The Past Is Not Always Awesome

TW: spouse abuse, extreme violence, victim blaming

 

I’m sure that doesn’t need to be said. I often slip on my sepia colored glasses and basks in memories that I don’t have about the courthouse, the post office, the porches, the Sunday visits.

And then, by happenstance, I read something that makes me rip off those glasses and remember that things were not good for most people. To wit, this article in the Signal of Liberty, reprinted from a paper in New York.

A “brute” by the name of Thomas Toppen killed his “long abused” wife. He beat and stabbed her for six hours, including breaking a broom over her head, stabbing her with the broken end of the broom, hitting her over the head with a MOTHERFUCKING HAMMER (emphasis mine) and then…

….

….

stop reading if you are squeamish…

 

he gouged out her eyes with a knife and a fork.

Their 14 year old son came into the room to wish his parents a happy new year and saw this horror. A female border at the house likewise bore witness.

Now is this all horrendous but the article ends by saying that “the murderer and the murdered wife were addicted to drunkenness, as might be guessed.”

Why, no, 1842 newspaper. No, I hadn’t guessed. It had not even entered my mind, in fact. It was too busy, you know, concentrating on the horrific end of this woman’s life. Six hours of abuse and torture, and then having your eyes….

The past sucked. I’ve been googling about, hoping to find an article that says this guy got drawn and quartered for this shit but so far no dice.

The past isn’t over, as they say.

Michigan Union reopens!

Did you know that the Michigan Union was originally for men only and the Michigan League for women only? It’s true! I wrote about it here!

The Union reopened today after extensive renovations. Here are some fun pictures from years past!

Ann Arbor Garden Club Luncheon at the Michigan Union image

It’s a Garden Club luncheon in 1939! I’m not trying to be mean, but I have this vague feeling that the guy standing up is about to mansplain something.

Eaton Rapids Kiwanis Auction Off Maple Syrup at Kiwanis Convention, Michigan Union, 1948 image

These guys seem happy! Hey, it’s 1948 and we just won the war and the economy is booming so…let’s auction off some maple syrup. Not going to lie. I would 100% be bidding on that giant thing.

Wavy Gravy at the Michigan Union, February 1984 image

Wavy Gravy at the Union in 1984. I think his shirt says Nobody for President and I’m with him.

Red Cross - Girl's Lifesaving Class at the Michigan Union Pool image

They let in the ladies for this 1938 Red Cross lifeguard training. The pool was removed in 1965 but looks like fun!

Michigan Union, Interior, Billiards Tables, August 1976 image

The Billiards room is 1976. I believe that they took that room out with the renovation. Fun fact: I spent many years wanting a pool table in my house. Then I got one when I moved into the first house I ever owned (with the bank) and used it a total of three times! I now refer to the “lesson of the pool table” whenever I think I want something but know I will not use it.

Charles Mingus in Concert, Michigan Union Ballroom, February 5, 1977 image

Oh sweet! MINGUS in concert in 1977! I wish my parents would have dragged my five year old ass to see this!

University of Minnesota students Kathy Bezat and Pat Spencer in the Michigan Union, August 1957 image

Two “co eds” in 1957! They were here from University of Minnesota for the 10th Congress of the US National Student Association. I hope that they both went on to have good lives.

Michigan Union gets a fountain representing the atomic age, June 1956 image

It’s a fountain representing the Atomic Age!! We split the atom, bitches, so let’s have a fountain!

Shirley Walker Walks The Runway For Local Fashion Show, August 1971 image

Local fashion show at the Union, circa 1971. I’m 100% in love with her shoes. I can’t walk in heels but those are so strappy and cute!

Presidential Candidate John F. Kennedy on the steps of the University of Michigan Student Union, October 1960 image

It’s JFK in 1960! I remember reading that it was like 3 in the morning or something and good on him for being so awake. It is KILLING ME to not make a comment about him being somewhat of a ho but #toosoon and all that. And honestly, I’d take his dead, ho ass any day over what we have.

Descendants of Ann Arbor's early settlers at the city's centennial banquet in the Michigan Union on February 27, 1924 image

Descendants of the original Ann Arbor settlers posed in 1924!!! They had a giant cake which is awesome but I feel like we can do better for the 200th birthday in four years! Let’s get on that!

 

Things I Find When Looking For Other Things

Happy New Year, Ann Arbor! I wanted to share this before I forgot! While searching for something else entirely, this picture popped up. I have never seen it before! It is of the Daily Times News building, circa 1916. It was located just east of the Beal block (Main & Ann, think of where the very old post office used to be) on Ann Street. This was the first building to be constructed for the purposes of housing a newspaper. The paper lived there until it moved to the corner of Division and Huron (which should sound familiar!) in 1936 and was renamed as the Ann Arbor News the following year.

