Friday, February 8, 2019

Historic CMU Emergency Shutdowns - Part III

by Bryan Whitledge

Clarke Director Frank Boles
in winter, 2014
Earlier in the week, we posted a piece about historic shutdowns, focusing on the Great Blizzard of '78 and a three-week closure due to a flu epidemic in 1968. In searching for those stories, we missed two major events pointed out to us by Central alumni who remembered their Mother-Nature-induced vacations from classes. So we jumped back in our time machine and revisited the Flood of '86 and the Not-So-Fired-Up Power Outage of '85 in a subsequent blog post. Well, as great as our time machine is (which is really just a collection of digitized newspapers and some super-savvy archivists and librarians who are good searching for information), we've been tipped off by CMU alumni and friends of the Clarke who remember other major weather events that caused trouble for the CMU campus. Thanks to all who have brought these to our attention. With that, we bring you Part III of emergency campus shutdowns. The only thing that seems to make the recent ice storm bearable is reading about the miserable weather suffered by others who have walked the grounds of the CMU campus over the years.

First off is a terrible winter storm that may or may not have caused cancellations at CMU. On Tuesday and Wednesday, January 26 and 27, 1971, a winter storm slammed the Midwest and dozens of schools and businesses closed that day. The Michigan Daily at the University of Michigan reported on it; the Farwell News from of a town just a few miles north of Mt. Pleasant reported on it. And the CM Life reported on it on January 27: "The extremely cold winds and snow closed schools and businesses all over the state, and more bad weather is in store all day today." The blurb was part of a caption featuring an image of a young woman bundled up in a very fluffy, shaggy coat (straight out of 1971 for those who enjoy reminiscing about fashions of the past). It's clear that the weather was awful. But despite that, it seems that Central students trudged through the snow and faced the winds to head to class with no closures or cancellations mentioned in the CM Life.

Spectators at the Polar Plunge supporting Special Olympics, February 2008

The second set of campus closures to mention came more recently, in January and February of 2008. In March that year, the CM Life reported on Academic Senate discussions about adopting a formal "snow day" policy. As the reporter pointed out in the first sentence, that semester was unusual in that there were five days of cancelled classes. Because of the extreme circumstances, the majority of senators did not believe a formal policy was necessary. As one senator was quoted: "I think, while it certainly did impact this semester, time spent on a policy for something that may not happen again for 20 years would be a waste of time." Flash forward 11 years, to 2019 -- and it looks like we are nine years ahead of schedule. In just two weeks, snow, ice, bitter cold, and a polar vortex have forced CMU to cancel or delay classes five times.

As Benjamin Franklin and other great thinkers have said, death and taxes are the only certainties in life. But it seems that horrible weather in Michigan leading to campus shutdowns at CMU every few years could be added to that list.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Historic CMU Emergency Shutdowns: Part II

by Bryan Whitledge


Yesterday, we posted a piece about historic campus shutdowns that we found via the digitized historic campus newspapers (and you can read all of the CM Life and the yearbooks via CMUHistory.cmich.edu!). In our haste to journey back in time to the Great Blizzard of '78 and the flu epidemic of 1968, we skipped two major campus closures. Thanks to members of the CMU Alumni for remembering these extended "vacations," as CM Life referred to them.

First up, Monday, March 4, 1985. That day, a snowstorm passed through Mount Pleasant and brought campus operations to a standstill. Just one week before spring break, students got an extra vacation day. From the reports, it seems like everything would have been up and running the next day and students would finish out the week before heading to Panama City or Daytona... or Lansing. But at 7:00 am Tuesday morning, a lightning bolt struck near Foust Hall and sent a surge of electricity through campus. Most campus buildings lost power and campus was closed for another day. Repair crews worked like mad, but the power was still out for most of campus on Wednesday as well, and campus remained closed. At that point, President Harold Abel met with other campus administrators and decided to cancel classes through the end of the week.

