The Ann Arbor Chronicle » local history it's like being there Wed, 26 Nov 2014 18:59:03 +0000 en-US hourly 1 A2: Local History Tue, 29 Jul 2014 04:02:01 +0000 Chronicle Staff A post in the Local in Ann Arbor blog reflects on the importance of historic buildings in creating a city’s sense of place. It includes a review of “Historic Ann Arbor,” a new book by local authors Susan Wineberg and Patrick McCauley: ”This book should be on the bookshelf of everyone who lives in Ann Arbor and values any sense of our history and architectural diversity. As Grace Shackman says in her introduction to the book, ‘Susan and Patrick’s love of Ann Arbor shines through every page.’” [Source]

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Column: Taking a Long Look at Redistricting Sat, 09 Nov 2013 17:01:38 +0000 Ruth Kraut The new Ann Arbor Public Schools superintendent, Jeanice Swift, is on her “listening tour,” visiting each and every one of Ann Arbor’s schools. If you haven’t gone to one of those sessions yet, I encourage you to go. Here’s the schedule.

Ruth Kraut, Ann Arbor Public Schools, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Ruth Kraut

One thing that has come up in discussions at some schools is the possibility of school closings. This is a natural outgrowth of the fact that in the AAPS district, the prospect of school closings was raised explicitly by the school board in the spring, and by the fact that the Ann Arbor schools have been under financial pressure for several years. (As has every school district in Michigan. You can visit Michigan Parents for Schools to find out more about why that is.)

In fact, in the spring of 2013 the district issued requests for proposals for consultants to help on redistricting. Eventually, they began discussions with the University of Michigan to help the district decide what schools, if any, should be closed. Since nothing has been fully negotiated, I can’t say whether the University of Michigan’s proposal is a good plan or not. They may have a role to play. But I can say this: parents and community members have “skin in the game” when it comes to discussing redistricting schools, and I believe there is an effective way to make these decisions.

As it happens, shortly before I moved to town in 1985, Ann Arbor went through a redistricting process. It was thoughtful, involved a broad sector of the community, and resulted in significant realignments and school closings – with long-lasting benefits. It’s worth taking a look at what happened then. If redistricting is in Ann Arbor’s future, this process may be worth copying and updating.

The Committee on Excellence of Education

There were 20 members of the Committee on Excellence of Education – including many who are still active in the community today: Mary Austin, Ronald Bishop, Vincent Carillot, Patricia Chapman, Susan Doud, Cheryl Garnett, Leonard Gay, George Goodman, Charles Kieffer, Norma McCuiston, R. Griffith McDonald, Bettye McDonald, Melinda Morris, Merrill Nemiroff, Duane Renken, Ingrid Sheldon, Joann Sims, Estelle Titiev, James Wanty, and Ronald Woods.

This was the their charge [emphasis added]:

The Committee on Excellence of Education in the Ann Arbor Public Schools was created by the Board of Education to address several long and short-term issues facing the system during the 1980′s and beyond. The explicit charge to the Committee from the Board of Education was:

1. Do sufficient futuring to provide guidance to timely decisions concerning: a. a long range plan (August, 1985); b. a five-year financial plan; c. school grade reorganization

2. Recommend what quality education should look like in Ann Arbor in 1990 and beyond.

3. Address the issues associated with and make recommendations regarding: a. boundary changes; b. declining enrollment (numbers and implications); c. grade reorganizations; d. building usage; e. school closings; f. definition of what an ideal elementary, intermediate and high school should look like in terms of physical space, number of students, and curriculum; g. desegregation; h. minority/majority performance gap; i. special programs and services; j. school hours; and k. current goals and policies

4. Develop a process to fulfill the charge to the committee, such process to include formal solicitation of input from every employee group, PTO and other interested parties. Twenty-one citizens were appointed by the Trustees of the Board of Education to serve on the Committee. Three alternates were also selected in the event that vacancies should occur.

Just like today, at the time the Ann Arbor school district was trying to solve multiple problems: financial problems and declining enrollment; racial issues (segregation and achievement gap); balancing the needs of special programs; and creating consistent school hours, goals and policies. Part of the committee’s charge involved “formal solicitation of input” from all interested parties.

Let’s look at what the school district did right in 1985.

The school board appointed a group of citizens, plus alternates, and that tells you they really expected people to be committed to the committee. And the citizens were! The committee had subcommittees that sifted through data and met with the community. The district also funded a consultant to provide technical support in developing three redistricting plans based on data and guidelines that the committee provided. The public expressed concern about the input they were having (or weren’t having) as the decision was being made, and ultimately the committee put forward its own plan, not the consultant’s. That plan was then vetted by the public, and several changes to it were made.

I moved to town shortly after all of the work was done, but the decisions were still being discussed and implemented. That is not surprising, because desegregation/equity issues and school closings were a very large part of the discussion.

The redistricting decisions were essentially based on two primary issues: (1) improving racial balance; and (2) reducing the “underutilization” of schools. Although some of the school buildings were sold, the financial implications of that decision were not primary. Today, though, that might be an important consideration.

Updated Issues

If we were to modernize/adapt these almost-30-year-old guidelines, what issues would surface?

Updated Issues: Desegregation

In 1984-1985, the district was 17% African American, and that population was distributed unevenly throughout the district, with 19 out of 26 elementary schools having a building population that was either less than 12% or more than 27% African American. The Asian population was highly concentrated near the University of Michigan’s north campus. White students were a much greater percentage of the school population than today.

The committee wanted to address the problem of segregation. Past attempts had ended in failure. For instance, in 1979 the school board agreed on a desegregation plan, and shortly after found themselves ousted in an election. The committee decided that all schools should have an African American population of between 12% to 27%, and they tried to distribute the Asian population among several schools so as not to create a “third world ghetto.”

Today, the district is less segregated, but there is still wide variation. During the 2011-2012 school year, the district was 14.3% African American, 14.8% Asian, 9% multi-racial, 6.5% Hispanic/Latino, and 55.4% white. So now, there are more Asian students than African American students, many more students who identify as multi-racial, and many fewer white students compared to 1984.

Today, we are looking at different definitions of diversity. Yet just as was true then, racial/ethnic populations in the district are not evenly distributed. [.xls file with detailed AAPS student demographics for 2012-13 school year.]

