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The Tri-City Record creating and capturing history for tomorrow as current owners celebrate 40 years of dedication to Watervliet

If, as it has been said, that journalism is the first draft of history, then newspapers are the original history books and the local newspaper, the Tri-City Record, has been the source for curated history for over 144 years. As Watervliet’s longest running business, the current owners, the Bayer family, have reached their 40-year mark of making and telling of history in the Tri-City area.

History of the local newspaper


It all started with Mr. D. Pompey of Covert, who brought to the area a seasoned newsman, who was looking for a site to start a small newspaper. The man’s name was James Madison Hall, who was affectionately known by his friends and family as, Matt. He was 23 years old, and was born in Lawrence. His father passed away when he was 14 leaving him the oldest of seven siblings and therefore, responsible for their welfare.

Matt went to work for the Bangor Journal to face his newfound responsibilities. He then went to work for a newspaper in South Haven, followed by one in Nashville, Michigan. In 1875 he moved to work for various papers in the state of Texas only to return back in 1879 to the Bangor Journal. Wanting something more for him, Hall decided to step out on his own and he developed the Bangor newspaper called “Advance.” That newspaper was eventually bought out by his partner at the time, a Professor Burket.

That buyout led to Hall setting up shop in a small wood frame building located on lot 23 in the main street of Watervliet, where the first publication of the “Weekly Record” was produced on March 9, 1882. Lot 23 is located on the northeast corner in the business section along Main Street. The building itself has had some distinctions; the first, being the location of the first building, a rooming house and store combination, and built by the men of Smith and Merrick Company in 1836 to what it is today, Arclight Brewing Company. Another interesting fact is there were some rumors that money was scarce in the beginning, as J. M. Hall borrowed five dollars, quite a large sum at the time, from Cyrus Tutill of Cass County, to get his publishing company started. Hall was also given credit for the first person to promote Paw Paw Lake as a summer resort area.

REPRESENTATIVE JOHN PROOS... presented Karl & Anne Bayer with a Special Tribute Award in February 2009. The Special Tribute said in part, “Since its founding in 1882 as the Watervliet Record, the Tri-City Record has been vital in keeping Southwest Michigan informed of news and community events.”

The newspaper was a broadsheet size “boilerplate” of just four pages and published on Fridays. There is one known copy of the Weekly Record; it is volume two, number 27, from Friday, Sept. 7, 1883.

Though, this was not the first paper to be published in Watervliet. From the summer of 1876 to the late summer of 1877, Mr. J. M. Sheffiel and Mr. J. F. Sheffiel published the Watervliet Journal until they were promised 500 subscribers in Indiana, which never came to fruition. Though not much is known about this time, reprints of their column showed up in the “remember when” section of the Watervliet Record during 1922 to 1923.

Hall purchased vacant lot 28 in 1886, where he started construction on a new building moving the home of the newspaper five blocks to the south. However, in 1889 he sold the business to J. Theodore Johnson and his son, Leroy.

The Johnsons moved the paper even further south and across the street to the west side of Main Street in the second floor of a building on lot 9. Some locals may remember this as the home of the Gamble Store, or Back on the Rack in 2012. The duo only had the paper for a year before selling off their interests within months of each other. J. T. Johnson sold his interest to Albert Newton Woodruff and his son, Leroy, sold his interest to Alonzo M. Hulson in the spring of 1890. It was then that the name came to be “The Record” and the publishing was under the name, A. N. Woodruff and Co. Shortly after Hulson’s wife died he dissolved the partnership leaving Woodruff as sole owner.

GRANDPA PALMER... one of the earlier cartoonists often would send Anne and Karl a cartoon with them being the subject. Grandpa Palmer was succeeded by Jim Keech and the current cartoonist Josh Coffin.

One of the significant changes that Woodruff brought to the paper was the fact that he changed the format to a five column, eight page paper. The previous format is unknown and no copies of The Record prior to March 1890 are known to survive. Those early issues are bound copies and on microfilm at the Watervliet District Library.

By September of 1891 the paper had another change in ownership and of course, a new location went with it. Eugene F. Case, a man from Ellsworth, Wisconsin, purchased the paper and moved it further south and back to the east side of Main Street. It was here that the name was expanded to “The Watervliet Record.” The first publication under this name was printed on Oct. 2, 1891. By Oct. 9, 1896 it had 600 subscribers.

