Posts of interest to local history buffs, written by local history buffs!

Blue Front Bids Farewell

In 1927, Ray E. Collins bought the Blue Front Cigar Store at the corner of Packard & State, and the rest, as they say, is history. Ray was a legend in Ann Arbor, sitting behind his counter stacked with newspapers, gruffly answering questions and keeping his eyes peeled for ne'er-do-wells. Ray had some troubles with the law himself, getting cited over the years for fire hazards that were a result of his commitment to carrying every newspaper he could find and putting it anywhere he could find.

Ray died in 1978, willing the Blue Front to his long-time employee Jill Warren. Jill kept the Blue Front pretty much the same, widening the aisles a little, organizing the papers a bit more but leaving the hanging bulbs, thank you. In 1981, Jill sold the Blue Front to William Graving while maintaining ownership of the building. Ray started out as an employee of the Blue Front, so did Jill, and later employees would continue to have a fierce loyalty to the store and its traditions.

We may never know how the Blue Front got its name (Ray didn't know). We know the name was first used in the 1922 Polk City Directory. We were able to trace ownership back to 1908 when 701 Packard first appears in the City Directory with James R. Reed, News Depot followed by Davis & Konold in 1913, Clinton H. Davis in 1915, and Ernest C. Rumbelow in 1916. In 1921 it became Reynolds & Webb Cigars, the first time cigars overtakes newspapers in the store's name. In 1922 R. M. Housel bought the store, hired Ray sometime after that, changed the name to the Blue Front and then sold it to Ray. Goodbye, Blue Front.

Dave Strack - Wolverines Basketball Coach Who Launched Cazzie & Company

Dave Strack, a star player and later coach of the University of Michigan basketball team, died Jan. 25 in Tucson, Arizona. He was 90. Strack coached the Wolverines from 1960 to 1968, leading the team to three consecutive Big 10 championships, two consecutive appearances in the NCAA Final Four, including a championship game against UCLA. Strack came to the University of Michigan as a player and lettered in 1943, 1944 and 1946. He took a leave from the team in 1945 to serve as a Marine captain during World War II. He received a bachelor's degree and a master's degree at Michigan. After working as an assistant coach at Michigan and head coach for a year the University of Idaho, Strack replaced Bill Perigo as Wolverines head coach.

Strack's teams led by All-American Cazzie Russell won the Big 10 championship in 1964, 1965 and 1966. The team went to the Final Four in 1964 and 1965. In the 1965 UM went into the final game ranked No. 1 in the country to face the No. 2 ranked UCLA Bruins coached by the legendary John Wooden. UM lost the game 91-80, a hard end to an amazing season. In addition to Russell, Strack's players included high-scoring Bill Buntin, team captain Oliver Darden, George Pomey and Larry Tregoning. Strack was named UPI coach of the year in 1965. Russell, a highly recruited Chicago high school player, was won over by Strack to attend UM. He went on to set scoring records and win praise as one of the best players of his time. In December 1964, the Wolverines faced off against Princeton, a showdown between Russell and Princeton's Bill Bradley. With two minutes remaining in the game, Michigan was behind by 10 points, Russell took command of the game to lead Michigan to an 80-78 victory. Bradley did score 41 points in the game. But Russell and Buntin combined for 51. Russell and Bradley would late become teammates on the NBA champion New York Knicks.

Strack left the UM coaching position to manage the athletic department business operations in 1968. He was replaced by Johnny Orr, who died last year. Strack left the university in 1972 to become athletic director at the University of Arizona in Tucson.

 

AADL Talks to Bob Dascola

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January 13, 2014

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aadl_talks_to-bob_dascola.mp320.1 MBAudio

Dascola Barber Shop has been a fixture of downtown Ann Arbor since 1938 when Dominic Dascola first struck out on his own as a business owner. Bob Dascola, his son, has been a part of this tradition for the past 45 years, keeping shop first in his father's original location on E Liberty St and now in his own space on S State St. In that time, he's grown from being one member of the family business to being a small business owner, then a community leader, and now a candidate for City Council in the 3rd Ward. When Bob sat down with us, we talked about going into the family business, how a community member can make a difference, and the things he's learned just by talking with people who come in and sit down in his chair.

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Ann Arbor District Library
Length: 
41:57

"They know things most men can never dream about"

On January 27, we remember the astronauts who gave their lives during the prelaunch testing for the first manned Apollo mission at Cape Canaveral in 1967. Edward Higgins White II, the first man to walk in space, died along with his fellow astronauts Virgil 'Gus" Grissom and Roger B. Chaffee.

Less than two years prior, the City of Ann Arbor and the University of Michigan rolled out the red carpet to welcome and honor White and fellow Michigan grad James Alton McDivitt (often referred to as the Gemini Space Twins) in a day-long celebration and convocation.

Michigan's connection to the United States Aerospace Program also included another of the three astronauts lost in the tragic accident - Roger B. Chaffee who came from a prominent Grand Rapids family.

 

AADL Talks to Rich Magner

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January 14, 2014

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In 1953 an Ann Arbor institution opened, Krazy Jim’s Blimpy Burger. When Jim Shafer was ready to sell the business in 1992, a Blimpy’s grill team veteran, Rich Magner, took over the most famous burger joint in Tree Town.

Rich sat down with AADL to talk about the history of Krazy Jim’s, the famous order line, what makes a great burger and the origin of the Snow Bears.

