Archived Story

Childhood shenanigans in Dowagiac

Published 5:03pm Thursday, March 6, 2014

How many remember when the point after a touchdown was made by a drop-kick, and no one held the ball for the kicker?

I’ll never forget the day I fell into Whit Pond when ice fishing with my friend Butch Bournay. Butch finally pulled me out with a large branch he found on the island.

If I recall, Joe Louis, who was known as the “Brown Bomber” used to come to a resort out at Whit Pond, and I know he was once here at Dowagiac at the old Gibbs farm up on a hill by our old Mill Pond on M62 West.

It was back in the 1930s, but I can remember when Jesse Owens was here in Dowagiac and he raced off Walt Eagle on his motorcycle. Jesse was the Olympic winner in Germany in 1936. He was billed as the world’s fastest human. I was there, but don’t recall who the winner was. I remember they raced from home plate to the ball diamond out in left field to a big oak tree. We kids at the old Oak Street School used to watch Walt Engle work on his Piper Cub airplane in his backyard. He had to take the wings off to bring it into town and get it into his backyard. Walt also made an ice boat out of an airplane motor and a propeller. I wonder how many can remember those old penny dispensers at the gas stations and small businesses. I recall some of these had Boston baked beans, burnt roasted peanuts and salted ones. Some had gumballs. Some had little charms, like animals and other things. The charms had a little loop, and you could sew them on your skull cap. I still have a glass coffee jar full of these charms. A lady told me that she had figured out how many peanuts you used to get for your penny, and it wasn’t very many.

Years ago Dowagiac had a P.N.A. basketball team that played in the city league with other teams like Heddon, Round Oak, Elks, Merchants and others.

Some of the boys who played there include Bob Jessup, Danny Brosnam, Jim Jessup, Garret Struckland, and a Pond, Moore, Griffis and others.

Some of the names played on the city baseball team. I remember “Doggie” Andrews was the umpire back when we had a city league.

Back in the days when Dowagiac got large snowfalls like our recent one, we kids headed out with our snow shovels on our shoulders looking for a prospective snow-shoveling job. Many a day this winter I would have liked to seen a young whipper snapper with a shovel on his back looking for work. But not my luck. I didn’t see one.

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

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