Saturday, July 31, 2010

Plants that Made the News: The Night-Blooming Cereus

One kind reader recently asked which plants were popular in Ypsilanti's past. It's an interesting question. Perhaps there are fads in plants through the years just as there is in fashion. Dusty D does have a list of greenhouse plants for sale from many decades ago somewhere in my files. I'll try to find it. In the meantime, I can tell you about one plant that made the news more than once but which seems to have faded from favor. It made such an impression on me that I gave it its own file folder in my files. It is the night-blooming cereus.

The night-blooming cereus is a sort of cactus that looks, for most of the year, like a bundle of sticks. But on one night, usually around Memorial Day, it produces a fragrant flower that lasts for only a day or two. Then it's done. It goes back to looking like a bundle of sticks.

In the past, the blooming of the night-blooming cereus was a neighborhood occasion. Owners would invite friends over in the evening to glimpse this rare event. There is something innocent and touching about the vanished custom of inviting friends over to look at a short-lived flower. It even made the newspapers! Front page!

Here's a news article about the night-blooming cereus from July 14, 1922.

"Quite a large number of the friends and neighbors of Mrs. Janet Wyckoff called at her home last evening to see the beautiful Night Blooming Cereus which it is her good fortune to own, and which had one blossom open last evening.

"For a number of years Mrs. Wyckoff has had this plant and each summer that a blossom opend she most generously opens her home that others may enjoy its beauty with her.

"The original plant was given to Mrs. Wyckoff's aunt, Mrs. Mary Van Dusen by B. M. Damon who was the Michigan Central agent here for about twenty years, and under whose guidance the depot gardens were started and the greenhouse given to Ypsilanti. Under Mr. Damon's direction the gardens here became famous. He was a lover of flowers and in his own home had the Night Blooming Cereus from which a slip was teken and given to Mrs. Van Dusen. About eight years ago the original plant was frozen, but most happily Mrs. Wyckoff had taken a slip from it, and it is this slip, now grown to a good sized plant, which bloomed last evening. Mrs. Wyckoff has taken two more slips from this plant, lest anything should happen to it and the flower he lost.

"The Night Blooming Cereus is a tropical plant, blooming in South America, Cuba and other tropical islands. It is not known where Mr. Damon's original plant came from.

"Although there was but one blossom open last evening, its fragrance filled the porch where Mrs. Wyckoff has placed the plant. The flower is of rare beauty and unusual form, the blossom growing out of the side of the long leaf. The blossom opens only in he night, and remains open only one evening. Today it hangs, limp and wilted, from the leaf out of which it grew.

"As the evening progressed the blossom opened more widely until it reached its prime about midnight. The petals are pure white with a few pale pink ones on the outside. When the blossom first opened, it was somewhat the shape of a lily, but later the petals opened back, revealing more clearly the beauty of stamen and pistil formation.

"This is the third year that the present plant has bloomed. Mrs. Wyckoff poinetd out a small white spot on one of the leaves which she said would develop into a blossom in five or six weeks and she expects another bloom later in the summer.

"So far as is known, this is the only plant of the species in Ypsilanti."

Friday, July 30, 2010

Men Fixing Cross Street, 1894

Ypsilanti News from a Century Ago: The Hobble Skirt

The July 30, 1910 Ypsilanti Daily Press features a story about the hot new fashion of the day: the hobble skirt. True to its name, the hobble skirt was a narrow, constrictive skirt that limited women's ability to walk easily. Hobble skirts were a short-lived vogue, and faded from the scene by 1915.

"Chicago, July 30--Halsted street has seen its first "hobble" skirt. It welcomed the advent of the new skirt with cheers and the Halsted street small boys turned out en masse, to serve as fitting escort in the latest of Dame Fashion's whims.

"Therefore, when Miss Reba Goldstein, the belle of Twelfth Street, turned into the main thoroughfare wearing the latest of fashion's fancies, she was welcomed in true Halsted street style.

"Miss Goldstein had no sooner appeared on the Boulevard de Halsted than little 8-year-old Ignatz Dubinsky abandoned his position of keeping flies from his father's fruit stand and ran shrieking into the street:

"'Hay fellers, pipe de sack race!'

"The fair follower of fashion had not progressed down the street more than half a block before she was the center of a cheering mob of urchins.

"Miss Goldstein was at first pleased by the attention she was attracting but when the gist of the remarks came to her above the clamor of the mob she was embarrassed. She attempted to seek safety in flight, but owing to the skirt, she could not flee. She could do nothing but toddle.

"'Push 'er over and see if she kin git up,' shrieked a juvenile student of style.

"Miss Goldstein started to cross the street to seek safety, but a car was approaching so rapidly that she was about to be run over unless fate interfered. Fate did. Policeman John Dolan, seeing her danger and realizing her inability to run, picked her up in his strong arms and carried her to safety.

"Miss Goldstein was reduced to tears when Sol Rubetsky shoved his pushcart through the crowd that surrounded her and, like a Lochinvar, loaded her in and bore her to her home and to safety."

Technology of Our Childhoods

Dusty Diary was studiously reading old 1973 microfilm reproductions of the Ypsi Press last week in Halle Library. I was researching the story of Ypsilanti Little League pioneer Carolyn King for a story for iSPY; should be in the next issue.

As usual, my scholarly pursuit almost immediately devolved into being distracted by random tidbits in the old papers. I was printing out pages showing 70s fashions while snickering when I came upon a story about how the library was a newly dynamic spot, packed with new technology. The story was accompanied by a pic of this little guy watching...a film strip.

