06-13-2019 Tri-City Area History Page

The Paw Paw River Journal

Twilight on Main Street Passing years have not been kind to small-town America. Progress was inevitable I guess, and several things spelled doom for the family owned stores on Main Street. Some reasons… the network of freeways that cover our country and bypassed them, big stores that sold in volume, etc. Hartford little resembles itself as it was before World War II. And life was different. Back in the day there was a strong sentiment against keeping a business open on Sunday. It was a day of rest, and people were supposed to go to church and spend their time in leisurely pursuits. That was the reason most retail stores were closed. Virtuous people just didn’t profane the Sabbath by conducting business. But sometimes good and faithful citizens needed food, even on the day of rest. So there were always a few small grocery stores that stayed open on weekends. One I remember from small town Hartford was Curry’s Grocery, located on the south side of Main Street near the west end and next to Manny Oppenheim’s clothing store. It was an enchanting place and full of exotic smells. Originally owned by some people named McAllister, the store was a Hartford fixture. They had a daughter named Maud. She grew up to marry a man named Frank Egan, and together they ran the store all of their lives. When they wanted to retire, they sold out to Howard and Phyllis Curry. Thereafter it was Curry’s store. And this is the one I remember from when I was but a wee nipper. Curry’s catered to all sorts of grocery whims. Owners Howard and Phyllis had no children, but she had a little bull dog named Henny. They usually had one or two boys working there… often one of the Yeckley twins. Or it might be Dick Phillips, a young man-about-town. I liked him because he had a delicious sense of humor, and he didn’t ignore little kids. I don’t know how they packed so much into such a small business. My dad used to go there on a Sunday afternoon. No other place to buy food on the Sabbath, and lavish Sunday night suppers were a tradition at our house. It was sort of a picnic meal, and there might be other people present. Most of our friends knew that my folks spread a pretty good table on Sunday night. Warm weather my dad always had a pitcher of iced tea. When winter winds howled about the eaves, the kitchen was filled with the rich smell of Colombian coffee. He bought lunch meat… sliced bologna, liverwurst, and what we called ‘football.’ This was spicy and came in an oval shaped loaf (thus the name). There was cheese, which he bought by the slice, or wedge. On the counter in the store a huge bell-shaped glass dome covered a wheel of cheese… nippy, or as our Aunt Hope used to call it ‘rat trap cheese!’ My folks were traditional Methodists, and they knew that officially their church did not hold with drinking liquor… or playing cards. At least that was my perception at such an early age. I got that notion because my mom would make sure the playing cards were put away if any of her church ladies were present. Except the ones in her circle of friends who were addicted to such games. And she just loved to play Canasta or Hearts. She taught all of our kids to play cards… thus she was assured of having some players available. And my folks never served any drinks containing alcohol… at least officially. My dad did not mind imbibing an occasional glass of beer. He told me one time that during Prohibition they came out with a drink called ‘near beer.’ But he said whoever invented it never got very close to the real thing. So on Sunday nights he might have a 6-pack on the floor next to his chair… I guess sort of out of the way if any of their more Orthodox friends might stop in. In later years Curry’s store was sold to Dick Olds and was finally gone, but we still had the A&P Market on Main Street. So my dad did his Sunday night shopping on Saturday. Managed by Boyd Hover, that was the place where I had my very first job in high school. I clerked there for 35 cents an hour (the going rate). Boyd was a friendly guy, and he knew what my dad wanted when he came in. So there was my dad, checking out… he had football loaf, liverwurst, rye bread, cheese, and other goodies. He said to Boyd, “Oh, and I’d like some TOMATO JUICE.” So Boyd went back to the cooler, got a 6-pack, put it in a sack and brought it to the counter. A lady was checking out right behind my dad. She looked at all of the goodies there and said, “If I were going to have a lunch with all of that, I’d get some beer to go with it… not tomato juice!” Boyd grinned at my dad and said, “Well, we wouldn’t know about that!” In those days we didn’t realize it was twilight on Main Street in small-town America. This was before World War II and all the grand improvements in our society since then. Well, the jury is still out on how much better things are now. Progress has brought problems of a different sort. But life is still good, and we are still weaving threads into the Golden Tapestry of our lives in these storybook towns along the Paw Paw River.

Watervliet District Library News

Teen Table Projects: June Do-it-yourself whenever you’re at the library! All supplies provided. This month -Vote for the best or least worst answer to their crazy questions, all month long! In Stitches Knitting Group Friday, June 14, 2:30 – 4 p.m. Take a current project or interest; they’ll help you get started! Limited supplies are available for beginners, too! Make-it-Monday June 17, 1 – 2 p.m. Astronaut Camp for K-6th graders & families. Third Monday Book Club June 17, 7-8 p.m. Great books, fabulous conversations! Ask for a copy at the desk: The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton. Summer Reading Program Thursday, June 20, 11 to noon This week – Repco Wildlife; after the program, there will be a free lunch for kids & teens. Three reading clubs, prizes, activities! Yoga Monday 9 – 10 a.m., Wednesday 7 – 8 p.m., Friday 10:30 – 11:30 a.m.; Chair Yoga – Wednesdays 6 – 6:30 p.m. 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. Call 463-6382 with questions on any Watervliet Library activity.

Coloma Library News Summer Reading Program

June 17 is the official start to Coloma Public Library’s 2019 Summer Reading Program. The theme is “A Universe of Stories”. Their program is for all ages. Online registration is currently available at www.colomapubliclibrary.net. The first summer program is Pajama Storytime at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, June 18. Michigan Activity Pass Get free or discounted admission to hundreds of Michigan’s beautiful cultural and natural destinations including state parks, campgrounds, museums, trails, and more using a Coloma Public Library card. Visit the link on the Library’s website and follow the prompts to print a pass. Book Club The Coloma Public Library Book Club is meeting on Thursday, June 13 at 5:30 p.m. The title being discussed is “History of Love” by Nicole Kraus. Call 269-468-3431 or stop at the front desk for more details about Coloma Library offerings.

