05-04-2017 Tri-City Area History

Photo of the old Watervliet Hospital (Syms Mansion)

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

Reading the comics

No matter where we happen to be we try to have a daily paper coming. Somehow it just seems right and proper to read the news every day. And thus it has been since I was a little kid. But I must confess my sole interest through all those early years was following the adventures of my favorite characters in the comics. When I compare then to now, I realize that daily newspapers have fallen upon hard times. People tell me they enjoy our Tri-City Record on a weekly basis as much or more than a daily paper… in fact, they get more local news, local sports, etc. that way. Well, Hooray! Karl, Annie, Amy, and all the rest… we are all filling a very real need!

But I was talking about daily papers… and I had to confess my long relationship with them was because of the comics! I have been addicted to the “funny papers,” ever since I was a little kid.

And that is getting to be so long ago… I now have a real perspective on the whole business.

Over the years I have noticed an ominous trend. The comics have changed. They used to chronicle hair raising adventures of people I cared about. I can hardly remember some of the famous strips… “The Gumps,”  “Toonerville Trolley,” “Tillie the Toiler,” etc. Look them up… they were famous in their day. One of the few surviving right down to present time is “The Bumsteads.” Originally that was about Blondie and two suitors. They both wanted to marry her… after agonizing years, she chose Dagwood… and to this day their family adventures continue to amuse us.

Dagwood’s famous appetite has given rise to a cultural phenomenon… any huge sandwich containing many ingredients is called “a Dagwood.” A friend of my Mom’s used to call them “Dogwoods!”

But most modern comic strips try for humor of some kind. Usually wry humor… the perils of growing up… family problems… dating… they are trying to be current. Back in the day, some of my favorites were pure adventure.

For instance: “Smiling Jack,” famous flying adventures; “The Lone Ranger;” “Dick Tracy,” crime solving with some most horrible adversaries; “Buck Rogers in the 25th Century,” space ships and adventures (this hero even had a love interest… Wilma Deering); “Little Orphan Annie;” “Tarzan of the Apes;” “Terry and the Pirates;” and “Steve Canyon.”

These last two were the brain children of a gifted cartoonist, Milton Caniff. “Terry…” started way back in the 1930s and morphed into a beautifully drawn strip full of strong heroes, flying, and exotic backgrounds in Asia. From those adventures even comes a stereotype, “Dragon Lady!” She was a femme fatale in the strip, gorgeous, and full of evil. This name is applied even today to one of the feminine persuasion who dominates men, and lacks humane impulses. Almost forgot one, “Brenda Starr, girl reporter.” My Chief Accountant reminded me of this heroine… being one of her childhood favorites.

These comic strips were part of a three pronged commercial thrust at little kids. The other two were radio serials and “Big Little Books.” When we were kids, my folks would let my sister Wilma and me take a tray with our dinner into the living room. We would sit on the floor and eat while we “watched” the radio and listened to our favorite adventure stories.

Most of those heroes and heroines from the comics became radio characters. And there were others… “The Shadow,” “I Love a Mystery,” “The Hermit’s Cave,” and even some late in the annals of radio programs. These included “Richard Diamond, Private Eye,” “The Inner Sanctum,” “The Shadow.” One translated right onto TV. That was the incomparable “Gunsmoke.”

It started out as a half hour radio show starring William Conrad. Then someone got the idea to put it on television. The producers were looking for a well known cowboy actor, and they immediately thought of John Wayne. When they approached Wayne, he was flattered. He told them he was so tied up with film commitments, he couldn’t do it. But he had a friend who would be just right for the job… James Arness. That guy got the job, became Matt Dillon, and the rest is history.

I mentioned “Big Little Books.” These were comic books about 4 inches square and perhaps two inches thick.  And they continued the adventures of all of our comic strip characters. As a little kid one of my favorites was “Gasoline Alley.” This was about a kid with a shock of blonde hair, and he was always getting in trouble. My favorite story about him was the time he built a boat… about the size of a row boat; it had a sail and everything.

