GRAND HAVEN TWP. — With the construction currently taking place on Robbins Road, many more motorists are forced to utilize Comstock Street in Grand Haven Township this summer. And that brings them past John Green’s home.
Green’s home sits on the north side of the road, between the airport and Peach Plains Elementary School. His yard is hard to miss, as it’s decorated with dozens of colorful vintage outboard boat motors.
“I get a lot of old-timers who like to come around and gawk at them,” Green said with a laugh.
That shouldn’t come as a surprise, considering there are outboards in pristine condition dating back to the 1950s.
Green stumbled into the hobby of collecting and restoring old boat motors. He befriended Dick VanRaalte, and the two shared a bond as they were both former Marines.
VanRaalte died several years ago, and Green inherited part of Dick’s collection. It wasn’t much of a stretch for Green to jump into the hobby with both feet – he’s always loved boats and being on the water.
“I used to have old wooden boats, Chris-Crafts, and I’ve always been a water guy,” he said. “I take old fishing boats, restore them, paint them, put a motor on them and put them out front. I sold 12 of them last year.”
The boats are ready to hit the water.
The old outboards? Well, that depends.
“A lot of this stuff goes on restaurant walls and man caves – a lot of it’s decor,” Green said as he sorted through a collection of old brass props, gas tanks and cowlings to old Evinrude, Johnson and Neptune outboards; plus horns from a variety of boats ship lanterns and more. “If you get an old vintage motor that’s in good running condition, that’s a rare find. I wouldn’t want to be caught out in the middle of a lake with a lot of these.”
Perhaps the rarest find sits on a stand in his basement – a 1916 pre-war Evinrude crank motor.
“It’s got compression – it’s not locked,” Green explained as he turned the crank. “You can read the date right on it, 1916 – Evinrude Motor Co., Milwaukee, Wisconsin. That’s a museum piece right there. It’s brass all the way down.”
Random pieces of nautical memorabilia sit scattered around Green’s home and his shed where he restores old outboards, the result of countless hours spent searching through old barns and garages.
“‘American Pickers,’ that’s me in real life – just no TV show,” he said.
His most unique find to date?
“I found a 1967 Saf-T-Mate, made in Cadillac, Michigan,” Green said. “It had been sitting in this lady’s barn for 30 years. I took the cover off and it looked like it just came out of the showroom.”
It wasn’t big waves, but just maybe the shock of hitting the cold Lake Michigan waters that took an 18-year-old Grand Rapids man by surprise late Sunday afternoon.
Emergency crews were called to a crowded south pier at Grand Haven State Park at 5:46 p.m. on a call of an unconscious male that was just pulled out of the water.
The young man was jumping off the pier and took in some water, said Sgt. Josh Tomes of the Grand Haven Department of Public Safety.
“He stated he forgot how to swim, started panicking, then went under,” Tomes said.
A female bystander jumped into the water and was able to get ahold of him, Tomes said. Witnesses said the woman pulled the man onto the lower level of the pier to wait for help.
State park rangers were first on the scene and found the teen conscious and alert, Tomes said.
“They (witnesses) said he was unconscious but awoke on his own,” he said.
The man was put on a stretcher and transferred by ambulance to North Ottawa Community Hospital for evaluation.
Tomes said that he believes this is the first near-drowning incident the Grand Haven department has handled this season.
More than a hundred teens gathered Sunday in a section of the pier not far off the beach where they jumped, dove and flipped into the water. Hundreds of other people walked the pier and the beach, or just lounged on their towels, bathing in the sunshine and an air temperature of 81 degrees.
The water temperature had been hovering just over 70 degrees, but the sign at the state park entrance said that it was 58 on Sunday.
Tomes said it is not illegal to jump off the pier into Lake Michigan, but officials discourage it. Large boulders line the pier in several areas. It is illegal to jump into the channel because it is a navigable waterway, he said.
Two downtown Grand Haven drinking establishments have been closed – one temporarily and one partially due to their employees testing positive or exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms.
Long Road Distillers, 18 Washington Ave., was closed temporarily, while Odd Side Ales, 41 Washington, closed all but its outside service area.
Long Road Distillers announced Thursday through its social media accounts that the business was closed indefinitely due to a team member testing positive for COVID-19.
“She last worked a shift last Thursday (June 18),” owner Kyle VanStrien wrote in the post. “Prior to her shift, she conducted our required wellness check and showed no signs or symptoms.”
VanStrien said that the employee suspected that she was exposed the previous weekend at a busy bar in Grand Rapids “where social distancing and face-covering recommendations weren’t being closely adhered to.”
Long Road announced that the bar would close to allow for a professional deep clean and sanitizing. VanStrien also announced that all employees who worked June 18 would be tested and that they would wait for results before they determined their next steps.
As of Saturday, all of the employees identified as working on that date had been tested. Results returned so far have been negative for COVID-19. As of Sunday afternoon, the bar was still closed as its owners awaited test results on two employees.
“It may seem that we’re going overboard in our response,” VanStrien said. “Maybe. But, we feel that it’s our responsibility to do everything we can to keep the community safe and eliminate the opportunity for spread of the virus at our establishment.”
Should the final test results come back negative, VanStrien said earlier this week that they would open outside service on Tuesday. If any of the results are positive, they will work with the Ottawa County health department on tracing and remain closed a little longer.
“It’s going to be a stop-and-start process throughout the summer and beyond,” he said. “It’s going to be a process and people need to be put on notice or it’s going to cost businesses a lot of money and people their jobs.”
Odd Side Ales closed its taproom and Side Bar Artisan Coffee on Saturday, noting that an employee had contacted them to let them know that he/she was experiencing some mild COVID-19 symptoms.
“In an attempt to stay ahead of the possible spread of COVID-19, we will not be opening indoors today,” the business posted on social media. “We will be deep cleaning the interior of our facility.”
The post said that, since they did not have a confirmed positive test, the exterior service area would be open, but would only be serving beer packaged in cans “both for drink-in and to go.”
Odd Side Ales asked customers to wear face masks at all times, unless seated at a table. The business says it has disposable masks available.
Long Road Distillers also encouraged people not to visit establishments if proper social distancing and mask wearing was not happening.
“We can do everything right here at Long Road, but if the restaurants around the corner are not following their rules and the customers don’t follow the recommendations, we’ll all end up closing,” VanStrien said.