Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Homecoming Royalty through the Years

By Nova Moore


It is a unique privilege to have the job of going through decades of photographs and negatives to find almost 75-years-worth of images of Homecoming representatives at Central Michigan University. And now anyone can look at image of past Homecoming representatives on the Clarke's website. While we may not know each individual personally, or what their thoughts were while receiving this honorable distinction, all of the Homecoming royalty made an undeniable impact here at Central. Each representative stood for something different on campus, and their dedication to their community came in a multitude of different means. Whyever their peers selected them for this honor, these students were nominated to be representatives of their student body for a reason.

Originally, the role was a single Homecoming Queen and her court, then, it became a Queen and King, and finally, the Homecoming royalty became the Maroon and Gold Ambassadors. Each year, these students demonstrated an important quality that the student body felt they needed to see during their time at Central Michigan. Such as with Jean “Scotty” Chisholm, the first Central Michigan University Homecoming Queen crowned in 1946, who was the representative of a struggling student body merely 7 years after the end of the Great Depression. The petition for Scotty to be queen was unassailable, with a previous class presidentship showing that she truly spoke for the student body. About 25 years later, we see when students demanded social justice on campus and Connie Wilson became the first African American Homecoming Queen at Central Michigan University. She was nominated for her, “Black Pride,” 8 years after federal law demanded the end of segregation in America, but still years before the effects of the law were actually felt. And who can forget the tradition of Elvira Scratch, the unofficial Homecoming Queen candidate that was really a male student dressed in costume, who ran year after year from 1958 until 1982 when the first Homecoming King, John Nader, was crowned.


The photos of these Homecoming representatives may not give the full story of our dedicated alumni, but they do provide a jumping-off point for students who attend Central Michigan University now to learn about times past. Hopefully, these pictures will inspire current students to read up on the history of our great ambassadors, and they, themselves, can aspire to be agents of change here on campus. These pictures also serve as a blast to the past for alumni who wish to remember, nostalgically, their times here at Central. The addition of this page accomplishes these goals and more, and we are delighted to open up this online gallery to all those who are a part of the Central Michigan University community.

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Aladdin Homes


Frank Boles

On March 4, 2021, Andrew and Wendy Mutch spoke about Aladdin kit homes. 

Aladdin began selling kit homes in 1906. The idea was simple: a person could find the home of their dreams in a catalog and buy everything they needed to build their home from one source. Everything from the floor to the roof, including the paint to use in between, was packaged together in one giant kit. Aladdin would ship all this building material via railroad. The purchaser would pick it all up at the nearest train station, haul it to the construction site, and assemble the house – a home that could be built in a day, as the company optimistically promised in its advertising.

Andrew and Wendy reviewed the company’s history, how its homes were built, and how a person could go about researching if the house they lived in is an Aladdin kit home. They also noted that there were several kit home manufacturers in the United States during this period, and many of them sold almost identical houses. This was particularly the case in Michigan where Bay City was the home to three separate companies that sold kit homes: Aladdin, Lewis, and Sterling. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, each of these firms very much flattered the other.

An Aladdin home and its floor plan as seen in their catalog

You may think that a home created from a kit more than a century ago, by individuals who had little or no training in construction, would not stand the test of time. But as Andrew and Wendy showed, they have found many Aladdin homes still standing throughout Michigan. Some are a bit battered, but others have been beautifully restored and look as if they were plucked off the pages of a 1920s Aladdin catalog. In other cases, the Mutches captured photographs of an Aladdin home before it was razed to make way for new construction.

The presentation can be viewed on the CMU video sharing website chipcast.

The Clarke Historical Library has a special relationship to Aladdin Homes. The company’s papers, including over 60,000 individual sales records are housed in the library. To find out more about the papers themselves, see the Clarke’s description of the Aladdin Company Records. You can also find many of the company’s catalogs online at the Clarke’s website.

