EMU Baseball Signs Two to National Letters of Intent

November 29, 2010 by  
Filed under News

YPSILANTI, Mich. (EMUEagles.com) – Eastern Michigan University head baseball coach Jay Alexander announced the signing of two top high school recruits to National Letters of Intent today.

Next year’s class will include Chad Witkowski (Tampa, Fla.-Steinbrenner) and Ian Ham (Tampa, Fla.-Tampa Catholic) who hail from Tampa, Fla. and who Alexander feels will make an immediate impact at Eastern Michigan.

Witkowski was one of the top hitters and pitchers for Steinbrenner High School in 2010. He hit .481 with eight doubles, nine home runs, 24 RBI and 21 runs scored. On the mound, Witkowski was 8-1 with a slim 2.16 ERA, striking out 44 batters over 48 and two-thirds innings.

“He is a very good athlete with big time power potential at the college level,” Alexander said. “He can play numerous positions with a bat that must stay in the lineup.”

Ham was a Tampa Tribune All-Hillsborough County honorable mention selection as a junior for Tampa Catholic High School in 2010. He was also a member of the 2009 RBI World Series qualifying Tampa Rays, a member of the National Honor Society and made the Principal’s Honor Roll with a 3.78 weighted GPA.

“He is a 6-foot, 6-inch right-hander with a fastball that reaches in the upper 80’s,” Alexander said. “Ham is fierce competitor with serious power-pitching potential.”

Wikowski and Ham will join newcomer and sophomore Kristian Calibuso as natives of Florida on the EMU baseball team in 2012.

“Coach [Andrew] Maki did another great job bringing in players who fit our system,” Alexander said. “I am excited about Ian and Chad as they are great student-athletes with good GPA’s. They will make an immediate impact in our program on and off the field.”

Ypsilanti Thanksgivings During World War Two

November 29, 2010 by  
Filed under Columnists

Wiedman's Ford dealership stood in the downtown bus station parking lot on Pearl Street.

Wiedman's Ford dealership stood in the downtown bus station parking lot on Pearl Street.

“Any prisoners confined in the jail on Thanksgiving Day will be served the usual menu of bologna and bread,” said the November 20, 1941 Ypsilanti Daily Press in an article about Thanksgiving Day menus in the city’s public institutions.

The article went on to say that Beyer Hospital, the Ypsilanti State Hospital southwest of town, and Leland Sanitarium north of town could expect the traditional turkey dinner with all the trimmings. Beyer also planned to serve celery and pear pickles and Leland would serve tomato bouillon and celery hearts. At the State Hospital, staff received a turkey dinner but patients made do with pork chops and mashed potatoes.

But the austere jail repast, served only about two weeks before the attack on Pearl Harbor, was an augury of rationed Thanksgiving meals to come.

Food was not the only item that people were asked to cut back on.

Food was not the only item that people were asked to cut back on.

Sugar was the first food to be rationed in May of 1942, and would be the last item to leave the ration list in 1947. By the fall of 1942, the price of turkeys was soaring. “The housewife shopping for turkey and trimmings today is realizing the high cost of being thankful,” noted an article in the November 25, 1942 Ypsilanti Daily Press. “Turkeys are fine this year, but high! They’re also plentiful but not for civilians. The Army, Navy, Coast Guard, Marines, WAACS and WAVES have gobbled up so many gobblers that many markets in the larger cities won’t have a turkey left on Thanksgiving eve.”

The article continued, “You can be thankful if you have coffee on hand otherwise tea will top off your meal as all coffee sales are frozen this week.” Three days later on November 28, 1942, coffee joined sugar on the ration list, to be purchased with stamps from one’s personal ration book.

The Ypsilanti Archives safeguards former Ypsilanti Press editor Eileen Harrison’s World War II ration books. At the time, Eileen was 40 years old, single, and living at 413 Washtenaw. The Archives contains her gas ration book, showing that she had an “A” rating for her 1935 coupe. This was the smallest ration (about 3 or 4 gallons a week) and was allotted to those whose driving was deemed nonessential to the war effort. “B” and “C” ratings offered greater amounts of gas, “T” was given to truckers, and “X,” the category allowing unlimited use of gas, was given to civil defense workers and public safety officials.

Eileen Harrison's food ration book

Eileen Harrison's food ration book

The Archives also contains Eileen’s ration book for food (at left), with an array of blue stamps used to buy processed and canned foods. Red stamps were used to buy meat. Stamps could not be saved up for a big Thanksgiving meal. Every week the Office of Price Administration in charge of the rationing program published lists of the specific stamp numbers that could be used that week and that week only to purchase specified quantities of food such as coffee. The office was trying to prevent hoarding.

