The Paw Paw River Journal
Noblesse oblige My Webster’s says noblesse oblige is a French term for the obligation that people who are in a position of responsibility have to those under them. In other words, if you have power over people you are supposed to treat them well. We all know that doesn’t always happen. There is another old saying, “power corrupts – absolute power corrupts absolutely.” And that is in direct opposition. In the case of France that is where the first saying probably came into use. Back in those days France was ruled by kings. There was a huge gulf between the aristocracy and common people. Little understanding on both sides, and it led to a bloody revolution. Someone told the royal family, “The peasants have no bread to eat.” Marie Antoinette (bosom buddy of the King, so to speak) is supposed to have said, “Well then, let them eat cake!” True or not, it illustrates an abysmal ignorance on the part of royalty. After that out came the guillotine, followed by the most horrible bloodletting you can imagine. In our own case, purveyors of comedy have made hay with this idea of power corrupting. Think of Don Knotts as Deputy Barney Fife in “Andy of Mayberry.” Here is a small man given some power (and one bullet to carry in his shirt pocket). He runs amuck with it, and it is very funny. One of my own personal favorites is an actor named Strother Martin. He did several films in which he is a small man with a thirst for power. For instance, Paul Newman’s film, “Cool Hand Luke” where Newman’s character is in charge of a prison work detail, and he hands out punishment saying, “What we have here is a failure to communicate.” When there is a failure of noblesse oblige in real life it can be downright tragic. A good place to observe this is our Armed Forces, especially in wartime. Then, the need for manpower is so immediate oftentimes men are put in command over others and they’re really not up to it. For instance, Herman Wouk’s novel “The Caine Mutiny”; in it he has a character named Capt. Queeg, captain of a U.S. Navy destroyer, clearly in a job above his capabilities. He almost loses his ship and crew in a bad storm. The whole story revolves around the court-martial following that. Incidentally, in the movie version Humphrey Bogart plays Capt. Queeg most brilliantly. I can remember some instances of this failure from my own time in the Air Force. In basic training we did a lot of exercises, calisthenics, and marching. We had a Pfc. (one step above a lowly Pvt.) in charge of some of our conditioning exercises. He was merciless… and I’m sure he got a big kick out of making us suffer. When I was overseas in Burma, we had a Capt. in our operations office that was much like that. He loved to pull rank on anyone beneath him. We also had a Jeep driver who was often the recipient of his bullying. That Jeep driver took us out to our airplanes and picked us up when we returned. Nicknamed “The Dealer”… yes, he was an expert at cards, he was a lowly Pvt. and that’s just the way he wanted it. He didn’t get his hair cut, and his khakis were wrinkled. I asked him one time why he didn’t shape up and become eligible for promotions. He said, “Lootenant, if I do that they will have a hold over me. I’ll always be worried that they’ll bust me! I like it this way!” I got acquainted with the Dealer when I was working nights as operations officer. You had to sort of be in charge of comings and goings of the whole base. He was working nights also, and there was little traffic. So to while away the time he offered to teach me to play cards. Most interesting! And it was costly for me, but we had fun. Officers on the base had to take turns censoring mail. We were supposed to read all outgoing mail to make sure no wartime secrets were being divulged. It was a horrible job and we all hated it. What would a lowly Jeep driver know that would give comfort to the enemy? So I used to initial outgoing mail for the Dealer and he appreciated that. I did the same thing for another friend, a sergeant nicknamed ‘Stashe. He had the most luxuriant facial hair and had been overseas for almost two years. It showed. One night there was a real test of the noblesse oblige theory. The aforementioned Capt. came in and landed after a trip somewhere. The Dealer went out to meet his ship. Props stopped turning, cargo door opened, and the Dealer stood by his Jeep coming to attention with a smart salute. When the captain stepped out, the Dealer dropped the salute, slumped, and said, “Aw… somebody told me there was VIP aboard (very important persons).” The captain ignored the sarcasm and climbed in the Jeep saying, “All right, Dealer, when I want any s—t out of you, I’ll kick it out of you!” I’m not sure who won that little exchange, but I do know that noblesse oblige took a hit that night. And it’s a memory that has stayed with me through all the years… one of the threads back there woven into the golden tapestry of life. A whole ‘nother life from the one we’re living now in these storybook towns along the Paw Paw River.
