Thursday, December 1, 2016

This Month in Rochester History

Fifty years ago this month, Rochester's two funeral homes, Potere and Pixley, made a joint announcement.  The two firms notified the city of Rochester that they were going out of the ambulance business in order to devote all of their time and attention solely to funeral services.

For years, ambulance calls in Rochester had been answered alternately by the funeral homes. The police dispatcher used a card with "Pixley" printed on one side and "Potere" on the other, as the two companies took turns responding to calls.  Their ambulances were transportation only, and did not carry life support equipment or personnel with medical training.

Following the announcement by the funeral homes in December 1966, Rochester contracted with Fleet Ambulance and St. Onge Ambulance to provide services to Rochester residents.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

This Month in Rochester History

In November 1966, the citizens of Rochester celebrated an improvement to the Avon Township Park (known today as Rochester Municipal Park).  The Kiwanis Club of Rochester dedicated a brand new pavilion on the bank of Paint Creek at the east end of the park, overlooking the river and the municipal pond.  The shelter had been built at a cost of $6000, with Kiwanis Club members doing all of the work themselves, except for the pouring of the concrete floor.  Fifty years later, we are still enjoying their contribution to the park.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

This Month in Rochester History

It's been half a century since touch-tone telephone service was inaugurated in the Rochester area.  In September 1966, Michigan Bell officials announced that a new facility on Tienken Road would take over the telephone circuits for Rochester and the old building at the corner of Third & Walnut streets would be vacated.  All 5,800 telephone customers in greater Rochester would be assigned the '651' prefix, and touch-tone calling would be available for the first time in the area.

The company announced that it would no longer offer 4-party lines, but 2-party service would still be available on a limited basis.

Monday, August 1, 2016

This Month in Rochester History

Apparently, the old adage was right - there really is nothing new under the sun.  A look back at the Rochester Clarion headlines of 50 years ago this month reveals the same news that is unfolding in our community today.  In August 1966, Rochester area residents were impatiently watching the reconstruction of the intersection of Avon and Rochester roads.  Part of the project included the installation of a long-awaited traffic signal.  Leader Dogs for the Blind, along with Detroit Broach and Machine (located where Sanyo is today), had told the State of Michigan for years that the intersection was too busy and accident-ridden to be governed only by stop signs.  Fifty years ago, state officials got the message.  Can you imagine that intersection without a traffic signal today?

Friday, July 1, 2016

This Month in Rochester History

Half a century ago this month, the Rochester Board of Education voted to take its first big step forward with computer technology.   In July 1966, the board agreed to participate in the new Oakland Schools data processing center, which was under development at the time and was slated to begin service in January 1968.

The proposed network was described as being the first of its kind in the country.  Participating districts would be linked via leased telephone lines to the mainframe computer located in Pontiac. The system was designed to handle budget and finance, pupil and personnel records, and testing and grade reporting.  The cost to Rochester Community Schools for these computer services was estimated to be $13,000 - $32,000 annually.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

This Month in Rochester History

In June 1966, leaders of the Rochester community gathered to celebrate the cornerstone laying for the suburban unit of Crittenton Hospital on University Drive.  The first full-service hospital to serve the area was welcomed and eagerly anticipated by citizens who were accustomed to traveling to Pontiac, Mount Clemens or Detroit for their acute health care needs.  Thus, when Crittenton Hospital of Detroit announced plans to build a suburban unit, village and township officials lobbied to have the facility located here.  Howard L. McGregor, Jr., vice-president of the hospital board of trustees and chairman of the fundraising committee for the Rochester location, presided over the cornerstone ceremony and U.S. Senator Robert Griffin delivered the keynote address on that memorable day.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

This Month in Rochester History

Fifty years ago this month, Rochester took a big step forward in the redevelopment of the old Chapman mill pond lake bed.  The property lying east of the railroad track in downtown Rochester had been under water until June 1946, when a spring storm caused the bermage around the Western Knitting Mills dam to fail, thereby draining the pond.  The dam was never rebuilt, the old lake bed was filled, and the property lay vacant for two decades before plans for the parcel began to take shape in the mid-1960s.