Case bought the current home of the newspaper at 138 N. Main Street where it has since been a mainstay on Main Street. Before it became The Watervliet Record, the building housed a pool hall. The building is also the site of the first Watervliet schoolhouse, built there in 1849 and removed in 1864.

Leon D. Case was added to the ownership rolls when he left a job at the paper mill and purchased an interest in his father’s business on Jan. 1, 1900, making the firm E. F. Case and Son. In February of 1915, Eugene Case passed away and joining his brother, Leon, was Francis B. Case. Leon became the editor and brother, Francis began running the paper.

The Watervliet Record was a premier source of new innovations. The Washington handpress, used to produce the paper, was replaced with a Whitlock drum cylinder press in 1898, making Case the usher in the dawn of the modern newspaper publishing era.

Many changes occurred during the years the Case family was associated with The Watervliet Record. Most were just to keep up with the current technology, which was occurring throughout both fields of printing and mechanics. All of them were considered labor and time saving changes.

Around the year 1913, the Lambert was replaced by an electric motor, also a first for Watervliet. This new innovation saw nearly 20 years of active service.

In 1918, a Linotype, casting its own recyclable lead type, was installed. This meant only the headlines had to be handset. In the year 1924, the Whitlock Press was replaced by a new two-revolution, Lee press that had a Kimball variable speed motor.

The workload of editor shifted onto Francis after Leon became very involved in politics starting in the 1930s. After Leon’s death in 1939, Francis’ wife, Winifred joined him in operating the newspaper, with 1,200 subscribers. Then in 1958, Gordon and Joan Banasik bought the business ending the 68-year ownership of the paper by the Case family.

Gordon and Joan Banasik were on their way from Darmstadt, Germany, where Gordon had spent the previous four years at Stars and Stripes, a newspaper for the armed forces. They were on their way to their hometown of Watertown, South Dakota when they stopped in Watervliet to look over The Watervliet Record in hopes of purchasing the paper.

The Banasiks also were progressive in their thinking as owners of the Watervliet newspaper. Mr. Banasik purchased a used Scott letterpress eight-page, rotary web printing press in 1964. At the same time, he built a 10-foot x 55-foot addition to the building to accommodate the “new to The Record” equipment, which was delivered by a semi truck and took an entire day to unload.

This purchase dramatically cut the time spent actually printing and folding the newspaper. It cut the printing time from 11 hours to just 25 minutes, leaving the editor more time to spend on other printing duties.

By the mid-1960s the Compugraphic phototypesetting system had been devised, becoming much less cumbersome, and more efficient than lead type. Banasik bought one of these machines, sight unseen. It carried the serial number 32 and with the purchase came another first to The Watervliet Record. The Record was the very first newspaper to use this new direct entry typesetting equipment in Southwest Michigan.

And another change was in January 1969 when the printing of the newspaper was contracted to an offset printing plant in Paw Paw which allowed the publisher to add more pages to the weekly publication.

During the Banasik’s ownership of the newspaper, the Coloma Courier was merged with The Watervliet Record. The Coloma Courier ended their publication with the July 9, 1969 edition, making the first combined paper hitting newsstands on July 17, 1969, just one week later.

For 25 years the Banasiks ran the business until they sold it to Karl and Anne Bayer, who came from Dryden, Michigan.

The start of a 40-year legacy

On Feb. 1, 1984 another era began as Karl and Anne Bayer purchased the Record, both leaving positions at a weekly newspaper in Lapeer County, Michigan, called Tri-City Times. With them they brought their three children; Justin, Amy, and Gillian, who all graduated from Watervliet High School.

Karl was the managing editor from 1976-1984, and Anne was a columnist at the Times.

Tom Sadler, Owner and Publisher of the Tri-City Times wrote this letter of recommendation…

To whom it may concern:

I’m pleased to recommend Karl Bayer as a top-level person and a competent journalist.

Karl served as Capac Journal editor for three years before his elevation to managing editor of the Tri-City Times late in 1979.

He proved himself an astute news judge, competent reporter and lively self-starter.

