Jo-Ann Boepple: A fitting tribute to ‘Pauly’

Published 8:31 pm Monday, June 6, 2011

On Memorial Day, the Edwardsburg Museum honored Paul Mayhew with the Dr. John B. Sweetland Award in a ceremony in front of the museum.

boepplePaul Mayhew exemplified all of the attributes that Sweetland possessed and it was a fitting tribute to honor Mayhew and also to the memory of Dr. John Sweetland.

Sweetland was one of the founding fathers of Edwardsburg and was committed to “his village.” He was a medical doctor and surgeon, served with the Michigan Infantry during the Civil War and was editor and owner of this newspaper.

His office still stands on Main Street and is now an antique store. It looks much the same as it did in Sweetland’s day.

Mayhew was a deserving recipient of the award. He has served this community for more than 50 years. His establishment has been in the same location all of those years.

He was a part of Main Street just as Sweetland’s newspaper office.

Along on Main Street with the Mayhew Funeral Home was Manchow Hardware, Merle Claire’s Barber Shop, Morse’s grocery store, the post office, the Uptown Tavern, Marge Taylor’s restaurant next to Pabreza’s Sinclair Station and two drugstores.

Merle Claire was the only town barber and it was a well-known fact that these two became friends. A free verse was written about them in a book of poetry called “Wolf Lake White Gown Blown Open,” written by Diane Seuss, the granddaughter of Merle Claire:


Hey Pauly

It was the barber and the undertaker who got into the heart

Of the village earlier than even the firemen and the pharmacist

The barber would call hey Pauly that’s what he called Paul

The undertaker and they’d head for Marge Taylor’s place

For coffee and maybe a poached egg or a fried cake

Thrown hot into a paper bag with some sugar and then

Marge would shake it and stick her hand down in and lift

It out and present it to them like a magic trick it was said

The barber had the eye for her his own wife home scaling

Fish or picking the pinfeathers out of a goose or washing

The storm windows with white vinegar bye Pauly the barber

Would say as they parted on the street each to face his own

Kind of work and although they were such good friends

The undertaker never asked the barber to style the hair

Of the dead but he came in every two weeks for a shave

And a trim and never paid nor did he charge the barber’s

Widow for his services a few years later the washing

And the dressing and the steel comb through what

Hair was left. that’s how things worked out between them.

Suess is a writer in residence at Kalamazoo College. The University of Massachusetts wrote this about her poetry:

“Diane Seuss’s poems grow out of the fertile soil of southwest Michigan, bursting any and all stereotypes of the Midwest and turning loose characters worthy of Faulkner in their obsession, their suffering, their dramas of love and sex and death. The first section of this collection pays homage to the poet’s roots in a place where the world hands you nothing and promises less, so you are left to invent yourself or disappear. From there these poems both recount and embody repeated acts of defiant self-creation in the face of despair, loss and shame, and always in the shadow of annihilation.”

I think Sweetland would have appreciated this glimpse into the lives of these two men, thanks to granddaughter Diane Suess.