07-06-2017 Tri-City History Page


New bridge over Paw Paw River, Coloma

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

Grand and Glorious

Small town Hartford baked in late June sunshine. Shiny ribbons of steel glistening as they slithered into Hartford from the south, past the old depot and off to Grand Rapids past the old Pere Marquette depot. I put my ear to the shiny main line rail and listened for the train that must be approaching from Watervliet. No far off rumbling in the iron highway yet. My friends and I had come to the depot to see if our awaited treasure could arrive today! We had been doing this for days now.

Along about the middle of June, I was maybe 13 years old, we had a meeting of friends. Bill Galbreath, Jim Tollar, Bernarde Thomas, Russell Kime and I gathered around a catalog from the Spencer Fireworks Company in Ohio. Probably Bill got the catalog from one of his older brothers. We counted our money and agonized over what we would order. Illegal to buy fireworks in Michigan, and also no ordering them through the mail, so we decided to get them from Ohio by Railway Express. Shooting them off in our state was always a gray area… but whoever stopped for that!

Finally the day came when the afternoon northbound slid to a stop, and we could see through the open door the express men sorting packages and tossing them out onto the waiting freight wagon. A long one had our name on it, and we hastily gathered it, rode like the wind back to Jim’s house to divide the loot. It was magnificent! I had packages of Zebra Crackers, a few giant Cannon Crackers, Roman Candles, and a couple of smallish skyrockets.

Of course we had to try them out! A nearby squirrel was chittering at us from atop a small telephone pole. Bernarde lit a Zebra Cracker and tossed it up in his direction. He panicked and launched himself out onto the street, landing like a gob of mud, then continued scolding us from the safety of a giant maple.

Came the day finally… the Grand and Glorious 4th of July! Russell’s family and my family were going on an all day picnic at Hagar Park. As I look back down the long corridors of time, I wonder what the rest of our gang would be doing. Bill was one of seven children, and I didn’t think their folks would be taking them on a picnic. Jim was tail end Charlie with a grown brother and sister. Bernarde was one of two boys and I didn’t know how their folks were on picnics. How unthinking of me not to worry about them… wish I could go back and have invited them to come to Lake Michigan with us! Of course, I don’t know how our folks would have liked that… we were good kids, but could be a little raucous at times.

Early morning and our folks packed up supplies for all day at the lake. Hagar Park was a family venue back then, and I guess it is again now. But there were some years while I was teaching in the area… a story going around, about a mother lecturing her daughter on her evil ways… “You know where bad girls go!”

The daughter answered sweetly, “Yes, they go to Hagar Park!”

Early morning wind sighing through the huge maples as our folks unpacked supplies and built a fire in the stone fireplace. My dad made pancakes… sausage sizzling in the frying pan, and was there ever anything so fine as eating under the trees on a soft summer morning? A few hardy families doing likewise, but later the park would be filled with picnickers. Russell and I went exploring… my sister Wilma and his sister Laure took their blankets and a stack of movie magazines down to the beach and early morning sun.

We romped and played all day… Lake Michigan water still ice cold, but we were in it anyway, splashing and swimming. My mom called, “Are you sure that is not too cold?”

“No,” we chorused through blue lips as we went on jumping in and swimming, hoping to get warm. Lunch was sandwiches and potato salad… our folks again getting the table spread for all of us. We spent the afternoon exploring and swimming again. The water was warming a bit now by the shore. Then supper with potatoes boiled with the skins on and hamburgers and buns. Oh, how we feasted… our backs burned from the flaming rays of summer sun.

Supper all cleared away, we all went down to the beach each with our colorful Indian blankets. The sun dropped down, a flaming ball of fire, and I then set off my two rockets over the water, with little starbursts. And the folks all telling stories; we each had a hollow in the sand, looking up at the glorious night sky sprinkled with diamonds. We watched fireworks from Benton Harbor to the south, and South Haven to the north.

