A real Plymouth character
Sports for Pops Holloway has made the most of his 93 years.
First of four parts
February 7, 2006
Pops Holloway is a familiar figure in Plymouth. A huge sports fan, he staffs the 16th hole of the Plymouth Country Club during the Art Thomas Big Red Golf Tournament each August. His job is to measure the closest-to-the-pin shot from the golfers.
Tribune Photo/Ida Chipman
PLYMOUTH -- He has a gold tooth and a heart to match. But Frank "Pops" Holloway is a fighter. Always has been.
There was the time all of his teeth were broken off in a terrible automobile accident in 1951.
Busted bones and an eye ball hanging out of its socket were just part of his injuries.
Doctors thought he was a goner. At the very least, he would be blind in the one eye.
But he made a complete recovery.
Pops is known to be -- among other things -- Plymouth's Big Red sports' most knowledgeable, feisty, fervent and loyal fan.
And -- at 93 -- the team's oldest cheerleader, too!
For 70 years he has supported area high school athletics.
His mind is a steel trap for stats and scores, names of players and coaches. He goes to all home games -- and because he is not comfortable driving at night any more -- to away games too, if he has a ride.
With six young grandchildren, the progeny of his son and only child Larry and wife Michele Holloway, Pops cheers them all on in their athletic endeavors: basketball, swimming, baseball, tennis, golf, football and track -- from high school on down to the Marshall County Boys & Girls Club activities.
He will give you his opinion -- whether you ask for it or not -- in no uncertain terms, on any subject, and if you disagree, he'll argue with you about that too.
Does he like the class basketball system?
"(Bleep) no. I'd have liked it if they had kept it the way it was. I think it was a big mistake to change.
"Players and fans have too much traveling to do on congested highways. It's expensive for the gas alone and the crowds don't show up.
"Athletic programs supported by basketball and football are hurtin' to make ends meet, and schools are having to cut out other extra-curricula stuff."
Next to sports, fishing is his passion. Some of his friends call him "Bluegill."
He has a million fishing stories and nearly as many rods and lures, hand-tied, in his collection.
He's taught at least two generations of kids how to fish.
He used to host a fishing derby in Magnetic Park, personally stocking the ponds with bass and bluegill.
"It irritated me when grown-ups would take the fish I put in for the kids," he says.
He recalls one fellow saying to him, "Hey, Pops, did you know there's a huge bass in that pond?"
"Hell, yes," he said, "I put him there!"
He can't stand most politicians -- "every other one is a crook," he says -- but he has never failed to vote, and never voted a straight ticket.
Pops built his house himself some 60 years ago from the ground up. For several years, he and his family lived in the basement, which was not unusual in the 1940s when time, materials and money were scarce.
"You didn't do everything all at once like they do now," he said. "If you couldn't afford it, you waited until you could."
Born on a farm in Mentone, in November 1912, Frank was the oldest of five children. When he was 13 years old, his mother was killed in a train-car collision a few days before Christmas.
The family was split up and he was sent to live with his Grandma and Grandpa Burkett.
"From then on, I was thrown from pillar to post," he says. "I was a good worker and everybody needed extra hands on their farms.
"It was never like I was part of the family, though. I worked 18 hours a day just for food and a place to sleep."
He did everything -- sawed wood, cut corn, shucked wheat, baled hay. Once in awhile, helping out a neighbor, he got paid 5 cents an hour.
Having to labor hard for his keep, he didn't get beyond the ninth grade, but he has always valued education.
When he was 16, realizing he had no future doing what he was doing, Frank struck out on his own to get himself a real job.
"I left. Walking down that dirt road to Silver Lake. I hitchhiked to Warsaw and I never looked back."
Pops Holloway always has a story to tell
His jobs ranged from digging holes to working on jets.
Second of four parts
February 8, 2006
Here are Millie and Frank Holloway a few years before her death in 1995. This is one of the few times "Pops" has been photographed without his hat!
PLYMOUTH -- Frank "Pops" Holloway was 16 years old when he struck out on his own.
He got a job in a grocery store in Warsaw and worked there for two years.
Electrical companies were just starting to put in wires. The contractors needed men to dig the post holes.
It was back-breaking work but the pay was good.
Frank, young and strong, was hired on in Rochester. Most laborers could dig six or seven holes a day, but Frank, using his natural ingenuity, borrowed a post-hole digger and dug 20 to 21 holes, besting the average number by over 300 percent.
His work ethic impressed the foreman and when the Fulton County job was over, Frank, now 18 and with excellent references, was able to get work clear across the state.
Frank Holloway was part of the work force that helped to electrify Indiana.
About two years later -- in a real switch-a-roo, Frank got a job at the Colonial Hotel and Gardens in Rochester as a ticket taker for the famous "Under the Stars" dance pavilion.
He also worked as a dining room waiter and, as a perk, got to live in the belfry of the hotel.
It was an exciting time. In the 1930s and 40s, all of the big bands played at the Colonial: Lawrence Welk, Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey and Harry James were just a few.
"When you'd hear those saxophones playing on that open stage, it'd just give you chills," he said.
