Why are Al Hoeflin (left) and Mr. & Mrs. Lane Fenton staring at these street signs in Kingsley in 1960? If you guessed that they are members of a signage admiration society, try again! Here’s your hint: What is unique about the sign that appears above “Fenton St?”
So what’s so important about these street signs? Kingsley was once two separate villages, Paradise and Kingsley Station… and each had their own Main Street! So, when the two eventually merged (sometime between 1900 and 1908), good ol’ Kingsley had two Main Streets. (The merger apparently involved much bitterness on at least one side, but the man who platted Paradise, Myron S. Brownson, did get to name the township and had a major street in Kingsley named after him.)
By 1908, the village began to distinguish between the two as North and South Main Streets. In 1960, the village finally had enough of the whole business, and renamed the street after a third-generation village family, the Fentons.
Newly acquired by the Kingsley Branch Library is an unpublished paper, “Early History of Kingsley and its People,” written for Creative Writing 203 (Instructor Dr. John Hepler) by Mable Henschell and Lena M. Snyder. This neat piece of scholarship earned its authors an A-, but we readers are awarded much more than that.
The authors interviewed second generation Kingsley residents, all children of the pioneer generation that settled in the valley that modern Kingsley now lies: Mable C. Snyder, Howard Dunn, George Fewless, Dr. J.J. Brownson, to name a few. From the ages given of those interviewed, and by doing a bit of genealogy detective work, the paper was likely written in 1947, about 80 years after the first lone men settled in what is now Paradise Township.
When reading this, think about several factors that color the description of the settlement of Kingsley. First, the authors were perhaps taking their interviewees at face value, despite the fact they were a generation removed from events. Second, the authors interviewed only those that stayed; One wonders if the families who abandoned their homesteads here would speak as passionately on the beauty of the valley. Third, the authors are both women attending college during the war years (As a complete aside, but nonetheless thought-provoking, Lena was about 40 years old, and was already employed as a teacher at Kingsley Schools, which raises a myriad of questions about her experience and motivations). One would imagine the wartime fervor for all things America found its way into this description as well, evidenced by the blatant admiration for the pioneers and their undoubtedly intrepid spirits.
In this excerpt, Judson Kingsley (the man for whom the Village is named after), has packed his family up, presumably from somewhere in Illinois, and took a boat to Traverse City, following the Lake Michigan shoreline:
“Most of the families stopped in Traverse City for a few weeks (after disembarking at the harbor in Traverse City) before starting out to find their new homes, but Judson Kingsley decided to start out with his family and find a place he could call his own. He bought some food and hired a man to take him over the old state road to Grawn and then to Monroe Center. They saw some men working on the road as they rode along. Judson Kingsley asked the driver about the road, and he told them that in 1857, the legislature had passed an act authorizing the construction of the state road. It was to be called the Muskegon, Grand Rapids and Northport Road. Later it was changed to Newaygo and Northport State Road (editor’s note: The highway is now M-37). There was not much done on this road before 1860, just three years before the Kingsleys came over it. People had to travel on foot all the way to Grand Rapids, before this time, as there were only Indian trails. There were hardly any houses in this vast wilderness, which was known as ‘the big woods’. These woods were full of wolves, and some had followed Mr. Hannah when he walked on snow shoes from Traverse City to Grand Rapids. As the driver finished his story, they drove into Monroe Center. From here it was necessary to travel on foot over the old trails, for there were no roads east or west of the old state road…
The children were getting tired as the sun began sinking behind the horizon in the west, and the little family stopped for the night. A crude shelter was made of pine boughs. The tired travelers, weary from their hard journey, were soon fast asleep in this vast wilderness in a new country. The moon rose high into the sky, lighting the land until it lay bathed in silver light, with only the sounds of the nightbirds and insects to disturb the quietness of the night.
Day broke over the topmost trees, and the silver mist of the early morning surrounded them on every side, as Judson Kingsley’s little band moved farther and farther away from civilization. The smoke from an open fire indicated some settler had come in before they did. Later they saw Mr. Deyoe, and Mr. G.G. Nickerson, who said they had come from Illinois in December 1862. This was a year before the Kingsleys came over the trail. They had come to homestead the land, and as far as they knew, they were the only settlers in this vast wilderness. Judson Kingsley decided to move still farther into the big timber. They walked on watching for a suitable spot for their new home. At last they reached the top of a high hill and looked down into the most beautiful valley they had ever seen. A stream like a silver ribbon, angled in and out among the vast expanse of green. The sight was grand because of distance, color and outline, yet peaceful and undisturbed by the white man. Judson Kingsley decided this beautiful valley, which seemed like a paradise to him, would be their new home.
The Kingsleys were the first to homestead in the valley. Their claim was located where the present village of Kingsley now stands. They worked from early morning until late at night, and the woods resounded with the sturdy stroke of the woodsman’s ax, as they chopped the logs for their new home.”
There is so much here to research and verify, but for now, we will let Henschell and Snyder’s work stand alone, as a history captured in its time, through resources no longer available to our generation. Our thanks to them, as well as the donor, who had the foresight to offer this fine paper for preservation. You are welcome to review the work in its entirety at the Kingsley Branch Library.
For the staff at A. Papano’s Pizza of Kingsley, history is more than just a rehashing of the past; It is all about building community, according to Jeff Yacks, owner.
“The community of Kingsley has meant so much to us, and it’s so underserved. They deserve more–to be served a great product–and they deserve great service. That should be an expectation.”
So when A. Papano’s crew leader Jeff Pearson began researching the history of the building occupied by the business at the corner of Brownson and Blair, he saw an opportunity to engage with the community on a more meaningful level.
“Initially, I didn’t think this project would come to mean what it has. When Jeff asked to research the building we’re in, I thought it was for a grade, a score, a plaque, but it turned into a lot more than that. I would say it was a humbling experience. We spoke with a lot of community members, the research we did, just hours of it. It turned into this huge, amazing, overwhelming thing.”
The research project culminated in the unveiling of a display, now available for public viewing in the seating area of the restaurant at the Kingsley location. The display features the history of the building, tracing the previous owners and functions, as well as pointing out some of the unique parts of the building, left over from years of remodeling.
Downtown Kingsley is largely comprised of brick structures dating from the early 1900s, and over the years, doors were closed off, windows bricked up, and more. The staff are especially proud of uncovering the last bit of original tin ceiling in their building, which miraculously survived an early 1990s demolition project.
“Through the Kingsley Branch Library staff, I found out that the ceiling of Tony Beyer’s grocery had been ripped out in the early 90s, and they supposed that all of it was gone. I then went and talked to our landlord, and he thought there might be some left. We (A.Papano’s staff) searched and searched all 2000 square feet of the building, and found a 4 by 6 foot section. There was plumbing and insulation in the way, we had to get a ladder… and Jeff got metal shavings in his eye, so I sent him to get a tetanus shot… three hours later, we ended up with a piece of the tin ceiling!” The ceiling tile is now on display at the Kingsley Branch Library.
For their tireless efforts, the research team was awarded the Floyd Milton Webster Prize for History in June 2015. When asked about what made this research project worthwhile, Yacks pointed to the June 22nd award ceremony.
“When we got there, I was overwhelmed. All these community members, people I looked up to as local heroes, were sitting there, and I remember thinking we were out of our league and should just walk out. But then they called us up, and I was shocked; Mr. Webster was there, all 96 years of him, and at that moment not only did I feel like this project was so beyond what I expected, but that I was accepted into this legacy, and I knew I had to continue. That was the a-ha moment, where all this time spent, all this research, was all worthwhile. When someone like Mr. Webster shakes your hand… he looked at us as the future; There was almost a sense of blessing, a passing of the torch.”
