Bill and Emily Brook Family Information

A History of Bill Brook and Emily Coleman Brook


HISTORY from Emily's writings


HISTORY from Michaelson's book


The Original

Emily Lelia Coleman:  I was born the fourth of a family of five girls.  I was born at home, with a doctor in attendance.  It was a difficult breech birth.  My mother recalled that at one time the doctor told my father that he couldn't save both mother and child.  But God intervened, and on July 23, 1926, I arrived in this world--10 pounds.

I was named Emily, after my Grandmother Weissinger, whose name was Emelia; and Lelia, after my father's sister, Lelia Peterson.

My grandmother Weissinger was born in Switzerland, her maiden name was Mierhoff. Her family sent her to America to make a better life.  My Grandfather Weissinger was born in Germany.  Both of these persons met while living on farms in the Bancroft area.  I never knew my grandfather, he died before I was born.  There were six children in my mother's family: Albert, Flora (Conn), Louise (Amiss), Emma, Fred, and Sophia (Smith).  My mother, Emma,  was born in Haslett on Oct. 3, 1891.  While they were growing up they lived in a log cabin on a small farm on Raby Road; later they built a conventional home.  The only language that they spoke at home was German; learning English when they started school.  My grandmother never did learn to write English.  My grandmother learned to read English when her youngest child, Sophia, went to school.  Mother told me that her father was always dreaming up an easier way to get his work done--so usually he was far behind on his farm work.  Grandmother Weissinger was an accomplished quilt maker as well as an expert with knitting needles and seamstress.  She used to make all our mittens while we were children.  Grandma Weissinger said that as children in Switzerland, they would knit while walking to school.  She could knit and not miss a stitch, all the while talking with the family.        

My father's father, Wilmer Coleman, was born in Howell, Michigan. My father's mother, Hattie Ione Jefferies, was also born in Howell.  There were six children in his family: Louise (a nurse who never married), Laura (Tripp), LeRoy Coleman, Lelia (Peterson) and my father, Charles Leo, who was born on Sept. 27, 1890. Grandfather Coleman was a farmer, raising crops, milking cows and tending a large apple orchard.  They used to take apples to Lansing to sell at the City Market, and also barrels of cider.   Dad told us that one time he remembered taking cider, and it was beginning to age.  The cork in the barrel blew off.  It was no longer sweet cider, but "hard" cider. In the fall, they would put apples in a pit covered with straw to preserve them until they could be sold.

My father attended Michigan Agriculture College for one year.  He wanted to teach math, but couldn't find the money to attend a second year.  My mother went to County Normal School and trained to be a teacher.  She  taught in a country school in Onondaga until she was married. My mother and father were school classmates during their school years.

Mother said that she got a cookbook for a wedding present.  She was going to try all the recipes in the book.  Fine--until she came to one for fried radishes.  They then decided all the recipes weren't for them.  One day, a group of gypsies camped in the church yard next door, and came to the house to beg some food.  Mom gave them some biscuits, but being a new bride, the biscuits lacked something.  Anyway, those gypsies never came back to that house for food.  (Word traveled fast!)

My parents lived in an old spacious home, which burned when a fire started in the chimney during the winter. Helen and Leora were quite young.  All of the neighbors came and helped to salvage as much as possible of the belongings, by throwing things out of the windows. My grandmother Coleman helped to take as much as the canned foods from the basement, to help to feed the extra persons throughout the winter.  Most of the furniture was lost as were the dishes.  They did manage to save a few of the photos in a trunk.  The house was a total loss. They then built a small home with 3 bedrooms, living room, dining room and kitchen.  Two of the bedrooms were upstairs.  We had a wall telephone, with a crank to signal the operator or others on our line.  When someone called us, all the others on the line could listen in as they all knew our ring.

We lived on a small 80 acre farm, just east of the Chapel Hill Methodist Church, which was then called South Bath Methodist Church.  My father milked 5-6 cows, and raised crops, like corn and hay.  We had chickens, from which my mother sold eggs and dressed out chickens.  My father drove a school bus for the Haslett schools.  He recorded 35 years of driving with only one accident, a slight scratch on one side of the bus (he was heartbroken at that!)  At the time of his bus driving, each driver owned his own vehicle.  I remember that at one time he drove a chassis to Fort Wayne, IND, to get the body for the bus.  Imagine driving that far without a cab over the driver.

As our bus driver, Dad never would play favorites with us.  Once I remember, we were to walk to the church (about 1/2 block) to board the bus, but I was pokey, and didn't get there on time, so I watched him drive off without me, and I had to walk to school.  Next day I was on time!

