Historical Advisory Committee Oral Histories
These oral history videos reflect the expressions, views, memories and opinions of the interviewee. They do not represent the policy, views or official history of Plainfield Charter Township.
Paul and Alice Morrissey (June 17, 2019) Click here to watch the video
Paul Joseph Morrissey took over the Morrissey Lawn and Garden Center in Comstock Park from his father, Paul Vincent Morrissey, who founded the company in 1933 (officially incorporated in 1948 as the Morrissey Equipment Company). In this interview, the Morrissey couple discusses their approach to business, community, marriage and family. (Running Time 01:13:08)
Lost Villages of Plainfield Township (February 27, 2019) Click here to watch the video
Plainfield Township was once the site of villages named Childsdale, Jericho and even Plainfield. The villages have disappeared; their names on streets remain the only trace left behind. But what difference does it make if we know, or don’t know, about these long-ago villages? Norm VanSoest and Dr. Deb Havens, members of the Plainfield Township Historical Advisory Committee explore myths, legends and lessons of Plainfield Township’s disappearing history. Aired originally on GRTV Kent County Closeup.
Jim and Bethel Robinette (May 21, 2019) Click here to watch the video
In 1912, Jim Robinette’s grandfather and Ohio businessman Barzilla Robinette purchased 136 acres of prime farmland, approximately seven miles northeast of Grand Rapids. His son, Edward, wasn’t too sure he wanted to farm. But his grandson, Jim Robinette, never doubted his future. He and his wife Bethel talk about their life together as they built Robinette’s Apple Haus & Winery into one of the best-known fruit orchards and tourist destinations in Kent County. Later in their interview, their grandson Allen Robinette joins them. (Running Time:44:52)
Andrew Dykema (2015) Click here to watch the video
Andrew Dykema, born in 1930, started his excavation business at age 18. After service in the US Marines during the Korean War, he moved his young family to Plainfield Township and a new home with 80 acres in Rockhill Acres, which soon became his first housing development project. Since then, he estimates his company, Dykema Excavators, Inc., has graded most of the newer streets in Plainfield Township, in addition to 2 to 3 thousand housing lots. A major source of his pride includes projects such as excavations for hospital construction along Michigan Avenue in Grand Rapids. (Running Time approximately 55 minutes)
Maxine Pritchard (2015) Click here to watch the video
Maxine Pritchard, a lifelong resident of the Rockford area, was affectionately known as "Ma Pritchard" to all who knew her in her later years. In this oral history interview, conducted when she was 99 years of age, Maxine shares tales of her first love Carl, her marriage to her husband Roy, and her adventures while running the Sunoco Station at Plainfield and East Beltline. In 1960, they opened the Pritchard Restaurant, where Maxine was chief cook, beloved for her reasonably priced meals and pranks on her guests. Maxine’s son, Gary Pritchard, occasionally is heard in the interview. (Running Time approximately 55 minutes and 30 seconds)
William J. Van Luyn Click here to watch the video
Hear the extraordinary life of William “Bill” Van Luyn, who lived remarkable firsts from his youth onward: Captain of the first undefeated Creston basketball team; among the first to enter Japan after the atomic bomb; first to pitch against an all-star Japanese baseball team on a bombed-out playing field. He is one of the few servicemen to receive 5 stars for service in 5 major battles during World War II, from the invasion of Normandy to the Battle of the Bulge. After a long career in the furniture business, Bill retired to further honors. In 2014, he was awarded the French Legion of Honor medal for participating in the Battle of the Bulge and Rhineland as well as the liberations of Normandy and Northern France, fighting alongside France against the Nazis in WWII. (Running Time 00:54:06)
Frank Hoekstra (2015) Click here to watch the video
Frank Hoekstra was born into a farm family raising livestock and crops along the Grand River. The youngest of five, Frank grew up while sinking his own roots in the rich farmland. An accomplished musician, Frank played accordion in a dance band, served as a volunteer fireman, and worked as a truck driver for Ada Beef Company all while continuing to farm in Plainfield Township. He started S & H Greenhouses at 4525 Cannonsburg Rd NE as a small operation that has grown into a major family business. A man filled with appreciation for the good life lived here, Frank has lots of stories to tell – including details on how to wrangle 10,000 turkeys. (Running Time 00:54:09)
Legend of Chief Wabasis and the Hidden Gold Click here to watch the video
A murder more than a century old has fueled legends behind Wabasis Lake, the namesake of John Wabasis, adopted son of an Ottawa Tribal Chief, who lived just before the turn of the 19th century. According to legend, John inherited a great deal of land, some of which he sold. He was warned that he was about to be robbed, so he hid his gold and silver somewhere near the western side of Wabasis Lake. His slain body was later found along the Plainfield-Sheridan Indian Trail but the treasure, if it exists, was not. Rumor has it that the treasure is buried in a limestone cave above the lake. Could the legends be true?
Norm VanSoest, former President of the Plainfield Township Historical Preservation Committee, travels to Wabasis Lake in 2019 to investigate the rumors. He shares his personal theories, including his belief the gold is indeed buried in Plainfield Township. His interview formerly aired on GRTV, “Kent County Update.” (Running Time 12:38)
Dan Doane & Mary (Doane) Holland Click here to watch the video
Mary Doane Holland and her kid brother Dan, both in their 90s, share delightful tales of growing up on the Grand River in the “Little Stone House” with no plumbing, electricity or running water in rural Plainfield Township. These were the days when clams were plentiful and harvested from the Grand River for the button industry. During World War II, Dan served in the Army of Occupation in Japan, Mary craved adventure and enlisted in the WAVES. Back home, Mary married Art Holland after a whirlwind courtship. Dan followed his father into real estate, which led to the development of Brookhaven and Leisure Village trailer parks. Together they share heartwarming stories of their beloved parents and family members. (Running Time 01:18:17)