Category Archives: On the Corner

On the Corner

Memorial Day
Each May, Boy Scouts from Troop 251 place flags on the tombstones of all the veterans in the Vicksburg Cemetery. They are from left to right: Left to right: Jakob Schmidt, Sam Breuer, Caleb Bombich (blue), Tyler Richardson (partially hidden), Josiah Stewart, Josh White.

By Sue Moore

I realize the passing of time when it comes to Superintendent Charlie Glaes announcing his retirement. There have only been seven individuals holding that title in Vicksburg since WWII, beginning with Bill Taylor. He initiated a seismic shift in the school district by consolidating the outlying country schools. Old timers might remember what a collision of values that created with the townies vs. the country kids taking up seats right beside each other in the classroom for the first time in 1948.

Those were not the good old days in my memory bank. We were crowded into classrooms at what is now the Administration building, the most fun being a secret ride down the fire escape on the south side of the building. There were so many students that some grades had to be outsourced to other buildings in the village.

Each succeeding superintendent, Ken Otis, Larry Cole, Denny McMahon, Pete Wharton, Pat Reeves, and Charlie, has left his legacy on the school district. What has distinguished their time in charge has been the cooperation between administration and the school board members. The people who have been willing to give of their time and intellect have been the glue that make receiving a quality education in the Vicksburg school district happen. I remember in my era with great fondness the ones who set the standard: Dr. Arle Schneider, Denny Boyle, Dr. Lloyd Appell and Skip Knowles. They led as presidents when money was tight and the will to tax ourselves was not always apparent.

Fortunately, the citizens of the school district have seen fit to keep the buildings in good order with funding for repairs, while the state suffered through some hard times. Local control has been the mantra since consolidation, but when we choose to accept the money from the state of Michigan, much of that goes by the wayside. The seven superintendents I’ve mentioned have been great keepers of the flame. Now it’s time to pass it forward to a new leader who will benefit greatly from all that has been accomplished over the last 70 plus years.

Gazette Connections

Jack Moss, another old timer for those of you who read his sports columns in the Kalamazoo Gazette, has been retired for many years and now lives in Savannah, Georgia with his daughter’s family. Del Newell, a home-grown sports reporter at the Gazette keeps in contact and reports that at 91 Jack can still remember the many sports stats he reported over the years. He suffers from Parkinson’s but will still quote them verbatim, even the ones he was accused of making up.

Village Clean Up and Pick Up Days

Both Schoolcraft and Vicksburg villages will collect the detritus that residents have collected over the winter on Saturday, May 19. They urge people to have materials set out on the curbside by Thursday or Friday evening at the latest. Just don’t let it set there for more than a week in advance, especially in Vicksburg when the Hearty Hustle takes place on Saturday, May 12. The runners are routed through the heart of the village so it’s nice for them to see beautiful flowers and trees in bloom all along the way, not old sofas and refrigerators.

On the Corner

fire
Fire leveled the newly built storage shed on the grounds of the Historic Village in Vicksburg on Thursday, March 22. The exterior had been completed and rebuilt doors and windows were stored inside the very day of the fire according to Jim Bird. His Thursday crew of volunteers had spent considerable time building the shed over the winter. An investigation is underway.

By Sue Moore

Time to Start Training for the Hearty Hustle

The Vicksburg Hearty Hustle is in its 31st year. It has a new wrinkle for the race this year, one that will directly benefit one of the five school buildings in the district. The School Challenge Incentive provides a $500 prize to the building with the highest proportion of runners to student population, fair considering that the High School and Sunset Lake elementary have the most students in their buildings. Parents, grandparents, sisters and brothers can get in the act when they register for the race that will be held on Saturday, May 12 at 9 a.m. at the high school stadium.

The race was first staged by Bronson Vicksburg Hospital to show the health benefits of running and walking. Three years ago, the Vicksburg Community Schools Foundation board agreed to keep it going by accepting the responsibility of organizing the race on the second Saturday of May. Thus, the idea was to keep the run as a family event, emphasize the health benefits and perhaps make a little extra money for the Foundation.

The challenge is to shake off the winter’s blahs, get out and start training and turn the day into a family affair.

Schoolcraft Teachers Also on a Healthy Kick

Keeping with that same healthy eating line, the Schoolcraft teaching staff is having its second annual “Rehabbing a favorite recipe day” on Wednesday, April 11 in the elementary school library. The challenge is for a cook to make a favorite recipe but change the ingredients to something healthier. For examples: potato salad made with yogurt vs. mayonnaise, spaghetti sauce over spaghetti squash as opposed to pasta, cake made with apple sauce instead of oil, brownies made with black beans in place of some of the wet ingredients, frosting made with simply cocoa and dates vs. sugar, and the list could go on and on.

