Hanging On

Via the Ann Arbor Chronicle comes a reminder about an account of going to college in the Depression, Edmund Love’s Hanging On. I came across this book as I did research on student housing for my masters thesis and Love’s account was an engaging portrait of Ann Arbor and Michigan in the period. As Tobin writes,

Gerald Linderman, now professor emeritus of history, often assigned the book in his popular course in early 20th-century U.S. history. Hanging On carries the story through Love’s prolonged college career at Michigan. “The Great Depression of the 1930s too often comes down to us as a series of statistics,” Linderman says. “We frequently use them to lighten the predicament of our own recession, e.g., ‘Our jobless rate is less than ten percent, theirs much worse at 25 percent.’

There are a few issues with believing Love’s memoir on every count. In probably half a dozen instances he is saved from total disaster by some amazing coincidence or stroke of luck — huge gambling winnings, selling cats to fraternity boys for practical jokes and the like — that come off as exaggerations.

Here’s what I wrote about Love in my thesis:

When Ed Love graduated from Flint Northern High School in 1929, he intended to fulfill his mother’s wish that he earn a degree from the University of Michigan. The onset of the Depression and the myriad compromises and serendipities of life on the edge of poverty diverted him from that path, taking him in and out of college at Michigan until he finally graduated seven years later. By the time Love earned his degree in 1936, he had spent several semesters living in rooming houses and more than half his undergraduate life rooming in his fraternity house, but had never had the opportunity – nor, apparently, the desire – to live on the U-M campus.
[...]
Edmund Love, the student from Flint, arranged his sophomore year to room at the fraternity he had joined. His father was facing financial difficulties and Love sought a “board job” at a sorority that would provide him with meals. His responsibilities were to help prepare and set up meals for the sorority women, enabling him to eat for free before or after meals in lieu of pay. Though rooming at the fraternity increased what Love expected to pay at a rooming house, he opted for fraternity living because the organization allowed its members to carry a balance on their room or board. The social networks of Greek life were an essential safety net for students working their way through college during the Depression.

Love’s fraternity was located at 1443 Washtenaw and the building is now the William Monroe Trotter House.

Book Club

I just came across a new biography of Arthur Miller, Christopher Bigsby’s Arthur Miller, A Literary Biography. I’ve written a bit about Miller here on this blog as the playwright did his undergrad at Michigan in the 30s and started his writing career there. He won two Hopwood awards for student writing, the first for a play, No Villain, about a college kid who comes back from college in the 30s to his family’s garment business in New York and is sympathetic to the workers’ revolts arising in the streets. The second, Honors at Dawn, is about the influence of business interests at a university — a donor industrialist arranges for the dismissal of a radical professor and through the administration hires a student to spy on radical groups. Honors at Dawn is the better of the two, I think, because it has a more intricate set of stories that are interwoven fairly cleverly. No Villain is a bit simpler and basically hammers home a single point about economic and political change. I came across these because, in researching my masters thesis on student housing, I was looking at the memoirs of U-M alumni and my wife suggested maybe there might be something in Miller’s two plays. She was right.

In Bigsby’s book he gives No Villain a LOT more play than Honors at Dawn, which is too bad. It was subsequently revised and performed under a different name, They Also Rise. Neither of the original plays were ever published. But at least through this bio they’re getting a bit more exposure.

Not Too Surprising

I still check the Ann Arbor Chronicle (and Arbor Update) every now and again and was interested to see via the Chronicle that Eugene Kang is working for Barack Obama.

Remember his primary campaign in 2005? I do. I’d say it’s fitting — of the two Democratic candidates Ann Arbor got Stephen Rapundalo, who campaigned on “driveway issues” even when his constituents don’t have driveways and the next President of the United States got Kang, Ann Arbor born-and-bred guy who is taking his game to Washington. Great choice, Tree Town.

Just a Note

With the release of the film Milk, a great deal of publicity and interview promos (eg Terry Gross), make mention that Harvey Milk, member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, was “the first openly gay man to be elected to public office” in America. He was elected in November of 1977.

This is strictly true, but should contain an asterisk. In the April 1974 city elections in Ann Arbor, Kathy Kozachenko, a member of the Human Rights Party, won election to the Ann Arbor City Council for the 2nd Ward to become the first openly gay person in the U.S., male or female, to be elected to public office. She subsequently left Ann Arbor and moved to the Pittsburgh region where, if I remember an old Ann Arbor Observer article correctly, she works in staffing and human resources development and is affiliated with the labor movement.

Both Milk and Kozachenko were elected because of the ward-based election system. Milk lost twice under a city-wide election before the rules were changed and he won the Castro District, where he lived and ran a camera store. Kozachenko won because of the strong student presence in the 2nd ward — much of the backing for the HRP — and the alliance between the HRP, labor unions, and Ann Arbor minorities. While there was a gay population in Ann Arbor, it was nowhere near large enough to carry a ward.

I’d love to see some Kozachenko interviews with national publications come out in the next month or so.

Fall

Lonesome

The first weekend in October may be my absolute favorite time of year. It’s the time that Golden Delicious apples are ripe for u–pick.

My wife and I took a brief apple picking detour in my light speed trip back to Ann Arbor Friday to meet with a dissertation committee member and miss lunch with a friend (damned time zones).

I’ve been apple picking every fall since about the age of five…except last year, when we didn’t have a car, much money, much time, and no proximity to Michigan apples. In the Ann Arbor area, my first fall at Michigan I went to Wiard’s. I would recommend it for families and maybe teens who were interested in an interesting evening of agri-tainment, but not for people who just want apples. It’s more of a theme park with apples (they charge you to park!) and, while the apples were good, I don’t care about corn field mazes or tractor rides.

Since then I have been going to Wasem’s, which is the bare bones operation I like. It’s on the small side — they’ve got a few acres of 8 or 10 varieties, along with pumpkins and a few other types of produce. There’s a gravel parking lot and an unattractive pole barn building where they sell cider and make and sell donuts, along with jam (and maybe honey) — just about every marker of a u-pick orchard from your childhood. Don’t know what I’m going to do next fall when I will probably be done with my dissertation. 11 months to figure it out.

Podcast #2

It’s long-awaited and it’s available. Drawn from one of the chapters of my MUP thesis and presented at last fall’s conference on planning history. All audio, like the last one. I’m thinking about adding visuals and making it a .mov or something similar. It looks like I’ll be teaching a class on history and media, so I’ll be practicing up.

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Question(s)



?????, originally uploaded by urbanoasis.

Why is the Department of Justice searching for information on Margie Teall? And why does their inquiry bring them to my blog?

Global Suburbs



Global Suburbs Poster, originally uploaded by urbanoasis.

Want to know what I’ve been working on in my free time the last year? Look here.

Come to the Global Suburbs conference March 7-8, 2008 on the U-M campus. Or email your friends about this. Or tumblog this post.

Leopolds’ Out

AAiO had the scoop.

Todd Leopold has just announced that he and Leopold Brothers are leaving A2 for Denver. Writes Todd:

“Our lease expires in the summer, and shockingly (note heavy sarcasm), our landlords asked for an obscene amount per month in rent, so we’re done. This move has zero to do with the economy, or sales levels, as we are coming off of our strongest year of sales at the pub since we’ve been open. We moved here in 1998, and since that time our rent has tripled, and our new landlords want even more….because, of course, that’s what the market will bear.”

I hope to run into you all before we leave, and I wish Ann Arbor the best. The business climate isn’t one that we can survive, however.

I love Leopolds and miss going out there with the Madison House crew. You’ll recall their building sold in the summer of 2006 for $1.8 million.