Posts Tagged ‘Western Michigan University’

When my grandparents, Adrian and L. Edna (Mulder) Zuidweg got married on 21 May 1932, Grandpa’s mother, Cora DeKorn Zuidweg, was dying of cancer. He was staying home to take care of her because his father had died in 1929 and he was an only child.

In 1931, Grandpa had asked Grandma to marry him as he drove her in  the car from Kalamazoo to her parents’ farm in Caledonia. But Grandma had to wait a year to teach and give the money to her family who were struggling financially because of the Great Depression.

So there was no big celebration for my grandparents. Aunt Jen, Cora’s sister stayed with Cora while they got married. They drove to South Bend, Indiana, although Grandpa was from Kalamazoo and Grandma from Caledonia, two southwestern Michigan towns. They could get a marriage license and marry immediately in South Bend.

Traveling with them were Grandma’s sister Vena and her boyfriend Al Stimson’s cousin, Herb Thorpe. They had forgotten to get flowers, so they plucked spirea along the way.

On the way back, they ate dinner at a restaurant in Cassopolis.

Grandma immediately moved into the house at 1520 S. Burdick Street. She helped take care of her mother-in-law who died on 16 September 1932.

When the school year began, Grandma continued to teach that first year and would come home on the weekend. So that Grandpa wouldn’t be alone, Al Stimson moved in with him. Al was a student at WMU. His job was to help Grandpa with the housework. His way of handling the dishes was to load the dirty ones under the sink all week and then just before Grandma was due home for the weekend he would wash them all.

I imagine Grandma was happy to quit teaching and get rid of living in the “frat boy” atmosphere haha.

I’m happy they managed to send out some engraved wedding announcements.

And their portrait, too.

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I was doing a little research for a post I want to write about my grandfather when I discovered this link to a historical photography project in Kalamazoo.

Students are taking old photos from the Kalamazoo Public Library collection and photographing the same scene from the same angle. Very interesting. It’s still a work in progress, and I can’t wait to see more.

Check it out here: KALAMAZOO THEN & NOW

Although I am so disappointed that Western Michigan University’s old campus was allowed to be destroyed for the most part, I do think Kalamazoo has a strong voice for history–in part because of the university and an active library and in part because so many people love Kalamazoo.

How about your community? How does it take care of its history?

downtown Kalamazoo, photo by Joseph DeKorn


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In the beautiful scrapbook that belonged to one of the Culver sisters, I discovered a postcard of Western State Normal School (Western Michigan University now) in Kalamazoo. I’ve never seen this view of the campus before. More of my relatives (and moi) have attended Western than any other school. I need to start a list of all the ancestors and relatives who are Western alumni.

I’m not sure of the year the postcard was published because the  back of the postcard indicates it cost 1 cent. Postcards cost that amount over a very large period of time. All it means is that it was not printed during WWI when the price went up to 2 cents. After the war, they went back down to 1 cent.

Because my business school classes were on what eventually became known as “East Campus” (the original site of the school), I remember the long walk up the hill, but it sure didn’t look like this. Neither did the buildings.

I searched online and found a postcard from 1910. If you click through the postcard you will go to site where I found it. It belongs to WMU.

Why do the red brick buildings look white in my postcard? Notice the tennis courts seen from this view. Now I can see that Oakland Drive is not down there. So maybe this is on the other side of Oakland? Apparently not. (Confusing!)

Here is a 1925 map of the campus, and on here it is easy to see where Oakland Drive is. If you want verification click through and go to the WMU website. When you put your mouse over the street it will show up as Oakland Drive.


Why is the same bus or trolley at the bottom of the drive in both photos?

Well, what do you know? That little trolley has its own Wikipedia page!

From Wikipedia:

The Western State Normal Railroad, also known as the Normal Railroad or Western Trolley, was a funicular [a cliff railway] which operated on the campus of Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, Michigan, in the United States from 1908–1949. It is the only known example of a private railroad operated by a university.

In the early 1900s the primary campus of Western Michigan University, then known as Western State Normal School, was located on Prospect Hill (this area is now known as East Campus). To reach the buildings students and faculty faced a forbidding 150 step-climb, often in inclement weather. In an effort to address this problem, the school constructed a funicular along the northeast corner of the hill. The base of the line was at Davis Street, while the summit lay between East Hall and North Hall. There were two tracks, each with a cable-hauled car.