Ah, film strips.

wave of nostalgia

Remember film strips? The boring, didactic messages, the little "BOOP" sound that told the teacher to advance to the next image? Sometimes the teacher messed up and had to search for the right image; at any rate, no matter how bad the film strip was, it was better than doing actual work. Perhaps the Dreamland could revive the notion of film strips in an edgy retro manner. I for one kind of miss this artifact of my childhood (sigh). Here's an extra-cheesy example, from 1948.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Carpocalypse, Or, Sometimes Dead Fish Smell All the Way to Lansing

Now here's a story I am proud of.

You know the poison rotenone was used to try and stop the Asian carp in the Chicago shipping canal. But did you know it was used a generation ago to try and purge Ford Lake? Unfortunately, the well-meant attempt led to a bit of a disaster...and, um, a statewide ban on rotenone.

Yes, Ford Lake, which has absorbed everything from PCBs to heavy metals over the industrial era, led to the BANNING of yet one more poison. Just a tad ironic in my opinion. Anyways, read my long-winded tale of the event in today's Chronicle! Thanks to my editor and captions-writing expert Dave Askins!

High School Pranks

It's a persistent urban myth that someone or other moved "the cow" from its perch atop Carry Dairy to some high school or other. The son of one of the original owners told me it never happened--the cow weighs 2,500 pounds, after all.

But Big Boy? Yessiree; here he is atop Ann Arbor's Pioneer High School, as documented in the May 30, 1973 Ypsi Press. He was swiped from a restaurant in Saline and hoisted atop the school via ropes. A crane was needed to de-hoist him.

Ah, youth. Have you ever taken part in a high school prank?

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Wednesday Mystery Spot

Dusty D was impressed with the number of correct guesses for last week's Mystery Spot. I thought that a grainy interior shot would be a tough challenge. As usual, no problem for y'all. Erica, Richard (who used to live there), and Joe nailed it: this is 113 Buffalo. As Erica said, it was recently bought by Stewart Beal. He bought it for $75,000 on 6/12/2009, according to the house's eWashtenaw property lookup page.

Clearly I've got to step up my game here. OK, give this pic a try. Since an interior shot is clearly no obstacle to eagle-eyed Spotters, how about a building that no longer exists? Where was this stately building? Take your best guess and good luck.

Tubal Cain Owen's Property Projected onto Modern Map of EMU; Did Abba Live Near Your Classroom?

Tubal Cain Owen's landholdings covered quite a swath on the north side of Ypsilanti. On this land he grew oats and other crops and raised livestock that included horses, a registered Holstein bull, "Geneva Boy," and son Eber's bunnies and prize-winning poultry. Here are Tubal's holdings highlighted on the 1895 plat map. The black star marks the approximate location of the well and Owen home. (click on image to enlarge).

Fun fact: You can see on this old map that Forest Ave used to run right through campus. I've also seen a photo that suggests that there was a streetcar line running down Forest over campus, too. Someone decided that cars or streetcars speeding over campus was a tad unsafe. That stretch of Forest was converted to the walkway stretching between McKenny Hall and College Place.

Here are Tubal's landholdings projected onto a modern map of EMU.

Note that the home and well (yellow dot) lay close to the present-day Roosevelt School building on campus at the end of College Place. As soon as they finish fixing up College Place and you can stroll down it once are likely retracing Abba's vanished footprints as she came back home from the post office or downtown grocery.

Did College Place begin as Tubal Cain Owen's driveway?

Dusty D reads a lot of microfilm up on the second floor of Halle Library. The microfilm area is on the southwest corner of the building. Sometimes I look out of the window, at the boiler house and beyond. Between Halle and Oakwood used to be Tubal's westernmost strip of farmland. Halle was likely just outside the southeast corner of this parcel.

How about you? Remember that EMU building you used to attend classes in? Or presently work in? Is it within or without the land once owned by Tubal? If a few folks toss in their ideas, all of us can get a better handle on Tubal's property boundaries.

Headed to class or work, grabbing lunch in the old McKenny Union or the beautiful new Student Center...were you strolling over Tubal's land...perhaps retracing Abba's invisible footprints?

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Meet Abba Owen, 16-Year-Old Ypsilanti Teen Diarist

May I introduce you to Abba Owen, daughter of Ypsilanti mineral water baron Tubal Cain Owen and Anna (Stowe Foote) Owen. The Owens lived in a now-vanished house near the current day Roosevelt School building on EMU, where Tubal also had his magical and very profitable well.

In 1888, when she was 16, Abba kept a diary. It begins with a trip she and her family took out East to Buffalo and Niagara Falls. We shall join the family there. The cabinet card at left was taken in 1888. This is how Abba looked when she was keeping her diary.

Abba was named for her paternal grandmother, Abba (Ward) Owen, married to Benjamin. Over the next year you and I will discover more about the family, their era, and Abba's later career as a music teacher at Normal College--following in the footsteps of her maternal grandfather, Normal music professor Ezra Mead Foote. For now, let's join her as we start off her diary in the week of her birthday!

Abba's spelling and punctuation is replicated here; words I can't quite read are in guess-brackets. Sometimes I'll accompany those with a reproduction from her diary so that you can help puzzle it out if you wish.

