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

"Ole 98" Is Safe! Lt. Tom Harmon - Great on the Field, Heroic in Battle

On September 7, 2013, The University of Michigan football team unretired the jersey of one of their greatest, All-American Tom Harmon. Most Michigan fans know about his many exploits on the field that won him the Heisman Trophy. Fewer know that he served heroically in World War II. On April 15, 1943, the story broke in the Ann Arbor News that his Army bomber plane went down and he was Missing in Action. Harmon's ordeal dominated the front page of the News for much of April, as family, friends and fans assured each other that "Ole 98" was tough enough to survive a crash and the jungles of South America. The Ann Arbor News wondered if the flight was his Last Play?

Then, on April 17th, news came that Harmon was safe, having survived a solo, four-day ordeal in the jungle. His parents got the news just after returning from a mass in his honor at St. Mary's Student Chapel. An emotional Michigan coach, Fritz Crisler, and the city were overjoyed at the news. Harmon was the only crew member to survive the crash. He shared the story of the crash and his jungle odyssey in a column released by the Army. The photo that ran in the News on April 23 showed a worn and weary but thankful soldier. Harmon got right back into the fight and in October, 1943, he was shot down over China only to escape capture a second time. He was awarded the Purple Heart and Silver Star. Harmon died in 1990.

The Gardens of Ann Arbor - A Walk Through the History of the Ann Arbor Garden Club

For more than 80 years the Ann Arbor Garden Club has been beautifying the public and private lands of Ann Arbor. Old News is launching a new Feature on the history of the AAGC this Wednesday, Septemeber 11, at 7:00 p.m. at the Pittsfield Branch Library. Grace Shackman's article highlights the Garden Club's commitment to their original mission, to assist the citizens of Ann Arbor to grow a beautiful city through education, outreach, community service and public events. The Feature includes hundreds of articles and photos from the archives of the Ann Arbor News.

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
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