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Hemingway Event

Frank Boles



After a year of online presentations that I have helped organize for the Clarke Historical Library speaker series, the Hemingway evening event, held March 31, that preceded the airing of the three-part Ken Burns/Lynn Novick documentary on the life of Ernest Hemingway on PBS, was organized by WCMU with the help of the Clarke staff. It was fascinating to me to see how true professionals make a live broadcast happen.

Over the past year, I have become an amateur, online event coordinator. This was not a job I sought out. The pandemic made it necessary for the Clarke speaker series to move from on-campus presentations to online events. And, all things considered, I thought we had done a pretty good job. I had much to learn from our friends at WCMU.

Clarke speaker series events were unscripted and unrehearsed. I usually contact a speaker about their willingness to discuss a topic. If they agree to speak, we talk briefly about some basic concerns that I would like them to address, but this is usually a relatively short conversation since the topic is “your new book” or a similarly obvious subject. A few details, like the length of the presentation and perhaps a question or two I think the audience might like to know about and that I hope the speaker will discuss, also happen. But the detailed outlines of the talk’s content, are left up to the speakers.

A day or two before the public event I, with the help of Bryan Whitledge, hold a brief “technical meeting” with the speaker. We schedule an online presentation that is identical in every way to what will happen on the evening of the public talk, but do not “publish” the meeting publicly. It is the kind of meeting that, if you know, you know, and if you don’t, no one tells you. It gives us the opportunity to test the software platform, give the speaker some experience in making the software work, and to be sure whatever visual and audio material the speaker plans to use plays properly.

If everything goes right, this meeting only takes ten or fifteen minutes. If everything does not go right, we have the time to determine what is happening, and develop a fix or a work around that we can use in the “real” presentation. Whatever the problem, it is much less stressful fixing it in this environment than discovering the problem five or ten minutes before a public presentation is beginning. That’s happened too – and it did not make for a fun time as we struggled for a fix with one eye on the clock.

Matt Ozanich and the other staff at WCMU are a far more organized in making sure an event is worth the time of the audience. Preliminary meetings were held to discuss what questions he would ask or should ask since we were welcome to propose ideas and answers were offered.

Michael Federspiel(left), Matthew Ozanich(right),
Frank Boles(bottom)

The week of the broadcast, Mike Federspiel and I sat down with Matt for a dress rehearsal. Using the software as we would for the live program, we tested all the necessary features. There were bugs – it took me about fifteen minutes to get into the practice session. We also ran through the questions, and the answers, to agree who would answer which question, for content. Finally, we “did” the broadcast, against a stopwatch to make sure that in the aggregate we were neither too brief nor to long winded.

On the night of the event Mike and I signed in about a half hour early, along with Lynn Novick, the documentary’s co-director, and Sarah Botstein, the documentary’s producer, who joined us from their homes. The four of us again reviewed the outline of the evening’s presentation and the broad sweep of the answers to Matt’s questions.

When a broadcast begins, the speaker’s perspective is very different from that of the host. Having hosted many an event, my job on those evenings is to essentially get off the stage as quickly as possible and enjoy the show. A speaker, on the other hand, is the show and must keep their thoughts organized, their comments at a reasonable length, and try as hard as they can not to say something really dumb! It is surprisingly hard work.

One of the most interesting parts of the live broadcast was the time when the audience was seeing various videos cued up by the WCMU technical staff. Because of a limitation of the software, those of us actually involved could not see what the audience was seeing, so Matt explained what the audience was seeing, and the four of us (on a channel that was not being broadcast) discussed if there were any “likely” things we needed to say to follow the clips or any questions that the clip might raise.

As the clip ended, Matt would “count us in” to when our microphones would again go live, and often pose a question we had just both framed, and to which we had just developed what we hoped was a reasonable answer.

It was truly a pleasure participating in the program organized by Matt and which featured Mike, Lynn, and Sarah. I hope you enjoy the recording of the event, which can be viewed here. But I equally enjoyed watching how true professionals make happen the live, on-air magic that viewers and listeners often take for granted.


