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 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 to see the Kjolhede online finding aid. 

If you have any questions, please contact me at 

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 

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.”


Monday, March 22, 2021

The Michigan Hemingway Collection Today

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 .

This summary of the collection is an edited version of the text that was printed in the catalog for the exhibit, The Hemingway Collection in the Clarke, which was held in 2019.

Today, the Michigan Hemingway Collection consists of a wide variety of material.

It is concentrated most heavily on Hemingway’s personal and literary connections to Michigan, but also has a wide selection of first, international, and rare editions of his works, dozens of biographies and books about the locations in which he lived and about which he wrote, along with various movie and other forms of ephemera. The most significant items are those directly associated with Ernest and his immediate family. These Hemingway items, coupled with the Clarke’s holdings of northern Michigan materials associated with the years the Hemingways called it their summer home, make the Clarke Historical Library a one-of-a-kind Hemingway collection.

As to be expected, the collection is rich in books and articles written by Hemingway himself. He wrote 10 novels, 20 story collections, 9 works of nonfiction, and dozens of stories published in magazines such as Life, Esquire, Look, Ken, and Cosmopolitan. The collection has first-edition examples of almost all of these and they range from small privately printed Paris magazines with his earliest Michigan stories to posthumously published novels edited by others.

The jewel of the first editions is undoubtedly Three Stories and Ten Poems. Printed in a limited edition of 300 copies in Paris in 1923, it begins with the story “Up in Michigan.” Three Stories and Ten Poems was a prelude to a career writing important novels.

Hemingway’s most famous short story, “The Big Two Hearted River,” is particularly well-represented in the collection. In addition to a copy of This Quarter, the Paris-based magazine in which it was originally published in 1926, the library has extremely rare copies of fine art print editions. Published in very limited quantities, one version even includes an original watercolor fishing painting. Complementing the published versions of “The Big Two Hearted River” found in the collection is an original postcard Ernest sent his father from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula when he was on the fishing trip that inspired the story.

Perhaps no other American writer has had so much written about him as Ernest Hemingway. The Clarke Historical Library has over 250 books and magazines articles chronicling his life, which range from full-length biographies to short feature articles in mainstream and pulp magazines. Especially interesting are the articles in 1950s emerging men’s magazines where his larger than life macho portrayals sold magazines to people hungry to hear of his alleged exploits. He also inspired books written about the locales where he lived and those about which he wrote. On the Clarke’s shelves can be found volumes associated with his life experiences in Oak Park, Michigan, Paris, Spain, Africa, Cuba, and Idaho.

A particularly interesting subset of the Hemingway Collection is the movie-related ephemera. His stories and books resulted in 17 film adaptations beginning with 1932’s A Farewell to Arms starring Gary Cooper and Helen Hayes. Over the decades, leading stars such as Ingrid Bergman, Spencer Tracy, Ava Gardner, and Humphrey Bogart all portrayed Hemingway created characters. To promote these films, the studios launched elaborate publicity campaigns that featured striking posters of various sizes and lobby cards to entice the public into theaters. Campaign manuals filled with clip art, text for advertisements, and marketing suggestions were sent to distributors and theaters urging them to focus as much on the fact that the film was associated with Hemingway as the A-list movie stars the film featured. Supplementing these manuals were publicity photos showing the stars in engaging scenes. The Clarke’s collection of these items is colorful and comprehensive.

The printed material and movie-related items constitute a strong Hemingway collection, but the personal papers associated with Ernest Hemingway himself and his immediate family found in the Clarke Historical Library are what make this collection a world-class one for those looking to better understand Hemingway’s formative experiences here in Michigan.

It is estimated that in his life (a time before tweets, instant messages, and emails) Hemingway composed over six thousand typed and handwritten letters. The Clarke Historical Library is home to six of them. All but one in the library relate to his Michigan experiences. The six-page, typed 1919 letter to his World War I supervisor, Jim Gamble, gushes with descriptions of Michigan summers. Another letter informs his family of securing a Petoskey boarding house room where he hoped to write, while an earlier letter updated his parents on the harvest at their northern Michigan farm. While these were not written to the famous people the established author would come to know, they never the less give intriguing insights into how his Michigan experiences influenced him.

The library is also the home of two examples of his unpublished, juvenile fiction, as well as an early example of his editing as a young author. One of the juvenile pieces is “The Sportsman’s Hash,” a fishing story written and illustrated when he was 10 years old, while the other is a longhand multi-page story set in Michigan lumber camps written when he was in high school. Both of these are examples of the hold Michigan had on the young man’s imagination.

More important than these juvenile pieces are four, heavily edited pages for a short story Hemingway was working on in Petoskey during the fall of 1919. Alternately known among scholars as “The Woppian Way” or “The Passing of Pickles McCarthy” these pages show some of the first attempts by the young Ernest Hemingway to write “serious” fiction for publication.

