THE SEBEWA RECOLLECTOR
Historical Newsletter from Sebewa; Sebewa Township, Ionia County, MI;
October 2013, Volume 49, Number 2. Submitted with permission of Editor Grayden
Photo on front of this issue: Of a lady getting a new dial telephone to replace her old wall phone.
Page 2: COVER STORY: A new dial telephone was installed in the home of Mrs. Nora Titus at 215 Quarterline Street, Portland, MI, in January 1950, by Calvin Hoort, employee of the Michigan Bell Telephone Company. The hand-crank type of instruments were being replaced in preparation for the inauguration of the new dial system, with its automatic equipment in the new building on Kent Street. Nora Titus and her late father, Albert Abram (Ab) Way, previously owned and occupied the farm on Grand River Avenue, which they sold to Donald & Crystal Slowins in 1937, and which today is covered with houses and condominiums. John Calvin Hoort died on May 29, 2013, at age 86, so he would have been age 22 or 23 when this photo was taken 63 years ago.
ARMY: This editor was recently asked to repeat the story of his experiences in the U.S. Army. He was drafted for the Korean Conflict, 59 years ago, on October 19, 1954; but before they took him, there was a temporary cease fire in that war which was never declared in the first place. He was required to serve 2 years Active Duty: after 8 weeks Infantry Basic Training at Ft. Leonard Wood, MO, and 8 weeks Medical Basic at Ft. Sam Houston & Brooke Army Hospital, San Antonio, TX, 400 men were lined up in the street with their duffel bags, headed for San Diego and Korea. Five names were called out to join men rotated back from a Mobile Army Surgical Hospital in Korea to serve a Military Clinic in Detroit, MI. Its manpower strength was supposed to be 14 Privates, two Corporals, and one Sergeant, besides the doctors, dentists, and nurses, all of whom were officers. At first this was the case, but as the war dragged on and the people were discharged, it ended up with 17 career Master Sergeants and PFC Slowins. While that might not sound the best, it really was, because the Company Commander was Col. George Thomson, a draftee MD and a dead-ringer for Col. Henry Blake, the first commander of TV’s M*A*S*H 4077: tall, thin, stoop-shouldered, disheveled, with distain for all army S.O.P. All the rest were Regular Army and it was the Colonel and the Private against the system. Slowins advanced from shy shepherd boy to Brevit (temporary) Sergeant of Medical Supply, not unlike Radar O’Reilly.
The Colonel kept him off guard duty because of night ambulance calls. About every 4-6 months some desk jockey would notice there was a Private in the Medics who never pulled K. P. So Slowins was assigned a day of K.P. Part way thru the day, the Colonel would send a Master Sergeant to relieve him. “We need Slowins in Supply! On the double!” The old German Mess Sergeant would say, “Bullsh…Master Sergeants can’t pull K. P. I’m a Master Sergeant. If you pull K. P., I might pull K.P. I’m a Master Sergeant. Get the He…. out of here, both of you!” Which was what the Colonel had in mind, and the Mess Sergeant knew it. All armies in history have had Morning Muster to count noses. When Morning Muster was called for, Sgt Leavenworth would stand out front in the street and PFC Slowins would stand in front of him at Attention. At the proper time the sergeant would call out to the Battalion Commander, “Medical Company all present or accounted for, SIR!” Since this looked pretty ridiculous, Morning Muster for the Medics was not heard about again for a few months. Back home, our Medical Company at the Armory on Michigan St., Grand Rapids was M*A*S*H 454. We trained one evening each week and two weeks in July at Fitzsimmons Army Hospital, Denver, CO., where they were performing the first Open Heart Surgery!
