Friday, October 30, 2009

“Cabbage Night” was Ypsilanti’s original Halloween

Howdy all. If you didn't get a chance to read yesterday's Courier story, here 'tis, just in time for Halloween. Perhaps you'll be inspired to give out individual cabbage leaves as treats this year--economical, healthy, AND historical! Hope you enjoy it!

“Cabbage Night” was Ypsilanti’s original Halloween

“‘Hollow Eve,’ or ‘Cabbage Night,’ was celebrated Wednesday night in a wondrous manner,” said the November 3, 1877 Ypsilanti Commercial. “Several citizens, Thursday morning, found their cabbages missing. They were strewn on many door-steps, and ornamented front doors. And silly lovers of mischief. . . piled all the barrels and boxes that could be found athwart and midway Congress street [Michigan Avenue, pictured].”

Though one of our most ancient holidays, Halloween wasn’t celebrated widely in America until the latter part of the 1800s. Ypsilanti likely didn’t celebrate Halloween for half a century after the city’s founding in 1823—the quote above is the first Halloween story to appear in old newspapers dating back to the 1840s.

Originally the Celtic New Year, celebrated with dressing up in animal heads and skins, making a bonfire, and telling fortunes, the holiday in America coincided with the end of harvest time. Not much more than a few rotting cabbages remained in the fields, which mischief-makers grabbed to throw on porches.

Cabbage-hurling was about the extent of Halloween mayhem then. The holiday was not yet popular. Only a few people celebrated it, with low-key house parties. “Halloween was remembered by Misses Claribel Champion, Leila Spencer, and Mollie Wise at the home of the former, a party of friends being invited to participate,” says the November 7, 1885 Commercial. The November 2, 1893 Ypsilantian notes, “One of the pleasantest of the Halloween parties. . . [was] at the residence of Miss Caroline Hay. The house was tastefully decorated, and illuminated with candles set in Jack lanterns. Bobbing for apples, a trip to the cellar for a cabbage, to see what good things were in store for the future, a hunting contest for apples, and carving the cake for a ring, were among the many incidents that went to make the gathering one long to be remembered.”

The association of apples with Halloween may date back to about 40 A.D., when Romans, conquering Celtic territory, combined the Celtic New Year with two festivals of their own, one for Pomona, the Roman goddess of fruit and trees whose symbol was the apple.
Around the turn of the century, parties began to be celebrated in schools. The October 29, 1908 Ypsilanti Daily Press says, “The ghosts of the Tuttle School will be glad to see their friends at a shadow and box social. . . come and let Mother Witch reveal the mysteries of your future life.”

The next day the paper described a party at Cleary hall. “Prof. and Mrs. Cleary chaperoned the young people. Jack-lanterns and black cats were used to decorate.” The Beta Nu sorority also held a chaperoned party.

The ancient tradition of fortune-telling was a feature of many Ypsilanti Halloween parties well into the 20th century. At one 1913 house party, according to the November 6 Daily Ypsilantian-Press, “Guests were taken into a darkened room where a ghost was waiting to receive them. An auction sale was held, the various articles selling for not more than 10 cents. Peggy the Spirit Fortune Teller was very popular, also the Gypsy Queen.”

During the 20s and 30s, increasing vandalism led to more large community parties meant to distract kids from destructive behavior.

“Three hundred Ypsilanti boys enjoyed Halloween night in a different manner than customarily,” said the November 2, 1925 Daily Ypsilantian-Press, “when they gathered at Pease Auditorium Saturday night for an evening of fun. . . Two reels of movies were shown. . . Prof. Carl Pray told stories for an hour, after which the boys enjoyed a pie eating contest and an apple-eating contest.”

Trick-or-treating first shows up in the November 1, 1934 Ypsilanti Daily Press. “Dressed in old clothes with faces blacked or covered with masks, groups of children stalked about in a threatening manner. They sneaked around to back porches and demanded of the lady of the house, ‘Give us apples, give us candy or else we’ll tear down your shanty.’”

Though three police cars were patrolling the city that night, things were quiet. The Press said, “There was so little doing that Officers Arthur Kramer and Cyril Ray wearied of their tasks of riding continuously and stopped with children on Wallace Blvd. for a ‘weiner’ roast.”

The paper continued, “The only serious damage reported was on Perrin Street where cabbages and tin cans were thrown on the porch of Mrs. Alexander’s residence breaking a stained window glass in the door. Street and stop signs were reported missing at several locations this morning and officers are pondering what to do with a 60-minute parking sign which came here from some other city.”

By wartime, community efforts to discourage destruction were expanding. “Halloween mischief was held to a minimum in Ypsilanti Saturday evening,” said the November 1, 1943 Ypsilanti Daily Press, “when children throughout the city were guests of the American Legion, Kiwanis, and Rotary Clubs at Halloween parties in city schools and at Gilbert House. Games and stories and the showing of motion pictures occupied a part of the evening’s entertainment. . . prizes of war stamps were awarded the best and most original costumes.”

By 1950, Halloween parties were held at every school in town, but the efforts only went so far. Destructive behavior climbed that year as police responded to 40 calls. One car was pushed into an apple tree and a convertible had its top slashed. Someone was shooting at cars on the expressway. Multiple leaf-piles were set on fire, as well as a Franklin Street outhouse.

But it wasn’t all bad. When Mr. and Mrs. Anderson were startled by an indoor bat, “Mr. Anderson put on a pair of heavy gloves and woke the bat from restful slumber,” said the October 30, 1950 Ypsilanti Daily Press. He temporarily put the bat in an empty canary cage. Mrs. Anderson planned to turn the tables on trick-or-treaters, said the paper, and show the bat (eek!) “to any interested ‘beggar’ who comes around to her house.”

Fun with Prepositions

My new weekly column in the Ypsi Citizen is called "To the Archives." Heh. My weekly column in the Ypsi Courier is called "From the Archives." Dusty D's husband found this hilarious and immediately started riffing on it. "If you get another column, you'll have to call it 'Near the Archives'. Or maybe 'Under the'--no, that wouldn't work. 'By the Archives'. 'Somewhere Within Spitting Distance of the Archives'." And so it goes.

Adoption Puzzle

Here's a puzzling situation I'd like to present to y'all for your ideas. I am researching a guy who "according to family stories, was adopted by his wife's parents." Huh? This apparently happened when he was an adult. Odder still, he himself adopted a girl quite late in life, whose parentage was "unknown". Even odder, her name appears to change from Minnie to Mary, unless those were 2 different individuals. At any rate, that strange story of his adoption has the ring of a strange truth...but why on earth would his inlaws do this? Sweetie says something about an inheritance...but--they could just give him stuff, right? Why would he need to be adopted? Bit flummoxed here.... Eclectic Oil and catholicons

Feeling a little run-down on this drippy & rainy day? I've got just the pick-me-up for you, brother--a good big shot of Eclectic Oil!

Dusty Diary in Ypsi Citizen!

Dusty Diary takes great pleasure and pride in telling you that the first of my weekly columns for the Ypsilanti Citizen has just been published in the Citizen's new "Voices" section!

My first story is about a onetime festival that brought a bit of color and joy to kids during the Depression, with carnival rides set up right on Michigan Ave! Read all about it here!

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 went to Lyceum, helped out at home by washing the kitchen walls, and was approached by a Mr. Blair who asked if he could accompany her home, but she "gave him the mitten" (rejected a suitor). She also said, on watching Will leave to hunt, "Wish I was a boy."

Oct. 30 Fri. Did not go to school in the afternoon because Jennie S. did not come. Got ready and went up to the Normal with Will. Fell down on the way up there. Had a jolly good time. Got with Minnie B. and C.M. Mr. Blair came and sat down with me and asked my company home. He is nice, but I gave him the mitten. Did not get home until almost one.

