Sunday, November 28, 2010

Ypsilanti Thanksgivings in a Hard Time

Husband and I had for tonight's dinner "Thanksgiving Hash," a delicious mishmash of mashed taters, cooked yam, gravy, stuffing, and turkey all warmed up together.

There is a tower of reusable tubs in the freezer with at least six portions of leftovers for upcoming lunches.

But there was a time when such lavish, easily-obtainable amounts of food was simply not the case in Ypsilanti. It was during World War Two.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Venison and Sneaky Saloons

News tidbits from the November, 27 Ypsilanti Commercial.

A drunk staggering around in the street tipped off police that no fewer than three saloons were secretly open on Sunday. The four saloonkeepers were arrested: George Letter, Anson Wright, and misters Smith and Fulton.

A 150-pound deer carcass shipped down from the U.P. was among the venison hung up in P. Grant Voght and Edward Rogers' butcher shop at 127 Michigan Avenue. Hunter and Ypsilanti funeral director Jay Moore brought them down and apparently sold them to the shop. Strange to think of shooting a deer and hauling it over to, say, Kroger's today...

Friday, November 26, 2010

Surprise in the Archives

Last week a friend stopped by with a remarkable artifact: one made in Ypsi in the 19th century!

Read all about it in this week's Courier story!

Turn of the Century Soups

Quick, what would you say are the seven most popular soups for sale at Kroger? Dusty D would guess chicken noodle, cream of chicken, beef and veggies, tomato, chicken and rice, beef barley, and that grand old lynchpin of Midwestern "cooking," cream of mushroom.

Well, according to a November 27, 1896 ad for Kief and Meanwell's grocers on North Huron, these preferences were very different--if we assume that the soups advertised were the popular ones that would appeal to readers.

The seven soups here are "Tomato, Chicken, Ox Tail, Mock Turtle, Consomme, Julienne, French Bouillon."

Dusty D is proud to say that with my usual penchant for anachronism, I have oxtails in my freezer at this very moment! Yesirree.

Then the Queen left off, quite out of breath, and said to Alice, "Have you seen the Mock Turtle yet?"
"No," said Alice. "I don't even know what a Mock Turtle is."
"It's the thing Mock Turtle Soup is made from," said the Queen. --Alice in Wonderland, 1865

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Wednesday Mystery Spot

The last Mystery Spot was tricky, since it was long gone before any of our lifetimes. It's the County Poorhouse, or County House as it was euphemistically called. It had a working farm on the property. Today it is called County Farm Park, at Washtenaw and Platt. Building Place, BF, and Joe guessed correctly.
This week we're back in town for our Mystery Spot. But where? See if you can figure out the location of this Spot and good luck!

Thanksgiving Suggestions from 1896

The Ypsilanti grocers Kief and Meanwell offered a list of tempting Thanksgiving goodies in the November 20, 1896 edition of the Ypsilanti Commercial.

Two items that seem to have been more popular then are an assortment of table relishes and plum pudding. There are also a few brand names that I hadn't realized were so old. I also hadn't realized that salad dressing was commercially available this early, in lieu of making one's own at home. The foods are:

Queen Olives in bulk
Queen Olives in Bottle,
East India Pickles,
Cross & Blackwell's Pickles,
Heinz's Chili Sauce,
Heinz's India Relish,
Lea & Perrin's Sauce,
Durkee's Salad Dressing,
Keystone Gelatines,
Bon Ton Cheese,
Nose Gay Club Cheese,
Malaga Grapes,Catawba Grapes,
Jersey Sweet Potatoes,
Cape Cod Cranberries,
Fancy Layer Figs,
New Mixed Nuts,
Gordon & Dilworth's Plum Pudding.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Thanksgiving Note to the Ministers of Ypsi from Editor C. R. Pattison

C. R. Pattison was the most fiery editor in all of Ypsilanti history. He treated his paper, the Ypsilanti Commercial, as a large cannon. He didn't fire it in every weekly issue of the Commercial, but when he did not even local ministers were out of range.

The Commercial's printing-house stood at the corner of Huron and Cross Streets, though I don't know which corner it stood on. In the November 22, 1884 edition, Pattison tells local preachers to tone it down already.


As a rule Thanksgiving sermons are unmercifully long. This fact has kept a great many people away from church. A year's thoughts and ideas are piled into one effort. Boil down, cut off the prefaces and expletives and long drawn conclusions. Give the solid meat.

Again enough singing is piled service to last five years. Last year we laid up the program of song, such a multiplicity of pieces on purpose as a reminder to this coming occasion, but we have mislaid it.

At all events short prayers, not over three glorious Thanksgiving hymns, a brief boiled down wide awake sermon, and there will be many more thankful souls. Many a good woman can give the promised good dinner and yet enjoy the church service, many a farmer and farmer's wife can come to church and get back to their turkey, and not grumble all the way homeward and be [ticked off...]

In the very same issue, even on the same (front) page, Pattison delivered another editorial, this one aimed at the Commercial's detractors.


Some would like to have the Commercial tamed or toned down so as to give no progressive ideas, to be very careful not to advance a step beyond the path it has been accustomed to tread. Not give its readers anything to think of but lull them to sleep with the same old song. Better give them something to get mad on, for they will soon get over it and feel better, than to administer to a perpetual stagnation of thought and action. It is the glory of American freemen that they are not hampered and if they kick and get a little mad [they] yet have common sense enough to soon get over it and behave manfully and nobly. The COMMERCIAL would not be worth taking did it not stir up your laggard brains and ideas occasionally. Count on it doing so at least when you need it bad.

