Monday, August 31, 2009

Ole-Timey Cistern Yields Present-Day Savings

Tarnation! Take a gander at Dusty Diary's latest water bill from the YCUA. This August's water consumption is a measly 1/5 of what it was last August!

That's thanks to our two new rain cisterns, fed by downspouts. They're like rain barrels, but instead of purchasing pricey rain barrels, we did it up in full Ypsitucky splendor, and just buried two $12 trash cans in the ground. The cans are covered when not in use to prevent skeeterage.

Looks like they covered all of our outdoor watering needs for August, saving hundreds of dollars! And that's even with a large garden covering most of the back yard. Many Ypsilanti homes used to have cisterns for a water supply. One more old-time tradition that's a real benefit to us today.

Monday Mystery Artifact on

We had 2 winners this week, erksnerks and Larissa! Today's new Mystery Artifact is posted; see if you can guess!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Recollections of a Former Worker in Ypsilanti's Beyer Memorial Hospital

Over at my annarbor. com story about Beyer Hospital's onetime newspaper, a former hospital worker stopped by to add a charming and touching comment, which I am reprinting here in the interests of adding to our collective understanding of the onetime culture of our hospital:

"Beyer Hospital was a wonderful place to work, I am still in contact with co-workers that I had while I worked at Beyer. It was not like going to a job, it was like being with a second family working at Beyer hospital. When I reached the age of 30 while working at Beyer, co-workers and Administration gave me a surprise birthday party at a Roller skate rink in Ypsilanti and then every one came to my home for cake. The small hospitals are gone and now you have the big hospitals that are a corporation and no one even knows when your birthday and if they do nothing is said to you and the same for any holiday. At Beyer, a weekly news letter come out and told all the news about the workers from who got married and who died and their Birthday."

"Michigan Kim Chi": Fun with Food Safety, 19th-Century Style!

Kind readers may remember that 2 Saturdays ago I decided to try a settler-era method of food preservation: the dill crock. The clean crock was filled with raw veggies and a brine solution, and weighted down with a plate upon which sat a gallon jug of water. The crock sat on our kitchen counter for 2 weeks, at room temperature.

I was a little frightened of this craft. What if I opened it up and found a big, black, slimy....errrghhhh!!! What if I got sick from eating something that had sat around for 2 weeks?

Before opening the crock today, I felt a little better when I found out that this exact same method of vegetable preservation was used by 19th-century Michigan settlers. [Um, Dusty, these were the same folks who used the open-kettle canning method; just a thought. --ed.] Here is an excerpt from U. P. Hedrick's "The Land of the Crooked Tree." The book is "an exuberant recall of pioneer life on the northern tip of the lower peninsula of Michigan, begun when the author's family migrated there in 1874."Here's the crock sitting on the counter. Time to take off the bag and peek inside.

When I took off the bag, I saw the brine was pink!--probably from the carrots. I leaned in and took a big sniff.

WHOA NELLIE! It smelled TERRIBLE, like angry mold. Oh, God. Did I just waste a whole crock's worth of nice vegetables? Gahh! I gingerly lifted out he submerged plate with a spoon, dreading what I might see.

Wow. Looks good! The fresh-looking veggies are floating in brine.

Then I got aholt of myself a bit more. I noticed that it was the scum around the edge, on the lip of the crock, that smelled so bad. I carefully wiped it off with a clean sponge. Hm. That was better! The scum is a natural part of the process. It forms on the surface of the brine, but because of the brine, does not penetrate to the veggies safely down below. I did skim it off a couple of times over the two weeks with a spoon, and also with a coffee filter, neither of which worked too well--but for true pioneer types you don't have to.

Now comes the true test. Tasty delight or hospital visit? "Honey!" I called sweetly. "Would you like to try those pickles?" I scooped up a few with a strainer and rinsed them briefly under the tap.

"Mmm!" my husband said. "These are good! Can I have a few more?" I scooped and rinsed a few more. Hubby scooted off to enjoy his bowl of mixed pickles while reading.

I observed him quietly from the kitchen door for a scientific amount of time. Skin color: normal. Respiration: normal. Palpitations, palsy, clutching of throat: none.

I approached sweetie's bowl and gingerly picked up one cauliflower floret. I examined its light pinkness. It looked fine. Bite.

Oh boy. This is GOOD. Salty and crisp, with just a tinge of hot pepper at the end and a richness of garlic and dill. Tried a carrot. Crispy and salty-sweet. Tried a garlic clove. Oh my, was that nummy: mild, garlicky, and crunchy-juicy. This was the real deal--the mixed pickles I'd loved so much as a kid.

So now we have a whole crockful of them chilling in the fridge, ready as a cool, crisp, salty snack or side dish at any time. What a time saver! And a money saver...AND it satisfies the Hundred-Year Rule!

It's also really empowering to me. I feel great making, not buying, food, and the list of foods we make is becoming substantial:

1. All our bread and cookies, &c.
2. Yoghurt (gallon at a time)
3. Farmer's cheese with herbs
4. Mixed pickles
5. All soups, gravies, sauces, and stocks--no canned soup or gravy packets here!

