11-28-2019 Tri-City Area History Page

An old-fashioned Thanksgiving “Over the river and through the woods…” but we weren’t going to grandmother’s house! We had been invited for Thanksgiving dinner out to Ben and Rosa Cook’s. Cold and snowy early winter day, and they lived out north of Hartford near the little crossroads community named Toquin. It had been named years earlier for one of the first Indian settlers by that name. This must have been in the early 1930s, and Wilma and I were just kids. And we liked Thanksgiving dinner; we had known Ben and Rosa all of our lives. He had married once earlier and lost his wife tragically. Rosa had never married before. Her folks built and operated Knapp’s grocery store. This was on the north side of Main Street in Hartford. The building is still there and is now a ladies’ hair emporium, I believe. In Hartford, west from the traffic light on the north side, look up and you’ll see the date on the front of the building… 1912. I can remember going in there with my dad. There was a general mustiness, fustiness about the place. They did not do a lot of business. There was a long counter on the left with a cheese bell. You never see them anymore! This was a huge glass cover with a whole wheel of cheese under it. The clerk would whack off a slice of whatever size the customer wanted. It was what Aunt Hope called “rat trap cheese,” and oh so good! Knapp’s grocery also specialized in chinaware… sets of dishes, fancy plates and platters. Years later when Ben was disposing of the remnants of their lives, he gave Marion some of the dishes that were left. They formed part of her collection. He also gave Marion his first wife’s wedding ring, which she wore on special occasions, when, she said, she needed some special strength. Ben and Rosa lived on a general farm. They had married late in life and had no children. Ben raised some corn, some grain, and marvelous vegetables. He also had several milk cows and sold the milk to a local creamery. He worked the farm by himself, and had very little time off. The small general farm is all but gone and forgotten. Those who lived that life worked long and hard from dawn to dusk. The cows had to be milked twice a day, no exceptions. In summer they were turned out to pasture, but in winter they stayed in the barn and had to be fed and cared for. This included “mucking out” the stalls which was never a pleasant job. Just ask anyone who’s ever done it! Their old farmhouse was pleasantly furnished. We visited in the parlor, which was a living room not generally used except on special occasions. A mantle clock ticking away and chiming the hours. The adults visited until dinnertime. Wilma and I found the bookcase and some of the books that homes had in those days. So we were entertained too. Rosa’s dad was a portly old gentleman. Huge and gruff, Royal Knapp had been in the grocery business a long time, and modern life had just passed him by. I can remember that Rosa had a special treat for him… some oysters on the half shell. Only her dad got them, and he slurped them down after dipping them in melted butter. Now I didn’t mind that Royal was the only one who got oysters… you couldn’t pay me to swallow a raw oyster, but I did think it was a little odd that he was the only one who got them. I would like to see my dad dealing with a raw oyster. I suppose it was that they were so expensive, and it was a special treat for the old geezer. Rosa was related to the Pomeroys. Junior Pomeroy was in my class in grade school. They had a large family and he said on special occasions they would all go to Knapp’s grocery, and each kid would get an ice cream cone. I think Royal was probably of a rather conservative nature, but I don’t really know. I have never forgotten that Thanksgiving… the comfortable old farm house and Ben, Rosa, and old Royal Knapp. It is a way of life that is now long gone. They used to come in and visit our folks. And you couldn’t have found people more kind. Being childless, they took a special shine to our kids. Ben was a huge man who always wore farm clothes. Bib overalls with a watch in the pocket. He did something that frightened our youngest daughter, Laurie. She was a cute little girl and he said one day, “I’d like to put you in my pocket and take you home with me!” Now that scared Laurie and she hid behind Marion’s apron (she was probably baking bread at the time). From then on when Ben came in, he would always say, “Where’s my pocket girl?” Of course by this time she was long gone… probably hiding in a closet upstairs! The general farm and people like Ben and Rosa are a way of life that is almost totally foreign to us. But like the ghetto kid said, “What it is!” Things are different now. Life is different! And we are still trying to weave golden threads into the Great Tapestry of Life in these storybook towns along the Paw Paw River!

Watervliet District Library News An hour of Code for a week’s worth of hours Dec 2 – 7 For pre-teens and teens ages 10 – 18 who codes for an hour at the library will receive a free set of earbuds, all during the week. Try it for an hour; walk away, if you can! Coding website suggestions will be provided. “Ugly Sweaters are Murder”, a library murder mystery Thursday, Dec 12, 6 p.m. Who done it, how and why? And will you be the victim or the guilty party? Sign up begins on Black Friday (Nov. 29), of course! Participation is limited to 25 guests.

Coloma Public Library News Shop 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 .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. Depending on demand there may be titles available for checkout at the front desk. New members are always welcome.

Hartford Library raffles Smart TV The Friends of the Hartford Library announce a fundraiser raffle starting immediately. They are raffling a VIZIO V-Series 60-inch Smart TV. The tickets are $1 each or 6 for $5.00. Tickets are available at the library. The drawing will be held on Wednesday, Dec. 18 at 11 a.m. Winner need not be present to be eligible. Proceeds from the raffle will be used for Hartford’s new library/ community center. Also anyone interested can sign up for a percentage of their purchases from Amazon.com to benefit the Hartford Library. When accessing Amazon shoppers should use smile.amazon.com and go to Friends of the Hartford Library as their charity. They can then make their purchase. There is no extra charge. Amazon will contribute 5% to the Friends of the Hartford Library toward their library/community center. For questions regarding this information, contact Stephanie at (269)621-3408.

Glimpses From The Past

Do you know the make & model of the auto Lynn Hall is leaning on? Do you have any memories of this time around Riverside, MI? If so, please contact North Berrien Historical Museum at 269-468-3330,