A glance in the rearview mirror: Decembers in years gone by and a special thanks to Genealogical Society

by Mary Jo David

Author’s Note: The “Rearview Mirror” columns depend on access to the historical newspaper archives that were previously kept on aging microfilm at the Stockbridge Community Library. To the delight of this author and, it’s safe to say, anyone who requires access to old newspaper articles at the Library, the Ingham County Genealogical Society recently took on a project to convert all of the old newspaper microfilm to digital (i.e., computer readable) .PDF files. Halleluiah! Not only is it faster and easier to access these portable files from any USB-compatible flash drive, but the files are also much clearer and more readable to the average eye compared to their microfilm predecessors. Special thanks to the Ingham County Genealogical Society for its efforts and to Stockbridge resident Rhoda McVay who donated funds to help make this conversion a reality.

  • As reported in the Dec. 19, 1995, Town Crier: “MEAP scores, the need for a new bus, and a $4 million dollar bond election were among the topics discussed at the December 11, 1995 regular meeting of the Stockbridge Community Schools Board of Education.” While attempting to make the case for the bond, Director of Transportation Mary Lowe described how a bus with 231,000 miles on it, used to transport kindergartners to and from school, had broken down 13 times in a 90-day period.
  • The Dec 19, 1995 Town Crier also also carried a feature story about Hickory Ridge, a local farm on M-106 in Gregory.
    • The article reported that the farm has been in the Topping family since Gordon Topping’s dad, Norman, purchased the farm in 1928.
    • At the time the article was written, the Toppings milked 300 cows and worked about 900 acres to keep the cows in corn and hay.
    • Also in the article, “[Gordon] Topping informed us about another bit of local history. ‘Back in the 40s, my dad, Martin Hannewald, and Ted Fay organized the Stockbridge Artificial Insemination Association. It was one of the first ones. Jerry Runciman Sr. did the insemination.’ Martin Hannewald added to this local legend. ‘Yes, I was Secretary-Treasurer of the Association for 41 years. And Jerry—well, he was the fastest inseminator in the country.’”
    • Along with interesting facts about the hard work of dairy farming, the history of Holstein cows, and the disease susceptibility of dairy cattle, the article described government efforts in 1986 to implement a “whole herd buyout” in the area to reduce the amount of milk on the market. This left Hickory Ridge as one of the few dairy farms remaining in the area.

  • The Dec. 2, 1920, issue of the Stockbridge Brief-Sun carried an international story headlined, “Russian Gold Sent to Canada.” The story described the unusual transfer of millions of dollars of Russian gold bullion from a Japanese warship to a Canadian cruiser during a “near-gale…and the precious freight was transferred between heaves of rollers” off the Canadian Pacific coast. Upon docking in Canada, the bullion was unloaded and rushed “across Canada in a heavily guarded special train, disguised as a silk express.” After arriving in Ottowa, sleighs backed up to the train and the gold was again unloaded and, this time, taken to the mint. The story had previously been published in the Victoria Colonist “as part of the hitherto untold history of the World War.” (Of course, back then they were referring to World War I.)
  • Not unlike today, back in 1920 local merchants were struggling to compete with outside influences. In the same Dec. 2, 1920, issue was a story headlined: The Community vs. the Merchant. “Many merchants in smaller towns are unable to successfully compete with the mail-order houses or with the city merchant.” The article coached small businesses in how to win local business.
    • #1: The small dealer “has the means of acquainting his customers with his ability to meet their needs. He has a better medium in the local newspaper than the big merchant…because the small merchant is a part of the community and his advertisements in the town paper carry more weight than does the catalog.”
    • #2: The small dealer is “just as able to offer to redeem or exchange any goods not giving satisfaction. Often…he fails to state it.”
    • #3: Most importantly, “The big merchant does not possess. And never can. The opportunity to meet his customers face to face. The chance to make his personality and individuality count.”

And at the risk of sounding self-serving, the article also mentions, “A judicious use of the home paper will prove to be the merchants’ most profitable investment.”

  • Under the headline School Notes, the same issue of the Stockbridge Brief Sun recapped a “very delightful class party” held at the home of Miss Helen Ives.
    • “Games, new and old, made the guests forget their troubles over the swiftly approaching report cards.”
    • “The evening was brought to a pleasing end with a program of music and recitations as follows: Piano Solo, Lenora Tisch; Reading, Helen Ives; Piano Solo, Miss LaMore (rendered with the nose); Humorous Story, Raymond Dewey; Whistling Solo, Mrs. Hazel Ives Styles.”


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