The "Crooked Tree" book also had a description of making sauerkraut that is similar to the dill crock. With cabbage at 50 cents a pound, I am now excited to try this next, once I get a new crock, likely from Value World. In the meantime, hooray for mixed pickles and for the pioneers who made 'em and et 'em long ago!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Precursor of Ypsilanti's Beyer Hospital's 1950s Punch Card System was Hollerith's 1890 Census Machine

Cute Programming Tricks on the UNIVAC® 1100

neato mosquito!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Time to Party with the Beyer Memorial Hospital "IBM Department"!

It's Friday night. That means time for fun. So here we go--how about a cartoon, drawn by an engineer, depicting, uh, er, I think it's depicting the punch-card system Beyer. How patient information is processed? Or employee check-in? I don't rightly know. Perhaps those wiser then Dusty D can help figger out what in the Sam Hill this is all about and why it's supposedly funny! (Click for larger image).

I do know this: the cartoon figure in the 9:30 panel, pulling his hair, and in the last 2 panels, seen messing around with wires in the punch-card (?) machine, is John Jenkins, the superintendent of Beyer. You can see him here demonstrating one of Beyer's IBM machines to two Pennsylvania Hospital delegates. Beyer's IBM system was, the caption says, "recognized as one of the most modern in the country, which [the Penn Hospital guys] want to use as a model for the Pennsylvania Hospital."

Beyer's Visiting Nurse Program Once Sent Nurses Right To Your Home

Beyer Memorial Hospital used to have quite an active Visiting Nurse program. According to the hospital's newspaper, the Beyer Banner, in one sample month in 1954 the Visiting Nurses made 375 visits to Ypsilantians, or, a dozen a day. Nurses gave baths to homebound old people, advised new parents on how to prepare for and care for new babies, checked two possible child polio cases, delivered and injected penicillin to children sick at home, counseled a patient scheduled for an operationi, and in general provided an invaluable service to the community.

One wonders why the hospital was able to afford and provide this wonderful mobile service 50 years ago and why it seems like an unimaginable luxury today.

Can You Still get Beer and Gin at Beezy's?

In the depths of the Depression, Chief of Police Ralph Southard finally had enough information. He entered a flat at 20 N. Washington. Bingo. There was a full-bore illegal speakeasy there, complete with a keg on ice, five quarts of gin, five gallons of wine, and about 40 bottles of beer at various stages of fermentation.

My! A rather elegant menu for a blind pig!

The guy running the joint, Werner Mikkola, had also set up tables for the comfort of patrons. Oh, and as the final touch, the article notes: "pretzels were available."

No luck. The police raided the saloon and broke it down. Years later, this onetime blind pig transformed into today's delightful cafe Beezy's. Which does not serve alcohol--however, today the range of nibbles is just a tad better!

The 1874 Diary of Ypsilanti Teen Allie McCullough

Part of a year-long weekly series of excerpts from Ypsilanti teenager Allie McCullough's 1874 diary, from the last year of her life.

You may remember that last week Allie was getting close to school-time. She also had a bout of illness...would it crop up again once school began?

Aug. 28 Fri. Mary and I went to John Harwoods today. Stopped and got Mrs. Clark. Did not get there until almost noon and came away after supper, but for certain reasons did not get home until almost eight o'clock. Mary stayed. Had a nice time.

Aug. 29 Sat. Was quite busy all the forenoon. Expected Mary tonight, but she did not come. Went over and called on Miss Bergers. Did not stay long, then went over to Mary Wordens. She got Marion's globe for wax cross [?] It is beautiful and nearly finished. Alex came home last night.

Aug. 30 Sun. Mary has come home. Went to Church this morning with Mother. Mr. Fuller preached his farewell sermon and then the rest of the morning begged for money. Stayed for S. S. Read Shakespeare all the the afternoon and took a nap. J. N. came down and we went to church in the evening.

Aug. 31 Mon. I fixed over my dress this afternoon and tried on some of my winter clothes. Joe N. is here in the afternoon. We had quite a nice time. Have got to go to school tomorrow. The very thoughts of it make me sick. I dread to go but this vacation has been lovely.

Sept. 1 Tues. Went to school. Every thing just the same. Two new boys and Chet Yost, besides those that come from the Grammar Room. I have the back seat in the senior row. It seems as if I had not been out of school not at all. Mr. Lane takes VanCleve's place. Have a terrible cold and fearful headache.

Sept. 2 Wed. Went to school. Study Intellectual Philosophy, General History, which is rather ancient commencing with the beginning of the Bible. Did not go to school this afternoon as I had nothing to do. Had callers today. The girls are in the country.

Sept. 3 Thurs. It rained this morning and this noon so that I did not come home to dinner. Got my Latin lesson, then read Shakespeare with Jennie S. Have had all of my lessons today. Went up town in the evening.

Sept. 4 Fri. It is rather cold this morning. I went to Lyceum in the evening. Mr. W. was there and Mr. S. but I did not have a chance to speak to either. Did not get but one chance to speak to J.S. and then did not speak. I read the resolutions. Joe and A. E. L. (Alfred Lucking) was there. I had fun.

Thanks for reading; tune in this coming Friday for another chapter!.

Five Wonderful Things about Beyer Memorial Hospital’s Little In-House 1950s Newspaper

New story in which I hope you enjoy.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Telephone Reflects a Hospital's Personality

How good are you at making friends and influencing people on the telephone?

The telephone is one of the greatest aids to modern living there is, and your future may be affected by how well you use it.