In 1966, the former mill pond area was undergoing development and the Rochester Elks Club planned a $300,000 lodge building on the property.  The single-story building would include a dining room, banquet room, cocktail lounge, and two meeting rooms, plus an office and lobby.  A patio overlooking Paint Creek was also planned.  In May 1966, the official groundbreaking for the new Elks Club building was held.  The building stood until about 2003, when it was demolished to make room for the construction of the Royal Park Hotel, which now stands on the site.

Friday, April 1, 2016

This Month in Rochester History

It was a half century ago this month that Rochester residents first learned about the development planned for the former Great Oaks Stock Farm on the west side of the village. Slavik Builders of Oak Park unveiled their concept for the 400-acre development that included 600 homes, 900 apartments and a 9-hole golf course, plus a shopping center to be built later. It was announced that the homes in the new subdivision would be priced starting at $30,000.

The former Howard L. McGregor home on the property was designated to be re-purposed as a clubhouse for the Great Oaks Country Club. The entire Slavik plan was scheduled to take 7-10 years to complete.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

This Month in Rochester History

Half a century ago this month, the citizens of Rochester were watching a labor dispute play out on Main Street.  In March 1966, workers at the Jim Robbins Seat Belt Company plant located in the old Yates Machine Works building on South Main staged a wildcat walk-out.  The Rochester facility was one of several locations of the Jim Robbins Company, which was headquartered in Royal Oak. The labor action in Rochester was called to protest what the employees called unbearable working conditions, and was not authorized by their union leadership.  It was followed the next week by a vote of the 200 workers calling for a sanctioned strike.

An authorized strike action began in May, two days after workers learned that the company owner Jim Robbins planned to close the plant and move the work to one of his southern locations. Employees picketed the plant on South Main Street to protest the move and their working conditions, but Robbins remained firm about closing the Rochester location.  He was also quoted in the Detroit Free Press as saying that the workforce at the Rochester plant was mostly "hot-headed working wives to whom the strike is a lark," and further commented that he did not believe that many of the women who worked in his Rochester factory "needed" the money from their jobs.

The company owner followed through with his decision to close the Rochester plant, and it never opened again after the strike. Owner Robbins, along with his wife and son, were killed in September 1966 in a private plane crash in South Dakota.

Monday, February 1, 2016

This Month in Rochester History

Fifty years ago this month, the Rochester First Church of the Nazarene moved into its new building at 1520 Walton Boulevard.  The congregation had been founded in 1920, and purchased the former Universalist church building on Walnut Street in downtown Rochester. Services were held in that building until the new church on Walton was ready for occupancy in February 1966.

In those days, the congregation paid $40,000 for the land and $75,000 for the construction of the new building, which had a seating capacity of 300. In 2002, the congregation was once more in need of a larger facility and built a brand new church  at 1799 Walton. The 1966 building at 1520 Walton was razed in 2009.

Friday, January 1, 2016

This Month in Rochester History

The local news of fifty years ago this month wasn't a lot different than the local news of this past summer.  In January 1966, Rochester area residents were talking about the upcoming paving of Tienken Road. But rather than a rebuilding project, the 1966 work proposed to pave Tienken for the very first time. And not everyone was in agreement about what ought to be done.  The Rochester Clarion reported as follows:
A motion to proceed with the paving of Tienken Rd. from the North Hill Plaza Shopping Center to the New York Central Railroad was approved by the Avon Township Board last week.
. . .
Paving of Tienken Rd. as far west as the railroad will still leave less than a half mile of unpaved road between Rochester Rd. and Livernois Rd. It had been proposed to pave the entire mile so that the route could be used for a bypass around the Village of Rochester.
Avon Township Supervisor Cyril Miller said this week that he personally would have liked to have seen the entire one mile paved.
The recommendation to pave only as far as the railroad was made by the Township Board's Road Committee, chairmaned [sic] by Trustee Donald Campbell.
Campbell said that the estimated cost of the project to the railroad is $35,000, with the Township and the County sharing the cost equally. He added that the lack of funds prevented paving the entire one mile at this time, but hinted that the remainder may be paved before another year goes by if funds are available.

In related news, a traffic signal that had been requested for the intersection of Rochester & Tienken was denied by the state highway department.  Officials who had conducted a traffic study reported that there was simply not enough traffic through the intersection to warrant a light - only 328 vehicles crossed that point between 6 & 7 a.m. on weekdays.  The Clarion responded by awarding the highway department a bouquet of poison ivy for its decision (see photo above).