“VOICES FROM THE PAST” & “THOUGHTS WHILE STROLLING ON KENT STREET” Gathered from past issues of the PORTLAND REVIEW & OBSERVER
July 27, 1944: Most rural schools now have teachers for the coming term, although some weeks ago it was considered likely that there would be a scarcity of teachers for rural schools of Ionia County. Fourteen more schools have listed teachers, according to Elwood M. Brake, County School Commissioner. Those in this vicinity are: Gibbs in Portland Township, Mrs. Harriet Kelly; Sebewa Center, Mrs. Joyce Luscher. It is expected that 86 rural schools will operate in Ionia County, and that number more than 70 have engaged their teachers. Out of 122 primary districts, 33 were closed last year, and 3 more will not open this fall. In Orange Township, Pierce will not operate; and Ronald Township Center School will be closed. As previously announced, Christian Bend School District voted some time ago to close their school during this coming year, transporting its scholars to Portland.
Raphiel (Penny) Kramer, of Portland, has been confined to the University Hospital, Ann Arbor, the past week, after having his left leg amputated above the knee. It is expected he will soon be able to return to his home in Portland. Mr. Kramer does not recall having injured his left foot, but several years ago a sore developed there. Prior to amputation he had been going to the hospital for treatment. Mr. & Mrs. Kramer some time ago bought the former Roger Smith farm near the Coleman School (on US-16), and have since resided there, moving from their home on Church Street. Mr. Kramer is a longtime employee of the Olds Forge Plant in Lansing. (Penny reported that the surgeon received the unheard-of sum of $100 for this operation!)
Fred (Curly) Jarvis, of Portland, and Royal (Sam) Johnson, of Lake Odessa, who have operated the Piggery at Grand Rapids for several years, sold the operation to Dr. Shern, of Fostoria, OH, who will continue the business. Jarvis & Johnson had 2140 hogs on the premises. The men furnished the hogs and the City of Grand Rapids gathered and delivered the garbage daily. (At another time, they had a similar operation on Okemos (Biggery) Road in Danby Township, feeding garbage from the City of Lansing. I believe that Claude Plant, Sr. and possibly “Butcher Bill” Youngs were also involved in this operation. Still later, “Curly” gathered the garbage only from the Village of Portland. Public Health Laws finally put a stop to all feeding of uncooked garbage. Our grandfather was allowed to boil up a mixture of meat-scrap and cull beans for his hogs that smelled better than the best bean soup for humans you ever tasted, because it was a bigger kettle-full!!
July 27, 1939: Death came Sunday morning to Stanley Jones, 20, a young Danby Township farmer, who was impaled on a hay fork while threshing Friday.
July 27, 1934: At a business meeting of church members, held Tuesday afternoon in Alton Park, it was unanimously voted to extend to Rev. John H. Steward, retired Baptist minister of Portland, a call to become pastor of the Congregational Church, which he has accepted.
July 27, 1924: Three Portland boys – Earl Graft, Ernest Wilcox, and Harold Lakin, are working on passenger boats plying Lake Michigan this summer.
An airplane traveling in a southwesterly direction passed over Portland Monday afternoon (!) (Remember when everyone stopped and looked up when a plane went over?) The direction indicated it might be on the way to Camp Custer, (near Battle Creek) where a considerable number of U. S. Army Officers are in training.
In an interview with C. F. Boehler, Road Engineer for the State Highway Department, the plans for cementing M-16 between Portland and Morris Corners, where the pavement from Lansing ends at this time, were discussed in detail Wednesday.
With the (M-16) pavement nearly completed from the Kent-Ionia County Line to the blacksmith shop a few miles east of Grand Rapids, the two and one half miles necessary to connect this road with M-39 (now M-50) at Alto has been ordered cemented.
(Hard to believe that just 90 years ago, Michigan was struggling frantically to get from “The Horse & Buggy Age” to the “Automobile Age”, by paving the principal connectors between cities and villages. We needed to live up to our budding reputation as “The Automobile State”.)
Frank Goff & Sons, local contractors, are to reconstruct, at the Municipal Dam, the iron bridge which formerly spanned the millrace at the west end of the upper (Veterans Memorial) bridge.
July 27, 1904: About 25 Portland businessmen journeyed down the Grand River Thursday to the Shotwell Bridge (at David Highway), where they camped for the day, cooking their beefsteak and fish and enjoying a day off. While several were on the opposite side of the bridge, bathing in the Grand, some of those left behind came over and stole their clothes. One man returned to camp wearing a cuff (detachable from the shirt back then) around his ankle, and his straw hat. The others could not find even that much to wear.