The telephone plays such an important part in relations between our institution, our patients, our outside contacts and ourselves that voice personality is often as important as your face-to-face personality.

What makes a good telephone personality? The rules are simple.

1. Answer promptly.
2. Speak directly into the mouthpiece in your natural tone of voice.
3. Be courteous.
4. Listen carefully; make the caller feel you are interested in what he has to say.
5. Don't tie up lines with personal calls.
6. Don't insist that the other guy get on the line first.
7. If a call is switched to your line accidentally, take the time to have it transferred promptly to the proper local. Don't just drop it.
8. If you take a call you can't handle satisfactorily or at once, take the caller's name and number and say he will be called back or refer him to the right person.

If you're observing these eight simple rules when you answer the phone, you're making friends for yourself and Beyer hospital.

--"Beyer Banner" newsletter from Ypsilanti's Beyer hospital, March 1954
Dusty D met two nice young folks involved with the Ypsi Project today, by chance, in the archives today. The lady flattered DD by saying she would like a photo of yours truly to add to her collection of pics of Ypsi-ish folks. DD thanked her kindly for the compliment--but combine extreme shyness with a complete lack of any sort of photogenic quality on this wizened, grumpy, puckered, pickled, warty, weathered, wrinkly, chicken-scratched old face crowned with terminal matted bike-helmet-hair and...I think the world may just have to wonder what the elusive DD actually looks like. Catch me if you can, young-'uns!

Memories of Polio in Ypsilanti, Sent by Kind Readers

Two kind readers have contributed some extraordinary recollections of personal experiences with polio in their families. Polio was once one of the most-feared diseases in Ypsilanti. Thank you to these readers for contributing their memories--and if others have memories of polio, I would be grateful to hear them and collect them here.

Susan Metler writes:

"My mother Marie (Roggenkamp) Patterson had polio around 1953 or 1954. At that point in her life she had five children 10 & under. Her home was at 617 North River Street.
Marie was told that she would not walk again but her husband who was a medic during WWII refused to believe that so he work her legs every day. Mom said he would drag her back in forth in a small up stairs hall way. With prayer, a lot of working with her husband Elzie, Marie did walk and she had me in 1955 and lived until the age of 85. Marie past away one day short of her 86th birthday, on March 31, 2005."

Ms. Metler's sister Kathy added:

"I might add to my sister's comment here, "Susan Metler," not only did our mother have polio but my older brother Michael had it. I can remember all of us going to get polio shots at Dr. Scoville's office. I will never forget the day they came to take my mother to the hospital. The men took a wooden chair upstairs to my mother's room, they sat her on it, and carried her downstairs and out. I was about 6 yrs. old and was so afraid I would never see her again. Dad took us children over to Ann Arbor where she was in the hospital. She came to the window to wave at us so we would know she was all right. Later on I remember her saying how the nurse brushed her hair and put a ribbon in it so she would look pretty for us. The Lord blessed our family to have my mother and brother well and home. Then blessed us with Susan."

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

You Can't Get a Prescription for Guinness Anymore, Sorry!

Kind readers, if you were hoping to skirt Prohibition by having your doc write you a prescription for beer, I am sorry to say you're outta luck.

The Supreme Court has ruled that such prescriptions have "no medicinal value" and that they are injurous to the national effort needed to enforce strict prohibition.

Oddly enough, a cache of whiskey nabbed in Ypsilanti at this time was donated to Beyer Hospital for, um, medicinal use, of a contradiction there.

Anyways, stop badgering ole Doc Watson for a beerscription! Just make some bathtub gin like everyone else!

The Wandering Groom and the Wandering Bride

New story, about the travails of love, on; here. Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The 1919 Diary of Ypsilanti High School Teacher Carrie Hardy

Part of a year-long weekly serialization of Ypsilanti high school math teacher Carrie Hardy's diary.

Kind readers may recall that Carrie was still sick for most of last week. At the end of another week of sickness, her improvement was such that she could sit up in bed--which implies that she couldn't before. That's pretty bad.

Aug. 25 Mon. Better. Sat up in bed.

Aug. 26 Tues. Mrs. N. left this noon. Lillian in charge. $51.00 for Mrs. N.

Aug. 27 Wed. Drive with Lillian. Mr. O. L. Morris called in eve.

Aug 28 Thurs. Went with Lillian to market. Getting stronger. [different handwriting] Morris family return to W. G., Mo.

Aug 29 Fri. Drove my car down town this A. M. Am too weak to drive.

Aug 30 Sat. Am trying to drive a little every day to gain strength.

Aug. 31 Sun. Expected Rob but he did not come. Rather a lonely day for both Lillian and me. I eat well.

Sept. 1 Mon. Drove twice today. Went to Movie to see Marguerite Clark in "Come Out of the Kitchen."

Thanks for reading; tune in next Tuesday for the next series!

We Want to Bring Back the "Heritage" in Heritage Fest

Are you kiddin' me?

Was Ypsilanti's heritage represented by a measly three tents, including the beer guy?

Three tents?

Dusty D and sweetie paused on the path on the first encounter with this vestigial Heritage representation, and said aloud, "Is that all there is?"

A stranger passerby lady said, "I know--isn't it a shame? That's all there is!"