Oct. 31 Sat. Had a good time flirting last night. The other night when I was up to Carrie's I was coming away and something was said about going to prayer meeting. I said, "If you go, pray for me." Carrie said that Durbin said he never would respect me again for that. No love lost but he shall not despise me. If I know it, I shall do all in my power to make him change his mind. C. and Joe called on mt this afternoon. I went to dancing school in the evening. Lots of fun.

Nov. 1 Sun. Went to Sunday School in the morning. Minnie B. was there. Had a good talk with her. Read all the afternoon. Carrie came down about dark and went to Church with me. Seemed almost impossible to stay awake. C. stayed all night with me. Durbin has gone home.

Nov. 2 Mon. Carrie went home before school time. We have had a nice visit. Had some fun in school today and the girls have made Lane mad as hops at them. Jennie Shipman has a new calico dress. Quite pretty.

Nov. 3 Tues. Jennie S. and I went up to Carrie's tonight. Had a magnificent time. Named apples and did almost everything that could be thought of. Never had a better time. Carrie came down town with me. Did my hair up a new style today.

Nov. 4 Wed. Have got a new Beaver coat. It is nice. Four dollars a yard. Would like a new dress but cannot have it now. Have a terrible cold. Received an invitation to a surprise party down below Raisinville [Rawsonville].

Nov. 5 Thurs. Rained this morning but has grown cold. Was terrible sick this afternoon in school, bur feel better now Have written in Lydia Day's Album tonight. Jennie S. and I had a good talk this morning and I told her what Durbin said about me.

Nov. 6 Fri. Marion came up to school for me this afternoon with the horses. We took a long ride. Then I got home I had to fly around, ger ready to go to a party in the country. Laura Eaton went with us. Had a magnificent time. Danced almost every set and gave someone the mitten, every time I didn't dance. A delightful ride down.

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

Thursday, October 29, 2009


NOTIFICATION--The saloons, drug stores, and hotel bars are hereby notified not to sell intoxicating beverages to Thomas Honey, James Morris, John McCauley, Sr., John McCauley, Jr. All parties selling will be prosecuted. --MARTIN CREMER, City Marshal.

FOR SALE--Old Papers cheaper than dirt at the COMMERCIAL office.

NOTICE--My wife, Mrs. J. G. Drake, having left my bed and board, without any just cause or provocation, I hereby warn any person harboring or trusting her on my account.

--Ypsilanti Commercial October 31 1885.
"The identical telescope with which Prof. Watson discovered the planet Vulcan is now in use at the Observatory at the Normal School [EMU]."

--November 3, 1883 Ypsilanti Commercial

Upcoming Stories

Today's story in the Courier--don't forget to support your local newspaper and buy a copy!--deals with an interesting history of Halloween in Ypsilanti. The holiday was quite different in days of yore. Read all about it in today's Courier, God willin' they print it.

Tomorrow's story in deals with some of the shadier sorts of patent medicines. This article has been previewed by my sweetie, who pronounced it "Fun!!!" Three exclamation marks, there. A lighthearted historical piece to leaven your Friday. Hope you enjoy both of 'em!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Wednesday Mystery Spot

Well, true to form, you guys guessed last week's Mystery Spot (sigh). It is the revivified Luna Pond in Prospect Park, now a habitat for native plants!

But I've got you this time. Heh. Try your luck with this vintage photo from a mysterious spot in town. Beer-drinkers from across the city used to come here...but where is it? I defy you to identify this Mystery Spot!

James Mann tour this Friday: $5

Dusty D is pleased to publish the following press release about her friend James Mann's tour this Friday:

"Today the Depot Town section of Ypsilanti is quiet and peaceful, a fun place to take the family for a meal or shopping, but it was not always so. The history of Depot Town has its share of murder, crime and sudden death, as well as vice and other good things. Local historian James Mann will lead a Ghost Tour of Depot Town this Friday evening and tell some of the tales of death and ghosts of the area. The tour will include a tale of murder at the Michigan Central Railroad Depot, the ghosts of the Newell Block and explain the real reason for the tunnels of Depot Town."

"The tour will be Friday, October 30, at 7:00 PM, beginning by the Michigan Central Railroad Depot at Cross and River Street. Cost is $5 per person."

Let's Go Riding with the Rural Route Mailman

Hi there. Time to come with me. Yep, just leave your cubicle, there--tell the boss you feel swine flu coming on. OK, let's go. We're gonna ride with Lawrence Buland, the rural route carrier for route No. 1 south of Ypsi. Got your coat? OK, just step on the wooden wheel hub, there--up you go! OK, Lawrence, let's go! Giddyup!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Views of Rome

Hey, are you busy tonight?

There's a stereopticon show down at the Methodist Church. I was thinking of going. It's views of Rome.

It's only 10 cents. Paper says "Sunday School teachers and scholars will be especially interested." Well, we're neither of those, but it beats working on my quilting squares. Like to go? OK! I'll come by your house at 7. See you then!

--April 25, 1885 Ypsilanti Commercial

Ypsilanti Woman, Eliza Kimball, Invents New Apple

Kind readers, did you know a whole new type of apple was invented right here in Ypsilanti?

It was invented by an amateur Ypsilanti backyard botanist, Eliza Kimball. She had wash every Monday and three meals a day to fix from scratch for her four children, Frances, Valeria, James, and the little one, John--but that didn't stop her from botanizin'. Her apple was displayed at the Ann Arbor Pomological Society and named the "Josephine." The Josephine still exists today and is known as an excellent keeper--it will last all winter in your cellar. A book called "Our Common Fruits" says this of the Josephine:

" very large and fine apple, of American origin, having been once called the Josephine Apple, though it had been known also by other names. . . and Poiteau, in thus dedicating it to this honored memory, only wishes, in order that the memorial might be more appropriate, "that this were the best of apples, as she was the best of women." The Josephine Apple has the peculiarity of approaching in internal structure to the special characteristic of the quince, the cells of the core containing each three or four pips, instead of only one or two, as is usually the case in apples."

Here's the original news item, from the April 18, 1885 Ypsilanti Commercial:

"Mr. Isaac B. Kimball brought a couple of specimens of a new apple to the office. Some sixteen years ago, Mrs. Kimball was in the garden. She was a natural horticulturalist and made many experiments. She shook the pollen of a Talman Sweeting on a Rhode Island Greening, only got one apple from that branch. This was saved until this next spring and the seed planted, when three years old set out in the orchard. All but one came to nothing bearing miserable fruit. At the end of thirteen years this one that bore the new apple produced a bushel. The next year three bushels and last fall seventeen bushels of a uniform, fine size and now the middle of April, sound and healthy. It is fine grained and juicy, a sweet apple and very pleasant tasting. It fills a gap long desired. Mr. Kimball is advanced in years, but would like some nurseryman to take hold of this fruit and so bless the coming generations. The pomological society at its session in Ann Arbor last week commended this apple highly and named it the Josephine."

At the time of this news item, Isaac was a 70-year-old widower, with a 5-acre farm just south of town, south off Harriet Street and west of Hamilton (between the modern-day Michigan Ave and I-94). His dearest Eliza had passed. He lived with his oldest daughter, 46-year-old Frances and her 23-year-old daughter Mary. Though Eliza was gone, her tree still stood in Isaac's yard, blooming every spring and yielding apples every fall, to put away in the cellar every winter, from which, in April 1885, Isaac selected some Josephines to bring downtown to the newspaper office.

Dusty D's hat is off to our own apple-inventing botanist Eliza Kimball!

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 and the other teachers chipped in to buy their superintendent a watch. She weighed herself at 144 pounds and bought a pen for $2.88--including war tax.