They are inviting taste testers from the staff to cast votes costing $1 each. The winner will collect $50 and the gratitude of the taste testers. Recipes will be collected and made into an electronic cookbook available at a later date according to Darby Fetzer, school board president.

Bridge Organics Fire

Nobody was hurt in a fire at Bridge Organics but it had to be a little scary for the five people who were still in the building. They heard a loud noise as a small explosion occurred in one of the labs. About two gallons of a flammable solvent were involved in the accident, when the solvent was vaporized under a ventilation hood and ignited after 5 p.m. on March 26. The South Kalamazoo County Fire Authority (SKCFA) was on the job but the staff had quelled the fire almost before they got there. Chief Tracy McMillan said their tests didn’t reveal any air quality problems and thus no threat to the general public.

Fire Authority Meeting

At the board’s monthly meeting, Chief McMillan told the SKCFA board that a car had rammed the fire station doors in Schoolcraft. It damaged a jeep inside and the front end of the tanker to put them both out of service until repairs could be made. Why someone would want to do this is anybody’s guess but the person was apprehended and taken to the hospital for a psychological evaluation, McMillan said.

They also heard from a citizen in Brady Township who was concerned that the fire department was pumping standing water out of a person’s front yard on 29th Street, across the road, causing traffic to be stopped while this was taking place. The chief explained that this was a service the department sometimes offers if a basement is flooding due to the conditions experienced in February around the district. The board is looking at writing a policy that would cover this in the future when flooding occurs.

On the Corner

sue col 4By Sue Moore

Senior Millage Proposition Gets a Hearing

“A senior millage to augment services for Kalamazoo County’s aging residents, batted around for some time, has been placed on the county’s Aug. 6 ballot. That was approved by the county Board of Commissioners in a 6-5 vote, with this area’s commissioner, John Gisler, opposed. The board discussed several options: approving letting voters decide the millage – .35 mills for six years – looking for other funds or taking no action.” South County Community Services (SCCS) sent a large delegation to the board meeting, all of whom were in support of giving voters the choice.”

The issue was whether to place the decision on the August ballot and let the greater community decide if it wanted to be taxed .35 for six years or try to find the funds from some other pocket or not fund services to seniors at all. South County Community Services (SCCS) sent a large delegation to the board meeting, all of whom were in support of giving voters the choice.

Danna Downing and her associate, Diane Durian, work to help seniors in every way possible with the limited funds they have available at SCCS. They see the need up close and personal. It was clear that the support split down party lines with the six Democrats in the yes column and the five Republicans voting no after an honest and thought-provoking debate on the issue.

Now the real work begins for the supporters of the senior citizen millage. Kalamazoo County is one of only 10 counties in the state of Michigan without some sort of millage for seniors. The campaign will need to begin with leadership from Downing and her team at SCCS. Stay tuned to one of the biggest challenges of Downing’s life in public service.

I would lay odds that with Downing and the many she will muster to the cause, it will be successful. When Downing’s two boys were in grade school in Vicksburg, she walked into the Vicksburg Commercial-Express office in 1979 with a gleam in her eye. She wanted to get a plug in the paper for the school millage campaign that she was in charge of. This effort along with many others, yielded the first big successful millage campaign in many years. All millage requests since then have passed, allowing the schools to grow and prosper.

The dedication to this community has been Downing’s greatest contribution and I for one would not want to let her down, nor will any of the others that she has helped in this way down through the years.

Reaching the Century Mark

A good example for seniors is Ann (Matz) Linton who turned 107 in February. She graduated from Vicksburg High School in 1930 and is known to be the oldest living graduate of the school. Her parents owned a homemade candy and ice cream shop in downtown Vicksburg in the 30s, 40s and 50s. It must have been good for her health, consuming all that chocolate. Her daughter Mary Ann Hayward does a lot to take care of her but acknowledges that she has been failing a little more with each passing year.

Simmons Ford Has New Owners

Gene Simmons announced that he has sold the family dealership to DeNooyer in Kalamazoo in February. His father, Rovelle, began to sell cars in Vicksburg after World War II where the Dollar General store is today on E. Prairie Street. He moved to a new building at the corner of Boulevard and W. Prairie Street in the early 1950s. The community will really miss this local ownership but with the full knowledge that DeNooyer’s has been a standup dealership in Kalamazoo equally as long.

