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05-09-2019 Tri-City Area History Page

The Paw Paw River Journal

The old bicycle shop When I was a kid in Hartford there were a lot of stores that are now history. In fact, much of small-town America now looks like it went through a war and was bombed out of existence. We just lost another landmark… the store building on the corner in front of Harding’s market. I can’t get used to all of those open spaces. Back then if you turned north at Hartford’s only traffic light, on the right side were solid storefronts. Right north of that now defunct corner building was a newspaper office. Long empty except for one corner where Henry Robertson had a little watch repair shop. He was all crippled up and could hardly walk, but people said he did good work. He would hobble into the shop in the morning, hitch himself up onto a stool, and peering through a jeweler’s loupe, he would start taking watches apart. Next door to the north was a little brown building with an overhang in front. The sign above said Sudden Service Tires and Bicycles. That was Toppy Walling’s bike shop. Seems to me he didn’t have a lot of business, but he had some old cronies who used to hang out with him. They would be telling stories, and from time to time you’d hear raucous laughter. He was also addicted to reading dime novels (as they were called) and pulp magazines. Toppy and his wife had several children. His son Dick was a classmate of Marion’s. Dick was a lightning drummer and played in the school band. He also played in various orchestras. The kids called him “Fur Brains” and that name stuck with him through high school. Don’t ask me why. He was at Western Michigan University when my gang was there. That was just before Marion and I got married. We were all veterans attending school on the G.I. Bill, wearing parts of our uniform and trying to skinch along as cheaply as we could. Nobody had much money and we were living in rooming houses around the campus. I can remember seeing Dick one night when we walked downtown in Kalamazoo to find a cheap restaurant. We found one right south of the State Theater. On the north side was Paul Morrison’s jewelry store. Can’t remember the name of the eatery, but I do remember we got a plate of beans and hotdogs for 35 cents. Couldn’t beat a price like that! Dick Walling went through dental school, got married, and moved to California. We heard later that he became dentist to the movie stars! Wow! He’s gone now as is almost all of that gang. One of Toppy Walling’s older daughters had children in the Watervliet school system when I got there. We remained good friends with one of the girls even after she married and they moved out west. Toppy Walling was a Hartford fixture for years and years. He had earlier some sort of illness that left him with eye problems. I can remember he always wore dark glasses. He knew bicycles inside and out. My dad bought our first bicycle there. I guess my folks’ thinking was all right… they got one bicycle for my sister and me to share. It was a girl’s model and old-fashioned looking to boot. I hated it but did not have the heart to tell my folks that. They must’ve figured it out though, because later they bought one just for me. That bicycle almost came to a tragic end. We went on a family vacation out west to visit my mom’s relatives. They lived in Idaho which was a long ways away to me. My dad got his brother, Uncle Everett, to come and stay at the greenhouses while we were gone. He had been a florist, so he could take care of any business that came along. We were having a marvelous vacation, visiting various sites where scientists were digging up and reconstructing old Indian villages. Midway through our visit with my aunt and uncle we got a distressing phone call. Uncle Everett had been delivering a floral piece out west of Hartford. He was on my bicycle, and it was getting dark. As he rode along the edge of the highway right by the Pine Creek curve, a lady in a car came along… didn’t see him and knocked him right into the ditch. It broke his leg and ruined my bicycle! We started for home immediately. There was Uncle Everett propped up in a hospital bed in our living room. His broken leg was in traction, and he was so happy to see us he was in tears. My folks got him transferred to a hospital, and life started returning to normal. But my poor bicycle was a wreck! My dad hauled it down to Toppy Walling’s bike shop. That purveyor of all things velocipede looked it all over and pronounced it salvageable! I was overjoyed and could hardly wait to be back on my wheels again. The lady’s insurance company had promised to pay for its repair and also for all of Uncle Everett’s expenses. Came the day I got it back… it was beautiful! Chrome fenders, steer horn handlebars, new seat, and painted a bright red. Toppy had really gone all out (more profit for him). Uncle Everett came out of it with no limp, and no further problems and so back to normal for our everyday existence. And really, life was simpler back then when Hartford was a bustling village. Merchants like Toppy Walling and his Sudden Service Bicycle Shop were just some of the Golden Threads woven into the Great Tapestry of Life in our storybook towns along the Paw Paw River.

