A History of the Cleary Family in Ypsilanti

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings
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Author: Patrick Roger Cleary II

Ypsilanti welcomed a new era on October 8, 1883 when an ambitious and talented twenty-five year old Irish immigrant opened a school of penmanship in Ypsilanti and created an institution that continues to thrive today, 133 years later.

Our story begins in 1858 in the town of Borrisokane, Tipperary County, Ireland. A fifth child was born to Roday and Julia Cleary who they named Patrick Roger. Patrick’s parents were poor. Roday was a stockman on a large farm owned by the Marquise Tuthill, an Englishman. Julia worked in the farmhouse and they lived in a two-room thatch roofed cottage on the farm property.

Patrick’s father and mother died about 6 or 7 years after he was born. The dates and causes of their deaths were never revealed to our family. His older siblings had migrated to the United States earlier and had settled in various places in Michigan. After their parents died, the Tuthills took in Patrick and his younger sister Annie. Since the Tuthills were English, the children were able to continue their education in the English School that was not open to Irish children at that time.

In 1869, when Patrick was eleven, their older siblings sent for him and his sister Annie. They brought them to the United States where they settled in Hubbardston, Michigan. Hubbardston, a hamlet of less than 400 people today, is located in Ionia County not far from Lansing.

Patrick was an astute and industrious young man. He continued his schooling until he was fourteen and then went to work in a shingle mill for two years. He saved the money he earned while working and later returned to school where he completed high school in two years at age nineteen. Patrick Roger preferred being called P.R. or P. Roger rather than his given name due to the anti-Irish sentiment of the times.

After graduating from the Sheridan school, he entered the Northern Indiana Normal College (now Valparaiso, University) where he studied for a year before enrolling in the Spencerian Institute in Cleveland where he received his diploma in penmanship. Although the first typewriters came on the market in 1874, Spencerian script remained the standard in business well into the new century.

From his attendance at these institutions he formed his basic principles of education; learn in the same environment where the individual will be working; provide a rounded education to includeEnglish, mathematics and civics; afford the student a social environment.

Early on he had discovered that he had a wonderful talent in not only penmanship but also in drawing. Possessed of an entrepreneurial spirit and equipped with this talent, he saw that he could make a living by teaching penmanship. Returning to Hubbardston in 1880, he began teaching classes in this valuable skill in many towns in southern Michigan. Towns such as Ovid, Albion, St Johns and Fowlerville saw advertising bills and notices in newspapers citing classes in penmanship to be given by P.R. Cleary. His efforts proved lucrative and he enjoyed teaching.

By 1883 he had decided that Ypsilanti was where he would start a school of penmanship. Ypsilanti at that time was a bustling and prosperous city with 15 factories manufacturing a variety of products and enjoying a cultural environment with an opera house and a conservatory of music.

He opened his school in the second story of the Warden block on the corner of Huron and Congress (soon to become Michigan Avenue) Street. His first students were the three Babbitt sisters, daughters of Judge and Mrs. Babbitt. The October 13, 1883 edition of the Ypsilanti Commercial observed, “such a school was much needed.”

He was precise and demanding of his students. But as he continued to advertise his enrollment increased quickly and he moved his classes to the Union Block on the north side of Michigan Avenue between Washington and Adams Streets. He commenced holding both day and evening classes as well as acquiring a position as professor of penmanship at the Normal College at a salary of $50.00 per month.

In 1887 P.R. realized that his school was growing so rapidly that he must have a new building and purchased land on the northwest corner of Adams and Michigan Avenue for $2,200.

The highlight of 1887 for P.R. was that he met Helen Clarke Jenks, a very pretty twenty-two year old from St. Clair, MI. She was a cousin of Mrs. Scherzer and was visiting in Ypsilanti. P.R. was smitten with this pretty young lady and began a correspondence with her. By 1889, he had proposed to her and she had accepted. They were married in St. Clair in June 1889. The wedding surprised the Ypsilanti residents since they had considered P.R. as a most eligible bachelor and he had given no indication that marriage was imminent. The newlyweds left immediately after the wedding for a month long honeymoon in Europe.

For the next fifty years Helen Cleary was to be P.R.’s confidant, enthusiast and co-worker in the expansion of Cleary College. Her participation would provide great enrichment in the lives of thousands of young men and women who attended the College.

P.R. begin construction of the new building in 1889. Although it was not completed until 1891, he began to hold classes in rooms that had been completed. The building cost $20,000. P.R. received much support from Ypsilanti businessmen and raised over $10,000 in donations. He took out a mortgage for the balance. Carved into the capstone at the entrance to the building were the words “Cleary Business College.”

The next year, P.R. incorporated the college under state law. Earlier he had begun delivering courses in penmanship in Toledo, OH. He found that the man he had hired to deliver these courses was dishonest and had taken money from him. Thus, he was concerned that a lawsuit would impact his family and the way to protect them was to incorporate.

