Stories indexed with the term ‘history’

In it for the Money: Chosen People

Editor’s Note: David Erik Nelson’s short story “The New Guys Always Work Overtime” won the 2013 Asimov’s Readers’ Award for Short Fiction. You can buy it or download a free copy: [here]

Our Jewish Community Center in Ann Arbor is small. This seems to throw a lot of people off. They think of Ann Arbor as a fairly Jewfull town, because the University of Michigan brings in a lot of East Coast Jews, as well as basically every Midwestern Jew who can make the cut.

David Erik Nelson Column

David Erik Nelson

This probably sounds harsh, bordering on bigoted: When some guy with a generic Englishman’s surname and a very Nordic “K” in his conspicous middle name starts sounding off about the preponderance of Jews in town . . . well, it doesn’t sound good, does it? So, to clarify for the Occasional Readers and those who have not yet grown to know and love me: I’m a Midwestern Jew, born and raised in Metro Detroit, like my father before me.

And to us Metro Detroit Jews, UM has long been the Promised Land: At last count something like 40 of my relatives have attended the university (with most ultimately earning a degree or two!) The latest of these, my nephew, will be joining the rolls this September. We are kvelling (well, maybe less so his step-dad  – who is a Spartan, but still a pretty OK guy).

But the university’s Jews don’t tend to stick around, so the actual number of Jewish families in Ann Arbor is pretty small – or, at least, small compared to where I grew up. The point being that we have a small JCC here. It’s pretty heavily used by all the congregations, of which there are three with actual buildings – if you count the Reform folk, who share a building with Episcopalians – and then a handful of gathered congregations. I’d guestimate that more than half of the JCC’s square-footage is dedicated to children: There’s a large daycare, and a K-5 Hebrew Day School, plus an after-care program and several summer camps.

Our tiny JCC has an armed guard. In my mind, this is pretty common. I don’t think I’ve ever been in a JCC without an armed guard – but it came as a surprise to my wife and in-laws, who are not Jews.

Our guard is a guy I’ll call G. He’s a high-and-tight retired Army Ranger with a drawl. All the kids love him, because he is an excellent security guard: He makes it his business to be sure that all the kids know him and like him, so that they will listen to him in an emergency. Most of the emergencies are weather-related (naturally), but during my son’s final year in preschool at the JCC three armed robberies took place within a 1-mile radius of the JCC in a two-week stretch. In all three cases the school was locked down, because three men with shotguns were running around the neighborhoods, evading cops. In such situations, I’m glad G. is handy, because he is sharp and disciplined – and I am very comfortable with him and his role and his being armed in this setting.

To the uninitiated it maybe sounds a little nuts, that my kid’s daycare – which is also the building where we make our religious practice – has an armed guard. But this is the way of the world: Now and again white men with gun-show stockpiles take it upon themselves to take a stab at Zion, and they disproportionately target JCCs when they do so. And JCCs almost invariably have daycares and schools.

But that’s not what I want to tell you about. I want to share a Terrible Revelation I had at the end of May. [Full Story]

In the Archives: Bloomers and Bicycles

Editor’s note: At January’s meeting of the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority board, Ann Arbor’s mayor suggested that the DDA’s transportation committee bring a recommendation to the board to take a position on bicycling on Ann Arbor’s downtown sidewalks.

The fight to keep bikes off of Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti sidewalks dates back to the first appearance over a century ago of what many perceived to be “infernal machines.”

Thompson Bike

O.E. Thompson was Ypsilanti's leading seller of bicycles. (Images link to higher resolution files.)

The 1876 Ann Arbor city charter contains no mention of bicycles – it wouldn’t be until two years later that A. A. Pope manufactured the first bicycles in the U.S. The invention spread across the nation, threw city fathers into consternation as they scrambled for their city charters, and incited Ann Arbor’s “Bloomer War.”

It also inspired the creation of a nationwide organization of cyclists, the League of American Wheelmen. Its Michigan chapter’s 1897 edition of their “Road Book” recommended one 271.5-mile jaunt from Detroit to Chicago. Another route circled Lake Erie. The guidebook gave instructions for rides from Ann Arbor to Chelsea, Saline, Whitmore Lake, Pontiac, South Lyon and Dundee.