Hi-Way Market at Ellinee Village Inn and mini golf 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 From the photo collection at the North Berrien Historical Museum 300 Coloma Ave., Coloma

Coloma Public Library News Book Club The Coloma Public Library Book Club is meeting on Thursday, May 16 at 5:30 p.m. The title to read before the discussion is “An American Marriage” by Tayari Jones. Story Hour Coloma Public Library Story Hour is Wednesdays at 10:30 a.m. Story Hour is a weekly program designed for toddlers and preschool-aged children. Sign-ups are not required and the program is free. Homework help Coloma Public Library provides kids with free online access to Learning Express Library. Learning Express can help students with math and English language arts. These resources can be accessed from home or the Library computers. DIY car repair The Library provides free access to AutoMate, an online service with repair information including diagrams, step-by-step instructions, service alerts, and recalls. Learn your history Use Ancestry Library Edition database within the Library to access census data, birth, marriage, death, and military records for free.

Watervliet District Library News Teen Table Projects: May Stop-Motion Station – Teens can use the library’s laptop or their phone. In Stitches Knitting Group Fri., May 10, 2:30 – 4 p.m. Limited supplies are available for beginners. Make-It-Monday May 13, 4 – 5 p.m. Crafts and games for K-6th graders and families. This month: Tornado in a Bottle; sign-up required. Sensory Bin Blast Tues., May 14, 10:30-11:30 a.m. Activity for 0 – 5 year olds and their families. Genealogy Basics Thur. May 16, 6:30 – 8 p.m. Discover more tools to your past with local history & genealogy enthusiast Carole Kiernan. Third Monday Book Club May 20 – 7 – 8 PM The Air You Breathe by Frances de Pontes Peebles. Yoga Mon. 9–10 a.m.; Chair Yoga – Wed. 6–6:30 p.m.; Wed. 7–8 p.m.; Fri. 10:30–11:30 a.m.


100 years ago – 1919 Coloma senior class has but one graduate for 1919. Miss Anna Mong will enjoy all the pleasing features of the commencement week including the baccalaureate address, to be held at the Methodist church. The program, “A College Cinderella” will be given by the senior class, assisted by the juniors. Commencement will be held at Bunker’s opera house. Mrs. Julia Lavanway and Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Brower entertained a host of relatives and friends in honor of their grandson and nephews, Carl and Neal Lavanway. Both have been serving on the U.S.S. Hancock. 60 years ago – 1959 Joseph Scheuer was critically injured in a head on collision near Coloma Motor Sales on US-12. All occupants of the second vehicle were treated for injuries. A six-run uprising gave the Coloma Comets their third straight Little Eight conference win. The game, played on the local diamond, was a close pitcher’s duel until the Comets broke wide open. The square dance, sponsored by the CTRC, has been postponed. Don Carter, chairman of the entertainment committee, said the new date will be determined later. 30 years ago – 1989 Two candidates will be interviewed for the position of City Coordinator. Gerbel & Co. will continue to assist with accounting until the position is filled. The North Berrien Historical Society will meet at the Methodist church for their next program. Florence Rauchig will present “House of David” part II. Wesley A. Wooley, son of Mr. and Mrs. George E. Wooley, Pearl Street, graduated from Hope College. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in zoology. Under the direction of Ralph Bower, the Drama Club presents “You Can’t Take It With You.” This is the second annual dinner theatre production. Partial cast includes: Paul Mow, Wendy Stampfly, Jason Winfield, and Jim Walke; student director is John Bower. Submitted by volunteer Sandi Musick Munchow at Coloma Public Library from the Coloma Courier newspapers donated by the Tri-City Record. Hours: Mon & Fri, 10:00 a.m.-5:30 p.m.; Tue, Wed & Thu, 10:00 a.m.-8:00 p.m.; Sat, 10:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m. Phone: 269-468-3431


