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January, 2017


145 Truck Stop Reopens After 2014 Fire

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LEONI TWSP — The call came at four a.m. the day after Christmas in 2014. Two hours before the 145 Truck Stop was supposed to open that morning it was destroyed by a fire.

“Devastating, just devastating,” said co-owner Kim Miller, recalling that morning when she took the call.  “I’ve got the gray hairs to prove it.”

Co-owners Miller and her sister Deb Helmlinger immediately planned to rebuild the popular truck stop at 6100 Ann Arbor Road.

“We intended on rebuilding the truck plaza from day one,” Miller said.  “I stated on the day of the fire that we would rebuild.”

The 145 Truck Stop reopened earlier this month two years after it burned down on December 26, 2014 in the middle of the night.

Fire officials had determined that the fire wasn’t suspicious; an electrical problem caused the blaze.  Nobody was injured.

The process of reconstruction has been “grueling,” Miller said.  “No one wants to see their livelihood of 23 years go up in smoke and flames.”

Miller said that her family purchased the truck stop in 1991.  She said that it was established in the 50s but the bank foreclosed on the property.  “It was the 145 Truck Plaza with a restaurant, gas and diesel pumps, and a garage.”

In 2002 they acquired the Old Clock Restaurant, using it for office space and eventually converted it to the 145 Family Restaurant in 2015, expanding it to 4,000 square feet with the capacity of 85 diners with a new brick façade, windows, lighting, and freshly paved parking lot.  The fire destroyed the original restaurant at the truck stop.        

“We lived here morning and night, every day,” Miller said.  “We needed to rebuild (the truck stop) in order to get our employees back to work, which, after almost a year they left their other jobs and came back to work for us.  We have been truly blessed with our employees, our customers, and our community.”

The rebuilt 3,600 square foot 145 Truck Stop includes services from Corrigan Oil and Express Stop.  It features Marathon gas and diesel pumps, showers, an ATM, and a convenience store replete with sundries and a beer cave.  It is open 24 hours a day.

“It was hard to swallow a hard pill,” Miller said.  “Faith, family, and community made it so we could get through this.”    

Ice Water Rescue Training

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From burning buildings to freezing bodies of water, firefighters face a bevy of conditions as they try to save victims. There is a lot of training that goes into those rescue operations.

“Something we hope we never have to use” said Assistant Fire Chief Jim Zenz on Saturday. More than 40 firefighters from Grass Lake, Napoleon Township, Summit Township and Liberty Township attended Ice Water Rescue training in Grass Lake on Sunday.

It takes real dedication to give up a Sunday to go jump in a hole in the ice and still tell you “It’s Fun. It’s actually really cool (and not in the cold sense) is what Jorge Zenz and several other firefighters told me on Sunday while standing in the near freezing temperatures at Grass Lake County Park. Hey, the Lions are done, so why not go jump in the icy water?

Chief Greg Jones said their were 19 firefighters, including the cadets, from Grass Lake that attended and were certified. “All of the guys have been through it at least once”. The training is put on by Michigan Rescue Concepts out of Harrison Township. Jones said they try to have the certification training every 2-3 years, however train on the lake and the ice every year to keep it fresh in everyone’s minds.

The training included several hours of classroom work before heading out to the Grass Lake County Park for live training. Firefighters Tom Zenz and Jorge Zenz cut 3 large rectangular holes in the ice about 100 yards off the shore, which was about 7 inches thick.

Each trainee had to be both a rescuer and a victim. The firefighters put on special suits, simply called ice water rescue suits. While the suits are designed to provide some protection from the cold, the most important factor is buoyancy. Once in the water, they trainees had to practice getting out of the water and back to shore by themselves, first without using ice picks, and then with. Later they practiced several types of rescues. Firefighters on the shore, or closer to shore provided rope support to help pull the victim and the rescuer out of the ice and back to shore.

Grass Lake Fire Department has 4 suits, life preservers and ropes designed for water rescues that stay in the rescue trucks. Chief Jones said they have only had to use them twice to the best of his recollection and is happy if it stays that way. The suits can be used for any water rescue, not just during winter season.