Dusty D got angry. Her Sweetie, oddly, got motivated (oddly since he's a computer guy whom I wouldn't have guessed would be angered by the pathetic showing of Heritage-type folk at Heritage Fest).

We decided we'd be the change we'd like to see in Heritage Fest.

Sweetie started writing a bunch of ideas down on paper. He planned a set of 19th-century games, including quoits, horseshoes, and the hoop-toss game "graces," that he'd run. Dusty D thought a demonstration of 19th-century clothes-washing in a wooden tub might be interesting. Things that people can touch and interact with. We sat up all night, writing down ideas. A display of the amount of wood you'd need to get through a winter. A stump in which to grind corn, as was done in settlement times. A butter churn. We already own a ton of cast iron items with which settlers would have cooked. We can contribute that.

It's time for the next generation of historical folks to step up and remind people of the "Heritage" portion of Heritage Fest.

Dusty D and sweetie have 12 months to get together a wooden washing machine, period clothes, and friends to help. Dusty D has already scoped out ebay for wooden washing machines and JoAnn Fabrics for canvas for our tent. I can sew it up myself on our 1920s sewing machine. Help us, please, dear readers, revive the Heritage portion of Heritage Fest!

Dusty D's sweetie described a past year's Heritage Fest when he stood on Cross St. Bridge and admired the soft kerosene lights glowing from afar, from the historical encampment far down in Riverside Park. Dusty D remembers the teepee guy with his teepee set up in the park.

It's time for the next generation of historical folks to step up and take the reins. Kind readers, will you please help us help expand the "historical" portion for next year's Heritage Fest?

--wooden washing machine
--kerosene lamps
--canvas for tent
--butter churn
--bonnet for Dusty Diary
--broad-brimmed hat for sweetie

Thank you for your kind attention to our effort to bring back the "heritage" in Heritage Fest!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Lay in Spit, Nail Tipsy, Slain Pity, Sanity Lip, Spy in Tail.


Ever Wonder What Happened to the Old Ypsi Press Delivery Gang?

Hey, ever wonder what happened to the old gang who used to hang out on the Ypsi Press loading dock, bikes parked nearby, waiting for their papers?

Dusty D has just finished a three-month investigation, at her own expense, to track down these onetime Ypsi boys, and see how their early experiences as hard-working Press paperboys shaped the rest of their lives.

Their stories can now be told.

Although BIRK KLEINFELTER in this picture is folding a newspaper, he looks as though he's shaking a martini. In that, the picture is strangely prescient, since Birk went on to become a part-time bartender at the Sagging Hammock in Milan, Michigan. He attributes his success to his early Press exeriences. "If not for the Ypsilanti Press," Birk told this reporter, after making her one of his custom Dirty Elbows, "I'd be a nobody." Birk was the Sagging Hammock's Employee of the Month in October of 1992.

BRENT BRADFORD always did have a keen eye for money. Who can forget his hilarious stunt in middle school--"borrowing" the lunch money from the cafeteria cash register? How we laughed! And he wrote that beautiful poem afterwards about what he called his "vacation" in juvenile detention--it even rhymed. Brent's history is a bit blurry for a few years after his formative Press experiences and he won't discuss it--who knows what that scamp was up to--but he's recently surfaced in a pre-manufactured micro-estate homes community in the Thumb, where he breeds fighting pit bulls. A wordsmith since youth, perhaps he's working on a book of poetry about his handsome animals!

EUNICE SNORD was cut out to serve God from his earliest boyhood days. When other Ypsi kids were fishing for carp in the Huron, Eunice was watching "The 700 Club" and making plans. Big plans. Today he runs a successful religious business right from his own home down by the river! Eunice can mail you everything from magnetic rings dipped in Lourdes water to holy candles, ballpoint pens personally blessed by the Pope, and your own lucky lottery numbers. Of his early Press experiences, Eunice says, while lighting up an odd-looking cigarette, "I remember those days, I think."

GODFREY POMERANIAN leveraged his pivotal Press experiences into a lucrative career. Now second-in-charge of canapes on the Royal Malthusian Cruise lines, he has nowhere to go but up. "I run it all--the sardine plates, the lutefisk table, the carved walrus centerpiece. I don't actually carve it--you have to go to school for that. But I do arrange it, and I put those little paper things on the tusks there." When not plying the sunny waters between Greenland and Iceland, back and forth, Godfrey likes to stare vacantly off into space, or nap.

Godfrey never dreamed that his character-building experiences as a young Press delivery boy would result in such a glamourous career--but it did! Why don't you sign up your young'un for the kinds of boy-building, healthy, uplifting experiences that the "old gang" has benefited from? Remember, "The Ypsi Press Delivers!"

Heritage Fest Awesomeness: Mime Michael Lee Mesmerizes Crowd (and us) on Cross Street

Dusty D and sweetie were enchanted by mime Michael Lee on the Cross Street Bridge Saturday. We parked our butts on a nearby picnic table for most of an hour, absolutely mesmerized by the manner in which he controlled a huge crowd of onlookers merely by doing...nothing.

Mr. Lee was bedecked in silver makeup and white-spattered grey clothes which made him look like a shadowy old-timey figure from an old B&W photo, cut out and mysteriously glued into our full-color world. He sat motionless on a chair. He had a Walkman with old-time tinny tunes coming from it. Next to him was a bucket of flowers. When someone came up to put a dollar into his money-tin, he miraculously came to life in a robotic fashion, gave a flower to the donor, and tugged his hat in salute.