The 1888 Diary of Abba Owen

Newest chapter in an ongoing serialization of the 1888 diary of 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.

Friday Nov. 23rd: Mama went to a reception given by Prof. Sill to Gov. Luce last evening. Grandpa and Aunt Kate went also and they had a very nice time. It has been a very pleasant day.

Saturday Nov. 24th: Nothing particular only that we went to the German class and it has been a pleasant day.

Sunday Nov. 26th: Mabel was sick and could not go to church with us this morning. We all went down as usual to Grandma's to tea.

Note: Abba's diary entries for 1888 end here. On the next page, she picks up her diary again on January 1, 1890. We will resume serializing her diary on New Year's Day, 2011. In the meantime, next Tuesday we'll be starting the serialization of a new diary, so be sure to check it out!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Menu at Detroit's Michigan Exchange

What were Ypsilantians eating in 1870? Well, their diet was somewhat different. For one, they observed "tea" at what we now think of as dinnertime, and ate another meal around 8 p.m. Kind readers may remember Ypsi teen diarist Abba Owen in 1888, still making reference to having tea at her grandmother's house. Earlier in 1874, another Ypsi teen diarist Allie McCullough made reference to it too.

The Michigan Exchange was a big hotel and restaurant in Detroit on Jefferson Avenue. This ad in the Ypsi paper was meant to lure Ypsi travellers and tradesmen taking the train to Detroit, and farmers coming into town there, to stop off for a meal. Menu for November 10, 1870 as printed in the Ypsilanti Commercial:

BREAKFAST: Green Tea, Coffee, Black Tea, Chocolate.
Broiled--Beef Steak, plain, Mutton Chops, Beef Steak with Onions, Ham, Liver, Salt Mackerel, Pork Steak, Salt Pork.

Fried--Oysters, Veal Cutlets plain, Mush, Calf's Liver and Pork, Veal Cutlets in Butter, Pork and Apples, Codfish Balls, Sausages, Fresh Fish.

Miscellaneous--Minced Codfish, Hashed Potatoes, Stewed Potatoes, Cold Boiled Ham, Stewed Oysters, Hashed Meat, Baked Potatoes.

Bread, etc.--Rice Cakes, Plain Bread, Graham Bread, Hot Corn Bread, French Rolls, Boston Crackers, Soda Biscuit, Butter Crackers, Plain Toast, Dipped Toast, Butter Toast.

Hours for Meals--Breakfast 6 1/2 to 9 1/2; Dinner at 1; Tea, 6 to 7; Supper 8 to 10.

The Delectable Fig-Fag

The term "faggot" was not used as a pejorative term for a gay person until 1914, and the shortened form "fag" was not used until 1921, according to this online etymology dictionary.

This ad is from the March 11, 1897 Ypsilantian. Therefore DD presumes that the word "fag" used here refers to the older meaning of "bundle of sticks." I'm guessing that this product came as a roll of crushed figs wrapped in paper. Ten cents please.

"The new Fruit Food" does not have a manufacturer's name appended to its description. DD finds this interesting. DD speculates whether Kief and Meanwell's got a great deal on ten crates of bruised figs in Detroit, toted it home, and set up a washtub and a potato masher in back of the store. Sprinkle in a little corn starch, roll out a glob on the table, wrap it in paper, et voila! The world will beat a path to Kief and Meanwell's door for "Fig-Fag"!

Sadly, "Fig-Fag" never caught on. Perhaps the closest we'll ever get to experiencing it is the mush inside Fig Newtons. This March 11 ad for "Fig-Fag" appears to be the only such "Fig-Fag" ad that ever appeared in the paper. It is absent from succeeding editions of the Ypsilantian.

Kief and Meanwell may have meant well, but one wonders if their assessment of what constitutes desirable edibles might have been a bit off. Kind readers may recall that this grocer's was the enterprise that previously brought us the dainty known, briefly, as "Breakfast Fish Balls."

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Order of the Eastern Star 1923 Cookbook

Dusty D was tipped off to the existence of this cookbook by a posting on the YCVB's Facebook page. I found a copy online and read it with great interest. DD loves to cook and loves learning about culinary history. I definitely want to know what people were cooking and eating in 1923, the year this cookbook was published by the OES, the ladies' auxiliary to the local Masons.

Here are DD's observations about the food in the cookbook:

*What is most notable is the complete absence of any foreign cuisines. No Mexican, no Italian or French, nothing. There are only 5 dishes that are even vaguely foreign, and even those have been Americanized: chop suey, "American chop suey," chili con carne, Spanish rice, and something called "Indian salad," a fruit salad containing coconut.

*In line with that, another glaring lack in the cookbook is an absolute lack of French or Italian herbs. No oregano, no thyme, no basil, no bay leaves--nothing at all. The food sounds relatively bland compared to the kind of food I like to cook. Salt, pepper, cayenne, and paprika are the only spices I see.

*The section that could be copied and placed in a modern cookbook is "Cookies."

*The section that is most different from a modern cookbook is "Meats." We are used to eating tacos, nachos, stir-fries, and other everyday meat dishes borrowed from other cuisines. Every dish in this section is strictly old-time American. There are a lot of veal recipes and a couple of oyster ones too...though the era of oysters was in decline by this time.

