a ticket… trying my best to look like a little kid. Irene smiled at me and said, “Bud, don’t you think you are old enough that you ought to pay for an adult ticket?” I sighed, “Yeah, I guess you’re right.” So I stood up straighter and forked over the rest of the money. And thereafter it cost me a quarter like everyone else. In 1939, Wilma and I went to see one film two nights in a row. She was gaga over a handsome young actor named Errol Flynn. One of my consuming passions was flying… and especially old airplanes. So when “The Dawn Patrol”, about World War I, came out we were first in line. It was a natural! A film would show for 2-3 days in a row, so the first night we saw it and were enthralled… then we had a great idea. We would go again the second night! And we were willing to part with the money! Next night we stepped up to the box office, Irene Yeckley looked at us in wonder… “You kids were here just last night!” We both nodded; then Wilma said, “We liked it so well; we want to see it again.” There was a man from the film distribution company talking to her in there. Irene turned to him and said, “See? Kids like your product so much they come again and again!” And turning to us she said, “I’m not going to make you pay a second night… just go on in!” I might add… I still love that film! One summer night we walked downtown to see a real thriller… “The Octopus!” And it lived up to expectations! This horrible creature slithered out of the sewers to grab people… when we walked home, we stayed out in the middle of the street and didn’t waste any time because moon shadows of the trees were moving on the sidewalk, and wind sighing. Something might be lurking behind the hedges, just waiting to get us! When Boris Karloff made “The Mummy”, it got a lot of press exposure. I didn’t get to see it… in fact, I didn’t even want to. I was still recovering from seeing pictures of him in “Frankenstein”! But some of my classmates did… one with disastrous results. One guy said he got out of the first show at 9 p.m. and was so scared he waited to see if anyone would be walking home in his direction. No one! So he hitched up his belt… and ran all the way home, part of it past the cemetery! Another guy in my class was walking home from that movie. Down the street he saw one of the girls on her way home too. So he thought it would be a hoot to scare her. He hid behind a hedge, and when she came past he jumped out and clutched her. Did she faint? No, she doubled up her fists and beat the stuffing out of him. He allowed in retrospect as to how he would never try that again! Hartford’s silver screen is silent now. Back then how lucky we were to live in a small town with a movie palace, and the feeling that streets were safe for kids… even at night. Next time: “Double Features & Saturday Afternoon Serials!” (Reprint from the April 23, 2009 issue of the Tri-City Record.)

Coloma Public Library News Closure

The Coloma Public Library will remain closed until further notice. Patrons can access numerous resources 24 hours a day, seven days a week online through the Coloma Public Library’s website at: Contact the Library Administration by email at or by messaging through Facebook. Spring Reading Bingo Check the Library’s home page for a fun, family reading challenge. Share a photo of your family doing any of the bingo activities to the Library’s Facebook page. Participants that complete all nine activities will be entered into a prize drawing. Virtual Storytimes Join the Library online with Miss Alicia for Virtual Storytimes! Links to new storytimes will be posted on their Facebook page and to the Coloma Public Library YouTube Channel. Want to learn your family history? Learn your family history with Ancestry.Com. Normally, this resource is only available from inside the library, but now patrons can access the resource through the comfort of their homes. Free access will be available until the end of May. From the Library’s website, select “Catalog”. Ancestry.Com is the second link under the “Electronic Resources” section. Audible Stories Right now, kids everywhere can instantly stream an incredible collection of stories, including titles across six different languages, that will help them continue dreaming, and learning. All stories are free to stream on a person’s own desktop, laptop, phone or tablet. Explore the collection, select a title and start listening. The link can be found through the Library’s catalog under “Electronic Resources”. TeenBookCloud For a great selection of teen reading materials, users can check out this resource found through the Library’s online catalog.


