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History Lives Here Text

GROWING UP BY THE OLD STORE AT GANGES

 

THE PHOTOBELOW SHOWS THE WOLBRINK HOUSE AND STORE A T GANGESIN ABOUT 1923. Bob Wolbrink, a member of the Historical Society, localhistorian, and successful businessman, wrote this short history of the Wolbrinkstore and Past Office in Ganges during the 1920s and early 1930s-providing uswith a glimpse of commercial and social life along the Ganges lakeshore duringthat era. Scott Eddy, mentioned in the story as the previous owner, moved withhis family to Douglas to what became the wellknown Eddy home-Beech-Hurst on Ferry Street The stone was also the site where Bob'sgrandfather founded the Wolbrink Insurance Agency. A fourth generation of thefamily, Nancy Berry, continues the insurance business in Douglas.The stone and the house still exist. Bob Wolbrink died in 1996

 

 

Shortly after1900 the brothers Orin and Isaac Wolbrink owned and operated a thrashingmachine and steam-powered tractor. Late summer found them leaving Allendale,their home, and traveling from farm to farm whenever work was available. Theyarrived at Ganges and were impressed with thecoot breeze coming from lake Michigan and the cool summer nights near thelakeshore. They also were pleased to view the beautiful orchards of apples,peaches, and pears, sweet and sour cherries, along the way. Family history saysthat Orin said "Ike, I'd like to live around here." Ike agreed andafter some "looking" they bought the Gangesgrocery store, then owned by Mr. Scott Eddy [in 1906].

 

My grandfather,Orin, moved his family to a home next to the grocery store where he and mygrandmother, Grace, lived for the rest of their lives. Their son, Irving, wasmy father who, in 1919 married Alice P. Brunson, daughter of Dr. E.E. Brunson,who lived nearby. Mom's brother, E.T. Brunson, was also a doctor, and the twoof them practiced medicine in the community for a total of seventy-five years.By the time I came along in 1923, the grocery store was a thriving business, atleast for those days. I can remember the summer deliveries when it was aservice of the store to deliver groceries, especially to the summer"restores" who lived along the sand dunes of Lake Michigan. One of the big "sellers" was kerosene, sold infive gallons cans. Dad always said his right arm was longer than his left sincehe lugged so many cans of kerosene over the sand dunes to the cottages.

 

The store alwaysstayed open until 9 p. m. in the summer and it was great fun to go down to the"county park" with my folks after dark and go swimming. Quite oftenyou could see the lights of the passenger boats out in the lake as they wentby, and in those days you could always find burned-out light bulbs on the beachafter they had been thrown overboard.

 

The grocerystore was a nice place for a youngster to grow up. I can remember the NEHIbrand of orange pop which was my favorite and orange pop has never tasted asgood as on those hot summer days. Ice cream was delivered in big trucks from Holland. The brand wasAntic and a vanilla Antic cone was also a great treat. The store had an"egg" room where eggs were taken in for groceries from farmers and, Ithink, candled and graded, and then sold. Another corner of the store was themeat market complete with a big wooden butcher block. The Swift meat company furnishedmost of the meat and they had a person who came around regularly and decoratedthe meat market wall with designs and decorations all made with colored crepepaper. In the middle of the whole thing were the words "Swift MeatCompany." Besides the groceries, the store also carried a small quantityof shoes, bolts of cloth, thread and, I think, some items of clothing. Therewas also a supply of medicinal drugs and patent medicines. I can remember myfolks laughing about a "run" on lemon extract, during the days ofprohibition, as some customers must have been interested in the alcoholcontent. The Post Office was located in the store and grandfather Wolbrink wasthe pest master for many years. There were post office boxes with brass doorsfor each customer, but the address for everyone was just "Granges, Michigan." In thelater years they had built a small addition for that purpose.

 

The Greyhoundbus line always stopped at the store when someone wanted to get on or off.There was a semaphore arrangement that signaled the bus driver to stop. I thinka red signal was to stop the northbound bus and a blue signal for the onesheaded south. It was fun to have the busses stop and they always seem to make abig cloud of dust when they stopped alongside the road or "pike" asit was called. In the late twenties there were plenty of horses and wagonsaround. It was seldom that either horses or cars were not in front of thestore. There were couple of benches on the porch and it seemed to me that therewas always someone there to watch was happening in Ganges.Grandfather Wolbrink sold the store in 1934.