Beauties in Boarding Houses: The Daily Life of a 1907 EMU Student

September 19, 2010 by  
Filed under Columnists

A cartoon in the 1915 Aurora depicted boardinghouse "hash" as comprised of buttons, safety pins, and paper clips.

A cartoon in the 1915 Aurora depicted boardinghouse "hash" as an appetizing blend of buttons, safety pins, and paper clips.

EMU students in 1907 didn’t have campus dorms, personal transportation, or on-campus meal plans. A humor article in the 1907 “Aurora” yearbook illustrates how different—and in some ways, how timelessly similar—were students’ lives.

“A Day at the Normal” [EMU was then known as Normal College] is a chronological account that kicks off in early morning.

6 A.M.: Loud ringing of alarm clocks.
6:05 A.M.: Yawns and groans.
6:10 A.M.: General getting up.
6:30 A.M.: Mad scrambling to get to the boarding-house.
6:35 A.M.: Waiting for breakfast.
6:40 A.M.: Waiter appears with a dish of sawdust in one hand and some chopped hay in the other.

By and large students rented rooms in family homes throughout the city for living quarters. The school coordinated the placement of students with homeowners willing to house a student or students of either gender—co-ed houses were not allowed (a rule that in later years was relaxed). School officials kept an eye on the homes in order to make any necessary changes to their “approved homes” list.

A few such private homes also provided meals, but most students subscribed to a meal plan at a separate boarding house, whose name derives from the “board,” or table. The term “boardinghouse reach” originates from this era, evoking a tableful of hungry diners but only one salt shaker. At this time, a week’s worth of three daily meals at a boarding house cost students around $2, about $50 today.

After leaving their rooming houses and eating breakfast at their boarding houses, students headed to school.

7:00 A.M. Seniors slowly amble towards the Library.
7:50: General evacuation of the Library. Many collisions in the hall. Great crowd of boys at the social corner causes traffic to cease for a time.
7:59: Empty corridors. Re-echoing footsteps in the distance.
8:05: Janitors sit down on the steps for an hour’s visit.
8:07: [Psychology] Prof. Laird: “I shall keep all these people who are late, after school.”
8:10: [French and German] Prof. Ford: “How many of you people have had your breakfast this morning?” (Half of the class look silly).

The Normal was a teacher training school with an on-site grade school where senior Normal students practiced teaching classes, under the eye of the dreaded supervising “Critic Teacher.”

8:50: Seniors rush to the Training School, pleasant (?) anticipation in every feature.
9:05: Critic teacher comes in, notebook in hand.
9:06: Courage flies out of the window.
9:30: Student teacher drops lifeless to the floor.
9:32: She is pushed out of the door to make way for another victim.

After morning classes came the mad scramble to return to the boarding house for lunch, with student couples tending to lag a bit behind. If lunch was eaten expeditiously, there might be time to enjoy another stroll back to school with one’s sweetheart.

11:50: Normal doors are burst open by vast crowds of students. They rush for the boarding houses at break-neck speed.
12: Grub.
12:30 P.M.: Groups of well-filled (?) students issue forth and go down the street in the following order: Miss Ronan and Mr. Engle; Miss Warren and Mr. Miller; Mr. Caswell and a bunch of seven or more; Hugo and Clara; Withenbury and Louise; Roy and Brice; C. P. and Anne; “Doc” and his pockets.

In the afternoon came class observation time for student teachers, and other classes that included music lessons and student teaching feedback critique sessions.

12:55 P.M.: The ‘one o’clock’ gong sounds. Groups of light-hearted [grade school] children skip toward the Training School, while here and there a solitary senior wends his weary way thither to “observe.”
1:30 P.M.: Unearthly screeches from the Conservatory denote the fact that someone is taking a lesson.
3 P.M.: Critic Meeting. Every one hustles to get there and learn how to receive the worst “slams” with a smiling countenance.

In the afternoon, sports practices began, occasionally interrupted by the diversion of a wondrous contraption then rare in the city.

4 P.M.: The Tennis Courts are full of people bobbing around picking up white balls. The baseball boys trot around after [Coach] Schulte.
4:15 P.M.: An automobile goes down Cross Street. All occupation ceases.
4:20 P.M.: Occupations are again resumed.
5:15 P.M.: “The studious people in the Library are requested to ‘bring books to the desk and get reserved books.”

The school day was over. Students could return to their boarding house for dinner.

5:30 P.M.: “Hash time” has arrived. The odors issuing forth from the doors and windows proclaim the ingredients.

Those ingredients were lambasted in a satirical “Menu from a Leading Boarding House” article, published in the 1918 Aurora’s jokes section.

