The Paw Paw River Journal
My last column
When I started writing my column, I knew it would have to end sometime. And I’m a little surprised it has lasted this long! Robert Frost said in a poem, “…as dawn goes down today, so nothing gold can stay.” He means that everything in this world is finite. My Webster’s says finite means not being permanent, not lasting forever.
I’ve told this story before, but for one last time I’d like to say when I retired from teaching I had no notion that I would ever be writing a newspaper column. We moved back to our home in Hartford, and I called The Tri-City Record to get a subscription. We wanted to keep up on the local news.
Annie Bayer answered the phone. She was doing all that front office stuff for Karl back then. We talked and in the process of ordering a subscription she asked me what I did for a living. I told her I was a newly retired English teacher. She said, “What are you doing now, Mr. Davis?”
I said, “Oh, I keep a journal and I’m writing a couple of books.”
Annie said, “I think my husband would like to talk. Could he come over to see you?”
He did, and we had a most enjoyable conversation. He was looking for someone to write a newspaper column with a local Hartford slant. He said he didn’t want some fly-by-night who would do it for a while and then get tired. But he would like to find someone who could write.
We talked and I agreed to give it a try. I said there were just two things I was worried about. One was that I didn’t want anyone correcting my work… after all, I was an English teacher and should know what I was doing. The other was that I didn’t ever want one of my stories to be shortened to fit in a space. Karl had no problem with that, so I became an employee of the newspaper. And that was all those long years ago!
So what’s it been like? At first I had some trouble with the parameters… guess I tended to be a little long-winded. But I finally settled on an approximate length of about a page and a half, typed and single spaced. Over the years now that’s been about it. And I’ve always worried someday I’d run out of words… like the little kid who just stopped talking. When someone asked him why he was so silent, he said, “I just don’t have any more words in my mouth!”
Fortunately my fears so far have been unfounded. I was a little worried when we had lost all the old-timers to whom I used to go for stories. I have come to realize now we are the old-timers. Still a little scary!
When I was but a wee nipper I used to read The Hartford Day Spring. Editor Don Cochrane had a feature column every week called Around Town & Elsewhere. Guess that’s one of the reasons I’ve been doing this… I admired his off-the-wall humor and stories about local celebrities and people who were not noteworthy other places.
I have been so worried we would lose all of our small-town newspapers. And they are dropping out at an alarming rate. Somewhere along in there I decided I would do what I could to reverse that trend. I told Karl I would not ask him for a raise. I wanted to keep the newspaper going… I feel all of the local weekly papers are a necessary part of Americana! What I never told him was how much I enjoy doing just what I’m doing here.
I know I have been an integral part of The Record. Karl is an excellent news man, just as Annie has loyally backed him up. For years she gathered ads and wrote things for the paper. Daughter Amy does the front desk duties now, and she does them well. The Bayers over the years have attracted some excellent people to work on the paper. Had it not been for the foregoing, this newspaper would have been just another statistic in the gathering twilight of small-town America.
I have been writing about darkness settling on small towns like Hartford. And I hope to do some more before I’m finished. People seem to enjoy it when I dip into the past. Well, the past is solid. It’s fixed for all time and can never be changed now. I believe we should do all we can to preserve the way of life we all love. I know, I know, it’s a futile task!
So, when this final story will be printed I have no idea. I do know I have had fun writing my column. I’ve gotten to know (in a sense) all of you… friends all over this part of the United States, and you’d be surprised to what nooks and crannies of the world it gets sent. Many of you have told me, or members of my family, how much you enjoy it. So thank you for the kind words!
Among the Christmas cards we received this last season was one I found especially noteworthy. It was from the Bayers. Annie wrote it and I’d like to quote briefly from it. She said, “…may God bless you? You are also my first and last employee hire. But I topped them all.” That made me feel good.
What better place these years, these golden years, could I have spent time than with the family that has done such a good job of bringing the local news to all of us… every week weaving golden threads into the Great Tapestry of Life in these storybook towns along the Paw Paw River.
As they say in newspaper circles, “I guess that’ll be 30!”
EDITOR’S NOTE: Roy M. “Bud” Davis died on Tuesday, May 5, 2020. His obituary follows as printed in the May 14, 2020 Tri-City Record. RIP Bud, you will be missed!
