January 22, 2018

Tri-City Area History Page

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Paw Paw River Journal

Paw Paw River Journal

Small Town Editor

  There’s something about small towns…..a flavor, something distinct.  Eldest daughter Deb and Gary live in such a small town over outlying north of Detroit.  Once a year they have a celebration….Founders’ Day, or Pioneer Days, or some such thing.  The town park is filled with rides and vendors, and strangers!  One little old lady remarked, “I suppose there will be a lot of ‘gypsies’ coming in!”   Well, Hartford used to be like that on occasion.  We had the annual Van Buren County Fair every fall.  It was held on the grounds just northwest of town.  And that week the town would be bustling with strangers.  We also had a small town newspaper “The Hartford Day Spring,” and an editor, Don Cochrane, who kept track of such things.  His weekly column, “Around Town and Elsewhere,” was a joy to read.  I was just a kid, but I perused it religiously, and likely that is one reason I’m writing this column today!   The whole town read his column avidly and sometimes took his tongue-in-cheek writings seriously.  He loved to discuss local scenes and tease the famous and infamous citizens of Hartford equally.  Once at the time of neighboring Lawrence’s annual Labor Day Ox Roast, Don kiddingly said that so many people were expected to attend those festivities that Hartford would graciously provide omnibuses running over to Lawrence every hour during those two days.   After The Day Spring hit the streets with that edition, Don looked out of his office window in the corner bank building and noticed a small crowd gathering near the Main Street traffic light.  Scenting a story, he rushed out and inquired as to what was happening.  One man said, “We are waiting for the hourly ‘omnibus,’ whatever that, is to take us over to the Ox roast!”   In the same kidding vein, Don wrote a neat article for the paper one Van Buren County Fair week.  He loved to tease Harry Allen (who lived on the other side of the river north of Hartford).  In his column Don accused that long-time riverbank dweller of trying to cash in on the fair’s proximity with boat trips.   Don said, “Now that airplane rides have become commonplace, Harry Allen will conduct excursions on the lagoon in his new gondola during fair week.  If one’s imagination is not dormant, a gondola ride on the lagoon is equal to a night in Venice, Italy, Harry says.  Bus transportation will be provided to and from the fair grounds.   “The gondola will sail from the new terracotta docks with the Grecian archway, recently constructed on the Allen landing, and will cruise among the Thousand Islands and the Two Thousand equally famous Bogs and Stumps that make the lagoon nature’s unmatched masterpiece.”   Don went on to spin more of his fanciful yarn by saying that Fair Secretary Paul Richter, who was inappreciative of nature’s rawest wonders, was opposed to the lagoon excursions and threatened to scuttle Harry’s gondola.  Fair goers’ money should be spent on the grounds to raise prize money for the champion rooster and the handsome gentlemen bovines, not on gondola rides in that “puddle” north of town!   Well there was a germ of truth in Don’s article.  We did have a lagoon north of town, and it was backed up by the dam.  And it could have been developed into a real vacation spot.   In the late 1940s the dam burst and roaring waters flooded the down river communities.  Do you remember that one, Watervlieters?  There were dire consequences from that flood for out neighbors in the town next west!  In the valley just west of the Watervliet cemetery a motel of dubious quality was wiped out.  We heard that pigs and chickens went sailing downstream.  Red Arrow highway at that place was impassable.   My Chief Accountant was working as a private duty nurse at the old Watervliet Hospital downtown, and I could not get through there to take her to work the next day after the dam burst.  So we turned around, went back and south on County Line Road to find a way through.  Out there, perhaps on Dan Smith Road, the water was almost knee deep at one spot.  We did get through and Marion made it in to take care of her patient.   No longer needed to generate power, the dam was never rebuilt.  The former lagoon on which Harry Allen’s gondola floated was gone forever.  Now that river bottom is a virtually impenetrable jungle of trees that grew in the rich river bottom soil.   Just think, Dear Readers, if the dam at Hartford had been rebuilt we could have now a thriving lake side community of homes much like those that surround Maple Lake in Paw Paw.  Mixed blessing, you say?  Perhaps.  But it would have helped Hartford to grow.  And when we hear the discussion of electric power sources, and how we may have trouble in the future…….a dam that produced electric power might not be all bad!   Now we will never know as we go on, weaving golden threads into the tapestry of our lives in this story book town. Those days come alive when I read an old Hartford Day Spring. And smile again at Editor Don Cochrane’s trenchant and witty prose.  I don’t know about you, but I have few regrets over the past.  Hartford has always been home, and I’d live all of those days again……in a heartbeat!


rolling back the years



1916 – 100 years ago

A.R. DeFields, a former soldier in the United States army was ordered to prepare for duty. He left for St. Louis to go into training.  Swiss yodeling songs will be sung by real Alpine singers during the Chautauqua.  While transporting Max Bender to Mercy hospital, Dr. Bertrand met opposition in Riverside. The crowd did not want the new stone road to be driven over. As the car with the injured man passed the Italian store, stones were thrown.

1956 – 60 years ago

The 37 annual meeting of the Forty Year club will be held in the social hall of the Plymouth Congregational church. Mrs. Allen Stark is chairman.  Coloma band director George Smart attended a conference at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.  Patricia Braddon is judged winner in the Annual Lenox Creative Table Setting Contest. Ann Stephenson was winner last year.  Mrs. Harriet Leedy, 96, Coloma’s oldest resident, was released from Community Hospital. She suffered a broken limb. Doctors marveled at her strength and her attitude.