100 years ago – 1920 The bridge over Paw Paw River, near the interurban tracks has been condemned. A new bridge will be constructed as soon as the necessary steps can be taken. The Bunker Opera House was filled to capacity for the well-staged comedy, “Bashful Mr. Bobbs”. The senior class of Coloma High School presented the play. The total receipts of the evening were $113. Mr. and Mrs. Rube Munjoy entertained friends with an evening of Pedro. Harry DeFields and Mrs. Lincoln Becht held high honors. 60 years ago – 1960 The Coloma high school band will present their spring concert. A freewill offering will be taken. The concert will be dedicated to the memory of Dominick Howard. The majorettes will be featured in a routine by Miss Gyl Johnson, captain of the twirlers. Easter tray favors, made by Girl Scouts, were presented to Watervliet Community Hospital. Mrs. James Clear and Carole Hartman are scout leaders of the Washington School area. Reinhardt’s IGA hosted the 13th annual Easter egg hunt. Over 400 children attended. Big prize winners are Karen Daisy, Jerry Ditchie and Peter Fohs. 30 years ago – 1990 More than 300 persons attended the Vietnam War Memorial dedication. The young heroes honored are: Michael Farrell, Doyle Harris, Ricky Herndon, Thomas Pruiett Jr., Don Wood, Philip Johnson, Allan Persicke and James Townley. Miss Coloma Tiffany Bailey will act as hostess when the Blossomtime Queens tour the City. She will receive a Key to the City from the Mayor. Electrolux Sales & Repair – Phil Gargano – 468-4173 Smile Assurance – Ronald A. Karpanty DDS – Cosmetic Dentistry, Whiten Teeth, Porcelain Bonded Veneers – Affordable Air Force Staff Sgt. Michael G. Marsh has arrived for duty in West Germany. Marsh is a safety technician with the 36th Tactical Fighter Wing. 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 That Hartford will become the permanent home of a new foundry that bids fair to develop into an extensive enterprise is stated conclusively by the committee appointed at a meeting of the Hartford Commercial Club to investigate the project. A site has been tentatively selected west of the Pere Marquette depot. The committee is securing estimates of the cost of improving the property and erecting the necessary foundry building. A real estate deal that may effect radical changes in Hartford business circles was partially consummated the last of the week when the opera house block was sold by the owners to Orrin W. Kaye and his father, H.G. Kaye. 75 years ago – 1945 Lt. Harold Jack Leach, co-pilot on a Liberator bomber, has been awarded the air medal and two oak leaf clusters while serving at a 7th air force heavy bomber base in the Palaus. The clusters represent additional awards of the air medal. The awards were made for meritorious achievement, courage and skill, during the 7th AFF bombing attacks on Japanese shipping and military installations in the Palaus and Philippines. Leach is the son of Mr. and Mrs. Clare O. Leach and a graduate of Hartford High School in 1939. The annual spring concert of the Hartford High School band and glee club will be presented. The vocal and instrumental concerts are being combined this year for the first time. The band is under the direction of Van Kniebes. Miss Loraine Hole directs the boys’ and girls’ glee clubs and mixed chorus. 50 years ago – 1970 Last weekend marked the end of the use of the Hartford dump, and residents and the city took full advantage of the opportunity. Not only did city trucks make frequent trips there with refuse collected in a clean-up campaign, but scores of cars and trucks made a steady stream of traffic to the dump Saturday and Sunday. By the trunk full and the truck-full, the rubbish came. The dump is being closed by order of the State Health department. It will be bulldozed, treated for rats and filled with sand. The Van Buren County Historical Society will meet Sunday, April 26 at the Merriman Library. John Pahl of the Allegan Historical Society will present an explanation of museum operations. Space has been allocated in the library by the library board to be used by the historical society as a museum. 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 Watervliet High School students received four awards out of seven events at the State Music contest held in Ann Arbor. Awarded were: Boys Glee Club – 2nd place, Mixed Chorus – 3rd place, Woodwind Ensemble – 1st place, Brass Ensemble – 3rd place. Watervliet wins opening ball game of the 1930 season. A fair sized crowd at Hays Field watched as the newly organized team sponsored by the Metropolitan Club, defeated Bangor by a score of 11 – 7. The service station at the corner of Main and St. Joseph streets, which is operated by Dwiggins and King, is now retailing the Shell gas and motor oils. 60 years ago – 1960 In May 1960, 117 members of the Twin City U.S. Naval Reserve Surface Division selected Miss Joyce Lamp, popular WHS senior, as their Blossom Parade Queen. She is a member of the Senior Chorus, Petite Chorale, and is a cheerleader and served as Student Council Representative during her sophomore year. She currently is vice-president of her class and sings in the Congregational Church Choir. Miss Helen Lobdell, local history and art teacher and authoress, will be a guest speaker at the First Methodist Church Mother & Daughter Banquet. After graduating from Fenn College, she came to Watervliet in 1943 and has taught since then. Army Specialist Four – David L. Bailey, Watervliet, participated with other personnel from the 410th Ordinance Company in Exercise Puerto Pine in Puerto Rico. The 18-day exercise included the largest peace-time airlift ever attempted. Specialist Bailey is assigned as a mechanic at Fort Bliss, Texas. 30 years ago – 1990 To be one of the top students academically in a high school graduating class is a special honor. On May 10, 1990, WHS announced that Gregory Grear and Clinton VanLinder are co-valedictorians, both with a GPA OF 4.0. Melissa Burg selected as salutatorian with a GPA of 3.9. The 13th Annual Michigan Council of Teachers of Mathematics (MCTM) Middle School/Junior High School Mathematics Competition was held at Western Michigan University. The top 25 students in 6th, 7th and 8th grades are invited to compete at the state level. Among those, from Watervliet, is Jason Kiernan representing North Elementary and Don Milham representing Watervliet Junior High. WHS was proud to announce Peg Powers as its guest speaker for the National Honor Society Induction Ceremony on May 10, 1990. She is extremely active in the preservation of the endangered Harp seals and is a dedicated animal rights activist. 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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