That wasn't the only thing that gave young Frank the chills and the fevers.
"Women. There were always plenty of good-looking women. They came from all over. All summer long."
Frank said he always had an eye for a pretty girl and the young, good-looking bachelor was in hog heaven.
He was working at one of the most popular night spots in the Midwest, so there was always a crowd. Frank kept a few extra tickets in his breast pocket for friends, many of whom were traveling salesmen.
The next time through, in appreciation, they'd bring him a gift of "Four Roses," or one of the other popular liquors.
Frank didn't drink himself, but, when sold, the contents of those brown paper bags helped fuel his bank account.
He worked at the Colonial for seven years. Moving on, he stayed in the restaurant and hotel business in Logansport, Rochester and Inwood.
In 1938, he came to Plymouth and got a job at the Plymouth Hotel, which is where he met Mildred Maxon, the love of his life, who also worked there.
During World War II, Frank worked at Studebaker in South Bend on the Curtiss Wright production line that made the engines for fighter planes.
His job was classified and although he wanted to enlist in the service, the work he did was vital to the country's defense.
Later, he transferred to the Bendix Corp., where he built computers for fuel control in jet aircraft after-burners. He remained at Bendix for 22 2 years, retiring in 1973.
A great story-teller, Frank loves to tell tales about himself.
"Drove through the city bare-butt naked once," he said, laughing.
"Betcha you can't top that!"
(Well, actually no.)
He recalled the time he and Millie went out for a Sunday drive in the countryside -- one of their favorite pastimes.
He remembered he was suddenly visited by an uncontrollable call of nature. He pulled the pickup over to the side of the road and stepped out into an adjacent cornfield. One of his fashion statements at that time, along with his still ever-present baseball cap, was a zip-up one-piece cotton coverall.
As will happen at the most inopportune times -- the zipper got stuck, and he couldn't get the garment off in time.
Millie drove them home that Sunday afternoon. All the way through town with Frank beside her -- totally naked, except for his shoes.
Frank's devoted wife for 53 years, Millie, died in 1995.
After her death, in a generous gesture, he gave her car to a teen-aged athlete they both admired for his character and natural ability.
Fishing poles, wasps' nests
A guy tends to collect things over a long, interesting life.
Third of four parts
February 9, 2006
Pops Holloway has no trouble finding a fishing lure when he needs one. He's been making and collecting them for most of his 93 years.
Tribune Photo/Ida Chipman
PLYMOUTH -- "Pops" collects things. Antique bottles, for example. Mostly unwashed and dusty beer cans, perfume and medicine bottles.
He also has one of the best collections of colorful glass insulators in the Midwest.
At one time there were over 2,000 of them. Some are nailed to the back fence where, at night, they sparkle in the headlights of oncoming cars.
"It's probably a nostalgic thing," he said. "They remind me of my first paying job when I was very young."
He has several huge and ominous-looking wasp nests hanging from the ceiling of his basement and hundreds of political buttons on the wall.
Dozens of old fishing poles, dreaming of days when they hooked "the big one," are in repose against the wall.
Each rig, if they could talk, would have stories to tell of "the one that got away."
Pops is very artistic. He likes working with wood. Carved decoys, canes and wooden chair links are three of the decorative items that he enjoys making.
He still hand makes his own fishing rods of cherry or walnut and will custom make them for others.
He turns them on a lathe and painstakingly finishes them to perfection, tying the shafts with silk and nylon threads.
A member of Ducks Unlimited, he used to donate four of his rods every year to their fundraising raffles.
He also would send several to the game warden in Seymour, Ind., to give to children who would enjoy, but perhaps couldn't afford, a good rod and reel.
A dedicated outdoorsman, Pops was an accomplished mushroom hunter.
Making forays up into Michigan and Wisconsin, Pops could hunt mushrooms all day and find them where others could not.
"Heck no," he says, mildly insulted, shaking his head and pursing his lips.
"It's not just luck. It's skill and knowledge. You've got to know what trees to look for. Morels prefer dead elms, white oak and ash."
He doesn't mushroom anymore. "All the people I used to go with have died," he said, "but I sure did used to love that."
As for sharing the location of his mushrooming sites or his fishing holes, forget it.
They are closely guarded secrets.
Millie used to go mushrooming with him. Sort of. She'd drive the truck. One day, she dropped him off at the edge of a forest near Mentone.
Their plans were to meet in one hour on the other side of the woods.
Frank got there and no Millie.
He waited around, first getting grouchy and then getting scared.
He walked to Mentone and called his son.
"Larry, I've lost Millie," he said. "I can't find her."
Larry came and the two of them drove around long enough to determine that she wasn't to be found.
They called the police.
Millie was found in Logansport by the Indiana State Police and safely returned to her husband.
"She was never too good about compass directions," he said, forgiving her for scaring him half to death.
Tough by nature, he wasn't that way when it came to his Millie.
Chris Collins is one of Pops' large circle of friends and fishing buddies.
Chris said that he stops in the office from time to time "to make sure he's not missing out on anything."
Cooking meals is not Pops' strong suit.
