07-16-2020 Tri-City Area History Page

Bill Nelson and Frank Breed leaning on a car at Nelson Brothers … Notice the old type gas pump on the right and near center. Do you have a story involving a vehicle the pops into your mind? We would love to hear your story, please contact North Berrien Historical Museum at 269-468-3330, info@northberrienhistory.org or facebook.com/NorthBerrienHistory/. The museum is open for private tours only. From the photo collection at the North Berrien Historical Museum 300 Coloma Avenue, Coloma


EDITOR’S NOTE … the recent passing of longtime columnist Roy “Bud” Davis necessitates adding local history columns. Beginning with July issues our popular local history columnists, Pearl Playford, Dorothy Cannell, and Roy “Bud” Davis will rotate through a 3-week cycle. Enjoy!

This is an answer to the suggestion that I write a weekly column for the Record, recalling early days in Coloma and Watervliet, similar to that written by Roy Davis about Hartford – that is, of course, with the help of Record readers. I have thought a lot about this challenge. It is true that, any day now, I’ll be an “old-timer” who has strings to this community stretching way back. It is also true that I have been involved in several basic projects about the history of these communities. First, there were long, pleasant days in the summer of 1975 spent with my mother, Mabel Branch Stark, at my home on Magician Lake, typing, editing and adding personal stories to complete her book, “Trails From Shingle Diggin’s”. We so wanted to help her finish one final copy before her 90th birthday, which would be on August 26. She had gathered material all of her adult life, interviewed people 50 years ago who were 90 then. Many of the stories had been in area news-papers for which she was a reporter. The stories were basically there. Being a good newspaper reporter she was great on getting the facts, but we, my sister Allene and I, were trying to get her to include some human interest stories of her own life. “This is history,” she would insist. “People don’t want to hear about me. They want to hear about ‘old-timers!’” We finally convinced her that she was an old-timer and she reluctantly allowed some of her memories in. And we did have a completed copy of the book for her 90th birthday. In fact, Evelyn Kittel Appel, who had been a childhood neighbor of ours, baked a beautiful cake, decorated with a book on top and imprinted with the name. Her friends, the Howard Kosbaus, worked with us to get it published, and although she died before this was finished we always felt that we had helped Mom bring completion to her life’s work. Second, there was further research and writing experience acquired in the project for the Coloma sesquicentennial, which we called “Shingle Diggin’s Came First.” That had been Allene’s choice for the book title, but “Trails From Shingle Diggin’s” prevailed because the book emphasized that it reached into Paw Paw Lake, Hagar and Bainbridge townships, and Watervliet. I also handled some of the newspaper publicity for the drama presentations. There was more research for an ill-fated attempt to write a drama for Watervliet’s sesquicentennial. The committee decided against it, but we did a few parts for a North Berrien Historical Society meeting. Finally, I was on the committee, headed by Sylvia Prager, which published last year the book “Glimpses of the Past,” family stories written by many people of this community. And those were eye-openers for anyone interested in “the old days” of this area or history in general. My maternal grandparents, Laura and Eaton Branch, settled on Hagar Shore Road among such neighbors as the John Pecks, the Wicklunds, the Lavelys, the Friesens, the Hutchins family (Amelia was Laura’s sister) and east of the Stickneys and the Harts. (She was Laura’s sister too. They ran a dairy and Ethel Hart, also a cousin, became Mrs. Joe Pitcher, well-remembered residents of Watervliet.) Beyond them there were the Coons and the McConnels and another Branch, brother of Eaton, who moved before my day to White Cloud, where today you’ll find “bunches of Branches”. I remember my mom mentioning also the Schoonovers (Susie, a special friend) and the Doolittles, and just off Hagar Shore were the Pocketts. Mom’s sister, Aunt Nora, married Gard Pockett and I am now staying in Florida with Muriel, one of their children. Mabel, my Uncle Earl and Aunt Nora, along with children from many families mentioned, attended Stickney School. I have some memories of it myself as we lived the World War I years across from my grandparents. However, I started school at Ingrahm, a few miles east on Hagar Shore Road, nearer where I graduated much later, of course, from Coloma High School. My grandparents also lived in Watervliet on Mill Creek in the Holland tenant house and Mom attended school there in 1892 and ‘93. She was a member of the Forty-Year Club (people who attended Watervliet School 40 years before they join). Is it still in existence? I’m not sure. I feel foolish going on so long about myself and family but sense a need to establish credibility for my doing a column such as Record editor/publisher Karl requested. This letter is kind of a resume. And to be honest, I must also include some negative considerations. I’m a snowbird several months of the year (Thank God, this winter!) but know a number of local people who are here, too, and good for a few stories. My present interests and concerns reach beyond local history and might creep into any column I’d write. I’d like to try a little reminiscence, a little humor, travel, some challenge toward the opportunities available today, and a bit of dreaming about the future. With some contributions from others, perhaps it would work – as it works for Roy and Hartford. If you’re willing to open the door, I’d like to try.

Coloma Public Library News Special Access Services On Monday, July 13, the Coloma Public Library opened for Special Access Services. Hours of service are Monday-Friday 12-6. The library will continue Curbside Service on Saturdays from 10-2. Special Access Services means they may only allow a limited number of patrons in the library building at a time. Visits are limited to 30 minutes when there are others waiting for access. As mandated by the State of Michigan, face masks are required for entry. Social distancing is to be maintained for the safety of staff and patrons. Computers will be available with limited assistance from staff. Faxing and printing is available. Summer Reading Program Summer Reading has officially begun! This year’s offering is virtual so children, teens, and adults can participate in fun reading challenges online! However, the library will also provide paper logs and craft kits (while supplies last). Visit www.colomapubliclibrary.net for details. Please call, email, or rea