Here’s a general look at some of the current racial/ethnic distributions, compared to the district average:

  • Schools with approximately double or more the Asian population include: Angell, King, Logan, Thurston, Lawton, and Clague. Schools with proportionately half as many Asian students (or fewer!) include Abbot, Community, Eberwhite, and Ann Arbor Open.
  • Schools with approximately double or more the Hispanic/Latino population include: Bryant, Lakewood, Mitchell, Pittsfield, and Scarlett. Schools with a very small Hispanic/Latino population include King, Lawton, and Clague.
  • Schools with approximately double or more the African American population include: Bryant, Northside, and Scarlett, as well as Ann Arbor Tech and Roberto Clemente. Schools where less than 10% of the student body is African American include Bach, Eberwhite, Lakewood, King, Wines, Ann Arbor Open, and Community.
  • Schools where over two-thirds of the school population is white include: Bach, Burns Park, Eberwhite, Wines, Ann Arbor Open, and Community. Schools where fewer than 40% of the students are white include: Mitchell, Northside, Scarlett, Ann Arbor Tech, and Roberto Clemente.

In addition, a much higher proportion of the African American population is low-income, compared to other racial and ethnic groups, and so schools that are more than 20% African American generally match the Title 1 schools. (Title 1 schools are schools that get additional federal funding because they have a high proportion of low-income students.) Schools that are more than 20% Asian are heavily concentrated on the north side of town.

Other schools have a higher-than-average percentage of students with special education designations. Most notable are Ann Arbor Tech and Roberto Clemente, at 29% and 42% of the student body, respectively. And while nearly a quarter of Mitchell’s students qualify as English Language Learners, there are several schools where almost no one does.

District-wide, 25% of the students qualify for the free and reduced price lunch program. Yet at Mitchell, Pittsfield, Scarlett, Ann Arbor Tech, and Roberto Clemente, over half of the students qualify for free and reduced price lunch. At King and Wines, less than 10% of the students qualify.

Updated Issues: Underutilization of Schools

In 1984, there were 13,772 students in Ann Arbor public schools; today there are over 16,500. There were 26 elementary schools in 1984, and some of them were small. The committee decided that a goal of “two classrooms per grade” was reasonable. For a K-5 school, two classrooms per grade would mean a school building with a little more than 300 students in it. (The committee also recommended reconfiguring the grade levels – at the time, the elementary schools were K-6.) If a grade 6-8 school were to have eight classrooms per grade, the school would have between 600 and 650 students in it.

If we had the same goals today, we would be looking at the following elementary schools with significantly fewer than 300 students: Mitchell, Northside and Pittsfield. (Angell has consistently been just under 300.) It’s also worth noting that Mitchell, Northside, and Pittsfield have been losing students since at least the late 1990s. Northside’s population count is now down to 189, and the school has lost more than two classrooms’ worth of students since 2010! (I’m not going to speculate on why, but obviously that is worth investigating.)

Similarly, Scarlett Middle School’s population has declined by over 100 students in the last 15 years, and is now under 500 students – while every other middle school in the district has seen increases. Ann Arbor Tech and Roberto Clemente have both seen shrinkage, while Ann Arbor Open and Community High have both seen increases.

In 1985, the elementary schools averaged 260 students; a year later, after the redistricting took place, they averaged 380 students. Since 2005, the elementary schools have had average head counts in the 330s. If we were to aim for elementary schools with an average of 370 students, we’d probably close three elementary schools, and perhaps close a middle school or turn it into a K-8 school.

Ann Arbor Public Schools, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Map showing the location of current AAPS schools: elementary (red), middle (green) and high schools (blue). The orange icons are administrative buildings. (Image links to interactive Google map – click on a school icon for more information about that location.)

Updated Issues: Magnet and Specialty Programs

In 1985, the committee recommended combining the various open classrooms around the district into an Open School, then housed at Bach. So too, a new look at redistricting could imagine some other types of magnets. Ideas that I’ve heard mentioned include another K-8 school on the east side of the school district; another Open-type school; a K-5 or K-8 language immersion program (Spanish, Mandarin, and/or Arabic); a STEM (science and technology) K-5 or K-8 program; a Montessori school; and a school, or two, with an arts/theater/music focus.

I’m sure I’m missing a few of the ideas that are out there! Obviously, redistricting offers opportunities to create other magnet or specialty programs.

Updated Issues: School Closings

In the 1980s, the district closed six schools, selling or leasing several of the buildings. One school building – Lakewood Elementary, on the city’s far west side – was reserved by the district and eventually reopened. But Clinton School’s building was sold to the Jewish Community Center, which also houses the Hebrew Day School; the former Bader School building now houses a preschool/early elementary center; Freeman School’s building was leased to Go Like the Wind Christian Montessori School; and the building for Newport School now belongs to the Rudolph Steiner School.

And those private schools have grown, at least in part because they were able to move into nice buildings.

As I wrote in the blog post, “Unintended Consequences” [1]:

So, for instance, the Rudolph Steiner School started in 1980 with a handful of students, and grew slowly until 1986, when it was able to occupy Newport School. By 1999, the Steiner School had 298 students – the vast majority in their K-8 lower school (313 students K-12, 2009).

In 1985, the Hebrew Day School was in very inadequate space, and had under 50 students. By 1999, the Hebrew Day School had over 100 students (87 students K-5, 2009).

Go Like the Wind Christian Montessori school, which only opened in 1987, had over 100 students by 1999 (101 students K-8, 2009).

And Ann Arbor Hills Child Development Center goes through age 8, with a K-2 primary school program that in 1999 had 35 students (33 students K-2, 2009).

As we look to the future, I would hope that we consider how to reduce the competition that AAPS faces from private or charter schools. From that point of view, ideal school buildings to consider for sale are buildings that will have resale value to organizations that are not private or charter schools. In that sense, a neighborhood school building like Pittsfield or Mitchell – under-enrolled though they may be – is much less attractive to sell than a building like Angell, Bach, or Community, all of which are downtown or near downtown. Also more desirable to sell would be the building for A2 Tech (formerly Stone School), which is near Packard, a major thoroughfare. Not only would the district probably get less money for a Pittsfield over a Bach, but a Pittsfield would be much more likely to be turned into another – and competing – school.

Other things that are worth putting on the metaphorical table:

  • Geographic distribution. In the 1985 plan, the committee recommended closing Forsythe Middle School as they felt it was too close to Slauson. That didn’t happen because the public didn’t like it. Today, Scarlett is the most underenrolled middle school, but closing Scarlett would leave no middle school in the southeast quadrant of the district.
  • Transportation and walkability. Burns Park, Mitchell and Tappan are examples of schools that draw a lot of walkers, and that’s a good thing – although it may sometimes conflict with concerns about racial balance. Transportation and walkability are huge issues for parents, at the elementary, middle, and high school levels.

Two other issues are the expected growth and movement of student populations, and of course the next moves of the state legislature.

The Doover: Looking Ahead, Looking Behind

As you can see, there’s a lot to think about. Change can be hard. Even mini-reorganizations – such as the restructurings that occurred when Lakewood Elementary reopened, when Skyline High opened, and when Ann Arbor Open moved to Mack and the Mack school catchment area students moved to Bach – were vociferously debated. But as a parent whose children experienced two of those changes, I feel comfortable saying that it didn’t end up being all that big of a deal.

