Reader Lights Up the Night with a Correct Answer!

The Gamewell system of fire alarm boxes was installed in Traverse City in 1881, one of only 250 cities that had them that early.  Each box could send a message to a central dispatch board which gave the location where the the box was activated.  Currently one box remains–on exhibition–at a place readers might readily guess: Where is it?

Congratulations to Cornelia for correctly answering the Mystery Photo question for December 2016. The last fire alarm box in Traverse City resides at Fire Station No. 1 on West Front Street, beside the main pedestrian entrance. Well done, Cornelia!

We offer kudos to the Traverse City Fire Department which honors its history. Thank you all for your service!

December Events for History Lovers

Benzie Audubon Club Leads Waterfowl Search, Christmas Bird Count

Join our friends at the Benzie Audubon Club and get outside! On Saturday, December 10, at 9:30 a.m., Carl Freeman will be leading the group in search of  waterfowl on Lower Herring Lake. Meet at the Lower Herring Lake public access. Contact Carl Freeman (231-352-4739) with questions.

Red-necked Grebe with chicks. By Lukasz Lukasik (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons. [Editor's note: Grebes are not found in Michigan. We just loved this photo.]
Red-necked Grebe with chicks.
By Lukasz Lukasik (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons. [Editor’s note: Grebes are not found in Michigan. We just loved this photo.]
Then on Sunday, December 18 at 8:00 a.m., the annual Christmas Bird Count is on! Readers will recall that one of our regular contributors covered this event last year. For Benzie County Residents: Contact Carl Freeman (231-352-4739) to sign up with a group to count birds in a defined territory or John Ester (231-325-2445) to count birds at your feeder (and yard) at home. At the end of the birding day come together for a potluck supper at the Benzonia Township Hall to share birding stories and tally our results.

For Antrim County Christmas Bird Count on December 14, contact Coordinator John Kreag (231) 264-8969 or cell (231) 360-0943

For Grand Traverse County Christmas Bird Count on December 17, contact Coordinator Ed Moehle (231) 947-8821

Traverse Area Historical Society Recalls Christmases of Traverse City’s Past

401“Christmas from the Archives: Vignettes of Christmas from Traverse City’s Past,” presented by past Historical Society Archivist, Peg Siciliano.

Images of Northern Michigan winter holidays will accompany stories of Christmas happenings from Traverse City’s past. Christmas items from the historical archives will be displayed.

Join us for the program on Sunday, December 18th at 2pm., in the McGuire Room of the Traverse Area District Library on Woodmere Ave.

Old Fashioned Potluck Christmas Party & Caroling

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Unknown family at Christmas. From the Al Barnes Photograph Collection, Traverse Area District Library.

Old Mission Historical Society will host an “Old Fashioned Potluck Christmas Party & Caroling” at the American Legion Post, 4007 Swaney Rd., Old Mission. Doors, 5:30pm; dinner, 6pm. 231-223-7746.

“Fruit Growing from a Woman’s Standpoint”: an address to the State Horticultural Society by an Elberta Woman, 1912

Recently acquired by the Traverse Area District Library is a slim volume, the Forty-Second Annual Report of the Secretary of the State Horticultural Society of Michigan for the year 1912. The volume contains all the addresses and discussions held at the Society meeting on November 12-14, 1912, in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Topics centered around fruit growing, and included caring for the young orchard, preventing frost damage, watering techniques, and more.

The following selection was an address delivered by Mrs. Edith Rose, of Elberta, Benzie County, Michigan. According to Edith, she and her husband Paul moved to Benzie County about 1890, and there started an orchard. Edith’s concerns had much less to do with the actual growing of fruit than the operation of the farm.  She does an admirable job discussing labor relations, racism, and prejudice against women. As an example of the last, Edith’s first name did not appear in the publication, and I was obliged to discover it through the Federal census, Benzie County.

