06-08-2017 Tri-City History Page

Waterfront at Shuck’s Motel

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

We’re still here

Yup, you can Google us and there we are… right in the lower left corner of the mitten that is Michigan. Just west are Watervliet and Coloma. We are like pearls strung on a necklace that is the Paw Paw River. So what does it mean? Well, our small towns are not what they used to be… the necklace is smaller, the pearls have lost a little of their luster, because President Eisenhower’s marvelous network of interstates has bypassed most of small town America. That’s us!

But we’re still here! A slow spring is finally beginning to shape up. At night trees are quietly budding out, and spring flowers poke their heads up. We have a naked lady in our back yard. That’s a lily that sends up leaves; and if we are lucky, later this summer one spike will emerge with a beautiful flower on it… looks almost like an orchid!

At night what few old-timers that are left are tucked in their beds, hopefully with a smile on their face. That includes us. And out south the big rigs wind down the hill from Lawrence on I-94… always the big trucks. They used to come through town on US 12, the main artery between Chicago and Detroit. But no more.

The freeway bisects a sort of bowl that Hartford is in, with Keeler to the south, fruit country and a huge landfill west at Watervliet, Webster’s Hills to the north. And the big trucks roar through the night carrying freight both east and west. A lot of them are pulling containers with Chinese marking on their sides. That bothers me a little. We try always to buy American if we can!

North and south, Hartford is bisected the other way by the C&O Railroad. I hear those trains in my dreams at night. In fact, whenever we lived someplace without railroads, I missed that lonesome whistle. And when I think of railroads, one family is forever bound up in my memories… the Colman family. They lived across the street from us when I was a kid. Frank Colman worked on the railroad until injuries forced him to retire.

In later years, they lived on Michigan Avenue, right behind Ely Park. Ma Colman was just larger than life. I can remember talking to her. She said at night she used to see people sitting in the park. She felt sorry for them, probably no place to go, so they sat there in the dark, so poor she said, they could not even afford to buy a pack of cigarettes. They would light one and pass it back and forth!

Oldest son, Bud (named for his father), and I went all the way through Hartford schools, graduating together. He worked for the railroad (naturally). When I came home from WWII, I was at loose ends and waiting for Marion to get through nurses’ training. With not much to do, I went down to the depot to talk to Bud who worked the afternoon shift as telegraph operator and station agent. Something about the clacking telegraph and the big 1200 steamers roaring through on what was then the Pere Marquette Railroad fascinated me.

Hartford’s exit on I-94 is mile marker 46. It passes under the road to Keeler, our southernmost suburb! There are restaurants and a gas station at the intersection, and north toward town the road passes Maple Hill Cemetery. My folks and baby brother are there, along with my sister and brother-in-law. In fact, we know more people out there now than we do in town! My dad was Hartford’s only florist, and I used to go out there with him when he was planting spring flowers for people who liked to decorate their family plots.

Quite a few friends from school days are buried there, and one who has a grave marker but is not there. Buster McCombs, who went down on the USS Indianapolis at the end of WWII. Full fathom five he lies, and of his bones are coral made, if I can misquote a famous writer. So many people… so many names. Drive through some afternoon, and the slanting sun makes a sea of golden spots where it hits the plaques of servicemen who were lost in various wars, or lived out their life afterward.

Some years ago Keeler Road was widened, and where it passes the cemetery, they cut it wider, shaving off the east end of Maple Hill. My old piano teacher, Mamie Howes, was thoroughly alarmed. Her family is buried right next to the road, and she said she was afraid her people would be left with their feet sticking out! Not to worry, and now she has been buried next to them for years.

Ever since I-94 was completed Hartford has been getting quieter. One old-timer said the population never had changed much anyway. Whenever a baby was born, somebody left town! This, of course, is an exaggeration, but the activity in town is not what it used to be. Most original Main Street businesses are gone now, except for two familiar names… Smith’s Lumber Yard next to the railroad, and just east of the traffic light Calvin’s Funeral Home, now owned and operated by Jerry Birmele.

It’s like we live in a huge mansion… we knew many of the people therein, but over the years they have left.  Just as many, just different! We have made new friends, but I miss the old-timers. Some told me stories of bygone glory years, and I used many of them in this column.  I miss all of them. They have woven many golden threads into the marvelous tapestry of our lives. And I hope they still live somehow, because I have them in the pages of this very newspaper and the books I have written. We are all part of these storybook towns along the Paw Paw River, hopefully never to be forgotten!

