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Cardinal Charlie: First interurban car brought beer in Oct. 1941

Published 10:45pm Wednesday, September 19, 2012

In 1911, as the band played, a group gathered on South Front Street in October to greet the first interurban car.

The line ran from Dowagiac to Eau Claire and Benton Harbor. It also stopped at Indian Lake.

The first car, No. 77, was a new one purchased for the Dowagiac line.

The motorman was Charles Knapp of Dowagiac.

In the cargo were five cases of beer purchased in Benton Harbor.

1901: President William McKinley was assassinated on Sept. 14.

Dowagiac named its new elementary school on First Avenue for him in 1904.

1945: Caruso’s sold their ice cream business to Lyle’s Dairy.

1928: Dowagiac adopted “Chieftains” as the nickname for its sports teams.

I was only 8 years old in 1938 when Lee State Bank dissolved. Way back then, I had a savings bank from there shaped like a leather-bound book, but over the years mine disappeared (sure wish it hadn’t).

1941: E. Root Fitch camp was established at Cable Lake for Dowagiac’s school kids.

1946: On Aug. 14, Dowagiac had a Victory Day celebration planned by the VFW. Orla Pence said there would be a band concert in the park, followed by a snake dance led by VFW Commander Joe Parker, but it seems the boys at the VFW refused and preferred to celebrate in their own way.

There was a band concert led by Albert Wenglarski, interspersed by three solos by Sidney Jenkins, Millierene Archer and Mrs. Clair Gwilt.

Coming home from China were two combat veterans, Eugene Mather and Harry (Peggy) Willis, who had served on Okinawa.

How many remember the emergency housing units erected across from McKinley School for veterans’ families during the housing emergency? Twenty-five of these had already been applied for. Bush Lambert was chairman of the committee. They were to rent for $30 a month. They were to be disposed of by the city after the housing emergency (I myself don’t remember these houses).

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

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