Oct. 28 Tues. Report that Beatrice Camris a Junior is married. A party at Mr. Omans for Mr. Arbaugh. The teachers present him a watch.

Oct. 29 Wed. After school Lillian + I went down to Rob's. We arrived about 6 o'clock + dinner was ready. Stayed all night.

Oct. 30 Thurs. We went down town + shopped in the morning. I bo't a skirt (corduroy) to make. Gage's for dinner. Concert in the P.M. Was at Rob's at about 6:30.

Oct. 31 Fri. Sewed on skirt. Rained. Went down town + tried to register. Then went to Arcadia to hear Mr. Kilpatrick.

Nov. 1 Sat. Still in Detroit. Went down to do a little shopping. Sewed after dinner. Broke down + cried. All right in a little while.

Nov. 2 Sun. Stayed at Rob's until after dinner. Rob + family + Paul brought us (Lillian) + I home. They went back in evening.

Nov. 3 Mon. School again and it seems so good to be home. Wore my new skirt + several said they liked it. The plaid skirt.

Nov. 4 Tues. Hamilton Holt, editor of the Independent lectures at Pease Audit on the League of Nations tonight.

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

Monday, October 26, 2009


October 26, 1893 Ypsilantian.

November 2, 1893 Ypsilantian.


"Cabbage Night" in Ypsilanti

Phew. Just finished a story for this Thursday's Courier: a history of Halloween in Ypsilanti. It took a 1.5-centimeter-thick wad of newspaper printouts to research properly, from 1840 to 1950; I kid you not, and I barely submitted it in time. Do you know why Halloween used to be called "Cabbage Night" in Ypsi? Be sure to pick up a copy of the Courier this Thurs to find out! (assuming they run it---there are always last-minute issues at any paper).

Reader Feedback: Saleratus

One kind reader has sent in a tidbit regarding the "Saleratus" listed as one item for sale in the grocery list in the "Great Western Hotel" ad shown in the recent "1840 Mystery Spot" post. He says:

I didn't want to sidetrack the 1840's Mystery Spot discussion, but I noticed one of the grocery items for sale in the Great Western Hotel was salaratus, a term I didn't recognize.

It turns out that saleratus is "Sodium or potassium bicarbonate used as a leavening agent; baking soda", which has a tenuous link back to the discussion about Royal Baking Powder earlier in the year. Thought you might be interested...

Absolutely! How much more elegant is this term than "baking soda." Dusty D wants to revive this term. Next time I go to Meijer's I will enquire of the nearest employee, "Pardon me, would you by chance have any saleratus?"


"Saleratus! Saleratus! What you young'uns call 'baking soda.' Incidentally, is it anywhere near the Michigan Made Beet Sugar? You DO carry Michigan Made Beet Sugar, don't you? In the hundred-pound sack? And saleratus? Where's the saleratus aisle?!"

I may end up recognizing myself on, but if 'saleratus' reenters common parlance, it'll all be worth it.

Monday Mystery Artifact

Last week's winner and this week's stumper may be found here at Good luck!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Ypsilanti's Depression-Era Zoo

Howdy. Did you have a chance to read my story in the latest Courier? It's the tale of Ypsilanti's Depression-era, home-made zoo. In case you didn't catch it, here's the text. Hope you enjoy it!

In 1937, “Miss Ypsi” the monkey, ponies, bears, foxes, a parrot, a collection of snakes, and other animals lived in an improvised zoo in Tourist Park (now Waterworks Park). The animals came from western Michigan, Iowa, Florida, Canada, and South America. Several were purchased with money raised by Ypsilanti schoolchildren.

“Two baboons will soon be installed in their quarters at the Tourist Park,” said the April 21, 1937 Ypsilanti Daily Press. “Free will collections are to be taken among the school children. . . to furnish money to buy the animals.”

“Within a week’s time,” the paper continued, “it is expected that the $75 will be raised by the children. That about covers the cost of both baboons.”

The baboon cages stood in Tourist Park, a public campground just off Catherine Street in today’s Waterworks Park. Families came from as far away as Virginia to park their trailers or pitch their tents in the park while they attended summer classes at the Normal School (EMU). It was an economical mode of life in a difficult time.

The park entrance featured the bronze statue of a woman. Once the top half of Ypsilanti’s 12 and ½ foot high Starkweather Fountain, which stood outside the present-day City Hall, the statue had been detached from the fountain in 1932. The graceful Hebe, goddess of Youth, gazed benevolently over the children running to the nearby zoo to see its latest additions.

“The plot thickens at the Ypsilanti Tourist Park zoo with the arrival of a second crow, donated by a Saline resident who read in the Daily Press that the camp’s original bird had been sadly gored by a menagerie mate, the billy goat,” noted the Ypsilanti Daily Press in an undated story.

Warming to his subject, the reporter continued, “Crows. . . have individual personalities—there’s determination and a buoyant zest for life in the way Old Black Joe cocks his head; there’s grim disillusionment and cynical aloofness in the jaded eye of Oscar. Joe is much given to chasing bantam chickens in the park, and Oscar, who no longer sees the world through the rosy haze of innocence, bides his time until Joe will receive his inevitable punishment for his carefree disregard of the chickens’ cherished rights to the pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness. One day, gloats Oscar, Joe will learn that the little feathered beasties, for all of their empty-headedness, have a mind of their own.”

The bird collection included two parakeets, “Their shimmery blue and turquoise coats laced with black and white grace the menagerie with an air of aristocratic elegance,” said the Press. “Their manners are impeccable, a lesson to the monkey if she were only quick to catch on to things of that sort. The parakeets, from South America, also lend a romantic note to the otherwise hard-headed, practical zoo inhabitants. They sit close together, spooning all day long and far, far into the night, oblivious to everyone else in the world.”

The parakeets lived with Mac the parrot and several smaller birds in an improvised bird house. “One of the cleverest arrangements which Mrs. Flagg and her brother Mr. Welsh have contrived is the new bird house,” said the June 30 Press. “It was formerly seen on Ypsilanti streets as a popcorn booth, but it is singularly well adapted for its present purpose. In a very neat and workmanlike manner, the open spaces on three sides have been fitted with solid blinds, which drop down and the fourth side has been outfitted with heavy canvas curtains which when unrolled make excellent protection against wind and cold.”

Two animals arrived from Canada. “Two brown bears, gift of Ypsilanti school children, are in Ypsilanti Tourist Park today,” said the May 22 Press. “They are both a deep brown, weigh about ten pounds apiece, and are two months old.”

A month later, the paper gave an update. “A surprising attachment has sprung up between the little bears and the little white dog; the dog is allowed in the cage to play with the bears at intervals. . . In the evening the bears are taken out on chains which run along a wire, and the place where they chase each other and tramp back and forth is worn bare.”

Foxes from Iowa joined the zoo. “Two red foxes two months old. . . scamper about their cage and already seem a little less wild than on their arrival,” said the May 22 Press. “They are pretty little things with light brown eyes looking directly at visitors and with neat black legs that are carrying them forward and back in the cage playing at present with a tin can.”

The collection included a king snake, several garter snakes, and blue racers sharing quarters with a big frog. “How to help the snakes shed their skin was somewhat of a problem until Mr. Welsh lined the floors of their cages with small gravel,” said the June 30 Press. “Several have shed their skins this week. A corn or red rat snake, coming from Florida, is very handsome since shedding his old skin Monday and is a distinct red in parts.”

At the end of June, two ponies appeared. “Both are jet black,” said the June 30 Press. “Joe is distinguished from Lucky in having one white spot. They have bridles and saddles and look lively even when standing at rest occasionally under the trees with children clustered about them.”

