Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Wednesday Mystery Spot no one's surprise, least of all mine, this week's Mystery Spot was guessed within minutes of posting...congratulations go out to Naia, BF, and I think Lisele guessed it on FB. I love the little sculpture-park there at EMU. Quite elegant and nice!
OK. This week's entry is Big Bowl of Fruit. But it's a stone bowl, and stone fruit (I don't mean plums!). And it's a bit off the beaten path. Hmm. Have an idea? Answer next Wednesday!

Have You Ever Heard of Ypsilantian Homer Smith? The Nicest Heavyweight Champion You'll Ever Meet.

Dusty D has a story coming out in tomorrow's Courier--God willin' and the creek don't rise--about forgotten Ypsilanti heavyweight boxer Homer Smith.

Did you know he fought Jack Dempsey? Yessir!--and remained friends with Dempsey for the next 50 years!

All the materials Dusty D has sourced about Mr. Smith indicate that, despite being a formidable, fearsome opponent in the ring, he was a good and kind man--might go so far as to say a sweetie.

It'll be in tomorrow's Courier! Jack Dempsey--wow! Mr. Smith DEFINITELY was a contender!

You Will Wear Dog Tags. Yes, You Will.

Reading the 1950s Ypsi papers. They have a curious tone. Very...restrained, or, gets the wisp of an impression that this was a very conformist, "lock-down" time.

At any rate, one also picks up the feeling of Cold War fear. There was a crazy scheme going on in town dealing with blood-typing everyone "in case of an atom bomb attack." The idea was that you'd wear your blood type on dog tags around your neck 24/7--so in case of disaster, the city would have a "mobile blood bank" from which to draw.

Dusty D is sorta glad I didn't live in this era--it seems too unaccepting of oddballs, and the palpable fear of things falling from the sky that comes through in the old papers is unpleasant. Dusty D is thankful she lives in a peaceful time without the need to dig a bomb shelter in the backyard--uh-uh, that space is for tomatoes!

News for Y'all: Book Deal

Dusty Diary has some news for her fellow Ypsituckians.

I got a book deal.

Yep, you read that right--I got a book deal. "Stud Bunnies and the Underwear Club: Tales from the Ypsilanti Archives" will be coming out this winter. Dusty D is hustling to git it together as we speak.

Bonus sweetness: our Honorable Mayor will be writing the intro. Cool cat, no? I thought that was VERY NICE of Mayor Schreiber, and I appreciate it!

You'll be able to buy this paragon of writing excellence (cough) from Amazon or at Border's come winter. I'll be sure to toot my own horn, come winter, loud enough to deafen ya, so don't worry about missing it.

Dusty D is grateful to and to the Ypsilanti Courier for publishing my stories. Thank you, and Ypsilanti Courier--I am proud to be a part of your papers, and I am grateful to you both. You-all made this book possible. Thanks especially to Ed Vielmetti at and to Austen Smith at the Courier.

At any rate, there's a lot of work between now & midwinter, so off I scoot to do it!

Ypsilanti, 1932 & 2009

What are the parallels, if any, between Depression-era Ypsilanti and our own times? Find out here in my new story!

Tuesday, September 29, 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 last week Carrie was still feeling lingering effects from her summer illness. But she was starting to get back in the swing of things at school, and went shopping with fellow teacher Miss Gieske.

Sept. 30 Tues. Taught all day again + gave out locker keys to freshmen after school.

Oct. 1 Wed. Did not go to chapel, but Mr. Arbaugh talked about the history of our school. Keys to sophomores.

Oct. 2 Thurs. Keys to Juniors. Am not doing much work out side of school.

Oct. 3 Fri. Seniors get keys. I have now taught one week. What will become of me when I can no longer teach.

Oct. 4 Sat. Worked at housework all day long. Van helped me for 2 hours. Oh My but I am tired.

Oct. 5 Sun. Cleaned my kitchen floor, went to church, was at Mr. Arbaugh's for dinner.

Oct. 6 Mon. Lillian is sick + out of school with a cold. I have lost weight this week. Teachers meeting.

Oct. 7 Tues. Lillian not in school today. Drove over with my washing this A.M. Also drove after school. Tires leak.