In addition to these Ernest Hemingway items, the library also has an extensive group of personal papers and photo scrapbooks from his sister, Marcelline Hemingway Sanford. The albums, created by Grace Hall Hemingway (Ernest and Marcelline’s mother), include many things, but particularly photos showing the family fishing, entertaining guests, swimming in the lake, and boating. These albums document the Hemingways first Michigan trip in 1898 through Marcelline and Ernest’s high school graduation in 1917. They are particularly interesting in that the images are annotated by Grace Hall Hemingway. This adds greater depth to the stories and personalities of those shown.

The Hemingway Family papers includes far more than those photo albums. In addition to them are early family correspondence and numerous items associated with the publication by Marcelline Hemingway Sanford of her memoir, At the Hemingways, in which she told her version her relationship with her brother. These papers, along with her photo scrapbooks, give fascinating insights into the Hemingway family and its most famous member, Ernest.

In addition to Hemingway Family papers, the Clarke Historical Library is fortunate to have other material that is directly associated with the Hemingway family. It houses photos and photo scrapbooks from his younger sister, Ursula, and a number of books given by and to Ernest’s siblings and parents. All these provide interesting insights into family dynamics and Ernest’s relationship with his immediate family.

While not a member of the immediate family, “Uncle George” Hemingway was a summer and eventually year-round resident at Lake Charlevoix. His family’s guest books and his diaries tell of family guests and visits and, along with Hemingway Family papers, allow us to learn about the family that raised and influenced Ernest.

With the hundreds, if not thousands, of items related to Ernest Hemingway in the Clarke’s Hemingway Collection, scholarly researchers or those simply curious about his life, particularly his Michigan-related experiences and writing, have no better place to visit that the Clarke Historical Library.


Monday, March 15, 2021

The Beginnings of the Michigan Hemingway Collection

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 .

The Michigan Hemingway Collection began in 2001 with a conversation between the then-president of the Michigan Hemingway Society, Michael Federspiel, and myself.

The Michigan Hemingway Society (MHS) had been organized years earlier. The members of the society, all of whom admired Hemingway’s writing, also believed that Hemingway was deeply influenced by the summers he spent on Walloon Lake as a boy and young man. But the “standard” biographies of the man gave short shrift to this aspect of his life. The biographies acknowledged that Hemingway spent his childhood summers in Michigan, but suggested that the “mature” Hemingway shook the pine needles from Michigan off his clothes when he boarded the boat for Paris, and sailed to fame. To challenge this narrative, Mike Federspiel made a modest proposal: build on the Hemingway material he had collected, and would donate to the library, to create a nationally recognized body of material in the Clarke about Ernest Hemingway’s life in Michigan.

That proposal was a stretch, a very long stretch. Hemingway was a world-famous author. As with any famous person, once he achieved fame others begin to save every scrap of paper he touched. A letter written by the best-selling author Ernest Hemingway had a good chance of being saved by the recipient, and sooner or later, had a good chance of being made available to collectors. And once he began to write seriously, Hemingway himself became a bit of a pack rat, keeping most every piece of paper on which he had written or more likely typed. But what of things from “Dr. Hemingway’s kid,” Ernie? Young Ernie likely saved little or nothing. Although his parents or family members might have preserved mementos of his growing up, it was unlikely anyone else would take an interest in him. He was, quite literally, just one of the kids hanging around the dock and splashing in the lake.

And, making the happy assumption there were things to collect, purchasing them would likely be expensive. Papers touched by acclaimed literary figures sell for high prices. Winning the Nobel Prize in Literature was about as much acclaim as an author can receive.

After some serious thought, and some serious conversations with the then-Dean of Libraries, Tom Moore, I made the commitment on behalf of the Clarke to accept Mike Federspiel’s gift, and everything it implied. This was going to be a challenge.

With Mike Federspiel to make key introductions, the work went well. There was both material worth collecting that remained in northern Michigan, and a willingness to discuss how that material might come from private hands to the Clarke Historical Library. There were people who expressed interest in helping the project along. To show what we had already collected, and to demonstrate commitment to actually building the collection further, in 2003 we planned an exhibit around our then-existing Hemingway material.

As plans for the exhibit advanced, something unexpected happened – an auction house offered for sale a superb Hemingway letter documenting his love of northern Michigan.

The letter was written by Hemingway in 1919 to Jim Gamble, a friend he had made during his time in Italy during World War I. Gamble had written and invited Hemingway to spend the summer in Italy. Hemingway responded, by saying he would love to see his friend, but he had a better idea about where they could meet. Gamble should spend the summer with him at Little Traverse Bay. Hemingway spent pages describing in luscious detail the place and its attractions. And he shared that he knew all the best places to fish and just what to do to catch the really big ones. Although Gamble never came to visit, the letter was a beautiful description everything Hemingway loved and valued about northern Michigan. But like any content-rich letter written by an important author up for auction was going to cost a lot of money.

We quickly decided that if we were going to spend significant money on something as esoteric as a single beautiful letter written by Ernest Hemingway, we were going to have to raise the money for the purchase from private individuals. Many special libraries acquiring material face this criticism, and the irrefutable answer to the criticism is simple – we obtained it because it was important to what the library was created to document and there were people who cared enough about the item to give us the money to make the purchase possible.