Though the zoo’s animal housing and care were not up to modern standards, the little home-made zoo brought fun and diversion to Ypsilanti children and families in a difficult time. It was one symbol of the resourcefulness and grit of Ypsi residents, who, though pressured by poverty and want, created something beautiful.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

James Mann "Ghost Tour" in Highland Cemetery

Dusty D were privileged to take part in a tour of Highland Cemetery last night with local historian James Mann. Bonus: atmospheric kerosene lanterns!

About 15 people showed up at 6 p.m., mostly young people from a local History Club (?). James lit the lanterns and leading the way with one, led us through the side gate that the caretakers had left unlocked for him. We walked under the huge yellow trees lining the driveway, over yellow leaves like decals on the wet asphalt.

James led the group south past the graves of O. E. Thompson and his wife, onetime merchant in the THompson Building. He stopped at two small graves under an incandescent yellow maple tree. "How many of you know what green stamps are?" he asked. Three adults raised their hands, and James proceeded to tell the story of Shelly Hutchinson's rise as the pioneer of these consumer "points" stamps.

A pause at the Soldier's Memorial was followed by a stop at pioneer doctor Helen McAndrew's grave, near the spot where last week's SLAPS tour had had an encounter. We turned at the southwest corner and headed north along the back of the cemetery.

James paused at several graves and gave talks about the person resting in each one. The high point for Dusty D came when we visited lumber baron Scoville's family plot. James talked about the iconography on three graves standing together. One showed clasped hands. The next, a hand pointing up. The last, the grave of Elizabeth Scovill, showed a hand pointing down. James said that none of the researchers at the Archives had been able to find any information about her--not even an obituary, for one of the most well-known families (that included a mayor) in the history of Ypsilanti.

You can be sure that Dusty D was intrigued. I also noted that the top of this monument had been broken off at one point, and replaced. Hmmm.

Night and rain fell. James continued to lead the umbrella'd group around in the northern section of the cemetery, but sweetie and I said a goodbye and scooted off. Dusty D was glad to see James in action and observe how he conducted a tour. It was a pleasant evening in a stunningly beautiful red, orange, green, and yellow October-evening.

Friday, October 23, 2009

A Brief History of Scholastic Inebriation

A lighthearted "Historical Tidbits" to counter the rain: here 'tis, on!

Another Testimonial for Michigan Beet Sugar

The Farmers and Manufacturers Beet Sugar Association (Saginaw, Mich.) had a lot of good ideas for their obviously in-house ads. Why hire outside talent when you can sit around a table with a couple other guys in overalls* and dream up these inspired creations? We've seen the branding triumph, the threatening matron, and to add to our ongoing Beet Sugar Gallery here's the racial stereotype!

This ad must have cost a mint, entailing as it doubtless did an extensive nationwide survey of all of the best chefs in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, L.A...but it paid off, since in the end the beetmen were able to state conclusively that "The Best Chefs use BEET SUGAR Made in Michigan." That's settled then.

"The ancient idea that Beet Sugar is not as good as cane sugar [which does not merit capitalization] was exploded long ago," the ad claims, despite the fact that the American beet sugar industry is only a few decades old at this point.

Dusty D waved this ad in the airspace between my husband's face and the Ypsilanti Courier he was attempting to read. He contemplated the ad for a moment and then loudly brayed something I found horribly insensitive, deeply offensive, and politically incorrect:

"Is da firs' t'ing I put een my spa-GHET-ti when I come-a to A-MER-ica!"

After which we laughed like maniacs. Seriously now, readers: remember, Buy, Use, and Boost Michiagn Beet Sugar!

*No offense meant. Dusty D shambles around in ratty old jeans most of the time, so there's a kinship there.

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 examined in History, read her essay on Slang Phrases "and the boys fairly roared," and made her friend Joe mad, remarking "I do not care. . . I ought not to say very polite things."

Oct. 23 Fri. Went to Lyceum. Mr. Lamb was there. He and I had quite a chat. Gay came. All the girls wanted him the worst way, but did not dare to speak to him. I did, after a while. We went to promenade and we had a good talk. He acts as if he thought I was about right. Got a note from him in the evening and had ever so many compliments.

Oct. 24 Sat. Helped to clean the kitchen this morning. Washed all the walls and read to Alex almost all of the afternoon, then went up to Carrie's. Mr. Blair was there. Had quite a nice time. Gave Joe a little call. Will is 20 today, went hunting. Expect he had an elegant time. Wish I was a boy.

Oct. 25 Sun. Went to Sunday school. Did not stay till it was out. Read almost all day, "Grace Lee." It is a lovely book. Went up to Aunt Lizzie's in the later part of the afternoon with Mary. We had made quire a call. Did not go to church in the evening.

Oct. 26 Mon. Have had all of my lessons today and ever and ever so much fun. Jennie S. came home from school with me and we had just more than a talk and riddled every one and every thing to pieces. Carrie N. came down and stayed for supper.

Oct. 27 Tues. Got a letter. had some fun in the Library this afternoon. We have some new books. They are very nice. Did not go to bed until real late. Sat up and read. Stayed this noon with Cora Burt [?] Had jolly time.

Oct. 28 Wed. Went up to Carrie's tonight. Had just been there a few minutes when Joe came. Had a good talk then. I stayed and visited with Carrie. She came down town with me and we met Joe. She came down back again with us. She is going off to teach Sunday and will not be back until Christmas.

Oct. 29 Thurs. Expected Carrie down tonight, but she did not come. Aunty was here and stayed to tea. Have commenced to write a composition, but find it hard work to do it. Sat up quite late to read, found that ----- have enough work to do.

Oct. 30 Fri. Did not go to school in the afternoon because Jennie S. did not come. Got ready and went up to the Normal with Will. Fell down on the way up there. Had a jolly good time. Got with Minnie B. and C.M. Mr. Blair came and sat down with me and asked my company home. He is nice, but I gave him the mitten. Did not get home until almost one.

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

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Answer to Ypsi Trivia Question

"In 1906, there was only one business open at night. It wasn't a saloon--those closed at 10:30 p.m., and weren't even open on Sundays. Or weren't supposed to be. It wasn't a 24-hour gas station, of course, or a 24-hour big box store, naturally. But it was big! In the darkness, when almost all the lights in town were doused, one place burned with light, noise, and energy!"

Several people answered on the blog and on FB. Guesses included "railroad station," "Western Union," "hospital" (Beyer did not yet exist) and "gas station" (there weren't any yet--folks bought gas, early in the car area, at grocery stores in Ypsi).

In 1906, the city imposed a curfew. The January 16, 1906 Ypsilanti Daily Press said, "[The curfew] provides that children under 16 be under police supervision after 8 p.m. unless they are accompanied by their guardian or parents. It gives the police powers to arrest any child without a warrant, but that such child must be taken to its home before anything else is done. It also provides that the curfew shall be sounded five minutes before the time mentioned."

But who would sound the curfew? The police didn't have any big whistles or sirens. The answer came a few days later in a January 22 story called, "No Booze Next Sunday."

The cops were cracking down on saloons. Would you believe--some were actually open on Sunday! That was gonna stop, and now. "If the law on Sunday closing has not been observed in the past it will be in the future, and I can promise you that next Sunday will be a dry one," said the paper. "The police have their orders and will carry them out. There will be no discrimination shown, and if any one breaks the law he will have to answer for it in court. Attention will also be paid to the closing of saloons at 10:30 o'clock standard every night. I also wish you would call attention to the fact that the curfew ordinance foes into effect next Wednesday. From then on the curfew bell will ring, or rather the whistle of the Peninsular mills will blow. Mr. Quirk says he will be pleased to do this, and as that is the only establishment that remains open at night it will probably be the only warning given."