Ruth Kraut, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Some homework with the “Doover” stamp. (Photo by Ko Shih.)

As I look back at the process the school district used in 1985, I’m proud of it. I think it’s an excellent model, and it’s one reason that the reorganization was successful for as long as it was.

Yet the committee didn’t do all of this alone. Not only did the administration provide key support, the feedback loop from the broader community was quite strong. In fact, quite a few of the initial committee recommendations never came to pass, because of community feedback. (Also, the committee made a lot of recommendations that were not related directly to redistricting, but rather were related to the other committee goals.)

At Ann Arbor Open, in fifth and sixth grade, my younger two children had teachers Rick Hall and Ko Shih. Rick and Ko don’t generally tolerate messy or sub-par work. Turning that in earns students the special “Doover” stamp. (Get it? Do Over.)

In this case, I want to turn the Doover on its head. I want us to Doover the redistricting process using the same method that was used in 1985. I want a Doover, not because the work was so bad, but because the work was so good.


[1] “Unintended Consequences” was the last in a series of posts that I wrote on the 1985 reorganization. The others, in sequence, are: “But Was It Worth It?“; “A Little History“; “Desegregation Outcomes“; and “Privatization History.”

Ruth Kraut is an Ann Arbor resident and parent of three children who have all attended the Ann Arbor Public Schools. She writes at Ann Arbor Schools Musings ( about education issues in Ann Arbor, Washtenaw County, and Michigan.

The Chronicle relies in part on regular voluntary subscriptions to support our local reporting and columnists. Check out this link for details: Subscribe to The Chronicle. And if you’re already supporting us, please encourage your friends, neighbors and colleagues to help support The Chronicle, too!

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A2: Huron River Mon, 24 Jun 2013 18:59:22 +0000 Chronicle Staff Chris Engle, the outdoor columnist for the Gaylord Herald Times, writes about his experiences fishing on the Huron River while in Ann Arbor for his 1-year-old daughter’s heart surgery at Mott Children’s Hospital. In the river he found the bowl of a manmade clay tobacco pipe. Engle writes: “Ann Arbor was founded in 1824, so my pipe may have belonged to one of the area’s first settlers, a clumsy fisherman who probably cursed when he accidentally snuffed his pipe in the river.” [Source]

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A2: The Fifth Dimension Mon, 20 May 2013 19:17:42 +0000 Chronicle Staff Ugly Things – a national magazine covering “the overlooked music of the 1950s, ’60s, ’70s & beyond” – has published an article by Frank Uhle about The Fifth Dimension, a downtown Ann Arbor teen nightclub that operated from 1966-1968. From the article: ”In contrast with most venues of its type, it was an architect-designed psychedelic showplace with trippy pulsating lights, a huge spinning op-art wheel at the entrance, splatter-painted wall panels, carpeted sitting mounds, a sunken (soda) bar, and a mod clothing store.” [.pdf of Fifth Dimension article cover page] The print edition of Ugly Things is sold locally at Wazoo Records and Literati Bookstore.

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A2: Recycling Sun, 28 Apr 2013 04:12:53 +0000 Chronicle Staff On Recycle Ann Arbor‘s 35th anniversary, Barbara Lucas of WEMU looks at the history of the city’s curbside recycling, and interviews several of the people who helped start the program. Among those are Dan Ezekiel, who’s now a science teacher at Forsythe Middle School and chair of the city’s greenbelt advisory commission. [Source]

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Island Lake Road, Dexter Fri, 01 Mar 2013 03:59:44 +0000 Chuck Bultman The pre-Civil War barn west of Jenny’s is being dismantled. It started Monday and it’s naked as of Thursday (Feb. 28). The barn is going to be restored and brought back to continue to serve this property for the next 160 years or so. Pictures taken Sunday [photo], Wednesday [photo] and Thursday [photo].

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Column: The Legacy of Eddie Kahn Fri, 22 Feb 2013 13:57:44 +0000 John U. Bacon John U. Bacon

John U. Bacon

Editor’s note: A version of this column was originally published in the Feb. 18, 2013 issue of Michigan Today.

In the Michigan hockey program’s 90-year history, some 600 players have scored more than 10,000 total goals. But the man who scored the team’s very first goal, 90 years ago, might still be the most impressive one of the bunch.

He was the son of legendary American architect Albert Kahn, who built the most recognizable buildings in Detroit and Ann Arbor, almost all of which still stand. He pioneered the new discipline of neurosurgery, serving 22 years as chief of the department at the University of Michigan Medical Center. In his free times, he liked to fly planes, speak half a dozen languages, and hang out with folks like Gertrude Stein, Ernest Hemingway, and Charles Lindbergh.

But to his teammates, back in 1923, Eddie Kahn, MD ’24, was simply an exceptional college hockey player.

When he was in high school, however, you would have been wise to predict none of this. Certainly, his famous father didn’t.

More than half a century after Eddie Kahn’s father passed away, Albert Kahn remains on the short list of great American architects. He designed over two thousand buildings, including almost every architecturally significant structure in downtown Detroit: the Fisher Building, the Belle Isle Casino, the Detroit Golf Club, the Detroit Athletic Club and the Grosse Pointe Country Club, Detroit Police headquarters and the homes of The Detroit News and The Detroit Free Press. 

In Ann Arbor, Kahn designed such iconic buildings as Burton Tower, Angell Hall, West Engineering, the Natural Science Building, the graduate library, the hospital (Old Main), not to mention the Ann Arbor News building, the Delta Gamma sorority and the Psi Upsilon fraternity. Plus his personal favorites, the Clements Library and Hill Auditorium.  So farsighted was his vision that nearly every one of those buildings is still fulfilling its original purpose.

His son, however, was an entirely different matter.

Eddie Kahn admired his father immensely, but his first day interning at his father’s firm was such a disaster, “I put on my hat, left the office, and never returned again,” he wrote in his autobiography, “Journal of a Neurosurgeon.”

After Kahn graduated from high school with “a most undistinguished record, scholastically and otherwise,” he writes, “it was decided that a post-graduate year in a preparatory school before I went to college couldn’t make things worse.”

After eight weeks at Phillips Andover Academy in Massachusetts, Kahn was failing fifteen of his 22 credits, when he learned discipline through study, and confidence through sports. In a baseball game against arch-rival Exeter, “I was as tense as could be. An easy fly came to me, and I was shaking as I caught it. It was the same with the next one. But from then on, I had complete confidence and everything seemed easy. That afternoon, I pulled in seven flies, including some rather difficult chances.

“I cannot overstress how much confidence simplifies the task of the conscientious, competent surgeon. On the other hand, overconfidence is very dangerous for any surgeon.” Brain surgery may be woefully complex, but some of the qualities needed to do it well are best learned on a field of grass or a sheet of ice.