Please note that the opinions expressed by Edith are her own, and not those of any staff member of Traverse Area District Library, or the editors of Grand Traverse Journal. Enjoy Fruit Growing from a Woman’s Standpoint:

“Mrs. Paul Rose, Elberta

Mr. President, Gentlemen and Ladies: Inasmuch as we are supposed to be it, I will show due respect to the gentlemen by addressing them first. When I read the program and saw that I was the only woman on the program, I wondered who the program committee had a grudge against- whether the audience or myself. You will no doubt find before I am through with what I am going to say that I am not a talker, but Mr. Rose is here, and so I will say no public talker. If I had been giving more time to speaking, you see I would have had less time for fruit growing.

Nearly 20 years ago a man and his wife, living near Benton Harbor, packed their household goods, loaded them into a car and started them up north, to Benzie county.

While they were being loaded a rain which turned into sleet came up and ruined everything, so far as varnish was concerned. A superstitious person would have take it as a sign to give up the job, but they were not superstitious so kept on with their work.

Cherry Orchard of Guy Tompkins, Grand Traverse Peninsula. From "Forty-Second Annual Report of the Secretary of the State Horticultural Society of Michigan for the Year 1912."
Cherry Orchard of Guy Tompkins, Grand Traverse Peninsula. From “Forty-Second Annual Report of the Secretary of the State Horticultural Society of Michigan for the Year 1912.”

In the car with the household goods were two horses, a cow and a calf, a very fine calf. When the engineer came to get the emigrant car, he seemed to have been out of humor (perhaps his wife had not made him a  good cup of coffee that morning for his breakfast). He struck the car so hard, it threw the car door open and the little calf fell out. The man with the car asked the conductor to wait for him to put the calf back into the car, only to be told to get in or get left.

As there was no way to let any one know of the predicament the calf was in, she wandered in the freight yards crying for her mama until the next day, when a good German woman took pity on little black bossy and put her in a barn and fed her.

Later the Railroad Co. was notified they would have to deliver said calf to her destination, which they did, giving her a ride in the express car.

Three years later, Black Bossy was a cow, and probably thinking to save the housewife any extra work, skimming milk and churning cream, she gave skim milk. Six months later all they had left of Black Bossy was a beautiful black Poled Angus robe.

When the household goods arrived up north, his wife and their little three-year-old daughter, their foreman’s wife and little daughter, started for the north woods as their friends thought.

When they reached Thompsonville they were notified there was a strike on the Ann Arbor Railroad and no one knew when there would be a train, so they went to a nearby hotel (this was 10 o’clock at night) only to be told it was full. They went back to the depot and found there would be a train in a few minutes, that would take them within four miles of their home. Thinking it would be better to be four miles than twenty as they were then, they took the train which arrived in the freight yards of So. Frankfort about midnight, where they were told there was no hotel nearer then a  mile, no bus, no telephone, everything a glare of ice, and two little girls asleep, baggage, band boxes, bird-cage and such things that go with moving.

While deciding the next move to make two jolly traveling men offered to carry the little girls, which removed the greatest trouble, and they all started for a hotel. It probably was the first real work those men ever did. for they did some puffing before getting those little girls where they could walk, but very gentlemanly, saw the comical side of the affair.

The next day was bright and pretty and the husband, thinking to get some word from his little family drove to town, to find them waiting to be taken out to their first home of 80 acres of stumps, brush, and woodland, which was the nucleus around which has been builded [sic] what is now known as the Rose Orchards. There my life work has been put in helping to make them a success.

Fruit Growing from a Woman’s Standpoint

To talk on this subject, I will have to refer to our work, as it is all I know. What we have done, all things equal, others can do. A person said to me the other day, “Every woman can’t do what you have done.” Perhaps not, but they might improve on my work. It wouldn’t be best for every woman to engage in fruit work, as there are other lines of work for us to engage in. Just now we can vote and perhaps some day, hold office [editor’s note: Perhaps Edith means within the Horticultural Society, as general election voting was not passed in Michigan in the 1912 election. The measure lost by 760 votes]. I heard Prof. French of Lansing, say, “Men do not do their work haphazard now days.” In speaking of the fruit work, he said, “They spray, prune, pick, pack and market their fruit with brains.” I believe we have brains and certainly the gentlemen think so or they wouldn’t have given us the right of elective franchise, and thereby removing from us the stigma of mental weakness and taking us from the ranks of idiots, imbeciles, Indians [sic] and criminals.