*There are a lot of escalloped dishes, which take some time to bake. Just a small reminder that most women spent all day at home and could afford the time.

*Vegetable preparation sounds pretty bland, and most of them are boiled or baked.

*The ONLY processed foods mentioned in the whole book are canned vegetables, cream cheese, Worchester sauce and gelatin (in my casual survey). Every cake in the extensive cake section is made from scratch.

*Doughnuts were made at home.

*The oldest recipe in the book is for the medieval recipe for mincemeat pie, which in this book is called "pork cake" in 2 separate recipes and "mincemeat in a third.

*There's a section for conserves/jams and for confectionery.

*There is NO pasta--except spaghetti noodles and macaroni. No others.

*There is NO pizza. My husband (mid-40s) remarked that he had once overheard people of his parents' generation (late 70s) discussing pizza as if it had been a novel and wild new thing in the 1960s.

*There's a section for "Invalid Cooking." In the first recipe, the minced beef is simmered "until the strength is quite extracted from the beef."

Pretty interesting! Thank you, OES ladies!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Turkey Poem from the Farm Journal

--Reprinted in the November 20, 1891 Ypsilanti Commercial

Friday, November 19, 2010

Lost Ypsilanti: Vanished Cross Street Building

From the November 20, 1896 Ypsilanti Commercial comes this tidbit about a onetime building that used to stand on the southeast side of the Cross Street and Huron Street intersection, built by one Dr. John P. Fryer. More info on Fryer:

"Rev. John P. Fryer was born near Brantford, Ontario, November 14, 1854. He was graduated from the Middlesex Seminary in 1873, and from the Commercial College in London in 1876. He was married in 1878 to Elizabeth S. Walker of Glencoe and entered the Methodist ministry the same year. He was ordained at Ridgeton in 1882, and held pastorates in Wheatly, Ridgelon and Dresden in Ontario, and after coming to Michigan, preached in Rochester, Saginaw, Lapeer and Flint. In 1893, he united with the Congregationalists and did missionary work in Detroit. During that year he took a in the Michigan College Of Medicine and Surgery. lit 1895 he removed to Ypsilanti and engaged in the practice of Medicine. In 1886, he published a pamphlet entitled "Trials and Duties." He died of heart failure August 25, 189S, in his 44th year. A wife, two daughters and a son mourn his loss." --Minutes of the Michigan Congregational Association

Apparently one could practice medicine after one scant year of school. John purchased the lot from the onetime editor of the Ypsilanti Commercial, who lived near the same intersection. The building John was creating has vanished.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Ypsi's German-American Kitchen and a special Armistice Day

Here's a story themed to Veteran's Day about the onetime little German restaurant on Huron, the family behind it, U-M professors fired for being "pro-German," and a special ceremony that took place here in 1933.

Also, the debut of the Mystery Artifact in video format! Take a peek and then take a guess! Featuring an artifact from the Ypsilanti Historical Museum.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The 1888 Diary of Abba Owen

Newest chapter in an ongoing serialization of the 1888 diary of 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.

Friday Nov. 16: It froze water last night. Richard went down and took his violin lesson this morning and Prof. Luderer wanted his pupils to go to Ann Arbor to hear the Boston Symphony concert so Richard took the double carriage and Oop Wortley [?], Frank Smith and he went up and they did not get home until twelve o'clock but they had a nice time and they said it was splendid.

Saturday Nov. 17" This morning when I woke there was a little snow on the ground, and all of papa's celery froze he had about [a space was left here] heads.

Sunday Nov. 18th It has snowed heavy all day and the ground was white and in the evening it turned into rain. Mama, Eber and Mabel went to church this morning. We all went down to Grandma's to tea and had a lovely time.

Monday Nov. 19th: To-day has been quite cold. The third entertainment of the Normal Lecture and Music course was a lecture given this evening by Dr. James Hedly on the "Sunny Side of Life" and it was splendid. We liked him better than we did Col. Sanford.

Tuesday Nov. 20th It has been the coldest day we have had yet.Eber went down this afternoon and joined Prof. Haufer's German class in which we can learn to converse in five weeks. I shall go and join tomorrow.

Wensday Nov. 21: To-day has been quite cold. Ebe and I went down to the German class and I joined. When you go into the class he will not let you speak a word of English and he doesn't either and I can understand pretty nearly everything he says.

Thursday Nov. 22nd: We go to our German class every day at a quarter of five. Last night Mama, Aunt Kate, and I went down to a Ladies Library Social at Mrs. Daniel Putnam's. Prof. Luderman read a paper on [space left in diary] which was very good.

Friday Nov. 23rd: Mama went to a reception given by Prof. Sill to Gov. Luce last evening. Grandpa and Aunt Kate went also and they had a very nice time. It has been a very pleasant day.

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

Monday, November 15, 2010

Deer Season Then and Now

With the firearms deer season nigh, it's interesting to compare a few snippets of a November 9, 1922 article on the subject to today's regulations.

"The Michigan deer season will open tomorrow [Friday, November 10] and several hunting parties from here have already left for the Northern Woods while others are planning to leave later." Of course today the firearms season begins on the 15th, with some special September and October restricted seasons for disabled hunters and youth hunters. As today, the 1922 firearm season ended on November 30.

"Hunters from here started early in the week although there can be no shooting until Friday. The trains from Detroit and Chicago are carrying their quotas of roughly dressed men, with guns in cases, and other camp paraphenelia. Many go in automobiles."
I can't imagine anyone traveling up North to hunt by train these days. And the vehicle of choice I imagine is not one of Ford's Model Ts, then the most popular car, but a pickup.