Buffalo, Friday July 27th: We left Lewiston this morning at ten o'clock and stopped at the Falls we spent the rest of the day at the Falls. Libbie met us at the Falls and we went all around to the Horseshoe Falls. The Three Sister Islands visited all points of special points [sic] of interest. One can form but a slight idea of the grandeur of the Falls by reading descriptions of them. They are simply grand. We started at six for Buffalo and stayed all night at Libbie's.

Ypsilanti, Mich. Saturday July 28th: We left Buffalo this morning at seven o'clock and arrived home at three this afternoon. Grandpa was at the train to meet us. They were all glad to see us and we were glad to get home although we had had such a splendid time. It is the longest time that I have stayed away from home. Papa received a telegram from Aunt Matilda just about an hour before we got home saying that she and Abbie would be here on the five o'clock train so Eber [the older of Abba's 2 older brothers] went down to meet them. This evening we went and took a ride.

Sunday July 29th: Not any of us went to church this morning but Eber. Grandpa, Grandma, Aunt K ate, Mabel and Charley came up to dinner [lunch] and we all went down to their house to supper. Tomorrow is my birthday so Grandma made me a lovely birthday cake with candies all over it. We celebrated to-day instead of tomorrow.

Monday July 30th: Today is my sixteenth birthday. This morning I received a lovely birth-day card from my [several] relatives, wishing me many returns of the day. Aunt Matilda and Abbie and Lottie [Budbridge] started for home this morning at half-past-ten. This evening Eber hitched up Jessie and Fred and we went for a nice ride.

Tuesday July 31st: Today has been the hottest day we have had this summer. This afternoon at five o'clock the thermometer stood at 90' in the shade. It was so hot that we did nothing but lounge around all day. About supper time it began to grow dark and it rained and blew very hard. After supper Eber took Aunt Kate, Mabel, Mama and I out for a ride and it began to rain again and we were caught but did not get very wet.

Wensday August 1st: To-day is Emancipation Day and all the colored people celebrate it so we have no girl and Grandma also hasn't a girl so they all came up to our house and took their meals and helped us do the work. In the afternoon Marian Henderson made a call. Eber started this afternoon for Gross [Ieal] Island to make Miss Gray a visit. To-day has been a great deal cooler than yesterday.

Thursday Aug 2nd: This morning we got breakfast and our girl got home this morning. This evening we went out for a ride. Aunt Kate is sick with a wisdom tooth [tonight], and so mama brought the baby up to our house to-day.

Friday Aug 3rd: This has been the hottest day we have had the thermometer stood at 100' in the shade this afternoon about half past three. Mama took the baby again tonight for Aunt Kate was not able to take care of him.

Thanks for reading! Tune in next Tuesday for another week of Abba's diary!

Sherbet Tones for Manly Men

Kind readers, are you having a colorful moment? Do you yearn to transform that moment into a fashion statement? I suggest Jantzen 100s. Janzten's collection of shirts and slacks in sherbet tones--solids and prints--are crisp and colorful. They're made of 100% polyester, perfect for muggy summer days. Stop by Mellencamp's and peruse them for yourself.

Where's that, you ask? Why, it's the old C. S. Wortley clothing store, founded in 1876 at 122 Michigan on the north side. A 1973 Ypsi Press article by Charles Slat, published in a series of sesquicentennial articles, gives the history of this centennial clothing store beloved by many longtime residents. Excerpted below; read the whole article [minus one tiny snipped bit] at bottom (click on any image to enlarge).

"Nestled among the small shops and businesses that line Michigan Avenue is Mellencamp's clothing store. The store was founded in 1876 by a man named C. S. Wortley and grew to be one of the city's most ambitious enterprises.

"C. S. Wortley's became known in the city as the "Style Store for Men" and at one tie prior to the turn of the century competed with some of the more prestigious Detroit clothing stores.

"One of the early employees of the store was a man named Edgar A. Mellencamp, who took an avid interest in the affairs of the business.

"Mellencamp's interest grew until the year 1919 when the eager employee realized one of his fondest wishes--he bought the store from Wortley . . .

"In October of 1948 Edgar Mellencamp died and his interest in the store was [bought by partners William Stevens and Collin Bonner] . . . the name was so well established in the outlying areas [that the duo did not change it] . . .

"Stevens said the success of the store can be attributed to the good customer relations which it has cultivated.

"'The store has always been operated under the same idea of personalized service,' Stevens said. 'We were the first in the Ypsilanti area to feature the now common revolving charge account.'"

Mellencamp's closed in the 1980s.

Monday, July 26, 2010

"Bringing Up Father" Cartoon with a 70s Twist

Y'know that old, stylish, funny cartoon "Bringing Up Father"? Starring the social-climbing Maggie in a state of constant exasperation with her unrepentant, corned-beef-and-cabbage-loving husband Jiggs? You may recall that's where the now-forgotten term "Jiggs dinner" comes from.

I associated this cartoon with the first third of the 20th century or so. Imagine my surprise when I found it in some 1973 Ypsilanti Daily Presses I was perusing! Turns out the strip ran from 1913 to the year 2000!

What struck me was that in the 1973 strips, a new character was introduced to update it. Check this dude out. He wears pants with pink flowers on them. He has a groovy 70s haircut. He says "man" at the ends of sentences. He's a hippie. Guess what his name is.


Y'know, like "Grover" but with an oo, as in cool cat.

Some shots of Groover (bah, microfilm machine wouldn't print whole strip, sorry):

So what's the verdict? Does the presence of Groover make you feel that this venerable strip is fresh and relevant? Assuming this were 1973.