"Royal Ann cherry tree on farm of W.B. Gray on Grand Traverse Peninsula. This tree has borne 18 cases that brought in $27 in one year." From "Forty-Second Annual Report of the Secretary of the State Horticultural Society of Michigan for the Year 1912."
“Royal Ann cherry tree on farm of W.B. Gray on Grand Traverse Peninsula. This tree has borne 18 cases that brought in $27 in one year.” From “Forty-Second Annual Report of the Secretary of the State Horticultural Society of Michigan for the Year 1912.”

Fruit growing is very interesting, in fact it is fascinating. You plant the little tree, watch the buds start, then the blossoms and later the ripened fruit. How well I remember our first crop of cherries. Mr. Rose said to me one day, “Get a little pail and we will pick our crop of cherries.” There were less than four quarts of them, but we were as proud of that crop as we ever were of thousands of crates in later years. To a woman who wished to take up this work or to one who by circumstances seem compelled to do something of this kind, by being left with a little family and perhaps a few acres of land or a life insurance with which to buy a little farm, I would say by all means, plant a few trees, not too close together and between the rows of trees, plant some variety of berries that will come into bearing early and help pay the expenses of growing the trees and of the family.

It may be a little hard at times, but wouldn’t it be harder to live in town in a stuffy tenant house and take in washing or sewing and live up the insurance, besides depriving the children of the fresh air and the pleasure they would get from helping mama, until they will become a part of your work and will lend a hand to help put one of them through agricultural college and then come home fully equipped to take the care from Mother’s shoulders?

A woman can plant a row of trees just as straight as a man. There are trees in our orchard that I helped to plant 19 years ago, and they seem to grow and bear just as well as those planted by the men. A woman can spray if necessary. My experience has been that there is no part of the fruit work that a woman can not do if she will study and use good sound sense, unless it is to plow, but I think she can hire that done all right.

A wife should familiarize herself with her husband’s work so that she can direct it, at any time, during his absence, and then if she is left alone she won’t be handicapped by having her help say, “She don’t know anything about it, she won’t know whether it is done right or not.” I have never had a man or woman refuse to do the work as I told them to. Mr. Rose has been gone a great deal of the time during the growing of our orchard. At first he would dictate and I would jot down a routine of work to be followed during his absence but that has become unnecessary years ago, as we have had the same fore man for a number of years and he understands his part of the work as well as I do mine.

I have had help in the house most of the time, which has left me quite free to follow our chosen profession, Horticulture. Of late years most of my work has been in overseeing the pickers or packers. I have handled white labor in Indiana in raspberry work. I have assisted Mr. Rose in Alabama with his negro laborers, in the straw berry fields, and of course nothing but white labor on our farm up north. Some women may say, I can’t handle the laborers; perhaps a few suggestions here in regard to this part of the work might help some of the wives of these young students, to have more confidence in their ability to help their husbands in their life work. I keep my help in the house from one to three years. When I hire my house keeper I tell her just what I want her to do and what I will pay for the work and there is never any trouble over the work or wages. Always direct the work in the house or packing house.

If your help knows there is some one around to direct them, even if they understand what they are to do, they will go at their work with more interest. You can keep your help better satisfied and keep them longer, by having your work well systematized, and let them think they are expected to carry out their portion. A worker likes to know they are appreciated and a kind word is a little thing but will work wonders sometimes in accomplishing better and more satisfactory results.

We have had as many as 85 packers in the cherry work. We have never missed but one morning of being there when the seven o’clock bell rung. Don’t ever leave your help alone, they will not work as well. Mr. Rose has often said to me when I did not feel able to go to the packing house: “Can’t you bring your rocking chair and sit where they know you are and where you can dictate the work?” Be very firm and decided with the workers but don’t nag them.

