Rockford Area Historical Society News and Updates for January 5th, 2017

By TERRY KONKLE; President

Greg Wisz contacted me with information concerning Myers Lake Park. His grandfather, William Eddington, who was born in 1898, used to watch baseball games at the ball diamond there. Probably in the 1920’s and perhaps 1930’s his grandfather would drive out to the park from either Grand Rapids or Muskegon, two places where he lived, and observe games or play in them. Greg said “ Many times as we drove by Myers Lake, my grandfather would reminisce on the good times he and his friends had at the park”. He went on to say this about the many times he has driven past it. “I have lived in Rockford nearly all of my life and have never seen any activity around Myers Lake, but I have often thought about what used to happen there many years ago.” My thanks to Greg for sharing his thoughts.

Several times a year, I talk with 1943 Rockford High School graduate John Oatley. His father was a 1914 Rockford graduate and his mother, Dorothy Sears, received her diploma in 1915. The Oatley family stayed in Rockford, so John grew up in our town, and he has many memories and much knowledge to share. Readers may recall from previous columns that the family was in the grocery business and also owned and ran the Rockford movie theater. John now resides in the state of Washington and in the past year has recorded and sent to the Rockford Area Museum (RAM) several tapes which detail his family history.

When I talked with John last week, he told me many details of our town as he remembered it, and I am going to present a few of them for readers to enjoy. Let’s start with the movie theater. It was called the “Star Theater” and was located on the east side of Main Street across from where “Car Care” is today. John asked if I knew why the street is wider there. It was because the theater sold pop corn outside and cars could drive up and buy it without stopping traffic. He also told me that there was a building behind Sears-Coon that had a furnace in it with pipes leading to the theater and other buildings to heat them.

For a time John’s father owned the building that now houses the “ Rogue River Tavern” on the northeast corner of Main and Bridge Streets. To the east on Bridge Street there was a bowling alley (approximately where it is today – 2016). John asked if I had ever heard about what happened to the bowling lanes when the location was used for something different for a time. “They took up the boards of the lanes and stored them in the attic area of “Burch Body Works” he said. Can any readers add more to this like what happened to them later. We also talked of other businesses in Rockford including car dealerships, gas stations, restaurants, drug stores and the post office. It was located on the south side of Courtland Street near the middle of the block between Main and Monroe.

To discuss history with people like John Oatley is always a positive, learning experience. It is also great that the RAM has a project called “Ram Memories” in which interviews are recorded of people sharing their knowledge. These video/audio tapes are available for viewing or purchase at the museum. Many, like John, have been recorded, and the project keeps going.

Finally, I want to thank John and others for contacting me and taking the time to discuss their knowledge. I always enjoy it and encourage others to take part. Also, remember to let me know your questions, comments, suggestions, concerns and especially any corrections. Have a great week!