In his management position, Bayer was responsible for all news-gathering efforts, advertising sales, production and circulation of the growing three-community newspaper serving Capac, Almont and Imlay City, Michigan.

I’d highly recommend Karl Bayer for any position which demands complete honesty, dedication and competence in use of the language.


Thomas A. Sadler

Owner-Publisher 1957-1980

Tri-City Times

With the Bayer’s ownership of the local Southwest Michigan newspaper came more changes to the publication. On March 28, 1984, The Watervliet Record’s size was increased to broadsheet, the current size, from a smaller, tabloid size. Another change became effective on October 10 of the same year when the name of The Watervliet Record was changed to the Tri-City Record.

At this time, the Tri-City Record began covering news from Hartford in addition to Coloma and Watervliet, the areas that were already covered. With the expansion of coverage to the “Tri-City area,” the pioneer phototypesetting machine was replaced in 1985 by two “Editwriters” which were computerized phototypesetters.

These newer typesetters would store copy on large floppy disks. This allowed for easy editing and retrieval when needed. A third phototypesetter was added in 1994. Color photographs on the front page first appeared in the January 1995 edition and the average publishing volume was around 16 pages.

Then along came the personal computer. The onset of the “desktop publishing” made for major changes in the preparation and printing of the Tri-City Record. Gone were the days of handset type and hot lead as it gave way to the “cut and paste” of the phototypesetting era, where strips of printed copy and photographs were attached to page size sheets of paper by melted beeswax. These pages referred to as flats, were then photographed onto a negative film that was then burned onto a printing plate.

However, the days of hot wax, film, chemicals, and half-tones disappeared just about as fast as it came on the scene. It was instantly replaced by more efficient and environmentally, friendly desktop publishing. What was once hand-delivered to the press operator 30 miles away can now be digitally sent with a click of a key.

Now the Tri-City Record is entirely written, edited, composed, and sent to the press via the computer. Not only that, it’s just as easy for reporters, clients, and contributors to send their ads, photos, and information to the Tri-City Record over the Internet to the address The accessibility of the Internet now allows anyone in the world access to the published pages of this area’s local gem with an online subscription.

For the last 132 years the paper continues to be prepared at 138 N. Main Street, but now is printed by Stafford Printing of Greenville, MI. The newspaper averages about 12 pages per week on a broad sheet format and features full color photographs and spot color. Paid subscribers now number more than 1,700 and nearly 1,000 online subscribers with the same amount being sold from newsstands each week.

Small-market newspapers make up more than 97% of all newspapers in the U.S. The Tri-City Record is one of those. The newspaper reaches a diverse audience of subscribers, both with the hardcopy and with the digital copy subscriptions. Weekly, these customers are gleaning information from within its pages, and advertising in print media is still a powerful environment.

Anne and Karl have shared their thoughts and ideas on these pages, some controversial and some personal. They have shared many of their family’s highs and lows through the deaths of their parents and some siblings. It wasn’t always easy being the face of the local news agent and being under the magnifying glass of the public, but Karl and Anne always were loyal to the news first.

Karl would regularly say, “We cannot start picking and choosing which news we report, if we do we will no longer be a trusted newspaper our community can be proud of!”

More than just business owners

Karl and Anne Bayer have made some significant contributions to the Tri-City area as involved citizens. When the Bayers came into town, they were driven by a desire to help their community in any way they could.

Anne became one of the leading forces in the Watervliet Lioness Club from 1988-1989 and was instrumental in bringing the Community Child Watch program to the area.

The Community Child Watch Program was established in 1979 to reduce the opportunity for a child to become a victim of a crime. Administered jointly by local law enforcement agencies and school districts, the Community Child Watch Program’s success depends on volunteers, such as Anne, who have been trained to observe, recognize, record, and report suspicious activities and persons.

She also was a big influence on the Student of the Week program at Watervliet schools, and the Halloween Sidewalk Parade on Main Street. Not only that, she served as chairman of the Watervliet Business Association from 1990 to 1991, and on many of its committees throughout the years.

Anne was also the writer of a former column in the paper called, “The Back Fence.” This column came after Anne had been urging her husband Karl, the editor, to establish a page for news and interesting features from the women of the area.