"He's only got two flowers left," Dusty D whispered to her equally rapt sweetie. When the flowers ran out, he improvised interactions with passers-by. When someone took out their cameraphone to photograph him, he nonchalantly took out his own Blackberry to snap the picture-taker, to laughs from the crowd.

Bemused, smiling crowds kept forming and re-forming around Mr. Lee on the bridge. Dusty D laughed and actually got a bit teary-eyed, to see the wee children, who couldn't quite parse this strange silver man, receive flowers and back away, staring up at him with wonder and smiles. Dusty D and sweetie agreed later over a Luwak reuben that Mr. Lee had been the best part of Heritage Festival (beating out even car-crushing in Depot Town!) We hope he returns next year to enchant us again.

Monday Mystery Artifact on

Howdy historical peeps. Please allow me to apologize to you for not updating this weekend; our Internet went down. Dusty D's brainiac sweetie figgered out that it was the transformer thingie-box with the pluggie Dusty D stood by, slackjawed. Anyways, he fixed 'er up in record time and we're back in business. Odd that the transformer blew out...hmm, makes me think of arc lights and Tesla and all sorts of neato electrical topics--I should scurry off to my files to find an electrifying story for y'all. In the meantime, here is the Monday Mystery Artifact--good luck!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Portraits of Ypsilantians: Samuel Ballard; Pioneer Poet, Prohibitionist, and Husband to Harmonical Philosopher

"Samuel P. Ballard, who is a representative citizen of Augusta Township, is a native of Monroe County, N. Y., where he was born January 20, 1824. He is a son of Asa N. and Elizabeth (Henry) Ballard, the former being a native of Massachusetts, and the latter of New York. Our subject's paternal grandsire was a soldier in the Revolutionary War. Early in the Territorial history of Michigan, in 1828, and when our subject was in his fourth year, he was brought by his parents to this county, coming hither by way of the Erie Canal and the lakes to Detroit, thence to Ypsilanti by stage while the goods came to Rawsonville by flat-boat. Asa Ballard was one of the earliest settlers of Ypsilanti Township, their first home here being made in the midst of the woods.

"After combating with the difficulties and privations of pioneer life, our subject's father departed this life in the year 1844, and his wife followed him in 1861. They were the parents of seven children, of whom only three survive. They are Forbes H., Celinda, the widow of James Pierson and Samuel P., of whom we write. Our subject was reared to manhood amid scenes of pioneer life, and prior to coming to his present location, he cleared up an eighty-acre farm in Ypsilanti Township, besides doing much other pioneer labor. He has witnessed the growth of the country from a primeval state of wilderness to its present productive and rich agricultural state, On first coming here wolves frequently made the night hideous about their cabin with their howls, and bears were frequently seen, deer and wild turkeys were also easily attainable by anyone who could use a rifle, and fish were to be had for the catching in the many streams with which the country abounded, and it was not necessary to worry over fashion, for as long as a garment remained whole, it was suitable for wear. Indians were numerous, and our subject was often permitted to see them congregate in thousands to engage in the war dance. These questionable advantages were however offset by the meagre opportunities offered for acquiring an education, but where there is a will there is a way, and our subject made up for many of the deficiencies of his early training by reading all that he could lay hands on by the light of the hickory fire in the long winter evenings, and as papers became more common, he endeavored to keep himself thoroughly well posted, not only with the issues of the day, but all current events.

"Mr. Ballard was married February 10, 1846, to Miss Huldah Ann Phelps, who was born October 17, 1826, in the old Bay State. She is a daughter of Norman and Huldah Miranda (Harvey) Phelps. Her parents emigrated to Michigan in 1830. This marriage was blest by the advent of one son into the family to whom they gave the name of Norman A., but who is now deceased. Our subject purchased the farm upon which he now resides in 1862, but did not locate upon it until 1863. His tract is not a wide one, containing but forty acres, but it is kept in the most perfect order, and cultivated to the greatest possible extent. There is upon it an elegant residence that is fitted out with the most modern conveniences, and furnished most beautifully, showing that the taste employed in bringing the various articles of decoration, use and vertu [virtue] is of the most refined and exquisite nature. On entering the home the visitor is impressed with a sense of the culture and refinement shown in all the appurtenances of the place rarely found in rural homes.

"Mr. Ballard has served in various capacities in local offices of the township, having been Commissioner of Highways for six years, Justice of the Peace for four years, and since 1863 he has been prominently identified with the Grange society, and has served in various capacities. He belongs to Grange No. 52, Augusta Township, having for several years been Master of the fraternity. He has also served as Secretary, and for a number of years has been Lecturer. Prior to coming here he was Treasurer of Pomona Grange, located at Ypsilanti. He is a member of the Masonic order, and prominently known in the State as the writer of articles that most ably set forth the advantages pertaining to Grange societies, nor does he confine himself to this, but discusses in the topics which he takes up, the leading issues of the day. He has much ability in metrical writing, and his poems are characterized by a delicacy as well as strength. Politically Mr. Ballard is a Prohibitionist. He is a prominent and representative pioneer of the county.