In Alabama I have started to the field with 125 negroes following and joking about their little Boss, “She don’t carry a gun or club.” When Mr. Bose started his berry work in the South, the Southerner said, “You will have to carry a gun or club, for the nigger will have to be knocked down a couple of times before he will work good.” We never had any trouble, kept our help, picked our berries in better shape than some of the fields where they worked their help at the point of the gun. We loaned our negroes one day to an adjoining berry grower. During the day Mr. Rose and I went over to see how they were getting along. When we came near where they were picking berries they expressed a delight at seeing us and when asked how they were getting along, said : “We don’t like this boss. He carries a gun. We like you-alls better.” We assured them that the boss would not hurt them if they worked all right, and then we started back. We had only gone a half-mile when we looked back and there came every one of our negroes. We stopped and when they came up we persuaded them to go back and finish the day, but they said : “No, sah ; we will work for you-alls but we don’t work over there no more.” We saw how they felt about it so told them, “All right go back to their cabins and work for us in the morning.” Kindness, even with the negro, got our work done better than a club.

We never hire our day help for any one piece of work. Then they can not complain if they are changed from one job to another, if I need more packers, I call them from the pickers and if the foreman needs more pickers I send the packers out to help him. We have had girls work 8 and 10 years in the fruit work. They enjoy it and will plan from one year to another, what they are going to do, and have their money spent, in their minds, a year ahead. Always be interested in each worker, study them to know what part of your work they are best adapted to. You may have a person that seems a failure at one thing and may make a splendid hand at something else. Our foreman brought a man from the orchard to me at the packing house and said: “Can you use him here, I can’t use him in the orchard. I set him to nailing packages, and he did fine work the rest of the season.

Just a word to the woman that has some money to invest and contemplates launching out in fruit-work. Be careful in selecting a location, if possible get near enough some town or shipping point where you can easily market your fruit and where you can get help to pick it, and don’t plant too extensively until you are sure you can handle the business, and don’t expect to have time to read stories, papers, call on your neighbors or embroider during the summer months. I heard a joke on a man who bought some land in Florida, unsight and unseen. After the bargain was all made and the price paid he thought he would go and see his new farm. The land shark took him out in a boat and after paddling around awhile said : “Your farm is under here ; when you get it drained it will be all right.” Don’t buy land unsight and unseen. Let the men do that. We women may be easy but there are others.”

The entirety of this work is available online for download: https://books.google.com/books?id=1dpJAAAAYAAJ

Amy Barritt is  co-editor of Grand Traverse Journal.

November 11, 1896: Traverse City’s Worst Fire

November 11, 1896

Well after midnight Fire Chief Dupres, Alfred Waterbury, and Night Watchman Allen Grayson stood shivering in a brisk southwest wind that would ordinarily send them inside after a few minutes.  Tonight, however, something seemed wrong: a dull yellow light flickered to the northeast of the Cass Street fire station where they had gathered.  It danced on the thin crust of snow that covered the street in front of them, the same flicker they had all seen so many times before.  Fire!

The alarm was sounded, a pealing of bells in a specific pattern that alerted firefighters to the location of the fire.  It was in the direction of Front Street and Park, a place where frame buildings stood side-by-side, an invitation to a catastrophic spread of flames.  Hitching the fire engine to the waiting team, firemen worked frantically to let the horse collars come down onto the horses’ necks; the rest of the harness was in order in less than four minutes.

Meanwhile, the fire within the steamer was turned up full blast to ready the engine for its pumping duties to come. As the men left the station upon their new engine, Queen City, the horses’ breath raising clouds of steam in the cold, they congratulated themselves on their quick exit.  The steamer was new to the town, but they had practiced hard to get away fast, and that practice had paid off.

Front Street Hotel, from the "F.E. Walker Business Directory, 1894." This is the only know image of the Hotel.
Front Street Hotel, from the “F.E. Walker Business Directory, 1894.” This is the only know image of the Hotel.

No more than two blocks from the station, they came to a stop in front of the Front Street House, a large wooden three-story hotel that dominated the south side of the street.  Already flames and smoke billowed from the roof in places, the worst of it came from the part of the building that connected the large building on Front Street to the smaller frame building behind it by the alley.  So quickly had the flames spread, the firemen doubted they could save the building.

Already persons could be seen scrambling out the windows on the first floor, most in their nightclothes.  One brave soul hoisted himself out from a third floor window, making it somehow to the second story, and then dropping to the ground.  A little girl, contracted into a ball in fear, rolled off the edge of a roof, only to be caught by a fireman.  In all thirty people made it out of the fire: one did not.  Ed Newberry, a Swedish hotel porter, was found later, his dog beside him.