Coloma Library News
101 Things Happened on the Mackinac Bridge On Tuesday, Sep. 11 at 6:30 p.m. the Coloma Library is pleased to host Michigan Notable Author, Mike Fornes for an entertaining, and informative presentation about Michigan’s iconic five-mile span that has seen historic, tragic, and hilarious events. Since construction began in 1954, the Mackinac Bridge has withstood gale-force winds, the pressure of crushing ice flows and blinding snowstorms. Since opening in 1957, it has been struck by lightning and hit by an airplane and a ship – yet still stands as perhaps the safest five miles of I-75. Take a trip through the first six decades of the bridge’s history and you’ll experience unusual crossings, triumph and tragedy. Parades of vehicles and pedestrians have crossed over the Mackinac Bridge and flotillas of ships have passed under it. Hear the stories, see the photos and meet the people who have made this engineering wonder a symbol of the state of Michigan. Book Club The Coloma Library Book Club is meeting on Thursday, September 20 at 5:30 p.m. The title to read before the discussion is “Mrs. Poe” by Lynn Cullen. 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 is on a short break and will resume on Wednesday, September 19 at 10:30 a.m. Call 468-3431 with questions on any Coloma library activity.
Watervliet District Library News September is Banned Books Aware
ness Month and Library Card Sign-Up Month. Teen Table Projects: September Distraction Jar – pick out an activity and avoid whatever you like! Make-it-Monday: Sep. 10, 4-5 p.m. Hands-on craft projects and games for K thru 6th-graders & families. September – Fall Foosball Barn Quilts: Sep. 13, 6-8 p.m. Make a Barn Quilt – boards are 2ft x 2ft. All materials are provided; painted boards are weatherized and framed, available for pick up 2 – 3 weeks later at the library. $35.00 per person, sign-up is required. Third Monday Book Club Sep. 17, 7-8 p.m. Great books, fabulous conversations! September – The Recipe Box by Viola Shipman Call 463-6382 for questions on any Watervliet library activity.
NEWS FROM THE COLOMA COURIER
100 years ago – 1918 William H. Ball, founder of the State Bank of Coloma, was chosen for president of the Southwestern Michigan Bankers’ Club. Every man, aged 18 to 45, must register for the Selective Service. Coloma men, register at the I.O.O.F. Building. Supervisor Baker and Township Clerk Smith are in charge. Try a Horseshoe Auto Tire and Inner Casing – and be happy! Coloma Hardware Co. D.C. Peck, Manager 60 years ago – 1958 Funeral services were held for Dr. Sherman Gregg, 78, Coloma graduate of 1898. He was an active Masonic worker, having been a commander of Peninsular Commandery No.8, Knights Templar. Investigation of a burglary at the Coast-to-Coast hardware store continues. Louis Gersey, proprietor, discovered the missing goods. Police found fingerprints. Mrs. Barbara Wells will operate a dance school at the Coloma Township Hall. She and her sister toured the states as an acrobatic dance team. Dr. Alfred E. Heusis, state health commissioner, congratulated Coloma on their commitment to constructing a new sewage treatment plant. Treating sewage adequately reduces typhoid fever and other water-borne diseases. 30 years ago – 1988 Coloma students launch a “Help Save Our Schools” campaign. School Board member Jerry Jollay reminds voters this is “a bare bones program.” If this vote is defeated, “financial priorities can’t be met,” states Superintendent Tallman. Miss Kristine Diamond and Miss Rebecca Murphy both received scholarships through the Alpha Chapter of Western Michigan University. The girls were both honor graduates of Coloma High School. Dr. Gary Washington was a key participant in the state chiropractic conference. He is director of Coloma Chiropractic Clinic on West St. Joseph Street. The Friendly Tavern Food & Spirits – ‘Gateway to the Paw Paw Lakes’ offers a full menu ‘til midnight. 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
NEWS FROM THE HARTFORD DAY SPRING