We raised money. But when the auction was held, we came up short. The Clarke Historical Library was the second to last bidder, but there are no consolation prizes at auctions. Auction houses do not reveal the name of the purchaser, but with a heavy heart I wrote a letter to the anonymous successful bidder asking he or she to loan us the letter for the exhibit. I sent it to the auction house asking them to pass it on to the letter’s owner. This they did, and the response was something I could not have imagined. A dealer had bought the letter and while he had no interest in a loan, he would happily sell us the letter, with an appropriate mark up for his trouble. We had a second chance. I asked the dealer to hold the letter for us while we found the needed money, something to which he was agreeable.

The problem was I had already found pretty much every dollar that was to be found. I really didn’t know where I was going to find that extra money. But my request to the amiable, and hopeful, dealer made available an extra week to find the money. Without telling me, Dean Tom Moore, who took a personal interest in the project, made a phone call to a person he knew, a friend of the library but not one with an interest in Hemingway. Dean Moore explained the opportunity, the work that had gone into trying to acquire the letter, and the amount of money we still needed. A few days later, I learned that “some extra money” had been found and we could buy the item.

The exhibit had been designed to put the collection “on the map.” Taking advantage of this sudden opportunity to add an intellectually rich, but financially expensive new item to the collection made it clear that the Clarke Historical Library was seriously committed to growing its Hemingway collection. It also demonstrated something more fundamental. That there was a community of interested individuals who would help make that growth happen.

Over the next eighteen years, the Michigan Hemingway Collection was enriched in many ways. Extraordinary material was added, some given, some purchased, and some obtained by a combination of the two. But all that came afterward, and the future hung in the balance for a few days in 2003. What would follow was made possible because of a visionary donor with a dream, the support of a small number of people willing to put their wallets where their mouths were, and a dean, who picked up the phone at a critical moment, and sold both the idea of building the collection and acquiring as a public legacy that one, beautiful Hemingway letter.


Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Toilet Paper Makes a Mess


by Frank Boles

Back in 2019, I wrote a blog about the famous CMU Toilet Paper toss at basketball games. The event, which I wrote began in 1986, received national attention. It turns out, the story is messier than my sanitized version, as Grant Skomski, the now retired assistant director of Residence Life, reminded me.

The first toilet paper toss took place sometime during the early days of the 1982-83 CMU basketball season. But the fad was short-lived. As Central Michigan Life reported on February 14, “What started out as a way to show school spirit turned into a quick trip to the Department of Public Safety for two students during Central's basketball game [on February 12] against Kent State University.” When the police arrived, the ten or fifteen Thorpe Hall residents tossing toilet paper ran but two failed to make their getaway, were arrested, and led away in handcuffs. The police suggested that a charge of disorderly conduct sounded about right to them, although the possibility of adding inciting a riot was not out of the question. In the end no criminal charges were filed.

The student newspaper joined the police in taking a dim view of the 1983 toilet paper toss. It editorialized on February 16:

“TP tossing must stop. While one select group of Chippewa fans see the Athletic Department's attempt to squelch a fad before it becomes tradition as flushing team spirit down the proverbial toilet—we think there may be better ways to channel their energies. It seems a group of Thorpe Hall residents have taken it upon themselves to make tossing rolls of toilet paper after the men's basketball team scores its first field goal the next best thing to the “oooh-waaah” cheer. Although we question the method the Athletic Department used in stopping this action—ejecting the 10 to 15 fans from the game—we do agree it had to be stopped.”

It is uncertain whether it was the threats of criminal prosecution or the disapproval of their peers that changed the behavior of the Thorpe Hall’s men, but what is certain is that nobody tossed any more toilet paper that year at basketball game or at games for several years thereafter.

In 1986, the times had changed. The toilet paper toss was back, and instead of arresting those throwing paper, the toss was garnering the school lots of good publicity. Dave Keilitz, who had become Athletic Director in 1984, was quoted in Central Michigan Life on February 13, 1987:

“It’s something which is unique. Right now, it’s a novel type of thing." Keilitz said. "We have great, great fans. We don’t want to dampen their enthusiasm at all. If everybody were to let fly with the one initial barrage after the first bucket, it’s no problem," Keilitz added. "What has happened in the last two games is it keeps coming."

The reporter and the CMU basketball coach agreed, “the toilet paper toss,” wrote the reporter, “has become something for Chippewa fans to be proud of. As CMU head [basketball] coach Charlie Coles has said, it’s something we do better than anyone else in the country.” The iconic photo of the event, which was published in People magazine, was taken by CMU photographer Peggy Brisbane during the Western Michigan game on February 18, 1987.

The event did lead to some peculiar problems. So many rolls disappeared from the residence halls, that the front desks suddenly had sign-up sheets tracking every request for a roll of toilet paper, and residence hall staff noted how often certain rooms seemed to need new rolls just before or after a basketball game. If penny-pinching administrators could track the use of toilet paper in a residence hall, students quickly realized there were still plenty of toilet paper in public restrooms. Game day, the restrooms in the Rose Arena suddenly had no toilet paper, with the same shortage happening in the bathrooms of the academic buildings. Students were quite enterprising when it came to finding free rolls of toilet paper, but if their hard work failed, local grocery stores usually had toilet paper on sale right before each game day.