He launched it, and wanted to paint the name on the hull… the “I Swim!” But he was in the boat leaning over, and painted it upside down… so it became the “Wimsi.” After launching, he got out into the river and floated away, clear down to the ocean and out to sea. He was lost until finally picked up by a passing freighter and brought back to land. This was pretty dramatic stuff for a little kid.

Such adventures could hold an imaginative child enthralled… no wonder we anxiously awaited our Dad bringing home the Sunday paper, so we could spread it out on the floor. Then we were away to lands of adventure. Not much like the comic strips of today that we read in our storybook towns along the Paw Paw River!

Watervliet District Library News

LEGO donations needed – any and all LEGOS you don’t use anymore. Bring them to the library.

Toddler Time – Tuesdays, 10:30 a.m., April & May. Thirty minutes of music, stories and activities 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.

Michigan Notable Book Tour will grace the library on June 26, 2017 with Dustin M. Hoffman, author of “One-Hundred-Knuckled Fist: Stories” winner of the 2015 Prairie Schooner Book Prize. He brings to life the narratives of Midwestern blue-collar workers. Readers are invited to peek behind the curtain of the invisible, but ever-present, “working stiff” as Hoffman reveals their lives in full complexity, offering their gruff voices without censorship. Yet many will identify with the characters at the heart of these stories that work with their hands and strive to escape invisibility while never losing sight of their own human value.

Coloma Library News

Read with Spirit

The library will be offering a program for children to read to Spirit, a certified therapy dog, on Wednesdays from 6:30 – 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.

Book Club

The Coloma Library Book Club is meeting on Thursday, May 11 at 5:30 p.m. The title to read before the discussion is “The Bone Clocks” by David Mitchell.  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.

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.


100 years ago – 1917

In the death of Mrs. Susan Willis, Coloma lost one of the real motherly souls. Many friends are grieved in her passing to a better land.

There will be no Coloma High School alumni banquet this year. The present conditions would necessitate raising the price to $1.00 per plate. Next year, hopefully, conditions will reach a normal state and these pleasant reunions will resume.

Horseshoe Fabric Tires – Sold by Coloma Hardware Co.

A resolution was passed to make every living soldier (in Coloma) of the Civil War a member of the Garfield Post No. 30.

60 years ago – 1957

Nurse Miss L. Marie Furman held a meeting with graduate nurses. The purpose was to develop procedures in case of a natural disaster; working with the Civil Defense.

Mrs. Homer Umphrey, president of the Band Boosters, urges all band members to attend the last meeting of the school year.

The spring vocal concert will be May 15, announced director Mrs. Marjorie Krell. Girls’ Trio, Junior Girls’ Ensemble, Senior Sextette and Girls’ Glee Club will perform.

30 years ago – 1987

The Coloma Lions Club float took second-place honors in the Harvest Award division of the Blossomtime Parade. The theme was “Michigan Music in Nature” and carried Miss Coloma, Sara Oderkirk and court.

The High School Drama Department will present the all-school play “Pure as the Driven Snow” in-the-round.  The play is directed by Ralph Bower with student director Jana Byars.

All grade level parent support groups at Coloma Community Schools are active. Interested volunteers should contact the school in which they wish to participate.

Ethel’s E&N Sales – “Best Mom” $10 Gift Certificate available.

Deer Forest – Best Mom Gift – Free pass for Mom and guests

St. Jude Bike-A-Thon Chairman Mary O’Leary invites residents to join the “Wheels for Life” Bike-A-Thon.


100 years ago – 1917

That the Reliance Picture factory company of Chicago-the concern which proposed to move its factory from Chicago to Hartford last fall when the village bond issue of $10,000 for industrial purposes was voted- will locate its factory here immediately was the announcement made by J.A. Scheyer, president of the company, on a hurried visit to Hartford last Thursday.

On his visit here Thursday, Mr. Scheyer announced that his company had leased the building of the Hartford Manufacturing company in the southwest part of the village, and would immediately begin shipping of the necessary equipment from Chicago to open a branch factory here. They propose to use the leased building for a time and if their test proves satisfactory they will ask the village to use the $10,000 voted last fall for the erection of a suitable building.