"Each hunter with a license is permitted to shoot one buck whose horns are at least three inches long. Does and fawns are protected to prevent the animals from becoming extinct. Each party of at least four hunters may also shoot an extra deer for camp use." Today's firearms license is similar, with the exception that only ONE horn has to be more than three inches. It is no longer permitted to take another deer for camp use.

The regular license is also valid for taking an antlerless deer in Deer Management Unit (DMU) 487--the deer management regions system is also something that didn't exist in 1922. Also, today there is a combination license which should be called the COMPLICATED license which basically allows you to bag two deer, one buck and one antlerless. In addition, there is an antlerless deer license and a youth antlerless license. So basically there are 4 license choices today instead of apparently just one in the past. Also, hunters in the southern Lower Peninsula can buy as many licenses as they like, also in the tuberculosis region, DMU 487. GOT ALL THAT?

"Last year the state issued 27,000 deer licenses, about 1000 fewer than the year previous." In 2008, about 550,000 firearm licenses were issued--not counting archery, muzzleloader, and youth permits. The Michigan Sportsman forum says there are roughly 2 million deer in the state.

Thankful for the Laundry

A couple of ads in the postwar local papers give a glimpse of life for the average housewife over six decades ago. Story.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Historical Tidbit: Why it was Called the "Monitor Top" Fridge

You have seen the old refrigerators with the large cylindrical compressors on top. Apparently the public dubbed them with what turns out to be not a product name but a nickname, the "Monitor Top."

In 1927, General Electric introduced this "Monitor Top" refrigerator, so-named by the public because of the resemblance of the exposed compressor on top of its cabinet to the cylindrical turret of the Civil War gunship, the Monitor.

"Depending on the model, these modern home appliances could cost from $300-$500 [$3,674-$6,124 today]. Compare that with the price of a new 1927 Model T Ford at $380 [$4,654] fresh from the factory."

The Civil War was about as distant from 1927 as WWII is from 2010. It is remarkable to DD that the Civil War had made an impression so lasting that more than six decades later, it was vivid enough in collective memory to provide a bit of slang.

I tried to think of a modern-day item that folks have nicknamed for an aspect of World War Two. The only vague example I could think of was the occasional joking reference to weight control as a "Battle of the Bulge" and, more tenuously, Godwin's Law, which states that "As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1." Are there others I'm missing?

P. S.: The photo was stolen borrowed under fair use provisos from this site, which says, "This is the refrigerator I have in my kitchen, working, and using less energy than a modern refrigerator. The GE model CK refrigerator was their best, made in 1934 and using SO2 (sulphur dioxide) as its refrigerant gas. General Electric made the best and most reliable electric refrigerators for the home starting in the late 1920s with their DR model. The only model that routinely holds up and runs in present times without trouble is the CK, however." INSTANT ENVY!

Fraternal Society Cartoon

Dusty D found this interesting as a relic from days when fraternal organizations were popular social institutions, in Ypsi as well, whose newspapers used to feature frequent stories about the goings-on of the Knights of Pythias et al.

The caption for this cartoon (click to enlarge) so far as I can read is says "The royal impossible potentate of the flowing purple robe, who had left the lodge rooms in [a ru]sh to shut up a bunch of hootstown [row]dies, came out second in the fracas."

--Ypsilanti Daily Press, November 2, 1933.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

WDET Interview Podcast

Here is the podcast for today's WDET Craig Fahle show with yours truly at about the 45-minute mark. The file buffers pretty fast; you can push the slider. Midway: Alzheimer's guy, Capitol Theater piece, then me, when slider is right at half-way mark. Thanks to WDET!

Pic is from post-interview lunch at a wonderful little family French bistro near Mexicantown, Le Petit Zinc, and a pause to observe the foggy river from the very end of Rosa Parks Blvd.

Prose Selection by William Lambie

William Lambie was a Scotland-born Ypsilanti farmer of Scottish extraction. In 1883 he self-published a book of prose and poetry "Life on the Farm."

Today's prose selection touches on Lambie's pacifism. It is one of several examples of his writing in which he compares the fruits of peace to those of war.

"Every new generation should be an improvement on the last. We would like to see our young people live noble lives and be pioneers in righteousness. But the old are first. "The hoary head is a crown of glory if found in the way of righteousness." The men and women who have fought the battles of life long and well, who have kept their integrity, who have been tried in the crucible and found pure, weighed in the balances and found not wanting, are the


and Kings of humanity. We are sometimes called old fogies. If a man has established a good moral character, gives an honest dollar for all he receives, and has exerted an influence for good all his life, has a young fogy ever done as nuch for humanity? It is not what a man is going to do, but what he has done, that is the true test of his worth. We hear a good deal about ringing speeches in Congress to save the country, but it is the pioneer's ax ringing in the forest, the farmer singing at his plow, the reaper clicking in the harvest field, and the thrasher humming in the barnyard, that not only saves, but sustains the country. It is the faithful pioneers, who have grown gray producing more than they consume, who have converted great forests into fruitful fields, who have made Washtenaw what it is, who are the first men in the land, in more ways than one.