On the Corner

Bill Christiansen On the Corner insert pic
Bill Christiansen a Schoolcraft resident and retiree, took up photography and won a nice prize.

By Sue Moore

Nobody knows for sure how long they have to live on this earth. Recently, I spent quality time with my sister Kay in South Carolina where she had been residing after learning that she had terminal cancer. Her wishes were to not receive treatment for the malignancy that was traveling throughout her body, thus assuring that it wouldn’t be long for her to say goodbye. She passed away on December 30 after a short stint in hospice care.

I witnessed her steely determination to end things in this way, allowing her family to come to terms with this decision. She showed me her quiet dignity and her strength to say enough is enough, as she had already undergone two bouts of breast cancer five years ago.

We haven’t seen very much of each other since we were in college together at Michigan State. She and her husband have lived all over the world, particularly in third world countries where his urban planning firm had contracts with the U.S. Agency for International Development. His job was to oversee the building of roads, hospitals, water systems and who knows what else as money was poured in by the United States. The countries included Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Nigeria, Egypt and even Russia.

It was amazing to me during this short visit, after all these years apart, how similar we were in mannerisms, voice intonation, values and even housekeeping chores. Must have had some parental training there that actually stuck. Even with this worldly viewpoint, she wanted to be buried back here in her hometown, the one place where she has roots.

It was a humbling experience to watch her deal with the pain while keeping up with everything going on around her. She was clear as a bell when telling her newest oncologist that she didn’t want any intervention even though he offered some possibilities to lengthen the ordeal. He had never met her before, as her specialist was in Florida where she had made her home after retirement.

Although we went our separate ways for the last 50 years, it felt like being together at the end was the most natural thing we could do as sisters now and forever.

Honor for Bill Christiansen

Michigan History is a beautiful magazine, published by the Historical Society of Michigan each month in a glossy format that I have subscribed to for many years. A photo taken by Bill Christiansen of the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is featured on the back cover in its January edition. He took first place in their annual photo contest with an image of the shoreline at dusk. A large bird flew into the shot just as Bill snapped the shutter. He is seen here holding the framed photo that he submitted as the contest winner.

Schoolcraft’s Changing Business Face

For over 20 years the Grand Street of downtown Schoolcraft was known for its antique stores, anchored by Norma’s Antiques that took up three buildings at their upstairs and downstairs location. Since Norma passed away some three years ago it seemed to take the heartbeat out of the downtown. This month’s newspaper features two new antique businesses on the outskirts of U.S. 131 that could bring back some of this type of commerce to the village. Next month we will feature Sue Cooley’s operation in Norma’s old location which should bring the antique business full circle in Schoolcraft. There is also Abby’s Antiques and the Mall Antiques to round out the offerings. Although Tim Brown told me these types of businesses were not thriving because millennials aren’t exactly thrilled about using the findings in Grandma’s attic, there still seems to be a place for them, at least in Schoolcraft.

Typo Correction

In the December issue of the South County News, John Speeter’s name was misspelled in an article about Pat White’s retirement as Township Supervisor. Speeter has assumed the duties of supervisor beginning January 1.

Postal Rate Increase

On January 21, 2018, the cost of a first-class letter will go up a penny to .50 cents and a postcard from .34 to .35 cents. Fortunately, the increase did not hit this newspaper. USPS was given permission to speed up its pricing increases over the next five years. I just wish I would have purchased a lot of Forever stamps when they were .30 cents!

On the Corner

By Sue Moore

Behind the Scenes 

Both Schoolcraft and Vicksburg have a new group of volunteers helping to inspire the early Christmas celebrations in each community. This has sparked new life into each event, making them a “must see and do” for the residents of South County.

The Christmas Walk in Schoolcraft was the brainchild of Norma Tackett nearly 30 years ago. As it grew, it brought many visitors to the community. Upon her passing, it was hard to find someone to step into her shoes but now they have. Thanks to Deb Christiansen and Kelly Bergland with some encouragement from their husbands, there is renewed purpose and plenty of great ideas.

Christmas in the Village was initiated three years ago by Kathleen Hoyle in Vicksburg to showcase what the Downtown Development Authority could do to attract visitors. Previously, the Vicksburg Community Association had been organizing Santa’s visit and a parade. Upon Hoyle leaving to head up parks and recreation for the city of Portage, Mary Ruple, Stella Shearer and John DeBault have stepped in with new ideas and plenty of energy.