Monday, April 19, 2021

Processing Ernest Hemingway Collections in the Clarke

by Marian Matyn 

Hopefully, while you enjoyed the Ken Burns Ernest Hemingway special you considered how wonderful it is that these primary sources are preserved and accessible to researchers. This is possible because of the work and dedication of archivists, like me. Since 2002, I have processed Ernest Hemingway-related materials almost every year, either documents created by a Hemingway or one of their friends or family members, or material created about or inspired by them in multiple formats. Following archival standards, best practices, and theory, I process and describe collections of permanent historic research value. Processing primary sources is both a physical and intellectual process. 

Ernest Hemingway’s 1923 passport image of 1923
 on a cover of The New York Times Magazine

First, I archivally appraise each collection, deciding what to retain and why. Most collections include peripheral items of limited or no research value, such as miscellaneous receipts, blank letterhead, and reading material, which I remove. 

Next, I archivally process the collection. If there is an original order to the collection we retain it to demonstrate how the creator used and created it. I create an easy, usable order if one does not exist. Context is critical to maintain the integrity of the collection as a credible primary source. For description, context is also crucial. I must also understand the relationships between the creator and the collection and to people documented in the collection; as well how parts of the collection relate to each other or to other collections, including those in other institutions. 

Ernest Hemingway movie posters in assorted sizes and languages

Describing the collection is necessary for it to be accessible to researchers. The finding aid is a descriptive guide to the collection. It includes vital information such as biography of the creator, physical description of the material, an intellectual overview of the information, context, and other points such as copyright, damage, or an allergy note. Copyright adds a layer of complexity that archivists must understand and document.  Ernest Hemingway material often has complicated copyright.

Once created, I encode the finding aid, making it Google-searchable online to provide digital access to the collection. Finally, from the finding aid I create an original catalog record including subject headings. All of this requires detailed work, understanding, multiple software programs, templates, and technical skills. Special formats like film or movie posters require additional knowledge, description, and housing. The finding aids are accessible at https://quod.lib.umich.edu/c/clarke/ or you can Google Clarke Historical Library finding aids. 

A blueprint of Grace Hemingway’s cottage property


The Ernest Hemingway material in the Clarke includes a wide range of formats, some created by him, his family or other individuals. Other materials were inspired by him or his work. Material most directly related to Hemingway himself is usually found in the Ernest Hemingway Collection, which includes 8 boxes, 9 Oversized folders, 4 reels in 4 film canisters and 52 framed items. 

The second major Hemingway collection, Hemingway Family Papers,1861, 2006, arrived mostly in large plastic tubs in 2010 and is now housed in 49 archival boxes. Upon opening the first letter to flatten it, I realized there were additional letters folded inside. The letters were from several other family members, some written decades earlier than others. Careful processing was required to keep them together for context. This was the case for many letters in the collection. Learning about the relationships between the many Hemingway family and friends in the collection was necessary. The detailed finding aid for this collection is more than 60 pages long. 

A literal wall of processed Ernest Hemingway
 family papers


Creating the searchable, online finding aid is a complex, time-consuming task. For example, consider what needed to be done to create the online description for a single folder containing correspondence written in 1949-1949 to Grace Hall Hemingway from Mrs. J. J. Jepson, Grace’s daughter, Ursula. While it is easy to write in prose a single line to describe what is in the folder, digital access requires nine lines of html text, seen below. Only those of us who encode see the encoded archival description (EAD) finding aid. The EAD is always much longer than the original finding aid.

EAD (encoded archived description)



Multiple penmanship styles, creative spelling, the use of abbreviations, period slang, nicknames, and internal family phrases, all of which abound in Ernest Hemingway-related collections and evolved over the years, pose additional challenges to archivists. 

Four Ernest Hemingway-related scrapbooks were digitized by now retired Clarke staff member Pat Thelen, and are available online. I processed the scrapbooks, created catalog records which are also in the digital description, and linked the online digitized material to the catalog records. If you Google Central Michigan University Digital collections and click on Hemingway Family Scrapbooks, you can access the digitized scrapbooks. 