Kahn took these lessons with him when he enrolled at Michigan in 1918, living in a beautiful brick home his father designed across Washtenaw Avenue from “The Rock.” Kahn got through both his undergraduate and medical training in six years, working in the very hospital his father had also designed.

Eddie spent his limited free time playing on the informal hockey team, then on the varsity team after Coach Joseph Barss – who was also a medical student – launched the program. The team’s second season, 1924, was undoubtedly the first and only year in college hockey history when a team’s captain and coach were medical school classmates.

“My dad talked about Eddie Kahn quite a bit,” Barss’s son told me. “I know they were good friends who respected each other a great deal.”

On the eve of the program’s opening night in Jan. 12, 1923, The Michigan Daily wrote, “Kahn is probably the fastest man on the team and is a hard fighter.” The student writers later gushed that Kahn, “played a furiously aggressive game from start to finish. He was knocked out twice but stayed in the lineup and performed sensationally.”

And so he did. Kahn scored or assisted on at least half of his team’s goals that season, often by skating the entire length of the ice with the puck. In 1924, Kahn’s last year in medical school, the diminutive forward became the team’s second captain, then went on to become an internationally acclaimed neurosurgeon.

Despite Kahn’s demanding career and intense work ethic, he was able to mix in some adventure, too. After graduating, he spent some time practicing in Vienna and Russia, where he met with Ivan Pavlov, the scientist who won the 1904 Nobel Prize for his famous discovery that ringing a bell before each meal eventually caused dogs to salivate at the sound of the bell alone, a phenomenon now known as the “Pavlovian response.”

After he returned to the States and started working at UM’s hospital, he volunteered for the Army medical corps from 1940 to 1945, for one dollar a year. He entered France via Normandy’s Utah Beach just a few weeks after D-Day, mended soldiers at the Battle of the Bulge, and was among the first to arrive in Paris when the Allies liberated the City of Light.

“Kahn knew Europe well,” says Rudy Reichert, who played for Michigan in the early 1940s and went on to become chief of staff at St. Joseph’s Hospital in town. “He knew Gertrude Stein and Hemingway personally. When the Americans entered Paris, it was Eddie who brought the U.S. generals into the city, because he knew his way around and knew about a million languages, so he could show them where to go.”

Shortly after he returned to Ann Arbor, Kahn ran into Harry Bennett, Henry Ford’s infamous union buster, at a cocktail party. Bennett asked Kahn if he wanted to go flying the next day. With Charles Lindbergh.

Lindbergh, who tested planes at nearby Willow Run during the war, maneuvered the aircraft with an ease that Kahn, who was a licensed pilot himself, could only admire. “I have never seen a man so relaxed or so much part of an airplane,” Kahn writes.

When Bennett dared Lindbergh to buzz the Huron River, however, the plane didn’t have nearly enough power to clear the riverbank in front of them. “I could only think that at least I as going to go down in good company,” Kahn writes. As they flew closer to the side of the bluff, Lindbergh suddenly veered the plane to the right, gracefully avoiding disaster – with a grin.

Kahn replaced his mentor at the University Hospital, Dr. Max Peet, as the head of the Neurosurgery Section in 1949, a position he held for 22 years until he retired in 1971. Along the way Kahn completed two editions of “Correlative Neurosurgery,” an essential textbook for generations of doctors.  It does not, however, make for light reading. Some of Kahn’s chapters include, “Papillomas of the Choroid Plexus of the Fourth Ventricle,”  “Section of the Ninth Nerve for Glossophyaryngeal Neuralgia,” and the always popular, “Lipomas of the Conus Mdullaris and Cauda Equina.”

You get the idea. This really is brain surgery.

“Great empathy for his patients, honesty, humility and a fine sense of humor were his hallmarks, in addition to his skillful hands,” said his former colleague, Dr. Richard C. Schneider. “No physician was more deeply admired and loved by his patients.”

Eddie Kahn was an original. He hated mundane tasks like lab work; he resisted playing all the holes of Barton Hills Country Club in numerical order; and because he was already independently wealthy from his father’s fortune, he insisted on working for a salary of one dollar a year. “But he never had any money on him!” Reichert recalls. “You’d go down to the cafeteria, where it was 35-cents for a meal, and he’d say, ‘Geez, do you have 35 cents for me?’ The guy was just oblivious to money.

“People would surround him at the cafeteria just to hear his stories of all these famous people, and he knew ‘em all. But he was also an extremely modest guy, didn’t like drawing attention to himself. He wouldn’t even go down to pick up his plaque when he was voted into the Deker Hall of Fame. I picked it up for him.”

But Kahn stayed close to Michigan hockey. Although he was heard to remark that the game just wasn’t the same “since all the boys started playing inside,” he attended at least one game every season, with the exception of the war years.

During his 22 years as chief of neurosurgery, Kahn trained 44 residents, 16 of whom became the heads or assistant heads of their own university neurosurgery departments. If Albert Kahn is still on the short list of great American architects, his son is still on the short list of great American surgeons. Although surgical advances aren’t as obvious a legacy as architectural landmarks, Kahn invented enough surgical tools and innovations to be named president of the Society of Neurological Surgery, the field’s first and foremost organization.

“He wanted to be known as Eddie Kahn,” longtime protégé Dr. Dave Dickenson said, “and not as Albert’s son.”

It’s fair to say, when he died in 1985 at the age of 85, that Dr. Kahn’s lifelong quest to make a name for himself was a success.

Thinking back on his old friend and mentor, Rudy Reichert says, “He was just a remarkable guy.”

About the writer: Ann Arbor resident John U. Bacon is the author of “Bo’s Lasting Lessons” and “Three and Out: Rich Rodriguez and the Michigan Wolverines in the Crucible of College Football” – both national bestsellers. His upcoming book, “Fourth and Long: The Future of College Football,” will be published by Simon & Schuster in September 2013. You can follow him on Twitter (@Johnubacon), and at

The Chronicle relies in part on regular voluntary subscriptions to support our publication of columnists like John U. Bacon. Click this link for details: Subscribe to The Chronicle. And if you’re already supporting us, please encourage your friends, neighbors and colleagues to help support The Chronicle, too!

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Ann Arbor Library Set to Publish “Old News” Wed, 19 Oct 2011 15:04:48 +0000 Mary Morgan Ann Arbor District Library board meeting (Oct. 18, 2011): On Friday, the public will get online access to 18,000 articles, 3,000 photos, and an index with over 160,000 names – the initial phase of a massive digitization of The Ann Arbor News archives being undertaken by the library.

Old bound copies of The Ann Arbor News

Old bound copies of The Ann Arbor News from the early 1900s. The archives are stored in a climate-controlled office complex on Green Road.