“Enough coffee will be available during the life of the first coupon, but if everyone tries to redeem all of his stamps, the first day or the first week, there simply will not be enough to go around,” said an article in the November 28, 1942 Ypsilanti Daily Press. “Because of the perishable nature of the roasted and ground bean, the administration pointed out that excessively large household stocks would mean that people would be drinking stale coffee.”

On March 29, 1943 the rationed-foods list added many more foods, including cheese, butter, edible fats, canned fish and milk, processed foods, and just about every imaginable variety of fresh, frozen, smoked, canned, or preserved meat, including turkeys. The March 12, 1943 Ypsilanti Daily Press listed the new weekly limits per person:

“Meat—2 to 2 ¼ lbs.
Butter—4 ½ oz.
Lard—4 oz.
Margarine—1 1/3 oz.
Cheese—slightly less than 2 oz.
Shortening—3 oz.”

The paper pointed out that this was far more than was being rationed to the British, who could get only 1 ¼ pound of meat and 2 ounces of butter per week.

"Have you every seen a child of Hitler?" asked the ad. "They're thin, scrawny children . . ."

"Have you every seen a child of Hitler?" asked the ad. "They're thin, scrawny children . . ."

Ads in the Ypsilanti papers reflected food concerns. A March 12, 1943 ad for the Savage Community Store off Holmes Road says, “Don’t waste food: store it properly, prepare it carefully, buy it sensibly.” In the same edition, a Morton’s Salt ad proclaims, “Salt on grapefruit makes it sweeter.” A November 26, 1943 ad for Warner Dairy at 928 West Michigan Avenue said, “Hitler’s Children Don’t Get Milk Every Day—Be Thankful That You Do!”

Ypsilantians preparing for Thanksgiving that month were helped by an easing of meat point requirements. “Despite the fowl shortage,” said an article in the November 25, 1943 Ypsilanti Daily Press, “Ypsilanti’s soldiers and civilians apparently have not suffered and Thanksgiving menus today appear equal to those of previous years with roast turkey the favorite . . .”

It wouldn’t be until Thanksgiving of 1945, months after the surrender of German and Japanese forces, that the two-and-one-half-year federal rationing of meat ended, on November 24. For some Ypsilantians that post-war Thanksgiving was likely the first lavish meal in years.

At other homes, the feast table had empty chairs.

Ypsilanti merchants planned an end-of-November Christmas shopping event. “‘The lights will be on again’ marking the end of wartime restrictions,” said an article in the November 27, 1945 Ypsilanti Daily Press. “Ypsilanti merchants will do their utmost to make this a real old-time Christmas. Toys are here in profusion, and gifts for adults too, in such quantity and assortment as the limited market permits.” The event would feature strolling musicians, a performance by the Drum and Bugle Corps, the Boy Scout Drum Corps, and a torchlight parade to the Post Office where Santa would hold court.

After privation and sorrow, worry and loss, rations and restrictions, the city was thankful for peace.

Laura Bien is the author of “Tales from the Ypsilanti Archives.” Have a WWII story to share for a future column? Contact her at ypsidixit@gmail.com.

Thank Goodness for Laundry

November 15, 2010 by  
Filed under Columnists

When was the last time you were thankful to do laundry?

laundry3Right after World War II, electric washing machines were an exciting new possibility for Ypsilanti families. Detroit Edison advertised them in its November 26, 1945 Ypsilanti Daily Press ad. Next to the image of a presumed housewife’s face, the ad copy read, “My electric life is wonderful—and it will be still better.”

The war was over. During it, production of consumer appliances had all but ceased, in favor of steering raw materials to bombers, tanks, and soldiers’ supplies. At war’s end, many of the appliances in Ypsilanti homes dated from the Depression, or earlier.

Factories reverted from wartime production to consumer goods. Metals, rubber, and other resources again became available to domestic manufacturers.

The washing machine in Detroit Edison’s Press ad resembled a barrel. “A peek into my basement,” reads the ‘housewife’s’ narration, “would reveal . . . an all-electric laundry that washes, rinses, and damp-dries [spins] my clothes . . .” Clothes still had to be hung on the clothesline or a rack to dry. But the electric washer was a big step up from hand-cranked wooden washing machines resembling a lidded half-barrel, such as the one in the Ypsilanti Historical Society’s kitchen.

