Bill and Emily Brook Family Information

A History of Bill Brook and Emily Coleman Brook

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William Lyle Brook - The Early Years

I was born on May 14, 1926 in the big old farmhouse on Upton Road. I was the second child born to Mildred and Lyle Brook. Their first child, Mildred, died at birth. Years later, when I was 15 years old, my parents adopted Judy, who grew up as my sister. Judy married Roger Saylor. They had two children, David and Patti. Later Judy divorced Roger and married Alan Koepsell. Patti married Dale Cornish while still in high school. This was a a poor marriage, and after having two children, Cindy and Michael, Patti was divorced. She eventually changed her last name to Brook. She is now finishing a degree in Law Inforcement, and will graduate in June 1994. David, a graduate of Northern Michigan University in Houghton, is employed by Kelsey Hayes, in their wheel division. He and his wife, Mary Jane have 6 children.

Our farm consisted of 430 acres, owned by my father and Uncle Asael and grandfather John V. We raised corn, hay, oats, wheat, sugar beets, peppermint and dairy cattle. We rented some land over by Haslett for more peppermint acreage. This was a money making crop in those days. We had a peppermint still on State Road. The mint hay was brought to this still on wagons, and the oil was distilled out by using steam. This was a hot job in the summer. When the distilling season was finished, the men would pull on the steam whistle and signal the whole neighborhood that the job was done for the summer.

With no brothers or sisters to play with, I had to invent my own entertainment. When Dad and Uncle Asael were milking, I would sometimes play catch with the barn as the backboard. Sometimes I played with cousins Bob and Barbara (Uncle Asael's children) who lived across the road. Sometimes we played board games or card games, like rummy or flinch. I also liked to rollerskate on the main wood drive floor of the barn and up and down the alleys of the basement when the cows were out to pasture.

When I was 8 years old, we got a Shetland Pony named Amos. Although it belonged to Bob, Barbara and I, I got the job of taking care of it--and probably rode it more than they did. The pony got his name from the comedy show on radio which featured two black comedians, Amos and Andy. This was a favorite radio show for us.

While I was growing up, before 1935, we had no electricity--therefore, no radio or TV. Games and reading were our entertainment. As the electric lines came through the area, farmers entertained at Saturday night parties to celebrate the event. That's where I learned to play euchere.

When I was 9, I got a bicycle. I had a chance to ride it in a race at the Bath Centennial. I got second place, after a girl named Ruth came in first. I sure didn't like that! In 1936, our big red barn burned. Luckily, the cows were out to pasture, There were a few calves inside, which the men rescued. I remember sitting on the lawn, watching the firemen fight the fire. The barn was almost completely destroyed before the firemen arrived. They had a problem in that the battery fell out of the fire engine while it was coming down Upton road from Haslett. After the old barn burned, a new barn was built in its place. This new barn let us increase our herd to 36 milking cows. It seemed to be a tradition at the time to have a party celebrating any new barn. Folks came from miles around for a Saturday night square dance. They munched on donuts and cider. A small local fiddlers band furnished the music. Our farm hosted quite a few of these dances.

I have many other memories of my early growing up years. Riding in the horse and buggy with my mom when she went to Ladies Aid at the South Bath Methodist Church, playing with the other kids while our moms were in the meeting, Boy scouts, (I became a life scout), 4-H with the fair where we had a chance to stay overnight with our animals. I remember Christmas gatherings with relatives from the Brook families (Asael and Glenn), and summer gatherings with the Grundy clan. The Grundy's came in from Canada, Detroit, Traverse City and other towns for big picnics.

Other memories were of learning to swim at Lake Lansing, (then known as Pine Lake< where my Aunt Marrianne and Uncle Fred had a cottage. We also had a small 4-wheeled buggy that Amos pulled for us. During the summer vegetable harvest season, Amos and I would load up garden produce, and sell it to cottage owners along the road on the north side of Pine Lake. I spent all my school days at the Bath Schools, graduating in 1944, with a class of 24 persons. Some of my classmates had joined the army or navy before or during our senior year.

I worked on the farm full time after graduation, and was granted a 2C agricultural exemption during the war because of farming and raising food stuffs. In the winter of 1946-1947, I was a referee for NCAA High School Basketball games. During this time I also enrolled in Short Course in the winter, with a 4-H Kellogg scholarship, to learn more about agriculture. Three years later I enrolled at Michigan State University. My aim was to go into Extension work, or to work on some farm magazine.

I remember the time my Dad and I decided to clean out the ditches down by the muck field. We had dynamite sticks which we would place in the ditch, and light the fuse. One time we had just a little too much dynamite, it rattled the windows even as far away as the Bath school. We also didn't realize that we needed to protect our hands while handling dynamite--it numbed our fingers, so we decided that we had to wear gloves.

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