There you have it. As Ypsilanti slumbered in the darkness, the flywheels whirled, the rollers spun, the lights blazed, and the paper dust flew far into the night at the Peninsular Paper Mill. In an era without Internet, TV, or radio, the sound of Peninsular Mills' machinery clanking and roaring across the river was the precursor to the thwack! of a million Chicago Tribunes landing on front porches hundreds of miles away.

Ypsi Trivia Question

In perusing some 1906 Ypsilanti Daily Presses, Dusty D learns that in 1906, there was only one business open at night. The only one in town.

It wasn't a saloon--those closed at 10:30 p.m., and weren't even open on Sundays. Or weren't supposed to be. It wasn't a 24-hour gas station, of course, or a 24-hour big box store, naturally. But it was big! In the darkness, when almost all the lights in town were doused, one place burned with light, noise, and energy!

See if you can guess what it was! Answer this evening.

1840s Mystery Spot: Can You Identify These Two Ghostly "Taverns"?

A story in the June 10, 1844 abolitionist newspaper the Signal of Liberty describes a visit to Ypsilanti by an abolitionist from back east. The paper quotes this gentleman's impressions of Ypsi and mentions two large buildings, one abandoned. But what were these buildings?

The article begins, "A correspondent of the Countryman, a N.Y. Liberty [abolition] paper, is travelling through this State, and publishing his ideas for the benefit of the New Yorkers. He praises the country and people, quite as much as they deserve, perhaps more. [heh]. Some of his sketches are quite amusing."

Readers will kindly indulge one brief sidetrack to one such atmospheric sketch that occurs as the Countryman writer is travelling on a train, perhaps straight to Ypsi:

"As I seated myself in the cars, a sun-burnt young man seated himself at my right. In his hand he held a large straw hat, designed for summer use, and in it two cloth bound volumes, and some rolls of paper.
'See your book, sir' said I. I took it and on the back in large capitals, read the 'Life and Speeches of Henry Clay.'
'What, sir! do you vote for a duelist and slaveholder, when that noble man, JAMES G. BIRNEY, lives so near you?
'I am,' says he, 'as much an abolitionist as any body--think slavery a great evil; but, I don't carry it into politics.'
'You pray against it?'
'Are you ashamed to pray and vote alike?'
He looked confusion and coon skins*, and cast his eyes upon his big brim hat, and was silent. Soon, a shrewd looking stranger roused him up, by asking him for some 'better measures,' but could get none; but the flint was struck, and light flashed upon Clay, Van Buren and slavery, in every part of the cars."

Now. On to the mysterious buildings. When the Countryman writer's train pulled into the Ypsilanti depot and he disembarked, this is what he saw that June day in 1844:

"The place shows some noble signs of 'wild cat' [banking] times. A large brick edifice, designed for a tavern, will probably be converted into a College. Another on the opposite side, near the depot, 100 feet in front, 80 broad, or nearly, surrounded by a piazza. It was great in its conception, great in its ruins, doors and windows all gaping--the winds of heaven blow through it, the wild cats mew there, I guess, and somebody would complete the picture by poking their bare heads out of its countless windows. Both these were designed for taverns, but the 'pressure' squeezed the spirit out of all the men that built 'em; the money out of all the pockets of the workmen, and the old nick out of the drunkards they would have made. So the 'pressure' has done some good.
"[Ypsilanti] contains eight doctors, not an abolitionist among them; four clergymen, one or two 'as good abolitionists as any body'--twelve lawyers, whigs and democrats, of course."

OK. Detective time, fellow Mystery Spotters! There are some deductions we can make from this report:

1. Both buildings were near the one-time Depot.
2. The buildings were near each other, "on the opposite side" of something--the river? a road? The new 1838 railroad tracks?
3. Building A was of sufficient size and of a style that it could be converted into a college.
4. Building B was abandoned and empty in the summer of 1844. It was large and had "countless windows." Made me think of the Thompson Building, which wasn't built till almost 20 years later.

Dusty D went to her Colburn to check and found this on page 76:

"The enterprising Mark Norris, in 1838, materialized the vision of another tavern for Ypsilanti, by erecting the "Western Hotel," on a triangular piece of ground just south of the site of the present Michigan Central Station [the old wooden depot, preceding the 1864 fancy brick depot which burned, leaving the remnant of the present-day depot]. The building was of brick with stone facings, and the enterprise was of considerable magnitude for the period. Shops occupied the ground floors two or three steps down from the walk and the hotel proper was above. The place was opened in May, 1839, under the management of Abiel Hawkins and Abraham Sage. Hawkins later bought out the interest of Sage and continued in the management until his retirement from business. The building was subsequently removed to make way for an extension of railroad property, its brick being used in the construction of the Thompson Block and neighboring buildings."

Is the Great Western Hotel the building described by the Countryman writer as a "ruin"? If so, it wasn't in business very long.

To add to the mystery, I found this August 1845 advertisement in the Sentinel. It appears the hotel is open, and run by one S. J. Barber. Did he buy it from Abiel Hawkins, said to be the proprietor of the GWH in the Colburn clip above? Did Abiel sell the GWH so that he could concentrate on his Hawkins House hotel, across town at Michigan Ave. and Washington? Was the hotel abandoned for some time and then rehabbed by Barber?

Quite confusing. Interestingly, the GWH in my 1856 plat map seems to be a building called the "National Hotel." Tidbit: Shortly after the Normal School's founding in 1849, the original school building pictured at left burned to the ground in 1859. The school temporarily moved into the National Hotel, which seems to have been empty at that time (?)

OK. What about the other building, the one the Countryman writer said was to be a school?

At first I thought it might be the Seminary, which opened in August of 1844. It stood at Washington and Cross and was a large, imposing building. Does "opposite side of" mean the river, or perhaps the opposite side of the railroad part of town? Was the "Sem" the building referenced?

But then I also found this:

"1844:...Miss Jane Willard opened a school for children in common branches of English in a building near the depo. ('Sentinel' 4-25-1844)."

This seems more likely, but I could find nothing, here at home or in my copies of the 1844 Sentinel, about Ms. Willard's school.

Readers, those of you with more knowledge than me, what are your thoughts? What did the Countryman writer see that summer day in 1844?

* Dusty D has filed this 1840s slang expression away, reverently, for definite future use.

Thanks to Ypsilanti Archives intern Derek S. for tipping me off that the Signal of Liberty is available online at the AADL site!

Call for Help: Eileen Harrison, Recently Profiled on, is 107 Years Old and Living in Ypsilanti!

Kind readers may remember that on Wednesday I wrote about the contents of Eileen Harrison's WWII ration book for

Turns out, says a friend, she's still allegedly alive. 107 years old.

At age 107, she is still living somewhere in Ypsilanti. Dusty D searched and searched for her phone number, to respectfully ask Ms. Harrison if she might be amenable to an oral history, if that would not tire or inconvenience her.

I can't find any information anywhere--not even with the mighty Zabasearch. Not gonna go with any of those online fee-for-info sites either, as I ditched my stupid AMEX after getting ripped off. So. An impasse.

Ypsilanti is a small town. And time, needless to say, is of the essence. Kind readers, does anyone know how to reach Ms. Harrison? Please don't post any personal information about her here, needless to say, but if you would be so kind as to connect me, privately via email to, to her phone # or to an intermediate person or family member who has contact with her, I would be EXTREMELY grateful.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Ypsilanti's Slum Children of 1939

Note: The photos illustrating this 1939 Ypsilanti Daily Press story are of Depression- era children, but not Ypsilanti children.

Slum Conditions Seen in Homes of Nursery Group

It is difficult to realize the need of such an institution as the Nursery School here in Ypsilanti. On the surface there seems to be little dire poverty but a very little investigation will prove this a misapprehension. A trip with Mrs. Charles Lamb, director of the project, into the homes from which the children come shows than in Ypsilanti there are people living in housing and general economic conditions which it would be hard to find surpassed in a large city.