Corn Flakes, Toasted
Diluted Fluid of Bovine
Encrusted Doughpiles, Browned
Meat, in absentia
Essence of H2O, Filtered
Mock Coffee, with condemned milk

DINNER [Lunch]
Soup in bowls
Bread, individual slices
Vegetables sometimes
Roast Beef a la tuffo
Essence H2O refiltered
Mock Coffee heated
Pie Filet de Vacuum
Napkins, Folded

SUPPER [Dinner]
Beef, resurrected
Potatoes, with eyes
Hot Canines, deanimated
Aqua pura, in glasses
Mock Coffee again
Dried apricots, bonded vintage 1763
Cookies, a la hardtack from Plymouth
Napkins, Refolded

After dinner, the students’ evenings were free for study, or less scholastic pursuits.

6 P.M.: Pear [a joke on “pair,” or couple] time again.
6:30 P.M.: The beauties of the Huron are viewed by twilight.

Visiting another rooming house was allowed, but supervised. All too soon the rooming houses’ curfew of 10 P.M. would arrive, and visitors had to leave their charming companions. Tomorrow was another school day.

10 P.M.: Many doors are opened and young men come out.
11 P.M.: The streets are quiet. The High School clock and the moon keep a silent watch over the slumbering town.

Laura Bien is the author of “Tales from the Ypsilanti Archives,” available on Amazon. Have an idea for a column? Contact her at [email protected]

Native American Graves Found on Water Street Property

September 5, 2010 by  
Filed under Columnists

Every Ypsilantian is familiar with the story of Indian artifacts and bones that have been found over the years along the western bank of the Huron River from roughly the location of the Museum to south of Michigan Avenue. Less well known are other discoveries of burial sites throughout the city, suggesting a much wider scope of Indian burials in the area.

Modern-day Ypsilanti was once the site of the intersection of several Indian trails, including the Great Sauk Trail (now Michigan Avenue). Four tribes are thought to have lived in the area: the Huron (also called Wyandot), Chippewa, Ottawa, and Potowatomi.

In 1927, Wilbert B. Hinsdale published his study of the area’s indigenous people, “The Indians of Washtenaw County Michigan.” A former U-M internal medicine professor and dean of the school’s Homeopathic Medical College, Hinsdale’s lifelong interest in archaeology led him into the field after his 1922 retirement from medicine. He was put in charge of U-M’s archaeological collections and eventually became known as the “Father of Michigan Archaeology.”

The 1927 Hinsdale map showed a burial site north of Washtenaw, marked by a circle with a cross.

The 1927 Hinsdale map showed a burial site north of Washtenaw, marked by a circle with a cross.

“The Indians of Washtenaw County” contains a map indicating several burial sites in Washtenaw County that include Saline and Ypsilanti. The symbol for the Ypsilanti burial site on the small-scale map is placed north of Washtenaw within the westward curve of Huron Street as it turns to the northern edge of the EMU campus. This placement, if accurate, suggests that burial grounds extended further north along the river than the Riverside Park area, possibly into the modern-day EMU campus.

In 1970, onetime EMU student Edward Heyman wrote a one-page memoir, preserved in the Ypsilanti Archives, of his encounter with a purported Native American burial site. As a student, he volunteered to help with a 1920s pine tree planting program on the then-northwest corner of EMU’s campus (now the site of the Student Center). “I was interested in the area,” wrote Heyman, “and especially in the fact that Professor William H. Sherzer, head of the Department of Natural Science, told us that the area was the site of an early Indian cemetery.” The group planted what later became known as Pine Grove.

In the 1940s, when the university planned to cut down some of the pines in order to build the Pine Grove Terrace Apartments, alum Heyman returned to look at the site. “Seeing the pine trees, which I helped plant years before, being cut down and basements being dug, I walked over to the area to see what was happening. In the debris of the digging were a dozen of more old, old bones. The man in charge of the excavation said they were Indian bones, that the digging had uncovered remains of several graves.”

The Pine Grove Terrace apartments were demolished in the early 2000s to clear space for the Student Center. The Center’s Kiva Room rises over the approximate location of the onetime graves.

There’s other evidence that the burial sites were not confined to the Riverside Park area. In 1914, burial sites were discovered in the Water Street area, at Parsons and Lincoln streets. In 1914, the Westfield and Fall River Lumber company had a lumberyard there. Behind it lay a gravel pit, where the graves were discovered.

“Men who are drawing gravel from the pit on what is known as the Jan Williams place back of the [lumber yard] for the state road have come upon three Indian skeletons,” said the June 11, 1914 Ypsilanti Daily Press. “”Monday morning Mr. Platt, who is in charge of the work, found a large copper kettle which was filled with seeds resembling pumpkin seeds but upon trying to get the kettle from the ground it fell to pieces. “This morning the men found two more smaller kettles which were extremely heavy and a few minutes later they unearthed three skeletons deeply embedded in the sand.”