"The victories of peace are far better than the victories of war; the history of the old settlers are not written in letter of blood, but in the peaceful victories of civilized over savage life. The harvest field of life-giving productions is far before the tented fields of destruction; it is better to tell of how many thousand bushels of wheat have been produced by valiant industry, to feed the hungry and enrich humanity, than to tell of how many thousands have been killed on the cruel battle fields, to fill the land with debt, desolation, and woe."

Friday, November 12, 2010

Depression-Era Welfare Work in Riverside Park

Had you taken a stroll in Riverside Park on a chilly mid-November day in 1933, you might have noticed a group of local men working outdoors on the western bank of the onetime junk-lined park.

These were men receiving municipal welfare benefits. Before the federal welfare system, the city did what it could to provide money, food, and fuel to those in town who were in need. In this case, even the dead trees cut down this day in 1933 were salvaged for fuel.

The men cleared away the garbage and junk then-piled behind the Riverside Arts Center and St. Luke's Church, "where previously there were junk heaps . . . [t]he old tin, wire fencing, and auto parts have been hauled away . . ."

"The entrance to this new park is at the Ladies' Library, where last year a small rock garden and pool were constructed, with a winding walk down to the lower flats."

---November 15, 1933 Ypsilanti Daily Press

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Normalites Working During the Depression

This article is merely an interesting little peek into EMU students during the Depression. Somehow I had imagined students of the past sort of just existing at school but then as now many worked hard in addition to their studies to pay their way through school.

"The percentage of student employment among Normal College students this year is comparatively high, with 27 percent of the women students working, and 29.9 per cent of the men having some type of employment.

"Two hundred fifty-three of the 923 women on the campus were employed Oct. 20, and 180 of the 600 men were also working, according to figures released by Assistant Dean of Women Fannie E. Beal, and Dean of Men James M. Brown. This makes a total of 433 students working of the 1,523 enrolled.

"The jobs vary from washing dishes in restaurants to newspaper reporting and office work. Fifty-four students are working for their room, 116 for their board, 105 for room and board, while 142 are working for wages."

--November 2, 1933 Ypsilanti Daily Press

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

WDET 101.9 Radio Interview Friday the 12th 10:30 a.m.101.9

Hey, the radio interview date was bumped to this coming Friday. So tune in around 10:30 a.m. to 101.9 this Friday to the Craig Fahle show!

Dancing Will Be Allowed at EMU

Around the turn of the last century, even a faculty-chaperoned public dance stirred some members of the Ypsilanti community to vent their spleens about what they perceived as an immoral practice.

"The announcement that the Zeta Psi sorority of the Normal is to give a dancing party at the gymnasium answers the question that the Normal students have been asking the faculty and one another--whether the popular gymnasium parties would have to be omitted this year on account of the objections raised last winter by certain Ypsilanti Methodists.

"Complaint came to President Lyman last year and when President Jones assumed the reins of office this fall the same tale was brought to him--that it was not right to allow dancing in a state institution when the taxpayers of Methodist belief are opposed to it. The new president gave out the statement that he would thoroughly investigate the matter before announcing his decision, and it was but a short time ago that the Zeta Psi received word that they could hold their asked-for function.

"The gymnasium is to be used for dancing this year as before, but with certain restrictions, which are that but one party may be given within one month and that dancing must limited to between the hours of 8 and 11, standard time: also that each party must be vouched for by members of the faculty.

"The students are not particularly jubilant over the cut in hours from the old closing time of 12 standard, but they appreciate President Jones' position and accept this situation with equanimity, especially as they have feared since the opening of the term that they would not be given the use of the gymnasium for dancing under any circumstance.

"A few Methodists have objected to dancing at the Normal, but the great majority of citizens and all the faculty heartily approve of the little parties that have been given by the sororities, fraternities and classes, as they say it is better for the students to hold their parties where they can be under faculty supervision than in any of the down town dancing halls.

"Those who hold that dancing per se is a work of the evil one may still object to the Normalites holding their parties at the gymnasium this winter from 8 to 11, under the chaperonage of the faculty, but it is doubtful if any others will hold such a view."

--Ypsilanti Commercial, November 13, 1902.

Pictured: Zeta Psi class of 1907

Wednesday Mystery Spot

Last week's Mystery Spot was scant challenge to eagle-eyed Spotters. Yep, as BF, Joe, and cmadler correctly guessed, it's a sliver of the former Luna Lake in Prospect Park.

This week we're venturing a bit westwards to this site that at one time was situated right off Washtenaw. This building was torn down in 1917 and replaced by another building that in turn was torn down in 1979. What was the original building's function? Take your best guess and good luck!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The 1888 Diary of Ypsi Teen Abba Owen

Newest chapter in an ongoing serialization of the 1888 diary of 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.

Friday Nov. 9: It has rained pretty nearly all day. Papa put [up] the stars and stripes to-day to celebrate Harrison's election but it began to rain so he took it down again. He put it way up on top of the tank house and it looked very pretty. Mabil was up to-day and took dinner and spent the afternoon.

Aunt Kate, Grandpa, Mama and I went over to the Normal this evening to the second lecture in the Normal Lecture and Music Course which was delivered by Col. J. B. Sanford who is a great teacher. He says he has been in every country in the world. He lectured on "Old Times and the New" and it was splendid. He was a very large, nice looking man.

Saturday, Nov. 10: To-day has been an other rainy day and this evening it is turning cold and the wind blows very hard.

Aunt Kate, Mama and Mabel went down town this afternoon and Grandma came up to our house and brought the baby and spent the afternoon and then they all took tea here. Ebe made two nice little coon houses for my coons and they are real cute.