The Disappearance of Lula Kohlasch

When Lula Kohlasch disappeared from Ypsilanti in the summer of 1905, what she left behind included her home, her husband, her children, and her wheelchair.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Ypsilanti City Council Faces Crucial Technological Upgrade

Kind readers, you all know the city budget is tighter than wet lederhosen on a prize hog (coining a phrase, there). As taxpayers, would you feel comfortable at this perilous juncture with a $721,000 outlay for dubious new technology? One that had never been tested or used before, and which would eliminate several city jobs staffed by neighbors and friends...assuming the darn thing worked?

That was the choice that faced the City Council in May of 1973 as the city pondered whether to buy...its first computer.

The IBM "System 3" was an enormous hulk of a thing that used a punchcard system. It promised to provide a modest speed-up in Ypsilanti's processing of voter information and several other tabulation-type tasks. It was really just a glorified Babbage machine with an electric plug. The "System 3" was introduced in 1969 and discontinued the year I graduated high school and is already collected in historical museums (pass the Geritol).

"Ypsilanti's City Hall may soon enter the electronics age," announced the May 15, 1973 Ypsi Press story by Barney White headlined "Computer Proposed for City."

"At Monday Night's budget hearing, city council heard a presentation from IBM representative Ann Olson, who suggested the city purchase a $151,000 [$721,000 in today's greenbacks] "System 3" computer.

"Describing the device as in the 'small to medium size range,' Ms. Olson said a number of municipalities, including Westland and Dearborn, have converted their business operations to computer systems.

"Presently, most city hall functions are performed by hand, though some, such as tax billing, are 'farmed out' to conputer concerns.

"The presentation follows several months' study by city officials, according to City Manager Peter Caputo.

"The computer cost, plus the approximately $12,000 salary of a full-time 'data processing coordinator,' would be paid from the city's federal revenue-sharing funds.

"According to Ms. Olson, purchase of the System 3 could save the city nearly $40,000 over a five-year period compared with costs under a lease arrangement.

"The System 3, she continued, can, among other things, perform 38,000 six-digit additions a second, process 25 checks a minute or 1,000 new voters in 20 minutes."

"Currently, it's about 10 minutes per new voter," Ms. Olson said, "that's a mammoth job and we can do it in 20 minutes."

When Dusty Diary's husband, a Java programmer, heard the figure of '38,000,' he chuckled. "Do you know how many operations per second a computer can handle nowadays?" he asked. I did not--what, do I look like an encyclopedia? "Several hundreds of millions...and that's on a little computer like that [gesturing to my Mac]." Plus I gather the System 3 was not entirely I said, more like an electrified mechanical Babbage calculator. It was a semi-mechanical computer. Which is pretty cool. Not entirely unlike my 1930s cast iron gas station cash register that I recently snagged, which is entirely mechanical. (A story for another time).

The article continued, "The device would not become rapidly outdated, she added since 'the system does have growth capabilities.'" Heh.

"The computer memory banks can be increased five times by the addition of more equipment, the printing speed by as much as five and a half times and the storage by 20 times.

"The System 3 also maintains good resale or trade-in value, she said."

It was DARN NOISY though!

"Human Rights Party spokesman Jim Scherer, a member of the audience, opposed purchase of the IBM computer.

"'We have another factor for council to consider,' he said, 'that is that IBM is one of the major war contractors in the Indochina War right now.'"

"Councilman Lawrence J. Lobert agreed with Scherer, saying he would not support purchase of the system. Some other council members indicated they would base their decision on the needs of the city and the merits of the computer." --Ypsilanti Press, May 15, 1973.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Wednesday Mystery Spot

It's a time-honored tradition to rarely, if ever, post Wednesday Mystery Spot on a Wednesday.

Or maybe that a meta move and I'm trying to hide it in the blog to make it even more mysterious...

...nah, I'm not that organized. OK, this place is still standing today and given the eagle eyes out there that's probably all I should say about it. No hints! So commune with your inner instinct and see if you can guess. No doubt your cooperative collective wisdom can figure it out.

Tintypes in the Ypsilanti Archives

Some of the photos in the Archives' collections are tintypes. This a freaky technique in which images were exposed onto an actual piece of metal--a thin sheet of iron (not tin) that has been "japanned", or, covered with a coating of black enamel or lacquer. The iron plates used for tintypes were cut with tinsnips, sometimes resulting in an irregularly-shaped plate. Corners were often clipped, as here, to help the tintype better fit into photo album pockets. Tintypes came in a variety of sizes, with "gems" being tiny photos that could be inserted into a brooch or pendant.

Since the image from the lens is exposed directly onto the metal plate, without the use of a negative, it appears as horizontally reversed from the actual real-life scene. Some photographers had cameras with mirrors to correct this reversal. In this unlabeled Archives photo, the dog would likely have been facing left in the studio. You can see that the photographer hand-tinted this tintype by rouging the cheeks of the child.

Tintypes were popular with Civil War soldiers because they were durable and could be mailed without worry that they would be damaged. Tintypes originally became popular in the mid-1850s and waned in the 1890s as new technologies took over, but they continued to be produced into the 20th century, often at fairs or carnivals as a novelty. To this day, tintypes are some of the best-preserved photographic prints in the Archives.

New Courier Story

My husband called this story "CSI Archives." :D

Favorable Book Review from Michigan History Magazine!

