Do you remember Cross Street trailer camp?Published 9:11pm Wednesday, January 9, 2013
It seems lately I’ve had a few calls from folks looking for information on old Dowagiac things.
I had a call from the library not long ago from Joke Eller and wife from Winston-Salem, N.C.
They had been in town and were looking for anything about the old trailer camp on Cross Street.
They had been out to the college museum and Steve Arseneau didn’t know anything about it. Nobody at the library did, either, so the girls told him to call me.
He did and I said yes, I remember it and it was only two blocks from my house on Orchard Street.
It was put in an empty field that ran from the corner of West Wayne and Cross streets. It ran north to Prairie Ronde Street.
There was just one house on the corner of Wayne and Cross streets. It is still there. Herb Phillipson at one time in his early years lived in this house; also, Delmer Emmons and Bruce Phillips, as I recall.
On the block of Cross there were just empty fields on both sides of the block. Larry Reshore and I used to dig holes in these vacant fields on both sides of Cross Street. Now these lots are full of houses.
This trailer camp consisted of a bunch of government Army drab-box-like buildings.
They were put there for the folks who came up from the south to work in the Kaiser Frazer factory in the Round Oak building.
They were making bomber wheels in the foundry and it was a hot job pouring the magnesium.
I’ve written about the magnesium fire in the dump in a column before.
Peg and I were just leaving when I got the call from Mr. Eller and I didn’t get to see him, but he said he would like a book.
One of the girls got on the phone and said she would come to pick up the book if I would have one signed and dated.
So I did, and it wasn’t too long before I got a big Thank You Cardinal Charlie card with a beautiful red cardinal bird on the cover. He made this on his computer.
On the back of the card was a small picture of the trailers on Cross Street. It was written trailer camp Dowagiac, Mich.
Mr. Eller sad in the fall of 1943, his dad got a job at K-F and his family came to Dowagiac in a 1931 Chevrolet.
His dad was drafted in 1944 and rode the train back to North Carolina.
Joe told about how traumatized he and his brother were when they were taken into the ladies side of the bathhouse because there were no tubs in the men’s side.
He also told of his brother Emery, who lost his pocketknife when he dropped it into one of the cracks in the wooden sidewalks of the camp.
He said Emery would sure like to get it back if some boy found it after the camp was dismantled. I don’t think so, as it was many years ago. I’ve tried to find some of my old Dowagiac friends who remembered the trailer camp on Cross. No luck.
I was never at the place to know it had wooden sidewalks.
A friend of mine who had a daughter with a house on Cross Street said they had a garden in the back lot of this house and a sewer pipe went through this lot.
Even Jim Snow couldn’t find a building permit for the camp.
I’m sure that there had to be articles about it in maybe the Daily News in 1941 or 1942 and maybe some pictures, but I can’t handle the microfilm of the old Daily News papers at the library.
— “Cardinal Charlie” Gill
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