The average rent that a family living on WPA wages can pay is about $12 a month, it has been estimated, and for that amount it is almost impossible to find good living quarters here. There are many instances of family groups consisting of ten to 12 members living in one or two rooms, often above stores so that children have no place to play except the streets. Others are living in shacks without adequate heating facilities, without proper sanitation and without a means of obtaining adequate fresh water. This latter condition is especially true of a subdivision east of the city just off Ecorse Rd. where there are a hundred or so people, all of whom must go more than half a mile to a gas station to obtain water which they carry home in pails and which, before the day is over, becomes very stale and unfit to drink.

There are people in Ypsilanti also who are living on an absolute minimum of food, according to welfare authorities--an amount and quality upon which adults are able to subsist but which is not adequate for growing children. One case in point is that of a tiny child at the nursery school who after eating all she could hold at dinner at school sighed happily and said, "This is so good. I won't even be hungry when I get home." Upon questioning she told that her father would not allow her anything to eat at home because there were older children who were not in the nursery school and who had to be fed their one meal a day from the family income, which would not cover the child in nursery school.

While the children are playing happily together or scrapping healthily it is very difficult to realize the conditions from which some of them come. No one would guess what one little four year old with the big brown eyes, soft dark hair and angelic pale face was almost starving only a few months ago when her father deserted her, her mother and two sisters and left them in a one room tar paper shack in a subdivision near Ypsilanti without means or support.

It seems almost impossible that a sprightly boy, just three and full of mischief enough for twice his years, comes from a tumble-down unpainted two room shed in the northeast section of town where he exists in absolute poverty with his parents and numerous brothers and sisters, without furniture or bedding, except a few rags, and without seeing the slightest attempt at beauty of cleanliness until he gets to school.
And then there is a fragile little three-year-old girl with enormous eyes in a pinched, two-old face. She hasn't been at the school long enough to forget the too-soon-learned tragedy of her home environment--her young mother has a fatal disease which has doomed her to death in a short time.

Perhaps one of the most amazing personalities among the children is a sparkling four-year-old girl with round black face, mischievous eyes and irrepressible pig tails sticking up all about her well shaped little skull. She is the only child of a family of several who is still left with her mother who is considered an incorrigible moral delinquent. The older children have been taken from their mother by social agencies and this one may be very soon as the environment in the home is considered absolutely degenerate. Fortunately the child is still too young to realize the conditions in which she lives--she still chuckles and beams, plays puckish pranks and thinks the world is a fine place and nursery school just made for her. She loves to "dress up" in "party dresses" and big hats from the cardboard box of old costumes with which the children play. When she dresses up she puts on a song and dance show for the other children and they love it. She is only one of the many underprivileged children in the first ward.

Among the saddest stories are those of the children above the stores in the business section of town. One from which one of the nursery school babies comes consists of two rooms reached after a long, hazardous trek up a dirty stairway, through a dark, loose-boarded hall past several store rooms. The father works a few days a week but he likes to drink too well. He seems to like drink better than he does this boy or his two brothers or his baby sister who is making what looks like a losing fight to recuperate from pneumonia. There is practically no furniture in these two rooms and no bedding on the dirty mattress-covered beds.

Story after story could be told, for nearly every one of these children playing so contentedly together in their clean, bright basement rooms at Woodruff School comes from a home environment similar if not worse then those of the cases cited.

--April 6, 1939 Ypsilanti Daily Press


"The Children of Erskine Place" by F. Oswald Barnett
Uncredited, but I believe this is a photo by Walker Evans
Uncredited photo labeled "Rirl and mother"
Uncredited photo labeled "The Malone children; five children, teen boy with teen girl and young girls at the edge of a corn field; barefoot and coveralls"
Uncredited photo labeled "depression"

Wednesday Mystery Spot

Have I really done it?

Did I really defeat all the eagle-eyed Mystery Spotters out there with Big Bowl of Fruit? The closest guess was "I bet this is the brick house on East Cross that was on the home tour last year -- with all the fancy brick work. It's maybe on the corner of Campbell???"


(Politely) I'm afraid not, my dear (chokes back triumphant giggles).

Big Bowl of Fruit may be seen (from the sidewalk) in the central garden area of the beautiful, sublime St. Luke's Episcopal Church on Huron. The church is so exquisite it almost makes me wish I were a member, just to enjoy being inside such a magnificent architectural space.

So that's that. Now then, we're ranging away from downtown for our next Mystery Spot. It has something to do with a recent reader comment. And I'd better shut up now, or I'll give it all away! Take your best guess; answer next Wednesday!

Peek Inside an Ypsilantian's WWII Ration Book

Many families are "rationing" luxuries and treats--even some staples--today. Back in WWII it was mandated. Take an image-rich peek at the contents of Eileen Harrison's ration-book purse and see what she carried around town in 1942 just to do her shopping!

Here's the story; enjoy!

Michigan Beet Sugar: A Testimonial

Some time ago Dusty D instructed kind readers to use, and boost, Michigan Beet Sugar.

Here is Vrouw Boerenkool to check up on you and testify. "All authorities tell me," she says in her heavy, guttural accent, "Michigan Made Beet Sugar has no superior. . . In addition, I believe in standing by Michigan farmers."

"Every 100 pound bag of foreign refined sugar bought in Michigan means that one American worker loses a day's work."

Dusty D is gonna make sure her next 100-pound bag contains only pure, delicious Michigan beet sugar. As the gruff yet caring voice of the Farmers and Manufacturers Beet Sugar Association (Saginaw), Vrouw B. is pretty convincing. --Ypsilanti Daily Press, January 11, 1940

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Bones of "Stud Bunnies"

Dusty D spent the morning laying out the Table of Contents, or ToC, for her book "Stud Bunnies and the Underwear Club: Tales from the Ypsilanti Archives," due out this winter.

It turned out to be a very interesting and rewarding experience. Originally I'd just piled all my stories into a list to submit to the publisher. Time was short and I didn't have time to make thoughtful arrangements. But this morning I cut up my ToC list into the individual stories and had a wonderful time seeing relationships, finding thematic segues between stories, and imagining the reader's experience and what would please them most. I'm particularly happy with a section dealing with the Depression:

You Use Witch Sugar? (humorous, food-related)
Luminous Pork Chop Comes to Light: So Does Cause (humorous, food-related)
Ypsilanti's First Supermarket (food-related, more in-depth story)
Locavores in 1930s Ypsilanti (also deals with city groceries, Depression)
The Sadness in a Depression-Era Grocery Receipt (groceries, Depression, sad)
Needles, Rags, and an Old Peach Tree (Depression, food preservation, upbeat)
The Angel of the Depression (Depression, food, social services, uplifting!)
Ypsilanti's Depression-Era Zoo (Depression, offbeat, fun)*
Cash for Clunkers in 1938 Ypsilanti (Depression, interesting, offbeat, cars)
The Golden Age of Free Parking in Ypsilanti (cars, funny)
New Motoring License Requirement Grievous Imposition to Ypsilanti's Elite (cars, funny, the privileged class)
1906 Letter from a 20-Year-Old Servant Girl Working at 118 South Huron Street, Ypsilanti (rare artifact**, lots of images, stark contrast to privileged class)

And so on. It's really fun to try to knit them together in an alluring way while spreading out stories with images and those without, plus 3 super-long stories among lots of shorter ones, plus not juxtaposing frothy fun ones with stories about death and murder. At any rate, I sure am grateful I'm blessed to be in the position to make a book! Very thankful, mostly to my sweetie. Back to work now!