For CMU students in 1985, spring break started a week early. It wasn't until Friday, March 8th that the power was completely restored. With the university closed, followed by spring break, CM Life's first opportunity to report on the less-than-fired-up campus wasn't until the week of March 18.

Just 18 months later, in September 1986, another storm brought campus to its knees. This time, it rained and rained... and rained. From September 9 to 11, it rained nearly 12 inches! Because the campus was inundated and the campus power infrastructure was damaged, University administrators cancelled classes on Thursday, September 11 for two days. University staff members thought they would be able to assess the problems by Friday and have everything back up and running for classes the next week. But that wasn't the case. Campus staff couldn't access the power system until Monday. Then, it took another two days to fully restore power to the campus. In total, students were given five days of "vacation."

We appreciate the memories of Central alumni who fill us in on the stops we missed on our journey back in time. Yesterday, we mentioned that today's students join the ranks of those who survived the Great Blizzard of '78. Today, we can add to that those who survived the Not-So-Fired-Up power outage of '85 and the Flood of '86.

Monday, February 4, 2019

Historic Central Michigan University Shutdowns

by Bryan Whitledge

On Monday, January 28, as a powerful snowstorm pounded Mt. Pleasant, Central Michigan University cancelled that day's operations at 9:00 am. Two days later, because of temperatures and wind chill values well below zero degrees Fahrenheit, CMU shuttered again for two days. These campus closures sparked curiosity around the campus – has Central cancelled classes for multiple days at a time in the past?

In our memories here at the Clarke, we couldn’t definitively remember any such occasions. But with over 100 years of campus newspapers at our disposal, we knew we could find the answer! Immediately, we headed to CMUHistory.cmich.edu for our journey back in time.

We set our eyes first on 2014, remembering the last polar vortex that chilled Mt. Pleasant to the bone. We found that CMU closed twice that winter: January 28 due to the bitter cold, and the evening of February 21 due to snow. Central had closed multiple days in 2014, although not consecutively. We were early in our journey, so it was no surprise that we didn't have a positive answer, yet. The next stop for our time machine was February 2011. That month, Central cancelled classes twice. But again, not consecutively. On February 2, a winter storm closed classes all day. On February 21, all morning classes were delayed due to poor road conditions. The search would have to continue to find out if Mother Nature had previously wreaked havoc in Mt. Pleasant à la January 2019.

As our time machine cruised through the 2000s, the 1990s, and the 1980s, we found a couple single snow days – February 16, 2006 and December 4, 1990 – but no major shutdowns. Like any trip down snow-covered roads, we were diverted off our course. In this case, we took a detour to see some fun artifacts of the past, like an ad from 1990 for an IBM Personal System/2 computer with 1 megabyte of memory and 30 megabytes of hard disk storage for the tidy sum of $1,649! Or you could swing by WhereHouse records to buy 1995’s hottest soundtrack, Men In Black, for $8.99…on cassette!

But we quickly moved through the detour and got back on the path to solving this campus closure curiosity. As we moved beyond 1980, we came to January 25-27, 1978. For those of a certain age who lived in Michigan at the time, they know exactly what we are about to describe. For those who were not yet alive, they, too, know exactly what we are about to describe, thanks to a relative, friend, neighbor, teacher, or some random person in the grocery store on a snowy day – because anyone who survived it can't seem to go a winter without mentioning... “the Great Blizzard of 1978.” And there is a reason people who lived through it remember it well. Considered one of the worst winter storms in US history, Mother Nature and her friend Old Man Winter slammed the Great Lakes region with multiple feet of snow and wind chill values that plunged below -50 degrees F. As a result, schools, universities, businesses, and municipalities throughout Michigan cancelled operations. Governor Milliken declared a state of emergency. Traverse City was declared "unofficially closed."