Other MAC schools did not share CMU’s enthusiasm for the activity. On December 14, 1987, Central Michigan Life reported that the MAC adopted new rule, specifically aimed at CMU. “All MAC institutions shall take steps to prohibit the throwing of any articles onto the floor during basketball games...” The MAC cited safety concerns, and CMU did concede several pairs of glasses had been broken by flying “debris.” It is probably worth noting that the new rule was adopted unanimously by the MAC, meaning CMU’s representatives also voted for it.

The December 14, 1987 student newspaper went on to report that “Beginning Thursday, CMU officials are planning to halt the toilet paper-throwing ritual at Chippewa basketball games.” Since everyone knew simply asking students to stop would prove insufficient, “All rolls of tissue will be confiscated at the door. Any person who smuggles the toilet paper into Rose and tosses it will be escorted from the arena.”

If it was 1982 all over again inside Rose Arena, this time the afterglow is still fondly remembered by many to this day. As Dave Keilitz summed it up, “It was good while it lasted.”

My thanks to Grant, for nudging me to do more research.


Hemingway’s "The Woppian Way or The Passing of Pickles McCarthy"

blog by Michael Federspiel

intro 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

The Clarke Historical Library recently acquired a significant fragment of a story Hemingway worked on while he lived in Petoskey. Known alternately to scholars as
The Woppian Way or The Passing of Pickles McCarthy, the typed and heavily edited manuscript shows the young Hemingway, back from Europe and World War I, at the beginning of his career as a writer. Michael Federspiel, a member of the Clarke Historical Library’s Board of Governors and an expert on Ernest Hemingway’s life in Michigan, shared with me the story behind this item.

The latest addition to the Clarke Historical Library’s Hemingway Collection is a manuscript of a story he worked on in Petoskey in 1919. The four-page draft has many corrections to the typed text which are in Hemingway’s own hand. It was created at a significant time in the author’s life and has ties to another important document in the Clarke’s collection – a letter Ernest wrote to his father in October 1919.

In the fall of 1919, Ernest Hemingway was at a crossroads. He had graduated from high school in 1917, went on to spend a year as a Kansas City Star newspaper reporter, and then he joined the American Red Cross and traveled to Italy where he was severely wounded in July 1918. After recovering in a Milan hospital, he returned to America in January 1919 to further recover from his wounds while clinging to hope about a long-term relationship with a nurse who had cared for him. Then in March, he received a letter ending that relationship which sent him into emotional free fall. Suffering from post-traumatic stress, he spent the summer of 1919 healing physically and emotionally. That fall when his family returned to their Oak Park, Illinois, home he decided rather than go off to college or back to newspaper work he would devote himself to writing fiction. Using money received by cashing in an insurance policy, he remained in northern Michigan. As fall transitioned to early winter, he packed his typewriter and left Windemere, his family’s Walloon Lake cottage, and friends at Horton Bay and looked for a room in Petoskey. He found that room in a large white frame house on State Street owned by a widow, Eva Potter, who lived there with her son. Her daughter, a schoolteacher, worked out of town but returned on weekends. Potter must have welcomed the extra $8 a week Ernest would pay her to stay in the upstairs corner bedroom for two months.

We know something about his actions and thoughts at that time thanks in part to a letter already in the Clarke’s Hemingway Collection. It was written by Ernest to his father, Dr. Clarence Hemingway and dated October 28, 1919. He writes from Horton Bay that he has “a room located at 602 State Street where I wish you could forward my mail and anything else. It is small but heated and gives me a place to work…. Brought the typer [typewriter] and am departing with it and all my worldly goods to Petoskey on Thursday (November 1).”

Staying in Petoskey would be a new experience for Hemingway as his summers were typically spent almost exclusively at Walloon Lake and nearby Horton Bay with only occasional day trips to towns such as Petoskey, Charlevoix, and Boyne City. Additionally, Hemingway was a “summer person” and in Petoskey he would encounter year-round residents and businesses. During his two-month stay, he would meet new people, do public presentations about his World War I experiences, and work hard to write publishable fiction.

Some in Petoskey were wary of this unemployed unshaven stranger from Chicago who could often be seen walking around looking “rough” wearing old shoes a Mackinac shirt, and pants, but at the Potters he was warmly received. Mrs. Potter’s daughter, Hazel, remembered the boarder being “big and dark” and “typing away all the time.” Her mother, Eva, provided a pleasant home base for him. As Ernest told his mother in a December 4, 1919, letter, “My landlady here is awfully nice to me. Some days when I come in early in the morning I find a lunch laid out on my table with a Thermos bottle full of hot cocoa. Cake and salad and cold meat. And she sends up pop corn to me. Hot and buttered. She treats me great and in return I try to do things for her downtown and go around and pay her water, electric and telephone bills etc. She does any mending for me that I need too.” His Petoskey days settled into a routine of walks around town, meeting with new friends and, significantly, hunched over his “typer.”

