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History Lives Here Text

MY CHILDHOODBLOCK

BY MARGARET(SESSIONS) CLARK

Margaret (Sessions) Clark lived in Saugatuck from her birth in 1927 until1945. We have previously published her recollections of the family store,p.173-175. This second installment includes Butler Street in the 30s, the BigPavilion and other amusements.

 

Some of myearliest memories are things told to me, such as my coming into the world,August 2, 1927, I was born, in the early evening in Grandma Jarvis' house onthe hill at 578 Mason Street.The Flotos owned the house next door, corner ofElizabeth and Mason. My folks had called Doctor C. C. Corkhillin Fennville to come as soon as he closed his office hours,that a baby was expected soon. It was reported to me that I arrivedbefore the Doctor did.

 

Mother stayedhome and took care of my brother Donald and me. I was told that the doves cooedall day and night and made her very depressed.

 

In 1930 Dadtaught shop in the high school in the afternoons while mother ran the store.The next year a full time teacher was hired, but he was soon drafted intomilitary service, and Dad returned to teach shop and some eighth grade classes.

 

"Uncle " Harry Newnham was thetown maintenance man. He was often around working in the park or on the sheets.In the winter he put a plow on the front of his truck and used it to plow thestreets. In the summer he repaired the streets. A trailer, attached to the backof his truck had hot tar in it. We would get a piece of tar and chew it. Hisofficial title was Street Commissioner.

 

Saugatuck was a popular summerresort; it was said at the time that the population was 500 in the winter and5,000 in the summer. The resort people came mostly from Chicago. Many were single people who came andstayed in the various homes that had board and room or just rooms for rent.There were also those who lived in Chicago buthad summer homes in Saugatuck, Douglas or over on Lake Michigan.

Al Capone wasa well-known gangster from Chicagoand some of his henchmen lived in Saugatuck. This was well known, but ignored.These people would buy some big grocery orders, as they did lots ofentertaining and needed lots of food. I remember the first $100 grocery orderwe ever had from one customer.

 

On the cornerof Hoffman and Butler Streets in the Heath Buildingwas Bird's Drugstore where "Grandpa" Charles E. Bird filledprescriptions 7 days a week until his death. His son, John Bird, was also apharmacist. I remember the soda fountain and the iron tables and chairs in theback and the drug store items in the front. Outside the back door of thedrugstore was a 12 inch high cement step. We used the step to push off fromwhen we were learning to ride a two-wheel bike.

 

ConsumersPower Company was next to the store on Butler Street and the Jarvis Jewelry Storewas next. Mr. Jarvis sat in the front widow repairing watches. he was also an optometrist and tested our eyes and sold usour eyeglasses. Mrs. Jarvis took care of the rest of the store where they soldgifts and souvenirs. They had a small kitchen in the basement.

 

Next to theJarvis Jewelry store was Joe B. Zwemer Insurance andReal Estate Office. "Uncle Joe" and his wife founded the agency in1907. They lived up on the hill at 345 Hoffinan Street. In the30s their niece Saburna Jean Naughtonlived with them and we would play in their yard. Uncle Joe also painted and hegave me his oil paints when I started to paint. Next door to the real estateoffice was Grandma Naughton's sundry store. She hadbaby clothes and some gifts.

 

Next to herstore was Mrs. Blaine's gift shop, at 326 Butler Street. She had many beautiful unusualgifts which we loved to look at. She ran the store in the summertime as she wasthe high school English teacher in the winter. Beyond Mrs. Blaine's shop wasthe park. Here was a nice green lawn, a walk, through and around it, and lotsof trees, and a drinking fountain. We enjoyed the big trees, for their coolshade.

 

Around thecorner, behind Mrs. Blaine's shop facing the park was Dr. Walker's office. Itwas here that we were taken for our ailments, great and small. Dr. Walker wassmall in stature but great in his concern for the health of his patients.

 

Beyond Dr.Walker's office was an alley. Across the alley was the house where the Whipplesisters lived and beyond, the Casablanca Hotel, open only in the summer. Asmall green house was next to it, and then the big white Christian Science Church, it had a numberof steps and big white pillars. We used to play on the railing behind thischurch.

 

Across fromthe park on Main Streetwas another vacant area. It had more trees and as I remember a cannon from theCivil War. It was here that we held the Memorial Day ceremonies. Mr. Brown wasthe only living veteran from the Spanish-American War. This area was not aswell kept as the park.

 

Behind theChristian Science church and along Water Street were the Pfaff and Huff families. TheMaddens, on the corner of Water and Hoffman Street, ran the newspaper. The Commercial Recordoffice where they wrote, typeset and printed the newspaper was a littlebuilding behind the house. We could see the paper being printed through theopen door.

 

On Hoffman Street wasanother house with a big front porch that set back from the street. Next was arow of garages and the alley, behind our store and the drug store. This was theblock around which my early days centered.

 

Back of thisarea lived Doc and Mrs. Waugh and son Mart. Doc Waugh was the superintendent ofschools. Grandma Bundy, Ruth Waugh's mother, lived with them. Grandma Naughton lived in the next house. Next was Mrs. Blame'shouse, I don't know whether she lived in an apartment or owned the house andrented rooms.

