11-21-2019 Tri-City Area History Page

The Paw Paw River Journal


The greatest lawn chairs A few years back when Ken and Debbie Stephenson visited us, they said they would return and bring a sample chair that was manufactured in Hartford years ago. Ken’s great-grandfather was Lewis Walker, one of Hartford’s leading citizens back in the day. He had a factory on the northwest side of town where he manufactured lawn furniture. One of his star products was a lawn chair. The seat and back were striped awning material of bright colors. It was guaranteed never to tip over or collapse. Lewis Walker served as mayor of Hartford, and was instrumental in bringing the railroad to our town. A small man, very dapper, he always wore a suit, white shirt, and tie. If a little prim, he knew what was right and proper! For a period of time our friend, Leta Benjamin, was a housekeeper for him, and daughter Arlene was a small child. Arlene has told us memories of living in the Walker house. Quiet, nice furniture, and everything in its proper place. Lewis did not hold with drinking alcohol in any form. One time they’re going to have a dinner party and Leta was setting the table. As she got out the deceased Mrs. Walker’s wine glasses, Lewis said. “We won’t be needing those!” Arlene told us her mother was startled, but Leta replied, “Your wife served wine, and there’s no reason we shouldn’t.” She kept on setting the table and they had wine at dinner. All this happened years ago, and when we have been visiting with friend, Arlene, we have hugely enjoyed talking about those old times and people. And much to our surprise in recent years Lewis Walker’s great-grandson and his wife, Debbie, visited Hartford. He was searching for his roots and we got acquainted with them. They said they would be back because he wanted to donate one of the famous Walker lawn chairs to the Van Buren County Historical Society Museum. Well, this summer they made it back. Ken and Debbie brought one of the chairs to the museum. They visited with Arlene and Bob and Bette Latus. They wanted to see another Hartfordite with a lot of history knowledge, Genevieve Conklin, but she was not available. They then stopped in to visit me, and we had a marvelous time talking about old Hartford. They wanted to combine this trip with some other business, so they came up through Illinois and into Wisconsin. There they planned to take the ferry across Lake Michigan and down to Hartford. The weather got so bad the captain turned the ship around and back into port. So the Stephensons had to drive back through Chicago and around the lower part of Lake Michigan. Smart Captain! I have heard stories about horrible storms on Lake Michigan, which seafaring men say could rival the roughest weather crossing the Atlantic. Anyway, we had a good visit and talked over old Hartford times and Ken’s great-grandfather. Until just recent years we still had some Walker chairs. They sold a lot of them. Bob Latus told me that one time Lewis decided to do some aggressive advertising. He built on a truck chassis a sort of mobile home. That summer he hired a couple of college students to drive around various resort areas, or they would set up camp and proudly demonstrate Walker lawn chairs. In the truck they had probably a gazillion of the chairs to sell! I have no idea how successful they were, but Lewis was thinking! So I told the Stephensons my story about how we came to have the Walker chairs. One summer my sister and I were just kids, our cousins came up from Illinois to visit. They had heard about the famous chairs and wanted to buy some. Soft summer morning and we all went down to the factory to see the famous line of furniture. Lewis brought one of the chairs out on the loading dock to show us. He was at his dapper best, beautiful suit, white shirt and tie. I can remember it vividly… the chair was a beauty too! He set it up and launched into his sales pitch… “Now this chair, ladies and gentlemen, is so constructed that it cannot tip over! It will not collapse, and will never let you down! Now, if we can have someone demonstrate by sitting in it…” No one would volunteer! Wilma and I faded back into the crowd. We didn’t want to be drafted! Finally my mom, not wanting to embarrass Lewis, said, “I’ll try it!” She backed up and sat down. The chair collapsed, and she went over backward, feet waving in the air. We kids thought that was hilarious. But Lewis was so embarrassed! The color went out of his face… he had just snatched defeat from the jaws of victory! My mom was not injured, and everyone felt so bad about it they bought some of the chairs. As I said until recent years we had some in our family. The one Ken and Debbie brought for the museum was beautifully finished with bright awning colors for the fabric. We were so glad that now we have one for people to see, thanks to the Stephensons’ generosity. That makes one more golden thread woven into the fabric of the Great Tapestry of Life in these storybook towns along the Paw Paw River.

Coloma Library News Lest We Forget display

In honor of Veterans Day, the Coloma Public Library now has a display honoring military service installed by the local southwest Michigan group “Lest We Forget.” This tribute will be on display at the library through December 5. Thanksgiving Storytime Miss Alicia will host a special Thanksgiving Storytime Tuesday, Nov. 26 at 10:30 a.m. Regular weekly storytime for toddlers and preschool-aged children will start back December 3. Registration is not required to participate. Small Saturday Book Sale In support of Shop Small Saturday, the Coloma Public Library is having a clearance book sale in the library’s Community Room on Saturday, Nov. 30 from 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. Unsorted books and materials will be 2 for $1 unless otherwise marked. Proceeds will help fund library programming. Book Club The Coloma Public Library Book Club is meeting on Thursday, Dec. 5 at 5:30 p.m. The title to read before the discussion is The Good Neighbor: The Life and Times of Fred Rogers by Maxwell King.

Watervliet District Library News Story Hour

Story Hour for ages 3 – 5 is on Wednesdays at 10:30 a.m. and Thursdays at 1:30 p.m. (choose one) for the months of October to April. Picture books, crafts & fun designed to inspire the love of reading! Teen Table Projects November “Caption This” photos just begging for wit! STEM Kit Programs Snap Circuits – LEGO Robotics – Little Bits Electronic Inventions STEM kit programs for 8 years and up designed for small groups to work together to make an endless number of inventions. New groups are set up with participants’ schedule in mind. Interested? Sign up at the desk! Pinteresting Arts & Craft for Grown-ups: Monday, Nov. 25, 6:30 – 8 p.m. Rustic Wall Hanging Yoga Mondays 9 – 10 a.m.; Wednesdays 7 – 8 p.m.; Fridays 10:30 – 11:30 a.m.; Chair Yoga – Wednesdays 6 – 6:30 p.m.