Tragedy struck on Wednesday evening April 12, 1893. The atmosphere was very heavy and humid and there were thunderstorms in the area. P. R. and Helen were sitting in the living room of their home on Forest Avenue holding their two children on their laps when a man banged on the door and said “Mr. Cleary, the college is gone.” P.R. raced out of the house and ran to the college to find that a cyclone had struck and knocked the roof of the turret from the building besides knocking out the east wall.

The next day, after surveying the damage, he posted signs on the wrecked building saying “classes will resume in all branches of work on Monday, April 17th.” This was a demonstration of his courage and determination. The college was soon repaired at a cost of $7,000.

During this period he formed a close relationship with J.L. Hudson of the J.L Hudson Department store in Detroit. Hudson had shown him how to figure profit. Business textbooks at the time taught that profit should be figured on cost. For instance, if a merchant bought an item for $6.00 and wanted to sell it for a gross profit of 33 1/3 %, he was actually making only 25%. Hudson stressed that profit should be figured on sale, not on cost. P.R said, “I had to work to get my teachers to se that profit should be figured on sale, not on cost and also that expense should be figured on sale.”

He established a practice of visiting businesses to help them set up a bookkeeping system which allowed him to keep abreast of business practices, place students in jobs and kept him aware of salaries in the marketplace. With this experience, he published his first book, How to Figure Profit in 1900 which was published by the Huron Press that was owned by the Cleary’s.

P.R. continued to expand his course offerings including accounting, shorthand and typing. In the secretarial studies curriculum, P.R. required all students to take dictation from him before they could graduate.

By the end of the decade, P.R. and Helen had had four children born to them; Charles Brooks Cleary in 1890; Marjory Julia Cleary in 1892, Ruth Marie Cleary in 1894 and Owen Jenks Cleary in 1900. In 1905, P.R. moved his family from the house on Forest Avenue, where all the children had been born, to 7 N. Normal St., a house that had been built in 1848 by the Smith family. It was a large, four-bedroom, Georgian style, house which had an upper front porch with wooden scrollwork forming the railing giving it a “New Orleans” appearance.

In 1912, Cleary College and the Michigan State Normal College formed a joint program where high school business teachers would study education subjects at the Normal College and business subjects at Cleary. He did this in collaboration with Charles McKenny, President of the Normal College. All the Cleary children attended Ypsilanti High School with Charles, the oldest going on to Cleary College and then the University of Michigan. Marjory attended Cleary College, the Michigan State Normal College and the University of Michigan. Ruth followed suit, attending the same institutions. Owen attended the Michigan State Normal College for one year prior to entering the U.S. Army.

When the U.S. entered World War One, all the Cleary children took part in the war effort. In 1917 Charles was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in the U.S. Army. Marjory and Ruth traveled to Washington, DC where they found work at the War Industries Board. In 1918 Owen was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in the U. S. Army. He was one of the youngest 2nd Lieutenants in the Army at that time.

Charles saw action in France in 1918, but Owen remained stateside and was stationed at Camp Perry, OH as a small arms instructor. The girls returned to Ypsilanti in early 1919.

Early in the decade of 1920’s Charles Cleary moved to Florida and became engaged in real estate activities. He married May Weaver of St. Petersburg, FL. The couple subsequently had three children, Patricia, Thomas and Anita Joyce. Charles left Florida and returned to Michigan in 1933 where he became Director of Admissions at Cleary College.

Marjory married Arthur McKenny, son of Charles McKenny who was the President of the Michigan State Normal College. Arthur had been awarded a degree in Mechanical engineering from the University of Michigan in 1916 and subsequently entered the Army and saw action in France. He later was an engineer and manager for the Chevrolet Company and the couple lived in Detroit. They had two boys, Charles, born in 1920 and Owen in 1925. Both subsequently served in the U.S. Army during World War II.

Ruth moved to Riverside, IL where she taught business and bookkeeping at Riverside High School where she was also head of the commercial department. In 1958 she retired after 40 years of teaching and returned to Ypsilanti to live out her life.

Owen Cleary was discharged from the Army in 1919 and returned to attend Cleary College until 1920 and then entered the Michigan State Normal College. He received his teachers certificate in 1922 and then attended the University of Michigan. He received his BA degree in 1925. He then entered the University of Detroit Law School and graduated in 1931 being conferred with a Doctor of Jurisprudence degree. Owen J. Cleary married Marie DeWaele in 1929. Catherine Ann Cleary was born in 1930 and Patrick Roger Cleary II was born in 1934.

Cleary College kept on growing and by 1925 the college had 325 students enrolled. It had reached some prominence when it was announced that other Michigan educational institutions were giving credit to their students for courses taken at Cleary. Among those institutions crediting Cleary courses were The University of Michigan and the Normal College.

With the depression in full swing in 1933, Ypsilanti was significantly affected. By now the college was 50 years old and P.R. wanted to ensure that it would continue in perpetuity. Thus all assets were turned over to a Board of Trustees. In late 1933 the Board met and P.R. Cleary was elected president, Helen Cleary was vice president, Irene Hines was secretary and Owen J. Cleary was treasurer.

