11-15-18 Tri-City Area History

The Paw Paw River Journal

Now another landmark kaput! Yep! Our big old bank at the main four corners in Hartford is closed. It has been there forever… well, ever since 1910. Burrell Olney, one of Hartford’s first pioneers came to the area before the Civil War. He and some of his friends laid out the first farms and cleared the land. Tom Conklin got more fame because he was into things and produced more children. But Burrell had plans! I’m sure he bankrolled his son, Horace Olney, who built the bank building in 1910. It was magnificent, and they had to tear down the old Rassette House that stood on the corner there and was a stagecoach stop on the run from Detroit to St. Joseph. Incidentally, parts of that hotel were moved to various locations in Hartford and turned into houses. When I was a wee nipper, along came the big depression. The stock market crashed in 1929, and a couple years later the banks all closed. My sister and I had small amounts in the Olney National Bank. We each had a little bank shaped like a book, and we put coins in it. When it was full, we were supposed to take it to the bank; and one of the tellers would open it and put the money in our account. It never happened. The banks took a holiday, and we lost the money. Well, we saved what was in the little banks… I got a kitchen knife and pried them open. At least we had that much! We never knew really how that depression affected our folks. We always had three meals on the table. My dad, who was Hartford’s only florist, was in the process of building two more greenhouses. He never got them done. All of my childhood neighborhood kids had a place to roam and play. We built forts, rocket ships, and whatever we could imagine from all of those building materials that were never used. Of course the banks all reorganized and opened again. The Olney Bank building became the Van Buren State Bank. It housed several businesses. At the east end the Hartford Day Spring, our weekly newspaper for years and years until it folded in 1972. Publisher Don Cochrane had a weekly article in the paper. I loved to read it, and that is probably one of the reasons I’m writing this very column today. I loved his witty and perceptive stories about Hartford people. Southwest corner of the building was the post office. Our mailman was Frank Tollar (his son Jim was one of my best friends) and they lived just about a block away from the greenhouses. We had two substitute mailmen, Jim MacLeod and Harve Penwell. When Frank Tollar retired, Jim McLeod took over full time. One gal who worked in the post office, Camille Woolcott, had a most delicious sense of humor. I loved to swap stories with her! Upstairs the bank building had offices. One (for years and years) was a dentist named Dr. Hinckley. I’ve told stories about him many times and probably will do more. Another office was Dr. Leo Latus. He was Hartford’s only Osteopath, and he could really manipulate backbones! Another was Dr. Van Riper. He was our dentist of record. We didn’t have a regular program of exams as we do now. We went to see Doc Van Riper when we had a toothache… And how I dreaded that! Another office was the guy who was secretary for the County Fair harness racing programs. As I remember, he was always smoking a cigar, and his eyes had a perpetual squint probably from the smoke. I think he also did some legal work like when you wanted something witnessed by a notary public. There were other offices up there, but I can’t remember who was in them. A later dentist was Dr. Phil Olds. Then Dr. John Lamam got his start there, but soon moved into his own offices. He was our dentist for years. These are just some of the people I remember. After the depression when the banks opened again ours was now The Van Buren State Bank. My sister Wilma got a job there as a teller. She never told us any of the bank business, but she did tell stories about the people that worked there. The head guy was Milton Weed. His wife ran the choir at the Methodist church. My mom was a member, and she said Mrs. Weed was a gifted musician. When Wilma started at the bank, Mr. Weed showed her a stack of money and said, “This is just lettuce… if it ever starts looking like money to you, you’d better get a different job!” Hah! Pretty good advice! Every month I was overseas, I sent $50 to Wilma to put in my account. I was saving up for the day I got home and Marion and I could get married. Ever since those days we have used the bank. It became First of America, then National City, then finally PNC. That’s what it was until it closed. And I must say in its last reincarnation (as PNC) we lost our enthusiasm. You see, over the years we had collected bank stock. When National City was bought out, we had a reverse stock split. We received one share for 26 shares of our old stock. We took a real hit! And you can imagine why we can’t feel much friendship for this new company. But that’s in the past, and did not change our lifestyle one bit. What will happen to that great old building? Who knows? I know another piece of old Hartford has gone. Time has not been good to small-town America. I don’t think large corporate banking businesses care about the little old ladies who bank their Social Security checks. In Hartford we still have Chemical Bank, across from the new post office and Harding’s. So we are still weaving golden threads into the tapestry of life in this storybook town along the Paw Paw River!

Hartford Library News The Hartford Public Library is giving away free books. They are new books: young adult fiction, junior fiction, Star Wars books, easy books. The library has hundreds to give away. Books make wonderful gifts or donations to school libraries. Call Hartford library at 621-3408 for more information.

Watervliet Library News Teen Table Projects – November Stone Loom Weaving; Make it and take it! Children’s Programs thru April Story Hours Wednesday 10:30 – 11:30 a.m. & Thursday 1:30 – 2:30 p.m.: Picture books, crafts and fun designed to inspire the love of reading for ages 3 – 5! Third Monday Book Club Nov. 19, 7 – 8 p.m. Great books, fabulous conversations! November – “There There” by Tommy Orange. Pinteresting Nov. 26, 6:30 – 8 p.m. Arts & crafts for grown-ups: Held the last Monday of the month, sign-up required. Nov. – Holiday paper crafts. Yoga classes will resume Nov. 28, 2018 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.


100 years ago – 1918 War is over, Armistice signed! No other town had anything over on Coloma in celebration of the Wo