Rich gave a progress report on the future of Blimpy Burgers and the crowd-funding campaign currently underway to assure it’s future.

Rights Held By: 
Ann Arbor District Library

Legendary Poster Artist Gary Grimshaw Has Died

Gary GrimshawGary Grimshaw

Gary Grimshaw, Michigan’s iconic poster designer whose imaginative rock ’n ’roll art defined an era of Detroit culture has died today, aged 67, after a lengthy illness.

Grimshaw exemplified a spirited generosity that made him a beloved friend and mentor to many in Southeast Michigan; and through his many associations and projects during the 1960s and 1970s - including the Detroit Artists Workshop; Trans-Love Energies, as Minister of Culture for the White Panther Party and Rainbow People's Party - Grimshaw’s illustrations of concerts, rallies, and numerous such events, made an indelible mark on the counterculture of this generation.

We had the privilege of talking with Gary about his career in 2011, and testimonies to his artistry and friendship by friends and colleagues abound in other interviews on Freeingjohnsinclair.aadl.org.

The funeral will be at 11 a.m. Sunday at MOCAD, the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit, at 4454 Woodward in Detroit, with a reception following at the Scarab Club. Visitation will be from 6-8 p.m., Saturday at MOCAD.

Before Bridgegate, Before SNL, Gilda Radner Was an Ann Arbor Star

Before becoming a founding member of the Not Ready for Prime Time Players on Saturday Night Live, Gilda Radner was making her name as a performer with the Ann Arbor Civic Theatre. Radner was a student at the University of Michigan and already showing her gift for broad comedy.

This week Radner, who died in 1989, was back in the news, in the guise of her most famous comic alter ego Roseanne Roseannadanna. On SNL's Weekend Update, Roseanne would respond to the complaints of a Mr. Richard Feder of Fort Lee, N.J. This week the New York Times writer Matt Flegenheimer wondered what Richard Leder would think about the controversy over the closing of the George Washington Bridge that connects Fort Lee with Manhattan. The closings have ensnared New Jersey governor and presidential hopeful Chris Christie in a scandal.

Mr. Feder is a real person, the brother-in-law of an SNL staff writer. He never wrote letters to Roseanne, but mock complaining letters in his name and Roseanne's withering replies became famous. In one skit quoted in the Times Mr. Feder complained about his attempts to stop smoking, "I gained weight, my face broke out. I'm nauseous, I'm constipated, my feet swell, my sinuses are clogged, I got heartburn, I'm cranky and I have gas. What should I do."

"Mr. Feder, you sound like a real attractive guy," Ms. Roseannadanna said. "You belong in New Jersey."

As it happens, Mr. Feder was caught in the massive traffic jam around the bridge. Radner's brilliance at creating wild and yet endearing characters first came to life here in Ann Arbor.

Johnny Orr - The Coach With The Most Wins in Wolverine Basketball History

When Johnny Orr resigned as the University of Michigan's head basketball coach in 1980, his teams had compiled the most wins, 209, and the most losses, 113, in the school's history. Orr, who died Dec. 31 at 86, was the longest tenured coach at UM, replacing Dave Strack in 1968 after a year as Strack's assistant. Orr, who had been a head coach at the University of Massachusetts, was a colorful and outspoken personality with a knack for motivating his players and winning the support of fans. In 1976 he took the Wolverines to the N.C.A.A. final against Big 10 rival Indiana University, losing to the Bobby Knight coached Hoosiers 86-68.

In 1980, Orr surprised the basketball community by leaving his position at Michigan for the head coaching job at the less-regarded Iowa State University. He said he took the job because Iowa State offered a substantial salary increase, $45,000 from $33,665 at Michigan, and more extra earning opportunities. Over the next 15 years, he took the Iowa State Cyclones to the N.C.A.A. tournament six times and set Iowa State records for wins and losses, 218-200.

In 1980 Orr was replaced at Michigan by his assistant, Bill Frieder, who would leave the University of Michigan in 1989 for a job at Arizona State University. His team, under his former assistant Steve Fisher, would win the 1989 N.C.A.A. national championship game against Seton Hall. Orr continued to have good relations with Michigan, returning to Crisler Arena for the first time as Cyclones coach in 1989. Orr retired from coaching in 1994 and continued to make his home in Iowa.

A Virtual Tour Of Ann Arbor Architecture

Did you know that the Judge Robert S. Wilson House has been called the most famous house in Ann Arbor? It was built as early as 1835 and has perfect proportions.

Learn the history of the many fascinating buildings around us with the Ann Arbor Architecture Archive, AADL's online gallery of images and text about Ann Arbor's historic buildings.

U-M Star Billy Taylor & AADL's Old News

Record-setting, 3-time All-American and team MVP Billy Taylor began his career at U-M at the same time as coach Bo Schembechler. Despite his amazing college achievements, he later saw his world come crashing around him as he battled addiction, incarceration and homelessness on the streets of Detroit.

If you missed the inspiring Monday, December 2 AADL screening of the documentary of Billy's life - or if you want to know more about this amazing individual who faced despair but turned his life around. - AADL has an online collection of information about this and other compelling local stories. Documentary filmmaker Dan Chace used AADL resources to research content for the film. Here is a selection of articles gathered on Billy Taylor.

You can easily view thousands of similar articles from local Ann Arbor newspapers over the years, including the Signal of Liberty, The Ann Arbor Argus, The Ann Arbor Courier, and The Ann Arbor News by visiting oldnews.aadl.org.

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