Writing was nothing new to Ernest Hemingway. As a high school student, he had written both for the school newspaper and for its literary magazine and in Kansas City, he had experience as a professional journalist. But the writing which he now was practicing was different – his made-up stories had to appeal to the general public (and even more so, the editors to whom he submitted them). Hemingway had read popular magazines and had a sense of what they contained and tried to emulate the writers’ style and topics. It was tough going and frustrating as rejection notices were delivered to him.

Thirty-five-year-old Edwin Balmer, a future editor at Redbook magazine and publisher author, who lived in Chicago but summered at Walloon Lake agreed to help the aspiring writer. He agreed to critique what Ernest had written and on the back of one story manuscript, he wrote the name of several magazine editors who he thought might be interested in young Hemingway’s work. Abandoning his Kansas City journalistic style, Ernest focused on fiction publishable in popular magazines such as the Saturday Evening Post or Everybody’s Magazine and he valued Balmer’s opinion and his contacts.

One particular story, The Woppian Way, was getting a lot of Hemingway’s attention. Set in Italy during the War, it featured an Irish protagonist who gave up a promising boxing career to join the Italian army’s Arditi battalion. Hemingway likely started this story in Oak Park and brought it north with him as he struggled to get it just right. In that October 28, 1919 letter, he tells his father, “This afternoon I worked out the new front part of the ‘Woppian Way’ that Balmer wanted me to do and will have it in shape to start on its travels as soon as I am settled in Petoskey.” Hemingway even supported Balmer’s suggestion to rename the work, The Passing of Pickles McCarthy and it has since been known by both titles.

“Back in the days when we were eating of the fruit of the tree of watchful waiting, when people still cared where the Giants finished, before the draft had even begun to form the cave of the winds…there was a ringsman by the name of Pickles McCarthy. (Opening paragraph of The Woppian Way)

According to Hemingway biographer Carlos Baker, The Woppian Way / The Passing of Pickles McCarthy was an attempt by Ernest to follow the advice Trumbull Scott had given him in 1917 – write about things you have personally experienced. Hemingway tried to follow this advice as he bridged his high school writing to more sophisticated (and sellable) adult fiction. While the story’s plot is invented, the Italian people, places, and events were ones he knew firsthand. But, as Baker says, “He had not yet learned to discipline his prose, economize his dialogue, curb his powers of invention, or understand that scenes of carnage were not in themselves the ideal climax for the stories he had to tell.” Though completed, the story would remain unpublished.

Despite his serious effort and hard work, none of the stories Hemingway wrote that fall were accepted for publication during his lifetime. By January 1920, he was in Toronto where he was a paid companion for the handicapped son of a family he met in Petoskey and it was then that he began his affiliation with the Toronto Star newspaper. In September 1921, Hemingway maried his first wife, Hadley Richardson, at Horton Bay, and after short stay in Chicago the couple would move to Paris where famously Ernest would become part of the Lost Generation. Initially supported in Paris by his wife’s trust fund and money he made as a foreign correspondent for the Toronto Star, he abandoned trying to write for popular magazines and instead created revolutionary new fiction. This time he wrote about what he personally knew and had experienced and the settings for his new taut fiction were most often in northern Michigan. Nick Adams, his reoccurring protagonist, shared many of Hemingway’s own life experiences.

Now, 102 years after it was originally written, this draft of The Woppian Way has found its way to CMU’s Clarke Historical Library. How had it survived and how did it come to be at CMU? Most of those details are known and the story is an interesting one.

Hemingway was a borderline hoarder when it came to his writing. He kept virtually everything from complete early drafts of stories and novels to scraps of paper with story ideas or simple descriptive sentences. He mined these resources and often something created earlier was retooled and ended up in a published work later. After Hemingway’s death, his widow, Mary, initially had all his personal papers – letters, manuscripts, photos, etc. – boxed up and stored in a warehouse. When access requests from scholars became overwhelming, she donated the archives to the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library in Boston where it remains preserved and available to the public. The collection there includes the evolution of many of his works – handwritten first drafts, typed with handwritten corrections drafts, and final drafts.

Two versions of The Woppian Way are included in the JFK Library’s Hemingway inventory. One is a 17-page typed, titled copy with no corrections. On the first page of it is written, “602 State Street, Petoskey, Michigan.” It is likely that this is what Hemingway considered the final version and was the one that was sent to potential publishers. The JFK’s other version is what the library considers “typescript fragments” and is nine pages of different sheets with pencil corrections and it is possible these are drafts worked on in Petoskey. If Hemingway kept these drafts, why isn’t the Clarke draft there too?