So what was the most difficult part of the project? “Early on, we were trying to find the initial land plotting, and I was going through all the libers at the governmental center, tracing all that history. We were trying to prove or disprove if Doctor Brownson (who operated Brownson Sanitarium in Kingsley at the turn of the 20th century) ever owned the land, but we never did find that link. That was a lot of Friday afternoons spent,” explained Yacks.
The governmental center wasn’t the only place the research team turned to for help. Yacks praises staff at both the Kingsley and Woodmere Branches at Traverse Area District Library for their assistance, even though he was leery to use those services at first.
“In my line of work, I am use to schedules, everything is fast-paced, minute-by-minute. Our employees have expectations on efficiency. When I started, I didn’t really know how to work with the library employees. I felt like I was sucking up all their time. What I learned is that for librarians, time isn’t measured in minutes, but in outcomes, and solutions. It was hard to ask for help, then take up an hour of time, and thinking that person should be doing something else. For me, the whole experience really embedded the library in the community.”
Despite the significant amount of time spent on the project, Yacks stresses the value of engaging in a history research project like this, and what it has done for his business.
“Engaging in this project benefits both the business and my employees, which are really like family, and for the community. Our business was already aligning with the community in many ways, and it was perfect timing, for the business, staff and community to have a common tie.”
“This project fits with my philosophy, that when we can establish relationships with our customers, it creates top-mind awareness. When customers see us at community events, look at our display, it leads them to thinking of us over our competitors. Because of something like this, we’re establishing the emotional connections that build loyalty. Talking with community residents to accomplish this meant a lot of relationship building. It changed the course of our business in our community. We’re embedded in our community now, more than any amount of marketing could do.”
Amy Barritt is co-editor of Grand Traverse Journal.
John Conroy’s story as related in interviews with Peter Newell, February 2015
This month’s “Celebrate the People” honors John Conroy, US Army 1st Armored Division and longtime resident of the village of Kingsley. Conroy’s reminiscences focus on his years of service in World War II. Few of those who served remain to tell their stories; 2015 marks the 70th anniversary of the end of that conflict.
While Grand Traverse Journal typically features stories concerning our local region, we recognize the importance of recording and publishing the stories of our residents, both for future generations and for the catharsis it gives those who have served.
WWII ended almost 70 years ago, so I don’t remember most of the bad stuff, but I will tell you all that I can.General Robinette’s strategies, as reported in Old Ironsides, the battle history of the 1st Armored by George F. Howe, and assignments were at the center of coming critical battles.I was proud to serve as a sergeant in Combat Command B under his command. When he was a colonel, he often rode in my command tank on short reconnaissance missions.Young officers were lucky to serve under our experienced commander early in the war.Lieutenants like mine were being cycled through different detachments for field experience.Most had had only 90 days training as officers and were brave with hopes of glory, but were brand new to North Africa.
The Germans were about to teach all our ranks hard lessons.We had only been in battle a little more than 9 weeks, while the North African Panzer division that we would soon face had years of battle experience.Their tank armor could pierce anything we had.We were only just receiving 75mm armor piercing to replace our training shells.Only a few of us had ever worked armor in terrain that had mountains, valleys, and desert plains.Good roads with major junctions crucial to military success were formed by many impassable wadis, rivers, and soft soil.When it was dry, dusty clouds gave away troop and armored movements which was good for my reconnaissance missions and bad for infantry.Terrain knowledge, battle experience, leaders, armor, and especially armor piercing ammunition led us to terrible losses through February 1942.
After our landing near Oran, Algeria in November 1942, the following January and February 1943 held dark days for us.Faid and Kasserine Passes were two important gateways through Tunisia and would fall to the Germans.We had fought our way east into southern Tunisia only to face Germany’s best desert division, Rommel’s21st Panzer Division. Before those important battles, my lieutenant, with only 90 days training, commanding mine and two other light tanks, was sent to assist a small engineering troop that was repairing a bridge near Sbeitla.My rank as staff sergeant gave me no inside information to Gen. Robinette’s plans, but repair to a strategic bridge at Sbeitla made perfect sense. It is a small village halfway between the mountain passes at Faid and Kasserine.The repair of the bridge had to be strong enough to support our heavy armor that had to cross a small river bed that was more swamp than a flowing stream, called a wadi.What happened during a little skirmish was only the beginning of a series of disappointments and made me question my own value as a soldier.
As we approached the wadi, we saw a German Tiger Tank of the 21st Panzer Division, the most feared tank in North Africa, and what looked like a full platoon of German infantry on the opposite side, which gave them about 10 to 1 odds against us. Information of Panzer movement was important to our command, but our immediate concern was the tank armed with a 75 mm cannon.While an 88mm cannon was more powerful and would pass clear through even our heaviest tank, the 75mm would pass through one armored side then rattle around and do worse damage to everything and everyone inside.
My lieutenant was quick to order two of our light tanks straight ahead toward the Germans and closer to the wadi and then attempted to turn around in the soft sand on the side of the narrow road.Seconds later,they were both bottomed out, off the road, and stuck.His command of the situation disintegrated. With more courage than sense, the lieutenant ordered his command tank to fire two 37mm shots at the German Tiger Tank, even though neither shot had a chance of penetrating the front armor of a Tiger tank.To this day, I thank God that the German tank never returned fire.
I asked the lieutenant “Do you want me to put the grousers on the stuck vehicles?”
Grousers would improve the traction of rubber cleats in soft sandy conditions.
His next order completely baffled me and my driver as he looked at us, he said,“No. Just get the hell out of here.”
I have never before or since received an order like that.The other lieutenant also ordered two of his engineers to leave with us. Then, both lieutenants left with the rest of our men and went toward the wadi before flanking left into old and scrubby olive trees that reached a couple feet higher than our light tanks.That was last I saw of 12 lightly armed men and two lieutenants, most of whom I knew.Same outfit, same platoon, you get to know all the guys one way or another.
Instead of running away immediately, I disobeyed a direct order.I and my men waited for some sign of those who had just left.Nothing.Complete silence. We waited, watching and listening for footsteps, crackling brush, shouts, gunfire, anything.A few minutes later Germans begin to appear on our side of the wadi directly from the direction that our people had disappeared.With the enemy now flanking us, we were learning, first hand, how good the Germans were at warfare.We hit the ditch on the left side of the road and followed it toward a nearby mountain about ¾mile away. It lay in the general direction that led back to bivouac, and had the best cover for escape.It would add days of walking, but the other options were open road or open desert.With only rocks and sand for cover, and about 30 minutes to clear the area before being captured, I chose the longer route. I figured if our buddies were still alive, we would make contact with them, because they were somewhere in the same cover we were in.30 minutes later, we found no joy in making it safely through the undergrowth to the base of the mountain.There was no sign of our friends.Twelve good men and two lieutenants with more courage than sense were missing, and I knew that, at best, they had been captured.I never saw them again.
I had rank on the three men who followed me, so I was the one most responsible to get us all back to bivouac alive.January nights get cold in the Central Tunisian desert, so we were grateful to find a stack of straw to burrow into for the night.We needed rest to continue our march that could take days with limited rations.There are no straight roads in the mountains, so an hour’s travel by tank on flat ground would take us nearly three days hiking.No rank below lieutenant was given maps for fear of being captured with explicit information, so I had to guide us by point to point navigation, the same as I used growing up in rural Kingsley, Michigan.