Finally it was time to pack up and go home. How we dragged our feet and our blankets as we departed… all agreeing that this was the best 4th of July ever. Russell was almost a year older than I and Pop Kime always let him drive the car going home… getting him ready for his driver’s license. How I envied his doing that. My dad had not yet gotten the idea that I should be practicing so I could drive and do deliveries for them… that was a year off, because I was about 13.

Wilma and I sleeping in the back seat all the way home. Then our mom soaked our sunburned backs with a vinegar solution and we fell into bed, smiling as we slept… we had been weaving golden threads into the marvelous tapestry of our lives in these storybook towns along the Paw Paw River!

Coloma Library News

Summer Reading Club

“Build a Better World… READ!!”

It’s not too late to sign your child up for the Coloma Library’s Summer Reading Club. The program is underway and is a great way to keep your children reading throughout the summer. Please call the library with any questions, 468-3431.

Book Club

The Coloma Library Book Club is meeting on Thursday, July 20 at 5:30 p.m. The title to read before the discussion is “Good As Gone” by Amy Gentry.  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.

Joel Tacey “Book Builder Magical Comedy Show”

On Thursday, July 27 at 2 p.m. at the Coloma Library, Gear-up for Reading with Engineer Joel as he brings eight builder-rific books to life! Featuring goofy gadgets, dazzling magic, wacky stunts, and lots of audience participation, this wholesome youth program will have kids and grown-ups laughing out loud and crazy about reading. This is a free program and no sign-up is required. All children must be supervised and accompanied by an adult.

Watervliet District Library News

In Stitches Knitting Group: July 14, 2:30 – 4:00 p.m. bring your summertime knits or winter projects; we are always ready for a great knit-together! Limited supplies are available for beginners, too!

Third Monday Book Club: July 17, 7 – 8 p.m. American War by Omar El Akkad

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

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

Events for Summer Reading Program on Thursdays:

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

Events for Make-it Mondays:

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.

Yoga: Monday mornings from 9:00 – 10 a.m.; Wednesday evenings from 7:00 – 8:00 p.m.; Wednesday evenings from 6:15 – 6:45 p.m. Chair Yoga for people with limited mobility.


100 years ago – 1917

A new feature of the Chautauqua will be the Junior Division. There will be a daily story hour in the morning and afternoon, with “patriotism” being the focus of each talk. “A night at the Fairy Carnival” will be held in the gymnasium on the final night.

A delightful Ladies Social Union was held at Krakehurst. Several garments were completed for the bazaar. Short cake and coffee were served.

War News: President Wilson set in motion the complete measure of the draft. Rules and regulations were fixed.

60 years ago – 1957

Township constables are beginning their patrolling. They purchased their own uniforms and will be paid $1.25 per hour and eight cents per mile. They will be backed up “100 percent” by the Berrien County Sheriff.

Maurine King, 6, won the Michigan State Chapter of the NBTA class A baton twirling contest. She is instructed by Gyl Johnson.

The Coloma News Agency has undergone upgrades to the building. It is operated by city clerk, Mrs. Florence Davis and her husband William.

Treat Your Guest to Dinner With Us STRONG’S Restaurant – Paw Paw Lake. Just past Crystal Palace

30 years ago – 1987

Karen Johnson requested a land use permit for a battle of the bands at the rodeo grounds. It was rejected due to inadequate police protection.

Martorano’s Pizza – located on Main Street… Enjoy pizza in our new Pizza Garden. Now delivering within two miles of Coloma.

The North Berrien Historical Society entered a horse drawn open carriage in the Watervliet Parade honoring Michigan’s Sesquicentennial year. Roger Carter accompanied with his Model A Ford.

Township Supervisor Rod Krieger and Mayor Glenn Randall met with the 28 contestants of the Glad-Peach Festival Prince and Princess contest.

The family of Ruth M. Miller gives their thanks during their recent loss.


