The Paw Paw River Journal

Out of Hartford’s Past

It was a cast iron plaque about 5 by 8 inches. And it said on the front, Phillips Specialties Co, 1935. Friend Rod Austin brought it around for me to see. He said, “This belongs to a friend of mine, Dave Allen, and he would like to know what it was fastened to. I told him that if anyone in Hartford could remember 1935, it would be Bud Davis!” Well, I don’t know how many people in Hartford can remember that far back, but I surely can.  I was just a kid, and there is nothing in my memory circuits about a Phillips Specialties Company! But I told Rod I would look into it!

So I got in touch with another friend, Larry Blyly. He is the retired owner of Riverview Bait & Equipment out north of town on the Scenic Paw Paw River.  Larry is Mr. Inspector/Detector when it comes to computer research. He and wife Lois put together the most complete record of Hartford High students available.

Well, I ran the problem past Larry, and he promised to start searching. He did……and found some information on the aforementioned plaque. In fact, when he got back to me, Larry pulled my chain a little, because I had tried in The Hartford Day Spring archives and didn’t come up with anything. Larry went right to it and sent me the real scoop on the company.  Following is the story:

In the 1920-30 years Hartford had a company that manufactured lawn furniture.  It was owned by Lewis P. Walker, a local Hartfordite of some note.  He was Mayor of Hartford for some time, and instrumental in getting the railroad through our town. Mr. Walker was a slightly built, dapper man, smart and diffident in manner. He started the Walker Chair Company on the northwest side of town, about a block beyond Ely Park. The Colman boys were friends of mine. They lived there on Michigan Ave. and have told me how they used to play around the old factory building.

I can remember when I was but a wee lad……must have been around 1935.  Cousins of ours were visiting from Illinois and wanted to take home some Walker lawn chairs. They had heard about them and were keenly interested in a model that was guaranteed not to tip over or collapse on the occupant. So we all went to Mr. Walker’s factory to see them.

We stood on the loading dock while Lewis Walker brought one out. Finished off in colorful canvas, it was most attractive. He said, “Now this is my famous non-tippable model! It is guaranteed never to collapse under the heaviest occupant! Now let’s have someone sit in it to demonstrate!”

My sister Wilma and I faded into the background…..we didn’t want to be guinea pigs! No one moved. Again he called for a volunteer. Finally my Mom said she would sit in it. She proceeded to do so. It promptly collapsed and she went over backwards! There she was on her back, legs waving in the air. Lewis Walker stood, horrified, with the color gone from his face, thinking he had just snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.

Wilma and I were trying to stifle our hysterical laughter……amidst a horrified silence. But my Mom was not injured, and our cousins felt so bad for him they bought two of the chairs. And my folks bought a couple too.

What does this have to do with Phillips Specialties Company? Well, in 1935 Lewis P. Walker rented out part of his factory to a Mr. Phillips for a new business. He started manufacturing fruit grading equipment and associated items for the fruit growing business. I asked The Chief Accountant, and she said when she was a girl on her folks’ fruit farm, her Dad had just such an apple grader most likely a Phillips!

When I was talking to Larry Blyly I asked him if the whole business could be connected to Floyd Leach’s foundry, which was located on North Haver Street just a couple of blocks north of where we live now. I can remember the business and Floyd Leach too.  He was a brother of Clare Leach, our long time General Motors dealer here in Hartford.  The two of them were famous for not getting along… fact they had little to do with each other.

It was said that Floyd Leach could cast any part in his foundry…..and machine it too. That is, if he wanted to! One time a Hartfordite needed a part for his early model automobile. Someone said Floyd could make it, but probably would not want to do it. So the man said just to tell him that Brother Clare said he probably couldn’t do it anyway.

The hapless motorist took his broken part to Floyd., who looked it over and said he couldn’t do it. The would-be customer said, “Well, Clare said you probably couldn’t anyway….just thought I’d ask.”  Floyd grabbed the part, took it in, cast a new one and machined it to perfection!