That Hemingway lived in many different places is well-known and scholars, and even those with casual interest, can identify Paris, Key West, and Cuba among his famous locales. With these and his many other moves, his possessions came along with him. When he married, the bulk of what he had remained at his parents’ house at Oak Park – likely including any correspondence or writing that he had. By 1931, Hemingway had moved back to America with Pauline, his second wife, and purchased a large house on Whitehead Street in Key West where he would live until 1940 when he moved to Cuba. In 1928, Hemingway’s father committed suicide and his mother struggled to support herself and maintain the large family home in Oak Park. In 1936, she sold that house and moved to a much smaller residence. It would make sense that at that time Ernest received his old things from Oak Park – including his earlier writings. In that they likely no longer seemed useful or relevant, they may have been put into storage. According to an article published at the JFK Library website written by Megan Floyd Desnoyers, in 1935, Hemingway left papers with Joe Russell, his friend and owner of Sloppy Joe’s Bar, in the storeroom behind the bar in Key West – a date that would fit that timeline of the Oak Park home sale. The Sloppy Joe’s website lists a slightly different version with the papers coming to Joe Russell in 1939, when Hemingway was preparing to move to Cuba. What is agreed upon is that after Ernest’s death, his widow, Mary Hemingway, consolidated his papers including those remaining in Key West. They were found in extremely poor conditions with rat skeletons among and in the boxes.

It is at this point Waring Jones, a skilled and determined Hemingway collector enters the picture. Jones, a Minnesotan, was a theatrical producer, newspaper editor, and book and art collector. According to his son, Finn-Olaf Jones, Waring went to Key West shortly after Ernest’s 1961 death to see what Hemingway material might be available. He discovered that boxes of materials had been left in a closet at Sloppy Joe’s and that Hemingway estate executors had sorted through them and had claimed what they wanted. They had then given permission to dispose of the rest and Jones took advantage of that decision and bought the remaining items sight unseen. It was likely at this time that those copies of The Woppian Way now at the JFK and the one at the Clarke parted company. It’s not known why the executors chose some things and not others, but some drafts went with them and some were left behind. After enjoying the Sloppy Joe’s material for many years, in 2001, Jones donated the bulk of it (along with additional material) to the Ernest Hemingway Foundation of Oak Park where it became part of the Foundation’s larger collection. It is now stored and accessible at the Oak Park Public Library.

While much of Waring Jones’ Hemingway collection was donated to Oak Park, some items were held out and put up for sale by his family using New York bookseller, Jeffrey Marks. It was by way of a listing he posted that the Clarke became aware of The Woppian Way manuscript’s availability. Recognizing its significance and potential value as a part of its Hemingway Collection, the Clarke combined money from its Michigan Hemingway Endowment, a private donor, and Friends of Library to secure the purchase. This item, created by a new struggling writer in Petoskey, Michigan, is now on site and available to see and use.






Friday, March 5, 2021

Aquatic Invasive Species in the Great Lakes

by Frank Boles


On February 18, 2021, CMU Professor of Biology Anna Monfils and Chase Stevens, Invasive Species Coordinator for the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe, spoke about invasive water species. Specifically, they addressed the European frogbit (Hydrocharis morsus-ranae or EFB).

Professor Monfils, who spoke fist, talked about her research into the plant. It was introduced into Canada in the 1930s and quickly escaped from where it was being studied into the natural habitat. It has spread throughout the Great Lakes region, and is now widely found in Lakes Ontario, Erie, and Huron, as well as many inland waterways. Because much of the basic research to understand, evaluate the impact of, and ultimately control EFB has yet to be done, Professor Monfils is doing a great deal of original research. She shared her work, that is establishing the scientific foundation needed to understand the species, the impact it has, and the most effective means of control.

Professor Monfils also stressed the importance of public participation in the effort to understand EFB. Citizen scientists help track the spread of the plant. Individuals reporting EFB in various locations, often documenting the plant through photographic images that are uploaded through a smartphone app, have been essential in understanding where the plant exists and how rapidly it spreads.

Chase Stevens spoke about the Tribe’s projects to help control EFB and other invasive species that impact Tribal lands and culture. He spoke of several threats. EFB, for example, tends to grow in habitat also favored by wild rice. But this is not the only threat to traditional species employed by members of the Tribe. Green ash borers, for example, have so devastated the state’s native ash tree population that Tribal basket makers are finding it difficult to locate enough ash trees to create the raw material needed to weave baskets.

As part of the evening’s presentation, a fall exhibit created by the CMU University Library, “Big Water Creates Big Impact,” was announced. The goal of the exhibit to tell the story of how mid-Michigan has been impacted by water and water events in the words and images of those who have experienced them. The University Library encourages submissions to the exhibit by the public from March through May. To learn more about the exhibit visit

The aquatic invasive species program was jointly sponsored by the Clarke Historical Library, CMU’s University Library, and the Saginaw Chippewa Tribal Libraries, and was funded in part by a grant given to the University Library by the American Library Association. “Big Water Creates Big Impact” is also in part funded by a grant from the American Library Association.

To view a recording of the program please click on this link to the Panopto version or the Youtube version. To learn more about EFB visit this blog on the University Library website. 


Friday, February 19, 2021

Yooper Talk

 by Frank Boles

On February 11, Dr. Kathryn Remlinger from Grand Valley State University shared with us her research on Finnish accents in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Yooper Talk was based on her years of linguistic research in the western Upper Peninsula, the “Copper Country.”

