Sunday, September 20, 2009

From the Obituary Files

Today in the Archives, Dusty D was working on obituaries. We have a large box filled with 5 by 8-inch manila envelopes. These envelopes come from the old Ann Arbor News clippings archives, which was kindly donated to us. Each envelope contains clipped and dated obituaries. In some envelopes it's just one tiny notice; others have whole pads of clippings. For each person, I wrote their name and death date in the top left side of an index card. If the obituary is small, it is glue-sticked directly onto the card. If it is large, it's shrunken down on the copier first and then added. When dry, the index cards are filed in our Obituary File Cabinet, which contains about 73,000 obituary cards.

Though the front Archives room was quiet, with the only sound the U-M/EMU football game on the radio and our intern clicking his mouse 20 feet away, I was reading accounts of car crashes, suicides, a heroin overdose, and other dark and violent stories.

This one from 1969, however, just struck me as sad. In the first clip an 11-year-old Shalto Jacobs is profiled in a "Young People Going Places" feature. "He would like to become a lawyer when he grows up and defend people. Basketball, his favorite sport in the winter months, fills a temporary gap for the youngster who enjoys building models as a hobby." Shalto's smile is innocent and confident.

The second story details his drowning "in the lake at Woodland Hills Dr. and Scenic Lake Dr."

"When [the boys swimming] got within 15 feet of the shore, Jacobs stopped, yelled, and sank beneath the surface. He did not reappear."

The third article details his funeral the next day. "Jacobs would have been a June 12 graduate of the Ypsilanti High School."

When working on obituaries, once in a while you have to take a break.


Lisele said...

I love learning about these stories. I rode by Shalto's house just today on my bike.

Dusty D said...

You rode by his *house*? This very day?!

----------->"The past is never dead. It's not even past." --William Faulkner

Lisele said...

I often go by this house while riding, 507 N Hamilton. It's a rental now, just one house off the corner of Forest & Hamilton. If you're going by car, you'll race right by it, but by bike, you can see it's a eave-on older Italianate, not too much charm, and now it's got cars parked in the front yard. But the pathos of knowing Butch lived his short life right *there* is intense. SO MUCH history is steeped into every board & brick, if we only knew. That's what I've been feeling about the Thompson Block's destruction. Probably Allie McCullough & Carrie Hardy both brushed their hands against its old bricks walking by -- I know I have, and probably so has almost every other visitor to Depot Town, at one time or another.

Dusty D said...

True about the Thompson Building--it was already built when Allie was alive, and was probably a familiar fixture to her as she lived just a few blocks away near Michigan and Huron.

Man, I just have to sit back and absorb that for a bit...

507 N. Hamilton. Dusty D will be out a-peripatatin' tomorrow, and I'll stop by to take a look, and a snapshot! Thank you for the info, Lisele!

Robert said...

Shalto was my best friend. I was supposed to go swimming with him that day, but woke up late. Later I went in Brooks IGA. Richard Hahn was working the register and had already heard about the drowning.