Andrew MacLaren – one of the librarians who’s been working on the project since the library took possession of the archives in January 2010– gave board members a brief preview of what AADL is unveiling at a reception on Friday. Called “Old News,” the online archives will initially feature items selected for digitization primarily by library staff, with a focus on the 1960s and ’70s, but with other eras included as well.

The hope is that future additions to the collection will be driven in large part by queries from the public. As librarians respond to research requests – people seeking newspaper articles or photos about specific events, institutions, or individuals – AADL staff will digitize their findings to be posted online for anyone to access.

The launch will also include special features from the collection that the library staff felt would draw more interest, including hundreds of articles and photos related to John Norman Collins, a serial killer whose killings in the late 1960s drew national attention. Other features include the history of West Park, and the 1968 Huron River floods.

Podcasts will be posted of interviews with former Ann Arbor News staff – including long-time crime reporter Bill Treml and photographer Jack Stubbs. AADL staff is also interviewing owners of “heritage” Ann Arbor businesses. Initial podcasts include conversations with David Vogel of Vogel’s Lock & Safe, and Charles Schlanderer Jr. and Charles Schlanderer Sr. of Schlanderer & Sons Jewelry. Additional podcasts will be added to the collection over time.

Though the cornerstone of this collection is from the 174-year-old Ann Arbor News – which its owners, New York-based Advance Publications, shut down in mid-2009 – another 97,000 articles from local 19th century newspapers will be part of the initial launch, too.

At Tuesday’s board meeting, AADL director Josie Parker praised the librarians who’ve been the primary staff working on this project – MacLaren, Amy Cantu, Debbie Gallagher, and Jackie Sasaki – and thanked board members as well for their support. It was the board’s decision in 2009 to move ahead with the project that made the resulting work possible, she said. The library does not own the originals or hold the copyright to the material, but the library did not need to pay for the archives. AADL still incurs costs related to the project, including staff time, insurance, and leasing of the Green Road offices where the archives are located. That location is not open to the public.

A reception for the launch is planned for Friday, Oct. 21 at 7 p.m. in the downtown library, 343 S. Fifth Ave. The event will feature a talk on the digitization of newspapers by Frank Boles, director of the Clarke Historical Library at Central Michigan University.

The News on “Old News”

In 2009, the AADL struck a deal with Herald Publishing Co. – a unit of Advance Publications – to take possession of most of The Ann Arbor News archives, including photographs and photo negatives (except for those related to University of Michigan football and basketball), clipping files and bound copies. The deal gives the library the right to digitize these materials, excluding the bound copies. The company retains ownership of the originals. AADL has the rights to control the use of the digitized content, but doesn’t have the right to sell the digitized work.

The bound volumes can be used by the library, but not digitized. That’s because the company owns microfilm copies of those volumes and plans to digitize the full newspapers. There are also copyright issues related to non-News content, like wire service articles and ads. However, library staff say the bound volumes are valuable as a research tool – for example, to figure out which of the photographs in the collection were actually published.

The digitization process is being handled by staff of the AADL’s information technology and production department, led by associate director Eli Neiburger. Each of the four librarians involved in the digitization devote half of their time to the project, working out of a windowless, climate-controlled office on Green Road – a set of rooms that formerly housed computer servers.

At that facility, one large room is filled with filing cabinets crammed with clips – about 90,000 envelopes categorized by names and 72,000 envelopes by subjects. Binders and boxes of photographs and negatives make up a large portion of the collection. Many of the photographs have never been published – a photographer might have taken and developed dozens of shots from any given assignment, but only one or two would likely be printed in the newspaper.

Andrew MacLaren

Andrew MacLaren with shelved, bound copies of The Ann Arbor News archives, located at a Green Road office complex.

A separate room contains tall shelves on which the bound, full-issue copies of The Ann Arbor News and other local newspapers are laid flat and stacked to avoid warping. The older issues have begun to deteriorate – the newsprint is yellowed and crumbling around the edges – and some copies are missing. [For decades, the archives had been stored in a basement at The Ann Arbor News building on Huron & Division, and though the room was locked, security was casual.]

The archives also include older newspapers that AADL has acquired separately from The Ann Arbor News. That includes issues of the Ann Arbor Courier from 1880-1881 and 1883-1888; the Ann Arbor Argus from 1888-1889 and 1891-1898; and the Ann Arbor Argus-Democrat from 1898-1899. These issues have been digitized and will be part of the initial “Old News” launch. The library has previously digitized the full run of the Signal of Liberty – from 1841-1848 – and the first four months of the paper it became in 1848, Michigan Liberty Press.

At Tuesday’s meeting, MacLaren told the board that the first few months of work involved simply trying to figure out and organize what they had received. Over the years, different filing systems had been used by the newspaper’s librarians, duplicate files were kept under different names, clippings were misfiled, and in general there had not been a consistent approach to organizing the collection. Part of the work by AADL staff was to create an index for all of the envelopes, files, binders, boxes and other material – much of the contents haven’t yet been explored.

There were discoveries along the way, as AADL staff went through the collection. Most dramatically, they found a silent film – a farce – made by the Ann Arbor News advertising staff in 1936 called “Back Page.” That film has been digitized and is posted on the AADL website, with an original score written and performed by the organist Steven Ball. It was shown for the first time this summer at the Michigan Theater, with a live performance by Ball. [See Chronicle coverage: "Milestone: The Past Speaks in a Silent Film"]

The staff used several approaches to help organize the collection and select initial content to digitize, MacLaren said. For guidance regarding the earliest newspapers, they relied on the seminal book “A History of the Newspapers of Ann Arbor 1829-1920,” by Louis W. Doll, published in 1959 by Wayne State University Press. That book has also been digitized and will be included in the “Old News” collection, he said.

In prioritizing the content to digitize, librarians who worked on the project selected topics they thought would be of historical value or of most interest to the public, based in part on research requests. There was also broader staff input – AADL employees could vote on which photos to digitize through a process that Neiburger calls the “Photomic Selecterizer” – a staff-only mode of the library’s online Points-O-Matic Click-O-Tron game.

In response to a question from board president Margaret Leary, MacLaren estimated that far less than 1% of the Ann Arbor News collection has been digitized at the point. The initial set going online – 18,000 articles and 3,000 photos – is a “drop in the bucket,” he said. For example, when the collection was delivered, the News estimated there were 900,000 photo negatives, which MacLaren now believes to be an estimate that’s extremely low.

“We’re not racing against time,” he said. “We’re racing against how much we have.” New material will be digitized each week and posted into the “Old News” collection. The public will be able to make research requests – emailing – which will help prioritize the content.

At Monday’s board meeting, Prue Rosenthal asked whether there is grant funding available to help pay for the digitization work. AADL director Josie Parker said they tried to apply for a grant but weren’t qualified – the grant specified that the digitization should be done from microfilm, not from original source material. Most grants also aren’t geared toward this type of unique situation, in which a newspaper has turned over its entire archives to a library. The staff will keep looking for grant opportunities, Parker added. Now that they have something to show, she said, there might be funding available for additional work related to the collection.