In her first column, March 28, 1984, Anne writes, “…my training is in the field of art, not writing. I could probably knit a sweater or sew a dress faster than I can write. So my columns will be in the form of a letter to all of my friends. At least it won’t be a Dear John, I never wrote one of those.”

This page was for all news of interest to women, where subscribers were all welcome to submit news articles on anything of interest and the column ran until April 2012. Up until that year, Anne worked at the Record until health concerns forced her retirement from advertising sales and other “publishing” duties that spring.

Now, as for Karl, he has been editor since they bought the paper. He has written a “Karl’s Kolumn” since August 1975 when he began his newspaper career at the Capac Journal - a column that he still writes today.

In 1984 Karl was a founding member, as well as, served as the chairman of the Watervliet Business Association (WBA) until 1986. Karl also was one of the driving forces behind Watervliet’s Downtown Development Authority (DDA).

He was awarded for his 25 years of service with the DDA, where he is currently in his 40th year of holding a position on that board, knowing that he served as chairman from 1987 to 1990. Karl oversaw the $350,000 renovation of the main street sidewalks, lights, and the roadway. During that time, through the DDA, he also obtained two DNR grants to help develop Mill Creek Park.

Representative John Proos awarded a tribute to Karl and Anne in 1997 where they were honored for their dedication to the City of Watervliet.

In 2010 Karl was the Mayor of Watervliet; however, that only lasted a few months because his moral compass was dictating his departure.

Let’s not forget the time that he spent as chairman of the Watervliet Airport Board for three years and as a member of the Community Hospital Board of Directors for many years.

And not only was he a giver of his time, Karl was the giver of printing shop equipment to the North Berrien Historical Society. Equipment that first was used in the 19th Century became part of their museum in 2001. The City of Coloma provided funds through a grant to build a print shop building on the museum grounds to specifically display this vintage equipment. The print shop was then dedicated as the Watervliet Record and Courier Print Shop on May 14, 2005.

The paper is a family affair

Anne retired as Business Manager of the Tri-City Record in March of 1994 but continued to sell advertising and write her column the “Back Fence until April of 2012. Karl’s official retirement at the Tri-City Record was in November of 2020. Though Karl and Anne had pivotal roles in making the paper a continued success for many years, it really has offered many family, and friends who became part of the “TCR” family, an avenue to showcase a host of talents.

Currently, the Tri-City Record is prepared weekly by a staff that includes Amy (Bayer) Loshbough, Editor, Laurie Kibler as the copy editor and Joshua Coffin, Advertising Design as the media specialist and the weekly editorial cartoonist.

Reporting is handled by freelance writers; Angela Widdis who covers Hartford City and Bainbridge Township, and who writes a weekly column called Senior Side, Veronica Wolf who handles Keeler, Hartford Public Schools, and Hartford Township, Pam Quinn takes on Watervliet City, Watervliet Charter Township and the School Board meetings for Watervliet Public Schools, Sheila Schultz writes on both Coloma Schools and Coloma Charter Township, and Samantha Smith covers City of Coloma and Hagar Township news.

The sports writers are John Oliphant and Jerrod Birmele.

SWORN IN... Karl was sworn in as Mayor of the City of Watervliet in January 2010. He resigned in October of that same year!

Advertising sales are handled by both Amy and Angela Widdis.

However in retirement, Karl can be seen visiting on occasion, making sure everything’s running as smooth as possible. And let’s not forget Karl’s Kolumn where he still pens his thoughts.

Bayer era “Record family”

Amy (Bayer) Loshbough has filled nearly every role available since she started as an editor of Watervliet High School’s publication “Panther Tails.” While in high school, Amy was enrolled in the co-op class where she attended face-to-face classes for part of the day and the other half was spent working at the Tri-City Record. Her jobs started out with cleaning and taking the trash out and spending many Tuesdays in the dark room developing halftones. It didn’t take long and she was sitting beside copy editor Bonnie Bannen, typing copy, trimming and waxing and helping her dad layout the pages.

