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

The Battle On Broadway Hill: When The Soap Box Derby Came To Ann Arbor

In 1936 the Ann Arbor Daily News and Chevrolet brought the Soap Box Derby to Ann Arbor, promoting the race with page one stories, plenty of pictures of local boys and display ads meant to entice every boy in the county to enter the Derby. Officials were appointed, the rules explained and the "long, smooth and straight" Broadway Hill named as the site of the race. The lead-up to the race gave News photographers plenty of display space for their pictures of local hopefuls building and testing their cars. More than 6,000 fans watched John Mayfield win the inaugural Battle on Broadway Hill. In 1937, the page one story promoting the Soap Box Derby was bigger, the coverage more extensive and the prizes offered by local merchants really cool. The Chief of Police talked crowd control as race day on Broadway Hill approached. Controversy over his residency did not stop Merlin Hahn from winning the 1937 crown. Although there was plenty of interest by young girls in the race, the Soap Box Derby did not allow girls to compete until 1971. Enjoy the articles and pictures and, if you can, help us solve the mystery: who is Babs?

Update! Turns out "Babs" is the name of the car piloted by 1938 Soap Box Derby winner Lynn Smith and he named the winning car after his sister, Babs Smith. In an interview granted to the News after his victory, Lynn tells all.

AADL Talks To Ann Arbor Police Chief John Seto

In July, 2012, Ann Arbor promoted "one of its own" to Police Chief and Safety Services Director. John Seto joined the Ann Arbor Police Department in 1990 and served as patrol officer, detective, SWAT team leader, and Interim Safety Services Director. Chief Seto talked with us about his long career at the AAPD, how he came to Ann Arbor and his vision for the Department in the 21st century. He recalled his first day in a patrol car, joining the ranks of officers signing the guest book at Drake's Sandwich Shop, and moving into the new Justice Center.

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AADL_Talks_To-John_Seto.mp3 17.6 MB

AADL Talks To Herb David

On April 12, 1962, the Herb David Guitar Studio opened in a basement on South State and one of the great success stories in Ann Arbor and the music business began. AADL talked to Herb David shortly after the closing of his landmark studio on East Liberty, almost 51 years to the day the studio opened. Herb's influence extends beyond the students he taught to love music, the musicians who bought his handmade instruments, the local bands he nurtured and promoted, to the top musicians that visited his studio to talk "shop" and discovered David's wide range of interests in philosophy, cultures and travel. Herb's genuine concern for his community and the power of music to transform lives as well as his great sense of humor shine through in this podcast.

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AADL_Talks_To-Herb_David.mp3 18.4 MB

Karl Pohrt, Owner of Shaman Drum Bookshop

Old News has digitized Ann Arbor News articles on Karl Pohrt (obituary), owner of Shaman Drum Bookshop.

He is remembered warmly as a community leader who took an active role in organizations such as Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority, State Street Area Association, American Booksellers Association, and the Great Lakes Booksellers Association. He was also a founding member of the Ann Arbor Book Festival.

Read Dave Askins' tribute to Karl Pohrt in The Ann Arbor Chronicle.

Opening Night Concert at the Bandshell

Opening Night at West Park BandshellOpening Night at West Park Bandshell

Wednesday, June 19, 2013, marks the opening concert for the Ann Arbor Civic Band summer season! All performances will take place in the West Park bandshell. As you can see from this 1943 photograph of the old bandshell, lounging in the grass before this A2 landmark is a summer tradition that goes back many years. Read about the history of West Park in Oldnews, and catch some of the recent photographs we've posted detailing the construction of the original bandshell in 1938.

AADL Talks to Alan Brown

In 1984, a very young Alan Brown, (a recent UM grad in Vocal Performance) was stunned to be offered the position of Festival Administrator by Eugene Power, the founder of the Ann Arbor Summer Festival - an opportunity that literally changed the course of his life. We speak to him by phone from San Francisco where he is the principal of WolfBrown, an advisory to foundations, public agencies and charitable organizations.

Alan speaks of his fond memories of Eugene Power, his firm guiding hand and generous support in the early days of the Festival. He remembers a gracious Ella Fitzgerald, a panic moment with Marcel Marceau, and his encounters with other great performers who graced the Festival stage.

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AADL_Talks_To-Alan_Brown.mp3 22.1 MB

AADL Talks to Susan Pollay

Susan Pollay, a former Executive Director of the Ann Arbor Summer Festival remembers vividly her personal encounters and backstage stories of such entertainment greats such as Tony Bennett and Mel Torme.

Susan also talked about the early years of the Festival when Eugene and Sadye Power were a strong presence; the many roles she played, and changes the Festival has undergone through the years.

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AADL_Talks_To-Susan_Pollay.mp3 21.4 MB

AADL Talks to Jamie Mistry

A long-time supporter of the Ann Arbor Summer Festival, Jamie Mistry is proud to help celebrate its 30th season in 2013. He started as a volunteer and through the years, has taken on many roles, including as Chair of the Board of Directors. He remembers the challenges of funding an arts organization during hard times, and the sensitivity necessary in programming to remain sustainable.

These days he remains a community member of the Festival and looks forward to bringing his family to yet another A2SF season.

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AADL_Talks_To-Y_Jamie_Mistry.mp3 32.7 MB

Ann Arbor Open School Family Stories

Mike Derhammer's class at Ann Arbor Open spent the winter interviewing family members and thinking about funny and interesting stories from their own lives. Along the way they discovered that storytelling is so much a part of who we are. Sometimes it's fun and enlightening to just stop and listen to each other's tales. We hope you enjoy listening to these stories as much as we did!

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openstories2013.mp3 28.55 MB

Frederick 'Bud' Stein Dies in Ann Arbor

Local Ann Arbor Kiwanis Club and U-M Alumni Association member Frederick "Bud" Stein died Wednesday at age 91 in his Ann Arbor home. He is remembered for his constant community involvement. He grew up in Ann Arbor and graduated from Ann Arbor High School in 1939. He served in the U.S. Navy during World War II, coming back to attend the University of Michigan. He graduated in 1944 with a degree in economics.

He lead the charge for tree-lined widened sidewalks on both sides of the street for downtown Ann Arbor in 1965. That same year, he made a presentation to the National Civic League that won Ann Arbor's first award as an "All American City". He was very involved with the combined YMCA/YWCA.

You can read more about Bud Stein's life and public service works in the AnnArbor.com website.

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