"I eat out a lot," he said.
Most mornings he has breakfast at Schoop's Restaurant with a group of friends -- educators mostly, like John Hill and Larry Pinkerton.
"I know how to use the microwave too and that's real handy," he added.
His favorite things now are fishing with his son. All spring and summer, you can find them in their canoe on lakes throughout the area -- the Mississinewa, the Wabash, the Eel River, the Tippecanoe and Pretty Lake.
"A lot of times, we throw them back for someone else to catch," he said.
He explained that "in fishing, it's not catching the fish to eat, but the joy of being together, out on the water, enjoying nature and each other.
"There's a peace to it that you can't get any other way."
Almost didn't come back
For Pops Holloway, there was one fishing trip that was nearly his last.
Last of four parts.
February 10, 2006
Here is Pops Holloway on Kodiak Island, Alaska, in 2000. "That's a halibut," he says proudly. He made the trip with his son, Larry, and several friends.
PLYMOUTH -- There's an old adage that says, "Every day spent fishing adds another day to your life."
If true, Frank "Pops" Holloway -- at age 93 -- still has a long way to go.
But Chris Collins has a story from one of their two dozen annual Canadian fishing trips in which his old pal almost didn't make it home.
"We usually take an even number of fishermen, so there would be two to a boat," he said.
"But on this particular trip, we had only five going. Frank insisted that he be the one to fish alone."
Chris said he thinks Frank, 75 at the time, preferred it that way. "Many dedicated fishermen do."
The men were on a lake 18 miles wide and 3 miles long.
It was cold and rainy. The clouds were ominous, and the wind started to pick up.
Suddenly, the gloomy weather turned vicious. Six-foot whitecaps seethed on the water and crashed onto the shoreline.
The first two boats headed for the dock.
The third boat, with Pops Holloway, was nowhere to be seen.
Chris remembered that "it rained in sheets. Zero visibility. There was nothing -- absolutely nothing -- that we could do.
"We couldn't go out and look for him on those treacherous waters. We'd all drown."
The remaining four men stood outside the cabin in the wind and rain, cupping their hands around their mouths, yelling, "Frank -- Frank -- Frank."
Their shouts barely left their throats before they were muffled by the howling winds.
No answering call. No sounds but that of water pounding the beach and the wail of the wind through the trees.
Fear gripped their insides, twisting their bowels and turning their blood to ice.
Reluctantly -- one by one -- they went inside the cabin.
The fire was roaring in the fireplace, but there was no warmth to be found.
"There's a smell to fear, you know," Chris recalled.
It permeated the room.
All they could do was wait. And pray. Each in his own way.
"I knew," Chris said, "that if anyone could handle the situation, it would be Frank. If he was able to survive, he would."
It was a long night. Unspoken visions of Pops' body washing up on shore were on everyone's mind.
There wasn't much conversation. Every sound outside the cabin -- a branch across a window, a gust of wind causing a creak in the structure -- brought hope that it would be Pops.
The temperature dropped, hovering around the freezing mark.
Sometime just after midnight, five hours since he went missing, the door to the cabin flew open, and there stood Pops Holloway.
He looked terrible.
Dripping wet, standing in a puddle of water, tennis shoes untied with his glasses hanging down on his nose,
he resembled nothing less than a drowned rat.
He was shivering with the cold, his hat still plastered to his head, the bill askew and limp, sodden with water.
His fishing pole was still safely clenched in his half-frozen fist.
"Where the hell have you guys been?" he croaked.
"He was alive," Chris said. "Thank God, he was alive."
As the minutes had grown into hours, none of the men in the fishing party had much hope for his survival.
They hugged him. Chris said he could have kissed him, but was sure Frank would have killed him for it later.
Pops stripped off his cold, wet clothes, wrapped himself in warm blankets and poured a stiff drink down his throat.
When he had recovered enough to talk, he told how he made for the far shore when the storm hit.
He pulled the 14-foot aluminum boat up on the beach. Weighing the odds, he decided to try to get back to camp.
"I knew you guys would be worried about me if I didn't show up," he said.
For a couple of hours, the 75-year-old dug boulders out of the sand and piled them in the bow of the boat to give it ballast.
He pushed off, and bucking the 6-foot waves across the boiling waters, sat in the stern, hunched up against the wind with his hands half-frozen on the throttle.
The small engine strained and puttered. It took two hours to do it, but he made it across the lake and back to camp, ending one of the most terrifying times of his life -- and that of his friends.
Pops still stays very active, not only with his grandchildren. He takes care of his home and does his own yard work, often seen on his tractor-mower or messing around with his bright red pickup.
He helps out at the Big Red Golf Tourney every year by checking the golfers' claims to being closest to the hole.
On those days, he sits on the country club golf course in his yard chair for hours, enjoying the opportunity to talk to returning athletes from years past as they come by his station.
"It wouldn't be the same without Pops there on the 16th," Dick Bergman, a 1969 Rockie quarterback now living in California, said last summer.
"He is one of the reasons I look forward to coming back every year."
Pops Holloway. An American Original.
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