Archived Story

Did Dowagiac ever have an organ grinder?

Published 9:43pm Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Here is a memory of the past,  sitting on top of our big curved china cabinet that was given to my mother years ago from Sally Clynch, who was one of the two of our Dowagiac librarians.
As I remember, Mrs. Clynch had two of these that were filled with her salt and pepper collection.
When she decided to sell her collection was when mother was given one of her beautiful china cabinets and, as an afterthought, Glen Grady and son George transferred it to our house very carefully.
As I said, sitting on top of it is something I’ve kept all these many years, our old fancy clock that we had before I was born in 1930.
In the 1930s, it sat on our dining room sideboard or, as some say, buffet. This clock used to have a pretty sound as it struck every hour and every half hour.
I remember as a kid how lucky you were if you were chosen “monitor” to clean the dust out of the chalk board erasers.
They say a forked stick of cherry wood is the best for water dousing, but apple wood works pretty well also.
Did Dowagiac ever have an organ grinder man with a monkey that held a tin cup for folks to put in a coin? (I never heard of one.)
When my Aunt Emmy Baker lived with us for years before she died at age 84, she had a talent of taking her little ladies hanky and folding it to make it into a bunny with lace-tipped ears.
She could fold and roll it another way and it was transformed into a baby in a blanket.
I hate to say this, but when you are the grocery store and ask the bagger, please don’t make the sacks too heavy for us old folks.
Nine out of 10 must be hard of hearing because you will probably find a bag containing maybe a half gallon of milk, a large 7-Up bottle and whatever else they can get in the sack. Oh well, one can’t win, can one?
I guess everyone knows “the boarding house reach.”
Hey, if you want to get the last ounce out of your ketchup bottle, invert the bottle in a small glass cup overnight.
I wonder if any ladies of this day and age know how to “tat” like my Aunt Emma used to do.
She used to tat lace edging that was sewn on her fancy ladies hankies.
Remember back in the day of those old clamp-on roller skates, if you lost your skate key you had to improvise by using your dad’s pliers to fasten the skates on your shoes.
I remember when one of our friends used to call them “fitting’ days” when it was sunny and dry.
Here is something I’ve kept in my brain these many years. I was going over to the 3-R food store on N. Front for a pint of Sealtest ice cream in the round container it came in. I always thought it was the best there was in the 1940s.
I found out the word “kamikaze” means “divine wind.” It was named after a typhoon that sank an enemy fleet.

“Cardinal Charlie” Gill writes a nostalgic weekly column about growing up in the Grand Old City. E-mail him at

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