Anyone remember stopping by the Roadside Park in Coloma? Do you know what is there now? Or, have any information or memories of this park, contact North Berrien Historical Museum or stop by Tues-Friday 10 a.m.-4 p.m. 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 office@northberrienhistory.org. From the photo collection at the North Berrien Historical Museum 300 Coloma Avenue, Coloma


100 years ago – 1919 Approval has been granted for brick paving, to be completed by September. Funding is shared by the state, the county, the village and the abutting property owners. Bids were offered on a concrete road, an asphalt road and brick on concrete road. Friday Bros. canning factory opened this week for the 1919 season. Strawberries will be the first fruit taken care of. Take note of this new ordinance: No person shall drive an automobile with the cutout open on any street within the Village limits. 60 years ago – 1959 Workmen have ideal weather to proceed with the construction of the new U.S. 12 divided highway. Currently, they are working at Friday Road heading east. Commissioners have tabled zoning petitions for a shopping center for the second time. The location proposed is Coloma Heights. Officers were elected for Faith Evangelical Lutheran Church. President of the congregation: Walter H. Reinhardt Jr.; Secretary: Arthur Knuth; Treasurer: Fred Link; Financial Secretary: Ed Broz Jr. Funeral services were held for Mrs. Mae A. Willmeng at the Davidson Funeral Home. Casket bearers were Allen, Frank, Gerald, Howard, Lewis and Lynn Willmeng. 30 years ago – 1989 Four officials were asked to resign rather than put the City through the expense of a recall election. Commissioner Postelli responded, “…I did nothing wrong and I’ll leave it up to the people to decide.” School district voters approved an 11.5 mill levy renewal as well as electing Charles Nelson and Walt Arny. We Asked You… Will U.S. relations change with Iran since the ayatollah is no longer with us? Fred Munchow, Bob Brandt, Doris Taylor all say “No.” Candy Lowery, Gloria Gregg and Bruce Durham all say “Yes.”

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.


100 years ago – 1919 Dr. Fred Van Riper opened his new dental offices in the post office block Monday. Three rooms in the northeast corner of the block have been fitted for his occupancy and he has them nicely furnished and equipped with the newest dental equipment. Edward G. Hickey has purchased the Mrs. Fred Warren house and lot at the corner of Maple and South streets and will improve it and occupy it as a residence. Mr. Hickey has also purchased the house and lot owned by the Huntley estate on Maple Street. Complaints that boys are riding their bicycles on the sidewalks frequently to the inconvenience and annoyance of pedestrians has prompted the common council to order the printing of the village ordinance which prohibits the practice. 75 years ago – 1944 The public will be given an open house opportunity to view the newly remodeled Van Buren County hospital, three miles east of Hartford. They will be greeted by hospital staff of which Mrs. Helen Hamill Dixon, RN of Hartford is superintendent. From a crude beginning 15 years ago Van Buren’s county hospital has been developed into one of the better institutions of its kind in Michigan. It now provides 41 beds, including two fracture beds three nursery bassinettes and other new hospital furnishings. At the annual meeting of the Hartford Art Study class Monday afternoon at the home of Mrs. Marie Finley an election of officers was held. Mrs. Finley presented the art lesson for the afternoon, on two American women artists, Jesse Wilcox Smith and Elizabeth Nourse. 50 years ago – 1969 A summer band program will begin Monday, June 16 and continue through Friday, July 18. Sessions will be held Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Beginner band will meet mornings and next year’s junior band and new members going into senior band will meet at 1 p.m. Agriculture and art students at Hartford High School joined in a project of landscaping a school courtyard. Vocational agriculture students of Gordon Nye made flagstones of concrete, colored with iron oxide.

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 The Watervliet Municipal Band Concerts for the 1929 season are to be given by the Watervliet High School Band, winners of the state championship for Class C school bands. The band will also furnish music for the fireworks display to be given at Hays Park. In recognition of their winning the state contest, The Society for the Advancement of Music has presented Prof. Null, director of the WHS band, a gold medal and to each one of the 27 members of the band a silver medal. Arrangements are being made for the annual Blue Bird tag sale in Watervliet to benefit Sunnycrest School for girls, which is located in Holland, Michigan. Sunnycrest is a home and vocational school for homeless girls in Michigan. 60 years ago – 1959 On June 18 Peter Alden Kobe and John Richard Rogers, two Watervliet High School youths, join a thousand boys from all corners of Michigan to open the 22nd annual Wolverine Boys State on the Michigan State University campus. Walter R. Schwarz and Robert C. Snyder are among those receiving degrees and certificates at Western Michigan University on June 13, 1959. Miss Barbara K. Kietzer has taken the Sigma degree in Sigma Tau Chi, professional business fraternity at Western Michigan University, where she is a freshman business education student. 30 years ago – 1989 Hundreds of Watervliet graduates are heading home to join the festivities at the WHS Centennial Reunion. A special part of the celebration will be the Grand Marshal of the Independence Day Parade. Harold Austin, WHS class of 1915 lead the Parade through Watervliet on July 1, 1989. Alpha Chapter of Alpha Beta Epsilon, Western Michigan University Alumnae Sorority, has awarded the 1989-90 Mary Western Memorial Scholarship to Miss Rebecca Epple. John Epple has been initiated into Theta Tau, an engineering fraternity at Western Michigan University. Twenty-four engineering students and one faculty member were initiated. 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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