On our new Hartford web site, Webmaster Emma Sefcik has
a group of old Hartford homes. One was not labeled, and Emma said
she would like to have it identified. That is the old Gleason
House, once located north of Main Street right about where the new
water tower stands. How do I know its name? Well, that is what
it was always called. In fact, Marion and I lived there for the
first year we were married. It was called the Gleason House then.
I believe it was built by Henry Gleason, an
early Hartford merchant. He came to Hartford and first built the store
that still stands on the northeast corner of Hartford's only traffic
light. It has seen various incarnations...a battery shop and gas
station, poolroom, furniture store owned by Eddie and Mary Jane Grant's
folks. Now, it is Huffman's Furniture.
On the side fronting Main Street, there is
still a door on the second floor. It opened up on a wooden balcony.
Here, Treva Garrett and her boyfriend stood one summer day to watch an
approaching thunderstorm. The balcony collapsed, sending them to the
street below. The young man came out unscathed, but Treva spent some
months in traction with a broken back. After recovering, she went on
to a long nursing career.
On North Center Street's west side stood an
old saloon owned by George Harley. Gleason bought it, moved it up to
Main Street. On its old site, he built his new house. Finally,
he needed more room, so he again moved the saloon down near the Theater.
In its place, he built the store he finally sold to Hubbards, and which
later became Abrams. For a time the old saloon was a battery and
tire shop owned by Arlene Hurley Ward's family. Then, it became Van
Liere's Shoe Repair Shop. Thus, it remained until it was torn down
and became part of the restaurant that was once the Midget.
All of my childhood, we had our shoes fixed in
Van Liere's. His prices were very reasonable. When I clerked
in the A&P Store, just east of there as a high school student, Bick
Beckwith was shining shoes in Van Liere's. The 8th wonder of the world is
that either of us was fit to go to Crystal Palace on a Saturday night.
Bick's hands were covered with shoe polish; and, as the newest clerk in
the A&P, I had to clean the fish case before closing.
During WW11, John and Kay Paulus moved to
Hartford from Bangor. Here he opened a hardware and auto supply in
the old Knapp building, which was just west of Hubbard's, Gleason's second
store. John and Kay also bought the Gleason house, just north of
Main Street and the parking lot. They had an apartment on the second
When I returned from the war, I needed a job.
I was just knocking around, waiting for Marion to finish nurses training.
So, I started working in John's store. He was good to me, but it was
a job without much future. When I enrolled at Western Michigan
University, I still clerked for John part time.
The summer before we were to be married, we
were looking for a place to rent. John and Kay offered us the
upstairs apartment in the Gleason House. It was in disrepair, but
John said he would furnish paint and materials if we would fix it up.
So we did...with the help of our families. When we were married in
October, that place looked like a little jewel.
After that, while Marion worked as office
nurse for Dr. Carl F. Boothby on S. Center Street, a bunch of us guys
drove over to Western for classes each day. We were a real outfit,
each wearing our uniform remnants. But we were preparing for the
Two summers I got a job in a Benton Harbor factory.
A good friend of ours, John Robertson, also worked there and we rode
together. One afternoon he stopped in front of the old Gleason
House, and as I got out, John said, "Gee,
I wish I had a nice little wife at home, busily opening cans!"
I laughed as I climbed the stairs.
All over Hartford, older homes were being
converted into apartments for returning GIs and their families. In
our neighborhood, the Stebbins house (just south of our present post
office) and the Simpson house (right where the new bank now stands) bulged
with new young couples, busily starting their lives.
We have happy memories from those
days...get-togethers for our friends, many of whom were not yet married.
One day we held an impromptu party for some close friends after their
If you look closely at
(Pat Bachman Empson's) picture of the old Gleason House, you can see a
hitching rail running along between the house and the parking lot behind
the stores. Sometimes horses were even hitched to it at that time.
One of our friends left the party that day.
His car was in the parking lot, and he ran across the yard carrying a
bottle of some kind of cola in one hand.
He yelled back, "Watch
me jump right over that hitching rail!"
And he did so. Well, he made it, but the bottle
he was carrying splattered all over the parking lot. Days of Glory!