Sunday Nov. 11: To-day has been a colder than yesterday. Mama, Eber, mabel and I went to church this morning and Mabel joined its Sunday school; she is in Mrs. Swain's class. Grandma has been sick in bed all day. We all went down to Grandma's to tea.

Monday Nov. 13: It has been a pleasant day. Grandma is feeling better today.

Tuesday November 14: We had a heavy frost last night. I went down and took my violin lesson this morning. I went over to our usical society this afternoon and we had a very pleasant time.

About two weeks ago Papa received a letter from a Mr. Osborn [?] in Ontario saying that he had a young deer which was very tame and he would sell it to him if he wanted it and Papa telegraphed him to send it right away and so it arrived this evening and he is a beauty and very tame. Papa put it in a bull stall with a Jersey calf and they seemed to like each other very much. This evening Grandpa, Mama and I went to the Opera House to hear the Mindilz Quintet and we enjoyed it very much. We thought they played better than the last time we heard them.

Wensday, Nov. 15: This has been a beautiful day. The Republicans had a grand torch light parade to-night. Ebe and Richard rode horse-back in it. Eber rode a new horse Papa bought to-day her name is Maud H. and she is very handsome. Ebe had the bridle decorated with flags and so did Ricky have his horse. Robin's bridle, with flags in it, and Ebe also bought a Republican hat for the occasion which was a white stove-pipe with a white band on it. The Democrat hats are the same only they have a black band. [The Owen's house is mentioned in the paper's excerpt, at right].

A great many citizens decorated their home among the nicest were Mrs. Bolings, Mr. Glovers, Wortley, Swift, Post, Grandpa's house and our house. We did not comma [commence?] decorating until after dinner nor did we expect to for they said the procession was not coming on our street until Papa saw them and they said if he wanted them to they would so we all set to work. We decorated with flags and japanese lanterns and when the procession came up we threw red lights onto the house and fired off sky-rockets, Roman candles and big fire-crackers and we also had a large bon-fire and the place certainly looked lovely.

A great many people told us it looked the prettiest on any place in town.

Grandpa's place looked very pretty also. There were about 250 horse-back riders and every body said the boys had the two handsomest horses there were. The horsemen were followed by a thousand enthusiastic republicans carrying torches. These were followed by carriages and wagons "bowed down with Harrison men" and ladies with all the procession extended well nigh a mile length. There were also two bands.

Thursday Nov. 16: To-day is not nearly as pleasant as yesterday to-night the wind began to blow real hard.

Friday Nov. 17: It froze water last night. Richard went down and took his violin lesson this morning and Prof. Luderer wanted his pupils to go to ANn Arbor to hear the Boston Symphony concert so Richard took the double carriage and Oop Wortley [?], Frank Smith and he went up and they did not get home until twelve o'clock but they had a nice time and they said it was splendid.

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

Monday, November 8, 2010

"The Eclipse" by William Lambie

William Lambie was a Ypsilanti farmer of Scottish extraction. His introduction to his 1883 book of prose and poetry "Life on the Farm" reads thus:

"On stormy days and while resting at noon I have been in the habit of writing the thoughts that passed through my mind while working on the farm. No one complains that farmers write too many books, or make too many speeches, or are in any way burdensome on humanity. They are known by their fruits rather than by their books, and if they fall behind In harmony and eloquence they often more than make it up in common sense and useful industry. The pulpit, the bar, and the press are well represented, but we hear very little from a farmer's standpoint--those who produce the most seem to have the least to say..."

Today's poetry selection deals with the November 15, 1891 lunar eclipse, an event Lambie observed. It was published in the November 20, 1891 Ypsilanti Commercial.

The Eclipse

November fifteenth brought a storm,
The ground was white on Sabbath morn:
The church was full, the sermon good,
The singers in melodious mood:
The through the rain, the mud and storm,
We had to drive like Jehu home,
And still the rain came down in showers,
In dark and lowering evening hours.
After the sermon, papers read,
And some were going off to bed,
One peeped into the News by Scripps,
And said, 'Hallo! A grand eclipse,'
But on that dark and stormy night
No moon or stars could cheer our sight:
But fast the clouds cleared from the sky,
And raised our thoughts to worlds on high:
The moon unveiled her peerless light,
With our earth's shadow clear in sight.
Nature all her orbs controlling,
To "eyes in a fine frenzy rolling,"
Well done, astronomers of the sky,
Who lift our thoughts to worlds on high,
Who bring this world and Heaven nearer,
Hope and joy and visions clearer.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Origin of the Gilbert Residence

Ypsilanti's Gilbert Residence originated around this time of year in the Depression when a wealthy native Ypsilantian who became a Grand Rapids real estate agent gave his entire fortune to charity. From the November 1, 1933 Ypsilanti Daily Press:

"Half of the estate of William H. Gilbert, wealthy Grand Rapids real estate aagent, has been left to establish an Old People's Home for aged indigents of Ypsilanti, according to his will, filed for probate here today. While the will listed assets as $110,000 and upwards, attorneys and friends of the family stated that the figure was probably about half of the entire value of the estate.

"By terms of the will the estate remains in trust during the lifetime of his wife, Mrs. Mary Silver Gilbert, Grand Rapids, and sister Miss Alice Gilbert, Ypsilanti. Its earnings will be divided between them during their lifetimes and upon their deaths the estate will be divided, half to establish the Old People's Home, and the remaining half to charities in Grand Rapids.

