10-25-2018 Tri-City History Page

The Paw Paw River Journal

A Halloween tale Many a story has been told about that one night of the year when ghosts and goblins roam the earth, including the one I’m about to tell you here. But it’s from quite a while back, so here it is again… first told me by friend Charlie Martens as we sat on Aunt Hope’s front porch out in the Pennsylvania Mountains. It is still one of my favorites. Back when we were all in Hartford High School a bunch of the guys were talking about the upcoming holiday… Halloween! The “coute le vec” of all pranks in those days was to tip over someone’s outhouse. And there were plenty of them around. Surprising how many people had not yet installed indoor plumbing. In the group was an enterprising young man named Leonard Miska. A transfer from Chicago, he was related to the Hradeckys and the Meachums. Handsome, wavy hair, and he always wore a dress shirt and tie. If any kid ever was, he was destined for greater things. He was always in the middle of school politics and knew everybody. The talk that morning centered around Halloween pranks and who had an outhouse just waiting to be tipped over. Another boy named Edwin said, “Well, we’ve got an outhouse, but nobody will ever tip it over. That thing is indestructible!” Thus was born in Leonard Miska’s mind a scheme to do the impossible. Later he recruited a group of kids (leaving Edwin out of it) and laid his plans for the destruction of the indestructible outhouse! My friend Charlie Martens was one of the group, and thus he had this story to tell. Leonard enlisted a whole car full of kids. Halloween eve they took off south of town bound for Edwin’s folks’ farm. They passed it at a normal speed… there on the front porch Edwin’s dad sat, porch light on, and across his lap a shotgun!!! Probably loaded with rock salt! Boy oh boy… they’d better be careful! Driving on around the bend they parked the car and sneaked back along the railroad track in back of the house. The tracks ran along there in a cut, so they were out of sight of the house. Climbing up the bank they peered over the back of Edwin’s house. And there in front of them was the indestructible outhouse. It stood about two feet away from the back of the building. Off in the distance toward Watervliet they could hear the train coming. In those days the Pere Marquette Railroad (as it was called then) ran those big 1200 steamers. This was a long freight, headed for Hartford, and now they could hear it whistling for the crossing almost to the county line. Using hand signals Leonard Miska directed his commandos to the outhouse. Several of them silently climbed up in the space between it and the main building. It was like climbing up a mountain crevasse using hands and feet, with their backs against the main building. They could hear the big 1200 whistling for Thomas School Road, then Pollywog Road. Here it came roaring around the bend toward Hartford. As the big engine passed with smoke and flying cinders, Leonard pumped his fist up and down… the kids who climbed up the crevasse put their backs into it. They strained, the outhouse groaned, but would not move. And they could see it was braced on the corners by two by fours. A couple of more kids joined them in the narrow space and strained to help them. On top of the cut, Leonard anxiously kept watch. Dust and flying cinders amidst the noise, and he could see caboose lights around the bend. Finally, just as the caboose flashed by, the outhouse let go with a groan and collapsed. It was full of clay pots used for plants. Now they ran for it! Back up over the bank, and Leonard was slapping them on the back, and high fives all around. They followed the track back away from the swirling dust, broken boards and flower pots. Safe at last in the car Leonard counted heads… all present! Pulling a U-turn, they drove past the house again at a normal speed. A peaceful bucolic evening… Edwin’s dad nodding over the shotgun, now with a cat sitting on his lap. Nothing changed except for some dust motes in the yard light. And the merry pranksters headed for Hartford laughing, singing and enjoying the feeling of a job well done! Next day at school, tales being told of the night’s adventures. Not a word from the outhouse avengers! How could they say anything? It would be an admission of guilt! The subject finally got around to outhouse tipping. Someone asked Edwin if theirs survived the night. He replied, “That thing is built like a fort! Nobody will ever tip it over!” Leonard Miska had a quiet smile on his face and he nodded at the merry pranksters who were present. Thus another Halloween passed into history, and also the participants in that daring raid. Friend Charlie Martens and his wife Margaret have departed this earthly existence, as has Leonard Miska who died in an accident on a rain swept highway in Florida. I guess all the other outhouse raiders are gone also. We are richer for having known them. They are among those who have stitched golden threads into the tapestry of our lives in these storybook towns along the Paw Paw River.

Coloma Library News Book Sale The annual Fall Book Sale will be this Saturday, Oct. 27 from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. Browse the great selection of gently used books, DVDs, magazines, puzzles, etc. for affordable prices. The book sale takes place in the library’s lower level. The library will remain open for regular business during the sale. Local children’s author visit Local author Chrissy Meek will read her newly released book “The Magic Puppy” on Saturday, Oct. 27 at 11 a.m. in the Library’s Children Section. This children’s book is an endearing story about a puppy named Otis and his encounter with a magical frog named Gulp. Chrissy will be selling and signing copies of her book at this event. Book Club The Coloma Library Book Club is meeting on Thursday, Nov. 1 at 5:30 p.m. The title to read before the discussion is “The Baker’s Secret” by Stephen P. Kiernan. Story Hour Story Hour meets on Wednesdays at 10:30 a.m. Join Miss Amy for a story, song and craft time. Story Hour is geared towards older toddlers and preschool-aged children. It is asked that all children be supervised by an adult. There is no sign-up for this free program. Please call 468-3431 with questions on any Coloma Library activity.

Watervliet Library News Pinteresting Oct. 29, 6:30 – 8 p.m. Arts & crafts for grown-ups held the last Monday of the month. Sign-up required; Oct – Wood slice winter snow decorations. Story Hours Picture books, crafts and fun designed to inspire the love of reading for children ages 3 – 5 on Wednesdays at 10:30 a.m. and Thursdays at 1:30 p.m. Yoga Monday 9 – 10 a.m.; Wednesday 7 – 8 p.m.; Chair Yoga – Wednesday 6 – 6:30 p.m. Book a Social Work Intern Thanks to an LSTA grant through the Niles Library, Watervliet Library will have a shared intern. Need help with on-line applications, unemployment or housing, the intern can help. Library Garden Park Purchase a Legacy Walk brick and celebrate a memory! Bricks are $75; 13 characters, 2 lines. Pick up a form at the library. Call 463-6382 with questions on any Watervliet Library activity.