On the second day of our march, we were still on the mountain, skirting a flat open area, when my driver spotted two men walking in nearly the opposite direction of our path. As they drew closer, we could see that they wore American uniforms. One was a ranking officer, colonel or major,accompanied by a private.I talked with him a little bit about our situation.
The officer said, “ I can’t see sending my troops into the mess that you have left just to get my men killed.”
He looked dead serious however impossible his thinking was.
I thought, “Here is this officer and a private on the flat open area of a mountain taking a Sunday walk.”
I didn’t see any of his troops, nor would he give me any more information about why they were there.He didn’t say how long he had been walking or the circumstances that got him isolated from his command. It sounded like he had pretty much lost his mind.They didn’t want to join us in getting back.It was the craziest thing I had ever seen, and I couldn’t figure out what to do with them. I didn’t have rank to countermand any real or imagined mission he had.We went on our own way.They went theirs and we never saw them again.On the third day, we found a unit of American 105mm artillery and caught a ride with them back to bivouac.
My First Armored division had darker days ahead at Kasserine and Faid Passes. At Kasserine Pass, I was part of a reconnaissance unit that watched from the heights of a nearby mountain while Combat Command C suffered huge losses.They didn’t have anything for protection in open desert caught between two mountains with deadly German artillery concealed in rugged slopes over a mile away, but that is another story.And another story is about being pinned down at Anzio more than four months, where winning the war became more remote and less important than surviving each day.
From an original interview by Brenda Kay Wolfgram Moore in Kingsley, Michigan, undated. Webster added memories in an interview with Peter Newell, November 12, 2014.
This month’s “Celebrate the People” honors Floyd Webster, historian of the village of Kingsley since 1952, whose countless hours of work in that volunteer role has developed in to the local history collections held at the Kingsley Branch Library. Webster’s reminiscences focus on his years of service in World War II. Few of those who served remain to tell their stories; 2015 marks the 70th anniversary of the end of that conflict.
While Grand Traverse Journal typically features stories concerning our local region, we recognize the importance of recording and publishing the stories of our residents, both for future generations and for the catharsis it gives those who have served.
In August 1942, I enlisted in the Army in Traverse City, Michigan. Before my next birthday, unimaginable life changing events happened. Not only would I get married and travel with the Army throughout the eastern United States, but also see terrible devastation throughout most of northwestern Europe. A few days later, I went to Fort Custer in Battle Creek, and soon boarded a train to Chicago. I had rarely ventured far from Kingsley, Michigan and now I was receiving Army training in Chicago, Illinois, where, one day, I happened to be eating at a Wimpie’s restaurant. At a table by myself and being only one of several customers dressed in uniform, I was conspicuous. Finally, a young man, about my age, introduced himself and we began to talk. Gerald Putnam and I formed a friendship and later he introduced me to his sister, Melvina Putnam, whom I would soon be courting.
After Chicago, I continued by train to Little Rock, Arkansas for further training. I weighed 117 pounds, my back pack 109 pounds, so if I had to shoot a bazooka, it would knock me on my butt. Appearing too lightweight for the infantry, I began my training in the renamed Chemical Corps that was attached to the Army Air Corps. Because “Chemical Warfare Service” seemed a bit too harsh after the WWI experience, it was renamed Chemical Corps.
I was being trained to decontaminate troops after being exposed to poisonous gases like cyanide and mustard. The enemy could drop or spray it anywhere to quietly settle over the troops so it was on them before they even noticed it was there. If it soaked into their clothes they might as well forget it. Any kind of gas, mustard, hydrogen, cyanide—there were lots of choices, that could be used for different situations. Though my mask was easy to use, it was bulky and tiresome to always carry over my shoulder.
Later that year, I left Little Rock heading for the Putnam home in Chicago to be with Melvina before my transfer to Duncan Field in San Antonio, Texas. After corresponding with me a few months Melvina completed her beautician training and came to San Antonio looking for a position in a beauty shop so we could be closer together. Melvina and I were married February 19, 1943 close to Fort Alamo Riverside Baptist Church. A few weeks after our wedding, Melvina went home to Chicago to live with her sister Pearl.
At the same time, a train transported me and my company to Hampton Roads, Virginia, which was a main hub during both world wars for movement of millions of troops over seas. From there, our ship joined the main convoy off Newfoundland and left for Europe. Over twenty thousand men on nine Liberty Ships left at night. For the next twelve days all we saw was water. I was never a sailor and was really sick at the rail. Still, after days on board the ship, I could not stay below without throwing up. One of the officers noticed and took me above deck to the gunner’s nest and told me to sit in the swivel chair and watch for anything strange in the water. When we reached Gibraltar, we waited for the rest of the convoy to catch up. Our huge convoy entered the most dangerous waters off the coast of Europe. One night, while on watch duty between Gibraltar and England, I saw one of our tankers blown to pieces by a torpedo that must have been launched by a German submarine.
When we reached the English Channel, it was mined and only the British knew the safe passage to the harbor and in order to not be blown up, all the ships in the convoy waited to be piloted through the mine field. While in England, I and my company were assigned to live in the South Hampton area of Stanstead, Essex, England, where we received more training in chemicals like lewisite and hydrogen sulfide. We, in turn, would be teaching it to other allied companies.
My training in detection was mainly defensive and never included how to offensively use poison gas, but I had to know how it was dispersed. The first part of detection training was simple: learn how to crawl through a field strung with wire to the suspected poisoned area, crawl underneath it for 30 or 40 feet on hands and knees, mostly on hands, and prepare to holler, “All is clear.” And hope like hell I was right. If I was wrong, I would probably die as soon as I loosened my mask. Of course, training was a little more complicated than that, because I would have had testing equipment and been with a squad of men to analyze the air content before giving the “All is clear.” After each exercise that was really a test of endurance, I would go back to camp, take a bath, and sit around with 50 or 60 troops joking and laughing, where many off color taunts were tossed about. The ancient taunt, “Do you know what your wife is doing back home?” still caused trouble in 1944. I heard it many times and it was sure to cause a fight between young men who missed their wives and family. Usually their friends would break it up before any great harm was done.
My American Red Cross coupon, good for chow anywhere in Belgium, Luxembourg, France, or Germany was one of the most important documents in my possession and gave credence to “The army travels on its stomach.” Used mostly for meals while traveling, it could even be used to figure exchange rates between those countries. My buddies and I often went on trips near London for lunch, where I, more than once, joined the Brits in bomb shelters during German air raids. On a trip outside London, I saw a girl dressed in army clothing. This was strange to me as I had not seen a girl dressed like that before. I asked her what her uniform meant and she said that she was part of the British Land Army. She and other women did the farm work while the men were at the front. We visited Piccadilly Square, and once even went to Buckingham Palace and stood at the front gate where we saw Princess Margaret when she was about seven years old. She waved at us from one of the upper windows, and we all waved back back just before Princess Elizabeth appeared and took Margaret away from the window. It is nice to remember that moment.
We left England for the Cherbourg (Cotentin) Peninsula on D-Day. Our forces landed at Omaha Beach about three miles west of St. Lo, France on June 6, 1944. British, Canadians, and Australians each had their own landing sites in order to engage German forces from as many directions as possible. When my ship arrived at Omaha Beach, we were looking at countless ships, landing crafts, barges, and many downed planes. Army landing crafts were making countless trips ferrying personnel across rough surf stirred up by all the wind and activity. On D-day plus 2, my company of the Chemical Corps, was among the last of the invasion force to hit shore. Unless poison gas was suspected, ferrying infantry into the landing zone and the wounded back out to the hospital ships in front of us was highest priority. From on board ships we watched while men were fighting above a high embankment with mortar flying around them while German shelling continued on top of the hill. Germans used some wooden bullets that splintered when they hit and did a lot of damage. I brought some of these bullets home with me.