The kind folks at the magazine I hope to publish in some happy day, Michigan History magazine, have published a favorable review of my book in their July/August issue, on newsstands now! Yowza! "Hollowed Ground" sounds good, too--maybe I'll put that on my birthday list.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Which New Diary Would You Like Serialized? Readers Vote!

Kind readers, we have sadly reached the end of the year-long serialization of Allie McCullough and Carrie Hardy's diaries. Through them we learned about the Lyceum, wartime rationing, "giving him the mitten" and taking mercury for medicine. They never dreamed that their private thoughts would be read by, and would touch, so many strangers of a different time.

It's time now to begin a new serialization. Reader's Choice. You have 3 candidates to choose from. Enter your vote in Comments and I will start off on the most popular vote posthaste.

CANDIDATE #1: J. R. MOWRY. An elderly farmer just northwest of Ypsilanti, J. R. Mowry farmed dairy cattle and raised a variety of crops with the help of his sons. Like to know about the day to day life of a farmer?

EXCERPT: "July 20, 1901: I took milk [into Ypsilanti]. Tom and Charley helped Johnny thresh in A.M.; in P.M. they helped Will Elliott thresh. I went to John Wise's funeral, took leave and surry. We all went home in P.M. Four rode to Ypsi, Mich."

CANDIDATE #2: JEROME ALLEN. A city surveyor writes about his job, daily life, and the prices of things he buys around town. Like to ride along and oversee ditch, road, and sewer projects?

EXCERPT: "July 20, 1910: With William Campbell and Steve Hutchinson I was engaged as special assessor in measuring curbs built by Gass. Rec. draft for dividend on Stock in Denver and Rio Grand RR, $25.00."

CANDIDATE #3: ABBA OWEN. This 16-year-old was the daughter of Ypsilanti magical mineral water baron Tubal Cain Owen. Her diary, begun in the summer of 1888, begins with a fabulous family trip to Niagara Falls and offers insights into the life of a teen in a well-off, well-known Ypsilanti family.

EXCERPT: "July 20, 1888: This morning mama and I got up early so as to be ready if the boys came on the 7 o'clock train but they did not come so we sat down to breakfast and when we were almost threw I espied a young man walking across the street and I thought it was [brother] Eber but I waited a minute so as to be certain and then called out "It is Eber," and ran to the door. We were all very glad to see him.

"Fred has been in Buffalo all day yesterday and came home this morning on the ten o'clock train.

"This afternoon Aunt Libbie rented a carriage (we called it the Ark) and we all went up to Fort Niagara and it was very interesting; we went all through the different departments also the dungeon where Morgan was kept until he was thrown into the river.

"This evening Eber and Fred went for a row on the river and also to make a call on the Crageys. When they returned there was quite a party of visitors here: Mrs. & Miss Hauss, Mrs. Hotchkiss, Mrs. Marrell, and Mrs. Candler Cooke and we had a very pleasant evening."

There you go. Vote for your favorite; voting closes on Sunday, July 25th, after which we'll blast off on a new journey with another Ypsilanti diarist. Thank you!

Tension Builds on July 21, 1905

Kind reader, have you ever lolled and lazed around in bed on a summer's morn, enjoying the breeze from the window and the silenced alarm clock and the chance to doze for another hour? Then--suddenly--your neighbor's lawnmower roars into life for an early-morning mowing/torture session. You try a pillow over the head (too hot), closing the window (too stifling), or just ignoring it (too distracting). Ahh, what's the use...muttering something or other, you get up to start the old percolator. Dangit!

Friend, you're not alone. You have a brother in 1905 Ypsilanti. Same problem. Read for yourself:

"'I have a theory,' said an irate citizen to the reporter recently, 'that there should be an island way out at sea about 3,000 miles from nowhere, for those persons who want to get up at 3 or 4 a.m. and mow their lawns and perform other noisy and disagreeable household duties. They ought to be made to stay there too, all of them, and tolerate the noise the other fellow makes when they want to sleep,' he added viciously.

"'The gist of the matter is that in my neighborhood it is getting simply unbearable. Yesterday morning I was wakened about 4 o'clock by my neighbor on one side mowing his lawn. This morning at 4:30 the man on the other side got the fever, caught it from the other fellow I suppose, and maybe thought he'd pay him back.'

"'Neither one of those men have anything to do during the day, and it is beyond me why they want to get at it so early. About the time other people in the neighborhood want to get up they are ready to sit down and take a snooze or rest up for awhile.'

"The reporter listened with patience and admitted that there was some justice in the complaint."

Yessiree, there's nothing as raucous, loud, and obstreperous as...a push reel mower.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The 1919 Diary of YHS Math Teacher Carrie Hardy

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

July 13 Sun. Took 7:30 [interurban light rail?] car for Detroit. At 10:00 boarded steamboat Thousand Islander [pictured at right] for Chatham, Ont. Returned at 11:00.

July 14 Mon. No classes. School election. Mrs. Fletcher and Prof. Cleary were re-elected. New Prospect School building carried. Mr. Loosee made Robert's cart. Home.

July 15 Tues. All classes on. Prepared to take Robert's cart down to Detroit. Cleaned and looked over the Maxwell [Carrie's own car; a Maxwell is pictured at right]. Purchased gas.

July 16 Wed. All classes on. At 4 o'clock Lillian + I left for Detroit with cart socks, [?] etc. Supper by roadside. Home at 7:40.

