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07-25-2019 Tri-City Area History Page

The Paw Paw River Journal

What made me curious?

Why do I do what I do? Well, psychologists tell us that two things mostly influence us – heredity and environment! Both sides of my family gave me the curiosity gene, storytelling, and an interest in people… it’s all in there. So I like to believe it is part of my background. My mom’s family was homesteaders in a canyon out in Idaho, so she had an interesting childhood. She regaled us and later our children with stories of what they came to call Tales of the Old West. Her folks tried life in Texas, then Idaho, and finally Michigan where she met my dad. They did a lot of traveling after that… most of the battlefields of the Civil War and many other places of historical interest. Always talking to people, and we were part of that! My dad was born in the little frontier town of Rush Lake, Wisconsin. The year was 1886, the same year Emily Dickinson died. She was one of our most famous and fearless women poets. He was born just 10 years after the battle of the Little Bighorns and Gen. Custer’s untimely demise. This was also just five years after the famous gunfight in the O.K. Corral and Wyatt Earp’s leap into history. When I was a little kid I followed my dad around everywhere, especially if he was going somewhere in the car. I loved to be on the wheels, and I guess he didn’t mind my being with him. So I heard all his stories and all the tales the old timers spun when they were talking. Lee Davis was Hartford’s only florist. He supplied flower arrangements for funerals, weddings, proms, and all kinds of parties. He also planted flowerbeds all around the area. Hartford’s Ely Park was part of his responsibility. There are two raised flowerbeds. Each year in springtime he so arranged plants in them that one spelled Hartford, the other spelled Ely Park. One warm spring day he was down there with his load of plants, and had stopped to talk with an old resident. The guy was looking at the business just west of the park… Smith Lumber Company. He said to my dad, “Looky there! Ed Smith is sitting out in front of the office in his new car and smoking a cigar. Nooooo… that couldn’t be Ed, he’s never been one to enjoy two things at the same time!” And that lumberyard office was one of the places my dad used to stop. They always had to sit and tell a few stories before he picked up the boards or whatever he was wanting. Ed Smith was a conservative old guy, as you can tell by the previous story about him. His son Johnny was also working there and the tales of old times flew about thick and fast. We also visited the gas stations and garages in turn, as he believed in patronizing the businesses of everyone who bought flowers from him. Of course, they told a lot of stories at the gas stations. When I was 5, I went with him to Bob Rankin’s Ford Garage. Located across the street from the park, it was a busy place. We walked out through the service area, a bee hive of activity. This was just before the market crashed and the Great Depression started. My dad was interested in buying one of those new Model A Fords. I noticed one mechanic whistling a tune. No it couldn’t be him… he had a pipe in his mouth. It was him, Pop Kime, and he’s the only man I ever knew who could smoke a pipe and whistle at the same time! Turned out to be the first time I ever met the guy whose son became my best friend. The Ford dealer, Bob Rankin, saw my dad come through, but he was with a customer at the time. Sensing a possible sale, he showed up thereafter at the greenhouses. My dad said yes, he was thinking of trading his Model T sedan in on a new one! They made a deal, and I was fascinated when he brought home the new car. For those of you who never looked over a Model T, the driver shifted gears with a series of three floor pedals. This new Model A had a clutch pedal and gearshift. I don’t remember how hard it was for my dad to learn the new configuration, but he somehow did it. I was fascinated to go with him and watch him shift gears. There was a little center console on the instrument panel, and had a speedometer that rolled around, showing how fast you were going. I can remember one day a friend of mine, Bill Galbreath, and I had been with him over to Watervliet. On the way back we were watching that speedometer as it rolled around. Bill said, “I’ll bet this car can’t go 70 miles an hour!” My dad just grinned and stepped down on the gas pedal! And while we watched, that dial spun around to 72!!! The Model A’s fenders were practically flapping! I’ll bet if my dad had known what financial hardships lay ahead, he would never have traded cars. But it served us well until 1935. By then we were coming out of the depression and my dad traded it in on a new Ford two-door. It was one of those newfangled V-8 engines and much faster than the old four-cylinder. Black in color (what else?) he only kept it two years and traded in on a new 1937 Ford. I wish I could go back and ask him why he didn’t keep it longer. The 1937 Ford was the one on which I learned to drive! My dad needed someone to deliver floral pieces, and he didn’t like to stop working to do it. All right with me!!! I was ready to start weaving some golden threads into the Great Tapestry of Life in our storybook town along the Paw Paw River!