As predicted, the fire swept through the frame stores and saloons on the south side of the street, first the hotel, then a drug store within it, Broesch and Sons meat market, C.A. Cavis’s cigar store, Hiram Cook’s grocery, then a barbershop, and two saloons.  Next, a large two-storied structure, the Rich & Hallberg building caught fire, one of its walls coming to rest against the brick Tonneller building.  Four firemen were caught under the burning timbers, somehow escaping without serious burns. It was here the battle line would be set up to block the advance of the fire to the west.  In the end, the line held.

Image of the "Queen City No. 1" Fire Engine, from the "Grand Traverse Herald."
Image of the “Queen City No. 1” Fire Engine, from the “Grand Traverse Herald.”

One of the most gallant soldiers in the fight was the steamer Queen City, which performed magnificently, pouring water onto the flaming wall in a continuous stream, extinguishing the fire.  It was backed up by the city’s water system. Unbelievably, nineteenth century hydrants and water mains performed without failure.  Afterwards the newspaper would remark about the competence of the fire department and the water works in delivering water where it was most needed.

Image of the 1896 fire, actively burning frame buildings on the north side of Front Street. From the Local History Collection, Traverse Area District Library.
Image of the 1896 fire, actively burning frame buildings on the north side of Front Street. From the Local History Collection, Traverse Area District Library.

Even so, the blaze spread to the other side of Front Street.  In what some described as a flaming arch reaching from one side of the street to the other, buildings on the north side began to catch fire.  One by one they succumbed until they encountered Julius Steinberg’s brick opera house.  Father Julius Steinberg and son Aleck as well as employees of the dry goods store attached played streams of water everywhere to cool the building.  As cornices burst into flame, they hastened to put them out.  In the end, though gravely damaged, the dry goods store and opera house were saved.

In fact, the city downtown was saved.  Later, everyone remarked that the direction of the wind made all the difference, the fire starting at the Front Street House (or possibly the drugstore within), a location at the east end of the business district.  The southwesterly gale-force winds drove the fire primarily to the east, keeping it away from the busy area of storefronts to the west.  Credit also went to brave firemen, the fire engine that performed flawlessly, draymen who offered their services free of charge to those having to move store goods, the efforts of businessmen like Julius Steinberg, and ordinary citizens who did their part to help.  One business owner, Mrs. E.M. Daniels, was singled out for her bravery in removing her grocery store stock and relocating it nearby at the peak of danger.  Another citizen saw the glow of the fire from several miles away, and, suspecting the downtown was ablaze, drove to town just in time to save the merchandise in his sister’s store.  There were heroes everywhere to be recognized.

After the fire. Can you spot the fire-proof safes in the rubble? Their owners must have been pleased by their foresight. Images from the S.E. Wait Glass Plate Negative Collection, Traverse Area District Library.
After the fire. Can you spot the fire-proof safes in the rubble? Their owners must have been pleased by their foresight. Images from the S.E. Wait Glass Plate Negative Collection, Traverse Area District Library.

Upon the rising of the sun the next day, the scene was horrific.  Fourteen stores had been burned to the ground.  More fortunate ones standing on the north side of the street suffered the ravages of smoke and heat, smudged with soot, with gaping holes where glass used to be in their front windows.  Black charcoal, square nails lying on the ground, broken crockery, and a few other things resistant to the fire littered the ground. The Grand Traverse Herald remarked that it was the most serious fire that ever visited the city, and, indeed, it was.

November 6, 2016

Students of history sometimes receive unexpected rewards.  For some time I had observed that the space across the street from Horizon Bookstore was being excavated to make way for a new building.  Whenever the ground is torn up in the downtown area, you can count on interesting things being uncovered.  Just two years ago, for example, West Front was repaved, that resurfacing job exposing Nelsonville, Ohio pavers, a brick that covered the road in years past.  Now, seeing the earth in neat piles alongside the trenches, I had to go over and inspect the work.

I had something specific to look for.  In 1896 I knew a great fire had leveled half a block of frame buildings on the south side of Front Street, the fire extending through the area where the digging was now taking place.  Would there be any sign of the fire?  Would there be charcoal buried down under?