At its peak the railroad carried 2,280 passengers daily, but rising maintenance costs combined with the growing popularity of the automobile hastened its demise, and it carried its last passenger in 1949.In 2002 four senior engineering majors at WMU embarked on a project to build a replica of one of the trolleys. This proved no easy task: following the closure of the railroad in 1949, no effort was made to preserve the cars. The only physical remnant was a bench saved by a faculty member; while there were sketches and photographs for reference, no actual blueprints had survived. Commenting on the situation a WMU official remarked that “back then was a period in history so intent on the future, that everyone started forgetting about the past.”

Despite these challenges, the students successfully completed their project, which was unveiled April 8, 2003, and currently occupies a prominent place in front of the Bernhard Center on Western’s primary campus. Local residents and Western alumni who had ridden the trolley testified to the authenticity of the restoration.

Because I often get sidetracked in too many directions and because my time has been so limited, I need to make a list of all the projects to tackle in the future. Figuring out “who all” has gone to Western needs to top the list!


Originally I thought all the Culver photos were from after they moved to Seattle from Kalamazoo. Then it was discovered that some of the photos were from Kalamazoo. This postcard was in a stack with travel postcards and photos within the scrapbook.

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My grandfather, Adrian Zuidweg, had an album of photos which included those from a parade in 1931. It seems most likely that the parade took place in Kalamazoo, Michigan–probably down Burdick Street. But I need help identifying the buildings to know for sure. Many of the business names that are readable seem pretty “generic.” These names include Montgomery Ward, Ross Carrier, Kroger Stores, and Grand Hotel.

I know the date because of this float, but I don’t understand the significance of the “centennial” aspect of the design.

The Light float is the last photograph in the album. Here are the others in order of placement. If you can find any signs that this is Kalamazoo–or elsewhere–please let me know.


It seems odd that there aren’t any clues in these photos that indicate the “local” setting of the parade. There are quite a few ladies of the court. Kalamazoo is home to Western Michigan University and Kalamazoo College, but I don’t see any references to the schools, so maybe a check of 1930-31 and a 1931-32 yearbooks would rule out the colleges as participants in the parade.

A clue that I can’t interpret: Benton Harbor Exchange. This does seem to indicate that the parade was in Michigan, but was it in Benton Harbor or St. Joseph or Kalamazoo? And what exactly was the Benton Harbor Exchange?

Another possible clue: see that tall building in the background of the “downtown” photos? If that building can be identified it might help to lock in the city.

Just before the parade photos is one photo of Grandpa with Grandma when they were boyfriend and girlfriend–before they got married in 1932. Sorry about the watermark in the wrong place. I added watermarks en masse for these photos.

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I often wonder why more documents and photographs aren’t passed down in families. After I received that beautiful scrapbook that belonged to the Culver sisters (you can read about it here), I realized that sometimes it is because branches of families die out. There is nobody left who cares about the history of the family.

But what happens in so many other families? Sometimes someone moves and loses a box of photographs. Or they pass away and leave documents in the care of a descendant who hates “stuff” and throws it away.

Sometimes, though, it is in the hands of nature. A tornado, hurricane, fire, or flood carries away these valuable family treasures. I’ve tried to protect as much as possible against these possibilities. A fire safe and a supply of acid-free envelopes and boxes helps with that.

Nevertheless, I had a little taste of the damage that can occur from nature the other day. Well, maybe not nature–more like repairman error.

Last spring I walked around the corner of the house and heard a raging fountain. Water poured into the hall, on my beautiful alder wood floor.  Our hot water heater had burst. We discovered that the repairman had set it down, covering the drain, so the water had nowhere to go but out into my house. Ultimately the entire large-sized heater contents poured into my house, flooding the hall and downstairs bedrooms. The only reason it didn’t get into the living room is that the hallway and bedrooms are three steps lower than the living room.

Professional dryers lined up by my pool

We got help cleaning up the mess, and because we live in Arizona, where it is dry, everything seemed fine.

Until Tuesday that is.

I keep a plastic mat in the walk-in closet where I store my scrapbooks, books, and old writing. That’s because, to make more room, I have a library cart full of books and need to be able to move it from in front of the file cabinet. Because it’s so weighted down with books, it sinks into the carpet and needs a mat to roll on. I keep another plastic mat under my desk for my chair. Well, what I didn’t know was that although the carpet was dry, the slab (no basement in Arizona) had absorbed moisture from the flood. So when I put the plastic mats down, over these ten months, moisture collected underneath. The carpet developed rust spots. And at the edge of the closet mat, on the wall hidden behind the file cabinet, black mold developed. It didn’t grow on my wall or in the carpet, but on the baseboard and on the scrapbook I had leaning between the cabinet and the wall. You see, that scrapbook was not a treasured heirloom, but something that belonged to me.

