Olive Lynda Grady in May 1937 attired in her bud princess dress complete with sash, cape and crown. Were you ever a participant in a similar competition? If so, please contact North Berrien Historical Museum at 269-468-3330, firstname.lastname@example.org, or stop by Tuesday – Friday 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. they would love to hear your stories. From the photo collection at the North Berrien Historical Museum 300 Coloma Avenue, Coloma
The Paw Paw River Journal
Echoes from Crystal Palace
Every time I write about Crystal Palace and those iconic days I get responses. That time and place must be engraved on most people’s minds in letters of gold… that is, if they are old enough to remember. Many people are of that era – from 1925 when Frank Dlouhy built it to 1963 when it burned while being renovated under new ownership. It was a place where people laughed, cried, formed new relationships, and ended old ones… all the while listening and dancing to the greatest music in the world. It was the Big Band era! I am from that time and I still have those songs and bands in my head. And I truly believe there will never be another time when so many people will be tuned in to the same kind of music! Just recently I received a most interesting letter. It was from Donavie Kittell Sipla, who lives in the Coloma area. We’ve never met, but I feel as though I should know her. She and husband Andy were good friends of Howard and Dolores Bishop. Howard was my brother-in-law, married to my Chief Accountant’s sister. We had many good times together also. Andy and Howard were lifelong friends, having gone through school together. Donavie wrote in her letter, “When I was a little girl my dad, mom and I would take a ride out to Paw Paw Lake on Saturday night. We parked outside of Crystal Palace and listened to the music through the open windows. We also would go inside sometimes. There was no admission cost, but if you wanted to go on the dance floor you had to buy a dance ticket. “My dad would set me up on the railing that was around the dance floor and we watched the dancers. The girls and ladies all wore long dresses back then, and I loved watching them dance over the square colored lights that were in the floor. “I dreamed about when I grew up and could go to Crystal. I would have a long red dress and dance over those colored lights. When I was old enough to go to Crystal the styles had changed. The young girls wore sloppy Joe sweaters, pleated skirts and saddle shoes. Older girls and ladies wore regular length dresses and skirts. “Dlouhys were great people. Frank must have loved good music, because he sure made it possible for hundreds and hundreds of people to enjoy wonderful music. Even before the big band era there was always a good band playing on Saturday night with good singers. After the big bands started, there was always a good band in between. Frank’s wife, Bessie, was a great lady and Ray, Eleanor, and Viola made up the family. “My Andy and Ray were buddies from way back in grade school in the old Washington school. They even found each other when they were in the service over in England during World War II. “…You mentioned Steve’s Skating Rink, another great place! My girlfriends and I would skate every Sunday, Wednesday, and Friday night. Steve and Helen Bearty were more great people. The skating rink was built right on the side of their house, and Helen would flag us down once in a while to come in for a treat, see the babies, and visit.” Thanks, Donavie, for those memories. Many of us have similar ones and we treasure them. One of the last times I was at Crystal Palace Marion was not with me. Wintertime, she was out of nurses’ training and working, and her folks were in Florida. They asked her and sister Dolores if they could come down and visit for a week or two. Yes, they could! I was working and no time off. I did take the two girls to Chicago and put them on the plane at Midway Airport. O’Hare was not open yet. A couple of weeks with no social engagements, so what to do? A bunch of us guys decided to go to Crystal Palace on Saturday night. Not to pick up any girls, but to enjoy the music and the fun anyway. I drove, and with me were several friends. While there I met Howard Bishop, who was dating Dolores. So with her being gone also, he was rattling around loose. We sat and talked and enjoyed watching the dancers. When we gathered to head for home, we got a surprise! It was snowing furiously… could hardly see for 20 feet! We had to navigate through that to get back to Hartford. How did we do it? I stuck my head out the driver’s window to watch for the white line. George Vint stuck his head out the right passenger’s window to watch for the edge of the road. We never saw another car on the way home, although there must’ve been some. The rest of the passengers were giving us various comments about bad driving all the way. But we made it! We got everybody delivered safely except Bill Galbreath and Bernarde Thomas. By the time we got to Bernarde’s house, we had driven about as far as we could. So we stayed all night with him! His mom never complained about our frying some eggs for a midnight snack! And in the morning no more snow and I headed for home so my folks would not be worried. Bill and I went to church. Sunday morning! Marion and I were sending notes back and forth, so I had some news to tell her! I believe that was the last time I was in Crystal Palace. When Marion got back we were too busy and making plans for our wedding. Although the nights at Crystal faded into the past, we never forgot the times we had there. We now had other golden threads to weave into the Great Tapestry of Life as we prepared for our future together in these storybook towns along the Paw Paw River.