*this will be in this Thursday's Courier, God willin' and the creek don't rise.
**thanks to Kristin P., who gave her permission to use these images (I'll thank her in the book too)

Upcoming Stories

Tomorrow's column will examine the contents of the 4 by 6-inch World War Two ration book purse that every Ypsilantian carried around. Lots of images!

Thursday's Ypsilanti Courier story explores the onetime home-made Ypsilanti Zoo in Waterworks Park. Bet you didn't know Ypsi once had its own zoo!

I'll post 'em here and on FB. Hope you like 'em!

Highland Cemetery Ghost Photo?

This photo was taken in Highland Cemetery last Saturday night while ghost- hunting.

SLAPS member Jennifer says, "Here is the picture that we took when Gerry started yelling that the car was moving. It was taken by our ghost hunter T."

This photo was taken in the extreme southwest section of Highland Cemetery.

Traffic Boners Are On The Way Out

Traffic authorities say 25% of all Stop-and-Go driving will be ended if we end traffic boners.

Public opinion can do it!

My Shell station is local headquarters for the Share-the-Road crusade.

We'll attach the emblem to your car--give you the booklet showing how "Screwdrivers" snarl traffic.

Now you're all set to help cut Stop-and-Go driving 25%!

That's swell!

--Ypsilanti Daily Press, January 10, 1940

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 paid $20 to Dr. Hull, was paid herself, did some ironing, and cleaned up her apartment.

Oct. 21 Tues. Rec'd Mr. Hutchins check for $60.00 for Aug. + 1/2 of Sept. Was at Mrs. Fletcher's for supper.

Oct. 22 Wed. School went fairly well. After supper at 7:30 went over to judge the debaters--Mrs. Omans, Miss Covell + myself.

Oct. 23 Thurs. Went up to Chapel for the first time this year. Was very tired at night. Bed early. Bo't new pen $2.88 including war tax.

Oct. 24 Fri. After school completed my report. Mr. Piper, Mr. Omans, Mrs. DeWitt + myself went down town to select Mr. Arbaugh a watch.

Oct. 25 Sat. Cleaned + washed a few clothes. Went down to bank and for groceries. Just awfully tired.

Oct. 26 Sun. Went to church and Rob came. We had a good visit. Lillian here in P.M.

Oct. 27 Mon. Collected $23.20 toward Roosevelt fund. After school went to temple for supper. On committee pd $1.00 Weigh 144 lbs.

Oct. 28 Tues. Report that Beatrice Camris a Junior is married. A party at Mr. Omans for Mr. Arbaugh. The teachers present him a watch.

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

Monday, October 19, 2009

"Onions make your nostrils quiver...

...They're elegant with tender LIVER," claims this 1939 ad from Ypsilanti's Wolf's Grocery.

"The French call it "Liver soubise" but your family will call it "delicious." And the little vitamins and proteins and minerals seem to make liver their main basis of operation. It's easy to make, too--and so inexpensive you can serve it often."

Dusty D likes to think she has catholic tastes in food, but here is one item I can do without. The liver is the body's filter, like a furnace filter. Just as the idea of a furnace filter casserole fails to appeal to me, a heaping plate of steaming animal filter leaves me reaching for the Brussels sprouts and mashed parsnips. To each his own. If you feel like serving this delicacy, just stop by 309 Miles St. or phone 974.

Lunch at 1934 Prices at Haab's

Dusty Diary accompanied a member of the Ypsilanti literati to Haab's for their special 75th anniversary lunch. Though we got there at 10:30 a.m. (they open at 11), there was already a considerable line down Michigan Ave. We were seated quickly and had a great waitress.

Dusty D ordered the famous Chicken in a Basket (50 cents) and actually finished it. I now have sufficient calories to carry me through to Halloween--and it was worth it. The fries were good too. Haab's was packed, so we made sure to eat and leave quickly so our waitresscould turn over the table.

Dusty D left a tip commensurate to 20% of what the normal price would have been--every staff person there will certainly earn it today. Happy 75th anniversary to Haab's and thank you for the lovely chicken lunch!

Ghost-Hunting in Highland Cemetery

The South Lyon Area Paranormal Society generously invited Dusty D to ghost-hunt in Highland Saturday night. We met there at 10 p.m., entering the caretaker's driveway.

Jennifer told the caretakers we were there, and I chatted with SLAPS member Scott, who demonstrated his military-style flashlight, purchased from Harry's Army Surplus. Another SLAPS member unloaded a handheld temperature probe and a tape recorder from their vehicle.

We spoke verbal introductions to any nearby spirits, stated our names, and Jennifer told them we were not here to threaten them but only to communicate if they wished.

We set out along the main southward path. A tiny white and black cat was following us, and Jennifer shone the temperature probe's red laser pointer on the ground, playing with the cat, who pounced on and chased it. Periodically Jennifer turned around and called, "Hello? Anyone there?" We froze and listened. "I thought I heard someone following us," she stated. I didn't hear anything. We continued walking.

The group's psychic, Jerry, and another SLAPS member took the car and ventured to a part of the cemetery Jerry wished to visit. Jennifer showed me Carrie Hardy's grave--and the grave of her husband Ervin, who she'd married late in life! This was astonishing, and I felt privileged to see Carrie's grave and quietly stand and pay my respects for a moment.

Jennifer tested the temperature probe on some of the markers, a tree, and a mausoleum. In each case the objects were about 5 degrees warmer than the air temperature, since they retained heat for some time after sundown; I found this interesting. The probe is to test for the "cold spots" that some associate with spirits.

The denouement of the night came at the southern end of the park. Jennifer was showing me another set of Hardy graves from another branch of the family. Jerry was in the car about 200 feet away down the path.

Suddenly one SLAPS member whirled around and stared at the car. "Is Jerry all right?" she said nervously. One half second later, Jerry yelled, "The car's moving! The car's moving!" He was sitting in the 2nd row of seats and couldn't get to the brake pedal.

Jennifer ran to the car, leaped in, and stopped it. Later she said, "I could see it moving when I got to the car." No one was hurt, but Jerry was very agitated. He said he had seen a menacing figure in a black cape who had spoken to him. The figure said, "You will be sorry."

Well, that put an end to walking around in a pitch-dark cemetery. We all piled into the car and drove around the back part of the cemetery. The other SLAPS member said, "I've never said that before--'is Jerry all right'; but I just felt you were in trouble." Jerry repeated his story, and we were all a bit spooked. A consensus that the ghost-hunt was over was unanimously reached and we drove back to the caretaker's house, piled out, said goodbyes, and left. It was midnight.

Dusty D did not pick up any vibes from walking through the cemetery, but I don't think I have an ability to see or detect ghosts if they exist, and I was there with my sweetie and so wasn't concerned. The cemetery at night is beautiful and a tad spooky in a pleasant gothic manner, and I very much enjoyed my time there with the very nice SLAPS members. It was an interesting and fun new experience; thank you, SLAPS!

Note: The photo is not mine, but another photo of Highland altered to suggest night.

Monday Mystery Artifact

Take your best guess over at!

Friday, October 16, 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 wrote an essay on slang phrases, tried a new hairstyle and got compliments, and examined the new stove her father brought home.

Oct. 16 Fri Went up to the Sem. and stayed to the social a little whiel and then went up to the Normal. Had a very good time especially at the Sem. Mr. Mac (Cormick) was very anxious that I should stay this afternoon. Mr. Gay looked and stared at me this afternoon so that I bowed and he did the same and I shall now all the time [be?] without an introduction.

Oct. 17 Sat. Got some of my lessons this afternoon and then went up town. Went to Miss Coe's and then up to Carrie's. Met Miss Eva Lepel (?) there. We had quite a good time. Joe came down town with us and we got to talking about flirting. I said something and made her mad. She told me to mind my own business and several other things, but I do not care, and it was my fault. I ought not to say very polite things.