It was from 1989 and 1990, when I graduated from grad school (Western Michigan University). Because I have an iPhone and a camera, I was able to take photographs of the “treasures” in the scrapbook and throw them away. But years ago, that would have been very unlikely. Film was expensive and everyone didn’t have a camera.


I added the “My Graduation” ribbon to this photograph to cover up something I had written in my bad handwriting on that page ;). But I still have the photograph of the original page.


In the following photo you can see the black mold a bit better. It is a flyer advertising subscriptions to a literary magazine. The flyer featured a poem by yours truly, as well as one by another poet.  Look at the mold! I was wearing latex gloves to handle it.


Years ago, my mother-in-law’s basement flooded. She had a wonderful collection of antiques and childhood keepsakes that belonged to her and some to my husband. All gone in a flash. Every once in a while my husband remembers something else that was in the basement and is lost forever.

Have you lost photographs, documents, or heirlooms?

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Last month, I posted a link to an article in the Western Herald about my Dad’s Combat Veterans’ Writing Group. Dad’s story and others had been showcased in the article.

Dad has written another story about his experience in the U.S. Army during the Korean War.  I’d like to share a bit of it with you. In this piece, he explains why it took a long time on the sea for him to arrive in Korea.

Let’s start at the beginning. His military service started in 1948. He was a graduate of Lane Tech High School in Chicago and had realized he did not want to work in a factory or a grocery store. He counted on the army to help him get to college via the G.I. Bill.

World War II was over and the close down of the army for its people and materials was on the downslide. My two-year enlistment was a growing time of my life. It opened up travel: Ford Knox (gold storage), black-and-white drinking fountains, Camp Carson (mountain troops), New York City, driving the old Alaskan highway, Whitehorse Yukon Territory Canada.

Dad also visited Washington, D.C., when he was at Quartermaster School.

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By June 1950, Dad says, “my recall sent me back to Fort Knox for retraining with World War II veterans.” His enlistment had originally obligated him to a seven-year inactive tour, but this looked like change.

For two days we were issued tools and told to chop the corn down– (NO WAY!) All of these men were high-grade noncoms who had been commissioned officers during wartime conditions in World War II.

I asked Dad what “NO WAY” meant. Did they do it or didn’t they? Did they risk court-martial? He said the details are coming up in the next installment!

A few days later we boarded trains for Seattle, where we boarded the Navy troop ship, M.C. Meigs. The exact dates are foggy to me at this part of my journey. Once on board, we realized that half of the ship was the Canadian U.N. Army.

As the ship started out, we found that we were running north until we got to the Aleutian Islands and then for some reason we turned south, spending several days in Pearl Harbor. This was the first time I heard the song, “Harbor Lights.”

This video features Dinah Washington singing the 1950 version of “Harbor Lights.”

After 30 days, we arrived in Yokohama, Japan, where we were transferred to Camp Drake by Tokyo. After a few days, we departed for Inchon, Korea. We were lightly equipped and no personal arms.

The coincidence of this day was that the Chinese Army crossed the border, entering the Korean War: 3 November 1950. Chaos at that time was very evident to us. We were immediately loaded on a train for our destination, Pusan perimeter. As we moved south on the train, U.S. troops were suffering some of the worst part of the early part of the war: the retreat of our army!

The reason for the 30-day adventure was directly related to the Canadian UN troops. The Canadian government was not going to enter the war until the United Nations had declared it a Peace Action.

The REAL value of the story was not recognized by me until much later.

What Dad means is that because he had the luck to be connected with the Canadians at just that moment in time, he was “stalled” along with the Canadian troops until just after the worst danger was over.

This is how he tips his hat to the Canadians:

When playing golf now, I use a Canadian loonie to mark my golf ball.

Not being a golfer, I had to look up loonie because I might have gotten the wrong idea ;). However, it’s not about golf, but about it being Canadian. A loonie is a gold-colored Canadian one dollar piece, first created in 1987. Thank you, Wikipedia.

The U.S. Army Center of Military History has an online page devoted to the phase of the Korean War which began November 3, 1950, the day Dad landed at Inchon, the day the Chinese entered the Korean War.

Next up: I will start tackling my list, beginning with Etaples!

