Saturday, January 31, 2009

Bloomer Ski Jump

Tomorrow is the 83rd anniversary of the first public ski tournament at the Rochester ski jump. The Hall Brothers of the Detroit Ski Club built the 112-foot steel slide on the brow of Newberry Hill, adjacent to Bloomer State Park. Newspaper accounts of the time said that the combined height of the ski jump and the hill upon which it stood was approximately 230 feet. Construction of the ski jump was barely finished in time for the first scheduled competition on February 1, 1926. The Rochester Clarion reported that between seven and eight thousand tickets were sold to the event, and estimated that an equal number of spectators viewed the tournament from adjacent hilltops.

Sloppy weather on the day of the event shortened the jump distances, and Norwegian-born Anders Haugen, representing a Chicago ski club, won the event with an 85-foot jump. An interesting aside is that Haugen had served as the captain of the U.S. ski team at the first-ever Winter Olympic games which were held in France in 1924. Haugen did not medal in Olympic competition that year - or so he thought. It was not until 50 years later, in 1974, that a historian discovered a mathematical error in the Olympic scores which meant that Haugen had actually placed third and won a bronze medal. He was subsequently awarded the medal he had earned a half-century earlier. (You can read about Haugen's overdue Olympic medal in this New York Times article.)

Thursday, January 29, 2009

You've Lived in Rochester a Long Time If....

You know you've lived in Rochester for a long time if:
  • you still refer to University Drive as "Fifth Street"
  • you think the tap water in other towns tastes "funny"
  • you think the inside of your washing machine tub is supposed to be orange
  • you automatically check your watch when you hear the noon whistle
  • you grumble "tourists!" under your breath when you hear somebody ask for a menu at Knapp's

Sunday, January 25, 2009

RHS Florida Reunion Coming on February 7

Time is running short for RHS alumni to get their reservations in for the 14th Annual RHS Florida Reunion, which will be held on Saturday, February 7 at Homer's Original Smorgasbord in Sebring, Florida. All Rochester High School alumni are invited to attend the event. Cost is $10 per person, and reservations and payment must be submitted by January 31. To register, send your name, address, phone number, e-mail address, class year and number attending with a check for $10 per person to Pat Hunter Arnold, 37811 Chancy - Lot # 189, Zephyrhills FL 33541.
The reunion will be held from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., and the dress is Florida casual. Homer's Original Smorgasbord is located at 1000 Sebring Square (at the north end of the Sebring Square Shopping Center at the corner of US 27 and Schumacher Road). Restaurant phone number is 863-386-1440 if you need further directions. If you are fortunate enough to escape to Florida from our winter cold, why not join the party and catch up with friends and classmates!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Small Town Memories

A conversation with a former classmate over this past weekend got me thinking about the experience of growing up in small town Rochester as we did in the 1960s. Some things have definitely changed. For example:
  • We never went to a mall to see Santa. We stood in line at the Hills Theater, where Santa held court in the lobby, to await our turns to sit in his lap and tell him our Christmas wishes.
  • Trash night didn't involve rolling the cans to the curb. It meant tossing a match into the burning barrel, usually an old 55-gallon drum out back of the house, where our parents burned the household trash each week. I remember Dad standing there tending his trash barrel fire and shooting the breeze with our next-door neighbor, who was doing likewise.
  • There was quite a bit of home shopping going on, and it had nothing to do with the Internet - the "bread man" and the "milk man" came to the kitchen door of the house. My grandmother also watched for the arrival of the Jewel Tea salesman and kept a copy of the Spiegel catalog handy for other shopping needs.
  • Long before the Paint Creek or Clinton River recreational trails existed, we kids walked the railroad tracks, balancing one foot in front of the other on the rails to see who could go the longest without slipping off. These were active railroad lines with several trains a day coming through, and our parents had told us not to play on the tracks; which, of course, is probably why we wanted to do it anyway (guess that cat's out of the bag now).
  • Every March, our parents had to stand in long lines at the Secretary of State office in a house on Walnut St. to buy their new auto license plates. Everybody's plate expired on the same day, and there was no renewal by mail. A new "Water Winter Wonderland" plate was issued each year.
That's just the short list. Over to you, readers - feel free to add your own items in a comment for all to enjoy!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Ghosts of the D & C

The January-February issue of the Rochester Avon Historical Society's newsletter contains an article about the legendary ghost of the D & C store, formerly located in the building at 401 Main St., where Andiamo's restaurant is now. Reading that article sparked my interest in looking for details surrounding one of the people connected with the story of the ghost. The newsletter article recounts store manager Lou Tisch's experiences with unexplained happenings in the building, as well as his conversation with a long-time local resident who connected the ghost to the death of a man named Bill McIntyre. The resident told Tisch that McIntyre, a butcher, had worked in Mason's Market, which was at one time located in the west end of the D & C building. The man said McIntyre had cut himself while butchering meat and bled to death right there in the store. Another resident told Tisch that McIntyre had died from the accident so described, but it had happened in another store on Main St., not at the D & C building.

