06-21-2018 Tri-City Area History Page

The Paw Paw River Journal

The two-headed boy Hot morning sun on the midway of the old Van Buren County Fair north of Hartford. Crowds of people, and I was one of them. About 10 years old, in front of a sideshow. Standing on a platform, an older man with gray curly hair and a gold ear ring in one ear was calling out… “Step right up folks, see the two-headed boy!” He was surrounded by colorful garish posters showing a two-headed guy eating and doing all the normal things that people do. “Now I need someone from the crowd to help me. You, kid, step up here!” And he pointed right at me… I tried to shrink back into the crowd, but hands on my back propelled me forward, and the next thing I knew I was standing on the stage looking at that sea of faces. “Now you look like a bright young man… I’ll bet you could sneeze and put a gold coin right into this can I got in my hand!” He held up an empty gallon can and said, “Go ahead, sneeze into the can!” I faked a good sneeze, and “Clunk!” He picked a gold coin out and held it up for the crowd to see. Then he went on with his spiel… Saying sideways to me, “All right, Kid, go in and take a look… you’re all done.” Glad to get off that platform, I headed back into the display. Fair week came in the early fall. School was called off for that week, because most of the kids would be out at the fair anyway. My folks were both involved in it. My dad was Hartford’s only florist, so they had him judge the big flower show held in the Floral Hall. It took him all of the first day to judge the beautiful blooms that Hartford area ladies had lovingly grown. My mom was active in the Methodist church, and those ladies had the best food concession on the fairgrounds. Right next to the grandstand, their booth was one of the permanent buildings. Mealtimes a line stretched way back… people waiting to order their hot beef and pork sandwiches, vegetable soup, and pies of all kinds. I guess our folks felt as long as we stayed on the fairgrounds we shouldn’t get in much trouble. So we had the run of the place, and we knew every inch of it. I loved to ride on the Ferris wheel until one year I saw them put it up. They had such a skuzzy looking crew working on it, I saw that it was like an erector set. One loose bolt and the whole thing could come down. That was a little scary. I saw one sideshow where they had Bonnie and Clyde’s death car. I paid to go in and look at the slide show. There they were, laid out… full of bullet holes. Another tent was my absolute favorite. It was full of machine-gun type controllers in front of movie screens. Airplanes came at you on the screen, and you scored by shooting them down. It was noisy and great fun. One day when business was slow, the manager gave my sister and me free tickets. We made so much noise, pretty soon a crowd was gathered; and business got pretty brisk. And there was the two-headed boy! I had earned admission by being part of that guy’s spiel. So I quickly left the stage and back into the display. Quiet… a canvas room, and in the center a table. On it a big glass jar full of, I suppose, formaldehyde, floating in the jar, a baby with two heads. His little hands were clenched, and all four eyes closed. I had never seen anything that bizarre in my whole life. I stood there, transfixed. He, or they, looked as though they were dreaming. How long had they been thus? Were they born before the Civil War? Had they been born in the Great Depression? How did they get here? What were their last thoughts? I felt very uncomfortable looking at them. It was almost as though I was trespassing… someplace I shouldn’t be. And I wanted to get out of there. But my feet were glued to the ground. When I did get back out on the midway, the sunshine was not quite as bright as it had been. The poet Wordsworth wrote, “… We come to earth trailing clouds of glory, from God who is our home.” I have looked into the eyes of babies, and there almost seems to be wisdom there. Something they know that we don’t know. I wonder if anyone in this world has ever had memories of before they were born. I know this… my life was never quite the same after I saw that exhibit. Were those two brains separate entities? Of course they were. What did they think of? Were they still somewhere dreaming? I’ll never know. What I do know is that my life was forever a little different after seeing them. We are all in the process of becoming. I think everything that happens to us in this life shapes us, molds us into whatever we are going to be. One time we were vacationing in Florida. It was Sunday and we went to church. This was at Fort Myers, on McGregor Boulevard. The elderly priest said, “You know how they are always working on the streets here. We are like that. We should all have a sign around our neck that says ‘work in progress!’” Will we ever be completed? Probably not as long as we are thinking… receiving information. What else is new in these storybook towns of ours as we continue to weave golden threads into the tapestry of our lives?

Watervliet District Library News Teen Table Projects: June Do-it-yourself CD mandalas; all supplies provided. Summer Reading Program The library is pleased to partner with WPS to provide free lunches for kids & teens following each Thursday program. This year’s program includes: June 21 Kindness Rocks and June 28 Around the World Magic Show. Make-It Music Mondays, 1–2 p.m. Musical Instruments to make-n-take for K-6th graders & family: June 25 Music Scales (Xylophones) Open Mic, June 22, 7:30 p.m. Singers, musicians and dramatic artists are all encouraged to participate. Don’t forget: Performers need an audience! All artists must sign-up in advance. Refreshments will be served. Call 463-6382 to register or for details. Pinteresting, June 25, 6:30 p.m. Arts & crafts for grown-ups: Sun catchers; sign-up required. Volunteer Nothing looks better on a resume! Best times to help out: Mondays & Thursdays, program times. Stop by to pick up a form. 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.

Coloma Library News Libraries Rock! 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. For more information, call the library at 468-3431 or visit www.colomapubliclibrary.net. All programs are free of charge. Story Hour Story Hour meets on Wednesdays at 10:30 a.m. Toddlers and preschoolers are invited to hear a story, make a craft and sing a song with Miss Amy. There is no sign-up or fee required. It is asked that all children be supervised by an adult during Story Hour. Book Club The Coloma Library Book Club is meeting on Thursday, June 28 at 5:30 p.m. The title to read before the discussion is “Daring to Drive” by Manal Al-Sharif. The book club regularly meets every other Thursday and is always looking for new members.