Daily Times News, 1916 image

It Snowed Early

I don’t ever recall having a Snow Day in November but we had one this past Tuesday! Our beloved little Ann Arbor got almost a foot of snow! That got me to looking up snow pictures from year’s past…

Snow Business Halts Show Business image

I wish I had lived during the heydey of drive-ins. I mean, I was alive, but not old enough to enjoy what sounds like pure awesomeness. This is March of 1956, Ypsi-Ann Drive In on Washtenaw.

Man & Dog Shoveling Snow, December 1957 image

1957. I wish Pugsley enjoyed snow this much! He hates it and looks at me sadly, wondering how on earth I could allow such a travesty to happen.

A record-breaking snow in February 1965 forced the city to push snow into the river!

Snow Removal Trucks Haul Snow From Ann Arbor Roads To Huron River, January 1939 image

Ope! Had to do it in 1939 too–snow on its way to be dumped into the Huron!

Shoveling Main Street Sidewalk In Snow Storm, February 1960 image

Main Street in 1960.

First Snow, Huron River, November 1955 image

Oh hey, here is some snow from November, 1955. Not sure it was enough for a Snow Day though….

First Snow, Michigan Stadium, November 1937 image

Stadium snow from November, 1937.

First Snow in Ann Arbor, November 1937 image

Also from November, 1937. What a perfect picture!

Young girl in 1938 builds a Snow Woman! YOU GO GIRL!

Dorothy Jean Thomas Builds A Snow Lady In Her Yard, February 1940 image

Snow Lady from 1940!!

Snow Sphinx, January 1951 image

1951–a snow sphinx!

 

 

 

 

Election Day is Tuesday!

I vote no matter what. Too many women died for this–I vote no matter what.

Here are some pictures of Election Days past in good ol’ Ann Arbor!

April 1963 voting machine! I’m always mildly disappointed that we don’t have these anymore. Coloring in the little box always seems anti-climatic to me.

Ann Arbor Voting Machine, April 1963 image

“Mrs. Edward Moore” votes in 1946 and also lost her entire identity upon marriage! (Maybe she didn’t mind in 1946. I don’t know. But it bugs me in 2019).

Voting in 1973. No matter who came in first, those guys’ mustaches are winners!

This picture is captioned as the interior of a Fifth Ward voting building and also a home for a WWII vet. I…don’t get it. Were people voting in this guy’s house? Or did they make the voting place into a house…?

Voting in East Ann Arbor, 1948. Did you know that East Ann Arbor was its own thing at one point? You would if you had read Britain and my book!

Voters Fill Booths In East Ann Arbor Polling Place - November 2, 1948 image

Ann Arbor News building, reporting the votes. This is cool! (Spoiler alert: FDR won)

In 1952, we registered people to vote in parking garages. We should do that again.

Darwin L. Wood Registers To Vote With Carport "Curb Service", June 1952 image

Jean Ferguson and Letitia Lightfoot put stickers on cars in an effort to get people to vote. Did people know they were getting stickers? Or was it a surprise? It’d be kind of cool if they just went around and randomly stickered cars. I love these two.

Jean Ferguson and Letitia J. Lightfoot place stickers on cars urging people to vote, March 1964 image

Voting in 1990!! The first year I could vote!

Election Workers Look Over Ballots at the Washtenaw County Court House, November 1990 image

League of Women Voters on its 50th anniversary in 1969. Vote, women. You all should vote. People died for us to vote. VOTE.

League of Women Voters (LWV) Celebrate 50th Anniversary, April 1969 image

Pictures of Children Carving Pumpkins is All You Need

Stone Elementary Students Carve Pumpkins, October 1969 image

1969 at Stone School

First Congregational Church Jack O'Lantern Contest, October 1962 image

First Congregational Church, 1962. I have to wonder what that boy found inside the pumpkin. His face is somewhere between “really?” and “okay so that happened”

 

Jack O'Lantern Display At Northside School, October 1953 image

1953 Northside Elementary. Kids designed and carved all of those!!

Jack-O-Lantern Display, Eberwhite School, October 1967 image

1967 Eberwhite.

Jackie Green With Jack-O-Lanterns, October 1960 image

October 1960

Bach School Students With Jack-O-Lanterns, October 1949 image

1949 Bach Elementary

Pumpkin Painters at First Methodist Church Nursery School, October 1962 image

First Methodist Church, 1962. Remember wearing your dad’s old shirt as a smock?!