There is something for everyone between the two villages with only a few overlaps in timing, so folks will be able to experience both village’s celebrations with kids and family for this most hallowed of holidays.

Boy Scouts Newspaper Collection 

Remember that Troop 251 will be collecting newspapers for the last time on Saturday, December 2, along with all the other activities going on in the village. It’s sad to see this fundraiser for the scouts go away but it does represent a sign of the times with the cutback in newspaper circulation. The South County News is doing its best to help out with its 10,500 circulation each month but there was not enough newsprint coming in to pay for their upfront expenses, according to Kevin Borden, the head scoutmaster.

Sprinkle Road Tree Slaughter

Most folks know I’m a tree hugger. It makes me very upset to see the Sprinkle Road harvest of the beautiful trees that once lined the roadway but are no more. According to Aileen Greanya who had two silver maples cut down in her front yard, it was at the behest of the Indiana Michigan power company. They claimed the trees were dangerous in a wind storm because they were too close to the power lines. “We practically had a wood war over the felled trees as the contracting tree cutting company didn’t want the wood. Somebody had scooped up the wood from my yard the very day the trees were cut down.”

Schoolcraft’s Undefeated JV Football Team

Coach Terry Haas’ varsity football team in Schoolcraft suffered one of its down years (5-5), largely due to injuries to many starters. It looks like he will be able to reload for the 2018 season because the junior varsity team went undefeated in the SAC conference. Ted Manning was the head coach of the JV team with assists from Tracey Branch, Joe Thole and Brian DeVries. Even with four of their JV players suiting up on the varsity, the team posted this impressive record. “They were a hard working group with some games being tight but with their backs against the wall, they managed to find a way to win,” according to Jeff Clark the Schoolcraft athletic director.

Vicksburg Had an Undefeated Freshman Squad

The freshmen football team went 9-0 for the year with head coach Sean Mulhearn ably assisted by George Thompson, Sawyer Duncan and Kyle Owen. The sophomore squad had some exciting moments but didn’t fare as well. The varsity will lose some stellar seniors on a team that went 7-4 on the season and qualified for the District playoffs once again. Edwardsburg the top team in the Wolverine conference represented the league in the finals of the state playoffs.

On the Corner

on the corner 1
On 103 E. Prairie Street, the paint is coming off the galvanized steel cornice, the cement trim above the windows, and the cast iron columns beautifully. The workers are using corn husk, walnut and soda blasting to be more effective, said project manager Jackie Koney.

By Sue Moore

It would be hard to top last month’s column with any kind of follow up personal story. For the last four and a half years of writing this column, I’ve assiduously avoided writing anything personal. My parents, who owned the Vicksburg Commercial-Express when I was growing up, insisted that we would never write stories about our family or any of its accomplishments or failings.

I breached that admonition by writing my personal experience about the trauma of an injury and its accompanying fault lines. It was very hard for me to do that, but I felt it could serve as a good way to bring the issue of the fear of falling to the attention of the public.

What I didn’t realize was how much compassion and concern people had for this editor and all of her foibles. So many people have expressed their concern and offered to help in any way. It was so heartwarming and I thank you all for sharing and caring. The recovery has been complete and I’m back to normal, whatever that may be.

The Winds of Change

Redevelopment is taking place at an accelerated clip in both Schoolcraft and Vicksburg. It is very exciting to see the vision of Windy and Jamie Clark for the school building on Cass Street that they will repurpose into residences, condominiums and event space. We will have a more in-depth story about this in a later issue. The village officials have also stepped up to look at future development and enact plans to help make it happen.

The Bad News in Vicksburg

In Vicksburg, the downtown merchants were shaken by the forfeiture of the Hill’s Pharmacy buildings, leaving a big hole for retailing on the west side of S. Main Street. The assumption is that Bob Dornbos’ building next door would be for sale once Dr. Ford moved into his new building on E. Prairie Street. Plus, the empty building that Skip Knowles owns next to Dornbos leaves the whole block in jeopardy. It will take a lot to revitalize this block.

The Good News in Vicksburg

At the same time, the façade of the former Doris Lee Sweet Shop at 103 E. Prairie is being gently sandblasted and repainted as will the adjacent building at 101 E. Prairie.

Progress is being made on the sale of the derelict Krum-Hallam car dealership at W. Prairie at Boulevard with the hope that this brownfield property can be redeveloped.

Rumor has it that The Dek, formerly The Vault, has been sold to a restaurateur from Portage with plans to reopen in the spring.

On Highway Street, the old flower shop at 108 has been sold and soon the mill at 300 W. Highway Street will be getting a facelift starting in the spring of 2018.