For the first time in its history, the Portland Milling Co. will be obligated to go out of the state this year for wheat, as there is not enough in this vicinity to keep the mill running to capacity.
Back to July 27, 1944, Sebewa news: Mr. & Mrs. George Carr have a son, born July 19, at the Hoffs Maternity Home, Lake Odessa. Mother and baby are at the home of her parents, Mr. & Mrs. Roy Darling.
Lt. William S. Pryer, son of the late Dr. Roy Pryer & Mrs. Lucille Pryer, now a resident of East Lansing, was married at Fort Riley, Kansas, on July 8, to Miss Lucille Hauser, of Champaign, Illinois. The bride has for some time been employed at the University of Illinois, but will remain at Fort Riley while Lt. Pryer is stationed there. He is assigned to a replacement regiment of cavalry. (Later Bill served with the U. S. Cavalry in the South Pacific.)
March 16, 1944: Review Editor spent an interesting afternoon with Mr. & Mrs. Frank E. Doremus, at their home in Fowlerville. Mr. Doremus, founder of the PORTLAND REVIEW, and later a Congressman from Detroit and Mayor of Detroit, devotes many hours in his retirement years to reading and writing. Frank has many clippings from Detroit newspapers containing articles he wrote for those publications. He recalled that he started the Review on capital amounting to $200. The first equipment he had came from Owosso, used there on a publication which went broke shortly after it had been started. This Washington hand press was used for a long time to print the Review. Later a small cylinder press was purchased.
Mr. & Mrs. Elwood Davis, of Detroit, visited at the home of Mrs. Davis’ parents, Mr. & Mrs. William Witte over the weekend. Mrs. Fred Dunn, another daughter of Mr. & Mrs. Witte has returned to Norman, OK, where her husband, Seaman Second Class Dunn, is stationed.
March 16, 1939: Several dip nets were set up on the banks of the Grand River below the Municipal Dam power house last week. The season for dipping suckers (plus the occasional illegal pike as we recall) from the stream is now open. Cold weather seemed to hold up the run, and catches were not large Saturday.
Oil exploration in a large field adjacent to Portland will be under way as soon as drilling equipment can be brought here from Hartford, MI, and set up. It is anticipated this quest for oil will be the most systematic of any conducted in the locality to date, as test wells will be driven on both east and west sides of the Grand River, in a block of leases which totals approximately 11,000 acres. (How many times have we seen in our lifetime, the most recent being “Fracking” for natural gas?)
March 16, 1934: The largest sugar beet acreage pledged by individual farmers in this area is that of John Schlosser & Sons, who last year grew 67 acres of beets for the Lansing factory and this year are increasing the acreage to 97.
March 16, 1924: E. L. Goodwin chairman of the building committee for the proposed new Masonic Temple, has completed a rough draft of the building, having consulted with a Lansing architect. It is Mr. Goodwin’s belief that a structure that will answer all purposes can be put up for $10,000.
The season for syrup-making is close at hand. C. P. Smith, who lives near the Centerline Bridge in Danby, tapped his trees last week, but the storm which started Thursday checked the flow of sap. Lewis Gibbs, who has a large number of maple trees, said he would not begin tapping them until signs of spring are more pronounced.
Valley City Milling Co. officials, who were in town part of last week, have decided to put several thousand dollars more into improvements at the Portland Milling Co. plant than they originally intended. Work of clearing the floors for these improvements is going on rapidly.
March 23, 1944: Last week we saw Dave Howard on the street with a bundle of evenly cut sticks, which looked like they were being prepared for a dip-net. That guess was right, and again on Saturday we saw Mr. Howard with an even larger bundle tied together. He had cut these hickory pieces for Bill Stocum to make into canes. Mr. Stocum has been turning out canes for patients at Percy Jones Army Hospital in Battle Creek. Mr. Howard lives northwest of Portland in Christian Bend neighborhood, and says he is able to find many pieces of fine hickory ideal for the use to which Mr. Stocum puts them.