“Gravel roads will average as shown during entire riding season,” the book stated, “clay ones only in dry seasons.” The L.A.W. received a discount from 66 Michigan hotels ranging from Marquette to Coldwater. In Ann Arbor, the L.A.W.’s hotel was the American House (15% discount), and its Ypsilanti refuge was the Hawkins House (20%). [Full Story]

Federal Money May Save Bus #5 for Ypsi

Clipping from April 3, 1973 Ann Arbor News newspaper

A clipping from the April 3, 1973 Ann Arbor News newspaper. Headline was: "Bus System Linking City With Ypsilanti Gets Push"

At a meeting of the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority’s planning and development committee on Wednesday evening – attended by some members of Ypsilanti’s city council, plus the mayor – the possible elimination of Ypsilanti’s bus Route #5 became far less likely.

The committee recommended that federal stimulus money be used to cover a shortfall between the amount that Ypsilanti’s city council allocated to transportation, and the cost of the city’s purchase of service agreement (POSA) with the AATA through June 2011. If the recommendation to use federal dollars is approved by the full AATA board at its Sept.23 meeting, the elimination of Route #5, plus reductions in service on Routes #10 and #11, would not be necessary.

On Sept. 8, Ypsilanti’s city council had voted 5-1 (with dissent from Mayor Paul Schreiber) to propose the service reductions – chosen from a “menu” of options provided by the AATA. The Ypsilanti council resolution also included a request that the POSA rate not increase, and that about $100,000 in federal stimulus dollars – part of a $6.45 million grant to the AATA – be used to make up the remaining difference.

The willingness of the AATA’s planning and development committee to increase the federal dollars allotted to around $200,000 was based on a key condition, which is actually built into the language of the Ypsilanti council resolution: either there will be progress towards a dedicated countywide funding mechanism for mass transportation, or else the city of Ypsilanti will put a millage proposal (a Headlee override) on the November 2010 ballot. [Full Story]

City Council and the Values of Ann Arbor

Iraq Water Project

Laura Russello, executive director at Michigan Peaceworks, presented background on the collaboration between the nonprofit she leads and Veterans for Peace on the Iraq Water Project.

Ann Arbor City Council meeting (March 2, 2009): Whatever chance for controversy that might have been present in the Ann Arbor’s City Council meeting agenda on Monday evening was eschewed in favor of values statements. These expressions of values were reflected in many of the agenda items themselves. We’ve organized our account of the meeting in terms of values related to the following topics: water, the arts, land, energy, history, and democracy. [Full Story]

Bake Sale for Obama


Bake sale for Obama at Third and Liberty. In background, Carrie Hatcher-Kay, with Elijah and Amelia.

“John McCain says he supports cider in the fall, but …,” joked Benjamin Paloff on his walk back from the Farmers Market, stopping at the Obama bake sale at the corner of First and Liberty. Saturday was Day Two of a projected three-day effort to register voters, sell some cookies and cider – plus some art – and enjoy the beautiful weather, all in support of Barack Obama’s campaign. Actually, as the sign made clear, it was half in support of the campaign: “Full Disclosure 50% for Obama 50% shared amongst the kids”

Two of the kids, Elijah and Amelia, belonged to Carrie Hatcher-Kay, who was providing the on-site adult supervision. She related how explaining to a three-year-old why their family supports Obama had to be reduced to basics.

That means Obama: looks for other energy besides oil; inspires everyone to get involved; loves the air, the trees, the water, and wants to keep them clean. Plus, John McCain has eight houses and he doesn’t like to share. [Full Story]

Digging into Downtown History


Historic Marker at Ashley and Washington: "Germans in Ann Arbor"

Just a brief note to alert Chronicle readers to two events on the western edge of downtown tomorrow (Oct. 2). At the DDA Board meeting today, Ray Detter, of the Downtown Area Citizens Advisory Council, announced that there would be a dedication ceremony at 5 p.m. of the new wall displays at Ashley and Washington streets, which is a part of the Downtown Ann Arbor Historic Street Exhibit Program. “At lunchtime workmen bought beer by the bucket from nearby saloons,” reads part of the text from one of the installations.

The second event is not an “event” per … [Full Story]