For two days, Thursday, January 26 and Friday, January 27, CMU told students, faculty, and non-essential staff to stay away from campus. With classes cancelled, students managed to keep busy, thanks in part to the Intramural Department at CMU. The IM staff hosted a disco dance night with over 1,500 attendees in the Rose Arena. They also sponsored a snow sculpture contest for the residence halls; Trout Hall won with a Wizard-of-Oz-themed sculpture. Off-campus, some enterprising businesses – specifically Tom’s Foolery and the Wayside, capitalized on students looking for a way to pass the time with all of their regular curricular engagements removed from the agenda. The Wayside, which opened at 2:00 pm on Thursday, reported over 500 people inside by 2:30 pm.

CM Life spread with photos from the Great Blizzard of '78

We finally answered the question of whether there was a previous instance of a consecutive-day closure in CMU’s history. But the Clarke staff didn’t stop there (our time machines can handle a lot more than those 1990 IBM PS/2’s with 1 MB of RAM). As we kept heading back in time, we came across another winter-related, although not weather-related, closure. This one was much longer than any other on record. Fifty years ago, in December 1968 and January 1969, Central officially closed down for three weeks because of an influenza outbreak.

Back in 1968, the fall semester started on September 14 and ended on January 24 with a 2-week break, from December 21 until January 6. The flu epidemic, which killed over 30,000 people in the US and approximately one million worldwide, caused the CMU winter break to start one week early. By Saturday, December 14, over 1,000 of the 6,000 students who lived in campus residence halls had already reported being ill. In response to the health emergency, and for the safety of everyone at Central, university administrators cancelled all operations from December 14 until January 6. Although students only missed one week of classes, the official closure lasted over three weeks, making this the longest emergency closure in Central’s history.

As far as we can tell from the campus newspapers, CMU has closed down for consecutive days three times in the past fifty years. Despite all the environmental risks that come with living in the middle of Michigan – polar vortexes and blizzards, ice storms and snowstorms, floods and flu – Central staff and faculty have done a great job keeping the university open for business. When CMU has shuttered for multiple days, it has been because of extreme circumstances. And just like people of a certain age reminisce about the extreme circumstances of "the Great Blizzard of 1978,” today’s students will one day be of a certain age and they will probably boast, “Back when I was at CMU, during the polar vortex of 2019…”

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Small-Town Citizen: Minion of the Mob - A Review

By Robert Knapp

A Review by Frank Boles

It is no secret that in its history, Clare, Michigan played host to nationally-known mobsters. In the late 1920s and early 1930s the booming Michigan oil patch proved a way for mob figures from Detroit and other locations to invest, and launder, their illicitly obtained money.


Robert Knapp’s book, Small-Town Citizen Minion of the Mob: Sam Garfield’s Two Lives  (Clare, MI: Cleophile Press, 2018) tells the intriguing story of Sam Garfield, a man whose life and finances were intimately tied to organized crime, and a well-liked and respected citizen of Clare.

Garfield was not a native. He was born in Russia and grew up in Detroit. In one of those curious twists of fate the grade school he attended turned out to not only graduate students skilled in readin’, writin’, and ‘rithmetic but a fair number of individuals who would go on to careers in organized crime. Sam knew them from the old days, and they knew Sam. In the 1920s Sam demonstrated a skill of much interest to his old friends; he was quite good at running “respectable” gambling clubs, “respectable” in that the clientele was well-off citizens engaging in illegal activities, both gambling and invariably the purchase and consumption of Prohibition banned alcohol.

Illegal gambling brought only minimal risks to those who were involved. If arrested gamblers were usually given small fines and almost never received jail time. In fact the biggest problem the operators of gambling establishments faced from the law was property damage. The police, who occasionally raided gambling parlors, often made a show for the press of busting up the furniture and otherwise trashing the premises. The result was a rather expensive bill when the club re-opened, which it often did.

Garfield would be involved in gambling all of his life, sometimes on one side of the law and sometimes on the other. He was, for example, heavily involved in the mob-related but completely legal gambling casinos that sprang up in Las Vegas after World War II, while at the same time having his hand in other, illegal, gambling operations.