When I waded ashore, there was some enemy fire, so I thanked God it was fairly dark. The sky was still light enough to reveal a dead civilian entangled in some wire about 20 feet above the ground. I am still haunted by that sight, wondering how in hell he wound up in that mess. Did he jump off the cliff to avoid enemy fire, or what? I never found out, but it sticks in my mind. A few minutes later, someone from a completely different unit spoke to me. He recognized me and said, “Fancy meeting you here.” It was one of the Schumckal boys from Hannah, which is only five miles from Kingsley. I was so surprised to see him, I only said, “The bastards are up there. See Ya,–or not.” That is all we said to each other and I never saw him again.
There was still a lot of firing above us and Sargent Jerry Lord said, “I hope they are shooting at each other and not us.” We had nothing but our detection equipment to fight with, but I wouldn’t have minded throwing my gas mask at them. My company marched to St. Lo after it was secured. Fighting had been furious even before my company landed at Normandy.
We were at St. Lo until well into July, 1944. While there, my training continued with officers and a few other enlisted men. The officers, looking like they were sixteen, were supposed to know everything. While looking for someone to lead the group in training, my buddies recommended me to conduct classes. In most sessions, an officer would say, “Could we have Private First Class Webster step forward?
I often said to my friend, “They must be in love with me.”
After the supervisor, a major or some other rank, assigned me to teach, I usually started by saying something like, “Good afternoon officers, gentlemen, Colonel Bradford.” There were a lot of things that I wanted to say like “Sure glad you’re overweight,” even though they were guys like you and me. But I got up there and said, ”Colonel,” there was a swath of officers, “I probably can’t tell you any more about chemical warfare than you already know, because your training has been much the same as mine.” It’s here where I say, “ Chemical Corps started because—Karl (a pseudonym for Hitler and all the German people), being the bright man that he is, he might, one day, want to fight in a different way. So I am going to take you through this and if you have questions to ask, ask them and if I know the answer, I’ll tell you. If I don’t know the answer, then neither of us will know. “
You need a little wise crack in now and then. It makes it better. I had to tread lightly. Those guys were Lieutenants, Majors, Colonels, and here I was a private first class trying not to make them feel that I thought I was smarter than they were.
The infantry kept the Germans from breaking through our lines and forcing us back into the water, but our location seemed to be the focal point of the fighting for the British, French, and Canadians were all converging there to force the Germans out of the hedgerows and back to Paris. My specialized training held me in reserve, while others in my company had similar assignments in England, Belgium, and Germany, just in case the Germans used liquid blistering agents like lewisite or other gases. We waited for the order which never came to “Come forward and test.” In that event we knew that the worst had happened. A terrible agent may have wiped out a whole regiment of troops and thousands of civilians. Thank God, the army was not attacked with chemicals and never ordered to use them but they had many ready for deployment as did the Italians, Germans, and Japanese. I found out years later that the only place we were close to using chemical weapons was at The Battle of Tarawa in late November 1943. If that had happened, the enemy would have done the same and the death toll would have much worse when, nine months later, our troops stormed ashore at Omaha Beach and a month after that at the Battle of the Bulge (our command called it “The Ardennes Counteroffensive”).
Some of my company left for Liege, Belgium on the Red Ball Line Highway when the Battle of the Bulge began. Word finally came that I, and what was left of my company, were to leave St. Lo after a short stay at Le Havre, and then on to Camp Chesterfield in Aachen, Germany after it had been taken in the Battle of Aachen on October 21, 1944. While there, in November, I had numerous colds, but no one knows what brought it on besides the cold and windy weather. I became weaker and weaker until even standing guard duty became difficult. I must have let the winter weather and constant cold get the best of me. I do not remember quite how I came to be discovered half under a parked vehicle, but I was soon recognized and someone acknowledged that I wasn’t a drunk. An officer soon took me to see a doctor who diagnosed me with double pneumonia. The doctor also found severe irritations in my nasal and pharyngeal passages. It seemed strange that my symptoms mimicked the effects of benzyl bromide, one of the many poisons that I was sent to detect. Headquarters sent me to recuperate at the 114th Hospital in Echternach, Luxembourg, just south of the German boarder. My recovery was slow, so when most of my company left to support other groups in the Pacific Theater to fight the Japanese, I was left behind.
While at the 114th, enlisted men such as myself, often ate with officers at the chow hall. One day, I met a colonel whose name was Neil Brownson. We were really surprised to see each other as Neil was the son of Doctor Jay and Effie Brownson. Neil had also grown up in Kingsley in the big white house just north of the present day bank building and after the war went on to practice medicine at Munson Hospital.
For a short time, while still recovering from pneumonia, I was sent back near St. Lo to stay at Shad Coterie Chateau. Not far from St. Lo and near Caen, France, I was able to do some sight-seeing. There was a small cemetery nearby that had a recent burial site, oddly separated from the rest of the sites by four low walls of stones. The only information available was that an enlisted man was purposely buried apart from any other servicemen. He had decided that he wanted out of the service and refused any alternative assignments—even a rear-echelon position. When he and his squad were sent on a forward reconnaissance, he attempted to surrender to advancing Germans. His squad was quickly overrun and most of the men were killed. His burial was kept separate due to his dishonor.
Other men disappeared like a young fellow that my buddy and I were in charge of after he shot his Sergeant. We were ordered to settle him in a cold tent with little warmth, but we later supplied him with blankets. Before he was scheduled to ship home to be tried for murder, we let him loose to be free to go to chow and walk around camp. He asked for us before he was taken away. My officer said, “Don’t forget. This is war. A lot of things happen in war. Records will probably show, ‘He died in war’”.
When I had recovered enough to be able to work inside, my main assignment was to The Postal Service, for the rest of the war. The Chemical Corps still claimed me for short durations as a student or as a trainer.
It is hard for me to retrace my experiences and various locations in Europe after 69 years. My rear-echelon work in Europe had no fixed locations or duty assignments even during battles because: 1.The services peculiar to the Chemical Corps were not in demand. 2. Our company personnel were loaned out to other units helping in any way we could. 3. In addition to varied duties, we attended chemical decontamination classes, and each one of us shuttled at least once between England and mainland Europe. 4. Unless hospitalized, people, like myself in physical recovery, trailed a few days behind each allied advancement through France, Luxembourg, Belgium, Germany, and Austria.
Late in 1945, prisoners were treated with less suspicion as they were glad to be out of battle, had food to eat and a dry place to sleep. While stationed at Kassel, which is about half-way through Germany, we were in charge of German prisoners. Whatever the officers wanted, prisoners would run and fetch it as they were happy to be out of the midst of the battle. In early May 1945, I followed the advance into Austria while still filling in as part of The Postal Service. One morning, just outside our camp I saw what looked like a whole army. There were thousands of men and I thought, “I hope they are not surrendering. If they are, how in hell are we going to feed that many?” Tanks and other armored vehicles came with them. They wore the strangest looking uniforms that I have ever seen. Some had big fancy tall decorations on their helmets and short skirts. We wondered, “How do they expected to stay warm dressed like that?” They did not understand us and one spoke in Italian, while others pantomimed that they needed more food.
