Days gone by: Bob Griffin remembers

By Bruce Micinski Lake County Historical Society

Retired U.S. Forest Service surveyor, Bob Griffin, has been a long time member of the Lake County Historical Society. Bob is in his nineties now and has decided to make Crystal River, Florida, his permanent home. Bob’s father, Fred Griffin, was foreman for the construction of the U.S. Forest service ranger homes which now house our museum.

Over the last month Bob has been sending me mail pertaining to various memories he has gathered over the years. These short notes have a title, and as Bob says they are as accurate as he recalls or may have been told! I would like to share a few of his memories.

Baldwin Municipal Airport: The airport property was given to the village of Baldwin around 1932. A small airport was built but hardly used until after World War II. Don Patti, a Navy pilot started a flight school to train locals. He built a small school, storage area and radio control room. He also had a hanger and a small coffee shop. Many locals took pilot training under the G.I. bill. In later years there were a few “fly ins”. The Dunrovin Lodge built for Whirlpool Corporation helped to expand the use of the airport. 

No Enemy airplanes: In 1942 Baldwin had an airplane spotter shack on top of the fire house on the west side of Michigan Avenue. Volunteers took turns manning the spotters shack. With the tension of WWII on the rise, the United States wanted people in various towns to scan the skies for enemy planes. It is hard to imagine Germany or Japan attacking Baldwin! 

One volunteer came to Baldwin High School looking for students to take their turn spotting and Bob was one of the students he asked. Bob knew our planes did not have the capability to fly from the U.S. to Germany and concluded that the Germans or Japanese could not fly to Baldwin. Therefore Bob did not volunteer.

Draining Baldwin: Many years ago the south side of Baldwin was drained by a hand dug ditch starting at the northeast side of what is now the U.S.F.S. Ranger Station. The ditch flowed under M-37 just north of the post office then flowed to what for years was called the “Slaughter House Swamp.” The swamp would become the site of Baldwin High School football field! In the 1950’s, the Michigan State Highway put in storm sewers and the water drained into the Baldwin River.

Murrow Dairy: In the 1930’s Bob Murrow erected a building on the west side of Michigan Ave., Baldwin, for his dairy. This building was next to a saloon and had a roof extending over the sidewalk. Murrow’s dairy herd was stationed in Bitely, Newaygo County. The dairy closed during deer season of 1936 when old man Murrow was found shot and killed. This crime was never solved and remains a mystery to this day