The day is Sunday and all work had stopped on the excavation.  A gentle wind fluttered the yellow ribbons warning passers-by to keep away, and enforcers of a “No Trespassing” sign were nowhere in evidence.  In a quick yet fluid movement I ducked under the ribbons and stepped into the trench made by a shovel standing nearby.  Nothing revealed itself at the surface, but a foot-and-a-half down there was a streak of black punctuating the beach sand that made up the soil.  Bending down to pick some of it up, I sniffed at it and let out a small cry of joy: it was black charcoal from the fire.

It did not take long to find other things: broken window glass, two square, weathered nails, and bits of crockery, one of them big enough to read the name of the maker.  Evidence of the fire was everywhere: How I wished I could sieve the pile of dirt to find more relics.

crockery-from-1896-fire
Image courtesy of the author, November 2016.

Picking up a piece of crockery, I felt a sense of connection to those living at these shores of Grand Traverse Bay at a time before automobiles, before radio, before television.  Looking at the bottom of what could have been a bowl, I made out the maker: Meakin Ironware.  A quick search revealed that the Meakin company, founded in England in 1851, had produced it more than 120 years ago.   Somehow these ceramic shards survived the fire of 1896: people had handled this vessel, perhaps admired it, and then that awful thing happened.   What they had lost now I had found.  In a way that made me a participant in the event.  History does that that to us: it weaves our own lives into the tapestry of the past.

Editor’s note: The Queen City fire engine described in the article may be seen at Fire Station Number 1 on Front Street.

Author’s note concerning this article: The description of the fire came from an extensive account in the Grand Traverse Herald.  Reading the article carefully, a researcher can write a description like this:

Well after midnight, Fire Chief Dupres, Alfred Waterbury, and Night Watchman Allen Grayson stood shivering in a brisk southwest wind that would ordinarily send them inside after a few minutes.  Tonight, however, something seemed wrong: a dull yellow light flickered to the northeast of the Cass Street fire station where they had gathered.  It danced on the thin crust of snow that covered the street in front of them, the same flicker they had all seen so many times before.  Fire! 

Upon casual inspection it seems that the author has drifted perilously close to writing fiction: How could he know that three persons gathered in front of the fire station early in the morning?  How could he know about the wind, its direction and speed?  How could he know about the yellow light to the northeast that turned out to be the fire?  The snow?

The answer is that the Herald account had references to all of those things.  Far from creating an imaginary world, the writer only wove facts together in a manner that gave the scene life and interest.  This kind of historical writing is frequently done nowadays.  Seabiscuit, a tale of a famous racehorse, and Isaac’s Storm, the story of the Galveston hurricane of 1900, are just two examples that have become popular in recent years.  The advantage of this approach is that it makes history come alive—often in contrast, to stodgy description in the traditional style.

From time to time the Journal will present stories told as an exciting narrative.  Perhaps you would like to try your hand at it.

Why Do Leaves Change Color in the Fall?

“Why” questions in science often find ready answers.  Why do we have night and day?  The Earth turns on its axis.  Why do we have seasons?  The tilt of the Earth in its path around the sun.  What makes the wind blow?  Solar warming of the atmosphere.  The physics and chemistry of a situation provides us with answers.

Sometimes “why” questions are more difficult.  Why are oranges orange and apples red?  Why do birds migrate? Why do leaves change color in the fall?  Those questions do not depend directly on physics at all.  Do they even have answers?

In the case of leaves changing color, there actually is an answer based on physics and chemistry.  As the days shorten, plant hormones cause a layer to form in the leaf stem (an abscission layer) that cuts off water supply to the leaf.  Leaf cells with chlorophyll die off, that green pigment rapidly degrading.  What is left are more resilient pigments, the yellow carotenes and the red anthocyanins.   Trees turn red and orange and yellow and, Presto!  We have explained why leaves change color.

But another “why” question remains: of what advantage is it to the tree that leaves change color?  Here evolutionary biologists wage pitched battles.  Is color change somehow “adaptive?”  That is, does it have something to do with the tree’s survival and reproduction?  Or is it just something that happens, unrelated to those things?