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

Yet Another Willow Run-Themed Book, But One That Isn't a "Piece of..." er, Junk

Dusty D is contributing another Ypsi-themed book to the "Ypsilanti" collection of books, this one from my own "local history" bookshelf. It is "Willow Run: A Study of Industrialization and Cultural Inadequacy," by U-M sociology professor Lowell Julliard Carr and Detroit Institute of Technology sociology professor James Edson Stermer.

This stunning sociological study focuses on the culture within the housing projects surrounding the bomber plant.

Readers will find an account of a family overwintering in a tent--and--giving birth to a baby in said tent, who, when visited by indefatigable Ypsilanti social worker Inez Graves, was wrapped in newspaper.

The book offers a gripping portrait of the day-to-day life of the Ypsituckians (I use that word with pride) in the shoddy Willow Run housing projects, and how they were regarded by "respectable" Ypsilantians who watched, with horror, as the population of the bomber workers ballooned to 42,331 in 1943.

Descriptions of the seedy private trailer camps that sprang up, the inadequacy of hygienic facilities, and the scrappy efforts of the Willow Village/Willow Lodge residents to maintain a decent life rivet the reader.

Dusty D strongly recommends this fascinating book, an invaluable and unvarnished portrait of the lives of the bomber plant workers. It's available on Amazon!

Author Calls Own Ypsilanti-Themed Book "Piece of Crap"

An anonymous reader has contributed another volume to the shelf of books about Ypsilanti: "Willow Run," by Glendon Swartout. Review:

"Willow Run was Glendon's very first published novel, in 1943, written after putting in nine-hour days as a riveter at the famous B-24 bomber plant outside of Ann Arbor, Michigan. He wrote it in six months, for he knew there was a market for a patriotic book about the war effort on the home front during this biggest of all wars. Sure enough, he got a small advance from a publisher and the novel was hurried into print after a page one rewrite. Glendon always acknowledged it in his backlist of titles, but he was embarrassed by Willow Run, referring to it sourly as "a piece of crap" in a short autobiography he wrote the year before he died, which is included in the latest compilation of his short stories, Easterns and Westerns, to be published by Michigan State University Press, summer of 2001."

"Willow Run is a novel about blue-collar workers at this defense plant and is somewhat heavy on win-the-war speeches and lacks story and character development. While the book rhapsodizes about the details of building airplanes and a bit obvious in its symbolism, it does give a glimpse into the mind of factory workers under stress. Willow Run remains an amateurish first effort by a 23-year-old novelist dying to break into print, and is of interest solely to book collectors dying to own the entire Swarthout oeuvre."

"Swarthout's conception of his novel is an interesting and ambitious one and his book, in spite of weaknesses and inadequacies in creative ability, has a definite rhythm and vitality. . . His ear is excellent in catching the locutions of the various workers who move through his scenes and episodes. One is left with the impression that he has fine material for a good novel but that he hasn't sufficiently absorbed and developed it." ---Rose Feld, New York Times Book Review.

"The brevity and crispness of the book is to be commended though the plot could have been rounded out a little more. The main characters might have been dealt with more fully in order to make the reader better acquainted with them. Nevertheless, it is good reading, a book that helps one pass a very good evening and leaves the reader with a great deal to think about."
---Ralph Hammett, Some Michigan Books.

The Worst Book Ever Written in Ypsilanti

I have exciting, or rather, "exciting" news for kind readers. The worst book ever written in Ypsilanti, former police chief Dan Patch's "Moon Over Willow Run," is on its way to me. I ordered it from Amazon, figgering that $6.99 was well worth the pleasure of reading this gem. Readers may remember eminent local historian Wystan Stevens's summary of the book:

The dust jacket of Dan Patch's book shows a romantic couple embracing on a hillside while they watch new-assembled airplanes, sihouetted by moonlight, as they roar into the sky from the runway of the Ford Bomber plant. How many hills do you know of near the Willow Run airport?

Unfortunately "Moon Over Willow Run" was not the only load of tripe purveyed by Mr. Patch, a very religious man who wrote moralistic, religious novels for the edification of American youth.