Well, I called friend Rod Austin and told him the history of the plaque, so he could tell Dave Allen about it. And I added the little story about Floyd Leach.  Larry Blyly said most likely the plaque was cast in that very Floyd Leach foundry, which was the only one around at the time. So there was a connection! All golden threads woven into the tapestry of our lives in this story book town along the Paw Paw River!

Senior Services Hartford Senior Activity Hartford United Methodist Church, 425 E. Main St., Hartford.

Buy lunch Monday OR Tuesday for $3.00, eat for FREE on Friday

On Monday, June 6, we open at 10:30 a.m. for coffee and conversation, lunch will be at 12:30 p.m., euchre/cards, universal health/bingo at 1:00 p.m.On Tuesday, June 7, we open at 10:30 a.m. for coffee and conversation, lunch will be at 12:30 p.m., euchre/cards, computers, knitting and senior exercise at 1:00 p.m.On Friday, June 10, we open at 10:30 a.m. for coffee and conversation, lunch will be at 12:30 p.m., cards, euchre, knitting club, hand and foot card game at 1:00 p.m.All seniors, age 60 and older, residing in Van Buren County are eligible to participate in these programs and activities.Rides are available through Van Buren Public Transit with no less than 24-hour advance notice at 269-427-7921.

Birth Announcement

A baby girl was born at 8:32 p.m., on Sunday, May 29, 2016, to Kayla Yeske and Jason Powell of Coloma.  She weighed 7lbs. 9oz.A baby boy was born at 9:42 p.m., on Wednesday, May 25, 2016, to Gabriela Olguin and Pablo Sergio Esquivel of Hartford. She weighed 7lbs. 14oz.

Coloma Library News Summer Reading Club “On Your Mark, Get Set…Read!”

Readers of all ages are welcome to sign up today for Coloma Public Library’s “On Your Mark, Get Set… READ!” Summer Reading program. The 2016 Summer Reading Program is open to young people, infant through young adult, with programs, prize drawings, story hours, a reading club, and more.Keep checking for dates for many fun and interesting programs. For more information, call the library at (269) 468-3431 or visit our website, programs are free of charge.

Book Club

The Coloma Library Book Club is meeting for a book discussion on Thursday, June 9 @ 5:30 p.m. The title to read before the discussion is “We Never Asked for Wings” by Vanessa Diffenbaugh.  Generally, depending on demand there are titles available for check-out at the front desk. The book club regularly meets every other Thursday and is always looking for new members. If you are interested in more information please stop in the library or call 468-3431.

Story Hour

Story Hour meets on Wednesdays, at 10:30 am. Join Ms. Amy for a craft, story and song time! 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.


100 YEARS AGO – 1916

Various kinds of small vermin cause lots of worry to the housewife. Tell us your bug problems and we will give you something to eradicate them. Baker Drug Co.Receiving diplomas during commencement exercises are Ada M. Lorenz, Alice Sheffer, Irene E. Koob, Ruby M. Paul, Sylvia M. Keigley, Gladys K. Guy, Bronson Brant, Neal Lavanway, Rowley Marvin, Earl E. Lewis, Albro Blake, Earl Rockwell and Stewart Worden.Harold Kreitner drove his Ford car to Benton Harbor on business. When he went for the machine to drive it home, it was gone. Police located the car in Centreville.  Arrests were made and the car returned.War News: Mrs. Harley was decorated at Soloniki by Gen. Sarrall for her devotion to duty in the Red Cross.

60 YEARS AGO – 1956

Cecil Potts of Deer Forest announces that the park will be featured in the “Going Places in Michigan” brochure. Members of the school paper, “Vox Ludorum” receiving keys to the “Quill and Scroll” International Honor Society are: Jean Currie, Diane Carrothers, Janet Head, Frances Damouth and Gary Whalen. Fifty Six Seniors Receive Diplomas. A nice composite photo proudly displays the class of 1956. Best Wishes to the Graduates: Ed’s Café, F. C. Sawatzki, Morlock’s Garage, Economy Food Shoppe, Coloma Recreation & Bowling, City Ice & Beverage, Paul’s Triangle Gulf, Paul Davidson

30 YEARS AGO – 1986

Newly hired Coloma Schools Superintendent Clifford Tallman is flanked by School Board President Jean Chandler and Mrs. Tallman as Marion Leedy captures this occasion on film. Walter A. Hodge was commissioned second lieutenant through the Air Force ROTC program. Come to the Tala Pharmacy for a film developing special. All exposures only 97 cents. Leigh Ann Turner and Lauren Sue Yates are double recipients of the Green and Gold Award.


