08-31-2017 Tri-City Area History Page

The Paw Paw River Journal

Hartford’s Speed Demon

For a while there back when I was pretty new at driving, I was the fastest kid in Hartford!  It happened thusly… you know how when you first learn to drive, you are kind of timid?  Then when you have a little experience, you get overly confident.  During that time for me, I must have had a guardian angel sitting on my shoulder, because I never had an accident.

One day I came home from school, and my dad was sitting on a bench out in the greenhouse.  He had parts all over in front of him from the instrument panel on our 1938 Ford.  He said, “The spring broke that moves the needle around showing how fast you are going.  I plan to fix it myself!”  And he did!  He reattached the spring where it had broken off, and now it was just a little shorter.

But there was an unexpected result… it now showed the speed to be faster than it really was!   When we were going about 35, the dial said 40.  And faster speeds multiplied the error.  If you were doing 70, the dial read 90!  I’m afraid I used this to impress my friends.

I’ve mentioned before that back in those days we could get our driver’s license when we were 14.  Had I become skillful at it?  Yes, my dad had me practice so I could take over floral deliveries for him.  Was my judgment good?  Ach, no!  I’ve also said that my dad (from all of his experience) did not believe that women were capable of driving a car.\

My mom had reinforced that belief many times.  She was born to be left-handed, which in those days was thought to be a handicap.  So she was trained to be right-handed.  This screwed her up so badly she couldn’t tell her left from her right.  Thus she never mastered the Ford… this just reinforced my dad’s belief.  So no way was he going to let my sister learn the intricacies of the automobile.

My sister Wilma and I got off to a rocky start.  The day I was born (at home) she was sent up to the neighbors with Grandma to sit in their lawn glider swing… you know one of those with seats facing each other and it went back and forth.  They told her she would have a baby brother or sister to play with and she’d really like that.  Already suspicious, when she returned home, there I was howling in my bassinet, lungs like a Methodist, as my dad used to say… which is what they were.

She took one look at me… I suppose my face was red and all scrunched up… and I was howling!  She said, “He can’t play with me… he can’t even talk!   I don’t like him at all!”  Thus we spent our childhood in an armed truce… occasionally banding together when we wanted to do a joint project that might or might not be sanctioned by our folks!

When we were teenagers, we discovered we had lot in common and became friends.  I could drive now!  Wilma was older, and couldn’t drive, but had more mature judgment.  So the folks would let us take the car if we went together!  Back then Hartford High’s football and baseball games were played on Friday afternoons at the sand burr patch south of the old high school… no lights in those days.

So Friday nights there was usually a high school sponsored skating party at Steve Bearty’s Roller Rink just past the Ellinee at Paw Paw Lake… or a Student Council dance at the high school gym.

Wilma and I got the car and took a load of kids to Steve’s.  On the way home one night is when I cemented my record as a speed demon!  I told the guys in front with me to watch the speedometer… and on a moonlit straight stretch of highway I put that Ford up to 90 mph!  Actually I was going about 70… they were impressed, and the girls in back all holding on to each other in terror!igh’s    I dropped the speed to respectability again, and my reputation was established!

Finally came time to trade in the Ford.  My dad believed the war was coming (how true), and he’d better get a new 1941 while they were available.  By this time Marion and I had started dating.  I washed that black beauty out in the back yard when we were going on a date, and now I could pick her up in a new Ford! I never showed her my speed demon side!

One day my dad told me he went back to the Ford garage for some reason.  One of the mechanics he knew cornered him and said, “Lee, why did you trade in that 1938?  I took it out and tried it… that’s the fastest car I’ve ever driven!  I’ve got a good notion to buy it myself!”  My dad just smiled.

When I turned in the driveway at her folks’ to pick up Marion, wasn’t I proud?  One afternoon that summer Wilma and I got the car.  We went out to visit Marion (which Wilma was willing to do).  On her mom’s side porch, Marion and I sat on the bamboo couch holding hands.  And we watched while my sister drove around and around their double driveway… practicing so she could get her driver’s license.