AVB has started building its second condo at Bridgeview next to Angels Crossing golf course. Its first one didn’t sell for several years but the company has come through with a promise to keep building upscale condos in that neighborhood.

Over at Centennial on 22nd Street, the houses are going up in the blink of an eye. It’s amazing to drive by one week to see new houses where vacant lots stood and the next week see several more frames being erected next door. These starter houses are bringing young children and families to the community that could be the key to revitalizing the downtown – but only if the marketing gurus can figure out how to attract them to Main and Prairie street stores, rather than going north to Portage or Kalamazoo.

That’s where the Downtown Development Authority and the Chamber of Commerce can play a much bigger role, should they choose to do so.

On the Corner

sue injury cropBy Sue Moore

In the last week of July I finished writing a story about “Fear of Falling” for the August edition of the South County News, thinking it certainly doesn’t apply to me, being 79, in good health and still doing daily exercise routines.

Then, on a sleepy Sunday afternoon on August 6, it all came crashing down. I’m outside surveying my flower gardens, not watching out for rock steps on the hillside when I trip and go face down on the stone steps, hitting my forehead with a crash. I’m a wuss, I see blood streaming out of somewhere and run for a towel to stop the bleeding. OK, just lie down and it will go away, I think. Some ice would be nice. I go for the fridge and bleed all over it. But I achieve my objective.

A half hour goes by, I’m bored, I listen to the radio as I’m trying to decide what to do. Calling for the ambulance is not an option. I’m a wuss. Another half hour and I think the bleeding from my forehead has stopped. I go to the bathroom sink for a fresh washcloth and suddenly blood is spurting all over the mirror, the walls, the sink and I’m mopping it up with one towel after another.

I go back, lie down, and can’t get it stopped. I fear the ER, the ambulance service, the attention. These are people I know because I’ve been writing stories about the ambulance service for the past three months. I grab the phone, no, it will stop, no it won’t, I will call 911.

A calm voice at the sheriff’s department asks me to stay on the line while she contacts the Vicksburg EMS service. I hear Jesse answer while instructing the car to leave the station. No lights, no sirens, I want to say. That’s not an option.

In walks Amber in full triage mode. I know her well and now am grateful for her calm voice as there is so much blood in my eyes, I can’t see who has come to assist. I hear Tracy McMillan too. Who could miss his voice, urging me to go to the ER. I decline. Not an option they tell me. Well, I just wanted them to stop the bleeding and I’ll be ok. They look at the bathroom and decide it won’t be ok until I get treatment. They carefully bundle me on a stretcher (they are so kind and attentive, my fears have somewhat subsided).

I’ve never had to be the patient in an ambulance, so it was a new experience. Christian the paramedic hooks me up to all the vitals. I say no, not necessary. She insists. Which ER do you want to be taken to? Eh, I don’t know. Then I remember that Bronson advertises in the newspaper, so off we go up Sprinkle Road because of the construction. They want to start IVs and I say no, I’m still a wuss.

They deliver me to the ER door with care and concern, I’m whisked into a private cubicle with nurses, PA’s and others looking after me. The bleeding has subsided and I want out, right then and there. Too bad, I’m admitted. Kind doctors check in and out, there are others in greater need for sure. The decision is made. I’ll need some stiches. Now I really want out. I wait for what seems an eternity but it’s only about a half hour when the doc comes back with a long needle and some thread. He is from North Dakota State’s Medical School, serving his residency in the WMU Medical School program. He has a calming, voice and good bedside manner. Seven stitches later, I’m demanding to have them let me go.

I didn’t remember to bring my purse with me, so no phone, no glasses, no ability to remember local phone numbers because they are all locked up in my phone at home. I want out. I call back to SCEMS. Can you give me phone number for Wes Schmitt, the president of the ambulance service and my friend?

Yes. Wes had another commitment so he provides me with Steve Ellis’ phone number who serves on the board of this newspaper with Wes. Fortunately, the phone the ER has let me use has large digits on it or I never would have gotten a ride home as my family is all in the backwoods of Canada.

Steve is there and arrives just 30 minutes later to spring me. But alas, they need a CAT scan for concussion possibilities. We wait for the results. Negative. I’m on my way. It’s not a pretty sight, my forehead, that is. I’m thinking of all the possible stories to be told to explain why we should all have a healthy fear of falling. I’ve learned my lesson. Take precautions for exactly that and possibly enroll in the balance class offered by South County Community Services and the Area Agency on Aging.