Chief Jones said people need to be careful on the lakes, especially with the recent warm weather. This week’s temperature change is likely to cause a loss of 3-4 inches within a matter of days. “Watch yourselves. Watch for ice fishing holes where the ice is thinner. Its good to be careful, cause water moves and takes some of the ice away.”

100 Years Ago

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A Violent Death

The suddenly fatal blow of a swiftly moving interurban orphaned two young Jackson girls last night when it snuffed out the life of the mother, barely in her prime.  Mrs. Jennie Burdick, age 43, West Wesley Street, Jackson, was killed about 5:50 last evening by Grass Lake—Jackson Interurban No. 44. Motorman J. Champlin and Conductor Tyrell were in charge of the car which is due in Jackson at 6 o’clock.

No blame is attached to anyone, Coroner Tibbetts deciding Mrs. Burdick’s death was purely accidental. No inquest will be held.

The woman had been working at the Thomas Falahee home east of Jackson. It was raining last night as she waited for the car to bring her to this city. Her umbrella was raised. The motorman declares he did not see her until within ten feet when he observed her stoop as though to pick up the basket she had. The position brought her head in front of the car. She was struck in the right temple and it is believed killed instantly. The motorman was the only witness.

At first it was thought Mrs. Burdick was merely injured. The Johnson & Gildersleeve ambulance made a run to the scene and it was then it was learned the woman was dead. Sheriff Davis and Coroner Tibbetts were summoned. The body was removed to the Johnson & Gildersleeve undertaking rooms.

The case of the orphaned girls is pathetic. They were cared for last night at the home of an uncle in Leoni but will soon, at their tender years, be forced to face the world alone except for each other. Cora is 15 years of age and is even now preparing herself for the livelihood struggle. She is attending the Jackson Business university, getting ready to be the head of her family of one—her sister, aged 12 years. Both were frantic when the news of the mother’s passing reached them. They are meeting the situation bravely, however.

Mr. Burdick met a violent death about one year ago when he was killed in a hay chute in a barn on a Leoni farm.

Hen House Advice

     Straw is too valuable an asset on any farm to burn. Particularly is it appreciated in the hen house. Use it on the floors, along the walls and overhead. Make the hen house a home for the hens and make it comfortable. Use straw for a loft and the house will be dry. One-inch mesh wire or 1-by-4 boards laid over the rafters and placed about two inches apart will furnish good support. Along the walls, wire serves this purpose very nicely. Lath or burlap bags stretched tightly over studding may also be used.

Always provide the house with a deep litter of straw. It serves as a warm carpet and keeps the birds’ feet off the cold floor. A vent placed in the roof over a straw loft will aid in promoting good ventilation and help keep the house dry.

    (Linda Note:  I have been including several briefs on raising chickens in the 100 Years Ago as I notice that many locals are raising chickens, perhaps for the first time. I hope these tips from the past will help you. Also, if you need straw, the Lockwood farm on Lee Road has straw for sale!)

Advertisement from Clark’s Drug Store, Grass Lake

Dr. Burnham’s SAN-YAK, Vegetable Compound. The Greatest Known Cure for HEART TROUBLE.  Corrects diseases of the blood and body fluid or an      unequal mixture of the elements of the blood and nerve juices or a distemperature when some humor or quality abounds in the blood. Symptoms of diseased blood and body fluids are throat disease, eczema, scrofula and pus formations in the tissues, skin and the vital organs.

Gathered by Linda Lockwood Hutchinson.

100 years ago in Grass Lake

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Outbreak of Cattle Plague 

Detroit—Because of the discovery of suspected cases of foot and mouth disease in several western states, the officials of the Detroit Stock Yards late today placed an embargo on shipments of live stock of all kinds from Kansas, Nebraska or Missouri and from Sioux City, Iowa. The ban also was placed against shipments from other points that would pass through the prohibited district and be watered and fed there. No action has yet been taken toward prohibiting shipments from the Detroit stock yards.

Local and Personal

Useful and fancy articles will be o sale at the Congregational fair, Dec. 8. Home made candy at the fair.

The public schools will close on Wednesday afternoon for the Thanksgiving vacation.     

The Mt. Pleasant church will have a fair and chicken supper next Wednesday evening, Dec. 6th, at the home of Geo. Fry’s. All are invited.