Though relatively ignorant about these matters, I tend to cling to the belief that some things “just happen.”  They have nothing to do with enhanced survival and reproduction of species.  The question “why” is only an expression of our human intelligence, ever demanding explanations for phenomena that have none.

I could be wrong about it—and sometimes I wonder how anyone could ever prove conclusively certain traits are adaptive.  Is that because my own nature causes me to lean one way or the other?  Is that very quality adaptive?  Understandably, those concerned with such questions are prone to headaches.  I hope you are not so afflicted.

Richard Fidler is co-editor of Grand Traverse Journal.

Reader Solves “Mystery of the Missing Trees”

In honor of Veterans Day ( November 11), your editors ask: When did the Memorial Trees on Memorial Drive disappear? They were planted May 4, 1923, and no longer grace what is now Veterans Drive.

This is a hard question, so the winner will win a standing ovation, in addition to more free readings of Grand Traverse Journal!

A much easier question is, where is this plaque located?

Thanks to reader K for her answer. Congratulations and a round of applause to her! She was able to identify where the trees once were, and why they were planted. Unfortunately, she cannot help us answer the question of when the trees disappeared. There are sugar maples of the proper age at the entrance to the Memorial Gardens Cemetery, but we cannot know if these were trees planted in the ceremony to honor the vets.

The plaque is located on the grounds of the American Legion Hall on Veterans Drive, in the shadow of the tank that guards the property.

“Veteran’s Drive was once M-11, a trunk line into Traverse City.

According to the April 25, 1923 newspaper, the ceremony to dedicate the 30 trees was near Garfield Township hall with the trees starting there and going north (downhill) until the south city limit. The article also notes “Complete records of the trees and those whose death they commemorate will be filed at the county clerk’s office and a temporary marker will be placed on each tree at the planting.

Forty-two maples were planted on Arbor Day (May 4) 1923. It was hoped this would be the “first of several in the county.” The report of the ceremony notes “permanent markers of marble or bronze will be placed at foot of each tree giving name and service record of each [honoree].” and the “Record of each tree is now at the court house to be preserved for generation after generation.” The list of names to be included on the Monument and tablet” erected Arbor Day 1924 appears in the March 14, 1924 TCRE.”

Thanks again, K, for your sleuthing!

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“Two Pretty Salad Garnishes”: Making your Holiday Table Beautiful, 1900

Your Editors can hear your plaintive cries, “Enough with the dessert recipes! What I really need is an early 19th-century way to spruce up my holiday table!”

To the rescue is the Herald Century Cook Book, published by the editors of the Grand Traverse Herald, predecessor to the Traverse City Record-Eagle, in 1900. No need for expensive flower arrangements! Be carbon-friendly with these two salad garnishes: Radish Roses and Celery Daisies. We imagine these would be a lot of fun  for a small party to make together, children too, with proper supervision. Send us a photo of your “edible decorations,” and we’ll publish it in the next issue of Grand Traverse Journal.

“Radish roses are made by taking small, round, red radishes and cutting through the surface with a sharp pen knife in sections, leaving enough uncut at the bottom to hold them together. Put them in cold water, and the cut portions will curl backward like the petals of a flower, the bright red contrasting with the white center.

"Thanksgiving Table, 1895," from the Bensley Collection, Traverse Area District Library, Local History Collection.
“Thanksgiving Table, 1895,” from the Bensley Collection, Traverse Area District Library, Local History Collection.

Celery daisies are made by cutting the celery stalks into inch lengths, then with a sharp knife, cutting the stalk halfway down into slits, then again across these slits. Throw the pieces into cold water, when, in the course of a few hours, they will curl back to resemble the petals of a daisy, and the likeness may be further carried out by placing a tiny round piece of the hard-boiled yolk of an egg in the center of the celery.”

Regional Events in November for History Folk

Twentieth Century Farm Life

pieSunday, November 20th at 1pm, Susan Odom of Hillside Homestead, nationally known expert on early twentieth century cooking, kitchens and small-scale farming, will address the Traverse Area Historical Society and all attendees on the art of running an early twentieth century farms. Come pick up some tips for holiday cooking! Event will be held at the Traverse Area District Library, 610 Woodmere Ave. in the McGuire Room.

