12-15-2016 Tri-City Area History Page

Paw Paw River Journal

Crystal Palace memories

 Every few years I feel a compulsion to do a series on the above topic.  And after that, more reactions come in than almost any other thing I ever write about.  Crystal Palace days and the Paw Paw Lake resort era are some of our most vivid memories.  So, here goes…

The sounds of music from the place where we all loved to go and dance, meet friends and hoist a convivial glass are slowly dying away.  Our memories from that time have kept alive some of our youth.  So many memories of it are bound up in the music we knew.  Our generation grew up as the Big Band era came into being… in the years just before WWII.  We listened to and danced to Glen Miller, Tommy & Jimmy Dorsey, Harry James, Dick Jurgens, Eddy Howard, Sammy Kaye, Clyde McCoy, Ted Fiorito, Guy Lombardo, Glen Gray, Tiny Hill, and Lawrence Welk. (Yes, he played for young people then!)  In addition we had some fine local groups: Bob Lewis, Del Pino, Pat O’Malley and Frankie Yankovic.

On Saturday nights most kids were not living unless they could go to Crystal Palace.  There was the music… we heard it all evening and danced to it.  Then we went home with the car radio still playing the same music.  Guys went there to meet girls; girls went there to meet guys.  Many romances were kindled on those nights at Crystal, and a few came unraveled at the same place.  I must admit that if you had already met your choice for a lifelong companion (and I had!), it was not the best place to take her… some guys would always hit on a good looking gal, even if she were going steady or engaged!

Then after an evening of dancing, everyone headed for Brownie’s in Coloma or Watervliet for cheeseburgers, chili, Cokes, and shakes.  So many kids from Hartford stopped in Watervliet, their cars took over most of the main street parking spaces.  Inside the restaurant it was standing room only and precious little of that.  The noise level rivaled a speeding freight train or rock concert.  A beautiful Wurlitzer juke box stood against the west wall.  It cost a nickel to play the old brittle records,  and the music blasting out… what else? Big Band!

Surely, we enjoyed dancing at other venues: Ramona, Shadowland, Rendezvous Bowl, and others.  I will discuss them in another column.  Then in 1963 after the Dlouhy’s had sold Crystal, it tragically burned to the ground during a renovation.  And down in Chicago singer and bandleader Eddy Howard sent a post card to Talent Agent Julie Stein saying, “…just heard that Crystal Palace burned.  That was the daddy of them all!”

The Big Band sound never died… but it did sort of go underground for a while.  The last band Marion and I listened to and danced to was Bob Snyder’s outfit.  We heard him at Mackinac Island and also danced to his music at The Deck, near Naples, Florida.  We understand that he has now retired, but his music goes on with the continuation of his band and play dates.

In recent years before his untimely passing, we got together with Ray Dlouhy (whose dad built Crystal Palace) at his home and at restaurants for dinner.  His life was lonely after losing his life-long love, Dorothy, who was a HHS graduate from about 1940-41.  Together for 56 years, they had a long and marvelous life together.  Ray had found her right here in Hartford after his return from WWII, in which he was a flight engineer on a Martin Marauder B-26 bomber, piloted by his Squadron Commander and friend over in England and Europe.

He worked at Dlouhy Electric, the business he started in 1952, and retired from in 1984.  After that he still lived on the shore of beautiful Paw Paw Lake in the home he and Dorothy built… right across from the spot where Crystal stood all those years.

Marion and I sat in his comfortable study while we talked about those days… listening to Big Bands and leafing through his volumes of photos and memorabilia.  One day we were looking at autographed pictures of the great musicians from back when.  Marion remarked, “I had many of those pictures, but one time we rented out our house while we were living in Ann Arbor.  The people, when they moved out, must have gotten one of my boxes by mistake… because those pictures were gone.”

Ray said, “Don’t worry…  I have duplicates!”  And he gave her some of the very same pictures she had mourned losing!

The Big Band era started before WWII… one of the first songs I really remember from that era is Glen Miller’s Sunrise Serenade.  I know, the music started before that, but it is something you have to grow into… those teen age years when you fall in love for the first time. For me those days are connected with great songs.  When I hear them still, I have a hollow feeling in the pit of my stomach, and it all comes back with a bang!

One of our daughters, a baby-boomer, said to me, “You know, if I could have my choice of growing up in any age, it would be yours!  You all went through World War II, came home, started your families, and a whole new world was unfolding.”  She was probably too little to remember the fears of atomic annihilation that we lived with.  But we have forgotten that and mostly remember the good stuff.

How impossibly sweet it is to come home from a war, find your true love, and build a life together.  Remembering it still hits me hard… the music still echoes through my dreams, and I love all the memories.  Would I do it all again?  In a heartbeat!

Sometimes just for fun Marion and I drive around Paw Paw Lake.  And when we go past the place where stood “the daddy of them all,” we can hear echoes of that music.  And golden memories of Ray and his family… forever woven deep into the tapestry of our lives in these story book towns of ours along the Paw Paw River.

Coloma Library News

Holiday Hours

 The library will be closed on Saturday, December 24, Sunday, December 25 and Monday, December 26. Regular hours will resume, Tuesday, December 27. Happy Holidays!

Story Hour

Story hour meets Wednesdays at 10:30 a.m. at the library. Story hour is for children ages 3 and up. It is asked that all children be accompanied and supervised by an adult. There is no sign-up or fee required. Call 468-3431 with any questions. Story hour will take a break for the winter after the December 21 session and will resume in the spring. Do not miss out on the last session before the break!