100 years ago – 1918 The Hartford schools will open two weeks later than usual. The deferred date being decided upon as a “war measure” to enable students to assist in the fall crop harvest. The German language has been driven from the local school curriculum and French will be substituted. The Hartford fire truck, which was badly damaged three weeks ago when it collided with a tree at Ely Park, was brought home from the factory of the Lane Motor Truck Company at Kalamazoo where it has been undergoing repairs. Fortunately no fire alarm was sounded during the absence of the truck. 75 years ago – 1943 Containers for contributions for Christmas gifts to be sent to Hartford men and women in service have been placed in downtown stores by the Mothers of World War II. All money donated will be used to purchase gifts suitable for mailing overseas to approximately 150 men in foreign service. Overseas Christmas packages must be mailed by September 15. There are certain restrictions as to the type of gifts which we can send. Another container has been placed in the Robinson newsstand for contributions of gum, which cannot be purchased in large quantities. Gum is one of the things which the boys appreciate that we are unable to buy in quantities. Enrollment figures for Hartford school showed a total of 508 pupils registered in the elementary grades and 252 in the high school and 256 in other grades. Enrollment figures have shown a slight increase over those of the last few years, due to the additional rural schools now sending pupils to Hartford. 50 years ago – 1968 Arthur Hope, switchman for General Telephone Co., has been promoted to division field engineer and assigned to the southern division office at Three Rivers. Hope’s new assignment will cover Allegan and Van Buren counties and he will retain his residence in Hartford. Hope is mayor of Hartford and has received both district and company-wide community service awards from the telephone company. 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
NEWS FROM THE WATERVLIET RECORD
90 years ago – 1928 Gordon Rice, son of Dr. and Mrs. G. Rice, left for Delafield, Wisconsin, where he will enter the St. John’s Military Academy. His sister, Miss Jeanette Rice, has gone to Urbana, Illinois, where she is a student at the University of Illinois. An 8-1/2 pound daughter, Betty Louise, was born to Mr. and Mrs. Elmer Padget on Sep. 13, 1928. Miss Onalee Wood, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. D.C. Wood, has been appointed to the position of bookkeeper at the First National Bank. Miss Wood is a graduate of the WHS specializing in the commercial department. 60 years ago – 1958 In the latest issue of the Western Michigan University Alumni News, is a picture of Mrs. Evelyn Brown Wagner, named the outstanding graduate student of the University for the past year. She is a music teacher in the Bryan, Ohio schools. She is the daughter of Mrs. R.W. Brown of Watervliet. Marine Sgt. Billie E. Mathews, son of Mr. and Mrs. Lloyd Matthews of Watervliet, is taking part in the year’s largest West Coast amphibious landing exercise, with the 1st Marine Division from Camp Pendleton, CA. 30 years ago – 1988 S.R. Tina R. Golden, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Baumeister of Watervliet, graduated from Recruit Training Center, Orland, Florida, on Aug. 26, 1988. While in basic training, she was a member of the senior rifle drill team, which for the last four weeks performed precision drill for the graduating classes. She is now attending apprentice training for four weeks in Orlando. After completion of this course she will be assigned to an aviation school for further training in her chosen field. Watervliet Police Chief Jeff Enders is one of 77 Berrien County law enforcement personnel who will participate in the Berrien County Special Olympics Law Enforcement Torch Run. The run is scheduled to start, rain or shine, at 8 a.m. at the New Buffalo state line and the Niles state line. Both teams are expected to arrive at the Michigan State Police Post in St. Joseph at noon. 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