05-24-18 Tri-City Area History Page

The Paw Paw River Journal


Just another Memorial Day? No, I don’t believe what the above title suggests. To me, every Memorial Day is special, meaningful, and filled with long thoughts that are sometimes painful. Revisiting those thoughts, especially at this time of year is like counting pearls on a string of beads. There is a sad beauty to this day, and I willingly revisit the memory of those who died in wars… and in peacetime… while serving our country. For instance, when I was a kid, we took a trip out west. My folks wanted to visit my mom’s younger brother, Ward Merrill, who lived in and out of the Veterans’ Hospital at Boise, Idaho. She wanted to see him one more time while he was still with us, and she felt some urgency to do it. You see, Uncle Ward was in World War I. He fought in the trenches of that horrible war, and came home with his lungs seared by poisonous mustard gas. Talk about man’s inhumanity to man! They released canisters of greenish yellow death… to float over the enemy trenches. And sometimes the wind changed… sending it right back. Both sides did it, while they hunkered down in sloppy wet trenches where battles had been fought over before. Sometimes the trench digging would unearth bodies from a previous battle. Uncle Ward knew he would never make ‘old bones.’ Some good did come out of it… he met and married one of the nurses at the hospital. She took care of him until he left this Circle of Life. So, he had a good life, albeit one lived in pain, paying the price for man’s inhumanity to man! When we visited him, he showed us the craft section of the hospital… where patients could work at their hobbies. I wore for years a woven leather belt he made and gave to me. We have a history of wars. Of which the first one was when our country was born in pain and blood. Some of my ancestors were in the Revolutionary War, although I know but little about them. Friend Pat Erwin (God rest her soul) was an expert on genealogy. She said people on my mom’s side came over in some of the first loads of colonists. And some of my dad’s people were there to meet them! My great-grandfather, Jeremiah Davis, enlisted in the 98th New York Volunteers and went to the Civil War, which was not really very civil. People in the South refer to it as “The War between the States.” Jeremiah rose through the ranks from buck private until he became Color Sergeant. That’s the guy who carried the flag, and enemy snipers always tried to pick him off and make the flag fall. He was wounded, but recovered, and was finally given a battlefield commission as a 2nd Lt. at the end of the war. Many of our friends and relatives were in World War II. Some historians believe that this upheaval was really a continuation of the first one. This was our generation’s war, the one Archie Bunker referred to as “The Big One!” I’ve written about it on numerous occasions, and have completed a book on my experiences during that time. We have many friends who were in Vietnam. I know that is the war no one wanted to talk about, but those events have now come out of the shadows, and I am firmly convinced all of those who participated in it were heroes! Not only that, many of them came out afterwards with post-traumatic stress and/or Agent Orange exposure. I treasure my friendship with all of them. We have relatives and friends who participated in the Gulf wars… some enduring horrible conditions. They are all heroes… men and women both. And the worst part of that… it is still going on. It seems war will always be with us. The League of Nations, formed to cement friendships after World War I, was a miserable failure. The United Nations, formed after World War II, seems to be headed down the same path. One conspicuous success was the Marshall Plan. Originally designed to help our defeated enemies get back on their feet, it was so successful people are still benefiting from it. I’m not going to comment on the recent difficulties those same countries are now experiencing as the result of risky financial practices. My only thought on that… if we don’t learn from what is happening in Europe, we have indeed lost some of the smarts we have always been known for. So here we are today… with an imperfect world… because we are all imperfect, flawed people. There just seems to be an innate cussedness in humans. We try… and we fall short. All of the millions who have lost their lives in one war or another… or even a non-war that is fraught with killing… has all paid the price. We grow older, but I’m not sure collectively we grow wiser. Back in the day when first some religious dissidents and malcontents came to the shores of this land, they scratched and clawed for a living. And many of them died. The Puritans (who were among the dissenters) felt that it was God’s Hand descending on them. One early colonist even wrote an essay titled, “God’s Quarrel with New England.” But they stuck to it… and we have prevailed! In spite of our faults, we keep on trying. And we must! All of those who have given their lives for this land demand that we do. Of all the people involved in ‘our war,’ they are marching off the edge of the world at the rate of 800-900 a day. We have to do better by them and all the rest. Every time Memorial Day rolls around, we should all make a solemn vow to weave more golden threads into the tapestry of life in these storybook towns along the Paw Paw River.

Watervliet District Library News Teen Table Projects: May

“X, a Novel” by Ilyasah Shabazz. Take home a copy, read it and share your inspiration in art – your choice of format – then take home a fedora in classic zoot-suit style. Special Stuff for Kids – May: Rhythm & Read Check out this year’s Michigan Ready-To-Read book, “I got the Rhythm” and take home a rhythm instrument craft. Library Garden Park Purchase a Legacy Walk brick and celebrate a memory! Bricks are $75; 13 characters, 2 lines. Pick up a form at the library. Yoga Monday, 9 – 10 a.m.; Wednesday, 7 – 8 p.m.; Chair Yoga, Wednesday, 6:00 – 6:45 p.m. Call 463-6382 with questions on any Watervliet library activity.

Swap Meet & Flea Market in South Haven June 8-9

Michigan Flywheelers Museum is holding a Swap Meet & Flea Market where over 160 sellers will be offering everything from antiques to tractors. The event will be held Friday, June 8 and Saturday, June 9 rain or shine. Some of the items that will be for sale include produce, baked goods, jewelry, furniture, tools, toys, clothing and more. “We started this event as a way to raise money to support the museum,” explains Patrick Ingalls, museum president. “The money raised from this helps with restoration projects, operation costs and exhibit development.” Held rain or shine, hours are 8 a .m. to 4 p.m. both days. Admission is $2 per person. Children 12 and under are free with an adult. Please note this is a pet-free event. For those interested in selling, cost is $15 per vendor for both days. Pre-registration is not required. Set-up for vendors starts Thurs., June 7 at 8 a.m.