Coloma Library News

Summer Reading Club

“Build a Better World… READ!!

 Readers of all ages are invited to explore how books can be used to “Build a Better World” during the Summer Reading Program. The 2017 Summer Reading Program is open to young people, babies through young adult, with programs, prize drawings, storytimes, a reading club and more. Sign up today, program begins on Monday, June 19. For more information, call the library at 468-3431 or visit www.colomapubliclibrary.net.

Critchlow Alligator Program… LIVE animals!

On Tuesday, June 20, 10:30 a.m. at the Coloma Library, explore the biology and history of many different reptiles and amphibians in a fun presentation. Presentations include LIVE interactions with several species that might include American Alligator, Sulcata Tortoise, Cane Toad, Bearded Dragon, Corn Snake, Ball Python, Tree Frog, and Red Tail Boa Constrictor. This is a free program and no sign-up is required. All children must be supervised and accompanied by an adult.

Book Club

The Coloma Library Book Club is meeting on Thursday, June 22 at 5:30 p.m. The title to read before the discussion is “The Rent Collector” by Camron Wright.  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.

Watervliet District Library News

 This month in our display case – North Berrien Historical Museum Paper Mill Artifacts. Share your own paper mill stories in our Community Memories book, to be donated to the museum at the end of the month.

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

Summer Reading Program: Build a Better World, June 12 – July 30, 2017 – Thursdays for all ages and Make it Mondays for K-6 graders and their families.

The events for Summer Reading Program:

June 15 – Shake, Rattle & Roll with Dynamic Assem

June 22 – Cup Stacking with Jim Merrills

June 29 – Wildlife Safari

July 6 – Dr. Tom’s Silent Theatre

July 13 – Upcycle, recycle & bicycle: Earth fest

July 20 – Build a Better World with Music Lady

July 27 – Pizza Party

The events for Make-it Mondays:

June 12 – build it with building squares

June 19 – Build it with LEGO

June 26 – Paper Mache Sculptures

July 3 – Build it with TP rolls and straws

July 10 – Paper Towel Marble Runs

July 17 – Build it with Cups & Plates

July 24 – Inventor’s Box

This year, the library is pleased to partner with Watervliet Public Schools to provide free lunches for kids & teens, following each Thursday program.

Michigan Notable Book Tour will grace our 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.

Yoga every Monday morning at 9:00 and Wednesday evening at 7:00


100 years ago – 1917

 The company of Home Guards, organized by Captain Fred Smith, was mustered into the state service. Sixty-seven officers and privates were sworn in. The Coloma company is one of the largest in Berrien County.

Spencer Guy, son of Mr. and Mrs. S.D. Guy has completed his course of study at Rush Medical College. He has been home visiting for a week, then off to St. Joseph’s Hospital in Chicago.­­­

60 years ago – 1957

 Services were held for Mrs. Edith Unrath, 72, She had made her home with her sister, Mrs. Christian Besemer since 1943.

War has been declared on township speeders. Township constables will patrol the roads, having been given the same authority as traffic officers. They are Robert Potts, William Tabbert, Harold Nitz and Duane Carter.

Mrs. Maud Hawks of the Coloma library informed The Courier that story hour will continue through the summer.

Welcome new births: A son arrives to Mr. and Mrs. James A. Wells and Mr. and Mrs. Russell Harris. A daughter arrives to Mr. and Mrs. Burton Jewell and Mr. and Mrs. James Yore.

30 years ago – 1987

 The Vi Shafer School of the Dance presents “Stars of Tomorrow” dance recital at the Coloma High School auditorium.

We Asked You… “Should there be mandatory testing for AIDS?” Richey Fredricks, Anne Weyer and Barb Mileski all say “Yes.”

Summer resident, Gary Braver, was killed in a two-boat collision on Paw Paw Lake. John Powers and Katy Wood sustained injuries.

McDonald’s restaurant gave Mayor Randall twenty $5 bills when he participated in the ribbon-cutting ceremonies. The donation was split between the fire department and the ambulance service.

The Lions Club will be constructing a pole building in Lions Park. The building will be used for storage and construction of floats.