Sam developed a second talent even more valuable to his mob associates; money laundering. In 1929 Sam was invited up to a cabin in Harrison by Carl “Jack” Livingston, a very successful oil “land man” (the fellow who convinced land owners to sign over the mineral rights). The meeting was also attended by Isaiah Leebove, a lawyer tutored in money laundering by New York City gangster Arnold Rothstein. Rothstein had been gunned down in a gangland murder in November 1928, and his close associate, Leebove, had found it convenient to leave the Big Apple soon thereafter.

The three men created the Mammoth Petroleum and Producing Company. Garfield learned the oil business from Livingston and how to launder money from Leebove. Sam Garfield turned out to be a pretty good in both areas. Mob money went into his oil investments dirty at the beginning and clean when he was finished. Better yet, mobsters who “trusted” him with their money often were paid a bonus dividend when a well in which Sam invested struck oil. Not only did Garfield make a good living in mid-Michigan, he also decided to make Clare his home.

Knapp’s book details (insofar as one can detail these sorts of things) Garfield’s many, many sometimes legal and sometimes marginal or simply illegal activities. Knapp also details Garfield’s life in Clare, where he was a “regular guy” and a generous person both individually and within the community. The public library benefitted handsomely from his largesse. Many individuals told stories of Sam helping them out in hard times.

Charlie Moskowitz, a long-time oil man from Mt. Pleasant, told the story of how when he was up against a tough financial situation Sam told him to drop by the house. When Charlie arrived in Clare, Sam had paper sack full of $50 bills waiting for him; $62,500 in all.  Moskowitz had no collateral for the money and honestly told Garfield he had no idea when he could pay him back. Garfield growled, “get outta here – I’m busy.”

Stories about Sam and bags full of cash were many in Clare. He often stopped by the local bank to deposit similar bags.

Garfield’s generosity to members of the community who he did not do business with was also legendary. If friends where going to “Vegas” he encouraged them to stay at the MGM Grand, and drop his name. Those who did uniformly report that they were treated “like royalty.” If you wanted to see a sold out show, Sam’s name would be enough to receive complimentary, front-row seats. Often management threw in an added bonus, the hotel stay was also made complimentary.

If Sam heard of someone in need at Christmastime, the need was taken care of. Same frequently ate at the Doherty Hotel. Knowing the local girls who waitressed over the summer were often working for college money, he often left them huge tips -- $100 in the 1950s.

Garfield’s wife, Ruby, was one of the community’s leading citizens. She was gregarious, personally generous with her money and time, frequently taking young people under her wing who would subsequently refer to her as “Aunt Ruby”, and a leading light in community philanthropy. She gave generously to her church. Like Sam, she loved the library. She chaired the local United Fund drives in 1951 and 1952. It was hard to find anyone in Clare, even those who held Sam at arm’s length, who didn’t like Ruby.

Of course, there was the occasional public embarrassment.  In 1963, popular Life magazine published an expose of a particularly egregious case of securities swindling and subsequent jury-tampering. Garfield had been indicted in the affair, and eventually pled guilty to one charge.  Sam’s picture was prominently featured in the magazine. Somehow that issue of Life disappeared from the Clare stores that usually sold the publication, perhaps more to spare Ruby’s feelings than Sam’s. This is but one example of how Clarites often reciprocated Sam and Ruby’s generosity with a few favors of their own. Another was a tendency to speak well in public of the couple’s civic and personal generosity. Residents also tended toward rather poor memories if the FBI came around asking questions about Sam’s whereabouts and associates.

Knapp’s book is a wonderful read into one of those often quietly forgotten corners of life in rural Michigan. In the happy world of many local history books there isn’t much ink spilled on town figures with shady reputations. When it does occur, the mention is usually brief and often accomplished by reference to an amusing, if admittedly technically illegal, situation.