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I wrote about my Dad, Rudy Hanson, being a veteran of the U.S. Army in a previous post. He recently joined a Combat Veterans’ Writing Group, which meets at the local library. The Western Herald, the newspaper for Western Michigan University, just published a piece on the class and showcased the stories of a few veterans. You guessed it–my dad’s was one of those selected!


Extra special for me is how his story connects with the piece I wrote about his mother’s sewing talent. I think you’ll enjoy his story!

Way to go, Dad!

Dad and me 1955

Dad and me 1955

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Click here for Part I.

In my post of July 16, I shared the beginning of the story pieced together by Connie Jo Bowman in 1994, when she interviewed my grandfather Adrian Zuidweg.  Here is the next part.  Today I am going to focus on just one paragraph–to try to unpack it.

Here is what Connie wrote:

His father owned a fish market and Adrian’s earliest memories were of going to his aunt’s house while his mother helped out at the market. He remembers playing with his cousins around the big woodburning stove and the “outside toilet.” This was before 1911 because that was the year gas and sewer lines were brought up the street to their house.

I’ve written before about Grandpa’s father’s fish market in the post “My Great-Grandfather Reinvented Himself as a Business Owner in the U.S.” I share photos in that post of the interior of the fish market and the interior of the ice cream parlor Adriaan Zuijdweg (Grandpa’s father) owned after the fish market.

Adriaan Zuijdweg, Proprietor, standing

Adriaan Zuijdweg, Proprietor, standing

So that’s where Grandpa’s mother Cora went to “help out” at the market.  But Grandpa himself stayed at his aunt’s. There are two possibilities. One is his Aunt Jen, Cora’s sister. The other is his Aunt Johanna, his father’s sister.  Before 1911, Grandpa was a toddler–maybe two years old. Some people don’t have memories from that age, but I also have memories from when I was two years old.

Let’s say the year was 1910.  In 1910, Johanna Zuijdweg Van Liere had been in the United States for six years. She married her husband Marinus Van Liere in Goes, the town in the Netherlands they were both from. Johanna had two baby boys when she immigrated here, and by 1910 may have had six, seven, or eight boys. I’m not sure if they all survived infancy, but she was evidently quite busy.

Grandpa’s mother’s sister Jen, on the other hand, had one 13-year-old daughter in 1910.

If Grandpa played with his cousins around the stove and the outhouse in the yard, it would be Johanna’s children.  This led to me to search out where Johanna and Marinus were living in 1910.

Shed or outhouse?

Shed or outhouse?

The 1910 U.S. Census shows Grandpa living with both his parents, Adriaan and Cora, his grandfather Richard DeKorn, and his uncle Joseph DeKorn in the Richard DeKorn house at the corner of Burdick and Balch: 1324 S. Burdick Street. Since the house still stands today, if it wasn’t moved, the address numbers have been changed on Burdick. The VanLieres, Johanna and Marinus, and their six boys lived at 1338 S. Burdick Street. It looks like another family lived between them. About four houses down from the VanLieres lived John and Mary DeSmit and their children. Mary DeSmit was Richard DeKorn’s sister.

I found it interesting that the census shows Johanna and Marinus speaking English, although they had only been in this country for six years. A few of the neighbors spoke Dutch, but most of them spoke English.

Johanna Zuijdweg VanLiere and Marinus VanLiere with son Jacob

Johanna Zuijdweg VanLiere and Marinus VanLiere with son Jacob

In this section of Grandpa’s story, he remembers that gas and sewer lines were brought up to their house in 1911. It must have made a monumental difference in the quality of their lives. Because his grandfather, Richard DeKorn, was a building contractor, would they have been quicker to get connected or was it something they had to wait their turn for, like everybody else?

On a personal note, I was surprised that Grandpa’s family was as close with his father’s sister and her family as this research shows.  I knew that the family was often with Aunt Jen, as many of the family photos are of Jen and her husband Lou.  But there aren’t as many photos of Johanna, nor do I know the history of that branch of the family as the children all grew up.

I hope you’ll stay tuned for Part III of Grandpa’s story . . . .

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In 1994, five and a half years before he passed away, my grandfather, Adrian Zuidweg, was interviewed by Connie Jo Bowman, the head of residents at Crossroads Village, a retirement community in Portage, Michigan. Connie was taking a course about the elderly at Western Michigan University and chose Grandpa as her subject.  I’ve written about Grandpa in a post about our left-handed connection.

The entire interview is eight typed pages, so I’ll divide it among a few blog posts.