1986 – 30 years ago

Greg Ryan, 20, Teenage Mr. Michigan, will appear in the Glad Peach parade. He has been invited to perform with the Vi Shafer International Dance Troupe.  Princess turned queen… Miss Coloma, Leigh Ann Turner, was Glad Peach Festival Princess in 1975. She will crown this year’s prince and princess.  The gas pumps and underground gas tanks have been removed from a former gas station on Paw Paw St. downtown. Owner Ed Vollrath has a few ideas for the property.  Carl and Lavina Oehling sent another shipment of eyeglasses to Project Vision. As owners of Coloma Cleaners, they participate in this project through the International Fabricare Institute.  Coloma firemen will battle in a water ball contest during the Glad Peach Festival.



1916 – 100 years ago

Gay with bunting and decorations and with plans rapidly forming for the entertainment of the crowds, Hartford is ready to welcome the thousands of visitors who will be attracted to the village next week by the Knights of Pythias carnival. The work of decorating the village is in charge of expert decorators from Dayton, Ohio, who are draping hundreds of yards of flags and bunting all over the store fronts on Main Street and dressing the village in striking holiday attire. Many of the decorations are particularly artistic and when their work is completed the last of the week Hartford will be arrayed in a wealth of decorations that will undoubtedly eclipse anything of the kind attempted in this section of Michigan.  Ely Park will come in for its share of the multi-colored decorations and will be made the beauty spot of the carnival. Dozens of electric lights are to be scattered among the trees and shrubbery of the park for the convenience of the evening crowds, and it is at the park that the monster clam bake will be spread on August 8. Plans are already forming for the new village of carnival shows, amusement devices and refreshment stands which will spring up along the curb on Main Street next Saturday.

1941 – 75 years ago

Using the salvaged lumber he obtained from the recent wrecking of the 70 year old Morse store building on South Center Street, Milton Boze has begun erection of ten new houses on a four acre tract of land which he owns on Beeny Road at the southwest corner of the village. The houses will be two and three room residences which he plans to rent at five dollars a month. Mr. Boze is rapidly clearing up his South Center Street property, which he sold to the village last week for $2,500. He will tear down the shed that stood at the rear of the Morse building, but plans to move the old photograph gallery to one of three sites that he has under consideration as a location for a new junk yard.  Local news may be added to other scarcities about Hartford. Surrendering to in-activities in deference to the excessive heat, local folk have not moved around other than lethargically. News is what people do, and during the seven days of 100 degree temperatures they have not been doing much.

1966 – 50 years ago

Firemen were called out three times in a little more than an hour Thursday to put out grass fires along the Chesapeake & Ohio railway tracks near Hartford. Two calls came in at the same time shortly before 5 p.m. One blaze was near the fair grounds and another was 1-1/2 miles north of town. The third call came seconds before 6 p.m. the siren sounded automatically. This was for a grass fire along the tracks near Auto Specialties Mfg. Co. plant west of Hartford.  The Modern Mothers Club had a night out last week and had dinner at Redwood Inn at Sister Lakes, and then attended the Sister Lakes Playhouse and saw the “Tunnel of Love” enacted.



1926 – 90 Years Ago

On Aug 5, 1926, Mrs. James Herron killed a blue racer that measured four feet in length. The snake was just outside her kitchen door on Paw Paw Ave. Mrs. Herron says these snakes used to be quite plentiful on their farm but that one is seldom seen now.  In going through the files of his office recently, F. D. Gilchrist, secretary of the Watervliet Board of Education ran across an old school census report of the district dated Sept. 28, 1888. Total expenditures for that year amounted to $818.28 of which $500 was paid to Chas. D. Jennings, principal and $225 to Margaret Howley, teacher. Other school expenditures amounted to $93.28. There were 151 children of school age in the district and 120 attended school.  Ad printed on Aug. 13, 1926: blueberry pickers wanted. Will pay 10 cents per quart or if you pick for yourself and furnish own crates, a charge of 10 cents per quart for the berries.

1956 – 60 Years Ago

A social gathering was enjoyed on July 28, 1956 in the home of Mr. and Mrs. Burrell Turner when their son, Fireman Jack Turner, U.S. Navy, showed pictures he had taken while in Puerto Rico and in the Mediterranean.  Bert Robbins was the guest of honor at a family dinner party on July 21, 1956 in celebration of his 82 year old birthday. Many family and friends attended.  The WHS graduated its first class in Driver Education on July 31, 1956. Fifteen students took advantage of the summer class.

1986 – 30 Years Ago

Navy Fireman Recruit Richard M. Hurst, a 1985 WHS graduate has completed a five day port visit to Hong Kong while participating in a Western Pacific deployment. He is currently stationed aboard the battleship USS New Jersey, homeport in Long Beach, California.  Eugene and Wanda Weaver celebrated their 50 year wedding anniversary with an open house on Aug. 9, 1986. Family and friends joined in their celebration.  The 60th Danneffel reunion was held on July 27, 1986 at the home of Melvin and Ruth Danneffel with 66 people present.



Coloma Library News Book Sale

The library’s annual Glad Peach Book Sale will be Saturday, August 6 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The library will be CLOSED during the sale. Don’t miss out on this HUGE sale of gently used books, DVD’s, videos and more!

Sport Science: Train for the Games

The Summer Olympics are about to begin! What does an athlete have to do to train for the games? The same things you need to do to train for baseball, swimming, volleyball, archery or any other sport! Come to the library on Tuesday, August 9 at 10:30 a.m. to investigate the science behind hand-eye coordination, center of gravity and balance, lung capacity and much more! Continue training under extreme conditions by experiencing the effects of weightlessness as you practice for a future of sports in space! This is a very interactive program with many volunteers from the crowd needed! This program is presented by the Air Zoo.

Book Club

The Coloma Library Book Club is meeting for a book discussion on Thursday, August 4 at 5:30 p.m. The title to read before the discussion is “Ready Player One” by Ernest Cline.  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 a.m. 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.