More about wood: The trees on the property where for years and years stood the old “white school” on the west side, have been cut down, and the lot now looks far from familiar. Santino (Louie) Guidi who owns the property, states the trees were rotting and in bad condition, so he had them cut into stove wood. More were red or white oak, and he expects to set out more on the plot, so it will no longer be barren of shade. Scattered over the country are many men and women who attended school in that old white wooden building. It stood near the north end of Quarterline Street (on the southwest corner with Detroit Street). Some years ago the old building, long idle, was torn down, (by Jacob Visser Sr. if memory serves) and now the old trees have departed. The location may someday be a home site. (It was – for Johanna (Ann) Visser Pung and husband).
March 23, 1939: Under a tentative plan, Portland rural carriers will absorb extra mileage and take over 23 miles of the present rural route No. 1 out of the Eagle Post Office. It is expected this change will take place immediately after retirement of Meade Leonard, veteran Eagle carrier, who is scheduled to retire on June 30th.
Fred England Sr. was confined to his home on Grant Street Friday, following a fall on Kent Street the previous day. Mr. England slipped as he was stepping down from the curb in front of the England-Walker-Wakley Barber Shop.
March 23, 1934: Alvah Stegenga, of Portland began Monday of this week as an assistant in the Ionia County Welfare Department, under direction of Philip Schafer, who has been in charge of the various CWA projects in the county, most of which are now drawing to a close.
March 23, 1924: While changes are being made at the plant, Valley City Milling Co. is taking care of the local trade, grinding grists and receiving wheat. They are also shipping in flour to take care of the local trade. It is only the manufacture of flour that has been affected while new machinery is being installed.
March 23, 1944: Clifford Melstead, who for a number of years has been employed by a Lansing Chevrolet dealer, has returned to Portland and is now associated with Portland Motor Sales, successors to Leik Brothers, Chevrolet Dealers. George Rottman, who had been with Leik Brothers for several years, remains with the new organization.
Mr. & Mrs. Burton Brown, whose farm home west of the village on US-16 (on what became the Bob Lawless farm) was destroyed by fire last fall, have purchased the Harry Mellstead farm, south of the Kilmartin School in Orange Township. The place had until lately been occupied by Mr. & Mrs. John Mellstead, who have moved into this village.
May 6, 1948: The farm home of William (Bill) Elens, in Orange Township, (west of Ora Walkington) was completely destroyed by fire last Saturday evening, as were all contents of the dwelling. The fire broke out while Mr. Elens, who lives alone, was in town, and had such a head start that there was no chance of saving the home when firemen arrived. (This explains why, all the rest of his life, he lived in a cozy bachelor pad that looked like a former one-car garage; comfortable housing for his sheep and lambs was of greater concern. We once helped his niece track her family history, but have lost track of her name.)
Elon Moyer, son of Russell Moyer of Eagle Township, took a whirl in a cement mixer last Friday. Elon and his brother Jack are employed by a concrete block company of Grand Ledge. At the time of the accident both men were cleaning the big cement mixer. Jack was on the top deck and Elon was inside the machine. Jack went to the control panel of five buttons to start the upper mechanism and pressed the wrong button. The mixer whirled around several times and finally threw Elon clear of the machine. He was taken to St. Lawrence Hospital in Lansing, where attendants said he had serious chest injuries and numerous abrasions. He was returned to his home on Monday. Elon was a 1941 graduate of Portland High School.
Fred Vogt broke his right arm while working with his excavating machine on a project north of Lansing on M-78. As soon as the arm was set and placed in a cast, Fred returned to his machine and continued on the excavation. (This writer once hauled and fed baled hay to our sheep all winter with an arm in a cast. Medical people do not approve of immediate return to work, however, because shock and trauma can lead to more accidents.)
May 6, 1928: Sudden bursting of a blood vessel in his neck brought about the death of Ethel B. Pilkington an hour or two later.