Read Roy’s complete final column under the History Tab!
Gov. Whitmer gym order prevails; COVID-19 Back to School Plan revealed
By Jon Bisnett
Governor Gretchen Whitmer had announced a tentative reopening date for gyms, movie theaters and bowling alleys of July 4th, provided the curve continues its current downward trend, in a press release last week. After being overturned, an eleventh-hour appeal kept that order in place.
A federal appeals court Wednesday night, June 24 agreed to delay implementation of a judge’s order that would have allowed indoor gyms to reopen in Michigan beginning at 12:01 a.m. Thursday, June 25. The U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals issued the ruling shortly before 9 p.m., saying Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s order keeping indoor fitness facilities closed during the coronavirus pandemic needed to remain in place while an appeal of U.S. District Judge Paul Maloney’s decision of last week to reopen them was heard.
“We sympathize deeply with the business owners and their patrons affected by the Governor’s order,” the ruling said. “Crises like COVID-19 can call for quick, decisive measures to save lives. Yet those measures can have extreme costs — costs that often are not borne evenly.”
Whitmer has continued to claim to base all her orders on the “best data and science available” without sharing any of the data or benchmarks drawing ongoing criticism especially from small business.
At press time, 16 states have paused or rolled back their reopening plans as the U.S. sees a surge in coronavirus cases across the country.
In Texas and parts of California, bars were directed to close back down, while beaches in Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Palm Beach were ordered off-limits to the public during the upcoming holiday weekend. In Florida, on-premises alcohol consumption was suspended in bars statewide. Additional states are expected to follow.
The risk of keeping bars and restaurants open is exemplified by an East Lansing, brew pub, where over 100 people contracted COVID-19 after visiting earlier in June.
Events & venues
Beginning June 30, Amtrak and the Michigan Department of Transportation restored the daily Pere Marquette round-trip trains between Grand Rapids and Chicago. The service, which has several stops in Southwest Michigan, including Benton Harbor/ St. Joseph and Bangor, was suspended March 21 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Anyone having jury duty anytime between now and August 17, in the Berrien County Courts, will not be called to serve.
The Cass County Fair canceled just this last week saying, “We hope to make the very best out of a difficult situation and we look forward to better days ahead. Just think Fair 2021 is only 57 weeks away.”
The Allegan County Fair was one of the last hold-outs, with a post Labor Day date, has now also canceled for 2020.
As Indiana’s largest festival, the Marshall County Blueberry Festival has canceled the 54th Annual Festival this year for September 4-7, 2020.
The Cedar Point Shores waterpark will not open for the 2020 season. The main Cedar Point attraction hours will also be reduced all season.
Disney is delaying the phased reopening of the company’s flagship theme parks in California after previously planning to reopen Disneyland on July 17.
The Orlando Sentinel reports that Walt Disney World plans have not changed, and that they will reopen their theme parks beginning July 11.
The world-renowned New York Marathon fell victim to COVID-19, cancelling the planned November event.
MI Safe Schools Return
In a press conference held Tuesday, June 30, just hours before the TCR press time, Governor Whitmer revealed details of Executive Order 2020-142, which provides a structure to support all schools in Michigan as they plan for a return of PreK-12 education in the fall.
The MI Safe Schools Return to School Roadmap was introduced on Tuesday. The document outlines a number of detailed safety protocols for schools to implement in each phase of the governor’s MI Safe Start Plan. From classroom, to transportation and athletics, the roadmap directs schools through a self-evaluation process with the goal of achieving “best practices” of safety for students and staff, while maintaining educational standards at the highest possible level. The plan includes what the Governor’s office calls “sensible mandates,” and urges all schools to comply.
Schools are required to create three different plans for various possible phases. Phase 3: completely remote; Phase 4: restrictions but in-person learning; Phase 5: less restrictive in-person. Our local schools have all been sharpening the budget pencil and planning for the fall for several months now. The TCR will expand on how the program will specifically affect Tri-City schools in the coming weeks.
Testing for COVID-19 is more readily available all over the state. Contact your local Health Department or your family physician for specific local resources. Facemasks are still recommended and mandated by many businesses. Handwashing and Social Distancing are the status quo and the usual expectations at most retailers and offices. Remain patient. When in doubt, call first.