"Our subject and his wife have ever been useful and interested members of society, and are now enjoying the consciousness of a life well spent. For a number of years Mrs. Ballard was before the public as a lecturer. The general subject of her discourses was harmonical philosophy, and under this head she lectured on various topics, and acquired a pleasing reputation throughout the State. She was also frequently called upon in years past, to preach funeral sermons, and offer consolation to bereaved families. She is a lady of large and varied mental ability, and is a fit companion for her talented husband. Both are highly esteemed and respected members of their community. They have numerous friends who wish them many years of enjoyment of the good things of this life. They are known far and wide for their extended hospitality which is dispensed with a lavish hand."

--Portrait and Biographical Album of Washtenaw County, Michigan; 1891, Biographical Publishing Co., Chicago.

Friday, August 21, 2009

The 1874 Diary of Ypsilanti Teen Allie McCullough

Part of a year-long weekly series of excerpts from Ypsilanti teenager Allie McCullough's 1874 diary, from the last year of her life.

You may remember that last week Allie was enlisted as a volunteer piano player for one Mr. Dudley. She found a four-leaf clover and hung it over the door, and a "Mr. P." was the "first one under the clover," which, as one helpful person pointed out, was a belief that "if you hang a four leaf clover over the door, the first single man through the doorway will be yours." Sadly, this would never come true for Allie.

Aug. 21 Fri. Had made up my mind not to go home with Ma when Emma's sister came to take her home, so I ran upstairs to get ready and did so in two minutes. While there J.B. sent up word to see if I would ride with him. Sent back I thought not, so he and John went together. Got home, went out to the well and they came through the shop and spoke to me. I asked them in, but we had other company besides Mrs. Gill, Mr. P. and they would not come. Rained hard in the afternoon.

Aug. 22 Sat. If I had been superstitious people we would have made ourselves miserable on account of breaking the looking glass and Alex being gone. Run away from home a week ago today. No one knows where. Len Bradley went with him. I don't know what we are coming to. A very happy week I have spent in spite of everything. I am confident that I have gained something.

Aug. 23 Sun. I am about sick, but all of my diary seems pleasant enough, but that is because I write only the surface of everything and every day. I do not need to put down miserable things in order to remember them. I never can forget what is happening all these days to make me unhappy, never [underlined], but there is much that is pleasant. Will has gone to campmeeting. All of the others went yesterday afternoon.

Aug. 24 Mon. Joe Neller was here this morning. They are moving up to the other side of Carrie N.'s. We had other callers. A man came to get subscribers for a music book. It is very nice. He played quite a good many pieces out of it for me. I have subscribed.

Aug. 25 Tues. We have had callers again today. I was going up to Joe's tonight. Reading a letter I got from Flint, when right by --N.'s I heard someone call. When I turned around there was Mr. N. and Durbin. Had a long talk with Durbin. They want me to go back tomorrow night with them and then some back with will on Thursday.

Aug. 26 Wed. Went up to another meeting of the Young Ladies Society this afternoon. There were very few there, but we organized. When I got home we had callers. Do not think that I will go down to Carrie's. Do not feel very well. Mr. N. called for me, but I did not go.

Aug. 27 Thurs. Was sick last night and this morning. My music book came and I had quite a nice time practicing. Have had company this afternoon and Uncle Tom B. was here tonight. Will has gone to Flat Rock. It was a beautiful day.

Aug. 28 Fri. Mary and I went to John Harwoods today. Stopped and got Mrs. Clark. Did not get there until almost noon and came away after supper, but for certain reasons did not get home until almost eight o'clock. Mary stayed. Had a nice time.

Thanks for reading; tune in this coming Friday for another chapter!.

The Concrete Origins of Ypsilanti's Heritage Fest

Curious about when and how Ypsilanti's Heritage Fest started out? Take a gander at my story about when it all began, in today's

Mad props to Tom Dodd and James "Bad Boy" Mann for their invaluable help in writing this story! (flashes historical gang sign).

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Open Letter to the Anti-Pole-Vaulting-At-Heritage-Fest Contingent

The grapevine says that some history-minded folk in town are raising eyebrows, and questions, concerning this year's Pole Vaulting exhibition. "Pole Vaulting?" they whisper. "What in the Sam Hill does that have to do with Ypsilanti Heritage?"

Dusty D chuckles indulgently as she reaches for her copy of Harvey Colburn's book The Story of Ypsilanti. Little do these well-meaning nay-sayers know that this sport was a part of our urban fabric when that fabric was still just a single thread--and that shining blue thread is the Huron River. Open your books, please, to page 51:

"Jonathan G. Morton, Ypsilanti's first store-keeper, had visited Woodruff's Grove in August, 1824, he being at that time twenty-two years of age. Morton was a native of Massachusetts. At the age of seventeen he had procured a horse and wagon and a stock of "Yankee notions" and, before coming to Ypsilanti, had peddled the country from New England to Ohio. Visiting Detroit, he determined to explore the country and set out on foot along the Indian trail. Arriving at the Grove, he was favorably impressed by the new settlement and determined to open a business. Returning East, he bought a stock of dry-goods and shipped it to Detroit. The following spring he had his merchandise poled up the river in a small boat."