100 YEARS AGO – 1916

The Hartford High School will be represented in all of the field and track events at the annual field day meeting of the Van Buren County High School Athletic association at Paw Paw next Saturday. Three entries have been made in each event by the local school. The athletes from the Hartford high who will compete in the various events and who are sanguine of returning with a part of the field day honors are Willie Anderson, Edward Finley, Jr., Noel Thompson, Robert Mantle, Edgar Clewerth, Cecil Cleworth, Edgar Seeley, Rex Miller, Burnam Hammond, Harley Tuttle, Willie Traver and Roy Gross. The boys have been in training for several weeks and Hartford will have the best representation in the meet that the school has had in several years.

75 YEARS AGO – 1941

The Hartford Woman’s club will hold its annual June dinner next Friday at one o’clock at the home of Mrs. Lucy Champion at Norwood farm, Rush lake. Mrs. Champion will serve the dinner. Members of the club desiring transportation will meet at the Green lantern at 12:30. The Southwest Hartford Thursday club held its last meeting of the year at the home of Mrs. Adaline Richmond. Roll call was “My Favorite Flower”. Mrs. Laura Rush gave a very interesting report of the county federation held recently at Mattawan. A discussion on “Facts learned on the club’s trip to Kalamazoo” brought out many interesting things. Mrs. Beverly Friday conducted an amusing flower contest and refreshments were served by the hostess. The club will sponsor a picnic for its members and families during the summer.

50 YEARS AGO – 1966

Fifty-six seniors will receive high school diplomas at commencement exercises in the high school gymnasium at 8pm tomorrow, June 3. Senior class President Ward Collins will deliver the class address. Salutatorian is Terry Rice and Valedictorian Stephen Olds. John H. Pomeroy, son of Mr. and Mrs. Clarence Pomeroy, Jr., has been awarded a four year board of trustees scholarship to Western Michigan at Kalamazoo. Pomeroy has received two scholarship pins and won varsity letters on football and baseball. He is captain of the baseball team, a member of the band and was in both junior and senior plays.


90 YEARS AGO – 1926

Rexford M. Clark of Watervliet, a junior at the Western State Normal School, has been elected business manager of both the Western Normal band and the men’s glee club. He was president of the flee club last year and stage manager this year. George Krietner, head janitor of the Watervliet Schools, has been taking his first vacation during the school year that he has had in the twenty-nine years that he has been the school janitor and this vacation was a forced one on account illness. Watervliet has three students in the list of 311 young people who get diplomas from Michigan State College. They are Charles H. Barney and his brother Reilly N. Barney and Harry E. Bush. All graduated from the agricultural department.

60 YEARS AGO – 1956

Miss Sandra Ann King, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Richard King, Watervliet, has been awarded a University of Michigan Regents-Alumni scholarship which covers full tuition and fees for four years of study. Miss Sharon Roger, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. W. B. Rogers, Watervliet, a junior at Western Michigan College, Kalamazoo, will leave on June 13, 1956 for a summer in Europe. Otto Helweg Jr. is beginning his third year at the U. S. Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland, has been appointed Regimental Operations Officer.

30 YEARS AGO – 1986

Watervliet Public Schools’ Beard of Education named Darlene Dongvillo, as the new principal at South Elementary. She has been employed by the schools for seven years and has been a counselor at Watervliet Jr. High. Sixteen Watervliet High School seniors were awarded scholarships, grants and other award money totaling $109,563. Scholarships amounted to $48.8000 other awards and grants totaled $60,763. Student of the week of June 11, 1986 is Maurenna Miller. Her favorite classes are literature and drafting. Through a college-prep curriculum, she is preparing to be either a veterinarian or an architect.


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