The term “kettle” refers not to a teakettle but to the wide-bottomed copper cooking bowls found in numerous indigenous burial sites in Michigan and throughout the Midwest and Northeast.

The paper continued, “Upon the bones of two of these they found two bracelets and in the graves they found small white beads which were still fastened to a loose woven cloth. These also fell to pieces. A large double cross and a smaller cross was found, also two silver ornaments which resembled a whisk broom holder, the large one with a picture and the words ‘King of Spain,’ a small brush which showed the trace of color upon it and many other small silver pieces with fancy ornaments upon them. A spoon was among the collection.

“One of the skeletons was in perfect condition and the workmen scraped the sand away but when they attempted to move it, it fell in a heap.

“Professor Jefferson from the Normal College was on the ground and made several photographs of the skeletons and the various ornaments.

The Water Street location corresponds with local onetime county surveyor Charles Woodard’s 1893 memoir, which includes his childhood recollection of Ypsilanti in the early 1830s.

“At times hundreds [of Indians],” he recalled, “might be seen camped out on the banks of the Huron near the East Public Square [a onetime city park on the southwest corner of Michigan Avenue and Park Street] but I do not remember ever hearing of anyone ever being molested by them or even troubled by their begging food. . . They were better off than their white brothers, being better hunters.”

The site was neither studied or preserved using modern archeological protocols.

“Early this morning students from the Normal College as well as others began to arrive on the scene to gather relics,” reported a front page story in the June 12 Ypsilanti Daily Press.

“One small boy had several teeth which he had taken from one of the skulls; another had a collar bone, and still another a piece of the spinal column. Bert Vealey, one of the workmen, decided that if there was to be anything left to show, it would be a wise idea to take steps to care for the bones so he procured a box and placed them in it, and took them to his home on South Street.

The paper continued, “Oscar Lawrence found three bracelets, a silver crown, a silver heart, and two copper kettles. Lewis Green found a whistle made from a buffalo horn. Frank Fletcher found a large cross made from silver about ten inches in length. James Carer found a bracelet [and] silver buckle. Verne Vealey found a knife handle made of bone, also some quill shields. Ben Singer found a breast pin with three crosses attached and ornamented with two small silver bells.”

Although the site was destroyed, a memorial remains to the onetime indigenous Ypsilantians whose graves were found in the gravel pit.

The gravel was used in 1914 to build the state road M-23. Later, this road was called US-112 and subsequently US-12, or Michigan Avenue.

The road workers unwittingly commemorated in concrete the route that the Native Americans found in the Ypsilanti gravel pit may have traveled many times: the Great Sauk Trail.

Laura Bien is a local history writer. Have an idea for a column? Email her at [email protected]

The 1927 Hinsdale map shows a burial ground (circle with cross) north of Washtenaw.

Troubled Brandy’s liquor store shut down by city

September 2, 2010 by  
Filed under Breaking News, Featured, News

brandysBrandy’s Market on West Michigan and Summit in Ypsilanti has been shut down by the city after a month long investigation by the City of Ypsilanti Police and the Michigan Liquor Control Commission.

Brandy’s is located at 902 West Michigan Avenue and has been owned by the Cathy and Samir Hanna since 1999. Before then it was called Forbes Market.

The controversial store has had a long history of problems with the City and neighbors. The owners in 2009 signed a consent decree with the City to continue operations after the city filed suit declaring the property a nuisance. A report indicated the store had over 100 calls for service, twice as many calls for police service than any other store or location in the city. The two year consent order expired yesterday, September 1, 2010.

According to the Ypsilanti Police, YPD and Michigan Liquor Control Commission executed a search warrant at 11am today. The search warrant stemmed from several complaints that individuals inside the store were purchasing stolen items and illegally distributing tobacco products. During the month long investigation undercover officers sold numerous items requested by store staff and purchased tobacco that was illegaly sold.

In Michigan, tobacco products cannot be sold without a tax stamp, which precludes the selling of individual cigarettes. Brandy’s has been accused in the past of breaking apart packs of cigarettes and selling them as ‘singles’. It is unclear if today’s search warrant alleges a similar charge.

During the search, police noted what appeared to be building code violations and called both the Ypsilanti Fire and Building departments to the scene. City inspectors found numerous health and safety concerns and the store was condemned and shuttered.

The liquor store across the street called Cal’s, was also condemned by the city in 2008. The owners of Brandy’s purchased Cal’s and the store has remained closed since it was sold. A quick check shows that Cal’s is still condemned thus preventing the owners of Brandy’s from re-opening across the street.

The case has been turned over to the County Prosecutor for review to determine what, if any, charges will be filed against the owners and employees.