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.