100 years ago – 1917

Plans are being launched looking to the erection of a new factory building in Hartford to be occupied by the Reliance Picture Frame Company. The demand for the immediate construction of the new building is prompted by the fact that the factory is already outgrowing its quarters in the H.D. Van Camp building in the southwest part of the town.

Two accidents marked the Fourth in Hartford. This evening an unknown young man lighted a sky rocket on Main Street and carelessly pointed it down the street. It caused concern among the crowd, and finally struck Mrs. B.D. Jessup in the leg. The same sky rocket broke a window in the Brackett egg store in the opera house block. A little son of Mrs. Iva Hamilton was also injured when an exploding firecracker filled his face with powder.

75 years ago – 1942

The Hartford Art Club held its annual cooperative dinner at the home of Mrs. Marion Anderson. The afternoon was spent socially.

New literature for our reading table includes a production number, “The Job Is Being Done,” also, “Air-Conditioning Young America,” from the Civil Aeronautics Administration and U.S. Office of Education.

50 years ago – 1967

A stock car driver was mortally injured in a crash at Hartford Motor Speedway during the 4th of July races. The accident took place during a 10-lap consolation race which was left over from the Friday night program. Pate was driving one of 11 cars in the race and started in third position. His car was upended when it was struck by another car. The racing program was completed after the track was cleared.

Grand opening of a new self-service car wash, Hartford Auto-Teria, has been set. It is located on Red Arrow Highway at the east city limits. The two-bay car wash is coin operated. It has blacktopped drives and parking area, and also offers chamois and vacuum cleaner service. The building is equipped with radiant gas heaters for winter use, and over head doors will be installed soon. Brightly lighted at night, the car wash will be open 24 hours a day.


90 years ago – 1927

An interesting recital was given by the piano students of Miss Marjorie Emery and Georgia Crumb at the Watervliet Congregational Church. Miss Crumb, who is a student of Miss Emery, presented six pupils – Audrey Case, Gladys Moser, George Ferguson, Frieda Woodward, Lucille Rorick and Isabell Crumb, all from Watervliet.

Four generations of the Carmody family, reunited at the old Carmody homestead in what was known as “Ireland” in the early days. All in all there were 36 present.

Advertised on July 22, 1927:

10 pounds sugar .67

24-1/2 pound sack flour .98

10 bars soap .29

2 pounds raisins .20

60 years ago – 1957

The Nilson Jewelry Store, Main Street Watervliet, has recently been remodeled and expanded to take in the rear room formerly occupied by the K & W Electric Co. Mr. Nilson owns and manages a second store in St. Joseph. The Watervliet store has been at this location since 1951.

Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence Evans are the proud parents of their baby boy born July 5, 1957 and weighed 9 pounds 5 ounces.

Mr. and Mrs. Walker Griffis, Watervliet, are the proud parents of a baby daughter, Tina Marie, born July 8, 1957 and weighed 7 pounds 6 ounces.

30 years ago – 1987

Watervliet resident Glenn (Corky) Openneer has been nominated for the 1987 Michigan Veteran of the Year. Openneer, a decorated Vietnam veteran, is the newly formed VFW’s First Commander. A decorated and wounded veteran of the Vietnam War, Corky has 13 years of military service, eight years active and five years in the National Guard. He has seen duty in two tours in Vietnam, two years in Alaska and two years in Europe, including six months at the American Embassy in Paris. As a member of the Armed Forces, Corky has earned the Bronze Star, Purple Heart, the National Defense Medal, the Vietnam Service Medal, the Vietnam Campaign Medal, the Army Commendation Medal, the Combat Infantry Badge and the Good Conduct Medal (twice). Corky has ably served the City as Superintendent of the Public Works department and has earned a community reputation for wholehearted support for local events and festivities. For six years he was a Little League and Peanut League coach, served on the Watervliet Recreation Council for one year and been on the Cemetery Board for the past five years.


Related Posts

See All

P.O. BOX 7


CALL: 269-463-6397
FAX: 269-463-8329

  • Black Facebook Icon
  • Instagram