Many others did the same, in an era when the forest between Detroit and Ypsi was well-nigh impassable to wagons. Now, ask yourself. Once you've poled your boat all the way up the river, what's the quickest, easiest way to get ashore? In lieu of wading through the leeches and slimy rocks and moray eels. Of course! You'd use all that upper body strength you'd built up on the Huron and with a quick graceful movement, simply pole vault to shore, yessir. The historicity of this activity is now documented thanks to me. So let's not have any more of this quibbling and sniveling--join Dusty D in embracing this historical event as the modern-day analog of an activity from our earliest history.

The Inaugural Iteration of Heritage Fest Was Not Derailed by the Untimely Death of Morris the Cat

But it was arguably a close call. The local paper certainly took note.

On Thursday, July 13 1978, the Ypsilanti Press reported that Morris, the beloved star of cat food commercials, had passed away in Chicago at the age of 17. The paper ran a photo showing a leonine Morris perched on "some of the hundreds of fan letters he received each week," said the caption.

A couple of days later, the paper gave a heads-up on its upcoming Sunday stories. "The death of Morris the Cat has left a void in the cat world," noted the blurb. "In his Sunday column on the Editorial Page, Managing Editor Joe Matasich tells how one local feline took the news."

On Sunday, the Press published that promised editorial. It is Dusty Diary's privilege to reprint it here in its entirety.

"When a member of the family, or a friend dies, we humans have a way of expressing our sorrow," Matasich philosophised.

"But what do you tell your household girl cat when the Clark Gable of the feline world--Morris of 9 Lives fame--kicks the bucket at the ripe old are of 17? (That's equal to 90 human years).

"Do you shake her paw? Give her more vittles? Less vittles? Write a message in the sand in her litter box?

"We checked folks out at other cat houses and it seems the problem was probably universal.

"Our snobby Motu went under the bed and sulked for hours when we broke the news that the star of TV commercials had checked out of this world.

"We offered to send a note or flowers to his owner Bob Martwick of Chicago.

"Even a pledge to offer up a Mass wouldn't budge her.

"But in true Morris style--aloof, finicky, stubborn, and independent--Motu hung in there under the bed and didn't come out until 4 a.m. when she directly walked up the patio screen.

"We took this as an indication that old cagey Morris made it Upstairs.

"Anyone who went from a mangey car rescued from an animal shelter after an alley brawl to 10 years of TV stardom just has to go on to higher things.

"Contrary to the Detroit News headline that: "Morris the cat--sorry, he didn't have 9 lives."

"Morris does live on.

"Out on the Merrill. In the heart of Motu."

"P.S. How do you explain to neighbors when your kitty slinks around with a black paw band for three days?"

1982 Heritage Fest: Professor Malarkey Sells a Secret Elixir

From the August 29 edition of the Ypsi Press.

Jerry Meadows impersonates an ole-timey patent medicine salesman in Depot Town. His sign bears his name, something I can't puzzle out in the middle, and "Secret Elixir" on the bottom.

Dusty D hopes she catches a glimpse of something as equally charming, not to mention historical, over the festival-time. Photo by Dennis Dunleavy.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Wednesday Mystery Spot: Early Airplanes and Extend-A-Slides

We have a winner. Building Place correctly guessed that this scene is, in fact, Recreation Park! Yay!
Where did this wonderful, dangerous, wonderfully dangerous play equipment go? I don't know, but it's a shame it's gone--in my opinion. Of course, I used to hang out way up in a tree as a kid for fun. On my homemade "rope platform". Yeah, that was safe. Phew.

At any rate, here's this week Mystery Spot. I had to do some creative cropping here to remove glaring clues! But based on past experience I'm pretty sure you falcon-eyed, eagle-eyed, peregrine-eyed folks will suss it out. There's one B I G clue I left in there that should make it easy for the more historically minded folks. But we'll see. Have fun!

Before Luther Burbank, Walnuts Made Us Sad

Why not make your last summer book this story of the man who created so many of the wonders in your garden?

Dusty D received this marvelous volume from her in-laws for my birthday. It details the rise of the (eccentric, natch!) Luther Burbank from humble origins to the maestro of a sprawling farm in California. The book is full of fascinating details about plants you grow that likely you never thought twice about, such as the fact that Burbank's potato is the one Monsanto chose to further tweak by adding the insecticide Bt. The gifted finaglings of an offbeat plant guy a century ago are still good enough for a giant food corporation.

Burbank's twiddling with walnuts, and the disappointing (yet humorous) experience most folks had with walnuts prior to Burbank, gave rise to the title of this post, not to mention [geek marriage] a printed-out motto on our fridge. The most memorable image in the book? Burbank's "mother trees" or "nurse trees" in his nursery--each one with over a hundred different slips grafted on, blooming with a hundred different-colored flowers in the spring--and they still exist today! Seek out this marvelous book before summer ends.

"Cash for Clunkers" in 1938 Ypsilanti

Hey historical peeps, here's a story I think you will enjoy, and have likely never heard before (as I had not, before I researched and wrote it!). Hope you like it!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Zonolite Week Promoted the Installation of Deadly Insulation in Your Ypsilanti Home

"It used to be that only the wealthy few could enjoy the luxury of insulation. . . of having their homes protected against the chill of winter and bake-oven heat of summer."

Zonolite Week was a 1938 Ypsilanti promotion for a new type of fluffy, pourable insulation, one you could install yourself.