During my early growing up years, my father also farmed with his father, Wilmer Coleman, on a 120 acre crop farm about 3 miles east of our farm.  This farm had a large apple orchard, where my parents picked the apples and sold them at the farm and the Lansing market.  There also was a flock of sheep. Sometimes my father would bring an orphan lamb back to the house and we would adopt it as a pet.             

To water the cattle at the barn, we all had to take turns pumping the hand pump which would send the water down a pipe to a waterer at the barn.  We all had to take turns--it seemed that those cows drank a tremendous amount of water.

My early growing up years were uneventful.  We played typical games of childhood; anti-I-over with a ball which we had to throw over the house to someone on the other side, tag, King on the mountain and jacks.  In the winter we would slide down a hill that was just across the country road from our house.  We had no place to roller skate, but sometimes we would ice skate in the winter.  One winter, I was sick with scarlet fever. At these times, the whole family was quarantined so no-one could come in or go anywhere.  My father had to make temporary housing in a chicken coop.  Mother could make meals for him.  He had to get the paper and magazines before they could come into the house.  Because he had his bus route, the health department thought he might infect the children on the bus route. This quarantine lasted for six weeks--what a long time that was!      

During the summer there were free movies at Haslett and at Perry.  My Dad, or one of the neighbors would take us kids over to watch them.  We sat on the ground on blankets.  The evening was planned so that parents could shop while we were being entertained.  Some of the movies would probably be classed as "R" now.  I remember being so scared that when I got home, I would hide under the blankets in the bed--even though it was hot.  But we enjoyed those movies.

Did I ever get spanked?? Of course, I couldn't be good all the time!  One time I got spanked because my Dad called me for supper, but I "didn't hear him" and so he had to get me!  One time I was caught trying to drill holes in the screen frames--that wasn't good either. When I was just learning to print, I engraved my name on their antique bookcase desk.  I refuse to remember  other times!!

While we were growing up, there was no radio or electricity until I was about 10 years old, and no TV.  Before radio, my dad had a crystal radio set. He would  listen with ear phones, and then tell us the news.  We played games with the family, and read lots of books. My father played many games with us such as Hearts, Euchere, Anagrams, and checkers.  One of our favorite play areas outdoors, was an old REO car parked under an apple tree.  We took old dishes and dolls out and that was our play house.  When I was about 10 years old, I got a bike, only I had to share it with my sister, Wilma.

Evenings in the summer were spent sitting on our screened front porch, talking, and watching the traffic and stars.  When the air cooled down some, we would go to bed. We didn't have a radio, just a short wave battery one.  My dad would listen to this with earphones, then he would tell us what news he heard.  Of course, TV wasn't even invented.  When I was about 10 years old, the house was wired for electric.  I can remember listening a few programs, as: Singing Lady, Behind the Creaking Door (a mystery--much more scary then any thing we now have on TV. This is possibly because we had to visualize the scenery which was much more eventful when we had only the sounds to invent the picture!)  We also could listen Amos and Andy (a comedy) and the Lone Ranger.

Our home was not too unusual for the times.  We slept upstairs, my parents slept downstairs.  The only heat was a central register between the living and dining room. In the winter, we would stand over the register until our nighties were almost hot enough to burn, then run fast for the bed upstairs.   Sometimes we would take a hot water bottle to help heat the bed, but by morning, it would have fallen out of the bed and frozen solid. Some nights we girls would get noisy, talking and giggling.  My Dad would threatening to come up and settle us down.  We could hear him stomping on the steps on his way up.  Of course, we quickly quieted down.  In later years we asked him how far up the stairs he came--he said "only the first step".  He said he didn't know what he would have done, he never had to come up.  Whew!!  

We had cold running water, but no bathroom.  We had to go outdoors to a backhouse.  BRRRR!  It could be really cold in the winter--and dark in the night.  We heated water on the kitchen range which burned wood.  To take a bath, we could shut the kitchen door, and use a round tub, and the water that was heated on the stove.  Later, after I graduated from college, my parents added a bathroom and water heater to their home.

My mother didn't have a refrigerator during my early years.  She had an icebox on the back porch which we used during the summer, and we kept it filled with ice when the weather was hot.  In the winter, mother stored leftover food in the basement in a cabinet, called a pie safe, which had screen over the doors. All of our cooking and baking was done on the wood stove.  Baking with the wood range was quite a tricky thing to do.  Either the oven was too hot or too cool. Mom would test the temperature of the oven by putting her hand into it.   Eventually Mom got an electric range.