1917 Ernest Hemingway signature in Marion Kraft
 Larson’s high school memory book

I am proud to say that I was the person who found the Clarke’s first Ernest Hemingway signature in a 1917 high school  memory book of his childhood friend, Marion Kraft Larson. The signature resides in the collection of her Marion’s daughter, Virginia Kjolhede.  Click https://quod.lib.umich.edu/c/clarke/ehll--kjolhede?view=text to see the Kjolhede online finding aid. 

If you have any questions, please contact me at marian.matyn@cmich.edu. 








Monday, March 29, 2021

Ernest Hemingway’s Nick Adams Stories



by Frank Boles

This blog is one of several we are posting in connection with the PBS documentary, Hemingway, produced by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick, which will air April 5-7. Be sure to join us on March 31 at 6:30 p.m. for a special introduction to Hemingway when we join with WCMU-Television for an online event featuring Lynn Novick. To register for the March 31 event visit WCMU at wcmu.org/hemingway 

Among Ernest Hemingway’s most memorable characters was Nick Adams, a young man who grew up in northern Michigan. As Joseph M. Flora wrote, “it is safe to say no other character in his fiction is as important as Nick.” He adds, “What was best about Ernest Hemingway emerged … in the character of Nick Adams.”

Nick Adams appears in sixteen stories Hemingway wrote. Readers meet Nick as a small child and see him grow into a young man in stories set in Michigan, learn about his war experiences in Italy, and, after he returns to Michigan, see the effect the war had on him. The stories go on to describe him as a young married man in Europe and even experience Nick as a father talking about his own father.

These stories were originally published in several places over many years and were first compiled as a single volume in 1972, titled The Nick Adams Stories. The 1972 compilation also included eight previously unpublished fragments that give further information about Nick.

Many readers thought of the Nick Adams stories as autobiographical. The similarities between the real Ernest and the fictional Nick are many. The most obvious are that they are both doctor’s’ sons with a mother they find overbearing, they spend their summers in Michigan, a place that they love, and they both live to hunt and fish. Both become writers. But it is a mistake to simply read Nick as Ernest. Hemingway addressed the issue in a Nick Adams story entitled “On Writing,” where Nick, who in this story has already become an author, shares these thoughts about his craft:

The only writing that was any good was what you made up, what you imagined. That made everything come true. … Everything good he’d ever written he’d made up. None of it had ever happened. ... That was what the family couldn’t understand. They thought it wall was experience. … Nick in the stories was never himself. He made him up.”

In his preface to Picturing Hemingway’s Michigan (2010), Michael Federspiel sums up the stories this way:

These stories about a young man’s experiences in northern Michigan resonated with readers on many levels. Those who vacationed “up North” recognized the places and the emotions associated with getting away from home and experiencing the out-of-doors at a relaxed pace. Naturalists dwelled on the descriptions of turn-of-the-century Michigan, and fishermen (and fisherwomen) saw a fellow enthusiast in Nick. Students and teachers pondered the words and style that revolutionized American literature. And many more readers didn’t worry about any literary concerns–they just liked the stories.”

The stories are gripping. Philip Young quotes no less a writer than F. Scott Fitzgerald as saying about, Big Two Hearted River, “It's the account of a boy on a fishing trip. Nothing more – but I read it with the most breathless unwilling interest I have experienced since Conrad first bent my reluctant eyes upon the sea.”

What do these stories say about Michigan? Nick sums up his thoughts about our state in answering his sister’s question of if he is afraid while they walk near Walloon Lake through a surviving Old Growth forest, “No. But I always feel strange. Like the way I ought to feel in a church.” Nick adds, “This is the way forests were in the olden days. This is about the last good country there is left.”

If you have never read the Nick Adams stories, you should. If you have read them, it might be time to revisit the tales. There are few better short reads, few more important pieces of American literature, and no better introduction to Michigan’s “Up North.”