(In "Moon," even as they watch the bombers, the hero and heroine are planning their future life together, as missionaries in a faraway, exotic land.)

How can anyone take seriously a police chief -- or an author -- who is named after a famous race horse?

An excellent question. It is thanks to Mr. Stevens, whose colorful mini-review piqued my interest, that I'll soon be the proud owner of "Moon Over Willow Run." I will avidly read it once it arrives and review this item for blog readers.

Then we can add it to the shelf of books by or about Ypsilantians, which include Harriet Arnow's "The Dollmaker" (own that one, good stuff) and "Life on the Farm, and Selections in Prose and Poetry," by William Lambie. Any others?

Monday, September 28, 2009

Entertainment on a Rainy September 1950

Hey sweetie, since we're not going walking because of the rain, why don't we finish these dinner dishes and watch some TV?

OK! What's on?

I'm just checking the paper...hey, at 7 p.m. there are three channels to choose from! Three! Geez! I'm not a fan of Kukla, Fran, and Ollie, though.

How about that Edison Electric Theater play there, "The Invisible Wound?"

Maybe...Hey, Voice of Firestone is coming on at 8:30. That's usually pretty good.

Kinda slim pickin's till then, isn't it?

Well, yeah...wanna listen to the radio till 8:30?

Sure, what's on?

Well, you've got six stations, here, let's see, 7 p.m... there's an orchestra on WUOM.

I like the Railroad Hour.

That's not on till 8. Ooh, and the Railroad Hour is the same time as Inner Sanctum! I never miss that!

You got to listen to Inner Sanctum last time.

That's because I never miss it!

I think I'll take a walk after all.

Ladies: Do You Know the Way to a Man's Heart?

It's Meats.

Or, I should say, Meats of Fine Quality.

Available at Batchelor's Market at 304 E. Michigan Ave. (near Park Street and Water Street area)! Pick up some Meats tonight for your sweetie!

--Ypsilanti Daily Press, January 18, 1950.

Tragedy Strikes at Thompson Building, 1988

Last Wednesday's fire is not the first tragedy to occur at the Thompson Block. In May of 1988, a garbage truck driver lost his brakes on top of Cross Street hill. . . and as his brakeless truck began the descent into Depot Town, which was crowded with construction vehicles, he leaned out of the truck and yelled at people to keep away. The following is the text of the May 4, 1988 Ann Arbor News story by Laura Bischoff:

YPSILANTI-The driver of a garbage truck careening without brakes down a hill toward Depot Town warned pedestrians and construction crews to clear the intersection and swerved to avoid them, but lost his own life when he failed in an attempt to leap clear of the tipping truck.

Shaun Ivan Jobcar, 25, died Tuesday afternoon while pinned underneath the garbage truck. His co-worker and passenger, Joseph C. Laudati, 20, stayed in the cab and had minor injuries, police said.

The truck, owned by the Jobcar family company, King Rat Disposal, was traveling downhill on westbound East Cross Street toward North River Street, and the driver was honking, waving, and yelling to people at the intersection that his brakes were out.
Ypsilanti police said this morning that some of the brake hoses were disconnected and poorly maintained. Further information was not available, police said.

Jobcar swerved right to avoid traffic and pedestrians, and the truck began to tip, witnesses said. He jumped out of the cab as the truck was turning and tipping, and the truck fell on top of him in a pile of dirt on the shoulder, according to witness Randy Carpenter.

"They almost hit me," said a woman directing traffic around the North River Street construction site, who refused to give her name. "They took the barricade I was standing next to. He was going really fast, and he just kept honking and yelling, 'Get out of the way, get out of the way.'"

She said she wondered why Jobcar's door was open at the top of the hill. She also added that she didn't think he had downshifted into a lower gear on the way down.

Tim Shelly of Ypsilanti said he was walking to he store and was about 30 feet from the accident when it happened. "He had no choice but to turn or take out about four or five cars," he said. "I thought he had jumped far enough away.

Shelly said he pulled passenger Laudati, an Ypsilanti resident, from the cab immediately after the crash.

