06-07-2018 Tri-City Area History Page

The Paw Paw River Journal

The Slingshot Catapult John McLellan is a retired Communications Manager from down at Lane Automotive in Watervliet. Now that business is another whole story, and one of our most successful local enterprises. Lane Automotive sells and ships automotive related items all over the world. Their annual car show and clam bake is a thing of beauty and known country wide! Some time back we ran into John and his family at Millcreek Charlie’s in Watervliet. That used to be the waffle house and we’ve had many great meals there. We almost always run into people we know when we dine there. So, after we had run into John, I remembered a story about an incident in his misspent youth. He was born with an inventive mind and an insatiable curiosity. Such a combination can spell trouble. And it did. John and his cousin Gary were watching TV one afternoon and were captivated by a Navy aircraft carrier and its system for catapulting jet fighters off the deck. They could do that! Another cousin, Ronnie, came up with some old truck inner tubes. After all a Navy catapult system is nothing more than a giant sling shot! In a nearby woods they cut some long saplings, planting them 12 feet apart at the end of a long patch of gravel drive… they were securely placed in the ground. The three inner tubes they modified to span the distance between the uprights. They were then securely nailed to the posts. In telling the story John said, “Some preliminary launches convinced us that this baby had some real power. A concrete block sailed well over 50 feet! A steel lawn chair could have gone nearly as far if it hadn’t hit my sister’s doll carriage. The neighbor’s cat not too politely declined our offer of a free test ride, choosing the relative safety of a nearby telephone pole instead. It was time for a human test pilot!” Then a fortunate thing happened. Along came little Dannie on his tricycle. The trike’s three wheels would make it more stable than a two wheeler. Dannie was smaller, lighter, and as John put it, “…more aerodynamic!” And Dannie was willing. He always wanted to be part of the bigger boys’ experiments. So, John said, “We positioned the trike, set him on the seat and then pulled trike and rider slowly back against the tubes. Some hasty instructions on how he should pedal like crazy were followed by a few encouraging pats on the back, then we stretched the ‘load’ back as far as we could, counted to three, and let go!” John claims that the exact sequence of events next have had several interpretations over the intervening 40 years. The whole thing has become part of their family lore. He says that in his memory the sequence of events had Dannie with a firm grip on the handlebars and was one with his mount for about one-tenth of a second! And he was pedaling like crazy! But the front wheel of the trike was not even touching the ground! When it did touch ground, Dannie must have had some misgivings, because he stopped pedaling and locked his legs in a vain effort to stop. This started a series of flips, followed by a series of barrel rolls. And John said it all ended with some dazzling vertical bounces. That was just Dannie! The trike merely flipped over and came to a stop relatively unscratched. Next chapter in the story, Dannie’s dad rushed out of the house in response to his son’s shrieks. He quickly whipped out his jackknife and cut down the inner tubes. At that point Dannie began to cry. John said he was not hurt… just a little dusty… maybe a little dazed. He was in remarkably good condition, but why was he crying? “We finally realized it was he didn’t want his dad to cut the contraption down! He thought the ride was fun, and he wanted to do it again! Dannie had tasted sudden acceleration and liked it. Acceleration can be very addictive!” But that was the end of the catapult project… saplings taken down and inner tubes consigned to the garbage can. John and his cousins immediately turned their attention to other projects, but I can well imagine their families did a little closer monitoring after that. I have heard of no other fiascos in John’s career lately, but I’m also sure that he has matured in wisdom and has other outlets for his imagination. He also has a lifelong companion to keep him straight (as most of us have!) and has turned to old trucks for restoration. And I’ll bet his Chief Accountant will say, as most of our wives do, “The only difference between men and boys is the price of their toys!” There is an old saying, “Time heals all wounds.” I think it would be great to hear how that story has survived in the McLellan family up to this day… all golden threads woven into the tapestry of our lives in these storybook towns along the Paw Paw River.

Coloma Comet Cheerleaders (year unknown) 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.

Watervliet District Library News Local History Displays

Paper Mill Memories – Celebrate Watervliet’s community history, share your paper mill stories and peruse our local history resources. North Berrien Historical Museum – Big bands, big venues; on display for June & July. Teen Table Projects Do-it-yourself, all supplies provided for CD mandalas. In Stitches Knitting Group June 8, 2:30-4:00 p.m. Second Friday of every month, it’s never too hot to knit! Limited supplies are available for beginners. Summer Reading Program Once again, the library is pleased to partner with Watervliet Public Schools to provide free lunches for kids & teens following each Thursday program. The first program is June 14 Wildlife Safari. Make-It Music Mondays 1 – 2 p.m. K-6th graders & family musical instruments to make-n-take: June 11 Get Ready to Blow! Third Monday Book Club June 18, 7 – 8 p.m. The Light We Lost by Jill Santopolo; great books, fabulous conversations! Ask for your copy at the desk. Open Mic Night June 22, 7:30 p.m. Watervliet’s got talent, we know we do! Share yours with family & friends at the library’s first Open Mic. All artists must sign-up in advance. Call to register or for details. Performers and audience needed. Call 463-6382 for questions on any Watervliet library activity.