100 years ago – 1919 Sunday, May 11 has been officially designated by Governor Albert E. Sleeper as “Mother’s Day” by the state of Michigan. The proclamation asks that special services be held in the churches, that flags be displayed and that every mother be remembered. The heavy rains of the past few days have sent the Paw Paw River coursing over its banks, partially interrupting Hartford’s electrical service. The wheels at the Anderson plant have been nearly submerged, and during the peak load hours the electric plant has brought its gasoline engine into commission to maintain the service. 75 years ago – 1944 The Hartford Woman’s Club, campaigning “to keep the village of Hartford among the most attractive, progressive and safe villages in southwestern Michigan,” addressed a communication to the mayor and council asking their cooperation. A hazardous condition reported by the safety committee of the club was the careless use of bicycles in the business block. The committee further recommended that uneven places in sidewalks be either repaired or marked off and that the council urge Hartford residents to cooperate in keeping property more attractive. Approximately 8,200 German prisoners of war are expected to be working on farms and in food processing plants throughout Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin to alleviate the manpower shortage. Exact numbers to be allocated to southwestern Michigan through the camp at Hartford was not announced. 50 years ago – 1969 Mr. and Mrs. John McLeod will observe their 70th wedding anniversary Saturday. McLeod is 94 and his wife is 93. The couple was married in 1899 at Pullman, IL. In 1907 he and his wife moved to Shafer Lake where he farmed and did some carpentry work. The couple moved to Hartford 27 years ago. The Modern Mother’s Club will meet tonight at the home of Mrs. James Chappell. Co-hostess will be Mrs. Gale Weberg. The program will be a Chinese auction. Submitted by Librarian Stephanie Daniels at Hartford Public Library from microfilm copies of the Hartford Day Spring. Hours: Mon, Tue & Wed, 10 a.m.-7 p.m.; Thu & Fri, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sat, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Phone: 269-621-3408


90 years ago – 1929 James Lottridge was treated to a birthday surprise on May 20, 1929, by 15 friends from all over. The party was given by John Wainwright from Chicago, a longtime friend of Mr. Lottridge. The occasion being the 81st birthday anniversary of the pioneer resident. Mrs. Henry Curtis, Watervliet, was given a pleasant party by about twenty neighbors at her home on May 18, 1929. The affair was to celebrate her 80th birthday anniversary. A delicious community supper was enjoyed and Mrs. Curtis received many beautiful gifts. 60 years ago – 1959 The Watervliet Paper Company announces that Glynda Carolene Sanders, Dale Malcolm Emerson and James Ray Ishmael all of Watervliet, have just been awarded college scholarships for the 1959-1960 school year. Each award for $450 comes thru the Ernest R. Behrend Trust Fund of the Hammermill Paper Company. Mr. and Mrs. Lorn Clements, Watervliet, are the proud parents of their baby boy, David Lawrence, born May 8, 1959 and weighed 6 pound, 14 ounces. Senior honor students elected Kay Hupp to be their class speaker at the 1959 Commencement Exercises on May 28. The upper 23 percent of the senior class also chose James Ishmael to give the class greeting and Dale Emerson the class response. 30 years ago – 1989 Frank G. and Virginia Willming celebrate their 50th anniversary on May 27, 1989. Mr. Willming retired from Auto Specialties after 29-1/2 years of service. The couple has 3 children, 10 grandchildren and 1 great-grandchild. Thom Brown has been chosen Watervliet’s ‘Student of the Week’. Thom is a third-grade student at South School. He is a very well-mannered, cooperative student who always does his best. He is considerate, conscientious and can always be depended upon to set a good example for his fellow classmates. Seventeen students were inducted on May 11, 1989, into Watervliet High School Chapter 1125 of the National Honor Society. Submitted by Sally Q. Gonzalez from files at Watervliet District Library of the Watervliet Record newspapers donated by the Tri-City Record. Hours: Mon & Wed, 10 a.m.-8 p.m.; Tue, Thu & Fri, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sat, 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Phone: 269-463-6382


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