We were all in 4-H clubs.  My mother was a 4-H leader.  I took cooking, baking, food preservation, sewing, gardening and home decorating.  I got many blue ribbons for my efforts--and also red and white ones.  The best of our projects in the county were sent to MSC (now MSU), where we competed with 4-H projects from other counties.  We also competed for a chance to go to MSC for Club Week, where others from other counties were attending.  What fun, as it was a new experience for all of us.  We had classes and fun times, just like kids do today, staying  in the dorms and having programs with kids from other counties.

The sewing machine what my mother owned was a treadle one.  One had to keep pedaling to make it sew.  Sometimes it would go backward, knotting the thread and unthreading the needle.  My mother made almost all of our clothes and many quilts on that machine.  She never owned an electric machine.

While I was growing up, we didn't have much money, but I never felt poor.  Probably this was because all the other families were in the same situation, the country was in a depression.  Vacations were not even thought of. My parents would give home produced food to my Aunt Sophia, Aunt Louise Amiss and Aunt Flora Conn.  We came to realize as we grew up that this handout of chickens, beef, eggs, vegetables and fruit was what kept their families from starving.

Once I went with a 4-H excursion by train to see a baseball game in Detroit and to Boblo Island, which was an amusement park.  I thought it was really exciting.  Our family took only one vacation that I can remember.  We went to the Upper Peninsula, rented a cottage and spent time fishing and swimming.  

At Fourth of July, we usually went to Lake Lansing Amusement  Park.  There were all kinds of rides, a Ferris Wheel, Merry Go Round, Dodge-em (we rode little cars and tried to hit others) and also a Roller Coaster, very scary.  We kids had to earn money to take the rides, probably about 5 cents per ride.  We would pick potato bugs or kill flies and our parents would pay us by the number of insects we had.  I imagine that they really didn't count all those bugs!  Then in the evening, there would be a balloon ascension at the Amusement Park.  We could set on our screened front porch and watch it.  A few times it landed in our field out in front of the house.

As a youth, I was a girl scout.  We met at the school, and worked on projects such as you do today.  One time we went camping at a Girl Scout Camp near Wacosta.

During the summer harvest season, I had to learn to drive tractor on the rake for hay, and also on the binder to cut the grain for threshing.  One time, when I was a beginner, I started up a rise at my grandfathers farm, pulling the rake behind me.  I stopped to be sure just where Dad wanted me to go.  Alas!  When I stopped, the pin came out of the rake, dumping my father off the rake.  He never said a thing, and I started up and went through the gate into the field very carefully, so the rake wouldn't catch on the gate post.  Imagine my surprise when I finally stopped and turned around--no father, no rake.  I had to turn around and go back to get both.  Dad said he didn't want to yell because I might panic and lose control!! (Me, panic?  Ha!)

Church played a big part in our lives.  My father was janitor of our South Bath Methodist Church, now known as Chapel Hill Methodist Church. We all helped keep the church clean and dusted.  One job was to ring the big church bell on Sunday morning 30 minutes before Sunday School and again at the time for Sunday School to start.  When I was in High School, I was the pianist, we did not have an organ.  I played until I went to college. A memorable church experience was being able to attend Lake Louise Church camp near Boyne Falls.  Most of the cost of our trip was underwritten by church members.

When I was a child, Christmas was big excitement. A big tree at church, about 30 foot high, was real.  We had colored lights and balls on it.  Each year there was a big program.  All the children recited pieces they had learned.  Then, all of a sudden, we could hear stomping at the front door and sleigh bells.  Santa had arrived, dressed traditionally, with a big sack over his shoulder.  This sack was full of gifts--one for each child.  We never knew but what Santa brought these from the North Pole.  We didn't get many other gifts, even at home.  There was that big depression, and one year I remember only my little sister got a gift from Santa.  Mom made her a little tablecloth for her doll's table.  We usually got only one gift. Money was really scarce.

Our school at Haslett was quite small by today's standards.  I started kindergarten in a small building about 2 blocks from the main school with about 20 other children.  The teacher always warned us when she was walking us up to the main school to take the bus home, "be careful you don't get your foot caught in the rails of the railroad track".  To this day I think about that, but Dad assures me that my feet are too big for that now!!  We were with the same children from kindergarten through until graduation.  About 30-35 students made up my class.  By the time I was a senior, some of my classmates has enlisted in World War II.

During World War II, many foods and gasoline were rationed.  We had ration stamps which could be turned in for things like sugar, meat, and gasoline.  My mother  used to frost cakes with Karo syrup and stiff beaten egg whites.  Usually by the time we wanted to eat the cake most of the frosting had slid off the cake onto the stack of plates beneath the cake plate.  A sticky mess. It was really great to live on a farm.  We had fruit, vegetables, eggs, meat and milk without any stamps needed.  Gasoline was given according to the miles driven to work--with a few gallons for recreation.  A farm had more flexibility than city persons, since our work was on our farm.