A fence soon separated them from us and we were warned to keep our distance from them, but we asked if they wanted some of our rations of stew and bread. They held their hands out like they didn’t know what it was we were asking. We hollered back, “Stew”. We must have looked imposing, while they must have mistook “Stew” for a command unknown to us, because a huge avenue quickly formed through their ranks. They were most grateful when we tossed stew soaked bread over the fence instead of opening fire on them. One of our officers asked for an Italian interpreter and a man came forward and was told that they hadn’t eaten in three days. Word went out to the nearby village that more food supplies were needed which were soon brought for them. Lousy, starving, and not clothed for the weather, they were in horrible shape. After they had eaten, we watched as their clothes were burned, they were hosed down, deloused and re-clothed with army fatigues that had “POW” printed on the backs. I have often wondered how the supposedly Italians traveled from their battle front with all those strange uniforms. Were they really Italians forced to fight for the Nazi’s or were they Germans that changed their clothing for any uniform they could find hoping to hide their true identity? Why did they respond so strangely to our shouted word, “Stew”? Our command never gave us any information about who they were.
On May 7, 1945, I was reading a letter from Mrs. Dorothy Wood, the mother of a school chum, Bill Wood, whom often wrote me most welcome messages of news from home. An army buddy burst in with the news, “Well the war is over here, now we are soon off to Japan.” Three days later, I was called into the camp office and as I was walking to the door, I thought, “Well here we go to Japan.”
Seated was a major who said, “How are you , soldier?”
“Okay. A little weak, but okay.” I said.
He said, “Well we have here a statement from Supreme Headquarters Allied Forces Europe , that you are married, have a child, have been awarded four service medals each for the four battles in which you have been involved: Normandy Invasion, St. Lo, Aachen, and The Ardennes Counteroffensive. You have earned enough points with three years served—we are sending you home instead of the Pacific. You and most of your company will ‘Step Aside’.” Those words were never more welcome. I said my goodbyes to my buddies and especially my good friend, Jerry Lord, before I left. We shook hands for the last time. Months later, I went looking for him and found out that after the war, he was transferred to Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, but his plane went missing somewhere over our home state. It seemed a hell of a way to die after going through the whole war. To this day, losing my buddy, is still my most painful memory of the war.
I put my duffel bag over my shoulder, got on the truck, and left for Camp Chesterfield, Holland. Traveling through Germany in 1945 by train with more than 140 box cars day and night, all you could see was devastation of that country. We finally arrived in La Harve on the coast of France and left for the USA. We did not stop in England, just the same journey in reverse of my trip over there—eleven days of water, water, and more water, but what a great sight was the Statue of Liberty all lit up in the New York Harbor. The band was playing while I stood on the deck with my mouth hanging open.
A few days later, I left by train for Chicago to meet my wife and son, Dennis. I had learned of his birth when on leave in France. My brother-in-law and sister, Ed and Norma Clous, came to Chicago and helped me and my family move home to Kingsley. When we walked through the door, greeting me all across the back wall of the kitchen, was was a big sign written, “Welcome home, Daddy.” When I left the U. S., I was newly married, childless, and going to Europe to fight for an undetermined amount of time. Thousands of people in terrible conditions were still fresh in my mind along with good and bad deeds done by most everyone involved. Now, I had to wipe that slate clean and learn to be a husband, father, and provider.
After coming home, I played piano in a band called Satler’s Night Hawks, helped my brother Carl paint houses, and then was employed at Parts Manufacturing in Traverse City where my father worked. We both became union Stewards in jobs that lasted many years. I was the last man out before the doors were closed for good. Out of work, I went job hunting in Chicago. I had a couple of good offers, but before I accepted anything, Melvina called to tell me that the personnel office at the State Hospital in Traverse City had called about a job opening. So, I said goodbye to Chicago, drove five hours home to Kingsley, and the next morning went to the hospital and applied for that position. I was hired and worked there for twenty five years.
Brenda Wolfgram Moore was a resident of Kingsley, a local historian and genealogist, who passed away in 2014. Peter Newell is a good friend of Floyd Webster’s, and a published author. Newell is currently working on another oral history of a Kingsley resident who served in World War II.
In this month’s “Celebrate the People,” we celebrate the long memory of Kathleen “Katy” (Adams) Hedden née Webster, a life-long Kingsley resident. Born in Kingsley in 1936, she lived on Fenton Street during her formative years until after her own children had grown. Her uncle, Floyd Webster, has been the Kingsley historian since the 1950s, and her attention to detail in this interview reflects a family love for Kingsley history. She continues to tell stories about Kingsley people and businesses, although she has joined the ranks of the ‘snowbirds’. See you in the summer, Katy!
Profuse thanks goes out to interviewer Connie Newell and editor Pete Newell. Without their dogged persistence, we likely would not have this interview to enjoy today! As always, Grand Traverse Journal is keen on publishing the stories of people that make up our communities, so please, take the time this New Year to get your stories down on paper for future generations, and submit them to the Journal!
Interview with KATHLEEN HEDDEN née WEBSTER
by Connie Newell
edited by Pete Newell and Kathleen Hedden
29 October 2014
C: What were your parents names?
K: My mother’s name was Claribel Wales, the oldest of 6 children born to George and Ina Wales, in 1916. They lived on Old Mission Peninsula. My dad was born in Alma, Michigan in 1908, his parents were Walter and Martha Webster . His name was Carl, he had 2 sisters and a brother.
C: Were there doctors in town?
K: The only village doctor when I was a child was J. J. Brownson. My grandmother Martha Webster, a mid-wife worked with him. He was a horse and buggy doctor.
C: How did they come to live in Kingsley?
K: My dad and his parents moved here when he was a child, as did my mother and her family. My Webster grandparents lived on Blair Street in the house where Diane and Dan Walton live. My mother’s parents lived on a farm two miles east of Kingsley where Mom spent most of her childhood. She and her 5 siblings walked to the old Sparling School which was located on Wood Road, it was a K through 8 school. I don’t know anything about my grandparent’s education. When my mother advanced to the ninth grade, she had to transfer to the high School in Kingsley . Of course there was no bus service, she walked 2 ½ miles to and from Kingsley every day. As the roads were not plowed in the winter , she boarded with a family in Kingsley for the winter months. My mother was 19 years old, had one year of college, and worked as a bookkeeper at Kingsley Co-op when she and my Dad were married. The old Sparling School now sits on Fenton Street in Kingsley on the back of the Earl Haycraft property.
K: During the logging days, the lumbering companies hauled logs to the top of the high roll-away, located near Buckley on the Manistee River. There, logs would be rolled into the river and floated down to the mill. My mother-in-law and father-in-law were Sam and Joy Adams. One summer Sam Adams, and Frank Kolarovic, (his son, Jim, lives across from the post office) were part of a crew hired to work the river finding dead heads, (sunken logs that had hit snags), freeing them and floating them down river to the mill. My mother-in-law, Joy, was hired to cook for the crew in a little shack built on the raft for shelter. It was too dangerous for my future husband, Larry, (her two year old son), to be allowed to run free and get in the crew’s way or venture too close to the edge of the raft that had no railing, so he was tethered with a rope and they spent most of that summer on the Manistee.
C: Where did they get married?
K: I think my parents were married in Traverse City by a Justice of The Peace. An interesting fact involved the old Kingsley telephone office. All were party line phones and had to be manually connected to anyone not within a close geographical area, so the telephone operator heard everything on the phone lines to and from the 500 or so people living in the Kingsley area. My dad went to Traverse City to get the marriage license, but he couldn’t remember my grandma’s maiden name and it had to be on the license. He called through the Kingsley Telephone Office to talk with my mother and asked, “What is your mother’s maiden name?” Before he got back to Kingsley everyone knew that Carl and Claribel were getting married and he had gotten a marriage license that day.