100 years ago – 1916

 Perl Woodward’s barn burned Sunday morning. One cow was badly burned. All hay, fodder and feed were destroyed.

War News: U.S.S. Pennsylvania passes under the Brooklyn Bridge as she begins her speed tests.

Make your old-time cough syrup at home. Get from Scott’s drug store Concentrated White Pine & Tar Extract and plain granulated sugar syrup. Shake well.

Gifts of high class and reasonable price may be found at The Wonder Store; also, Christmas candies.

60 years ago – 1956

 Citizens of the Boyer School district have asked for a study to be done for the area school plan for Coloma. Overcrowding is the issue. Districts sending students to Coloma are Brick, Boyer, Grey, Washington, Ingraham, Clymer, Bundy, Curtis, Pier, Cribb, Stanley and Millburg.

Commissioner Dorl Sawatzki was given authority to seek bids on a new fire engine for the city.

Last rites were held for Henry Mast, 73, at the Davidson Funeral Home. The Rev. Ralph W. Everroad officiated and burial took place in Coloma cemetery.

Winter vacation?? Never carry more cash than you can afford to lose – The State Bank of Coloma.

30 years ago – 1986

 The Coloma Joint Fire Board has hired James Schneberger of Hartford as the architect for the fire station.

Randy’s Standard was winner in the Coloma Chamber of Commerce decorating contest.

Coloma Community Schools’ Board of Education approved salaries for Al Stampfly as Computer Club advisor and Alice Mow as Future Teachers Club sponsor.

Ruth’s Laundromat On The Hill – the economical laundry service.

Miss Leigh Ann Turner will compete in the 1987 Miss Michigan National Teen-ager Pageant. This is not a beauty contest, but a scholarship pageant.

First Place Winners in the young writer’s contest from Coloma Elementary are: Jason Hamilton, Susan Ryan and Marc A. Hembree.


100 years ago – 1916

 The first heavy snow storm of the year developed in Hartford last Friday night and a mantle of white has since covered the ground; the sleighing is now excellent. Up to the present traffic has been all on wheels, with autos in constant use.

Mrs. Maud Engle was the leader at yesterday’s Woman’s Club meeting. The room was festive with Christmas decorations and the following program was given: a Christmas stanza repeated by the club, sketch of “The Messiah”, Mrs. Jessie Ireton; Christmas in Other Lands by Mrs. Ella Anderson; the “bouquet of Roses” Christmas story read by Myra Kelly and Mrs. Elinora Chamberlin. At the conclusion of the program the members remained for popcorn served by the leader.

75 years ago – 1941

 Entries in the home Christmas decorating contest being sponsored in Hartford by the Garden club will be accepted according to Miss Agnes Weir, chairman of the committee in charge. Judging of the out-of-door decorations will be on Tuesday evening. Residents interested in entering the contest should telephone 218F12 or leave name at Day Spring office. Judges will take into consideration, artistic proportion, creative beauty and the Christmas theme represented by the various decorative plans.

The Hartford Woman’s Club held its annual Christmas party at the home of Mrs. James Elder. The program featured Mrs. Thomas Pollard who read the story “Why the Chimes Rang.” This was followed by group singing of Christmas carols, led by Mrs. B.W. Robinson. Each guest brought a gift for the Christmas baskets and a can of fruit for the boys at the Starr Commonwealth School at Albion.

50 years ago – 1966

 The Hartford Jaycees have arranged for Santa Claus to visit private or group parties the week of Dec. 19-24. Arrangements may be made by calling Donald Boniface.


90 years ago – 1926

 January 10, 1927 will be the last opportunity that owners of dogs will have to pay taxes on same without paying an additional penalty; Township Treasurer John Warman and City Treasurer F.D. Hunt are prepared to issue license dog tags for their respective districts.

Mrs. A.P. Danneffel received as a Christmas gift, 96 cans of a large variety of fruit and vegetables from W.R. Roach of Grand Rapids. Mr. Roach, a relative of Mrs. Danneffel, is the president of the Roach Canning Company.

Miss Mildred Franz was pleasantly reminded of her birthday on December 28, 1926, by a surprise party, at the home of Miss Lillian Volay of North Watervliet. The evening passed quickly with the playing of games and music.

60 years ago – 1956

 Mr. and Mrs. Charles L. Schevenell quietly observed their 50th wedding anniversary on December 18, 1956. A beautiful davenport and blonde dining table were received by the couple from their children in honor of the occasion. The Schevenells were married in 1906 in Chicago then spent their honeymoon in Texas and came to Michigan in 1938.

Mr. and Mrs. Richard Hamilton are the proud parents of their baby boy, Charles Edkar, born December 15, 1956 and weighed 7 pounds and 9 ounces.

30 years ago – 1986

 Lindsay Diouhy has been selected as Watervliet school district’s Student of the Week. Lindsay is seven years old and the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Bradford Diouhy. Lindsay was chosen to receive this honor for her academic excellence and because she is friendly, polite and always eager to help.

The Watervliet Junior High Parent Support Group and Student Council have been hard at work the past couple weeks preparing to deliver Christmas wishes to friends, relatives and teachers. This yuletide delivery service delivered over 120 handmade Christmas cards. Mr. Goodman, the Student Council advisor said that it was great seeing the spirit of giving spreading so quickly through the school.


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