March 27, 1985
In the 1930s, a really short girl, rather rounded, worked in the Gleaner Store. Her name was Olive Smith, and when a customer would ask for a pound of soap chips, she would reach way down into the barrel with a scoop, and almost falling in, would scoop the soap chips into a sack. Then she would sneeze mightily and soap dust would fly out of the barrel. People came in for soap chips just to see Olive sneeze.
Along the street to the west were more grocery stores, and Manny Oppenheim’s clothing store. I went in there occasionally with my father. Manny had three daughters around my age and younger. I can remember standing there, staring at a pretty little Jewish girl with large dark eyes. We were both young, shy, and had little to say to each other. Later I bought a suit from Manny to wear to my first prom at the Hartford High School gymnasium.
Hartford had two traffic lights, one at each end of the business block. At the west intersection, the Green Lantern was located on the northeast corner. The Watsons owned this restaurant. Mrs. Watson was also “foreign” correspondent for the old Benton Harbor News Palladium. She always asked people for local news, and my mother said once she was afraid to tell Mrs. Watson anything, for fear it would show up in the paper.
To the left, across Maple Street, Ely Park beckoned to kids, bums and at night, lovers. This park had an illuminated fountain in earlier years and is still a part of Hartford’s presence in my mind. Just recently, an older lady who lives on the border of Ely Park said, “Yes, people still use the park. Sometimes at night they gather at the back. I feel kind of sorry for them, because they must be so poor. They sit there in the dark and they can’t even afford a pack of cigarettes, so they just light one and pass it back and forth.”