The Grass Lake Farmers’ quartette, consisting of Messrs. Crafts, Cutler, Davis and Dorr will sing for the State Farmers’ Club in the senate chamber at Lansing on Tuesday afternoon, Dec. 5th. This is the second time in succession that the Grass Lake Farmers’ Club has been called upon to loan its quartette to the state organization.

Grass Lake sends 15 boys to the older boys Y.M.C.A. conference to be held in Lansing this week. The boys take a special car at Jackson. About 100 boys will go from Jackson county. Rev. W.A. Cutler, John Lemm and Asst. Scout Master Van Arnum will go with the boys. Will Shelly goes up Sunday to be with the boys on Sunday afternoon and evening. The boys will return Sunday night.

The many friends of Prof. William H. Maybee in this county will be shocked to learn that he lies on his death bed at his home in Detroit from an attack of cancer of the liver. A few years ago he was superintendent of the Grass Lake public schools, and subsequently was the commissioner of schools of Jackson county. He is now an alderman from the ward in which he lives and also one of the commissioners of the Detroit educational system. The professor is a man of profound erudition and of wide scholastic attainments. His death will be greatly regretted, and prove a distinct loss to the interests of learning in Detroit.

Chicken pie supper at the Congregational church, Friday, Dec. 8. Supper will be served from 5 o’clock until all have partaken. Adults 30 cents. Children under 12, 20 cents.

The Farmers Mutual Fire Insurance Co. of Jackson county has paid for losses by fire during the past year $17,976.43. Of this amount $4,320.75 has been paid for losses in Grass Lake. The assessment is $2.00 per $1000.

B.F. Washburn sold to J.C. Kendall 64 hogs which brought $1,085.40. Best  bunch of hogs ever brought to these yards.

Mr. Eugene Carter has resigned is position at the barber shop and has gone to work for the Citizen Press in Jackson.

Mr. Louis Watkins has a new Airdale pup. The Airdales are supposed to be the most aristocratic dogs on earth at the present time.

E.J. Foster and E.L. Croman have returned from their business trip to the southwest. While in Texas they journeyed to ElPaso and arranged to meet Lieut. Palmer, known to Grass Lake friends as Dr. Fay Palmer. The doctor as well as Mr. Mr. Foster and Mr. Croman greatly enjoyed this meeting, the doctor being especially delighted to see some one from home. The doctor being an officer in the army looks as if the service agreed with him but nevertheless he would like to come home.

Gathered by Linda Lockwood Hutchinson.

Houseplant Appreciation

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Houseplant Appreciation Day is always in January.

By this time each January, the holidays are a distant, happy memory. We have put the decorations away. Now, our houses all look kinda plain, and drab inside. As you look around the house, something catches your eye. It’s over there, in the corner of the room. It’s still green, but it sure looks dry. And, its drooping a bit. Why, it’s a houseplant! Funny, but with all of the holiday hullabaloo, you’ve all but forgotten your houseplants.

Today is THE day to get back to tending to, and loving your houseplants. It’s also a day to appreciate just how special and important houseplants are to you. As gardener’s we need to have our hands in some dirt. Caring for them, gives us that opportunity. After all, its a long way to spring, when we can get out into the garden again.

Ways to Celebrate Houseplant Appreciation There are lots of ways to celebrate and enjoy this day. Here’s just a few of them:

Start by making sure that the houseplants you already have, are well watered.

Next, give them a special treat today… a little fertilizer.

If you do not have any houseplants, or just have a couple, buy a new houseplant (or two)

Learn more about the benefits of houseplants to your health.

Stand by your houseplant and breath in the air! It’s giving off oxygen… just for you!.

Teach your kids about growing and caring for plants.

Give a houseplant to a friend, especially the elderly or shut-ins.

Talk to your plants. Yes, people believe plants respond positively, when you talk to them.

Most of all, have fun, enjoying a long winter day spending quality time with your houseplants!

Local Musician Still Performing

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Local musician Paul Schmitt recalls his first professional music gig in 1973 when he was 16 years old.  “It was a four-piece wedding band. We played almost every weekend at private parties and wedding receptions.  I met a ton of people and had lots of fun.”