Leary said the project is a spectacular example of AADL seizing an opportunity that’s unusual for public libraries. It has tremendous current and future value to the whole community. She also praised staff for its work in adding this responsibility without outside funding and without reducing other services. It’s a credit to the staff and to Parker and her managers, Leary said.

The presentation concluded with the board giving MacLaren a round of applause.

Shelves of bound copies of The Ann Arbor News

Shelves of bound copies of The Ann Arbor News, stored in climate-controlled offices that are leased by the Ann Arbor District Library.

Bound copies of The Ann Arbor News

Bound copies of The Ann Arbor News. The stack in the lower right corner represents the final years, when the newspaper editions were considerably smaller than in previous years. The 174-year-old newspaper was closed by its owners in 2009.

Boxes of photo negatives

Boxes of photo negatives from The Ann Arbor News.

Page from an Ann Arbor News commemorative book

A layout page from an Ann Arbor News special publication commemorating the newspaper's 150th anniversary in 1985. Several of these pages are posted on walls in the entryway to the offices that AADL is leasing to store the News archives. Many of the pages – like this one, with an ad from Jacobson's – feature companies that are no longer in business, like the News itself. (Links to larger image)

Present: Rebecca Head, Nancy Kaplan, Margaret Leary, Barbara Murphy, Jan Barney Newman, Prue Rosenthal. Also AADL director Josie Parker.

Absent: Ed Surovell.

Next meeting: Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2011 at 7 p.m. in the library’s fourth floor meeting room, 343 S. Fifth Ave. [confirm date]

The Chronicle relies in part on regular voluntary subscriptions to support our coverage of public bodies like the Ann Arbor District Library board. Click this link for details: Subscribe to The Chronicle. And if you’re already supporting us, please encourage your friends, neighbors and colleagues to help support The Chronicle, too!

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Column: Gordon Lightfoot in Ann Arbor Mon, 19 Sep 2011 16:11:26 +0000 Alan Glenn This Wednesday Ann Arbor is in for a rare treat when Gordon Lightfoot – the fair-haired troubadour from north of the border whose repertoire includes such classics as “Early Mornin’ Rain,” “If You Could Read My Mind” and “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” – makes his first local appearance in more than nine years, performing at the Michigan Theater.

Gordon Lightfoot

Gordon Lightfoot in a recent publicity shot. He'll be performing at the Michigan Theater on Sept. 21, but has a decades-long history of touring here.

For his part, the 72-year-old singer-songwriter is glad to be returning. “I’m looking forward to it,” he says via telephone from his home in Toronto. “I’ve always gotten good vibes from Ann Arbor.”

Lightfoot first brought his guitar to town almost exactly 45 years ago, to play a three-night stint at a funky Episcopalian coffee house located in a former print shop at 330 Maynard Street. Today the unprepossessing brick building is home to Madras Masala, purveyor of exotic Indian delicacies; but in the ’60s it was Canterbury House, purveyor of coffee, donuts, and a hip spirituality that meshed nicely with the countercultural ethos of the day.

Canterbury House is actually a generic name used by many Episcopal student ministries at colleges across the nation. Ann Arbor’s incarnation was established in the mid-1940s and by the ’60s had become an important feature of the city’s increasingly progressive landscape. It began offering folk and blues music in 1965 as an experiment in reaching youth through the arts. Though mostly local performers were featured, the new program proved phenomenally successful, and the next year it was moved to a bigger location to bring in nationally-known acts.

First to appear at the extensively remodeled Maynard Street venue was the California-born “one-man folk festival,” Michael Cooney – “brandishing guitar, kazoo, banjo, autoharp, microphone, guitar strap, and truck,” according to the ad – who played three sold-out nights in early September.

Next up was a singer-songwriter from Ontario named Gordon Lightfoot, whose first album – the appropriately (if a bit over-exuberantly) titled “Lightfoot!” – had recently been released by United Artists. Although the young Canadian himself wasn’t that well-known in the states, his songs were. Marty Robbins took Lightfoot’s “Ribbon of Darkness” to the top of the country charts in 1965, and Peter, Paul and Mary made a Top 40 hit out of “For Lovin’ Me” that same year.

“If I had not gotten my songs recorded by some other artists very early on,” says Lightfoot, “I wouldn’t be talking to you right now. It was my songwriting, actually, that got me started.”

Which according to Herb David, proprietor of the famous guitar studio that bears his name, made Lightfoot very similar to another famous troubadour of that era, Bob Dylan.

Like Dylan – Except He Could Play

Herb David was a central figure in Ann Arbor’s vibrant ’60s folk scene. He saw all the acts that came through town – including Dylan – and often sold them something from his shop. Sometimes he even joined them onstage. David remembers liking Lightfoot’s music and looking forward to his appearance at Canterbury.

“In Dylan’s case we used to say that he couldn’t play worth a damn, and he couldn’t sing worth a damn, but he sure wrote some nice songs,” explains David. “It was the same thing with Lightfoot – except he could play.”

Gary Rothberger, at the time a University of Michigan senior majoring in American Studies, also remembers Lightfoot’s Canterbury gig. “Not only do I remember it,” he says, “I remember the grass I smoked on the way there.”

Detail of Gordon Lightfoot's 1966 contract with Canterbury House in Ann Arbor. The document is part of the Bentley Historical Library collection. (Links to larger image.)

Rothberger was one of the leaders of the campus chapter of Students for a Democratic Society, meaning that his real major was radicalism. By 1966 rock and roll was well on its way to replacing folk music as the soundtrack of the protest movement, but at that point folk was still holding its own. Rothberger liked it all: the Stones, the Beatles, Motown, Dylan, the Dead – and also Gordon Lightfoot.

“The thing about him,” explains Rothberger, “was that his lyrics were incredibly poetic, and his music was relatively complex, not just the strum-strum-strum of a lot of so-called folk singers. Plus he sang great love songs.”

Lightfoot played at Canterbury House for three nights, from Friday, September 23, through Sunday, September 25, 1966, doing three 30-minute sets each night – all for the princely sum of $500.

In fact, Canterbury operated on a razor-thin margin and could barely afford to pay the small fees that it did. With a seating capacity of 150 and tickets going for $1.25, simply breaking even often required a sell-out crowd. Which it had in most cases, including Lightfoot’s. But Canterbury’s goal was never to make profits, and the intimate setting suited both the earnest folk musicians of the mid-’60s as well as their thoughtful audiences.

Are You Gonna Be There (At the Teach-In)?

It was a wholly different affair when Lightfoot next played Ann Arbor four years later as the headline act at the kickoff rally for the University of Michigan’s week-long environmental teach-in.