May 6, 1908: When Josiah York Sr. died at his home in Sebewa, they wired his son, Josiah Jr., a resident of Pittsburg, PA, but he never got the message. He was ill of pneumonia and his death occurred but a few hours after that of his parent.
June 10, 1948: Timmy Sumner’s summer vacation from school started off in a bad way last week, when a big dog owned by the Daggett family bit the youngster on both arms. Both were bandaged and he carried one in a sling – but needed to keep the other free (although it pained him) to steer his bike. Just the week before the Review carried a notice from the Village Manager, saying there was an ordinance against letting dogs run loose.
June 10, 1948, a news clipping says: “DeWayne Budd celebrated his 30th anniversary June 1st, as a printer for the Lima (Ohio) News, counting his service in World War I. He came to the News on June 1 and was drafted into the army on June 15. He trained at Cincinnati and was sent to Paris, France, where he was assigned to a U. S. Government printing plant. In July, 1919, he was discharged and returned to the News, where he has been since. Budd received his apprenticeship at the Portland, Michigan, Review, in 1902. After that he worked for the Angola, Indiana, Herald.” Mrs. Budd was the former Dana Frost, whose childhood days were spent near Portland. (She was the eldest sister of Harriett Frost Stegenga, and their parents were Charles & Harriett Smith Frost, who lived on Goodwin Road, west of Divine Hwy. We think DeWayne’s father was Clark Budd.)
July 22, 1948: Jimmy Leik, son of Mr. and Mrs. Jerry Leik of R.3 is breaking in as bookkeeper at Leik Brothers (George and Henry are his uncles) Garage.
A sound new to Portland vibrated about town from the Pere Marquette R. R. yards last Friday, and folks who had heard similar sounds before advised others that there must be a diesel locomotive in town. It was true. It was making its first run between Grand Ledge and Ionia, and will go thru town on a regular schedule every day, doing switching in Grand Ledge and Ionia in connection with these runs. What a departure from those early engines which huffed thru Portland a century ago on the old D. L. & N. (Detroit, Lansing & Northern), which, we believe, ran all the way to Lake Michigan. First there were wood burning engines, then several graduations of coal burners, and now modern diesel, which, without spit or sputter, takes away its load with an even start and without the hiss of steam.
We stop in at Co-operative Elevator just after having followed the new diesel up and down the yards, and see Charlie Mathews taking a test on first load of new wheat to come in (Monday). It was from Joe Russman farm in Danby. It tested 59 lbs and moisture test was an even 14 percent, both of which are considered good, Charlie and his assistant Frank Gilbert tell us.
Perhaps younger residents of Portland can’t remember a time when there were not starlings in the neighborhood, but there was. The birds were brought in from abroad 58 years ago, released in New York City, for insect control. Today they are everywhere, descendants of those first 100 birds. They reached the Midwest by 1921, but had been common in New England since 1916. They are always busy, do some damage, but also much good, destroying grasshoppers, caterpillars and weevils. If you crave to eat then, skinned, soaked in salt water, then parboiled and made into a potpie, they are considered very fine eating.
The body of Leslie Keith Hoffman, age 51, was found 100 feet downstream from the Portland-Danby bridge in Grand River about 9:30 Saturday evening. He had left town Friday noon to hunt for turtles. He leaves wife, Myrtle, daughters Helen Simon of Pewamo and Dorothy at home; sons Robert, Donald and Carl, sister Lizzie Hackett, and brother George all of Portland, and Clarence of Lansing.
(Back to 1944 Reviews for a few thoughts: August Vandevenne & wife have a large display ad for their new Grocery – Produce Store – Meat Market recently built at their farm west of town. They had operated for the previous six years on the east side of Kent Street, at the site of the former E. A. Richards Grocery Store – probably in the same building later occupied by Pierce’s Grill and Hosley’s Men’s Wear. Both Floyd Martin and Newt Hartwick had also operated grocery stores in that same general area of Kent Street, between Maynard-Allen Bank, Bandfield’s Furniture, and the Kroger Store, and it is difficult to place then all properly in our memory. Anyone able to place them more accurately?)