100 years ago – 1917

 In the face of a terrific gale last Saturday evening the Hartford Fire Department and a crowd of neighbors and village folk successfully fought a stubborn fire at the E.W. Ewald farm a mile and a half southwest of town, and saved from total destruction one of the finest farm houses in Hartford Township.

The fire at the Ewald farm has again started the agitation for the purchase of a chemical fire truck to be owned jointly by the township and village.

75 years ago – 1942

 Red Cross work completed by volunteers in Hartford was forwarded to the county headquarters at Paw Paw Tuesday morning by Mrs. Caroline Elder, director of the activity here. The shipment included 43 hospital bed shirts, 17 sleeveless sweaters and one quilt, and represented the contributions of women of this community since April 1.

Eighty-five exhibits were included in the annual Hartford Garden Club flower show at the Methodist church today. Judging of the entries was completed before the hall was opened to the public. Mrs. Dorothea Day took highest honors by winning eight firsts.

50 years ago – 1967

 Diplomas are scheduled to be awarded to 78 seniors at Hartford High School Commencement exercises Thursday, June 8, at the high school gymnasium. The commencement address, “The Rewards of Fidelity,” will be given by Dr. Russell H. Seibert, vice president for academic affairs at Western Michigan University.

Pvt. Ronnie C. Shirley, son of Mr. and Mrs. Calvin C. Shirley, completed a 12-week communication center specialist course at the Army southeastern signal school at Fort Gordon, Georgia, on May 19. Pvt. Shirley is a 1965 graduate of Hartford High School.

A 3-C Robert E. Beam, son of Mr. and Mrs. C.H. Beam, has received his first duty assignment with the Air Force after completing basic training at Lackland, AFB, TX. Beam is a 1966 graduate of Hartford High School and attended Jackson Junior College.

Pvt. 1-C Thomas C. Melville, son of Mr. and Mrs. DeLisle Melville, arrived at DiAn, Vietnam, base camp of the first infantry on May 7. Before being assigned to a unit, he received special jungle training. He is a track vehicle driver. Melville is a 1964 graduate of Hartford High School, attended Western Michigan University and Lake Michigan College.


90 years ago – 1927

 Miss Louisa Rogers, a junior at Albion College, was elected next year’s vice president of the self-government association of Susanna Wesley Hall, the women’s dormitory. Miss Rogers, a graduate of Watervliet High School in 1921, is a member of the classical club, composed of students in ancient languages, is chairman of the Susanna Wesley Hall entertainment committee, has for two years been representative of Clionian sorority in the Pan-Hellenic inter-sorority council and is prominent in the YMCA.

Wesley Jennings, son of Mr. and Mrs. C.L. Jennings, Watervliet, has completed a seven-year medical course at University of Michigan-Ann Arbor and is now an M.I.

Advertised on June 24, 1927:

4 pounds bulk coffee for……. $1.00

Red Alaska Salmon/can…….. $.27

Lg Kellogg Corn Flakes…….. $.25

60 years ago – 1957

 June 1957 the graduates of Western Michigan University will be the first to leave the campus with diplomas bearing the “university” name as it became official in February. Among those to receive their degrees will be Miss Sharon Rogers, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. William Rogers, Watervliet, with BM (magna cum laude) and secondary certificate. Miss Rogers received word that she was accepted into Juilliard School of Music, New York City.

Bill Stewart, WHS freshman, received recognition and a certificate from the 1957 National High School Photographic Awards. His presentation was judged in Rochester, New York at the national museum of photography.

Mr. and Mrs. Harold Friend, Watervliet, are the proud parents of their baby girl, Susan Kay, born June 8, 1957 and weighed 5 pounds 11 ounces.

30 years ago – 1987

 The 1987 Partnerships for Education, a relatively new and innovative program in the state of Michigan, won high praise and honors for the Watervliet School District. The Partnership Program evolved from recommendations of the 1986 Watervliet Civic committee.

Watervliet resident Mary Wegenka stars in the Lakeshore Summer Theatre productions of ‘Snoopy’ which was presented at Lakeshore High School. Mary graduated in the spring from Lake Michigan College and will attend Michigan State in the fall of 1987, majoring in special education.

Adam Wallace, Aaron Berkholz and Sanjay Ravi are the recipients of the Rob Delaney Seventh-Grade Math Award for 1987. These awards are made annually to no more than three seventh-graders in memory of deceased seventh-grade math teacher Rob Delaney.


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