Shoes! Glorious Shoes!

pair_of_womans_oxford_shoes_wedding_lacma_m-83-156-1a-bThursday, November 10th at 4:00pm.  Join the Benzie Area Historical Society to “walk a mile” in the shoes of our ancestors with Nancy Bordine.  We’ll explore what they wore on their feet, and why they wore them. We’ll ponder the world’s most extreme shoes in terms of age, price, comfort and significance.  This entertaining experience may change the way you think about footwear.

Vintage aficionado Nancy Bordine has been playing “dress up” with historical clothing for five decades.  At last count, she owned more than 550 pairs of vintage shoes. Combine Nancy’s collection with her wide knowledge and contagious enthusiasm, and have yourself a most entertaining history lesson. Held at the Benzie Area Historical Museum, Benzonia.

Genealogists Meet to Share

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Cecil H. Dill, Hand Musician and Celebrity of Traverse City

Meet Cecil H. Dill (27 October 1900-3 November 1989), “The Farmer Who Makes Music with His Hands.” Dill was an aspiring radio performer, who had an interesting talent… the ability to squeeze his hands together and play melodies, mostly of popular tunes of the day.

His parents, Jennie McEwan (d. 22 January 1960) and William H. Dill (d. 22 July 1966), were married in Grand Traverse County in 1899, and spent most of their married life alongside their children Cecil, Dorothy (d. 22 December 1972) and Joan, in Traverse City. According to census records, William briefly operated a farm in Blair Township, probably about 1930 to 1938 or so.

In 1939, William purchased Novotny’s Saloon on Union Street in Old Town, Traverse City, and renamed the establishment “Dill’s Olde Towne Saloon,” which became a favorite watering hole for locals and visitors alike. William had a long career in bartending, with only his brief farming career as the exception.

Like his father, Cecil usually made his living with his hands. During the holidays, he often sold balsam and cedar wreaths, and began taking orders in the end of October, showing the popularity of his work. Over the years, he offered junk removal and other light draying services to the community as well, sometimes partnering with Goldie Wagner (d. 16 April 1986).

But, before his father opened Dill’s Saloon, Cecil was still working the family farm when he discovered his unique musical abilities (I’ll let Cecil tell you in his own words in the embedded video exactly how he developed his talent). Cecil was able to sell his talent to various performers, most notably Ted Weems, the bandleader who would provide Perry Como his first national exposure. Cecil played with the Ted Weems Orchestra in Chicago, and was thoroughly applauded by all those present. According to a Chicago Tribune article of the event, Cecil stole the show.

The years of 1933-1934 saw the height of Cecil’s popularity. He played with Ted Weems, as well as bandleader Hal Kemp. He made appearances at other venues in Chicago and in Hollywood nightclubs. His performances were written up in Chicago and Detroit newspapers, as well as Vanity. He palmed his fame all the way to the National Farm and Home radio hour, and a Universal Pictures newsreel (below), both of which provided Cecil with national exposure.

Although his fame was short-lived, Cecil would continue to play throughout his life, showing up various variety events in Traverse City. Cecil’s Universal Pictures newsreel is the earliest known recording of Manualism, that is, the art of playing music by squeezing air through the hands. By all accounts, that makes Cecil the first “Manualist,” although I suspect this musical style has a long and varied history, as least as old as clapping.

The last of Cecil’s life was plagued with health problems. The Traverse City Record-Eagle reported of his ill-health several times. On Tuesday, October 10, 1961,  Cecil, living at 229 Wellington, was admitted to Munson. He had been dining at Bill Thomas’ Restaurant at 130 Park Street, when he fell ill. A “resuscitator unit” from the fire department was called to his aid, and the newspaper report stated he “suffered from an apparent heart attack.” He suffered additional bouts of illness that required hospitalization in 1970 and 1973, but ultimately lived to the ripe age of 89.

Enjoy Cecil’s rendition of “Yankee Doodle Dandy,” and the story of his talent, made available by the Internet Archive. This video is in the Public Domain, meaning there are no copyright restrictions, so please share out.

 

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Amy Barritt is co-editor of Grand Traverse Journal.