North River Street is rough and torn and the shoulder is soft dirt because it is being prepared for resurfacing by Cunningham and Gooding of Ypsilanti. Shelly said he believed some of the heavy equipment the construction company had on the site could have been used to turn the truck upright and possibly save Jobcar's life.

But Ypsilanti police said this morning it was doubtful that Jobcar could have been saved even if the truck could have been righted immediately.

About 30 police and rescue workers responded to the scene at 2:34 p.m. The truck was eventually lifted with air compressors, and Jobcar was taken to the county morgue, Ypsilanti police said.

Jobcar was a longtime Ypsilanti resident but had recently moved to a Belleville address, police said.

Ypsilanti police, Michigan State Police and the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute are investigating the accident, said Ypsilanti police Lt. James MacMillan.

Funeral services will be held at Moore Memorial Chapel in Ypsilanti, but details have not yet been worked out.

Monday Mystery Artifact

This week we've got a tricky one--something that, unlike last week's wooden darning egg, is really not used at all anymore. Take a peek, and your best guess!

Mystery Artifact bonus: Unemployed "metal detectorist," after being jeered at by countrymen ("Beep beep, he's after pennies!") finds hoard of priceless 7th-century Mystery Artifacts with his trusty Metal Detector, not unlike Dusty D's own!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Ypsi Citizen to Launch Opinion Section

The Ypsilanti Citizen is to launch a new opinion/editorial section sometime in the next couple of weeks. There will be a lot of strong local writers represented in it--they made some really good choices IMO. The extra-cool part is that even the astrology section is original content by a local expert--not some syndicated thing from outside the community. It's all local!

Also, Dusty D is honored that I'll be contributing a weekly history column to this new section in the Citizen! I've just sent in my first one with an image. I'll be sure to let you know when it runs. Great local paper--I'm so pleased to be a part of it!

Friday, September 25, 2009

"...Because That's How I Roll" is Dusty Diary's New Catch-Phrase

It is. Dusty D has taken to appending this phrase to almost every sentence I utter. This is my attempt to appeal to the younger generation and seem "with-it," and relevant to their interests. It's my ploy to make them more receptive to the historical pearls I dispense, and influence them to become the next generation of flag-bearers in the historical and preservationisteral cause. Pretty sly, eh? But it works!

"When doing a charcoal tombstone rubbing, I blow the dust off and promptly apply spray fixative--because that's how I roll."

"I always wear latex gloves when handling 19th-century glass-plate negatives--because that's how I roll."

"I take my own paper to the Halle Library microfilm readers, so I'm not being a paper pig--because"
--well, you get the idea.

I think it's working. So aside from my Value World wardrobe and slightly spongy midriff, I'm down with those young folks, yessir. It's just part of my long-range history-boosting plan. I can see the admiration, or something, in their eyes when I bust out this phrase, before nonchalantly sashaying off to the Archives. Try it yourself and see if I'm wrong. Nosir.

From the Obituary Files

Dusty D was working on obits again today in the Archives. This one is for Mr. & Mrs. David F. Johnson.

In many old obit photos of car crashes, the level of damage to the car is alarming. In this photo of what appears to have been a four-door sedan, the entire front half of the car is utterly destroyed.

The only consoling thought is that likely the couple did not suffer.

This story dates from 1970, when seat belt usage was rare. Here's an interesting paragraph on the subject from the Harvard School of Public Health:

"The big jump in U.S. seat belt use came between 1984 and 1992, when usage rates went from 14% to 62%. In 1984 the U.S. Secretary of Transportation ruled that passive restraints (e.g. air bags) would not be required in motor vehicles if more than 2/3 of the nation's population resided in states with mandatory seat belt laws (meeting five specific criteria). The auto industry, which had long fought passive restraint requirements for their vehicles, immediately began a massive lobbying campaign to enact state seat belt laws, forming a new organization, Traffic Safety Now, to spearhead the effort. While no state had a seat belt law in 1983, by the time Traffic Safety Now closed its doors in 1992, 42 states had enacted seat belt laws. In a ironic twist for the auto companies, but of great benefit for safety, it was ruled that many of the state laws did not satisfy the criteria in the regulation, and the U.S. ended up with both state seat belt laws AND automobile air bags."

