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History Lives Here Text

Everyday Life in May

 

In a recent newsletter we wrote aboutthe May family, early settlers in Douglas, and the settlement of .May north ofSaugatuck that was named for Frederick H. May, the man who named Douglas andwas later involved with several railroads in Allegan County. May was an earlywatering stop for the railroad and from 1895 to 1902 had its own post office.Tire following letter was received from Esther Defouwwho grew up in May, and has some interesting stories about life as a small townshopkeeper.

I am very interested in the history of May,Michigan. Myfather bought the grocery store there in 1930. He had the store and peddlewagon for many years. I think he closed it in 1953. On November 1 l, 1940, awind storm took the roof off the old buck house and they rebuilt the house onthe same foundation and it is still there, the store was taken down in the1970s. My son still lives there on 52nd Street. I lived there till 1948, when I wasmarried and now live just around the corner to the west on 147th Avenue, also called Fourteenth Street.

In 1953 my parents made the old store intoan apartment for my brother who was attending seminary at CalvinCollege in Grand Rapids. After he graduated he movedaway and became a chaplain in the Navy. My father died in 1966, my mother in1974.

It was a very difficult life when we hadthe store. They didn't have electricity, had a gas lamp in the store that had acloth mantle. In the house we had kerosene lamps. There was a coal stove in themiddle of the store. Father started his peddle wagon with a team of horses,later he had trucks. He went on a different route every day. He stopped at allthe farm houses and they traded eggs for groceries. On his truck he had thesign:

GERRlT ROOM GROCERY
No Long Waits and No Short Weights
May, Mich.

They had everything in bulk so everyevening they had to weigh everything. I put in 5# and 10# or smaller bags:sugar, brown sugar, rice, oatmeal, even tea and coconut (they were just in thesmall bags). They didn't have heaters in the truck so he had asmall kerosene stove to keep the groceries from freezing. Just chains onthe tires as the roads were plowed very often then. Mother made little clothbags and put salt in them to use on the windshield to keep the frost off. Mybrothers and ;sisters often talk about May, Mich. We wish we knewmore about it.

Esther Defouw

 

Exploring Underwater

 

My last two years of high school were spentin Saugatuck, 1929 and `30. Fred Fursman was thejudge for a poster contest in which I won 1st and 2nd place. I was offered ascholarship at the Summer School of Painting in Saugatuck and lived with Mr.and Mrs. Fursman in the old light house in exchangefor "brushing up" on Saturdays and pumping water and rowing Mrs. Fursman in the boat as needed. It was the happiest summerof my life.

 

FrederickFursman in front of lighthouse ca 1929

 

During the summer I spent at the SummerSchool of Painting in Saugatuck [1929] I rowed a boat from the school to theold lighthouse. Sometimes I went in the canoe with Avis and Elsa who lived inthe boathouse near the lighthouse where I lived with the director of the SummerSchool of Painting and his wife.

One day I saw some young people out on thelagoon with a rowboat and some rigged-up equipment for going underwater. Theyhad a kerosene can and some rubber hose and a bicycle pump. The kerosene canhad been made into a helmet and was connected to the house which was connectedto the pump. they were taking turns going down whileanother one pumped.

They said they thought they had located theremains of a boat that had sunk there in winter several generations before.

I joined them and watched for a while aseach of them put the helmet on and went down under water while another pumped.After a few minutes they asked me if I would like to go down. I put the helmeton and dropped off the edge of the boat. They weren't pumping me enough air soI came back up and we tried again. There wasn't much to see but the top rim ofthe wooden deck covered with brown silt, but I walked along it before comingup.

It was exciting. Naturally, Mother was horrified!

-- Anne Partridge Richter

The lighthouse that the Frederick F. Fursman family lived in during the summer had beenconstructed to serve as a harbor beacon in 1859 but was retired in the fall of1914. In 1959 it was destroyed in a tornado and replaced by the present summercottage, which still has a lighthouse theme. Elsa Ulbrecht,a member of the Summer School faculty who also assisted with the administrationof the school, lived in a small boathouse near the lighthouse dock. The wreckthat the amateur divers were rediscovering was probably the scow-schoonerCondor that went down in Ox-Bow lagoon in the spring of 1904 when its rottedsides were crushed by the spring ice. Portions of the wreck are still visiblein the lagoon. The wheel and a few other items have been recovered and areoccasionally displayed at the Holland Museum Special section ofhistorical letters, recollections and reprints concerning the Saugatuck area.


Wreckage of the Condor sunk at Shrivers Bend 1904