Just one little drawback for the men in the picture, working for hours in the attic among all that exposed zonolite, without any respirators.

Zonolite contained one of the most dangerous types of asbestos, from a contaminated Montana mine known to have caused illness and death in numerous Zonolite employees and nearby community members. The plant owners knew about the deadly properties of the insulation by the 1950s.

They continued to sell Zonolite until 1985.

The insulation may still be in "millions of homes," notes a website about mesothelioma, the disease caused by the product. The EPA reckons that about 35 million homes still contain the substance, and notes that renovations and home repairs can dangerously stir it up.

Zonolite was sold in Ypsilanti 72 years ago. Tragically, it is still with us, and its story is still being written.

Has Your Child Lost His Marbles?

No worries! Moms, you can get a whole new bag of 'em for a paltry 4 cents, or, two two-cent canisters of Morton's Salt, according to this March 3, 1938 Ypsilanti Daily Press ad.

"Each bag contains an assortment of 15 "glassies"--plain, mottled and striped--in a wide variety of colors. Given away absolutely FREE with 2 packages of Morton's salt solely to induce you to use this famous non-caking brand with a spout that won't tear out!"

So no shooters...although, hmm, one marble in the upper right looks like a shooter. Dusty D remembers her big green glass shooter of ages past. This marbles offer was "at all grocers!"--making one wonder: how popular would it be today?

The 1919 Diary of Ypsilanti High School Teacher Carrie Hardy

Part of a year-long weekly serialization of Ypsilanti high school math teacher Carrie Hardy's diary.

Kind readers may recall that Carrie was sick for most of last week, with "heart and nerves troubling" her.

Aug 18 Mon. Sick.

Aug. 19 Tues. Sick.

Aug. 20 Wed. Sick--

Aug. 21 Thurs Sick

Aug. 22 Fri. Signs of improvement.

Aug. 23 Sat. But awful sick.

Aug. 24 Sun. About same.

Aug. 25 Mon. Better. Sat up in bed.

Thanks for reading; tune in next Tuesday for the next series!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Beekeeping's Venerable History in Ypsilanti: 1863 Diary

Beekeeping in Ypsilanti goes back a ways. Way back. Take a look at these excerpts from the 1863 diary of a farmer's wife--Mary Seaver, who helped work the old Seaver Farm just south of town. You remember the Seaver Farm: it's "on the west side of Huron Street, north of the U.S. Post Office," says the Courier.

Wednesday July 15. So cold we had to have a fire and dress in thick clothes.

Thursday July 16. Put the bees in the new hive this eve. Got 35 lbs of honey out of the new hive. Very cold all day. Frost at night + it killed one [piece?] of [husband] Hiram's corn.
. . . .
Sunday July 19. Tonight pleasant looks like rain. Mrs. Starkbridge told us our bees were swarming but they were leaving the hive. James Holms + Fannie [Shandnou] called. James stayed to tea.
. . . .
(one more just for atmosphere)
Thursday November 19. This forenoon, Julie, Mattie, Hiram Jamie + myself took a walk to look at the farm, came back, took dinner, cracked nuts & jokes. Then all rode all round the city then left the girls at the depot, kissed them good bye and came home."

There you have it. Beekeeping was a part of Ypsilanti since at least the Civil War.

Readers: Please Consider Installing a Telephone: For the Children!

Kind readers, far be it from me to butt into your business. But have you ever considered getting a telephone installed in your home?

This poor babe in the March 15, 1938 Ypsilanti Daily Press entreats you. "And if I do get a touch of colic...or have a nervous you know what'll bring it on? Worry! Yes sir, worrying about how long it would take to get the doctor."

Poor li'l tyke. Now, I know kind readers have a million other expenses...but this is just a gentle reminder that it might not be a bad idea to go ahead and get one of those Michigan Bell phones in your very own home.

Just a thought. Poor kid.

Monday Mystery Artifact on

If you'd like to peek at the Mystery Artifact over on, it's here.

Here's this week's new entry. Last week was a bit tough! We're going for an easier Mystery Artifact this week. Can you divine what this item is, on the wall of the Historical Museum? Take a guess, even if others have previously guessed what you think it is; there can be more than 1 winner! Bonus points to anyone who can name the item just to its left! Good luck!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Ypsilantian Trains Squadron of Ninja Fishes

For all those who would dismiss "Ypsitucky" as a backwards town without any spark of ingenuity, I proudly offer up our most eminent trainer of fishes, Don Rochester.

A worker with the state wildlife conservation division, Mr. Rochester trained his fishes to snap at predatory birds who threatened the younger, vulnerable fishlets Rochester was attempting to introduce into Michigan waters. He led a squadron of Terror Trout.

The March 14, 1938 Ypsilanti Daily Press says, "Heavy losses through attacks by predatory birds, he said, were stopped when by tying feathers to grasshoppers which he fed to the fish, he taught the fish to lunge from the water and seize fish-eating birds as they swooped down upon the smaller fish. Thus instead of losing fish to the birds, the birds were eaten by his trained fish."

You might want to be a bit careful the next time you're kayaking down the river. Some of the descendants of Rochester's killer trout squad might be lurking in the shadowy pools under the trees. Like right over there. Wait, what's that--that shadow? Right there by the bow. Get the oars!--GET THE OARS! I thought I saw...AIEEEE!