COVID numbers in Berrien County decreasing
By Annette Christie
It’s all good news in discussing the decreasing numbers of COVID-19 patients in Berrien County. The daily dashboard found on the Berrien County Health Department website displayed the most current numbers as of 3:00 p.m. Tuesday, June 30, 2020, showing 718 confirmed cases overall and 224 probable cases. Only one new case was revealed as of June 26.
On June 22, 2020, Berrien County facilities began opening up to the public, with some restrictions. Visitors are subject to health screenings and the wearing of masks.
The Berrien County Sheriff’s Office Records Lobby, located at 919 Port St., St. Joseph will continue to see patrons by appointment only through July 17, 2020. Individuals will be able to make an appointment for the following services: Firearms Transactions, Sex Offender Registry, Fingerprinting, and Report Requests. Appointments will be available Monday thru Friday from 9:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. To schedule an appointment, call (269) 983-714 ext. 7211 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. No walk-ins will be accepted. The Berrien County Sheriff’s Office in Niles will remain closed to the public through July 17, 2020 and all appointments will be handled at the St. Joseph Office.
The Michigan Supreme Court issued Administrative Order 2020-14 on May 6, 2020 which directs the re-openings of all Michigan trial courts. All Michigan courts are to re-open in a four-phase approach. Berrien County Trial Court is in Phase 2 of re-opening effective June 15, 2020.
For several months following the Supreme Court’s direction to close courthouse facilities to the public, the Berrien County Trial Court has been continuing to conduct required hearings via video technology. Phase 2 provides for some additional in person court proceedings, however the majority of court proceedings for all divisions continue to be conducted remotely.
Only those individuals with appointments with the court or another department in the building will be allowed in during Phase 2 and Phase 3. All members of the public must wear a mask and must complete a health questionnaire before being allowed to enter the building. Those who do not pass the health screening questions or refuse to wear a face covering will be denied access to the courthouse facilities and will be given information on how to conduct their business remotely.
As long as local COVID-19 statistics remain in a downward trend, the Trial Court expects to move to Phase 3 operations effective July 6, 2020. Phase 3 will allow for additional in person court proceedings but will not mean a full re-opening to the general public. Only those with a scheduled hearing, those needing to file paperwork with the court, or those under subpoena or party to a case will be allowed in at that time and will go through the same process as Phase 2 as it pertains to screening.
Phase 4 will be a full re-opening of the facilities only when a public health statement is issued indicating that COVID-19 is no longer a national public health crisis.
To ensure that you are not sent away unnecessarily, please call or e-mail the court prior to coming to the facilities to determine if your question or proceeding can be handled in another manner. A listing of contact information for all departments housed in the courthouse facilities can be found at the Trial Court COVID-19 response page at https://www.berriencounty.org/1669/COVID-19 along with additional information regarding the current status of court operations.
Local government offices figuring out how to meet in person
Due to the State of Emergency declared by Governor Whitmer in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the City of Watervliet continues to take measures to help ensure public/ employee safety. Effective Monday, June 29, 2020, City Hall is open to the public with COVID-19 preventative measures in place.
There will be no more than one person allowed in the lobby at a time (unless the individuals all reside within the same household) and all visitors are asked to wear a protective face covering. While in person business is now possible, the city strongly encourages the use of online and telephone correspondence/ business until further notice.
Additionally, all city parks continue to be open to the public; however, social distancing should be observed regardless of the park or equipment used. Equipment and facilities will be cleaned; however, personal protective measures should continue to be taken at all times.
City Administration advises all residents to follow preventative guidelines as set forth by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) and the Berrien County Health Department during this time. This includes but is not limited to: Maintaining good hygiene, frequent hand washing, avoid touching the eyes, nose, and mouth, and the use of protective face covering.
As always, city staff will continue to be available during this time as their commitment to city residents will remain a top priority.
Keeler Township officials announced that they will hold their July 7, 2020 meeting in person in the fire station bay. The garage door will be open with adequate air flow and social distancing and face covering measures will be in place.
Watervliet Township Hall has also opened to the public and requires face coverings by visitors. Their next meeting, scheduled for the third Monday in July at 7:00 p.m., is set to be held at the township hall.
As local government offices work to serve the public, their buildings being open and meetings being held in public are subject to change, depending on the Executive Orders of the Governor. It is best to call those offices with questions or visit their websites for up to date information.