Back in January, Roger Peterson Jr., president of the Bloomfield Historical Society, invited me down to have a little dialogue with members of the society. I don't know if the invitation suggested that I am one of the "ancient" former residents of the town, but it was interesting to sit down with the group and share memories of the town back in the 1930s and '40s.
While I left Bloomfield in the late 1940s to go to Ohio State University, Roger thought I would have enough memories of the town to share with them. Raymond Krolkowski, who has lived there since he was about 8 years old, was also part of the dialogue.
Our discussion was taped and will be typed to have a written record of what we talked about. While it has been a long time, I do have some good memories of the town and where we lived. "Downtown" Bloomfield consisted of Glen Warren's store, the bank, post office, Elmer William's store, Welchman's Hardware, the Bright Spot restaurant and ice cream shop, O'Neals Garage and the Colonial Tavern. The Methodist church was on the east side of the village green, where it is located now, and the Christian church was just west of town near the Brownwood Cemetery.
While Dad always had plenty for us to do at home, Elmer Williams needed some help in his grocery store and asked Dad if he could hire me. Dad agreed, because what I earned would help pay our grocery bill. So for two summers and after school for two years I worked in the store.
It was a typical old-fashioned grocery store that sold a little bit of everything. A long aisle went down the middle. As you walked in, dry goods, clothing, boots and shoes were on the left. The candy counter, cookies and cakes were on the right. Canned foods, cereals, breads, meats and the few fresh fruits were toward the back.
As our dialogue continued that Sunday afternoon, Raymond and I shared many memories with the group. Bloomfield has a history different from many small towns. The northeastern part of the big Tamarack swamp down the eastern side of the township, after a lot of effort, was drained, and some good-sized vegetable farms were established and in business for many years. Two of the better known were Ruetnik Gardens and the Ohio Muck Farms. They were major employers.
Tim Rogers, who grew up in Bloomfield but now lives in Hubbard, has written and published a history of Ruetnik Gardens and the swamp. His research of the entire swamp from north to south is a work in progress. Many stories are told about the swamp, its wildlife and the many rattlesnakes.
Several beautiful old homes have been restored and maintained in the town. One of them north of town is owned by Michael Schmidt. He recently completed with his own labor an authentic post and bean barn, a replica of the original one on his farm.
The Bloomfield Historical Society is an active group. They have worked hard to renovate and restore the beautiful, old Town Hall. They have taken a damp, unheated building with cracked plaster, bad wiring and roof and transformed it into a functional hall. They recently got EPA approval to install a restroom, which will be an expensive project.
They have plans to start a local history program with the school where history classes come to the Town Hall for a few afternoons to learn about the early town customs, the abolitionist movement in town and other aspects of history that speak to us today.
Some of their activities to involve people and earn money include regular square and swing dances, their summer Historical Day that includes a car and tractor show and historical displays in the Town Hall. Sometimes they have afternoon speakers on interesting topics.
They also have plans for holiday dinners and Christmas activities.
It is exciting to see a small town like Bloomfield have an active group working to preserve the history of the township. They continue to collect and save, through the computer and actual albums, pictures of the township as it was many years ago.
Looking back helps us understand where we came from, appreciate what we have today, and to look ahead.
Parker is an independent writer for the Tribune and grew up in Bloomfield.