This sweet photo of two girls with gladiolus… Do you know these young ladies? Contact North Berrien Historical Museum at 269-468-3330 or, or stop by Tues-Fri 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. we would love to hear your stories. From the photo collection at the North Berrien Historical Museum 300 Coloma Avenue, Coloma

Watervliet District

Make-It MondayJuly 29, 1 – 2 p.m. Activity for K-6th graders & families: This week – Space Mysteries. Pinteresting Monday, July 29, 6:30 – 8 p.m. Arts & crafts for grown-ups: This week – Beach Glass Wind Chimes. Summer Reading Program Thursday, Aug. 1, 11 to noon PIZZA PARTY – It’s the end of the Summer Reading Program and time to celebrate with the staff. Area Agency on Aging Monday, Aug. 5, 6:30 p.m. Join Region IV Specialist Tara Gillette will share details of the many programs, services and opportunities available through this valuable local resource. Yoga Monday 9 – 10 a.m., Wednesday 7 – 8 p.m., Friday 10:30 – 11:30 a.m.; Chair Yoga – Wednesdays 6 – 6:30 p.m. Call 463-6382 with questions on any Watervliet Library activity.

Coloma Public Library News

Campfire Stu A family-fun variety program with interactive stories, music, and humor is planned for Thurs., Aug. 1 at 11 a.m. in the Library’s community room. Kids Yoga with Vicki Shoemaker Kids, ages 7-12, can get a free yoga instruction from Vicki Shoemaker on Wed., July 31 from 1-2 p.m. Preregistration is required due to space limitations, call 468-3431 or see staff at the front desk to register. Out of This World Storytime Experience an Out of This World Storytime for toddlers and preschoolers on Wed., July 31 at 10:30 a.m. Book Club The Coloma Public Library Book Club is meeting on Thurs., Aug. 8 at 5:30 p.m. The title to read before the discussion is “Dear Mrs. Bird” by A.J. Pearce. Coloma Public Library Book Sale The Library’s summer book sale will take place Sat., Aug. 3 during the Glad-Peach Festival. The library will be closed; however, the book sale will be all day from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Purchases support the library’s literacy program.


100 years ago – 1919 The Coloma Telephone Co. will increase monthly rental rates on their lines. Rental of these phones will increase from $1.25 to $1.45. Remember you must produce the necessary license from the state department to drive your car. Fourteen is the age limit for automobile drivers. Applications may be secured from Arvine S. Miller. The Standard Oil Company will sell gasoline at fine new service stations. It would please many people to know why gasoline is sold at 23 cents per gallon in Benton Harbor and 25 cents per gallon in Coloma. 60 years ago – 1959 Funeral services for Robert N. Fitz, 71, were held from the First Assembly of God. Survivors include his wife Alvina, sons Arthur, Clarence, Walter, and daughter Mrs. William Tenter. Descendants of the late John and Barbara Besemer held their second annual reunion. Their children, Mrs. Mary Arent, Mrs. Christina Arent and Chris Besemer attended. Nancy Strejc, Miss Blossomtime 1959, attends the Minneapolis Aquatennial Carnival. She will ride on the Whirlpool company’s Alice-In-Wonderland float in their parade. 30 years ago – 1989 Alice Bacanti, 1967 Coloma graduate, requested that a Vietnam Memorial be erected at Baker Park. Commissioner George Postelli is in favor. The Coloma Glad-Peach Festival is full of quality fun for all ages. Coordinator Harriet Turner says, “Each day has something no one will want to miss.” The second annual Classic Car Show will be held on Sunday. Tom Greco plans to enter his 1957 Chevy. Deanna House will put on a food preparation show on the main stage. Enjoy the Vagabond Clowns rolling, skipping and making mischief in the Grand Parade. Submitted by volunteer Sandi Musick Munchow at Coloma Public Library from the Coloma Courier newspapers donated by the Tri-City Record. Hours: Mon & Fri, 10:00 a.m.-5:30 p.m.; Tue, Wed & Thu, 10:00 a.m.-8:00 p.m.; Sat, 10:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m. Phone: 269-468-3431