Luckily belts, air bags, and built-in crumple zones are now standard and used, so that there are fewer accidents as awful as this one.

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 said that "Durbin told her the other day that I would not live long. Strange he should think so. He thinks that I will have consumption and look as -- ----- as can be every time I cough." Oh, Allie!

Sept. 25 Fri. Dressed and went to Lyceum. Expected that I would have to read, but did not. There were very few there and the debate was wretched. [:)] I wrote a French note to the Frenchman and directed it....... Had a jolly time. This is the last day of Emma's school.

Sept. 26 Sat. Went up to Carrie's in the afternoon. Joe was there and we had a magnificent time. Gave Joe a call and we all went down town, then home. Up town three times after that. Have seen that stranger that was in Lyceum ever so many times. Wonder who is he.

Sept. 27 Sun. Went to church and stayed to S. S. Read all of the afternoon. Went to Church at night. Splendid sermon.

Sept. 28 Mon. It has been a delightful day and I have had a nice time. Alex is quite sick. We are afraid that it is typhoid fever. Carrie N. made a very short call tonight. Have had to study hard.

Sept. 29 Tues. Have had all my lessons better than I expected. Got my monthly report tonight and am 10 in two studies. Went up to Carrie's tonight after supper and had a nice talk and visit. Carrie came part way home with me and Alfred Lucking from the corner down.

Sept. 30 Wed. Joe came up to school to meet me tonight. We went up to her house and then over to Carrie N.'s, who was not at home. Mrs. Gunn and S. Post were here to stay all night. Aunt Lizzie and Uncle John were here for a little while this evening. Had to study hard.

Oct. 1 Thurs. Did not go to school this afternoon. Went up to Joe's and then to the Fair Grounds. The fair was very good, but the wind and the dust were not. Had plenty of chances to flirt but Joe was so afraid and would do nothing but giggle out loud, throw her head around. J. B. stuck tight to us all the time. If it had not been for Jo I could have gotten rid of him. Almost hate him. Will wanted to take me to the theater and Ma would not let me go.

Oct. 2 Fri. Got ready and went to Detroit on the 10:10 train. Mr. Clayburg rode up on the street car with me. I went to Dr. Kermott's and got some medicine, then went up to Aunt Clara's. Got there about two. Mary did not get home until late. They have a little baby and it is cross as fury. Had a nice time.

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

A Look into the Scadin Scrapbook

Today's "Tidbits" column offers something different--a gallery of images from the scrapbook of Bertha Scadin. The Scadins were a farm family in Webster Township. Bertha kept an exquisitely beautiful scrapbook. You can examine the images here.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Golden Age of Free Parking in Ypsilanti

Hey, peeps, didja know there was a time in Ypsi history when you didn't have to pay a dime for parking? It's true--and it's covered in my "From the Archives" column in today's Courier, which I hope you picked up/have a sub to like me. In case ya missed it, here's the text! Enjoy!

Ypsilanti’s Golden Age of Free Parking: 1900-1942

From around the turn of the century, when a few cars began appearing on Ypsilanti streets (most of them unpaved), to WWII, when the streets faced an influx of Bomber Plant workers’ cars, parking in the city was free.

It just hadn’t occurred to anyone to charge for it.

During WWII, the Ypsilanti Salvage Committee held huge scrap metal and rubber drives. Housewives were even told to save pan drippings from roasted meats, for “scrap fat” used to make glycerine for the war effort. The entire city was economizing and doing without. Perhaps it was this atmosphere of frugal austerity that led the city to seek more sources of revenue.

“Ypsilanti’s 300 parking meters are today being installed and will go into effect at 9 a.m. Thursday,” announced the July 8, 1942 Ypsilanti Daily Press.
“Instructions for their use are found on the meters themselves. Cars may park for 12 minutes for one cent, 24 minutes for two cents, 36 minutes for 3 cents and 60 minutes for a nickel.” The metered time was 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. every weekday and 9 to 9 on Saturdays.