Oct. 18 Sun. Went to church with Carrie N. After dinner Will and the girls and I went down to Cora Guys. We had a delightful ride and a very good visit. Did not get home until about Church time. Went to the M.E. Church. Mr. Petts preached. Very good.

Oct. 19 Mon. Have had ever so much fun today. Read my composition on Slang Phrases and the boys fairly roared. Going to school this noon I met Mr. Chase and Mr. Miller. Spoke to C. and Mr. Miller lifted his hat, turned around and he did the same with a very low bow again. I returned the bow and will speak now every time. He has tried to flirt with me before. Took a long ride after school.

Oct. 20 Tues. Carrie N. came down tonight. We had a splendid good talk. Went up town with her. There is to be a dancing school here this winter. Hope I can go. Carrie told me ever so much. Took a long, long ride after school. Took Carrie. Marion saw Miller and bowed.

Oct. 21 Wed. Was examined this morning in History almost all of the morning. Think that I have passed. Saw Joe today. Had callers after school, ever so much fun. Mr. Mac C. don't know what to make of me, and the way I treat him. Mr. Padley was here to dinner.

Oct. 22 Thurs. Went up to Carrie's after school. Had a real nice time. Minnie Bramble came and we went down town together. We went all over town and went to get weighed. Minnie is 127; Carrie 128 1/2; I 97 1/2. The fellow where we went in is just gay, especially to us tonight.

Oct. 23 Fri. Went to Lyceum. Mr. Lamb was there. He and I had quite a chat. Gay came. All the girls wanted him the worst way, but did not dare to speak to him. I did, after a while. We went to promenade and we had a good talk. He acts as if he thought I was about right. Got a note from him in the evening and had ever so many compliments.

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

Chrysler Record Players and the Potato Car

My usual "Tidbits" column for today offers a fun round-up of auto-related snippets. Something to enjoy on your lunch break if you like: here you are!

Haab's 75th Anniversary: An Ad from their Early Days is running Janet Miller's story about Haab's upcoming 75th anniversary on Monday, when they roll back prices to 1934 levels (50 cents for a chicken dinner!)

Dusty D dug up this April 7, 1937 ad from Haab's early days, when it was called "Haab Brothers Cafe." Same location: 18 W. Michigan. This "nice, quiet place to eat" had "Schlitz, Budweiser, and Schlitz Bock Beer on Draught."

Happy Diamond Anniversary to our wonderful and venerable old restaurant!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

A-Bomb Dog Tags for All Ypsilantians

Today's story in the Courier, for those that don't receive it, explores a forgotten chapter of Cold War Ypsilanti history, when the plan was to issue every Ypsilantian a dog tag to wear 24/7.

“If an atomic bomb drops (you can tell it by a sudden and great increase in light), drop wherever you are with your back to the light,” said the December 8, 1950 Ypsilanti Daily Press. “Curl up to cover your bare arms, hands, neck, and face. Stay curled up 10 seconds. Then go to the nearest shelter to avoid flying glass and other objects blown about by the blast.”

Fearing such an attack, in 1950 the Michigan Civil Defense commission picked four Michigan cities to test a pilot program that would issue every resident dog tags listing their blood type. The idea was to create a “mobile city-wide blood bank” in case of disaster. The state chose Ypsilanti as a representative residential-industrial town. It also chose Alma as a typical rural town, Birmingham as a residential center, and Jackson for a county-wide program. If all went well, the state planned to roll out a statewide blood-typing program.

“The idea of mass blood typing in Michigan originated with the state commission as a civilian defense measure,” noted the November 11, 1950 Ypsilanti Daily Press. “In the event of an atomic disaster or other highly destructive catastrophe, pre-knowledge of necessary blood types and the availability of supply would expedite the treatment of the injured. It was pointed out that such knowledge and supply would have greatly reduced the death rate resulting from atomic bomb blasts at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.”

The program began in mid-November. “Michigan today started plans for dog-tagging its citizens as part of preparations for the possibility of an atom-bomb attack,” said the November 13 Press. “What the [state] wants to know is whether people will wear the tags around their necks, carry them in pocketbooks, or toss them aside.”

Ypsilanti formed a blood-typing team of local health officials and the city’s two Civil Defense coordinators, Harold Haun and Carl Arvin. The group met to choose personnel and the location of blood-typing stations. “The meeting will be the first in which Dan Muntean, recently appointed full time director of the program, has participated,” said the November 17 Press. “Mr. Muntean, assistant principal of Ypsilanti High School, was granted a 60-day release by the board of education at their meeting Monday night, to take charge of the campaign.”

State consultants traveled to Ypsilanti to make recommendations “Conclusions drawn from their visit were that Ypsilanti should have five 5-person teams to successfully type the entire population in a reasonable length of time. Each team is composed of a receptionist, nurse, nurse’s aid, and two clerks. Due to the amount of clerical work necessary for each typing, it is deemed necessary to have two clerks to handle the necessary information from each person so as not to slow up the nurse. It was estimated by Chief Haun that. . . smooth working teams could type a total of 700 to 900 persons a day in Ypsilanti.”

A week later, two five-woman blood-typing teams “attended an orientation meeting Friday afternoon, receiving instructions and suggestions for Monday, the opening day of the program,” said the November 25 Press. “Mrs. Jean Smiddy and Mrs. Patricia McGinnis, nurses of the State Office of Civil Defense, spoke to the women, as did Dan Muntean, director of the program in Ypsilanti and Dr. Stacey Howard, chief pathologist of Beyer Hospital and head man for the laboratory phase of the program.”

“The two teams will start Monday by taking blood samples from the personnel of Beyer Hospital and will then move on to Cleary College Tuesday where they expect to type well over 200 students,” continued the paper. “The blood samples are taken to the laboratory at the rear of Beyer Hospital after each day’s run and put into a refrigerator in preparation for typing the following day. . . [o]f the four duplicate forms which are made out at the time of the taking of the samples, one is given to the person to check against his ‘dog tag’ when it arrives.”

On the 27th, the paper ran a photo of the first person to be blood-typed: Mayor Dan Quirk, who also led the city’s Civil Defense team. The caption notes, “The tiny ribbon on the mayor’s shirt front denotes that he has been sampled for typing.”

By mid-December, the program was in full swing. “In stops at Beyer Hospital, Cleary College, and Peninsular Paper Mill the week of November 27 to Dec. 1, 1,500 samples were taken; at Michigan State Normal College and Ypsilanti High School, the total was 2,500; at Estabrook and Prospect Schools and at the Shoppers Stop, 500.”

The dog tags were to be distributed early in 1951. “Instead of metal discs,” said the paper, “consideration is being given plastics of varied colors, each corresponding to a type so that work may be speeded in case of disaster. RH factors will be marked on the discs.”

One local resident, D., remembers her tags. “I believe I still have mine somewhere,” she said on a local history blog, “and I certainly have my parents tags. At least back then, everyone knew their blood type! As a kid, I thought the tags were kind of neat.”

“My husband said they really didn't work,” added D. “He was a teenager at the time and he said the girls exchanged tags with their boy friends. The girls also liked to decorate them with fingernail polish.”

Luckily Ypsilantians never needed their tags in a disaster. Today the only vestige of the program are dog tags in dresser drawers, some with creative decoration, from half a century ago.

The Dangers of Ypsilanti Steak

Ladies, if you decide to treat your sweetie with a dinner of steaks from Batchelor's Market at 304 E. Michigan near the Water Street area, take care.

You may want to break it to him gently, lest he suffer the steak-related apoplexy seen on this gentleman. He looks as though he's about to have a stroke. Just a word to the wise. If you do decide to go ahead with Batchelor steaks, why, just call 484-W.