July 22, 1928: Fred Russman went to East Lansing Friday to place a handsome wrought iron railing about the porch at the home of John Scheurer. The railing was made by hand in the Russman Blacksmith Shop and about twenty days’ time was taken to complete the job.
The week had its thrills for Mr. & Mrs. Harry Owen. First their seven year old son Edwin was knocked down by an automobile. Then their younger son, Eugene, fell down the cellar steps, landing on his head. Late in the week Edwin came down with mumps. Aside from these three incidents, everything ran along smoothly, they said.
Dr. W. W. Norris and family, of Mulliken, have moved into Will C. Stone’s house near the High School. Dr. Norris will still answer calls from Mulliken and attend to the needs of his patients there as usual.
John Shay is now a member of Southwell Service staff. Mr. Shay is an experienced tire and service man, having learned the trade in Chicago.
July 22, 1908: Frank Goff, one of the men employed by the insurance company to repair the steeple on St. Patrick’s Church – which was struck by lightening – with the aide of field glasses was able to see the cross on top of the steeple of St. Mary’s in Westphalia; the tower of the furniture factory at Grand Ledge; and the dome of the Capitol Building in Lansing. Smoke at Lansing, Ionia, and Grand Ledge could be located with the naked eye. The top of the steeple is 85 feet from the ground and the church itself stands on one of the highest points of land in the village. (As mentioned in our last issue, the bell at St. Pat’s was celebrated when installed 20 years before, in 1888. Since the building burned and was rebuilt in the 1920s, some have asked if the bell was saved and installed in the new building. Does anyone remember or have the facts? We have known, about 1942, some of the men who helped rebuild it: Warren Rogers, John Hausserman, and Peter Schnabel the younger.)
Miss Enola Reeder was badly injured in a runaway. Starting in downtown, the horse ran nearly to the cemetery, when the buggy struck a tree and Miss Reeder was thrown out on her head and shoulders.
Governor Fred M. Warner was speaker at the Sebewa Corners Hall on July 8, 1908.
RODNEY G. ADGATE, 84, born in Ionia, February 26, 1929, died in Grand Rapids, July 30, 2013, was widower of Lorene Stanton Adgate, to whom he married October 15, 1948, and after her death in 2006, was married to Merlene Sue Herrick Adgate, February 23, 2008; father of Craig (Sharon) Adgate of Saranac, Linda (Arthur) Briseno of North Carolina, Kim (Sharon) Adgate of Florida, Theresa Southwell of Caledonia, William (Jennifer) Adgate of Virginia, Kelly (Jerry) Shray of Woodland, and Max Adgate of Caledonia; grandfather of Alisha, Ryan, Lance, Jessi, Levi, Erin, Seth, Jeremiah, Marhetta, Laura, Melissa, Hannah, Caleb & Jacqie; great-grandfather and step-grandfather to many more; brother of the late Bruce Adgate and Brenton Adgate, son of Max & Nora Rickert Adgate. Rodney was a descendant of Thomas Adgate, veteran of the Revolutionary War, whose son, Abel Adgate, fought in the War of 1812, then bought land in Ionia Township in 1838 and established his homestead there in 1841. Rodney retired from General Motors in 1988. He enjoyed history and was a longtime member of the Recollector family. Burial in Balcom Cemetery.
DOUGLAS SPITZLEY, 49, died June 29, 2013; father of Garrett Evert, brother of Steve Spitzley, Randy Spitzley, Deborah Crumbaugh, and Rebecca Haskin; son of the late Elizabeth A. Breimayer & Philip J. Spitzley, son of Theresa Fox & Leo A. Spitzley, son of Josephine Arens & Michael Spitzley, son of Suzane Simon & Michael Spitzley, Sr., son of Anna Maria Kloeckner & Johann Jakob Spitzley, who immigrated from Prussia to Westphalia, MI, in 1846.
Send $6.00 for six issues per year, to cover ink, paper, and postage.
Grayden D. Slowins, Editor
Last update September 23, 2013