When I returned from WWII, my dad still had that Ford, and I again borrowed it to date Marion.  She was now finishing nurses’ training.  I think my dad was relieved when I bought my own wheels (a used Chevy) and didn’t have to put any more miles on his poor old car, which was by now getting to be pretty high mileage!

Days of glory as we were weaving golden threads into the tapestry of our lives in these storybook towns along the Paw Paw River!

Coloma Library News

Labor Day Closings

The Coloma Public Library will be closed on Saturday, September 2, Sunday, September 3 and Monday, September 4 due to the Labor Day Holiday Weekend. The library will re-open on Tuesday, September 5.

Story Hour

Story Hour will be taking a break until after school starts; it will resume on Wednesday, September 13 at 10:30 a.m.

Book Club

The Coloma Library Book Club is meeting on Thursday, September 14 at 5:30 p.m. The title to read before the discussion is “Sleeping Giants” by Sylvain Neuvel.  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.

Watervliet District Library News

 LEGO donations needed – any and all LEGOs not used anymore. Take them to the library.

Yoga – Monday mornings, 9:00 to 10:00 a.m.; Wednesday evenings, 7:00 to 8:00 p.m.; Wednesday evenings, 6:00 to 6:45 pm – Chair Yoga

Coming Soon – Toddler Time – September thru November, half hour class on Tuesday’s at 10:30 a.m.

Story Hour – October thru April, one hour class on Wednesdays at 10:30 a.m. and Thursdays at 1:30 p.m.

Library card sign-up – In honor of National Library Card Sign-Up month, the Watervliet District Library is inviting area residents without cards to pick one up. Throughout the month of September anyone registering for a new library card or updating an inactive card will be entered into a prize drawing for a bag of library swag. The winner will be announced October 2.

The library district includes the city and township of Watervliet, however residents of surrounding areas are able to use the library or acquire a card through a variety of no-cost methods. Anyone seeking more information can contact the library at 269-463-6382 or info@wdlib.org.


100 years ago – 1917

Coloma’s second officer to be called to participate in the great world’s war is First Lieutenant Spencer V. Barnum. He will take up his new work at the army cantonment at Battle Creek where military training will take place for the drafted men.

The Coloma branch of the American Red Cross will set up headquarters in the State Bank of Coloma. The offices were previously occupied by Ernest M. Jones.

Coloma schools will open Tuesday, September 5. Most rural schools will open on the same date as the village.

60 years ago – 1957

Coloma’s township police recovered a stolen automobile less than an hour after it was reported missing. Patrolmen Harold Nitz and William Tabbert apprehended the man on Paw Paw Lake Road.

Coloma was thrown into confusion when the C&O train stopped, causing traffic jams on Paw Paw and West streets. An air hose snapped and caused the train to stop automatically. On top of this, the fire whistle sounded off for a fire at Paw Paw Lake. In the end, all was managed efficiently, with complete safety.

The Washington School band competed in the Mardi Gras festival in Chicago. Accompanying the group were Mrs. Carlton Hartman, Mrs. Art Fitz and Dick Hazen.

30 years ago – 1987

Superintendent Clifford Tallman announces that board member Wayne Kreitner has resigned because of a job transfer. Also, John Seiber will serve as interim principal at the junior high, with Patricia Goodman helping.

Civil engineer Monte Sternaman and DDA Chairman Karl Bayer unveil a plan for a combined Coloma/ Watervliet park system.

Prof. G. Lester Sells has been engaged to teach science and lead the orchestra for the Coloma Schools this coming year.

The city voted to not proceed with the Community Development Block Grant Program.


100 years ago – 1917

Lightning, which accompanied the heavy storm of last Thursday afternoon, destroyed two valuable barns within a radius of four miles of Hartford, one at the county farm three miles east of the village and one at the Jacob Geisler farm, four miles southwest of town. Both barns burned quickly together with the greater part of their contents. The two barns were struck at almost the same moment in the middle of the afternoon.

Work has already begun to fit the town hall for housing the new motor fire truck purchased by the township, which will be delivered before the first of October. The archway at the entrance will be removed and new doors installed to permit the safe exit of the truck and the floor will be strengthened to support the machine. Word from the factory is to the effect that work on the truck has already been commenced and that it will be ready for delivery in about three weeks.