100 years ago – 1919 Huckleberry picking has been a popular pastime about Harford this week, and it has been indulged in by businessmen and village folk generally – many of whom had not picked a huckleberry in a decade or more. The nearby marshes are affording a bumper crop of fine large berries. The first of the local apple crop has appeared on the market and has been retailing at seven cents a pound. All of the apples offered thus far are exceptionally small, but the quality is good. The growers are attributing the size of the fruit to the dry weather and also cold rains which affected pollination. 75 years ago – 1944 German prisoners stationed in the Hartford camp receive copies of daily and weekly newspapers from surrounding communities. They are allowed to listen to the radio during their free time, and have a nickelodeon. Recreational activities include soccer, volleyball, ping pong and other sports. At the German prisoner post exchange, men may purchase cigarettes, candy, soft drinks and ice cream. Each man is allowed to purchase two bottles of beer per day. Canteen checks are issued to the workers according to the amount of money they earn, and are used for making purchases at the PX. The men are paid 80 cents each day if working. Ten cents a day is given them for incidental expenses. The Hartford Garden Club met at the home of Mrs. William Day with Mrs. Claude Simpson assisting the hostess. Mrs. William Phillips and Mrs. Lucille Chamberlin read papers on lilies and peonies. 50 years ago – 1969 The former supermarket building in Hartford has been leased by A&P Food stores and is being remodeled for a new A&P store to replace one farther east on Main Street. The building first was occupied by a Kroger store and by Tim’s supermarket. A&P is undertaking extensive interior and exterior remodeling and painting and will rearrange the interior to provide a larger sales area. Officials of the company hope to have the new store open by Aug. 20. Submitted by Librarian Stephanie Daniels at Hartford Public Library from microfilm copies of the Hartford Day Spring. Hours: Mon, Tue & Wed, 10 a.m.-7 p.m.; Thu & Fri, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sat, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Phone: 269-621-3408


90 years ago – 1929 Tomatoes appear to be the heaviest volume offered on the market at present, and the number of these increased so rapidly this week that the price took a drop of 25 cents on jumbos. The offerings of Duchess and Transparent apples continue to be fair. Duchess sold on Tuesday for about $2.50 for A grade, $2.00 for the B grade and $1.50 for the commercials. July 1959, South Watervliet resort farms are entertaining a large number of guests. Those accommodating tourists include J. Kniebes; William, Renne and Harvey Atherton. Mrs. Lyle Herron entertained a party of eight ladies at her home on Main Street honoring Mrs. John Crumb with a miscellaneous shower. 60 years ago – 1959 Donald E. Young, who has been selling Metropolitan Life Insurance for the past four years, wishes to go into general insurance. He has decided on Watervliet as the most desirable location. The Metropolitan Insurance Company was very reluctant to accept his resignation which indicated the character and capabilities of the young man. Leonard Wurn will take over the operation of Bridges 66 service station. Wurn is a graduate of WHS and a WWII veteran with four years spent in the U.S. Navy. Mr. and Mrs. George Harper are the proud patent of their baby girl, Victoria Elizabeth, born July 24, 1959. 30 years ago – 1989 It was back to school for Diane C. Marty of Watervliet, one of 39 teachers who attended Albion College’s Intensive Courses for High School Teachers Program. The week long program offered graduate level courses for secondary teachers of college-bound students in accelerated or enriched classes, independent studies, and Advance Placement courses. After attending, Marty will be better prepared to teach high school seniors who wish to take the national advance placement examinations to obtain college credit in specific courses. Coast Guard Aviation Electrician Kevin F. McCarthy has been promoted to Chief Petty Officer. Chief McCarthy is the husband of Katherine A. McCarthy, Watervliet. Mrs. McCarthy was promoted to 1st Lieutenant as a military intelligence officer for the 40th Infantry Division. Submitted by Sally Q. Gonzalez from files at Watervliet District Library of the Watervliet Record newspapers donated by the Tri-City Record. Hours: Mon & Wed, 10 a.m.-8 p.m.; Tue, Thu & Fri, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sat, 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Phone: 269-463-6382


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