Archived Story

Cardinal Charlie: Remember downtown drinking fountains?

Published 11:12am Thursday, April 4, 2013

A lot of younger Dowagiac residents who have been reading my columns won’t know about a lot in this article, but may find it interesting for my memories of what I can remember from my earlier years.
We used to have several drinking fountains downtown. Two I remember were little white porcelain ones. One was at the corner of the Savings and Loan building, the other was in front of Howard Goodsell’s store on Front Street.
Another was located in the war monument at Front and Main, which has the little cannon in back of it now.
There was another fountain in front of our old fire station on Division.
There were penny weighing scales. Two were in front of Goodsell’s store. Another was in front of Woolworth’s.
There used to be a miniature golf course on the southeast corner of Orchard and Spruce.
The city jail was dark and dingy and sat behind the fire station. It held local drunks and let bums and hobos sleep.
Michigan Central Railroad had a freight house and there were pens near it to hold cattle until they shipped out.
The depot was a busy place as lots of trains used to stop here and lots of freight trains passed through each day.
Merle Loher, the ticket agent, used to hand up messages to train engineers on a long stick as they flew by.
Mail was brought to Dowagiac by train — not like trucks do now.
At the depot was the Railway Express office run by “Babe” Free.
Lawrence Mangold drove the big, green delivery truck.
There was a man who used to take bags of mail from the depot to the post office each day and I remember he had a gun he carried on his side.
I can remember those big, wheeled baggage carts parked in the open way between the two ends of the depot.
I can remember when Ray Schryer, Grove Myrkle, Mr. Linderman and several other mailmen used to deliver our mail twice a day, morning and afternoon. And guess what? Only three cents for our stamps.
To get ice for our old wooden icebox, we put our ice card in the window asking for 25 or 50 pounds. We kids used to chase the ice truck to get little chips off the block.
Also, we had cards we put in the window for Modern cleaners and the Hostess bread man when we wanted them to stop.
Quite common in my early days were door-to-door salesmen. One was the Fuller Brush man with his big supply of brushes. There used to be a man who came door to door selling hominy and horseradish out of stainless-steel-covered pails.
Also, Francis Magin used to sell his home-grown produce from door to door with a wheelbarrow.

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

Editor's Picks