C: What did your father do?
K: Most of his life, he painted and did wallpapering. My mom didn’t work outside the home until I was old enough to baby sit myself. She took a job as cashier at the Kingsley IGA store which is now the pizza place kitty corner from the Post Office. After my parents married, they moved into a little apartment behind the tavern that I think was owned by Bean Shaftee, brother of Rosie Hooper, Joe Hooper’s mother. The tavern was located where the Subway sandwich now stands. Later Bean had a furniture store there. After the furniture store, it became a series of gas stations, first a Pure Station, and later a Shell Station. After the gas stations, it was purchased and became the Dairy D soft ice cream shop owned by Cal and Phyllis Kroupa. I worked there one summer when it was owned by Cal and Phyllis . It was later sold to Keith and Pauline Aeschliman. After that it was owned by the Gomez family and Phil had his barber shop in the room on the north end of the building.
I was maybe a year or two years old when my folks moved to the house across from the Methodist Church. In my early childhood, we had an outdoor toilet and used the pages of catalogs for toilet paper. I think that was pretty standard back in the ’30s. Those colored pages, were heck. My great grandma Keffer had a “two holer.”She had taken an old fur coat, cut a hole in it, put it on the seat, so you wouldn’t have to sit on that cold piece of wood in the winter time. It was a fur lined toilet seat. How is that for comfort? We lived there on Blair Street until I was about 5 years old when my folks built a house on Fenton Street.
After I married, my folks bought land on the Boardman River and built a new house there. My husband, Larry, and I bought the Fenton Street house from them. I lived there from the time I was a small child until after our children were grown . Larry and I bought the Floyd Adams farm on Blackman Road and built our house overlooking “Adams Pond” . Kingsley hardly resembles today what it was like as I was growing up, except for some of the old brick buildings in downtown Kingsley. In a town the size of Kingsley, everybody knew everybody and when someone passed away I remember a lady who went house to house, Mrs. Marion Manigold, asking for donations for funeral flowers for the deceased. People just expected to help. It was part of our lives.
C: What was your first husband’s name?
K: Larry Adams. Larry and I were engaged to be married just before I started my senior year of high school. He gave me a ring on my birthday in August and we were married in July of the following year. There were 26 students in my senior year of high school . A couple of boys dropped out at the end of the first semester joining the Marines, leaving only 24 to graduate. Four of the graduates went to college, continuing education wasn’t any big thing then.
C: How long were you married to Larry?
K: 45 years. He died of cancer that he had battled for sixteen years.
C: When you were young, what was there to do in Kingsley? Were there theaters?
K: There were free shows every Saturday night in the summer. When I was a teenager, movies were held next to where The Rock teen center is today. Previous to that, and still visible, a big white movie screen was painted on the south wall of Kingsley Automotive that was Baldie’s (Cleland) tavern at that time. There were wooden benches for seating where the fitness center stands today. Farmers would come into town Saturday nights, get groceries, bring their families, and stay for a free show. The village merchants stayed open and they financed the rental of the movies. Ken Mox opened a hardware store where the fitness center is today, after the movies were moved from Baldie’s to the lot south and east of there. Next door to that Wayne Lewis opened a barbershop, which later became a beauty shop.
K: I did a lot of baby sitting for Henry Mox, who, today, is remodeling the house in which he was raised, on the corner of Fenton and Brownson Streets. His dad, Ken, owned the hardware store in Kingsley and his mother, Mildred, went to the store every afternoon to do the bookwork while I took care of Henry. As soon as I got out of school, I would go to their house. While I took care of Henry, I did dishes, vacuumed the floors, and did errands for 25 cents per hour. There was always a sink full of dirty dishes. I took care of Henry for several years. A few years later Henry’s brother, Mark was born, and I took care of him too, when he and his mother came home from the hospital. I did a lot of babysitting during my high school years. I was the last female paper carrier for The Grand Rapids Herald newspaper. I delivered papers from when I was 12 or 13 until I graduated from high school. I don’t remember how much I earned, but the paper cost 20 cents a week for delivery. I can remember one person who gave me a tip every Saturday, which was collection day. He always gave me a nickel tip.
K: I also sat for Claude and Mildred Smith who lived in the upstairs portion of the Smith funeral home. I was always a little uncomfortable, knowing there was a body or two downstairs. Shenbelle, the oldest of the children liked to greet visitors at the shared entry door of the apartment and funeral home. One of the regular visitors was the Traverse City Record Eagle paper carrier, Larry Adams. He loved to tell the story about going there to leave the paper and little Shenbelle would greet him at the door and say, “Would you like to come in and see the body?” He never did.
K: There was a new nursing school in Traverse City at Northwestern Community College. I decided that I wanted to enter the program. I had not taken chemistry in school, so before school started in the fall, I went to see Joe Bellinger, the superintendent of Kingsley Schools, (then known as Paradise Township Unit Schools), and told him that since they had the nursing program beginning in Traverse, I would like to go for an RN, but I had not taken chemistry in high school, and regretted not having taken it. I wanted to come back to school every day and take chemistry with the high school students. I was accepted back to school and took the class. Announcements were made over the P.A. every day. One morning during class, the announcement came, “Katy Adams, would you come to the office when class is over?” I was so embarrassed in front of these kids, I was 28 years old then with a bunch of kids who were 17 or 18 and I was getting called to the office. I went to the office right after class.
Mr. Bellinger said, “I’ve looked over your school records, and I see that you’ve taken bookkeeping, typing, and know shorthand. They all pertain to secretarial work, and my secretary is leaving. I would like to offer you the job.”
I was flabbergasted. I had no idea prior, to why I was called to the office. I told him, “I will talk this over with my husband and let you know, but if I take the job, I want you to know that I am two months pregnant.”
He said, “Well if you give me your word that you will not quit as soon as your baby is born, that won’t make any difference to me. But, I don’t want you to learn everything and then leave me after a few months, I would rather start training someone else.”
I talked with my husband, Larry. He didn’t have any problem with the job offer. So I canceled my thoughts of nursing. I kind of weighed it, because I would have to go to college for a few years to be an RN and would be driving every day to classes, and have extra expenses. To have a job at school, I would just walk a block to work and would always be home weekends with my husband and children. My hours wouldn’t be much longer than my children’s school hours. It seemed that was the way to go. So, when I accepted the job, he said, “Now you will really stay after you baby is born.” I said that I would. I stayed for 32 years.
C: What did they pay to start?
K: I started out at $3000 a year which was OK back then.
C: What did you wind up making? Did you get insurance and a pension?
K: Yes. When I left the school position, I was getting over $16 per hour. I knew, initially, that my job entailed almost everything. I did all of the general office work, helping out with secretarial duties for both elementary and secondary principals, as well as the superintendent, all of the bookkeeping for the district, the hot lunch account, the check writing, the payroll, and whatever else popped up. At that time, Larry was working for Schall’s Bread Company in Traverse City. He had a route going store to store from Traverse City to Elk Rapids delivering bread, rolls, and other baked goods.
C: Did Larry paint houses?
K: My husband never painted. My father painted. Grandpa Webster, my dad’s father, painted for years, but he ended up retiring from Parts Manufacturing plant in Traverse City. My dad had various jobs when he was a young man. He cooked in the C.C. camps and later was a cook on an iron ore ship on the great lakes. My son has two degrees from Ferris State University and worked as a personnel director for United Technologies and later as business manager for Thomas and Betts, both in Boyne City. He tired of that and he now has a successful painting business and has several people working for him. I think painting is in the Webster blood.
