07-23-2020 Tri-City Area History Page

The Paw Paw River Journal


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

Debut column from Jan. 9, 1985: In the space called Hartford A late winter night in Hartford is usually pretty quiet. Spirea bushes droop quietly around the outside of porch railings under their load of snow. Bare maple trees loom over quiet streets, with snowflakes sifting down at the intersections under street lamps. In their beds, old timers are tucked up to their chins, and nothing disturbs the town except an occasional hot rodder. But out south, trucks wind down the hill from Lawrence. In the quiet, always the big trucks. They used to come through town, but not any more. Now, they travel 1-94, bisecting a sort of bowl formed by hills to the south toward Keeler, fruit country west toward Watervliet, Webster Hills to the north, and rolling hills east toward Lawrence and Paw Paw. Trucks coming west on the big road run through miles of grape vineyards near Paw Paw. After Lawrence, they roar down the incline past Hilltop Orchards and the Dowd Farms. Down this slope they really pick up speed, and in the quiet of night provide a steady noise which can be heard all over town. Trains are another matter. C & O diesels running north and south on the west edge of town sound almost like the old steamers, but not quite. And although the lonesome whistle is a universal night sound, the big rigs out on 1-94 are the ones we hear in our sleep. At Exit 46, 1-94 passes under the Keeler Road, which becomes South Center Street in Hartford. Here the old Avery farm was sold to make the interchange. This exit is surrounded by gas stations and fruit stands. There are also convenience stores and a restaurant, The Panel Room, which serves huge hamburgers. Some years back the Keeler Road was improved and widened. Where it passes Maple Hill Cemetery, they deepened the cut to level the road bed. Some old timers thought this came perilously close to sacrilege. Mamie Howes, my old piano teacher, is buried in her family plot near the bank. At the time of the road work, she was still alive and said she was afraid some of her family might have their feet sticking out. Those fears proved groundless. Ever since 1-94 was completed, Hartford has been getting more quiet. One old timer said the population never had changed much anyway. Whenever a baby was born, somebody left town. This is an exaggeration, but the activity is not what it used to be. Old U.S. 12, running right through town on Main Street, now carries mostly local traffic. Before, this was the main artery between Chicago and Detroit. Most original Main Street businesses are gone. There are only two familiar names: Smith’s Building Center on the west end, and Calvin’s Funeral Home (formerly Zuver & Calvin’s), now owned by Dale Leonard, just east of the bank. In order to find familiar names, the returning native must go out to Maple Hill Cemetery. Inside the entrance gate is a small stone vault with an iron fence at the door. The sexton kept bodies here when the ground was too frozen for burials. In the winter of 1918 my mother lost her first baby. Snow was so deep she could just see the horses’ ears as they pulled sleighs past her sick room window. My only brother, whom I never knew, lay in that vault until the first spring thaw. Just beyond there, he is buried next to my parents.


Lion’s Club serving breakfast at the 1971 Fly-In at Watervliet Airport … Men identified are: Chum White Jr., Ian Krall, Bob Brant and Mort Leith. Did you attend this pancake breakfast? Did you attend the fly-in? Did you fly-in? If you can answer any of these, 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


Coloma Public Library News Free online tutoring

In support of families in our community, the Coloma Public Library now offers Tutor.com. Tutor.com provides online academic tutoring, homework help, and test preparation for kindergarten through 12th grade students, plus early college students, and adult learners. Any Coloma Public Library card holder can connect with an expert tutor in a safe and secure online classroom. Call us at 269-468-3431 for more information. Special Access Services The library is open for Special Access Services. Hours are Monday-Friday 12-6. We will be