I remember Pearl Harbor day.  When I came home from church that day, my father said that Japan had attacked the American troops.  When VJ day was celebrated.  Harriet and I went into Lansing, to join in the festivities.  What a mob of people were there, all shouting and singing and dancing in their joy.

College was the goal of my life at that time.  I started at Michigan State in the fall of 1944, with scholarship aid.  I enrolled in Home Economics Education. I lived in a Cooperative House, which is a home for 15-16 girls with a housemother.  We did all our own cooking and cleaning, thus saving many dollars on room and board. Once each term we would hold a gorgie, bringing food into the bedroom area, "unknown to our housemother" HA!.  We would stay up all night, eating, telling stories, talking, and making sure our housemother didn't know what was happening.  When I was a freshman, lots of the fellows were in service.  It was not unusual to walk to classes, and not see many other students.  By my second year, the men and women were coming back to college so classes were larger, and sidewalks more congested.

Enter William Brook. While I was in college, of course I dated, but soon your Dad was the number one contender.  One night when we had a date, your Dad took me to the foot of Beaumont Tower at MSU Campus.  There was a special bench there, called the engagement bench.  He presented me with a ring!  What a surprise. Everyone in the cooperative house was excited for me.  Soon other of the girls were becoming engaged also. Your Dad and I decided on a June date for the wedding.                        

One of our big jokes was that Dad and I never met.  We grew up together, attended the same church, were members of the Youth Group, but went to different schools.  He graduated from Bath, I from Haslett.

After I had graduated from MSU, I started teaching in Olivet.  I had an apartment there, which was about half of a two car garage.  The other half was rented to another couple.  We shared the bathroom.  I thought it was a great apartment, although it was only one room with a half wall closet separating the bedroom from the rest of the space, I thought it was wonderful.  The kitchen was along one wall, with a hot plate and after our wedding, we had a roaster oven, a wedding gift, to use. What luxury. I didn't have a car, but it was close to the school so I could walk. Aunt Leora and Uncle Walter lived at a farm in Olivet.  On the first day of my first teaching job, Aunt Leora decided to have her baby, Susan.  I had to go out to the house to take care of Nancy and Stanley.  Walter managed to get back so I could get to the school on time.  Nancy also had her first day at kindergarten also.  What a hectic morning.

In December that year we were married at Chapel Hill Methodist Church.  We chose the December 30 date, because the church was scheduled in June to be moved off the foundation so a basement could be added.  We had chosen Dale Watling for our best man. They  had decided not to wait for June for his wedding, either, so he and Joyce chose the date that we had picked.  Since they had already ordered their invitations, your Dad and I took the later date.  There was a snow storm that day, but it didn't stop people from coming to the wedding.  We decorated the front of the sanctuary with real Christmas trees.  

One of our gifts, from Dad's parents, was a new Chevrolet auto.  This took the place of the Model A Ford that your Dad had driven.  It was much easier for him to drive to East Lansing for classes, while I was able to walk to school.

The first summer of our marriage, we had a chance to live at the governor's mansion, cooking for Governor G. Mennen "Soapy" Williams (when he was home from Mackinaw Island) and others who stayed at the mansion part time. The next year I got a position teaching in the Elsie School System.  We rented a house from a widow, who retained one or two rooms for herself.  Dad and the husband of the Home Economics Teacher of Ovid Ralph Kirch, shared rides to MSU.  During that year, I became pregnant for Douglas.  In those times, pregnant teachers were not allowed to teach, because "children shouldn't know where babies come from", thus I had to end my teaching career early.  I've never been sorry, I enjoyed the chance to stay home with all of you children. After Dad finished college, he was employed by the State Extension Office as a 4-H director in Kalamazoo County.  Doug was born before I moved to Kalamazoo.  We bought a small home there, but the farm was calling so we soon moved back to the Upton Road farm.  We sold the house in Kalamazoo, but didn't make any profit.  

We lived in the small house on the Upton Road farm until Brian was born, then traded houses with Dad's parents.  This move was very interesting.   One day, Dad and Grandpa drove the wagon up to the front door and they announced, "Today is moving day"!  They took things from our house to the big house, and when that was done, moved the grandparent's things to the small house.  All in one day!  Grandma and I were exchanging pictures, etc for weeks after that.  It's not my idea of a good way to accomplish moving. We looked frantically for some of our possessions.