 

Beyond this open area wasMaplewood Hotel, owned by Mr. and Mrs. Frank Wicks. Mr. Wicks would take hislittle open taxi down to meet the bus when it came in from Chicago and take passengers and baggage backup to the hotel. I think he also delivered freight and newspapers that came inon the bus.

 

The BigPavilion was at the south end of Water Street. One of the biggest events of the summerwas the Artist's Ball. This included art shows in all the pubic buildings andon the street and a dance at the Big Pavilion, It was a very large buildingthat was built on the waterfront for dancing. During the time of the Big Bandsthis entertainment was a real drawing card for the tourists from Chicago. We were not outat night very much, but once in a while Donald and I went over to the Pavilionand stood across the street and watched the dancers, men in coats and ties andthe women in light chiffon flowing dresses, dance to the most exciting music.What a privilege it was to be part of that era.

 

There werelarge wooden shutters on both sides of the Pavilion which lifted up and it wasthrough these windows that we could see the floating dancers and hear the"smooth" music. Hundreds of lights changed the room from reds toblue, etc. It was truly a wonderland to us. In the fall after the tourists wenthome we used the Pavilion for a skating rink. I was never very good at it butit did provide entertainment and the music was enjoyable.

 

The movietheater was on the end of the Pavilion. We were not allowed to go very often.One night the folks went to Hollandto get groceries and left us home alone. Donald and I really wanted to see a moviethat was showing, so we went. When we got home the folks were already in bed,not knowing that we were gone. We crept into the house and upstairs with eachstep squeaking, we were sure the folks would wake up but they didn't.. We didn't tell them until several years later about theincident.

 

Later myfreedom was expanded to include the people and places in the adjacent blocks.

 

Across Hoffman Street from Bird's Drug Store wasthe tavern. This place we were told to give "a wide berth," butsometimes we would look in the door and see the thick smoke, and the darkinterior, and hear the music before going on.

 

Next therewere three little stores, one was a restaurant, another a gift shop, and nextwas the post office. This building was built by Doc Heath. The windows were notopened until they had the mail distributed. Dad would stand and visit withfolks until the mail was ready. This was a place where gossip and news wereexchanged every morning. I remember our box was at the very bottom (No. 58 Ithink) aid so quite early I learned the combination and got the mail myself.

 

Beyond thepost office was Ross Phelp's Hardware. This was a bigbuilding where Ross and Myrtle Phelps carried most things needed in and aroundthe home. After the hardware was Funk's Newsstand. The next building was upseveral cement steps, and was the other grocery store. It was an AG store onthe corner of Butlerand Mason Streets.

 

Across thestreet was Flint'sDepartment Store. He carried bolts of fabric, shoes and ready made clothes. Infact there was not much he didn't carry. Above Flint's was Dr. Kreager'sdentist office. He used to tell me that my father `hollered like an oysterpeddler" while getting his teeth fixed. Dr. Kreagerwas fixing my teeth the morning after "The War of the Worlds" wasbroadcast on the radio. I had not heard it, but he was still concerned that itmight have been true.

 

Around thecorner behind or beside the grocery store was Fred Metzger's barbershop. It washere that we all went to have our hair cut.

 

Next to thebarbershop was a small house, then a large hotel on the corner of Water andMason Streets. It had windows all around and was called The White House. TheFunks lived next door to this hotel, across from The Saugatuck Hotel and The Crow Bar. Next to the Funks lived Ross and MyrtlePhelps, and then a vacant lot and back to Hoffman Street.

 

Across the street from the alleybehind Bird's drug store lived the Kreagers at 127 Hoffman Street.In addition to being a dentist he was village president for 12 years or so inthe late 30s and early 40s. His wife, Allie, kept house and they also rentedrooms during the summer as did many others.

 

About thistime we also began to cross Butler Street in front of the store. Across from Mrs.Blame's shop was Wilson'sIce Cream store. They had many varieties of ice cream. For a nickel we got agreat big dip. It was often hard to decide which flavor I wanted. Aldean Jarvis came with her folks to her father's shopabout this time and she would tell her folks, "Margaret has a nickel. CanI have one?" At the same time I was telling my dad, "Aldean has a nickel. Can I have one?"

 

Next door to Wilson's Ice Cream Shopwere two other stores. One summer, about 1934, while Grandma Douglas lived withus, she opened a Brown Bobbie Shop in this building. Brown Bobbies aretriangular donuts made in an iron that cooked both top and bottom like a waffleiron. They were advertised as greaseless donuts. This machine is the only onelike it I have ever seen. She bought it used. She would make 12 or more dozen,some with different colors of frosting and some plain. I have the originalrecipes in my records. The machine I gave to our daughter, Virginia.

 

Artists were alarge part of our summer life. We would spend afternoons wandering from onepainter to another watching them paint. In the park, on the walks throughouttown, along the waterfront, painters would be sitting on their folding stools,with wooden easel and their paint box. Some were painting in oil, some inwatercolor. Their work held a real fascination as we sat on the grass andwatched the white canvas or paper take on color and design. We were privilegedto see some of the well-known famous Chicago-Saugatuck artists at work duringthis time and art galleries were plentiful. Although Saugatuck was an artcolony from its beginning we were able to live there during the depression andlife was simpler.

 

Yet to come theGreat Depression and growing up in the Saugatuck school system.