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Mason County Memories


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History Columns are arranged by year of publication in the Ludington Daily News



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Sesquicentennial Portraits Willard [Bill] Dornboss Family Willard Dornboss was born in Holland Michigan in December of 1910 the oldest of three children born to Harry and Mary Depree Dornboss. Before moving to Ludington in 1950 to start a Veterinary practice Bill's path took him in several different directions. He grew up in the Holland area and his parents owned a store there called the First Avenue Market. He attended Davenport Business College and while there he learned how to type 50 words per minute and credits that skill with saving his life during World War Two. After he had been working at Robinson Cartage as a bookkeeper for a year he was drafted into the Army in 1942. He was retained at Fort Custer for 30 days typing dog tags before moving out to basic training at Fort Knox. Again because of his typing skills he was retained as Company Clerk. He was asked to join a special training group involving a project to use arc lights attached to the gun turret on tanks to be used in nighttime fighting to confuse the enemy. He was assigned to the 736 Tank Battalion and sent to the desert to train. Bill was deployed in Belgium shortly after the D-Day invasion. After the fighting in Europe ended and not having enough points to be discharged he was to be returned to the States for additional training and while en-route the second Atomic Bomb was dropped ending the war. Bill was married in 1943 to Dawn Wilkenson and was happy to return home to his wife and 10 month old son that he had yet to see. He went to work for a Bank in Bangor Michigan for s short while before being accepted into the Veterinary program at MSU in 1946. By the time Bill had graduated and was ready to move up to the Ludington area his family had grown to 3 children, Bill, Sue and Robert. Why Mason County, and why Ludington? Bill had grown up in Holland and Loved lake Michigan, a drug salesman had told Bill that there was an opportunity in Ludington as there was only one Veterinarian and he had been a 1905 graduate. Bill found a place on US 10-31 about halfway between Ludington and Scottville and set up his practice there to provide services for both large and small animals. In the 1950's there was a great deal of work available, at that time every small farm seemed to have a couple of cattle and there were many more small farms with other animals as well. If that were not enough work Bill also supplemented his income by doing meat inspections at Nelson's Slaughter House for 3.75 an hour and some bonus meat. While Bill's practice grew and his family did as well with two more children born to the family, Sally in 1952 and Cathy in 1958. Bill's service area extended north of Manistee and as far east as Idlewild, he would be seen often traveling in his favorite vehicle, a 1959 VW Beetle Sedan. Working conditions could be difficult at times, many animals were not housed indoors and were in open pens, a little fresh straw on the ground to make working on the animals was always much appreciated. How much was a Vet call? No matter how long it took or how far the drive the charge was $20.00. Bill's family supports the maintenance of the Abe Nelson Museum at White Pine Village in memory of his first wife Dawn who passed away in 1976. Dawn had an avid interest in local history and wrote for the Mason County Press as well as being a volunteer at White Pine Village. Her son Bob says that she was an at home Mom in the 1950's and monitored all of the kids closely, and they knew that they had to take care of business or be accountable for any bad grades or other disciplinary problems. He recalls that his mother worked in the Veterinary business as an assistant, volunteered for 4-H and her church. Bob does say she was a good cook but that he did not care to be a member of the "clean plate club" [weren't we all back then?] and that in order to get excused from the table on the nights they had liver he would hide the liver [forever?] in the hollow chrome legs of the kitchen table. Bill Dornboss is currently living in Mason County at Hidden Forest with his wife Beatrice [Stibitz] Many thanks to Bill and his family for sharing information, photographs and stories about their families life in Mason County.

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