75 years ago – 1942

The Hartford Philharmonic Club will open its new year on Wednesday evening, September 9, with a dinner at the Federated church. The program for the evening will be as follows: Theme song, “I Hear America Singing”; President’s greeting; pledge to the flag; piano duet, “Stars and Stripes Forever” by Mrs. Lammon and Mrs. Dowd; roll call, reminiscences of summer activities; vocal solos, by Grace Gearing Lang; paper, “Music for the Morale of Our Fighting Forces” by Mrs. Grace Thompson.

50 years ago – 1967

Marine Corporal Albino Reyna Jr., son of Mr. and Mrs. Albino Reyna Sr., has been awarded the Navy Commendation medal for his heroic actions with “B” company, 1st Reconnaissance Battalion, 1st Marine division when an enemy ambush struck at the point element of Cpl. Reyna’s patrol, mortally wounding one man with the initial burst of fire. As rear security for the patrol, Cpl. Reyna immediately deployed his fire and directed it against the enemy positions. He continually exposed himself to the heavy enemy fire to deliver devastating fire with the M-79 grenade launcher.

For the second year, the Hartford Jaycees will sponsor a gun safety program in cooperation with local and state police, Sheriff’s department and Conservation department. The program will be held Tuesday, Oct. 3, at the high school cafeteria. There will be a discussion of gun safety and hunting laws, plus a special demonstration.

Registration for a class in physical education for women will be held Tuesday, Oct. 3 at the gymnasium. Miss Jean Hollar will teach the class if there are 10 interested parties, for a fee of $10.


90 years ago – 1927

Electrical storm damage southeast of Watervliet during the severe electrical storm of Sep. 10, 1927. Lightning struck the barn on James Sweeney’s farm doing considerable damage to the structure and killing a cow that was standing outside the stable. The barn did not catch on fire. Three sheep in a pasture on Danneffel’s place also in Watervliet were killed by lightning.

Howard Baughman, a native of Watervliet, has been appointed resident manager of the Floridan Hotel at Tampa, Florida. The Floridan is one of Tampa’s newest hotels containing four hundred guest rooms.

Bartley Rose and family have moved into a part of the old school building and he will be caretaker of the property. Considerable damage has been done to the building since it was vacated for school purposes over two years ago and once during the summer, boys set the structure on fire.

60 years ago – 1957

Colonel William E. Jennings, a native of Watervliet, was recently named the First United States Army Signal Officer, succeeding Colonel C.B. Brown, who retired from service. Colonel Jennings was Deputy Signal Officer since June 1956 and served as Signal Officer at Camp Drum, NY, throughout the 1956 summer training for national guardsmen and reservist.

Nick Vucich, son of Mr. And Mrs. John Vucich of Watervliet, has returned from East Lansing where he was selected to meet at the State Rally “The Mothers of WWII”, which will hold their rally here on Sep. 12, 1957. Nick also placed first in the Agriculture division in crops with his demonstration on “Grading and Packing Tomatoes.” He is a 4-H Leader.

Navy Ens. James E. Stout, son of Mr. and Mrs. John H. Stout, Watervliet, is undergoing instrument, formation and night flight training at the Corry Field Auxiliary Air Station, Pensacola, FL. Before entering this final phase of basic training, students complete the precision-acrobatic stage of fight. Upon completion of basic training they are assigned to Advanced Training in either antisubmarine or patrol planes.

30 years ago – 1987

Army National Guard Private Don A. Trail, son of Bobbie and Marc Rankin, Watervliet, has completed one station unit training (OSUT) at the U.S. Army Infantry School, Fort Benning, GA. The training included weapons qualifications, squad tactics, patrolling, landmine warfare, field communications and combat operations. Completion of this course qualifies the soldier as a light-weapons infantryman and as an indirect- fire crewman.

Navy Airman Recruit Daniel E. Thurston, son of Dean Thurston, Watervliet, recently reported for duty aboard the aircraft carrier, USS Ranger, home ported in San Diego.


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