After slowly gaining momentum throughout the ’60s, the environmental movement all at once exploded into the leviathan-like Earth Day 1970, a nationwide celebration-cum-protest in which millions of people participated. The Ann Arbor teach-in was one of the first and biggest of thousands of ecologically-themed events taking place that spring.

James Swan, a junior faculty member of the UM School of Natural Resources, was part of the teach-in’s entertainment committee. “We wanted Pete Seeger, badly,” he recalls, “but he had other commitments that he couldn’t get out of.”

As a replacement Swan suggested Lightfoot, whom he had helped bring to Canterbury House back in 1966. Lightfoot didn’t have the same name-recognition as Seeger or some of the other possibilities that were kicked around, such as Joan Baez; but his songs expressed a love of the land, of wide-open spaces and natural beauty, that resonated with the themes of the teach-in. The committee was especially pleased to learn that the Canadian was willing to perform for free, asking only to be reimbursed for expenses.

Lightfoot’s chaperone on the day of the concert was Bill Manning, a UM senior and one of the teach-in’s central organizers. When they arrived at Crisler Arena it was to find the nearly 14,000 seat auditorium filled to capacity – and beyond. “The place was jam-packed,” remembers Manning. “Not everybody could get in. We had busloads of kids show up from different parts of the state.”

Three-Ring Circus

In addition to Lightfoot, the evening’s lineup included UM president Robben Fleming, Wisconsin senator Gaylord Nelson, Michigan governor William Milliken, radio personality Arthur Godfrey, ecologist Barry Commoner, and the Chicago cast of “Hair.” “It was like a three-ring circus,” recalls Manning fondly.

As with much of the teach-in, the kickoff rally was a highly-charged, heavily-politicized event. The crowd was noisy and animated, and many speakers were heckled. But by most accounts Lightfoot’s performance received a good response, especially considering the wide diversity of the audience and that many were probably hearing him for the first time.

James Swan remembers the mostly-Michigander crowd reacting strongly to “Black Day in July,” one of the Canadian’s few overtly political compositions, about the Detroit race riots of 1967. “It upset some ecology folks because it was more racial protest than ecological,” he says.

“I loved ‘Black Day in July,’” recalls Gary Rothberger. “I liked that it didn’t blame the rioters, but condemned the politicians.” Not everyone was so pleased – released as a single in 1968, the song was banned from many American radio stations and reportedly got Lightfoot banished from Detroit for a while.

After wrapping their 11-song set with the perennial favorites “Canadian Railroad Trilogy” and “Early Mornin’ Rain,” Lightfoot and his backup band of Red Shea and Rick Haynes packed up their gear and prepared to depart. But not before handing the surprised teach-in organizers a bill for expenses totaling $2,000.

“We were a bit miffed,” remembers Manning. “I mean, $2,000, at that time – that was real money.” (Adjusted for inflation it comes to about $12,000 today.) Ultimately it wasn’t a significant problem, as the teach-in had in fact raised more money than its organizers were able to spend – all told nearly $70,000, or almost $400,000 today.

“It all worked out in the end,” says Manning. “But at the time it was a little off-putting to think that the expenses would be that high.” Still, Manning is the first to admit that their own lack of experience in the business side of the music world was probably a big part of the misunderstanding.

From Struggling Folkie to Soft-Rock Superstar

The next time Gordon Lightfoot came to town it was not as the struggling folkie he had been in ’66 but as a freshly-minted soft-rock ’70s superstar. His single “If You Could Read My Mind” broke out in late 1970, shooting straight to the top of the Canadian charts and becoming his first U.S. hit, reaching number five in early 1971. Flush with his newfound success, but going through a bitter divorce, Lightfoot returned to Ann Arbor in 1972 to play before a sell-out crowd at the 3,500-seat Hill Auditorium.

Gordon Lightfoot at Hill Auditorium 1972

Gordon Lightfoot performing at a 1972 Hill Auditorium concert. (Photo courtesy Sara Krulwich.)

Opinion was divided over the quality of the show. In his review for the Ann Arbor News, Doug Fulton wrote, “I can’t remember when I’ve had a better time at a concert,” and noted that Lightfoot received a standing ovation after each of his two sets. But the review in the Michigan Daily, the university’s student paper, was less than complimentary, mocking Lightfoot’s “Dylanesque beard” and “see-through lace shirt,” and interpreting his typical studied performance as lifeless.

Interestingly, the Daily reviewer also noted with some mystification that at the end of the show Lightfoot apologized to the audience for charging $2,000 for his appearance at the Earth Day rally in 1970. (“Good for him,” says Bill Manning upon first hearing of the apology 39 years later.)

Over the next decade Lightfoot would score his greatest successes – the million-selling “Sundown,” which went to number one in 1974, and “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald,” which peaked at number two in 1976 – just as the countrified folk-rock sound he favored began to go out of style.

In the ’80s and ’90s he continued to tour and put out albums, stopping off in Ann Arbor every so often to sing for appreciative if aging audiences. When he played at the Power Center in 1981, the Michigan Daily compared him to shredded wheat – a far cry from a review in the St. Petersburg Times a decade earlier, in which adults were urged not to be frightened away from Lightfoot just because the kids liked him.

Goodbye Rat Race – Hello Canadian Idol

When he concluded his recording obligations in 1998, says Lightfoot, “I gave myself the day off.” Since then he’s released only one album of new material, and has no plans to do another. He says he plays only as many live shows as pleases him, exercises regularly, eats right, and is probably healthier than he’s ever been.

Ironically, though, since bowing out of the rat race he seems to be regaining a measure of his old popularity, especially with the younger set. In 2003 there was a tribute album featuring artists like Cowboy Junkies and the Tragically Hip. In 2004 he was treated (subjected?) to the honor of listening to the bubble-headed twenty-somethings of Canadian Idol do an entire show of his songs.

But Lightfoot hasn’t consciously attempted to curry favor with a younger crowd. He’s never really changed his musical style – unlike fellow Canadian and inveterate genre-hopper Neil Young – and remains much the same wand’ring minstrel he was when he first came to Ann Arbor more than four decades ago. He’s not much interested in the technology that so obsesses today’s youth – “I don’t even have a cell phone” – preferring instead to stick with his trusty 12-string acoustic guitar. He doesn’t use the Internet, and the rumors of his death that briefly swept through cyberspace last year bothered him not at all. Nor does the thought of his songs being shared illegally online.

“I’m actually pleased,” he says with a chuckle. “I’m glad people are still that interested.”

Gordon Lightfoot will be performing at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 21 at the Michigan Theater in Ann Arbor. Go to the theater’s website for ticket information.

About the author: Alan Glenn is currently at work a documentary film about Ann Arbor in the sixties. Visit the film’s Web site for more information. While there you can contribute your memories of that time – and read those that others have contributed – in a public forum set up expressly for that purpose.