Adrian Zuidweg 1908-2000

Adrian Zuidweg 1908-2000

Connie begins by introducing my grandfather, Adrian Zuidweg.  To read the excerpts of Connie’s report, you can click them for a better view (I hope):

Connie identifies my grandfather here as a “tall, gentle dutchman with a big friendly voice.” That would probably be how Grandpa thought of himself. He identified strongly with his Dutch heritage.  He had a lot of jokes, but one of his favorites was to say, “If you ain’t Dutch, you ain’t much.” He didn’t really mean it, which you will see by the end of the interview, but he was very proud of being Dutch.

She also notes here how after talking with Grandpa for two years it wasn’t until she began interviewing him that she realized how much there was to know about Grandpa. Grandpa’s powers of observation were impressive to her, especially in light of his blindness. He only became completely blind in his old age, but he had been blind in one eye since he was a small child.

Connie was right–Grandpa had an amazing memory. He also loved to tell stories, especially stories about the past. As the oldest grandchild, I was privy to more of them than the other kids, but I still only know a few from his vast store.

Now that I realize that Grandpa knew the name of the midwife who delivered him, I wish Connie had put that information into her report, but perhaps it didn’t fit with the class assignment.

Here she mentions how Grandpa’s father came to the U.S. from the Netherlands when he was a child. This was Adriaan Zuijdweg, who I have written about in the past. He owned a fish market and then a candy and soda shop.  You can find a story about his retail businesses here.

When Grandpa was a baby his parents moved in with “his recently widowed grandfather,” Richard DeKorn, the brick mason and contractor. You can read more about Richard in the following posts:

Richard DeKorn: Brick Mason and General Contractor

More Mighty Kalamazoo Buildings from Richard DeKorn

Richard DeKorn and His Bride Tied the Knot in Kalamazoo

By the way, a big thank you to Linda at Living with My Ancestors for her help with watermarking my photograph.

I hope you’ll stay tuned for Part II of Grandpa’s story . . . .

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The National Trust for Historic Preservation is begging Western Michigan University not to destroy history–its own, that of the Kalamazoo area, and that of higher education. There are four old buildings which represent the origins of the university which those who head up the school want to demolish.  Here‘s an article that Mom clipped and mailed me. It was printed in the Kalamazoo Gazette on June 27, 2013.

Click here for the Kalamazoo Gazette article

Click here for the Kalamazoo Gazette article

Click here for the Kalamazoo Gazette article

Click here for the Kalamazoo Gazette article

I keep asking myself  the question, “What kind of people want to destroy history?”

My family has graduated from Western Michigan University for four generations. As I explained in a previous post “Western State Normal School, Kalamazoo, Michigan: A Personal View,” my grandmother, L. Edna Mulder Zuidweg, graduated from the school when it was Western State Normal School, a teacher training school. Both my parents, my aunt, my brother, and yours truly also graduated from WMU.  In addition, my husband graduated with a BBA degree, as well.  And at least one member of the most recent generation–my cousin’s daughter– has graduated from Western.

Because my husband and I both got business degrees (I also majored in history and he did so in political science) in the late 70s, we spent a lot of time on the oldest section of the university–East Campus, which housed the business school.

If you follow this link you will read a good history of the old campus.  They have some beautiful photos posted, too.

State Normal Kalamazoo front


1.  Be an advocate for smart adaptive re-use!  Tweet, display yard signs, display bumper stickers,write letters, TELL YOUR FRIENDS and ASK THEM TO HELP!  ACT NOW.  Click here for  Action Plan

2.  Join our “cast of thousands!” 
     Click here for details of our quest to post pix of you holding the Save East Campus sign for Youtube

3.  Click here to get your printable pix-poster for Youtube video

4.   Express your concerns to WMU’s Board of Trustees [go HERE to email the Board]

5. Express your concerns to elected officials:
Governor Rick Snyder
P.O. Box 30013
Lansing, Michigan 48909

State Senator Tonya Schuitmaker

State Representative Margaret O’Brien

State Representative Sean McCann

Mayor Bobby Hopewell

6.  Express your concerns to WMU’s Board of Trustees [go
 HERE to email the Board]

7. Sign a petition here 

8. Write to news media in support of the FOHEC request for a moratorium and community input.

9. ASK:  How much will taxpayers/students have to pay to demolish the buildings?  How much will taxpayers/students have to pay to transport resulting debris to landfills?  How much will taxpayers/students have to pay to pave over historic East Campus to create the proposed parking lot?  How much does it all add up to?  

10. ASK:  How much will it cost to save the buildings and make a serious survey of ways they could be used to serve and educate students?

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