Nineteen seventy-three was a great year for classic rock.  Some of popular music’s biggest names released their seminal chart toppers: “Band on the Run” by Wings, The Allman Brothers Band’s “Rambling Man”, and “Piano Man” written by Billy Joe, the Piano Man himself.  Lynyrd Skynyrd  cut “Free Bird”  as a nine-minute single in ’73 and had the Stars and Bars to Back it up.   

In his salad days Schmitt was influenced by more progressive artists like Emerson, Lake, and Palmer, and Elton John.  Schmitt associated himself with talented lyricists and composers with whom he played piano and electric keyboards on many recording sessions.  “Rock tunes, blues and jazz, and other miscellaneous musical stuff,” he says.

Today he has a standing gig at the Sand Hill Crane Vineyards in Jackson where he plays classic rock songs and bluesy chart busters.  The keys,” he says, “are my comfort zone.  I see myself as an improvisationalist along the lines of music from classical to the ridiculous.”

On Sunday he plays his baby grand piano and sings tunes from memory from two to five.  He prefers the acoustic piano to the electric models, which he likens to “a chocolate malt without the malt.”  His melodic, fluid style perfectly compliments his improvisatory approach to the classics he cut his teeth on.

Age 59 and sporting a handlebar mustache that brushes his clavicles, Schmitt says he “doesn’t do the bar scenes anymore.  I’m a little too old for that.  The late night stuff gets old when you’re getting home at three in the morning.”

Schmitt’s hands are useful in other ways besides music.  A Grass Laker for 30 years, he takes care of his one-horse horse farm and owns P.L Schmitt Carbide Tooling on Drake Street in the Village.  Twenty years active in the music scene, he says he found it necessary to take time off to raise kids, “with an occasional performance and some church stuff.”

Prior to the set Schmitt and I recognized each other though we’d never met.  He was impressed with my knowledge of classic rock, of tracks cut on vinyl when I was in diapers.  What can I say?  “Hey, hey, my, my, rock ‘n’ roll can never die,” Neil Young sung.  I’m ever bit the aficionado of the red, white, and the blues.  Even Bob Dylan, a complete musical being and a Nobel Prize winner, wrote poetry, cinema scores and toured with a full symphony.  The one who chases the muse has the ability to scale any wall.

During a break in his set Schmitt sipped cherry wine and told me that he once took piano instruction from an old blind jazz musicians.  “You learned how to play piano from Ray Charles?  No!”  Schmitt wouldn’t say.  He asked me how old I was.  “I was born in 1971.”  He hopped back onto the stage and slid behind the keys, played a birthday song for me, “Turn the Page,” Bob Seeger’s 1971 hit single, better than another year older.

I’ve always loved live music.  The first concert I attended was AC/DC at the Hartford Civic Center in Connecticut where I grew up.  I was sweet 16, too.  By the grace of the Hammer of the Gods my friends and I got great tickets, second row, center stage and watched an ugly little man in a schoolboy outfit impersonate Chuck Berry.  My ears rang for four days.  If it’s too loud you’re too old, some old star, Ozzie Osborne or Martin Scorsese, said.    

A waitress brought Paul his tip jar but he commandeered her to hold his harmonica for him while he performed “Piano Man.”  Music lovers, thrill seekers, and septuagenarians enjoy Schmitt’s routines.  He takes his music seriously but he doesn’t take himself too seriously.

“I took a lot of lessons to learn to play,” Schmitt says, “to read sheet music and learn the scales.  I’ve been taking lessons all my life.”

Paul Schmitt performs solo on the piano regularly at Sand Hill Crane Vineyards in Jackson.  His personal website is  For scheduled events at the Vineyards go to

GL Fire Department Report

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Fire Chief Greg Jones presented the Township Board with his monthly report for December 2016 at the Grass Lake Charter Township Meeting.

Medical Calls: 22

Structure Fires: 0

Vehicle Accidents: 0

Fire Alarms: 0

Vehicle Fires: 1

Gas Leaks/Fuel Spills: 1

Open Burning: 0

Total of 24 calls within Grass Lake Charter Township

The average response time was 8.89 minutes (this includes automatic aid and mutual aid response times) and the average miles from the fire station was 4.1 miles.

Calls by Shift:

1st shift: 15

2nd shift: 8

3rd shift: 4

1 Automatic Aid was provided to Napoleon Township.

3 Mutual Aid runs were given.