Finnish has had a particular influence on speech in the Upper Peninsula because of two unusual characteristics of immigrants from Finland. The first was their language itself. Finnish is unrelated to other European languages. Thus, Finnish speakers could not easily “borrow” parts of their language patterns and apply them to English. Second, unlike most European immigrants to the United States in the late nineteenth century, Finns had a very high literacy rate.

Most immigrant groups to the United Sates followed a very similar pattern regarding the loss of their native tongue. The Immigrants, or first generation, spoke the native tongue and would never really master English. They often learned some English words or phrases, enough to get by, but they would never rely on English as their basic way to communicate. Their children, the second generation, would usually be bi-lingual, speaking the native tongue to communicate with their parents, but English the rest of the time. The immigrant’s grandchildren, the third generation, usually only spoke English. Finns, however, because of their unusually high literacy rate, passed that reading skill to their children and grandchildren, and their continued reading of Finnish made the language more long-lasting within their community than most other immigrant tongues.

Dr. Remlinger also made the point that people who speak with an accent, Yooper or otherwise, often face discrimination. She recounted a story of a young woman who almost dropped out of college when a professor asked if anyone in the class was from the Upper Peninsula, and when no one admitted to such an uncouth heritage, breathed a visible sigh of relief, as “those people” always had difficulty with the oral presentation. As a result of this attitude, the student, who was from the Upper Peninsula (but wasn’t about to admit it that day!), felt like her chances of success in the class, and in college, were pretty much zero. Actually, Yooper talk, like most dialects, follows fairly precise rules, and one’s dialect rarely tells much about a person’s capabilities – just a bit about their background.

Finnish was not the only language to influence how Yoopers talk. Perhaps the most unexpected thing Professor Remlinger shared was that the ubiquitous “eh” that often ends a Yooper’s sentence does not come from Finnish. Rather, it most likely came into usage because of the linguistic nature of three other languages that influenced how English is spoken in the UP – Canadian French, Cornish English, and Ojibway.

That fact was a surprise, as was how the word “Yooper” got into the dictionary – a Scrabble game. Back in 2002, some Scrabble players, one a Yooper, got into an argument about whether Yooper was really a word. As Scrabble players do, they turned to the dictionary for a ruling, and “Yooper” wasn’t there. This setback led the defeated player to write the editors of the Merriam Webster dictionary asking that the word be included. They said no. This rejection began a more than decade-long correspondence, with examples of the word being used in printed sources regularly forwarded to the dictionary’s editors as proof that “Yooper” was a real word. Eventually, the editors relented and placed “Yooper” in the 2014 collegiate edition. Among the scrabble players, however, opinion was divided if the editors were really convinced about the validity of the word or if they were just tired of getting letters on the subject.

Our thanks to Dr. Remlinger for an informative and entertaining evening, and to the John and Audrey Cumming Endowment, which made the presentation possible.

A recording of the presentation is available on the Clarke Historical Library website.

Thursday, February 11, 2021

The Green Book

 by Frank Boles


Americans travel, a lot. It is part of our national character. But in the twentieth century not all travelers were treated equally. People of color faced rejection and hostility based on racism when they sought services or accommodations in places such as restaurants and hotels. The problem was national, but the experience was local, very personal, and very much a part of Michigan history. To document how people of color coped with the challenges of travel during the era of segregated accommodations, the Clarke Historical Library has recently acquired several annual editions of “the Green Book.”


“The Green Book” was a travel guide for people of color, based on the racism even the most elite members of the community suffered. In 1932, for example, Dr. B. Pirce Hurst, one of Washington D.C.’s leading Black citizens and a man of financial means, was arbitrarily denied a room in New York City’s Prince George Hotel despite having confirmed his reservation. This was not uncommon. Clerks in many hotels frequently “lost” a reservation when a person with a black face showed up to claim it. Hurst later explained how he was rejected by four New York City hotels that night, before finally finding a place to stay in New York City’s Black district of Harlem. Unusual for the day, and thus gaining considerable publicity, Hurst sued the Prince George for violating New York State’s then existing civil rights law and won his case.


But Hurst’s legal victory was something of a one-off. Time did little to change the problem. Civil rights leader John Lewis recalled how his family prepared for a trip in 1951:

There would be no restaurant for us to stop at until we were well out of the South, so we took our restaurant right in the car with us…. Stopping for gas and to use the bathroom took careful planning. Uncle Otis had made this trip before, and he knew which places along the way offered "colored" bathrooms and which were better just to pass on by. Our map was marked and our route was planned that way, by the distances between service stations where it would be safe for us to stop.”

Uncle Otis was an invaluable resource for the Lewis family. Black travelers not fortunate enough to have the advice of someone experienced along a particular route often had to carry buckets or portable toilets in the trunks of their cars because they were usually barred from bathrooms and rest areas in service stations and roadside stops. Travel essentials such as gasoline were difficult to purchase because of discrimination at gas stations.

Victor Hugo Green became the “Uncle Otis” for many people of color who were traveling by automobile. Beginning in 1936, Green published what was commonly called “the Green Book,” although its official title was The Negro Motorist Green Book. The book listed accommodations, such as restaurants and hotels, where Black people would be welcomed. It quickly added barber and beauty shops as well as other services.