July 17 Thurs. All classes on. After school drove Mr. + Mrs. Arbaugh to Ann Arbor for Dorothy-operation removal of tonsils.

July 18 Fri. After school went down town. Then attended the Laird party for Saginaw teachers.

July 19 Sat. Worked all day. Cleaned and swept, dusted. Changed furniture in bed-room.

July 20 Sun. Was home all day.--Not even fully dressed. Looked over Arithmetic blue books all day. Not very well.

July 21 Mon. No classes. Not well so called Dr. Breakey who came at 11 A.M. He gave me calomel tablets and in evening I took Pluto water. Mended some.

And here, in medias res, ends our year with Carrie Hardy. Thank you for reading and learning with me about the life of a wartime YHS math teacher. R. I. P., Carrie Hardy.

Ypsi Archives Subject of Upcoming Story!

Dusty D had the pleasure today of meeting reporter and former Detroit News reporter James Dickson. He recently wrote an excellent, well-written review of an Ann Arbor historic tour that puckered the sphincters of several Ann Arborite commentors because Dickson dared to say something other than that it was wonderful. He was honest. Which makes me respect him. A breath of fresh air.

Dickson impressed me as a very good reporter with a crucial gift--he makes people feel comfortable. I am not a Chatty Cathy by a long shot but there I was, babbling away, hand gestures, the whole thing. His pleasant nature and interest in the speaker really encouraged conversation.

Then Mr. Dickson sat at the table where a big and successful research project was going on with a visitor from Texas. Again, (I was secretly observing Mr. D. while scanning some photos), Mr. Dickson's laid-back, positive, and interested nature made the visitor and the researcher open up and happily talk at length about the project in an animated back-and-forth conversation. All of us felt happy to have met him.

Mr. Dickson really has a gift for relaxing interview subjects so that they open up. He took a lot of notes and everyone's contact info too, which impressed me as to thoroughness.

The story if it runs should be in soon. I'll be excited to read it. Mr. Dickson, kudos to you for your most recent story about the tour and I look forward to your future stories!

(Photo borrowed from site).

"A Little Excitement...Neighborhood Entertainment"

That is the excerpted headline of a July 20, 1910 story about domestic violence.

Hamilton Avenue resident Anna, or Hannah, Staenke worked as a domestic for local lawyer John Kirk's wife Mary, who had 4 children ranging in age from 17 to 3 at home. Anna walked each morning from Hamilton to the Kirk home at 427 Ballard near Washtenaw. Her husband Frederick worked as a day laborer.

The family was under strain. A month and a half earlier, Anna's 26-year-old son Arthur had deserted his 22-year-old wife of 2 years, Myrtle. She was left alone with their 7-month-old daughter Clara in a small apartment within the home of Edward Hotchkiss and his wife Mary at 704 Congress, between Ballard and Normal.

"[Arthur] Staenke, who is twenty years old, had been in the employ of the construction department of the D. J & C. R. R. Company until recently," noted the May 12, 1910 Ypsilanti Daily Press. "After he lost that position he would go frequently into Detroit, coming home very late. He would act disagreeably sullen after these trips and would vent his ill nature on the seven months old baby. His wife he married about a year and a half ago and until the advent of the child had been a kind and affectionate husband.

"His desertion left his wife destitute. When fuel and food were exhausted, she applied to Justice Gunn for a warrant charging her husband with desertion. She applied for relief also to Poor Commissioner Milo Gage, who assisted her. Kind hearted neighbors also came to her relief.

"On May 9 Mrs. Staenke heard at last from her recreant husband. The first news came on a card giving views of the United States Navy, on which was written: “May 9. Dear Myrtle: This is the place I will be in a few weeks. May never see you again Yours A. Staenke” to the baby he addressed a card reading: “May 9, I leave here today and am going to Texas. Good bye. From so and so” The mother, Mrs. Frank Staenke, like wise was the recipient of a card which ran: “May 9. Dear mother: I leave today for the west. Good bye. A. Staenke.”

"Deputy Sheriff Charles Hipp went to Detroit and at Delray and River Rouge made a thorough search for the missing man. He had had worked in that vicinity, but had not been seen for several days. He had been in the habit of staying at the Central hotel. Mr. Hipp notified the Detroit police of the case and was promised assistance. If arrested in Detroit, Deputy Sheriff Hipp will go after him, and in this event, the man Staenke will face a charge of desertion and a possible state prison sentence."

Anna had even more to deal with, however. After work, trouble awaited her at home. Her husband had already been drinking.

"Considerable excitement was caused among the neighbors on Hamilton Street last evening about 6:30," said the July 20, 1910 Ypsilanti Daily Press. ". . . As she started to enter the house she found the house locked, and 'hubby' refused to unlock it. She sat down on the porch and waited. He finally relented and opened the door. As she started to enter, it is said that he kicked her in the face, and started to strike her." The paper said that Anna's screams attracted the neighbors and police were called.

The paper goes on to say that Officer Ryan arrived and calmed the two down. Frederick was not arrested or detained. Instead, he promised to behave himself thenceforth. Officer Ryan left.

Frederick and Anna disappear from city directories soon after, but Arthur reappears in the 1912 Ann Arbor directory, apparently reunited with Myrtle and Clara. It would be years before incidents like Frederick and Anna's would cease to be called "A Little Excitement...Neighborhood Entertainment."