C: What are your kid’s names?
K: My oldest daughter, is Lori Lynn Norton, the wife of a minister. Lori and Terry have two children. He’s had four churches since they have been married.
C: Your next child down?
K: My second child is Lindsey Webster Adams, who with his wife Shannon have 2 sons. My youngest is Kara Ann Schmidt, an accountant married to Damon, a mechanical engineer.
C: Did you go to church here in town?
K: I have been a member of Kingsley Baptist Church for 50 years. After Larry died, I married Ken Hedden. Pastor Summerfield married us in the old Baptist Church on Blair Street. During the ceremony he said, “I always counsel couples before I marry them, but between Katy and Ken they have been married 95 years, I didn’t think they need counseling.”
C: Did you like Ken when you met him?
K: It was a blind date. Ken is a very nice person. I had met him once a couple of years prior but really didn’ t remember him. He had lost his wife to cancer a couple months before I lost my husband. One evening, a mutual friend said to me, “Shall we ask Ken if he would like to go out to dinner with us?” I said “Yes.” So, the four of us went out to dinner and afterward went back to their house and played cards.
Ken soon asked, “Can I pick you up tomorrow night?”
I said, “I don’t think so.”
Ken asked, “Well how about the next night?”
“I’m pretty busy.”
Ken said, “Well, how about a movie this weekend?”
I finally said, “Alright. We can go out to a movie this weekend.”
C: I bet you thought that you would never get married again.
K: I thought, “Well I’m 63. I don’t want to spend the rest of my life by myself.”
C: Were there many gas stations?
K: Yes. There were several gas stations. Bob Adcock’s building on the south side was Davis’ Gas Station. Another one sat where John Sedlacek’s shop is on the SW corner of M113 and Brownson. Straight across M113 was the Standard Station that belonged to Mickey Mox. Across Brownson to the east was the Pure/Shell Station. I say that because it was first Pure then Shell. What is now the vacant lot west on the SE corner of Cottage and M113, there was a grocery/gas station. Some of the owners that I recall over the years were Harold Vogue, Chet Berdinski, and Durwin Mackey. On the next block, where the ice cream shop is now, SE corner of Clark and M113, was an Old Dutch gas station owned by Al Hoeflin.
There were several grocery stores on the main street (Brownson) in Kingsley. The first owner that I remember was Ed Mox, then later bought out by Bob Lint and Don Westrate. The pizza place is where the IGA store used to be, and right next to that was Clover Leaf Store what you might call a dime store belonging to Frook’s. It was later owned by Louie Kyselka. Next door was Sieffert’s Grocery Store, which was operated by Thelma Sieffert and was later converted to the Kingsley Bank. Next to that was the drug store operated by Lane (Doc) Fenton. You could go right from the grocery store straight through to the drug store. Nixon’s was another grocery store but when it burned, Ray and Agnes put in a Gamble’s store . The next building belonged to Frank Baldwin. He had a barber shop in the front and in the back was a pool hall with always a card game going on. Grandpa Webster spent a lot of time playing cards there which really irritated my grandmother.
K: I lived on Fenton Street for about 40 years–from when I was a small child until my children graduated from high school. Floyd Webster lived right where he lives now. When he came back from the army, that was his and Melvina’s first house. He, my parents, and grandpa built it.
C: You said that your kids went kindergarten through twelfth grade in the local school?
K: Yes. All grades were located in one building.
C: How did your mother get clothes for you?
K: She made them when I was a child. I don’t know how old I was before she got a washing machine. Before that she used a scrubbing board.
C: Did you mind being an only child?
K: I can remember them asking me, “Wouldn’t you like to have a little brother or sister?” I always gave them the same answer, “No.”
C: Did you as a teenager do the sleep over thing?
K: I didn’t really do much of that. One thing I enjoyed, growing up, was roller skating. For several years, while I was in junior high and high school, a company would come once a week with roller skates. The school would open up the gym, students could come there and rent the skates, have the music going and roller skate. They would have special things to do. The girls would line up and the boys would line up, and you would pair up according to the position in each line, much like a reel. Another thing we did as kids—the pond on our street, it’s still there behind the Westrate house, that’s what we called “The Little Pond.” It always froze over early in the winter time because it was shallow. We would meet there every night and bring our shovels, clean it off, skate, and get warm by a bonfire . As the winter progressed, what we called “The Big Pond” would freeze, and our gathering would go there, what was a lot bigger than it is now.
K: By the time my kids were old enough to go ice skating that area of Fenton Street was being built up, so the village built a rink at Brownson Park, and it was well lit. The town kids would walk there and skate afternoons and evenings. Broomball was popular, especially with the young boys.
C: Who were the wealthy people in town?
K: I think Frank Saylor was the only one that I would have called wealthy. I remember that Al Hoeflin, who had the Old Dutch gas station, had the first television in town. My dad had the second one and Rex Henschell had the third. You knew who had TV’s because of the tall antennas that were necessary to bring in the only 2 channels, Green Bay and Milwaukee, were available. I was on the village council quite a few years. Not many people showed up to the meetings.
by Eileen (Brautigam) Reamer, with editing assistance from Pete and Connie Newell of Kingsley, known for their personal story writing workshops.
Eileen is the daughter of Fred and Neva Brautigam. She resides in Kingsley, Grand Traverse County. She and her siblings were raised in the village proper during the 1930s.
I’ve always wondered how my father’s family all ended up in Jackson when they were all born in Kingsley, but I do know that my father was nine years old when his mother died leaving eight children and it’s one of those questions you wish you knew the answer to and there is no one left to ask.
After the passing of his mother, my father lived for a year with Bob DeFrance and his wife in the Kingsley Hotel which is almost in my present back yard at 203 Fenton St. in Kingsley. It is on the point where Brownson and Spring Streets come together. My dad said he planted asparagus in their garden which is just behind my garden now, and to this day some of the asparagus still comes up in the spring, so it’s like having a part of my dad around.
Mom was born in Mt Victory, Ohio on May 26, 1901. She met Dad in a Baptist church in Jackson, Michigan and they married on March 30, 1921, then moved to the village of Lake Ann, Michigan where my brother David, Sister Virginia and I were born. Because they lived in a rural part of Lake Ann, Mother held David back until it was time for Virginia to start school so he wouldn’t have to walk the mile and a half alone.
We lived across the road from the Bill Morse family, so Esther and Mom were such good friends. Esther didn’t have a mean bone in her body, and she spent much of her life playing the piano at nursing homes along with her son, Bill Jr., who played an instrument too. Even in old age she would kid about going and playing for the “old folk”.
When it was time for me to enter the world the doctor was nowhere to be found so Esther delivered me, and she always referred to me as her baby. The Morse’s were a wonderful family and we have remained friends to this day.
In the five year span between Virginia and me, Mother delivered a stillborn girl. Since she was born in March and Dad’s name was Fred, she was named Winifred. It wasn’t until 2009 while visiting Virginia in Florida that we got to wondering where she is buried. It seems so odd that we never questioned it while there was someone still around to ask.
When I was just a baby we moved to Kingsley and lived with my Grandpa, Peter Brautigam, on his farm on Sparling Road east of Blackman road, and the undated house is still there. My mother never liked my grandfather because he was a boozer and when he had company he made her take us children into the parlor and keep us quiet. He always favored me and was constantly disciplining David and Virginia; He would reach across the table and crack them across the knuckles with his table knife if he didn’t like what they were doing.