This all had me wondering which parts of the McIntyre story were fact, and which parts legend, so I consulted the newspaper accounts from the time. Sure enough, the Rochester Era for November 22, 1945, contained this front page headline: “William McIntyre Victim of Freak Accident Here: Severs Femoral Artery of Right Thigh and Bleeds to Death Within 20 Minutes.” Seems that Mr. McIntyre had, in fact, worked in Mason's Market when he first relocated to Rochester from Yale, but he had left there in 1944 to go into partnership with George Forsyth in the Forsyth & McIntyre meat and grocery market. While working in the meat processing room of the Forsyth & McIntyre store at 425 Main on November 15, 1945, the butcher knife he was using struck a bone and glanced off, hitting McIntyre in the right thigh and severing his femoral artery. He was carried to the nearest medical facility, which at that time was a block away at the Woodruff Hospital on Fifth Street (now University Drive) at the foot of Walnut. It was at the hospital that McIntyre, having lost too much blood, died of his wound.

I can't tell you whether the unfortunate Bill McIntyre is the D & C ghost, but it is clear that he did not die in the store. To read the entire newsletter article about the D & C, check out the current issue of the RAHS newsletter, Reliving the Rochester ERA, available here on the RAHS web site.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Alumni Night at Knapp's is August 3

Summer may seem like a long way off with the temperatures the way they are today here in Rochester, but the date has already been set for the 5th Annual RHS Alumni Gathering at Knapp's Dairy Bar. The event will be held from 6 p.m. until close on Monday evening, August 3, 2009. Mark your calendar now and plan to indulge in a hamburger while swapping stories with old friends and former classmates. Photos and scrapbooks will be there to kick-start your memories, but feel free to bring along your own memorabilia to share!

Winter Fun in the '60s

For those of us growing up on the north side of town in the 1960s, a favorite place for outdoor winter fun was the North Hill Shopping Center at Tienken & Rochester. The shopping strip was a little shorter in those days than it is now, and featured stores such as Cunningham Drugs, Kresge's, RB Shoppe, and a Wrigley supermarket. At the south end of the building there was a fairly steep embankment that made a fine sledding hill, and my Dad would take my sister and me up there occasionally for an afternoon of fun in the snow. The best part, for me, came after our mittens, boots and snow pants had become sufficiently packed with ice and slush from wiping out as we careened down the hill. Dad would usher us in to Cunningham's, which still had a soda fountain in those days, and buy us a hot chocolate with a generous dollop of whipped cream on top. If we were lucky, we'd also be given a dime each to play the pinball machine that was located just inside the door.

Mom's idea of winter recreation was ice skating. She'd take us down to the municipal pond and we'd slip around on those goofy double-bladed kid skates that buckled onto the bottom of our snow boots with a couple of leather straps. Each winter, after the ice grew thick enough to be safe, the fire department would flood the pond to put a nice smooth glaze on it, and it was a pretty popular gathering place on winter evenings. The Lions warming shelter at the west end of the pond usually had the fireplace going, and we'd stop in to thaw out our fingers and toes and then head right back out to the ice.

These days, we've got the Fire & Ice Festival, complete with fireworks to break up the winter boredom. That's coming up this weekend, January 23-24, and you can click here to see the schedule of events.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

This Month in Rochester History

During the month of January, we mark a couple of telephone milestones in Rochester history. Seventy-one years ago, on January 14, 1938, dial telephone service was introduced in Rochester. Callers no longer picked up the receiver and asked a switchboard operator to connect them to another party - they dialed the number themselves. Phone numbers might be only two to four digits, since the number of subscribers was still small. Things became more complicated on January 8, 1950, when telephone exchanges were established to organize subscribers into calling areas. In Rochester, the OLive (or 65) exchange was created, and callers had to go to the trouble of dialing all seven digits of the telephone number. Exchanges had names such as OLive, HOward, and so forth, because telephone company officials thought pronounceable names would be easier for people to remember than the numbers themselves. This system reduced the available number combinations, however, and growth of the telephone system demanded that it be phased out by the end of the 1960s.

So here's a quiz for those readers who are old enough to remember the OLive exchange. Which business had the phone number OL1-9411 (and still does today!)? If you need a hint, visit the company web site here.

Welcome to Remembering Rochester

If you have a connection to Rochester or Rochester Hills (formerly Avon Township), Oakland County, Michigan, and an interest in history, this blog is for you. We'll share stories from Rochester's past as well as current news items of concern to those who value local history. We'll also try to keep you up-to-date on meetings, events and reunions. Comments have been enabled for this blog, and we welcome them! If you have something to add to one of our articles, please post a comment. Just keep it clean, respectful of the personal privacy of others, and truthful. Enjoy!