Coloma Library News Fandom Fest 2018

Fandom Fest is this Saturday, June 9 from 11 a.m. – 7 p.m. at the Lake Michigan College Mendel Center Grand Upton Hall. For more information visit the Event’s Facebook Page at www.facebook.com/swmfandomfest. Libraries Rock! Sign-up today! The Coloma Public Library presents “Libraries Rock” during their summer library program. The 2018 Summer Reading Program is open to all young people. There will be programs, prize drawings, storytimes, a reading club, and more for the whole family. Keep checking the library’s website for information on upcoming programs. For more information, call the library at 468-3431 or visit our website, www.colomapubliclibrary.net All programs are free of charge. Book Club The Coloma Library Book Club is meeting on Thursday, June 14 at 5:30 p.m. The title to read before the discussion is “Today Will Be Different” by Maria Semple. Generally, depending on demand there are titles available for check-out at the front desk. The book club regularly meets every other Thursday.


100 years ago – 1918 The news of the death of Sydam B. Ryno came as a shock to many. He was a druggist at Baker Drug Store, then Scott’s Pharmacy. Six Canadian soldiers provided entertainment at Bunker’s opera house. Sergeant Maitland is a noted lecturer and celebrated vocalist. Do not miss the unusual opportunity of seeing Mary Pickford in “Hulda from Holland” at Coloma Theatre – admission 10 cents with one cent additional for war tax. 60 years ago – 1958 We mourn the passing of Don Barricklow, Frank Nissen and Oliver G. Morehead. Davidson Funeral Home held services for Mr. Barricklow and Mr. Morehead. Chamber of Commerce President Roger Carter revealed that Coloma’s float used in the Blossomtime parade has been invited to take part in the Fourth of July celebration in LaPorte, Indiana. Karl Otte Jr. is scheduled to receive a Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering at the Michigan College of Mining and Technology at Houghton. Dr. E.V. Sergeant’s family and 25 guests received a scare at Paw Paw Lake when a tornado narrowly missed them. 30 years ago – 1988 Ruth Leonard Wilder passed away in Sebring, Florida. Norman R. Wendzel died of a heart attack at Fort Smith, Arkansas. Receiving the Lake Michigan College Board of Trustees scholarships are Kathy Quinn, Karen Kreitner, Shannon Kaeding, Angela Stolfo, John Walter, and Stephen Wells. Named to the Dean’s List for the winter semester are Jacqueline M. Ellinger, Norris Feury, Angela Hester, Diane Jones, Karen Noack, Beth Ann Ruggles, Lisa Stillwell, and Debra Yager. Dedication services of the Coloma Seventh-day Adventist Church will be June 11. Elder Glenn Aufderhar will be the guest speaker.

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 – 1918 At the commencement exercises held at the opera house 21 graduates of the Hartford High School and eight graduates of the Van Buren County Normal Class received diplomas which mark the successful completion of their high school and normal careers. Lightning played strange pranks at the Jay Parker farm a mile east of Hartford Monday afternoon. Mr. Parker was standing with his hand on the frame of the windmill when the bolt struck. He was knocked down and shocked, but has suffered no serious effects. The bolt struck a wire fence enclosing the poultry yard. The air was filled with flying feathers but the chickens were uninjured. The eggs, gathered soon after the storm, were found to have all of the yolks broken. 75 years ago – 1943 A crowd of several hundred persons turned out Sunday morning in spite of inclement weather to attend an impressive Memorial Day program at Ely Park. Major Charles J. Turck of Fort Custer and Congressman Clare E. Hoffman addressed the assembly. The Hartford school band, under the direction of E.A. Boisman, presented several selections. 50 years ago – 1968 The Jaycees will sponsor Spanish-American days to improve relations with Spanish speaking families who come to this area every year. Main Street will be blocked off between Maple and Center and a carnival will be in operation there. Jaycee members will wear Spanish style hats during the event. A fiesta in which children use sticks to break a candy filled shell suspended in the air will be held Saturday. There will be a street dance on Main Street Saturday night with two orchestras, one Spanish and one American. Harold Taylor, president of Taylor Produce and Storage Co., has announced appointment of Duane DeNeff as Hartford Division Plant manager. Located a half mile east of Hartford on Red Arrow Highway, the new building offers customers refrigeration.

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


0 years ago – 1928 The opening of the fishing season witnessed a grand rush to the inland lakes. Local followers of Isaak Walton were out in numbers and met with varied success. F.M. Keasey reported a catch of 18 rock bass and Leo Davis came home with a string of 10 bluegills. E.C. Johns has been awarded the contract for the installation of a furnace in the Watervliet Co-Operative Creamery house on Pleasant Street. Strawberries have been selling at $2 to $4.25 a crate on the local markets the first of the week, the latter price for fancy stock. 60 years ago – 1958 Miss Joan B. Shimer was one of the 955 students that graduated with a degree and certificate from Western Michigan University on June 14, 1958. Judge Dwane Dowd selected Llano Estacado Cece, a 2-year-old German shepherd, owned by the Llano Estacado Kennels of Watervliet, as best of show in the 14th Annual Michiana Kennel Club all-breed dog show. The Watervliet Township Board has voted to employ a full-time policeman. In answering the demands of a large group of residents in the lake area of the township for better traffic control during the 1958 summer months, the board selected William Muenchow. 30 years ago – 1988 Seventeen WHS seniors have been awarded more than $111,000 in scholarships. The scholarship awards were announced at the 99th Commencement Exercises held on June 10, 1988. Each year since 1933, WHS has named an Outstanding Senior Boy and Girl. This is voted on by the entire high school faculty. The award is based on qualities of honor, service, leadership and scholarship. The 1988 Outstanding Senior Girl is Shannon Hanks and Outstanding Senior Boy is Todd William. Leo and Mabel Yircott celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary on June 26, 1988. Mr. Yircott is retired from Clark Equipment Company and Hartford Public Schools and Mrs. Yircott is retired from Watervliet Community Hospital. 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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