By Sterling McGinn

Newberry native Mary Ann (Barber) Quinlan now lives in Middleville, Michigan, but says Newberry will always be home.

She is full of interesting stories of Newberry during WWII, and she loves to talk about growing up in Newberry.

On a recent visit for mission work at God’s Country Cooperative Parrish, Quinlan reminisced about her childhood years in Newberry sharing stories and memories with friends and fellow members of the Middleville Methodist Church.

Quinlan was born in Newberry in 1934, the daughter of Forest and Myoma Barber, who also had two sons: Earl and Richard.

She attended Newberry Schools and graduated with the class of 1952.

Quinlan married Newberry native Al Borsum, and they were married for 37 years until his death. She later married Chuck Quinlan, who was also from Newberry. He died three years ago.

She grew up in a house on West McMillan Avenue, which already had a lot of history prior to her dad purchasing the house in the early 1930s.

It was built as the first Michigan State Police post, which was operated by Corporal Fred M. Kuene in the 1920s. Because the Newberry Detachment was so small, the State Police refused to build Kuene a post. He had been headquartered in a room at the McLeod House.

The community came together and constructed this house for the first post, which was operated there until the early 1930s. The police post was relocated to a larger house which had been moved into Newberry from Hendricks Quarry. The original post came up for sale and was purchased by Quinlan’s father.

One interesting feature of the home that she remembers were the two paintings created by a prisoner who was held at the police post until being sent to a jail or prison.

“There were two bedrooms downstairs and when I was a little girl, there were beautiful paintings in them,” she remembers. “One room had a painting of an Indian maiden, and the other was a painting of two deer,”

“It was a happy home,” she said.

But not all memories there were happy.

The family suffered from a fire in their home, which badly damaged the interior. “Like all of the little towns, clothes were brought in for us.” Her father rebuilt portions of the inside that were damaged.

The memories of life during WWII are still with her. “I will always remember WWII,” she said.

Quinlan vividly remembers the day that Pearl Harbor was bombed. Her uncle, Robert Spreeman from Dollarville, was aboard the U.S.S. Arizona on December 7, 1941.

“It was a Sunday morning, and my mother was cleaning the kitchen floor because it was her week to be serving the big family dinner,” she said. “My brother and I were playing a game and my mother threw the mop down and started to cry.”

Quinlan’s mother told her son Earl to go get his father and bring him home. Mr. Barber was working as an engineer at the chemical plant of the Newberry Charcoal Iron Co.

“My mother then told us that the Japanese had just bombed Pearl Harbor and Uncle Robert was on the Arizona,” explained Quinlan.

The Barber house was a gathering place for Quinlan’s aunt and uncles. “For the next couple of nights, someone from the family was at the house day and night until the telegram came stating that Robert Spreeman was killed in action.”

“It was pretty traumatic—I was just a little girl, and I couldn’t imagine not having Uncle Robert again,” she said. “I didn’t know how that worked.”

She also remembers bringing to school empty toilet paper rolls, which the school kids filled with candy and messages to send overseas to the service members. “That was always so important to us,” she said.

Quinlan also remembers rationing during the war. “We couldn’t get shoes because you couldn’t get leather, and we never had a chocolate bar during the war, because it was being sent to our boys.”

She remembers going to well-known downtown stores, especially Andrew Westin and Co. and Rahilly’s Groceries and Meats.

“During the war, not everybody drove a car, because you couldn’t get tires and gas anyway,” she said. “My dad built a wooden box and put it on a sleigh and us kids would go to Westin’s and get groceries. I would give the man the grocery list and he would set us in front of the stove while he filled up the orders, fill up the box and send us on home.”

After growing up and leaving Newberry, Quinlan had three children and she says she had a good and happy life.

“I love Newberry and I still love it,” she said. “Newberry is my favorite place to go, and it was a beautiful place to grow up.”