Originally centered on New York, the book expanding to include listings throughout the United States, including Michigan. The guides were printed more or less annually between 1936 and 1966. In his memoir, A Colored Man’s Journey Through 20th Century Segregated America (2000), Earl Hutchinson, Sr. described purchasing a copy in preparation for a road trip he and his wife took from Chicago to California. “The ‘Green Book’ was the bible of every Negro highway traveler in the 1950s and early 1960s,” he wrote. “You literally didn’t dare leave home without it.”

What the 1962 guidebook said about Michigan makes Hutchinson’s point. Only nineteen cities were listed. The largest number of listings in a single location is Idlewild, the Black vacation resort in remote Lake County. In Detroit, with a Black population of nearly one-half million, only twelve accommodations are listed. The only other locations with more than one accommodation are Flint (3), Jackson (2) Lansing, (2) and the small communities of Bitely (2), on the Lake/Newaygo county line, and Vandalia (2) in Cass County. Vandalia, which in 1960 had only 367 residents, was near the junction of two major Underground Railroad “lines” that “conductors” had followed to lead enslaved people north prior to the Civil War, a fact that seems to have influenced the community more than a century later.

“The Green Book” did not directly challenge segregation or the white racism that underlies that segregation. But it also looked forward to a day when the book would be unneeded. As the introduction to the 1948 edition states:

There will be a day sometime in the near future when this guide will not have to be published. That is when we as a race will have equal opportunities and privileges in the United States. It will be a great day for us to suspend this publication for then we can go wherever we please, and without embarrassment.

Legally, that day came with the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, a Federal law that banned racial segregation in restaurants, theaters, hotels, parks, and other public spaces. The law did not end racism, but it made the overt implementation of racist beliefs in places of public accommodation punishable by law.

Three years later, “the Green Book” quietly ceased publication because it did “not have to be published” any longer. America’s era of legal segregation had ended.

“The Green Book” compliments many other resources in the Clarke Historical Library that document a wide range of experiences recording the history of racism, segregation, and de-segregation in Michigan.

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

The New Family in the Neighborhood

Frank Boles 

America has a long history of segregated housing. Whether accomplished by law, social custom, or economic factors, America’s neighborhoods were, in the past, and often remain today homogeneous. Despite these persistent patterns, Americans have slowly come to accept first the possibility and then the reality of multi-racial communities. One of the landmark moments in this transformation that most people do not know about was when a minority family moved into the book that taught first grade children to read. 

Ask anyone of “a certain age” who Dick and Jane are and they will tell you. They were two extraordinary well-behaved children who lived with their baby sister Sally and their two parents, and who were described in grade school reading books used across the nation. The children first appeared in print in 1930 and, although the books are still widely available in reprints today, the final “new” edition featuring the children appeared in 1965. In the 1950s, at the height of their popularity, approximately 80 percent of America’s first graders learned to read from these books. Some 
85 million grade school children are estimated to have used the book to learn reading between 1930 and 1970. Small wonder everybody “of a certain age” know these children. 

In the 1950s and early 1960s, critics of the Dick and Jane readers began to point out the volume’s many stereotypes and biases. Critics had many objections but one of them was that many first graders who lived in the United States could not relate to a white, nuclear family with two parents, three children, a dog named Spot, and a cat named Puff, and who enjoyed life in a house located in a prosperous and apparently all-white suburb.  

Responding to various criticisms, in the 1960s, publisher Scott Foresman heavily revised the book, and the series of readers for older children that built upon it. One of the biggest changes? In 1965, Scott Foresman became the first publisher to introduce a Black family as characters in a first-grade reader. The new family included two parents and their three children, Mike, and his twin sisters, Pam, and Penny. 

From the perspective of a half century later, this change might appear little more than tokenism, mixed with savvy marketing on the part of the publisher to retain a lucrative book market. But perhaps it would be wiser to view this change through the lens proposed by Ibram X. Kendi and his definition of antiracist 

One who is expressing the idea that racial groups are equals and none needs developing, and is supporting policy that reduces racial inequity. 

Using Kendi’s definition, Scott Foresman decision to place a Black family in their first-grade reader was anti-racist. The new family in the book certainly appears equal and has no need to “develop.” Mike, Pam, and Penny dressed as did Dick, Jane, and Sally. The parents of both families wore similar clothes and, as far as one can tell from a first-grade reader, enjoyed a similar income and a similar lifestyle. Furthermore, Scott Foresman’s change introduced into the perspective of every first grader who picked up the volume the anti-racist policy that people of every color could live anywhere and be welcomed everywhere, for example in Dick and Jane’s neighborhood.  

Mike, Pam, and Penny did not end racism in America, but they did represent a notable contribution toward changing attitudes about race in the United States. 

The Clarke Historical Library includes the Lucile Clarke Memorial Children’s Library, in which is found a large collection of historical K-6 textbooks. From this collection of books, insights about the values one generation has shared with the next can be learned. The collection includes Scott Foresman’s ubiquitous Dick and Jane volumes.