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In the Archives: Muzzling Rabies Sat, 13 Aug 2011 15:28:02 +0000 Laura Bien Editor’s Note: The Washtenaw County’s public health department web page, updated on Aug. 12, 2011, shows three cases of rabies found in Washtenaw County bats so far this year. Since 2004, most years show 2-3 cases of rabies in bats. In 2009 there were none; but in 2007, 11 cases of bat rabies were recorded. Since 2004, no cases of rabies in dogs have been recorded in Washtenaw County. This week local history writer Laura Bien takes a look back to the early 1900s, when rabies was more prevalent.

Newspaper article

A 1935 Ypsilanti Daily Press article reflects concerns over rabid dogs.

The severed head of a small white poodle was sent from Ypsilanti to Ann Arbor in the summer of 1935.

It wasn’t a grisly threat or an act of revenge. The head’s recipients were neither surprised nor disgusted. Severed dog heads were their stock in trade.

The poodle had belonged to Herbert Wilson of Ypsilanti’s northside Ann Street. The dog was “so vicious,” according to the Aug. 6, 1935 Ypsilanti Daily Press, “that even after being wounded by the officers’ rifle fire, [Officer] Klavitter had to strike him with the gun to protect himself. The blow bent the rifle barrel and the officer had to use a nearby tree limb to finish killing the dog.”

The dog had bitten 5-year-old William Himes on his right arm and leg, in an era when a dog bite could lead to an agonizing death.

Dogs in Ypsilanti that August were under quarantine, meaning that they had to be contained within the owner’s home or property. Dogs that broke loose or wandered into the street could be shot on sight by police. In earlier years, anyone was welcome to take their rifle or shotgun into the street and play Atticus Finch with mad dogs.

In the summer of 1909 Ypsilanti’s Board of Health proclaimed, “For a period of three months from the date of this notice, all dogs, male or female, muzzled or unmuzzled, running at large on any street, alley, or public grounds, or on private premises, not the premises of the owner or keeper thereof, may be killed by any person …”

The precautions were not enough. Just a few days later, 14-year-old Morton Crane was bitten. “Many dogs have been killed since the Crane boy was bitten,” reported the June 16, 1909 Ypsilanti Daily Press, “and the warm weather of the past few days is making the mothers and fathers anxious while their children are playing on the street. Chief Gage is using every effort to prevent another scare and every dog seen on the streets without a muzzle is being shot regardless of the value of the animal …” Ann Arbor also had its share of incidents.

The fear was rabies.

There was no cure, and little warning, as the disease initially presents in an insidiously innocuous form. Those infected can be symptom-free for months – even up to a year or two. The first signs are flu-like symptoms. Left untreated, these progress to anxiety, confusion, insomnia, brain dysfunction, paranoia, and painful paralysis of the throat and jaw.

The term “hydrophobia” comes from the natural swallowing reflex, made intensely painful by rabies – even the sight of water is enough to trigger an agonizing throat spasm, hence aversion to liquids despite increasing thirst. The rabies virus’s ongoing damage to the central nervous system can lead to seizures, paralysis, coma, and heart or respiratory failure.

Though rabies doesn’t give much warning with its mild initial symptoms, it usually leaves a calling card in its wake: Negri bodies. A post mortum analysis can reveal the abnormal structures in brain nerve cells. They were first discovered by Italian pathologist Adelchi Negri in 1903.

In April of that year, the University of Michigan opened its Pasteur Institute on campus, specifically for the diagnosis and treatment of rabies. Pasteur had famously discovered the vaccine for rabies in 1885. UM’s Pasteur Institute was, and for many decades remained, the only such rabies treatment clinic in the state. It was the sixth such institute to open in the United States. Dog-bite victims from around Michigan came to Ann Arbor for the “Pasteur cure,” consisting of 21 or more injections of rabies vaccine in the abdomen, initially over a period of eighteen days.

The institute charged $25 ($600 today) for the treatment. Room and board was extra. An act of the Michigan legislature mandated that paupers could receive treatment for free, paid for by local municipalities. The institute also examined dog brains under the microscope, looking for Negri bodies so as to confirm a diagnosis of rabies.

By 1920, the institute had treated nearly 1,600 human cases of the disease. But without a rabies vaccine for dogs, the malady persisted.

Dogs were quarantined in Ypsilanti throughout the Depression. In the 1940s, a rabies vaccine for dogs was finally developed. By 1941, the institute claimed to have treated 2,815 cases of rabies, all successfully.

Well, almost all successfully. In 1911 a three-year-old boy arrived at the Institute for treatment, having been bitten three weeks previously. “The dog was shot and the brain sent to the University of Michigan Pasteur Institute and pronounced rabid,” reported a case study in the August 1911 issue of Physician and Surgeon magazine. “A report was immediately sent to the parties concerned, requesting that the child be brought here for treatment. As the child did not appear, after some length of time, Doctor Gumming sent a second urgent telegram. Still the child was not brought here until a week or ten days later.”

It was too late. The child couldn’t take food or water. He was finally admitted on the afternoon of May 29, 1911, and died a day later.

In the fall of 1917, another advanced case, a young schoolboy, was admitted to the Institute at noon. He died shortly after midnight.

The sadly failed cases were exceptions. UM’s Pasteur Institute was a leader in eradicating rabies in the state. In tandem with other anti-rabies efforts, the institute was so successful that it made itself obsolete. In the 1940s, vaccines for dogs were developed; 1948 marks the last incidence of human rabies in Michigan until the 1980s.

By then, thanks to dog vaccination campaigns in the 1950s and 1960s, dog-borne rabies had almost entirely disappeared. After 1960, the primary host of rabies in Michigan became wildlife, particularly bats. That remains true now, though only a tiny percent of bats are actually infected.

Today parents need not worry about the dog days of August, thanks to UM’s pioneering Pasteur Institute and its good work in detecting and treating the onetime scourge of summer.

Mystery Object

No one correctly guessed the identity of the sinister-looking mystery artifact from the last column.

Mystery Artifact

Mystery Artifact

Housed in a case on the second floor of the Ypsilanti Historical Museum, the “jackknife thingy,” as one commenter called it, is a doctor’s bloodletting knife, evocative of an age of considerably cruder medical knowledge.

This time we have an artifact more connected to bodily appearance than bodily health. Here’s a strange-looking vessel. What might it be? Take your best guess and good luck!

Laura Bien is a local history columnist and collector of non-functioning Depression-era gas station cash registers. Her second book, “Hidden Ypsilanti,” is due out this fall. Contact her at

The Chronicle relies in part on regular voluntary subscriptions to support our publication of columnists like Laura Bien. Click this link for details: Subscribe to The Chronicle. And if you’re already supporting us, please encourage your friends, neighbors and colleagues to help support The Chronicle, too!

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