12 Quarts of Ypsilanti Beer for $1

Ypsilanti once had a father-son beer brewery, at 414 South Grove road, where Grove and Prospect meet. Lucky for you if you lived within a three-mile radius of their brewery: they'd deliver a dozen 1-quart bottles right to your house for only $1. The brewery, under a variety of names and owners, existed from around 1866 to 1943. Here is a selection of 1905 Foerster's ads from the Ypsilanti Daily Times.

Text of above: "WITHOUT BEER. What would frankfurters and sauerkraut be without the accompaniment of generous draughts of genuine beer? Real German flavor actually lost. Console yourselves if you fancy that sort of luncheon by having on hand a case or two of Foerster's beer which aids appetite, increases digestion. Case of 12 bottles delivered to any local address for $1. Phone 139."

"TO ALL GOOD AMERICANS. There is nothing too good for a 4th of a July celebration. For that reason the best of beer is required for those who like that most wholesome of beverages. Foerster's beer fills the bill in every respect, as it is as pure as the purest patriotism. It is bottled by the Foerster Brewing Co., who will fill your 4th of July orders promptly and faithfully."

"FOR YOUR SUMMER OUTING. A supply of Foerster's beer will be found a very necessary essential. It is very unsafe to drink water taken from lakes and brooks as it may be polluted, but when you drink beer bottled by us you know it is absolutely pure, not to speak of its invigorating and refreshing qualities after a day's tramp or fishing."
Are those three empties there beside that crate? I believe these are quart bottles, which may explain the abstracted smile on Mr. Tramper's face.

"AN AMERICAN PRODUCT equal to the best German or Bavarian is the now justly celebrated Foerster Beer. To be sure, the secret of successful beer brewing was learned in the Fatherland. But the best hops in the world are grown in Oregon, U. S. A., as foreign brewers know full well, for they buy them; the water here is as pure as anywhere, and cleanliness marks every stage from malting to lagering and bottling. Buy Foerster Beer and you have a prime article."

"HERE'S WHAT MAKES YOU WANT YOUR DINNER: A glass of Foerster beer is just about the finest thing to create an appetite for a worth while meal you ever struck--beats any cocktail concocted. Doesn't go to the head, does prepare the stomach for more solid nourishment. We guarantee its purity--you will swear by it as to the taste and its appetite provoking quality. Yet it costs only $1 for case of quart bottles delivered within three miles of this plant."

Monday, July 19, 2010

Washtenaw County's Pumpkin College School

Dusty Diary was researching Ann Arbor Township's Popkins School last Friday. I had found an intriguing attendance sheet for said school in the family file of J. R. Mowry, whose diary I'd been reading for possible serialization here...the usual daisy chain of odd connections leading to new things.

In the "Rural Schools" subject file, I found a 1943 copy of "Washtenaw Impressions," the publication of the Washtenaw Historical Society. It offers highlights from a community history project involving students in Washtenaw County's 129 (!) rural schools that culminated in a two-volume, 500-page history. (Wish I knew where THAT is).

One of the Lyndon Township schools summarized in Impressions bears the unlikely moniker of "Pumpkin College School." Even more unlikely are the apocryphal stories offered as explanation for its name.

Pumpkin College School

"The origin of the name of this school is undetermined. The most likely story is that a young pupil drew a picture of a pumpkin on the building. Another story is that in the old log building lived an old man who called on the teacher. His head was bald and the pupils called him "Pumpkin-head." Another is the building is near a pumpkin field, and when two men were shingling the school, one asked who went to this school, and the other answered, "Pumpkins." Still another story says that one summer a pumpkin vine grew in the window and a ripe pumpkin grew on the end of it, and when school started that fall the children called it 'Pumpkin College'."

Let's examine these dubious claims one by one.

1. The most likely story is that a young pupil drew a picture of a pumpkin on the building.

Why would this be the most likely story? It doesn't seem likely at all. Since when are students in the habit of graffiti-ing their schoolhouses? Never heard of that before.

2. Another story is that in the old log building lived an old man who called on the teacher. His head was bald and the pupils called him "Pumpkin-head."

This also seems unlikely. The teacher at Popkins School was an 18 year old woman. I really doubt the community would have taken kindly to a young unmarried teacher sparking with an 'old man.' And I don't see why the school would be named for the teacher's alleged aged beau.

3. Another is the building is near a pumpkin field, and when two men were shingling the school, one asked who went to this school, and the other answered, "Pumpkins."

The possible presence of a nearby pumpkin field as a source for the school's name is certainly more convincing than any other explanation thus far, but the convenient device of two guys shingling the roof seems apocryphal. Presumably they were shingling the school after hours; who would have overheard them?

4. Still another story says that one summer a pumpkin vine grew in the window and a ripe pumpkin grew on the end of it, and when school started that fall the children called it 'Pumpkin College'."

Maybe. Here's another reference to nearby pumpkin fields, which I have to conclude, after shaving away those ridiculous fantasies with Occam's razor, is the most obvious and likely explanation for the name.

School didn't exactly start in the fall, however; but that's a story for another time.

Allie McCullough Obituary

Allie McCullough died on July 19, 1875.

Her obituary in the July 24, 1875 Ypsilanti Commercial:

"DIED: At Ypsilanti, July 19, of consumption, Allie, youngest daughter of William and Catherine McCullough, aged 17 years.

"The deceased was a young lady of noble traits and was very highly esteemed by a large circle of friends and relatives. Her tranquil death gives us a sublime illustration of peaceful resignation to the will of God.

