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History Lives Here Text

"The Old Days"

Excerpts from the Recorded Memories of William Cremens


1915-1923Lake Michigan Sidewheeler Boat Trips These were usually overnight trips from Chicago to Holland, Michigan. Many times the lake wasrough, making it difficult to sleep, even in a cabin. The boat would groan andcreak and people would get seasick. (I was never seasick but very uneasy.) TheInterurban electric car or cars ran from the harbor at Macatawa Park south pastthe East Saugatuck Road crossing and continued on to the turn-around atSaugatuck itself.


1916-1925Model T Trips to Saugatuck, Michigan The family would usually get up early andleave Chicago's South Side about 4 or 5 a.m. Dad had spare tubes and tires,spare parts, too, on the running board or in a huge trunk attached on thedriver's side. Blowouts and flat tires required much time and trouble. First,jacking up the wheel, removing the tire, taking out the inner tube, patchingit, then putting it all together again and finally, pumping up the tire withthe hand pump. Besides all this, sometimes the car had to be helped out ofsandy places by everyone pushing. There was a close call once or twice fromfast moving trains at the many high crossings over the railroad tracks. Therewere no warning gates to be lowered and visibility was bad. In the 160 miletrip, we usually arrived late in the day, about 10 hours on the road. BrotherEd and I would begin the trip sleeping on the back seat, or on the floorbetween the seats. I remember the meals in country school yards. We would driveoff the road, find a shady spat and enjoy our picnic. There was always goodwater and there were outhouses there too.


1919Childhood Memories My Uncle Joe Woodall had a very important job in Saugatuck.He actually drove a big rawboned team of mules that pulled a big round watertank wagon, used for sprinkling the dry, dusty dirt streets of the village.Everyone knew Joe.


1915-1920Summers in Michigan-Again Summers usually meant an eventful trip to buy a new pair of KEDS, thepopular gym shoe, plus black sateen shirts (for some reason 1 can't remember),also new overalls with suspenders! All these for a vacation on GrandmaJackson's 40 acre farm fin Manlius Township) where Mother [Mary Belle (Jackson) Cremens) wasborn. There was a barn, a horse named Topsy, apple trees, pear trees, thatblackberry patch, woods and fields. I remember flying kites for hours,especially box kites. When we were called in to lunch we would tie the kite toa post and find it lower, but still up, about a half hour later.


1922 AlmostDrowning at the River Beach in Saugatuck This was the beach at the bottomof a steep sand dune, next to the pier at the mouth of the Kalamazoo River.It could only be reached without much difficulty by a boat or an enjoyable rideon a motor launch that made trips from a dock near the Ferry.


We had been wading and swimming, justhaving fun. The water became very deep in just two or three steps from the sandhill. Cousin Bill Woodall was there but he couldn't swim. When he stepped out toofar, he slipped on the loose sand underfoot and began struggling. Since I was ayear or two older and nearby I hurried over to reach out to help him. With mylong arm stretched out, he grabbed my arm and then, before I realized it, myneck too. We were both in deep trouble. I didn't panic too much but didn't knowwhat to do except stretch for sand under my feet. Finally, after kicking hardand trying to swim back to shore, I touched enough sand to stand up and finishthe job. All of this probably took only a minute or two but to two gasping,choking kids, it seemed like a long, long time.

1922 My Mother at the Wheel of the ModelT The family was in Michiganabout to have a nice picnic on the bank of a river. However, the car was stuckin the deep sand. Dad, with a little help from me, was pushing and shoutingdirections. Mother was bravely at the steering wheel. I believe my brother Edwas still in the car. When the car struggled forward, it gradually picked upspeed. Dad yelled, "Hit the brake!" The car was moving faster butheaded straight for the deep river, very close to a steep bank. At the lastmoment, I believe that Mother either turned the wheels or found out which pedalwas the brake to safely stop the car just in time.


1921-1930 Living in Paradise- The D. E. Felt Farm My brother and I, with our mother would live on the FeltFarm just a few miles north of Saugatuck. The farm was a 1,200 acre estate andour Uncle Joe Woodall was the manager of the hired men. (As many as 12 ormore.) There was some livestock to care for, roads made with cinders, sand orgravel to replace the dirt trails, plus fields and crops to harvest. Thesehired men had a separate bunk house to live in called the "Annex."For meals they came to the farm house, just a very short walk away. AuntLetitia or Lefty did all the cooking, baking, housecleaning for all those hiredmen plus her own big family and Freeloaders like me and my brother. She did getsome help in the laundry work, dishwashing, etc. from her girls at home and Mother.


Mr. Felt was the inventor of the Felt& Tarrant Comptometer in Chicago and only visited the farm a few weeks at atime. Roads were made through the thick woods for about a mile to LakeMichigan. His property ran almost a mile along the beautiful sandy beach justbelow a huge row of dunes, topped by the wooded hills.


On thisfarm there was - you name it - cherry orchards, apple orchards and the BoyceFarm peach orchard was missing a little of their crop too. I remember the pondwhere we would catch the small green frogs to sell to fishermen. then therewere a lot of other interesting places to enjoy. The ice house, where blocks ofice were covered with sawdust for insulation from the heat. The private zoo,with a bear cage and den, also eagles in a big cage nearby. all around the bigFelt house, one could see, if not hear their unearthly cries, peacocks andguinea hens. I don't recall being inside the big house. Mr. Felt usually hadfriends or family visiting there in the summer.


There was also a large concretereservoir for water, but growing in it was water lilies and plants of allkinds. since it was up on a hill behind the house, maybe it was there for fireprotection and water supply. No, that may be wrong. There was a large tank highon a higher hill that had water pumped up to it from a separate pump house.


These memories are from a history ofthe Woodall family compiled by PamelaJo (Woodall) Ellington of Rockledge, Florida, who kindly sent a copy to theHistorical Society.