Electric clothes driers, also from Detroit Edison, wouldn’t appear in Ypsilanti newspaper advertisements for another decade. “For the price of a laundry basket you can do 50 loads in your electric clothes dryer,” read a September 4, 1956 Ypsilanti Daily Press ad. “No more heavy clothes baskets to lug outdoors. Just turn the dial to get soft, fluffy laundry every time. No wonder smart homemakers say: ‘You can live Better . . . Electrically.’”

The electric washer wasn’t the only new postwar appliance advertised in the 1945 Detroit Edison ad. Another was a home freezer that offered “fresh foods at any season of the year,” as opposed to seasonal eating. Mention was also made of a “safe” refrigerator.

This echoes earlier ads for GE refrigerators, whose cylindrical compressors on top led to the public’s nicknaming them “Monitor Top,” due to the visual similarity to the famed Civil War ironclad vessel the “Monitor.” One 1927 Monitor Top ad read that it is now “safe to be hungry,” suggesting that food spoiled relatively quickly in old-fashioned iceboxes.

The other two appliances in the 1945 Detroit Edison ad are a “clean” electric range (as opposed to a sooty wood or coal stove) and an air conditioner that is the size of a modern fridge and dishwasher combined. The ad also read “No more worrying about hot water in the morning, for my husband’s shaving, or during the day for the hot water needed for a thousand and one chores, and at night for the refreshing baths we all look forward to so much.”

gas3Reliable hot water that didn’t need to be heated on a stovetop was also a selling point for the Ypsilanti City Gas Department. The YCGD, headquartered at 111 Pearl Street (now the site of Congdon’s Hardware) also jumped into the postwar business of selling appliances. Its April 23, 1946 Ypsilanti Daily Press ad promises, “all the hot water you need from an automatic GAS water heater on 24-hour service for kitchen, laundry, bath.” This device was an early iteration of what is now known as a tankless water heater.

The gas company ad’s main selling point, however, was that the kitchen would be cooler without a cast iron stove.

The electric or gas range wasn’t new. As early as 1933 electric ranges were advertised in local papers. “Enjoy these advantages of Electric Cooking!” read one November 6, 1933 Detroit Edison Ad in the Press. The ad listed the five virtues of electric cooking. The first was “clean.” “There is no smoke or soot to blacken utensils or soil kitchen walls or curtains.” The next benefit was “waterless cooking.” “With your electric range you use no water for roasts and only half a cup for vegetables.” The remaining 3 virtues were “modern,” “healthful,” and “full flavored.” The ad offered a trial period of six months for a dollar a month, after which the user could buy the range or have it removed from the home at no expense.

Even earlier, in 1907 the Washtenaw Light and Power Company held its “Great Free Electric Cooking Demonstration” downtown, as noted in an article in the April 18, 1907 Ypsilanti Daily Press.

“The audience at the cooking demonstration grows larger with each succeeding day and each lady who has attended is greatly enthused over the wonderful things that are being accomplished with the agent electricity.”

The article continued, “The demonstration of cooking is made at a very attractive booth, and here also are exhibited and used the different utensils, such as combination liquid beaters, cereal cookers, coffee percolators, chafing dishes, broilers, frying pans, and ovens, all of which are extremely serviceable. A huge Japanese umbrella, studded with variously colored electric lights, is suspended above the booth, giving the display a brilliant appearance. Attendees sampled tomato rarebit, tapioca pudding, coffee, and cake.”

But electrical devices didn’t find widespread acceptance in town until the post-WWII period. Then, the new crop of mechanized household aids put money in Detroit Edison’s pocket and gave housewives some reprieve from long days of backbreaking labor.

It’s hard to imagine being grateful for laundry. But after the long desperation of the Depression and the food and fuel rationing and shortages of World War Two, the postwar tide of new home helpers gave new freedom to Ypsilanti housewives.

Something as prosaic as an electric washing machine was a miracle for which to be thankful.

Laura is the authos of “Tales from the Ypsilanti Archives.” Have an idea for a column? Contact Laura at ypsidixit@gmail.com.

And the Wind Says…Ypsalveo

November 1, 2010 by  
Filed under Columnists

ypsalveo2Ypsilanti is the nation’s birthplace of the Automatic Toast-Butterer, the breakfast cereal Wheat Hearts, and an improvement in stilts. All of these received patents. Though they may not have survived to the present day, they speak to the personality of their inventors and to an age of fervent experimentation.

One tiny item, so humble it never received an official patent, can be added to the wide range of inventions, agricultural implements, milling parts, paper, boxes, underwear, and other products once made in the city.

The item’s birthplace was the turn-of-the-century drugstore that once occupied the present-day space of the Rocket novelty store, on the southwest corner of Michigan Avenue and Huron.