Pattengill Elementary Students Carve Halloween Pumpkins, October 1973 image

Pattengill, 1973. That kid on the left has seen some shit. You don’t even want to know about the things he’s seen. (j/k, more like “who is this guy with the camera, please go away so I can carve in peace”)

Mack School Students With Halloween Pumpkin Contest Entries, October 1955 image

Mack School, 1955. I am in love with the girl on the left’s hair. So cute!

Pittsfield School Children Prepare Halloween Pumpkins, October 1960 image

Pittsfield, 1960. I wasn’t in school until the late 70s but this is how I remember it…

Thanks as always to the AADL for digitizing these treasures.

 

 

 

 

Fall into Ann Arbor History

There is nothing like fall in Ann Arbor. It feels like being wrapped in a cozy blanket while the sun shines on your head and the scent of cinnamon-sugar (NOT pumpkin spice 🙂 ) drifts over you.

Please join me in some upcoming fun! This Wednesday is Keegan and my continuing series: Desserts by the Decade! It’s the Swingin’ 40s and I have an Outfit so right there it’ll be awesome!

Meantime, enjoy some photos from years’ past (Thanks to AADL for scanning these!)

Fall At The Ann Arbor Farmers Market, October 1988 image1988 at the Farmers’ Market but could be last week, really!

 

Unloading Pumpkins For The High Point Fall Art Fair, October 1976 image1976 but really could be this month!

Children Shopping For Halloween Pumpkins, October 1963 image

1963 but could have been yesterday!

Danielle Galbraith on a pile of pumpkins, October 1956 image

1956 but COME ON! This could be RIGHT NOW!!!!

 

Mums at the University of Michigan Botanical Gardens, November 8, 1937 image

At the botanical gardens but could still be recent. A guy just got all dressed up that’s all.

Deer Season, November 1937 imageOkay this is definitely from the past–1937!

 

Fall Window Display and Fiegel Store imageFiegel’s Fall 1937 window display. I love how they are called “top coats”

 

 

 

Street Names in Ann Arbor

A friend messaged me to ask if I knew for whom Ingalls Street was named. I did not so I went to the first place I usually go–the news archives where old timey newspapers were graciously scanned in by our wonderful librarians with way more patience than I will ever have.

I stumbled upon an article from the Ann Arbor News, circa 1936, which proved to be a treasure of information. Some of it was known to me, some was not. I will leave it to you to figure out that which I already knew!

  • Allen/Rumsey laid out the streets from what we now call Allen’s Creek, numbering them 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th and Division. The latter marked the end of the plats they had purchased and the beginning of the “countryside.”
  • 2nd is now Ashley and 3rd is now Main. 4th and 5th were “Streets” until the land west of the creek was developed and our friend William Maynard thought “hey cool I like numbers!” and started numbering again. That’s about when we decided to make 4th and 5th into “avenues” instead of, you know, just giving them cool new names.
  • At one point there was land between E. William, E. Jefferson, and S. Thayer Streets. U of M did not yet exist in Ann Arbor–at that time, we were trying to be named the state capital. Part of that land was designated as the State House public square while another part was called the Public Square. Spoiler Alert–we didn’t become the state capital but we did name the street to the west “State Street.”
  • We took the names Huron Street and Huron River from local Native Americans/First Persons.
  • Allen named the street Ann and Rumsey named the street Catherine. Okay, I get that “Ann” was likely after Allen’s wife but WHO WAS CATHERINE?!?! Elisha, Elisha, Elisha! What did Mary Ann say?!
  • Lawrence Street was named for Judge Lawrence who had a house on the street. It was also known as the Bowery. I don’t know why but Google says there was a Bowery in New York City which was notorious for its saloons and brothels so….
  • Kingsley Street was originally called North Street because it was the northernmost street; it is named for Judge Kingsley
  • Elizabeth Street was named for Elizabeth Swathel because that area was platted as “Swathel’s addition”
  • Fuller Street was named for Mrs. Judge Lawrence’s mother. Women did not have first names until 1905.
  • Beakes Street was known as Pontiac Street but its name was changed to honor Williard Beakes, who served as mayor
  • Depot Street (where I used to live until flood insurance forced me out and I will always be bitter) is obvs named because the depot is there
  • That little Carey Street that is near the depot and not really talked about much was named after Peter Carey, a gardener whose house was nearby
  • 1836 saw the founding of the Ann Arbor Land Company which, among other things, convinced that little startup university in Detroit to land here instead. The members of this esteemed group included Daniel Brown (brother of Anson, founder of Lower Town and cholera victim), William S. Maynard, Charles Thayer, and Chester Ingalls. They platted a bunch of land and guess what?? William and Maynard Streets are a thing, as is Thayer Street and BOOM the answer to the original question about Ingalls Street.