"Mr. Gilbert died October 23 at the age of 68 years. He was born in Ypsilanti but spent most of his adult life in Grand Rapids where he early engaged in the real estate business. The Gilbert family were prominent in affairs of Ypsilanti during its pioneer days, and his sister, Miss Alice Gilbert, has always lived here.

"The body was interred in Highland Cemetery Oct. 25."

Thursday, November 4, 2010

WDET 101.9 Interview Tuesday November 16 10:30 a.m.

Guess what folks. Yours truly, who humbly spent time today digging up my remaining onions and putting away tomato cages, is gonna be on the airwaves Tuesday, November 16 at 10:30 a.m. on the Craig Fahle Show over at WDET public radio! Mr. F. is gonna interview me for 10-15 mins about my book. Dusty D is excited--I will get to see inside a radio station, cool! And all the folks I know in public radio are without exception cool. So this should be an adventure! DD feels grateful for the opportunity; thank you, WDET! So, that's the Tuesday after next, and be assured I will remind you.

In celebration, here's a cartoon from the June 1, 1922 Daily Ypsilantian Press, as a testament to the coolness of radio geeks. :)

The Farmer and the Poet

New Chronicle article about Ypsilanti poet-farmer William Lambie and his quest to connect with his favorite poet.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Wednesday Mystery Spot

Last week we had 2 correct guesses (Joe and Building Place) for this now-vanished building: Normal College's former main building, the site of the onetime uproar of "Flag Day."

This week we're choosing a calmer, more bucolic location, one of the prettiest spots in town in which to have recently enjoyed fall colors. Do you recognize this spot? Take your best guess and good luck!

The Scene on Ypsilanti Streets After the Harrison Election

Kind readers may remember that in a post not far below this one Abba gave us a peek at the wild excitement in Ypsi following the Republicans' election victory. Aside from the big parade, speeches, and bonfire on the night of the election (the lightning slingers* must have nearly dropped dead!), some election bets had to be settled.

Here's a little story from the November 16, 1888 Ypsilanti Commercial about one such settling...which provoked applause all over town as it passed by.

*telegraph operators

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

1922 Post-Suffrage Cartoon from Ypsilanti Press

I think this speaks for itself as to attitudes of some towards the newly-minted women voters. From the Ypsilanti Press, November 16, 1922; the Nineteenth Amendment had been passed two years earlier. Like 2010, 1922 was a midterm election year.

19th-Century Breakfast Fish Balls

As I observed my husband studying on his laptop for an upcoming business trip, I sensed that what he really wanted at that moment was a conversation about 19th-century fish balls.

DD: "Check this out. How would you like fish balls for breakfast?"
DH: "How would I...what?"
DD: "Delectable codfish balls first thing in the morning."
DH: [reads ad] "OK, I don't get it. It says they're, like, flakes in a box. How do you make the balls?"
DD: "I guess you have to moisten them a little...add an egg...smoosh 'em up..."
DH: "And then do you...what?"
DD: "I guess you could boil them, like a soup. Wait, it says 'no boiling.'"
DH: "And then do I...squish them on my toast? Eww."
DD: "Fish balls and toast! That sounds good! Can you imagine messing around with all that first thing in the morning?"
DH: "Maybe it's like that Scandinavian thing that whats-his-name always talks about..."
DD: "Lutefisk. Cod jelly...but there's weren't a lot of Scandinavian immigrants in this part of Michigan. They were all up north. We did have a lot of New Englanders, and German and English immigrants..."
DH: "Well, I guess the English have their herring in a pan, or whatever that is."
DD: "Kippers? See, they have that here: 'smoked herring'."
DH: [reads] "All refuse is removed...nummy..."
DD: "No refuse! Goes with your fish balls! Maybe they fry 'em, like fritters! It's like those 'catfish nuggets' at Von's. I can make some tomorrow!"
DH: "Umm....."

--ad from October 20, 1896 Ypsilanti Commercial

The 1888 Diary of Ypsi Teen Abba Owen

Newest chapter in an ongoing serialization of the 1888 diary of 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.

Friday Nov. 2: It has been windy all day and it rained pretty nearly all the morning. Eber has gone to Lyceum this evening at the Union School.

Saturday Nov. 3: To-day has been pleasant but cooler than yesterday. The Sunday-school of our church met to-day for the last time to sew for a mishonary box and Mama and I went down and there were quite a good many there.

Sunday Nov. 4: We expected Papa home last night but he did [not] come until this morning on the half past five o'clock train. He had a very pleasant time. Uncle Cain made Papa a present of a pair of Holstein calves which will arrive in a few days. Mama, Eber, and I went to church this morning and also this evening. We all went down to Grandma's to tea. Ebe took Mama and I out for a ride this afternoon. It has been a pleasant day.

Monday Nov. 5: To-day has been very pleasant until along in the afternoon it began to rain but it did not rain long. To-night is the last night before election and the Republicans and Democrats each had a torch light parade.

The boys went down and tried to get a torch to join the Republican parade but they were all taken, so they did not join it. We could hear the noise of horns, bands, and cries way up to our house. Mr. Cutcheons made a speech for the Republicans and the boys went to hear it.

They have this morning put up an electric light on the corner of the Normal yard [one year after the inaugural arc lights] so that it lights us very nicely and Grandma and Grandpa can come up to our house without the aid of a lantern.

