Ann Arbor Argus, January 20, 1888

Apparently, there was a huge snow storm out in “Dakota” that caused “great loss of life”. As a writer for the Argus noted, one might congratulate oneself for living in Michigan where storms that make it impossible to “see a few feet from you” or to “hear a man’s voice from six feet away” is “happily wholly unknown”. Indeed, perhaps the storms that batter Wisconsin and Minnesota “spend” themselves over Lake Michigan? No matter, it was a mild winter for Ann Arbor that year. So mild that Wagern & Co. Clothiers (21 South Main Street) had too many heavy suits and coats and needed to get rid of them. A chinchilla overcoat that was $12 was on sale for $8!

I’m glad that they had a mild winter that year and wonder how the summer went (guess we will find out in a bit!). One of the strangest days ever was last July during the obscene heat wave that gripped out fair city (and state). Downtown Ann Arbor is almost always bustling with people, smells from restaurants and music from passing cars or shops. Quite often, people make eye contact or offer a friendly hello or smile.

One Saturday the mercury topped out at well over 100 degrees. I had bought something from Ragstock that I later decided was way too young looking for me. The last day I could return it was that day so I had no choice but to trek downtown. As I walked up to Liberty Street, I was struck by how quiet everything was. There weren’t many people out and about (despite it being a Saturday and Farmers’ Market day) and it was silent except for passing cars. In fact, people were walking around and looking at the ground…. I had the sense of being in a post-apocalyptic movie where something horrible had just happened and people were just wandering around not sure what to do. I made my return as quickly as I could and then headed home. I had intended to visit an air-conditioned coffee shop but the sense of the downtown was so eerie that I just headed back home.

Was it ever so eerie for our friends in 1888? Or was it always quiet given the lack of cars and radios? We won’t know that but here are some things that were happening back then:

  • The Oak Leaf Club purchased the Pettee’s Grove which is 16 miles west of Ann Arbor and previously occupied by the Ann Arbor Sporting Club. The plan is to make this a summer resort.
  • Mrs. Lizzie King got a divorce from James King who got drunk a week after their marriage and remained away for three or four weeks. Within a year he began using “harsh words” towards her. The divorce was not contested by “confirmed drunkard” Mr. King
  • An Ann Arbor resident staying in Florida wrote to tell of the delicious fresh strawberries down there
  • Both York and Pittsfield describe good sleighing conditions
  • Benj Ashby of Ypsilanti, who has suffered from epilepsy for 36 years, was sent to the Pontiac Insane Asylum
  • Dexter school pupils will place a mirror in an under corridor (ed note: not sure what means exactly)
  • Willis Hardy is drawing stone to use for a foundation for his house
  • A “merry quartette” from Ann Arbor came a’sleighin to Saline staying just long enough to warm their noses with taffy (ed note: like Laffy Taffy taffy or does it mean something else?)
  • The ice harvest is beginning!
  • Peter Neis returned to Freedom from Traverse City
  • Workers in South Lyon hit a rock while digging a gas well and smelled a smell worse than “any old pair of socks we ever had a whiff of”

If you were looking for something to do, the Grand Opera House would be featuring a great cast of 50 artists in Rice’s beautiful Evangeline. Tickets were 50 cents, 75 cents, or $1.00 each. Happy opera-ing!

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