 

More next time but for now I want to thank Miss Marie L. Douglas for doing the legwork on this. I hope you had a good and long life, my friend.

 

 

 

 

Signal of Liberty

Happy belated Independence Day! Here in Ann Arbor we just finished our Summer Fest and had our Fourth of July parade, both of which mean summer vacation is about 33% over. Ugh!

On a positive note, I led my fourth SOLD OUT downtown Ann Arbor history tour! I am endlessly grateful to be able to do this.

One of the stops I added this time around was at the corner of Division and Huron where the old Ann Arbor News Building is now but where there once was Presbyterian church.

a2news.jpg

Look how pretty! I would guess that photo is from the early 40s maybe? The building is from 1936.

One century before the News Building was finished, an extremely important meeting was held at the Presbyterian Church on the site. Over 70 people gathered for the first meeting of the Michigan State Anti-Slavery Society at which they passed 14 anti-slavery resolutions.

One of the attendees of the meeting was Guy Beckley, who lived at 1425 Pontiac Trail (the house still stands today! You could buy me this house, please and thank you? Would so appreciate!). He soon became the publisher of the Signal of Liberty which quickly became the leading abolitionist newspaper in the state (if not the region). Signal was not the first abolitionist paper–that honor belonged to The Freeman out of Jackson–but man! These people were AWESOME! A truly hearty bunch. They were not here to play with you and they laid it out pretty clearly–slavery is bullshit. They perhaps did not say it quite so bluntly but the sentiment was clear. They also pointed out that, you know, owning people was not a terribly Christian thing to do, just sayin’.

They also printed other news of the day, including this description of Independence Day fun in Dexter! Free train rides were given! Woot. The highlight seems to be Reverand Davis who, like his abolitionist friends, was not there to play with you. He was not there to play with slaveowners, or this so-called “land of the free” (which included one slave for every free person and he ESPECIALLY was not there to play with Congress, who he described–and I quote–as containing members who were “gamblers, duellists, sabbath-breakers, fist-fighters, horse-racers…profane-swearers” in addition to, you know, owning other human beings.

There was also some event in Ann Arbor where Sabbath School kids marched from church to church, and then a lawyer and a preacher spoke. The ladies were given a shout out for providing food, drink and merriment to this event as they do to every event. Then…the writer talks about last Independence Day where he was at an event where slaves waited on children. OMG WHAT?!?! The writer points out that slaves were forced to hand out food and drink on Independence Day and that’s totally f’d up but one day he hopes we are all equal. So, thanks dude but seriously, where were you?? Because you were not in Ann Arbor, son.

Anyway, that’s what was happening on July 7, 1841.

 

The Old Opera House

(For more local history, buy VANISHING ANN ARBOR at your local bookstore or online!)

Old time Ann Arborites always entertained themselves. Theater troupes visited, orators came to speak, circuses traveled to us–we even had a debating society! But true society entered the town when Whitney’s Opera House opened in 1908.

whitney

Previously, Hill’s Opera House operated at the southwest corner of Main and Ann. It ran with success until Hill, experiencing some financial problems, sold the building to a succession of absentee landlords.

City Alderman Herman Pipp decided to revive the building and sought financial backing from Bert Whitney, who owned theaters in Chicago, Detroit, and Toronto. Whitney bought the building in 1906 and it was subsequently renovated by the Koch Brothers (I sincerely hope/presume that they are no relation to those other Koch Brothers we hear so much about these days).

The theater seated 1,500 in the main floor, balcony, high gallery, and private suites. The high gallery featured hard bench seats–the “cheap seats”–which could not be reserved. To get them, patrons had to line up on Ann Street the day of the performance, climb a fire escape, and buy tickets from a special second floor window.

Culture_mod

The lobby’s panels were a deep red, the floor made of “mild” color tiles, all backed by dark oak finishes. The overall color scheme was described by the Argus as “gold, sky blue, light green, and pale yellow.” The carpet in the theater was also a dark red, as were the curtains and seats. The lighting sounds phenomenal–three French chandeliers lit up the lobby and almost 600 candle power lamps lit the stage. That stage boasted nine different sets, including a fancy parlor, a cottage, a prison, a garden, and streetscapes. This was unheard of for a “small town” theater at the time.

The opulence and reputation of the Whitney put it on the “A list” booking circuit, welcoming the biggest stars of the day (think: Barrymores, Lillian Russell). The Whitney also presented UM productions, some of which went on to play in New York and Chicago.

The theater closed during the Depression and was reopened as a movie house in 1934. It was torn down in 1955.

whit torn