Tuesday Nov. 6: To-day is election day, the tug of war. It has been cloudy but it did not rain. Everybody is excited. This evening about half past seven we began to get reports and by the time we went to bed we heard that Ypsilanti had gone Republican [for] the first time in a great many years. All the Republicans are quite positive Harrison will be elected. The boys went down town to hear the news. Grandpa and Grandma came up here [to hear?] the reports.

Wednesday Nov. 7: 'What's the matter with Harrison? He's all right.' has been the great cry for the last week and [a-nights D.] paper says What's the matter with Cleveland. The boys did not get home last night until 12 o'clock, and they said that they went over to Light Guard Hall where they received the reports and the Republicans were so tickled that they went for the band and had a great time.

The latest news we have got today is this evening that Harrison is elected even the Democratic papers own up to it. Allen is also elected for Congressman and we do not know anything more definitely.

Mama and I went down town this afternoon and most everybody were talking politics. Harrie Ferrier a little boy, whose father is a Democrat met a little girl and said, "I have just heard that N. Y. State has gone Democratic and if it has we will beat the Republicans all to shucks," and off he ran, and it did sound so funny from such a little boy.

We had a heavy frost last night. The band is out serenading Allen this evening.

Mama went down to the Sappho club which met at Mrs. Daniel Putman's and she said they had a very nice meeting. It began to rain when Mama got home.

Thursday Nov. 8: It rained pretty nearly all night and nearly all day. This morning Julia (Grandma's girl) came up and said Grandma wanted Mama and I to come down to her house after we were through with our breakfast, we could not think what she wanted so we went down and on the way Mama said, may be Aunt Kate is there and I said you must be a goose to think so when she is away in Washington Territory but she stuck to it and when we got there sure enough Aunt Kate. Mabil [not sure who this is] and I hardly were there and I can tell you we were surprised. It seems that when [she] got to Tacoma W. T. and had been there six weeks they began to think they were a good way from home in case of sickness and that there was a good deal of typhoid fever there so they started for home last Sunday morning and arrived here last night on the half-past ten o'clock train. We all went down to Grandma's to tea and had a lovely time.

We saw by the papers to-day that Uncle Justin Whiting was elected for Congressman by 800 majority. [Tubal's younger sister Emily married well!]

Friday Nov. 9: It has rained pretty nearly all day. Papa put [up] the stars and stripes to-day to celebrate Harrison's election but it began to rain so he took it down again. He put it way up on top of the tank house and it looked very pretty. Mabil was up to-day and took dinner and spent the afternoon.

Aunt Kate, Grandpa, Mama and I went over to the Normal this evening to the second lecture in the Normal Lecture and Music Course which was delivered by Col. J. B. Sanford who is a great teacher. He says he has been in every country in the world. He lectured on "Old Times and the New" and it was splendid. He was a very large, nice looking man.

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

Monday, November 1, 2010

Percentage of Rural Farm Homes with Four Technologies, 1930-1950

Hey, check out this chart. Who knew that 12 numbers could have so many fascinating implications? Bear in mind this was true locally too--Augusta Township, Ypsi Township, Superior Township.
First of all, did you try to guess the four technologies? Did you get them all right? I got one wrong. Instead of "telephone," I guessed "sewer system." But I shouldn't have, since this is from a book called Out of the Dark: A History of Radio and Rural America, by Steve Craig. I checked it out from Halle Library--yes, you, fellow average non-student Ypsilantian, can get a FREE library card at Halle! And check stuff out! When I found that out I was like JESUS I just got A WHOLE NEW LIBRARY!!! They charge you an arm and both legs to do that at U-M. But I digress.

1. Amazingly, car and telephone ownership is pretty much steady over these two decades. Why is this so? Well, of course, because cars became available shortly after the turn of the century, so by 1930 they were an established technology. Same with telephony.

2. But wait, why is electricity different? Like telephony, electricity also requires a wiring infrastructure (and as a commercial technology is roughly the same age as telephony). Yet as you can see the vast majority of rural residents wanted electricity--it really caught on as the rural infrastructure kept expanding post-war. Telephones, not so much. Why is this? With a telephone you could save the life of someone who just got injured on your farm. Wouldn't that be the vital, demanded thing?

3. And strangest of all, the least practical technology of all in terms of getting things done in daily life is the most wildly popular. Just look at that adoption rate soaring. And radios were EXPENSIVE---console radios were priced at what is comparable to larger plasma TVs today, hundreds to over a thousand dollars when you adjust for inflation. (There were smaller, cheaper radios too of course). Here are two examples that were on sale in Ypsilanti in 1932. Why would a practical subsidence farmer waste money on this frippery?

4. Comparing telephone and electricity again, it's interesting to note that the initial adoption rates of these two roughly contemporaneous technologies vary. This may be due to a number of reasons, but I'm guessing one big one was that the rural demand for electricity was initially not as strong. After all, rural residents got by previously with daylight and kerosene lamps. Absent a houseful of electric appliances, electricity does not add anything new per se. But the telephone does, so perhaps a larger group was initially willing to pony up for it.

5. Last, a mere seventeen years before DD was born, a 62% majority of homes in areas like Augusta Township did not have a phone. Contrasted to today, that is astonishing. How were people's lives changed by this absence, compared to today? Were their minds quieter? Were their lives calmer? Did things move more slowly? What else might have been different?

What strikes you about this intriguing chart?