75 years ago – 1942

The Philharmonic Club will honor the past presidents at their meeting to be held at the home of Mrs. Lola Dewey, May 13. Mrs. Ruth Dowd will give the history of the club. Group singing is to be directed by Mrs. Una Robinson.

The Hartford Woman’s Club held its annual “May Breakfast” on Tuesday, May 5, at the Park Hotel. About 27 members were present. Mrs. Myrtle Hammond, in an impressive speech, named Mrs. Elinora Chamberlin as “The Mother of the Hartford Woman’s Club” and presented to her on behalf of the club, a bouquet of red roses and baby’s breath. Mrs. Chamberlin is a charter member of this club and one of its founders, having served as its second president, and is the only member active during the 47 years of its existence.

The Southwest Hartford Thursday Club met April 30 at the home of Mrs. Beverly Friday. Each member, in answer to roll call told “a new trick in cooking vegetables.” Each member had been given a name of a flower and told something about its growth.

Bob Lewis and his orchestra will furnish the music for the annual junior-senior dinner dance at the Hartford High School Friday evening. Preparations for the prom are under the direction of the junior class with president Jim Tollar in charge.

50 years ago – 1967

Where only a couple of weeks ago firemen burned down a condemned house in a training exercise, a sign announces the site for the Hartford office of the First Savings and Loan Association of Dowagiac. It is located at N. Center Street and Michigan Avenue. Framework for the structure went up this week. Of colonial style, the building will have a red brick exterior. It will have a drive-up window and parking area in the rear. A full basement will include space for a community room.

Work is well along on the new Cherry Growers, Inc. fruit processing plant on Red Arrow highway just east of Hartford. Wells have been drilled and construction of a large steel building is progressing rapidly. The new plant is scheduled to be operational by July. With the new facility, Cherry Growers, Inc. expects its total processed tonnage to increase by at least 40 per cent for 1966-7. Last year the firm processed 51 million pounds of fruit and expects to pack 81 million pounds in 1967-8. Cherry Growers markets canned and frozen cherries, apples and other Michigan fruit and glass packed apple products under the brand names of Redi-Main, Montmorency, Grand Traverse and Dutch Boy.


90 years ago – 1927

Marie Molter, a junior in the Watervliet School, attended the state typing contest held in Kalamazoo on May 13, 1927. Miss Molter received second place in the state honors. Her speed was 48 words a minute. This was exceptionally good as the state championship for last year won with a speed of 55 words a minute.

Fire Chief Edward P. Young, Watervliet, occupies the most popular official position in the city, as head of the department that always stands ready to render the citizen help when he needs it and needs it badly. He has been in charge of the local fire company for five years and a large measure of credit is due him for perfecting a fire fighting organization that for efficient work ranks with the paid departments of many cities. Chief Young has the faculty of maintaining a spirit of harmony in the organization.

60 years ago – 1957

Sharon Lee Rogers was initiated into Kappa Delta Pi, a national society in education. This organization seeks to encourage high professional, intellectual and personal standards. Membership is by invitation extended by the chapter to juniors and seniors ranking above the upper quintile point in scholarship, who have manifest leadership attributes and a continuing interest in education. Sharon, a senior at Western Michigan University, is studying in public school music. She plays in the college orchestra and is a member of Sigma Alpha Iota, an honorary music society.

On May 10, 1957, Judy Loshbough, Miss Watervliet, along with 28 other beautiful Blossom Queens will receive a key to the city.

Mr. and Mrs. Clark Perry are the proud parents of their baby boy, Clark Cornelius, born May 2, 1957 and weighed 8 pounds, 9 ounces.

30 years ago – 1987

Rhonda D. Allen of Watervliet, a senior at Central Michigan University, was inducted into Sigma Iota Epsilon scholastic business administration and management honorary May 2, 1987. The honorary recognizes outstanding business administration students at Central Michigan University. The national organization has 44 chapters.

A sixteen-year-old sophomore at WHS who enjoys school for the sake of learning is this week’s “Student of the Week.” Philip Gearhart enjoys school for its opportunities for extracurricular participation. His record of accomplishment shows he is a hard worker and a good scholar. He particularly enjoys geometry.


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