The paper went into detail about the workings of the mysterious meters. “The meters are automatic; only the insertion of a coin or coins being necessary to start meter operating. Deposit of the coin brings into view a clock face with hand ticking off the minutes. At the end of the allotted time the clock face and indicator drop from sight and patrolling officers can see that the car is illegally parked. . . Meters in Ypsilanti have been installed for a six months trial period. If found unsatisfactory at that time, they will be removed.”

In addition to the instructions printed on the meter and the newspaper’s explanation, “[b]ooklets explaining the use of meters are now being distributed at various business places about the city where motorists may secure them.”

The next day, the Press reported “[s]trange and interesting were the reactions of motorists this morning as they surveyed the city’s new parking meters.”
“Some walked slowly toward the meters, viewing them skeptically. Others tried not to look as foolish and inexperienced as they felt while reading instructions on the meter. The “old hands” walked with a confident stride, and in businesslike fashion inserted their coins and were on their way. And many were still either coldly surveying the machines and refusing ‘to play’ or else dashed off without so much as a look in the direction of the meters.”

Adoption of the meters was not immediate. “A check within the first hour that meters were in effect showed 21 violations out of 50 cars. Violations were by no means confined to side streets either, for a considerable number were counted on Michigan Ave. Even the nearness to the police station didn’t frighten some, for there was little legal-sounding ticking in meters in the same block as police headquarters.”
The city was abuzz with debate about the new machine, which “furnished a new topic for conversation. . . motorists were seen and heard discussing the relative merits of the new devices.”

A week and a half later, Chief of Police Dan Patch informed City Council that the meters were expected to bring in between $1,200 and $1,500 in July. Officer Perry Burrell was given the meter coin-collection beat, and soon gained meter savvy. The July 21 Press said, “[Burrell says] use old nickels in preference to new five cent pieces, as the old ones work better in the meters.”

Police Chief Dan Patch’s prediction was correct. By August, the meters had collected $1,648.78 in revenue. After deducting the cost of installation and Officer Burrell’s $180 per month salary, the meters netted the city $412.60 ($5,400 in today’s dollars).
Faced with this profit, city officials’ talk about removing the meters after 6 months vanished—and Ypsilantians have been digging into their pockets for coins ever since.

Thompson Building Update

Scaffolding has been strengthened with additional beams along River St. A small crane/cherry-picker is parked on River St. Cross Street is still closed at Park and at Cross/River and River/Maple.

James Mann Thompson Building Story

Dusty D just had the privilege of previewing a very well-written and informative story about the Thompson Block, written by James Mann. As soon as it is posted on, I'll give a link to it. Good work, James!

Edit: Here ya go. Nice article, James!

Beams Cook Hot Dogs

Remember those silly, Snopes-debunked stories about cooking an egg between two cell phones? Well, th'ain't nothin' new under the sun. Here's a micro news tidbit from the 1932 Ypsilanti Daily Press announcing that Westinghouse had found a way to cook tube steak with "radio beams":

"Pittsburgh, Ps, Sept. 27 UP--Enough heat to cook a hot dog can be created in a field of radio beams, radio engineers of the Westinghouse Electric and Manufacturing Company claim. Despite the heat caused by the beams, the two discs between which they pass remain cool to the touch, it is said."

Hm. Was this a precursor to the microwave oven? Thought that didn't come along till WWII. Hm.

Mother-In-Law, Jumbo (Scadin Family Scrapbook)

--From scrapbook of Bertha Scadin, dated 1888.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Thompson Building: 1861-2009

Headin' down, post-dinner, again to the Thompson Building with my sweetie, just to check it out. If you're comin' down, see you there.

Thompson Building Destroyed by Fire

Dusty D read of this story in a Chicago paper and promptly sped down to the Thompson Building, a few blocks from my house, on my bike. Oh, Thompson Building!

Wednesday Mystery Spot

This week's Mystery Spot was, despite my usual ineffectually wily efforts, solved within minutes (sigh) by Lisele, who correctly identified this locale as the GAR building on Pearl Street, just a bit east of the bus station.
A broader view, showing the bus station in the background:
However. Yesterday, I made a special bike trip to a completely different part of town for this week's Mystery Spot. OK, you [annoyingly] hawk-eyed Mystery Spotters, see if you can guess the location of this enigmatic sculpture! Ha!