David Morford and William Hyzer ran the City Drugstore. Hyzer had begun work there as a clerk after graduating Ypsilanti High School in 1881. David rented a room from a downtown family. Hyzer had married Mary Corkins two years earlier and lived at 417 Adams. In 1892, David was 26 and Hyzer 29.

That year, City Drug Store was one of five drugstores in the downtown area. The shops had different specialties. City Drug Store stocked drugs, perfumes, wallpaper, paint brushes, and varnishes. Another of the druggists, Fred Davis, stocked a wide range of patent medicines. He offered for sale such concoctions as “Johnson’s Magnetic Oil,” the “Japanese Pile Cure,” and “Dr. E. C. West’s Nerve and Brain Treatment.” It was a golden age of patent medicines, soon to come to an end under the Pure Food laws of 1906.

The other downtown druggists included Frank Smith, C. W. Rogers, and E. R. Beal. The five stores had a rotating agreement to cover Sundays. Only one shop stayed open all day. Cards in the other stores’ windows directed shoppers to the open shop, in case patrons desired a health-giving quaff of Sulphur Bitters, perhaps in the privacy of the backyard privy, on the Lord’s Day.

ypsalveoAs well as cooperating, of course the five shops were in competition. In 1892 David and William dreamed up a new product that seemed to fill a niche and offer a panacea for winter weather. The partners mixed ingredients (using a recipe now lost to history) in the back of their shop. Finally they found the right combination. This new product, they hoped, would bring streams of new customers to the City Drug Store. David and William packed their creation into containers for sale, stocked it in their shop, and took out a large ad in the Ypsilanti Commercial.

The miracle product was Ypsalveo.

Likely pronounced “Ip-SAL-vee-oh,” the substance was a lip balm that also could be used as a skin cream. “YPSALVEO is very healing and softening,” says a November 11, 1892 Ypsilanti Commercial advertisement, “for use on lips, hands, and face. Will cure chapped lips and cold sores, or any irritation of the skin. Price 25 cents per box [$6 today].”

fred-david1The ad was a large one, right next to fellow druggist Fred Davis’s even larger one advertising his dubious nostrums. The Ypsalveo ad continued to run for several more weeks, as David and William kept manufacturing the balm.

Ypsalveo could have joined the ranks of Atlantis mineral water or Ypsilanti Underwear as a famous city product. It’s conceivable that even today, instead of Chapstick and hand cream, Ypsalveo could have become a common household product. (Possible jingle: “For tender skin and lips aglow/Apply and try Ypsalveo!”)

But in a few weeks the Ypsalveo ads vanished from the pages of the Commercial.

Then a strange event in the shop seemed to presage disaster. In the summer of 1896, David and William found two partially burned boxes of matches in their shop. The partners “are congratulating themselves on a narrow escape from a conflagration,” said the August 10 issue of American Druggist and Pharmaceutical Record. “They now devote their leisure time to speculating on the possible way in which the matches became ignited.”

Unfortunately, with the failure of Ypsalveo, the two had perhaps more leisure time than they needed. The days of the City Drugstore were near their end.

In 1896, Morford signed up to serve in the Spanish-American War. Joining Company G of the First Infantry, he was promoted to corporal, and reenlisted. He earned the ranks of sergeant, second lieutenant, and was honorably discharged as captain in 1901. He did not return to the drugstore.

Also in 1901, William sold his interest in the store to Hillsdale druggist F. A. Hodges. Hyzer soon moved with his wife Mary to York Township in western Washtenaw.

After his return from military service, the 35-year-old David rented a room in the Hamilton Street home of 45-year-old town grocer John Lamb, who lived there with his 35-year-old wife Minnie, his 54-year-old sister Jane, and his 6-year-old son Charles. David found a job as an insurance agent. The dream of owning his own store was gone.

The insurance agent job didn’t last. By 1903, David was working as a traveling salesman. He lost that job as well. Two years later, he was working as a common laborer, one of the lowest-status jobs then available. As a sign of the racism of the times, it was one of the very few jobs, along with barber, sign-painter, railroad worker, and junkman, that black men in the city could hold.

David then disappears from available records. Not even his death seems to be locally recorded.

The only apparent memorial to David and his ambitions, a humble one, is hidden: in a November Ypsilanti Commercial Ypsalveo ad, shrunken to a tiny size, halfway through a roll of microfilm stacked alongside other rolls in one drawer of one cabinet in the microfilm area on the third floor of Halle Library.

Ypsalveo!

Laura Bien is the author of “Tales of the Ypsilanti Archives.” Have an old-time story to share? Contact her at ypsidixit@gmail.com.