"Waking up about four o'clock in the morning, she asked her Mother what time it was. On being answered, she said, 'I am afraid I shall not die tonight, but God knows best.'

"A few moments later she asked her Mother to move her a little and just as the sun was illuminating the eastern sky with golden splendor, raising up her hands, she sxclaimed, 'O Mother,' and passed to her final sleep."

Sunday, July 18, 2010

There are Mouths in the Skin

Kind readers, you may not be aware of this but your skin is covered in tiny mouths. Take a look at the picture in this 1905 Ypsilanti Daily Press ad if you don't believe me--there's a handy magnification. And those millions of mouths need food. Have you fed them lately? When was the last time you took a bath in some nice chicken noodle soup?

Never? I think I hear a tiny scream--no, a chorus of agony. Those millions of mouths are toothless and craving food. When they are hungry the skin gets in rough shape. Don't feed those mouths poisonous "cosmetics," "creams," lotions, "skin cures," etc. Give them food--nutrition--and Nature will create a new skin--a healthy skin.

Nutriola Skin Food is the only real skin food made. Took our Chemists 10 years and $50,000 to learn how to make it. It grows new skin fast--off goes the old one. The new skin is soft as velvet--glows with health--fits like a glove. Ye itching, scratching, tortured, disfigured sons and daughters of Adam, try it at our risk.

Sold and guaranteed by Frank Smith, Ypsilanti, Michigan (104 Michigan Ave.).

Let's see what the book "Nostrums and Quackery" says about this wonderful food:The Nutriola Company of Chicago was a Maine corporation organized about 1894, with authorized capital stock of $150,000, divided into 150,000 shares of the par value of $1 each. The capital stock was later increased to $500,000. Edward I'. Hanson was the promoter of the company. The actual business of the concern was that of selling its stock on the installment plan to small investors throughout the country; its ostensible business was the manufacture and sale of certain medical preparations known as "Nutriola" and "Nutriola Preparations." The mail was the principal instrumentality used in the conduct of the business, and practically all of the stock disposed of was sold through that medium. The sale of stock was accomplished by advertisements and the dissemination of various pamphlets and circulars through the mail.

One of the principal arguments made by the company to induce people to buy its stock was that investors would secure an interest in the concern which would earn tremendous profits because the medicines sold by it were new and wonderful. Hanson claimed that the remedies exploited by him had been discovered only after the expenditure of over $50,000.

Analysis of Nutriola showed that this nostrum was 9Q per cent, vaselin with a small quantity of zinc compounds. Nutriola remedies were used chiefly as the means of selling- stock on the mail-order plan. The concern was declared fraudulent by the government.

As a matter of fact, there was nothing either new or wonderful about these remedies, which were actually made for the Nutriola Company by Parke, Davis & Co., Detroit, Seabury & Johnson, New York, and C. L. Patch Manufacturing Company, Stoneham, Mass. The Nutriola Company's medicines consisted of the following products: "Blood and Nerve," "Skin Food," "Liver and Kidney Treatment," "Vaginela" and "Laxative Granules."

"Blood and Nerve" consisted of three different kinds of tablets: red, white and yellow. The red tablets were nothing more than Blaud's mass—that is, simply iron pills; the white tablets were essentially strychnin pills, while the yellow tablets, apparently, consisted of nothing but ginger.

"Skin Food" was an ointment-like substance consisting essentially of over 90 per cent, petrolatum (vaseline) with 7 per cent, of zinc compounds.

"Liver and Kidney Treatment" consisted of brown tablets, containing, as the essential drugs, buchu and potassium nitrate, both of which have a distinct action on the kidneys. Nothing having any selective action on the liver was found by the Government chemists.

"Vaginela" consisted of a greenish-colored, highly aromatic tablets containing large amounts of starch, borax and boric acid with small quantities of salycilic and tannic acids.

"Laxative Granules" consisted of red pills containing cascara, jalap and rhubarb.

The post-office department investigated this concern, examined its advertising claims and the reports of the government's chemists on their analyses of the Nutriola remedies and came to the conclusion that the concern was fraudulent. According to the newspapers, at the time, Hanson was sentenced to one year in the penitentiary at hard labor and fined $5,000. (Abstracted from The Journal A. M. A., April 28, 1906.)

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Reader Submission Mourning Picture

A kind reader sent in an example of an Ypsilanti mourning picture, in response to my recent column on Victorian mourning pictures.

They comment: "Attached you will find a picture of . . . Ann E. Shutts. It is a "mourning picture". You notice her little daughter is holding a picture of her daddy, Worgor, who has died. On her lap is that man who latter became a dentist and was the school board member that George School was named after. The 2 young men are Worgor's only remaining children from his first wife Emily."

Thanks for sending it in! Fascinating and poignant.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Allie McCullough Memorial Service at Highland, Monday, 7 p.m.

Allie McCullough died on July 19, 1875, of tuberculosis.

Her diary has meant much to readers, like me, over the past year. On Monday, July 19, out of respect to a couple readers' emailed questions, there will be a short service at Highland to honor her memory.

Participants will meet at Starkweather Chapel at 7 p.m. on Monday. We will walk to Allie's grave. You can bring, if you like, a bouquet picked from your garden. Participants can say whatever words they like, or not, as they place their flowers on her grave. I will read her obituary and place my flowers. Very low-key. After everyone has made the remarks they care to make, we'll leave.

I hope you can join us for this quiet ceremony to honor the memory of a long-ago teenager who came to say so much to us.