After her mom Anne officially retired, Amy’s roles began to change, becoming the Legal editor of the Tri-City Record, managing all the subscribers, and handling all the billing. The relationship between parents and daughter made this a perfect scenario for the Tri-City Record. Karl mentored Amy and she learned all she needed to know about running a small-town newspaper. Years into this business relationship they knew what would happen one day when Karl and Anne were ready to step down, Amy would be ready to take on the challenge.

It wasn’t long until the desktop PC changed how everything was done. Gone were the days of billing cards and hand labeled newspapers of which Anne spent many hours working on. With the help of some local experts, like Denis Huffman and Ken Bannen to name a few, the era of FileMaker and QuickBooks began. No more hours were spent figuring out numbers and filling in blanks for the United States Postal System - postal reports on the Internet was now the easier way to supply these reports.

In June of 1989, Amy married Bill Loshbough, a 1988 graduate of Hartford High School, and Bill can be found making repairs to the historic building when needed, running errands, and even delivering papers to the free-standing newsstand boxes a time or two.

The dedication to the paper doesn’t stop there for the Loshboughs, as their three children, William (32) of Hartford, Karlianne (31) of Coloma, and Benjamin (26) of Watervliet, have also spent time working for the paper in some capacity or another.

Now for the friend who became family, there have been many individuals that have had a hand in the production of the paper over the past 40 years.

Roy “Bud” Davis (Paw Paw River Journal) is our longest running columnist... penning his hometown tales and philosophic wisdom without miss since mid-1984 until his death in 2020. The Record continues to this day to share his whit on the history pages by revisiting past columns on a three-week rotation.

Mike Leith came on board shorty after Ed Trainer left, adding his unique take on local sports in his “Press Box” column without ever missing a deadline (or a game). Kristi Noack tackled the sports for many years

Bonnie Bannen had been copy editor from April 1984 up to 2011 when her husband’s stroke required her diligence elsewhere.

Janet Rhoton was a typesetter and proofreader as well as covered meetings and sold advertising.

Nikki VanSandt , Tammy Gilson nd Jackie Hiler did some typesetting while Angel Schmidt, Maryann Worl and Joe Engle have been known to call on area businesses to sell advertising over the years.

FOLLOWING IN THEIR FOOTSTEPS... joining committees and small-town events is Amy standing between in her parents, Karl & Anne.

Also on the long-time service roll are Dick and Angie Showerman. Dick sold advertising for the Record for several years. He and Angie handled the retail newspaper sales, managing to serve 42 locations every Thursday following Bill Scott who delivered for years

Annette Christie was our senior reporter for years. She covered local government and school board meetings and had the “police beat” as well. Lynn Attila covered some local meetings over the years along with Cliff Stevens and Wanda Thomas.

Angie Stair was also with the paper for some time, covering meetings as well, taking photos and writing features. She also wrote the weekly hunting and fishing column.

Also reporting faithfully for some time: Carole Kiernan, Mary Reck, and Christina Gelder. Handling special feature assignments were Lois Jordan and Carla Baldwin. Joe Cheshire was very well known in the Tri-City area for his reporting and his book he had published.

Weekly columnists over the years included (in no particular order): Vonda VanTil, Social Security; Vita Benson, Health and Safety; Olive Grady, Recipes; Denise Barowicz, Investing; elected officials, Fred Upton, John Proos, Al Pscholka and Aric Nesbitt; Pastor David Helms, Compass Points; and staff nature notebook writers from Sarett Nature Center.

Also contributing weekly are public library staff and volunteers for the ever-popular Rolling Back the Years, news from the old time newspapers... Sally Gonzales, Sandi Munchow, and Stephanie Daniels.

Appearing weekly during the football season were a host of Armchair quarterbacks: Greg Krell, Pam Hartman, Tom Gear, Mark Bolin, Jim Edwards, Tim Hildebrand, RoxAnn Rodney-Isbrecht, Rodney Lynch and Chris Leach, to name some. These fearless prognosticators predict game winners sometimes to the wrath and chagrin of local coaches and fans.

Former editorial cartoonist, the late Jim Keech, sketches appeared weekly, as the best were reprinted from more than the 700 published since October 1987. His last original cartoon appeared March 30, 2011.

So Karl and Anne want to make sure they thank everyone who has ever been a part of the team as they couldn’t have done it with just the two of them.



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