Sam Garfield was a man of incredible contradictions. He was a generous local benefactor. He was an astute businessman engaged in many very successful legal activities and investments. He was a front man for the mob who frequently made money through activities on the wrong side of the law. Locally he was a personal friend and generous benefactor to many of Clare’s residents. Nationally he was a trusted business partner and friend of some of the mob’s leading figures.

Buy the book.  It’s a fun and informative read.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Wooden Educational Toys

By Marian Matyn
The collection of wooden educational toys.

In late August 2018 Intern Tyjuan Swain (the archive's first CMU football player and intern) and I (Archivist Marian Matyn) were very excited when we discovered original drawings and class notes by Eva M Langworthy Dutcher of her 1921 CMU Manual Arts class. This finally allowed us to link the wooden "educational toys" in the collection to her life and papers. 

Student teachers at CMU in 1951 were physically learning in Manual Arts class how to make various toys from paper designs, wood and cardboard, how to sew, how to create braided objects, and other very crafty, very creative projects. These skills allowed them to use basic materials effectively and inexpensively to create learning experiences for their students, and create educational toys to illustrate movement, color, coordination, geometry, physics, how to make furniture, and to encourage various types of play.

Eva graduated in 1921, got married and took a 20 year break from teaching while she raised her family. She finally returned to complete her CMU teaching degree in 1951. She taught in Remus, MI. Her papers were processed by Tyjuan during his Cultural Resources Management internship and cataloged by Marian. The toys were transferred to the CMU Museum where the curatorial students there will house and care for them according to museum standards.


Dutcher's drawing of fish and cat's cradle circle.



Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Central Normal Bulletin Now Online

by Clarrissa Klein

At Central Michigan University, the document known as the “Bulletin” brings to mind a course catalog with descriptions of academic programs on offer. But from 1905 to 1919, there was another “Bulletin” – the Central Normal Bulletin. The Central Normal Bulletin was the earliest school newspaper and it contains a lot of CMU history. Once a month, the Bulletin was published and it updated the campus and alumni about news from campus, news from alumni, and short essays by Central faculty about a wide variety of subjects. Now, we have added this great asset to our CMU History document repository, part of the CMU Digital Collections.


The project to put the Central Normal Bulletin online required a great deal of scanning and even involved taking photographs of pages that were too hard to scan because the 100+ year old bindings were too delicate. With the work of other students in the Clarke and our colleagues in New Zealand, who host our document repository, we were able to produce high-quality images of the Central Normal Bulletins and upload the files to the CMU history website. Now, over 5,000 pages of CMU history that were only available to those who visited the Clarke Historical Library in person, are accessible to anyone with an internet connection.

The Bulletins are a good source of information about past students and staff members, and many Bulletins have fun stories about CMU. One story that I personally love and find to be outrageous comes from November 1912. In October that year, Central lost a football game by a score of 0-106 to Alma! The story puts the loss in the best light possible, pointing out that Alma had practiced three weeks more than Central and the Alma team “outweighed us fifteen pounds to a man.” Also, Alma had an fantastic season, already beating Olivet 58-0 and Kalamazoo 54-0 before the Central game. Because of this loss and other reasons, for the next three years there was no football team-- only soccer.

Another fascinating story comes from July 1907. During the commencement program for the 1907 class, seventeen girls in white dresses performed a beautiful dance to add to the ceremony. They captured the audience by using colored lights and “charming steps of dance.” According to the Bulletin, it was a highlight for the ceremony. Professor Maybee’s choir might have been a highlight as well, but the article simply reads, “[his] success in getting music out of his choir is too well known to Central Normalites to need comment.” These mentions are found in the four-and-a-half-page article recounting the commencement events in detail. The news about commencement today is nothing like this.

These stories are just the start of the vast amounts of information found in the pages of the Central Normal Bulletin. We invite you to step back over 100 years in Central’s history and find your favorite – it can all be accessed via this link.