The big house we moved into, had 7 bedrooms on two floors.  There were 15 doors that went outdoors, and many windows with small panes, and wavy old style blue tinged glass.  One bedroom upstairs had a large round flowered medallion, from which a light cord hung.  Probably this originally had a hanging kerosene or gas lamp.  The house at one time was a road house, and had many Saturday night square dances.  One woman of the area told me that she had met her husband during one of those parties.  Around the outside of the house were three long covered porches.

The house was heated with a coal/wood furnace, which had to be fed wood during the day, and coal to keep the fire from going out during the night.  In the morning the house was always cold until the furnace got going hot enough to give out some heat.  Some days I would be busy baking, cooking or washing, and forgot the furnace, until the house got really cold--too late.  The fire had to be nourished slowly until the wood caught and then slowly, the heat would start to circulate.

While we lived on Upton Road, we did some building of barns and remodeling of barns and the house.  A big attraction was the pond which we built back of the houses.  This was a center for many parties and picnics.  Church picnics and parties centered there.  We had plenty of room to play softball, badminton, as well as eat and swim.  At Christmas time, we hosted the church caroling party in our home.  Sometimes there were 50 people at our house following the caroling.  They brought cookies, etc., and we furnished hot chocolate and coffee.  The kids played all over the house, while the adults didn't lack for conversation.  Usually by 12:30 or 1 a.m. the party would break up, for another year.

At Christmas, another of our traditions was  to entertain foreign visitors who were studying at Universities in the states.  Sponsored by Kellogg Foundation, these students were given a chance to visit a farm, and a city home to see how we actually lived.  Sometimes we had as many as four students, but with the size home we had, there was plenty of space.  One student from Turkey was to spend 3 days with us.  At the end of the time, he told us that he had been dreading coming out to the country.  He called his wife before coming and told her that he wasn't sure he could last that long.  He said after he saw our home, he found that we didn't live any different than city folks--we had all the conveniences and appliances they have. During this time we hosted students from Japan, Bangladesh, England, Brazil, Argentina, Poland, Vietnam, Thailand, Costa Rica, Nigeria (at a party, he taught us how to dance as they did at home.  The coffee pot almost jiggled off the table), Taiwan and Switzerland were some of the other countries represented.

While the family was growing up, my work consisted of gardening, canning and freezing the excess vegetables and fruit, raising chickens, selling eggs and dressing chickens for sale, and for our own use. I also taught a Sunday School class for many years, enjoyed being a Cub Scout Leader, and was a 4-H leader for about 20 years.  I was the go-fer (meaning that when a part or supply was needed on the farm, I was the one to go for it). This was quite a feat, loading 4-5 children into the car, unloading them while I got the supplies, then back into the car to the next stop.  One day I drove over 100 miles, but was never more than 25 miles from home.  I did the bookkeeping, banking, drove truck occasionally, and even fearfully drove one of our big diesel tractors (only to the house).

Besides cooking three meals a day, some of which were served in the field during planting and harvest time, I made most of the clothes that our family wore.  Flannel shirts, pants, dresses, jackets, coats, and what ever else we wore (except underwear) were usually homemade.  Two big freezers were filled to overflowing with our garden bounty, meat from our own home-raised animals, home made bread, cookies, and other goodies.  Natalie said once that she was embarrassed when I went to Meijers shopping, because I filled two carts.  I only shopped every two weeks.

One of the big events for the children (but not for mom) was taking the milk check to the bank.  We used the Bank of Lansing, on the main corner in Lansing.  They thought it great fun to go through those revolving doors into the bank.  Of course, I usually had a stroller or a buggy, so I had to go in through a different door.  The bank really echoed when one of the little ones decided to try out his or her voice.  Much like a "silo singer".

Trips to the main library of Lansing were great fun for all.  The children's librarian there was wonderful.  She could find books that each child liked.  We would come home with an armload of reading.  There were not any libraries near our home.

As you children grew, so did the activities we followed.  Cub Scouts, 4-H, Brownies, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, choir, as well as sport events took time and travel.  When Doug was in high school, he had a chance to go to the National Boy Scout Jamboree at Valley Forge, PA.  Other of the children went to other places, church camp, Blue Lake Music camp (Lisa), Interlochen (Roger), Japan as an ambassador (Natalie), Church building tour of Europe (Brian).  Gary participated as a member of the Lions All State band sponsored by Michigan Lion's clubs. He made a trip through the southern states, Arizona, Texas, and other states, putting on concerts along the way.  Brian also participated in Suitcase Theatre of Lansing, which traveled through many states, putting on singing and drama programs.                        

Yes, our life on the farm was busy, but we have many fond memories of our years of farming, and wouldn't want to trade it for anything.  The fun and togetherness of our family we'll always remember.


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