I Remember Colon 1912, Dale Baad

     I Remember Colon in 1912


From The Colon Express, April 15, 1981; by Dale Baad: “I remember the first automobiles were equipped with acetylene gas lights.

Boys and girls sold corncobs for 5¢ a bag that were used as kindling to start fires. They picked up the cobs at the mill, free. They would fill five or six bags and make their rounds. Some “dealers” had regular customers, … one bag every Saturday.

Ninety-five per cent of the homes and stores were heated in winter by one or more “Round Oak” heaters. Cooking and baking were done on cast iron ranges during the cold months and a kerosene stove in summer … kerosene was 10¢ a gallon.

The Sunday excursions on the “Air Line” to Jackson and Detroit … leave Colon on the 7 a.m. train and return on the 9 p.m. train.

I remember the arrival of the “Nickalo” movies  … admission 5¢ for children, 10¢ for adults … black and white pictures, silent, but accompanied by a live piano player using the popular ragtime music.

Madame Marantette with her trained horse and ostrich act … performing on the street at least once each summer.

The horse-drawn sprinkling wagon, which wet down the main streets in summer to control the dust. The driver filled the wagon at the millrace with a hand pump.

Balloon ascensions … a feature attraction for every celebration.

The arrival of the “Kentucky Boys” and the “Indiana Gang” , who tented on Sturgeon lake for three weeks of fishing and entertaining.

The LKG factory whistle blew at 7 a.m. (begin work), at 12 noon (dinner), 1 p.m. (start afternoon work), and 5 p.m. (stop work). We set our clocks by the whistle.

“Gene” Grimes and his popcorn wagon on the SE corner of State and Main (Blackstone). Even if you didn’t like popcorn, the tantalizing aroma “got” to you!

The large third floor hall … over Bartholomew’s and O.

Hartman’s (the Godfrey Block) was the location of public dances and a roller skating rink.

Gertie Palmer … dressmaker to the elite. She was a very clever designer and an excellent seamstress.

I have been thinking about the work opportunities in Colon in 1912. Lamb Knit was certainly the largest employer. They had 100 to 150 men and women employed during their peak periods. Considering that the total population of the village was 398, you can see how great the impact was of this one factory.

Two railroad section gangs worked out of Colon. There was a foreman and four to six men in each gang. The going rate for a section gang worker was $1.25 per day, 10 hours a day, six days a week, and 52 weeks a year ($399.50 per year) to a school teacher’s $400 to $500 a year, or the Superintendent’s (school) annual salary of $1,000. The work was very hard. All leveling and spacing of track involved digging and raking gravel by hand. Ties and rails were moved and set in place by hand. Spikes were driven into the ties with lots of back and arm muscle.

The “Mint Marshes” furnished work for men and high school boys during the spring and summer. Hoeing, weeding and the labors of distilling waited the strong back. The mint had to be cut and transported to large vats where it was pressure cooked to extract the oil.

The heavy cooked-down mint stalks and leaves then had to be removed from the vats. Ten cents an hour and carry your dinner.

Many town people kept a cow and hired a boy in summers to take the cow to pasture in the morning and return to the barn in the evening. Fifty cents to a dollar a week, depending on the distance to the pasture.

There were four passenger trains through Colon daily on the “Air Line” between Jackson and Niles. Eastbound arrived at 7:00 a.m. and noon, and west-bound arrived at non and 9:00 p.m. There was a local freight each way daily, picking up and discharging freight. Every commodity arrived and left Colon by train, even the mail. Each passenger train carried a mail car and mail clerk.

About 1910 autos became more numerous, mostly as a status symbol. There were no hard-surfaced toads and no snowplows. Autos were stored in the garage as soon as the snow fell until the roads were settled after the spring thaw. Horse drawn vehicles were the dependable form of transportation.

The April 25, 1912 issue of the Colon Express carried the following advertisement: “Chas. Hafer Auto Agency in Colon, Leonidas & Matteson Twps. 5 passenger Ford Touring Car, $690 complete with top, windshield and speedometer.”

Historians have labeled the 15 years between 1900 and the beginning of World War I as one of the bright spots in economic history. Wages were low but prices of goods and services were nearer in balance with income. This was the beginning of the transition from “hand and home” power to mechanization  … the introduction of new products and the corresponding growth in production and outlets for the new items. Consequently. Changes in methods, demands, and opportunities began a new cycle that is still going on.