2007.03.28 The year was 1937

Written by David Green.


There’s that old saying about “the more things change, the more they stay the same,” but I don’t know. Things have really changed in the past 70 years.

Jean Oberling brought in an Observer from 1937 and it was interesting enough that I went to the archives over in the corner and brought out the entire year. Now I’ve been lost in the past this morning.

There is a lot staying the same. My grandfather was publisher of the paper in 1937 and my father was a freshman on the junior varsity football team.

School events, bowling leagues, shows at the Rex Theatre, church programs and local tragedies—they’re still a staple of small-town newspapers in 2007, but even these events are different.

Here’s a description of “Cain and Mabel” showing at the Rex: “The picture is said to be filled with catchy musical airs and gigantic specialty numbers in which one hundred and sixty beautiful chorus girls take part.” What kind of a crowd would that show draw today?

The high school basketball team defeated Addison 19-11 and not a single basket was scored in the first half. One of the reporters from the school newspaper (Mary Adelaide Kellogg, editor) wrote: “In the last quarter, many tempers were stirred up.”

The town bowling team competed against Hudson, car/train accidents were rather common, and the Boy Scout troop numbered 28 kids.

Dic-a-Doo was selling for 23¢ a pound at Mac’s Grocery & Market (“Cleans like magic”), Wheaties were priced at two for 25¢ at Murphy’s Market and Swaney’s offered the new Ford V-8 60 for $595.

Morenci chief of police Pete Stetten earned $9 a week, the same as W.H. Murray who served as Riverside Park caretaker. O.C. VanFossen, the cemetery supervisor, was paid twice that amount.

Bus service from Morenci to Detroit opened in 1937. The Extension Service gave a class in Medina about hitching an unbroken horse for the first time.

City council voted to buy shotgun shells for citizens to shoot at the invading starlings. A three-year-old girl was injured when her right arm was caught in the wringer of her mother’s electric washing machine. Petitions were collected in Medina Township for REA to set up electrical lines.

The Taft Highway tourist route from Michigan to Florida was nearly established all the way south, but there was talk of an east-west route from Toledo to Elkhart that also would pass through Morenci.

This would follow the old Vistula Road (Territorial Highway) that was thought to be the oldest road in the Midwest. There were records of French Jesuits taking the route in 1710.

Morenci’s school board wanted to build a new school with the help of a federal grant that would cover nearly half the cost. Voters said “no.”

Otis Harrington, who lived northwest of Fayette, put his team of horses to pasture and they disappeared over night. Finally they were found at the bottom of a 12-foot pit—an old well that had been sodded over 20 years earlier at a former cheese factory.

The oddity continued in the next week’s paper when a person at the fertilizer company noticed the horses had also been struck by lightning.

In February, a 90-year-old man married a 51-year-old woman. The old Civil War veteran said he preferred marrying a much younger woman than himself “as it costs money for funerals.”

In March, the city shook for about 12 seconds from an earthquake centered somewhere to the south. A salesman at Hart Hardware in Seneca said there was no jarring in the store, but there was a roaring sound like a heavy gust of wind.

One week later, a second quake rattled buildings in town.

Optimism was running high in small town America and a front page article reprinted from another paper made fun of a prophet of doom who predicted the decline of the small town.

Morenci was still growing and boasted of several car dealers and grocery stores and a variety of other merchants. There was little need to leave town.

“Rural America will continue to grow and prosper as long as civilization endures,” wrote the columnist.

We’re still here, but so much has changed.

    – March 28, 2007 
  • Front.poles
    MOVING EAST—Utility workers continue their slow progress east along U.S. 20 south of Morenci. New electrical poles are put in place before wiring is moved into place.
  • Front.cowboy
    A PERFORMER named Biligbaatar, a member of the AnDa Union troupe from Inner Mongolia, dances at Stair District Library last week during a visit to the Midwest. The nine-member group blends a variety of traditions from Inner and Outer Mongolia. The music is described as drawing from “all the Mongol tribes that Genghis Khan unified.” The group considers itself music gatherers whose goal is to preserve traditional sounds of Mongolia. Biligbaatar grew up among traditional herders who live in yurts. Additional photos are on the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.base Ball
    UMPIRE Thomas Henthorn tosses the bat between team captains Mikayla Price and Chuck Piskoti of Flint’s Lumber City Base Ball Club. Following the 1860 rules, after the bat was grabbed by the captains, captains’ hands advanced to the top of the bat—one hand on top of the other. The captain whose hand ended up on top decided who would bat first. Additional photos of Sunday’s game appear on page 12 of this week’s Observer. The contest was organized in conjunction with Stair District Library’s Hometown Teams exhibit that runs through Nov. 20.
  • Front.chat
    VALUE OF ATHLETICS—Morenci graduate John Bancroft (center) takes a turn at the microphone during a chat session at the opening of the Hometown Teams exhibit at Stair District Library. Clockwise to his left is John Dillon, Jed Hall, Jim Bauer, Joe Farquhar, George Hollstein, George Vereecke and Mike McDowell. Thomas Henthorn (at the podium) kicked off the conversation. Henthorn, a University of Michigan–Flint professor, will return to Morenci this Sunday to lead a game of vintage base ball at the school softball field.
  • Front.cross
    HUDSON RUNNER Jacob Morgan looks toward the top of the hill with dismay during the tough finish at Harrison Lake State Park. Fayette runner Jacob Garrow focuses on the summit, also, during the Eagle Invitational cross country run Saturday morning. Continuing rain and drizzle made the course even more challenging. Results of the race are in this week’s Observer.
  • Front.bear
    HOLDEN HUTCHISON gives a hug to a black bear cub—the product of a taxidermist’s skills—at the Michigan DNR’s Great Youth Jamboree. The event on Sunday marked the fourth year of the Jamboree. Additional photos are on page 12.
  • Front.hose Testing
    HOSE safety—The FireCatt hose testing company from Troy put Morenci Fire Department hose to the test Monday morning when Mill Street was closed to traffic. The company also checks nozzles and ladders for wear in an effort to keep fire fighters safe while on calls.

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