Marian was born on the farm and we moved into town shortly after that to a house on Fenton Street next door to the house that would later be the home I grew up in. When Dad bought the house it was barely a skeleton. It was one of what everyone called “Parker’s old tin houses.” They were sided with tin shingles as one can see from looking at the picture of what the house once looked like. You can see them on the top half of the house, but more on that house later.
My memories of the first house on Fenton Street, even though I was under five, are sparse but clear in my head. We four kids slept upstairs in one big bedroom with two beds. I slept with David, a sleepwalker, who took the blankets with him wherever he went. He was famous for sleeping at the bottom of the stairs, and we used to get dressed behind a wood stove in the living room.
One of my memories of Marian at time was her sitting in a high chair asking for a donut. Mother told her if she took it she had to eat it. Well, she wouldn’t eat the donut so Mom sat her in the wood shed off the kitchen until she did. Marian was a problem from then on, it seems. She didn’t get along with other kids very well and the only one of us kids I remember who ever got a spanking.
Charlie Snyder lived in the big house next to the hotel and had a barn on Spring Street which is still there. He had cherry orchards and horses, and one day the horses got loose and ran down Fenton Street and into our driveway which is butted up to our house. Marian just happened to be in the driveway at that time and they knocked her down and scared the daylights out of all of us but fortunately she didn’t get hurt. It’s something you don’t forget!
Dad was a carpenter so he was able to restore the house next door. One of the first things he did was to close the open stairway. He always maintained too much heat was lost going up open stairs. The house had two very large bedrooms upstairs and we had two beds each in them.
There were three small bedrooms on the main floor and he turned one into a bathroom eventually. He also took the partition out between the other two bedrooms making it one large one. We moved into this house when I was five which is where Beverly was born when I was eleven and that completed our family of one boy and four girls. The night Beverly was born, we kids were herded away to some friend’s home to await her arrival.
We were a happy family and I have good memories, but one not so happy memory comes to mind as I think of the time we were going to Jackson to Grandma Alwine’s for Thanksgiving. In those days it was an all day trip. The morning we were to leave there was car trouble. What a disappointment that was. Bologna for dinner!
I loved my Grandma Alwine so much. I remember the time when I was a young grade school student, we were visiting Grandma and when it came time to go home I wanted to stay. I made such a fuss that my parents decided to play a game with me. They supposedly left thinking I would change my mind when they drove away. I was a happy camper and it was with much distress when they drove around the block and came back for me.
My grandparents later retired to the North and bought a house on Wexford Corners one mile East of M-37 near Buckley. It was a happy time having them so close, but it had a sad ending. Grandpa went to the basement to look for a gas leak and suddenly there was an explosion, and the living room floor fell right into the basement, plus it blew out the sides of the house. The paper stated that Grandpa lit a match to look for the leak but we know that is not true as he was always so cautious that way. He may have lit his pipe without thinking, but we will never know. He was rushed to the hospital with his hands hanging out the window as the skin was burned off from them. I don’t even know who drove him as it was before we arrived. Unfortunately his lungs were burned also, and he died two days later.
Grandma was never the same after that, so she moved back to Jackson to live with her daughter. Grandpa was 81 when he died and Grandma lived to 87.
There is so much more I could write but that will be another story.
Ready to share your family stories? Consider submitting them to Grand Traverse Journal! For information on submission, visit http://gtjournal.tadl.org/about/#submissions
A wonderful library is the crowning jewel of any town. Just ask the residents of Kingsley, the bustling village located in Paradise Township in southern Grand Traverse County. The Kingsley Branch Library (KBL) is celebrating 100 years of service to the community in 2014, and they will be doing it in style!
Join the Kingsley librarians for period costumes and candy at the Kingsley Heritage Days Parade on Saturday, July 19th. Then, visit the KBL on July 31st at 3:00pm for the Local History and Genealogy Room Grand Opening! In addition to viewing an exhibit on the history of the KBL, a talk on the development of the local history room will be given and refreshments served. If you have items, photographs or papers that you think add to the history of Kingsley and need to be preserved, please come to this event and hear more about donating to the local history room!
How do you start a library with no room, budget or experience? It helps to have a group of civic-minded women around, if you look at the history of the KBL.
In the summer of 1913, a lyceum was invited to speak to the residents of Kingsley by a group of prominent men from the community. Lyceums were very popular in this region in the late 19th and early 20th centuries; these were organizations that sponsored public programs and entertainments. If you had been in Kalkaska in 1920, the Chautauqua Lyceum would have treated you to a rendition of the famous comic opera, “Chimes of the Normandie,” as well as a lecture by Roland A. Nichols on “A Man Worth While”.
As lyceums were scheduled well in advance, the men who invited the lyceum plum forgot it, and nothing was prepared when the cast arrived. Fortunately for those men, their wives took up the challenge, and before the train pulled in with the cast in residence, those women had whipped the meeting space into shape, and the residents into a frenzy of anticipation.
The women so enjoyed the camaraderie and opportunity to perform a civic duty that they began meeting regularly, and in 1914 the Kingsley Woman’s Civic Club (KWCC) was founded. Their first order of duty: to develop and make a library available to the public.
Headed by Mrs. Eunice Stinson , “this group of women, 15 strong,” as they were later described in an article celebrating the KWCC’s fortieth anniversary, took to the project immediately. The “unnamed” men who failed to organize for the lyceum likely found their home libraries ransacked, as funds in the club were limited to yearly dues.
Using an all-volunteer staff, the library of fifty books was open for four hours on both Friday and Saturday, and although the collection and open hours would fluctuate over the years, the librarian stayed the same. Eunice Stinson remained librarian from 1914 to 1939; her daughter-in-law Nell Stinson took up the post and remained librarian until the mid-1960s. The switch from Stinson to Stinson came at the same time the KWCC purchased the former First State Bank of Kingsley building, which they used as both club rooms and library.
Want to know more? See you at the Grand Opening July 31st at 3:00pm!
All sources for this article are available at many branches in the Traverse Area District Library for your reading pleasure: Kalkaska Genealogical Society. “Big Trout Black Gold”. ed. Dawn Triplett, 2002. Kingsley Woman’s Civic Club Records, 1910s-1987 (only at KBL).
Images courtesy of Traverse Area District Library: http://localhistory.tadl.org/
When the Brownson’s gifted the parkland near downtown Kingsley to the village in the 1960s, now Brownson Memorial Park, Jay J. and Effie Brownson had been holders of one of the oldest land deeds in the township. The property was originally purchased by Myron S. Brownson in the late 1800s. He wisely leased the property to various lumber-production companies; since the property lay on both sides of the railroad tracks, it was certainly an attractive option for those trying to maximize their use of capital. Lumber dealer Wesley Dunn and his son Howard were leasing the property in 1914, around the same time the Kingsley Library was created by the Kingsley Woman’s Civic Club.
Despite the detritus industry left on the property, the Brownsons were able to reform it at the end of the lumber era. A brick firehouse was erected at some point in the 1910s; devastating fires in 1894 and 1900 ensured that all future building in the downtown area was done in brick, not lumber. The firehouse remained standing until the mid-2000s; after many years of vacancy, the structure was removed to make way for new village offices and the Kingsley Branch Library.
After a vigorous and highly successful fundraising campaign by the Friends of the Kingsley Branch Library, the new library building, pictured above left, opened its doors to the public in February 2009.
Locally-produced digital magazine featuring nature and local history from the Grand Traverse Region.