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Remember When is a column that was run in The Fenton Independent. Here are a few interesting stories for your enjoyment.

Fenton Independent Thursday Oct. 15, 1959

Remember When

Star and Snow Ran Away to the Fire
With the Toonerville Trolley Behind

By Sumner E. Thompson

The Toonerville Trolley was the old bus that met all the trains, and there were four of them in those days, I believe, two each way. This bus was constructed with seats along the sides and the entrance at the rear. It was very high and the driver's seat was at the very top front of course.

I often thought it would be no place for one with high blood pressure or one inclined to dizziness. It was quite a distance from that seat down to where the horses were.

There was no neck yoke, just a chain leading from the end of the tongue to the horse's collar. This gave the old bus a tendency to sway a bit when under high speed which was very seldom.

There were many traveling men on the road in those days and the trains just had to be met. I believe these men were called "Drummer."

Although there were three other hotels in operation at the time, the Fenton House (now Hotel Fenton) was the only one that met the trains.

Robert Casement was the noon clerk and was connected with the hotel for so many years that he seemed like a part of it and also of the old bus. I can see him now taking his afternoon nap in the back of the bus while waiting for the afternoon train.

The motive power for this bus was furnished by two semi-retired horses. They were getting along in years and were no longer let out on long trips. They could show a great deal of life at times though.

THE VILLAGE COUNSIL issued permits to the liveryman and the various draymen to hitch onto the fire apparatus in case of fire.

The first one to get there got the wagon which paid ten dollars, The ladder wagon, being lighter, only paid six dollars, so there was always a horse race whenever there was a fire.

Of course it was worth running for. A five year old boy couldn't carry ten dollars worth of groceries in those days.

Old Star and Snow were used for this fire engine work. When the alarm sounded, they took off for the village fire station then located on Leroy street directly across from the Methodist church.

One afternoon over at the depot, Bob was taking his usual nap and the horses appeared to be just as sound asleep at least until the fire alarm sounded. the horses were the first to awaken and they took off for the fire station.

CASEMENT was trapped in the bus. The horses were running so fast he couldnt get off the bus, and he couldnt reach the lines. It wouldn't have done any good if he could. He wouldn't have been able to stop them. The driver was in the baggage room when they took off.

By the time Casement and the horses got to the fire station, he was just about a nervous wreck.

The other employee of the Charles Eddy livery, which was located on Leroy street directly across from the hotel, anticipated what would happen when he heard the fire alarm, so he rode another horse to the fire station and met old Star and Snow. He hitched them onto the hose wagon and won the ten dollars.

If my memory serves me correctly, the Smith brothers were working for Mr. Eddy at that time. Oh no, not of cough drop fame. These boys were about 25 or 26 years of age and I suspect they shaved once or twice per week. I wonder where they are today, as I do many people I formerly knew.


The Grain Elevator

From an article in The Flint Journal April 3, 1980
By Alice Lethbridge / Journal Staff Writer

The Grain Elevator was built in 1865 by J.R. Mason. By 1879, it was handling more than 100,000 bushels of wheat annually, according to the "History of Genesee County" by Franklin Ellis.

After it was sold to Burdick Poter around 1885, the property was operated as a coal and wood yard. In 1922 the Michigan Bean Co., later a division or Wickes Corp. of Saginaw, bought it. The elevator was closed in 1974. Three years later, Wickes sold the elevator and a concrete addition to the City of Fenton for about $4,000.

The Michigan Craft and Artisan Foundation, incorporated in 1978, bought the elevator that year and started renovation. Seven shops are in operation and another three will open May 1.


The Purple Gang

Tri County Times
By Jan Rynearson

Infamous gang once vacationed locally

Mobsters known to stay on Case's Island, also owned Fenton farm

When things became too hot in the Motor City, members on the infamous Purple Gang once sought the tri county area as a place of retreat.
They were known to have occupied a farm and home south of Fenton on Allen Road, just west of Parshallville, and they reportedly stayed in a cottage on Lake Fenton's Case's Island.

The gang, which was prominent in Detroit in the 1920's and 30's was among the most vicious of the Prohibition era bootlegging groups.

Mildred Biller Roe, a Parshallville resident, remembers the days when the gangsters lived down the road from her grandparents, Ben and Hattie Nagel of Allen Road. "They lived a mile east of the house where the Purple Gang lived," said Roe. "My grandparents bought the Israel Parshall farm and it was in 1932-33 that I first visited them on weekends. and off and on all summer long."

Roe said it was common knowledge in the area that the "organization" owned the farm, but most folks figured everything was all right as long as everyone minded their own business, she said.

It was a working farm with a manager and caretakers. There were cattle and chickens. They threshed and put up hay in the silo. "It was a good front." said Roe of the activities. The house and farm was maintained beautifully. The white house had green shutters and there was a white fence with green finials, according to Roe. "You would see people come and go. The men were dressed casually, but you knew they weren't farm hands - they didn't wear overalls. And they drove big black cars." Roe said. Those that frequented the house, traded in the village. Roe remembers her grandfather stopping one of the bolting horses with a hay wagon from the farm.

Rose was the "lady of the house" who was classy, wore beautiful clothes and always looked "spiffy," said Roe. But she was lonely and Roe's grandmother befriended her, according to Roe. "Although the Purple Gang was mostly Jewish, Rose was Catholic and attended church at nearby St. Augustine's. Grandmother went to church with her occasionally," said Roe.

Bonnie Mathis of Fenton, who has a summer cottage on Case's Island, says that Purple Gang members stayed at a cottage on the island now owned by Larry Dion.

This mob was headed by Beeny and Joe Bernstein and Harry and Louis Fleisher, who were believed to have close ties with Cleveland Syndicate figures Moe Dalitz and Chuck Polizzi. Other prominent members of the Purple Gang were Abe Axler and Ed Fletcher.

Detroit played a central role in bootlegging because it served as the center for illegal liquor shipped across the border from Canada.

The Purple Gang, alleged to have been responsible for at least 500 murders, competed with the Little Navy Mob. The Detroit group was so notorious that three of them, George Lewis and brothers Phil and Harry Keywell, were alleged to have been borrowed by Chicago gangster Al Capone to help with the St. Valentine's Day Massacre. Capone is said to have had his head hancho, Frank Nitti, contact Abe Bernstein, a Capone ally, and head of the Purple Gang to help with arrangements for the "hit."

In addition to murder and bootlegging, the Purple Gang was said to be involved in hijacking, extortion, jewel robberies and drugs.

The Purple Gang joined the national crime syndicate in the 1930's under the leadership of Lucky Luciano and Meyer Lansky, and played a key role in the crime cartel's gambling operations.

Although the gang was notorious throughout the country, when in the area they were "low key" and attempted to be inconspicuous.

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