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History Lives Here Text

Keeping Busy on the West Shorein the 1920s and 30s

While researching the Boltonbrothers for the 1998 museum exhibit "Heroes, Rogues and Just PlainFolks" museum co-chair made some inquiries about the prohibition era happeningsat his house, Belle Rive, 128 Van Dalson, Saugatuckon the west shore of the Kalamazoo River at Saugatuck. Hehad long heard that it had some gangster ties and attempted to check some ofthe rumors with a former owner, Winnie McDonnell. This is her reply.

Your notearrived and I got a kick out of the facts you know about Red Bolton.His sister, Marie, kept the family cottage for a long time and as you probablyknow she wrote a column for the commercial Record. She was so well known intown and they were all from the west side of Chicago, and my Aunt Mary Dillon Sromek went with both Red and Frank Foul. The Fouls had acottage on [Lake Street],what would be across from the pie factory now. The Fouls had an OldsmobileAgency in Oak Park and Frank was in businesswith Red Bolton.

My grandmotherhad her food transported across Lake Michiganin the steamers and the chickens, hams and bacon were packed in dry ice fromWilson and Co. When the boat stopped coming (there was an interurban train thatwould take people from Saugatuck to Holland.I traveled on it a few times), anyway my grandmother ordered her food fromWilson Co. and Libbey Co, and they were sent byfreight to Fennville and my Uncle John would drive over the river road toFennville and she'd stop at farms along the way and pick up her vegetables,melons and cherries and peaches. She made pies in the big coal stove, she nevermade cakes, she did make biscuits for strawberryshortcake. Her meals were simple home cooked fare. She charged $2.00 a day forthe meals and she told me it cost her $1.00 -- can you imagine $2.00 a day for3 meals? We had potato salad forlunch and always a hot dinner with chocolate pudding or JELL-0. On Sundaymorning she'd make eggs and bacon. She did have the sheets done at a laundry inHolland andthey delivered them each week. She really worked hard.

I stayedsummers from the time I was 4 or 5 until I was 16 and I helped with the tableand dishes. My mother came for the month of July and my Aunt Mary came for the month of August and they helped mygrandmother with the resorters. She rented out theapartment on the back second floor. They had a very simple kitchen and twobedrooms and the living room was the room everyone had to use to go into thetwo bathrooms. They were the only bathrooms for all the resortersto use. I guess her prices were so reasonable people didn't mind and everyonethat came were all friends of the family. She didn't take strangers in at all.

Everyone stillcan't get over the fact we never had a fire -with the bedrooms all having cretonne walls. My grandmother bought thematerial on Maxwell Streetfor a very cheap price and she tacked the material up on the walls tocover the two by fours. It was a miracle when you think of it. Of course therooms were so small no one spent any time in them, only to sleep. How mygrandmother hated a rainy day. There wasn't much for anyone to do if it rainedand all the porches were outdoors. We'd all have to cram in the one screened inporch and try to play cards, etc.



Ca 1910 Thebasin with launches and swimmers

My Uncle John had aboat -- a launch they called it -- and he took the resortersdown to the basin to swim every day. Yes, the river was clean enough at onetime to swim in and the lake usually was too cold for the girls and the ridedown the river was fun. He could take 10 or 12. I always sat out on the prowand was in charge of the docking and at night I used to make extra money byrowing the girls over to town to go to the Pavilion to dance and Jay [Myers]the ferryman, closed the ferry down at 11:00 p.m. and some times the girlswould be stuck over town and they'd have to call for me to get the row boat andgo and get them.


Winnie McDonnell

In answer to more questions, including oneinvolving the supposed visit of the mayor of Chicago to the house, Mrs. McDonnell sent asecond letter.

I did have anAunt Mary Dillon (John's sister) who married a man by the name of Sromek. He was a small time gambler, a Black Jack dealer inbars on the west side of Chicago.Well, Sromek is a Bohemian name and they decided toAmericanize it to Cermak and that's where the rumorstarted that the Mayor of Chicagowas the Dillons' guest. But his family name was Sromek,some time in his history they changed it to Cermak--AntonCermak--but no relative either.

My Uncle Jim was what we called inthose days a small time bootlegger. He and his "friends" would buyScotch in Canada and come back across the water then drive to Saugatuck andtake the Scotch to Chicago either by car or they'd put it on the lake steamers,the City of Benton Harbor or the City of South Haven. The stuff would arrive atthe docks of Chicagoand my uncle would pick it up and deliver it to the bars on the west side.

My grandmotherbought the resorts for her son to keep him out of trouble and because he hadfriends, Red Bolton and Frank Foul,whose families had cottages over in town and they all could work all summer andkeep out of trouble.

We did have alot of west side (then prominent) people come to my grandmother's resort -- JoeSmart, a Loop jeweler; Bernard Cruise, secretary-treasurer of the Plumbers'Union; John O'Keefe, president of the O'Keefe Coal Company and Fred B. Snite, president of the local loan company. My grandmotherhad quite a reputation as a cook and her meals were exceptional for cooking onthat old coal stove. I'm sorry I can't say that the Mayor of Chicago was one of the customers.

Winnie McDonnell