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After four or five years in Berlin, the family moved back to Grand Rapids settling eventually in the neighborhood south of the downtown commercial district just a few blocks from the home the Merrills had purchased at 107 Logan Street SE. Bill continued to work as a clerk for the Grand Rapids and Indiana Railway and, after 1921, its successor -- the Pennsylvania System. This entitled the family to a railroad pass providing free travel which they often used to visit Bill's mother in Kansas City or to see friends up north in Michigan.
In the early 1920s, Bill and a group of his fishing buddies, who also worked for the railroad, decided to build a cottage where they could get away from the city and indulge their hobby. Bill bought a piece of property on the shore of Bass Lake in Montcalm County, just a few miles northeast of Grand Rapids. His friends helped him erect a simple cottage, which they all continued to frequent over the coming years. During summers Emma and son James would often make extended stays at the cottage with Bill joining them on weekends. (For more details about the cottage see James' autobiography.)
Photos taken at Bass Lake in 1923: two show Leena and Myrnie Merrill and their sister Emma at the cottage; Bill and a friend showing off the day's catch; Bill (far right) and friends share a meal; the last two show Bill (at left) in a rowboat
Around 1923, the family moved from Cody Avenue to a two-story house at 35 Shelby Street. The McNitts lived upstairs and rented out the downstairs to another family. This move meant that James switched to Sheldon elementary school, which was across the street from the Congregational Church that Emma attended. It also meant that James would attend South High School when the time came (Walter and Glenn had just graduated from Central High School). Bill left his job with the railroad around 1925 and took over management of a grocery store at 652 Wealthy Street affiliated with the Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company (later shortened to A&P).
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