The Holt-Delhi Township Historical Society was founded in 2014 with the goal of preserving the history of the town.
“We do collect things and we put on tours or programs so that we’re educating the community on the history as well as preserving artifacts and the physical history of the community,” said Jacob McCormick, a curator with the historical society. “We also do summer tours of the cemeteries in the area, and there’s the one-room schoolhouse on the corner of Washington Street and Holt Road.”
But today the historical society’s collection has grown to include artwork, historical documents, and even landmarks to preserve the legacy of individuals, not only the buildings in Holt.
One man’s memory, Sterling Silver Alf, lives on in the collection. His paintings line the walls of not just the historical society but places all over Michigan.
His daughter Connie Caldwell and her husband Roy, live in Holt today. Hanging in the entrance to their home is a portrait of “S.S. Alf” by Bruce Corr.
“That portrait really encapsulates his personality,” said Roy Caldwell.
Alf seemed to live a laughter-filled and eccentric existence, according to his daughter.
“He had a really weird sense of humor,” said Connie Caldwell. “He had two or four of his grandkids in the restaurant one time, they was waiting for their order and he started folding up the paper placemats into airplanes!
“And one of them flew and hit a nun right in the face. Like a Catholic nun. She came over to their table and said something about how rude that was and he’s the one that threw ’em. He looked over at the kids and said, ‘you better shape up or I’m not bringing ya anymore’ and they hadn’t done a damn thing.”
Alf was born in North Dakota and moved to East Lansing when he was 9. He graduated from Okemos High School in 1930 but lived in Holt until his passing in July 1995.
“He wrote the first ever fight song at Okemos,” said Connie Caldwell. “It was called ‘Come On You Indians’ and he wrote the lyrics, not the music you know.”
Alf painted several signs that the historical society has. The most notable one is at Darb’s Crystal Bar. The sign reads “Holt isn’t big enough to have a town drunk so we all take turns.”
“That was just Sterling Silver Alf’s sense of humor,” said Marc Jenks, who has lived in Holt for 30 years. “He was loved by the people of Holt.”
Alf’s artwork began when he was in high school. After leaving high school he spent four winters in Florida selling signs to neighbors in the trailer park the family would move to before heading back to a sign shop in Houghton Lake for the summers.
“We used to take a trailer with some Disney characters painted on the side down to Florida,” said Connie Caldwell. “We would be going down the road on the way down to Florida, … and next thing you know kids are lining the road to look at that trailer.”
The historical society has used its outreach to preserve not just the history of what may be a simple town, but also the legacy of a not-so-simple man that who through it.
“We really think it’s important to tell the stories of this place,” said McCormick. “People need to know that there is more to this than meets the eye.”