As P. R. Cleary stated in the 1940’s, “we started with three charter members and the membership of the board has grown with current membership at 18. Prominent among board members were Daniel L. Quirk Sr., Donald M. Silkworth of Ypsilanti and Cecil Billington of Detroit.

In 1938, P. R. took a six-week trip to Ireland and England, the first time he had seen his homeland in 40 years. He had planned to take his wife Helen, but she was in ill health and instead took his daughter Ruth.

In 1938, Owen Cleary was admitted to the University of Michigan hospital with acute stomach ulcers and underwent a partial gastric resection. He incurred a serious infection and almost died, but recovered and was released after spending eleven months in the hospital.

A year later Helen Jenks Cleary passed away in December 1939. She had suffered from heart problems and had been in declining health for several years. P.R. decided to retire in 1940 and the Board of Trustees appointed Owen J. Cleary president of Cleary College.

Following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941, Owen attempted to go on active duty with his National Guard unit but his medical condition prevented him from activating his commission. Governor Harry Kelley then appointed Owen Chief Air raid /Warden for the State and then Major in the newly organized Michigan State Troops, a militia to replace the National Guard. Since Owen was now on active duty, P.R. resumed the Presidency of Cleary College.

Owen was promoted to Colonel and assumed command of the 31st Infantry Regiment, Michigan State Troops at the Brush Street Armory in Detroit where he was stationed until the end of the war. In August 1945, Owen was promoted to Brigadier General and was charged by the governor to reorganize the Michigan National Guard. He officially retired from the Michigan State Troops in January 1947.

Charles Cleary worked at the Ford Willow Run Bomber Plant during the war and following the war moved to La Mesa, CA to re-enter the real estate business. Charles died in 1958. His children continued to live in St. Petersburg, Fl. Patty Cleary married Larry Baynard. Tommy Cleary served in the U.S. Marine Corps in World War II and saw action on Guadalcanal in the south Pacific. His battalion received the Presidential Unit Citation for heroism in battle. He died in 1963. Joyce Cleary lived in Atlanta and passed away shortly after Tommy.

Marjory Cleary McKenny’s son Charles graduated from Albion College in 1942 and served in the Army during WW II. In 1947 he married Mary Louise Whitney of Toledo, OH. She had served in the Navy during WW II as an officer. Both graduated from the University of Michigan Law School in 1948 and began practicing law in Toledo. They had three children, Thomas born in 1949, Arthur in 1951 and Anne Elizabeth in 1957. Later Anne and her mother would become very involved with Cleary College as substantial donors.

Marjory’s second son, Owen Cleary McKenny, graduated from Michigan State University in 1954 and went on to become an engineer and manager with General Motors. He married June Faber after graduating and the couple had four children; Gail, Gerald, Stephen and Mark. Owen served on the Cleary College Board of Trustees for a number of years and was on the search committee for former president of Cleary College, Tom Sullivan.

By 1946, Owen had resumed the presidency of Cleary College and returned to his law practice. He ran for the office of Lieutenant Governor on the Republican ticket that fall but was unsuccessful. With Owen reassuming the presidency, P.R. Cleary retired again and began work on a history of Cleary College. He remained active until 1948 when just 3 months past his 90th birthday he suffered a stroke and passed away. He is buried next to his wife Helen in Highland cemetery.

Owen was named to the Michigan Liquor Commission in 1947 by then Governor Kim Sigler. One year later assumed the Chairmanship of the Republican Party of Michigan, a position he retained until 1952 when he was elected Secretary of State of Michigan. During this period Owen had named Walter Grieg Vice-President of Cleary College. Walter handled the day-to-day operations of the college.

Following his term as Secretary of State, he returned to his law practice and the College. By this time, Donald M. Silkworth, a long time Trustee and supporter of the College had commenced a fundraising program for a new campus to be located at the northeast corner of Washtenaw and Hewitt Roads.

Tragically In 1956, while in Florida, Owen fell and injured his neck. He endured but was in constant pain and his doctors did not recommend surgery. He continued his work as president of Cleary College as well as pursuing his law practice. His health was waning, but he continued to work toward erecting the new campus and the cornerstone was laid in early 1960. On September 10, 1960, Owen J. Cleary passed away from renal failure and Donald Silkworth was named president. Thus ended the seventy-seven year tradition of a Cleary as president of Cleary College.

With the new building holding classes in 1961, enrollment began increasing and by the mid-1960’s, it was over 1400 and Cleary College was offering 146 classes. But, in 1965, Washtenaw Community College opened and Cleary enrollment began to decline. Because it was a publicly funded institution, tuition at WCC was less than at Cleary and by 1978, enrollment stood at 459.

With college enrollment dropping steeply, in 1978 the Cleary Board of Trustees named Gilbert Bursley President. Bursley, a former state senator and U.S. Congressman increased fund raising, modernized college equipment and opened the Livingston campus in 1979. Under Bursley’s leadership, enrollment began to increase and by 1980, stood at 765.

Following Owen’s death, Marie Cleary, with her characteristic grit and courage, embarked on a mission to complete her teaching degree that she accomplished by 1964. She followed this up by completing her Masters degree the following year and commenced a second career as a guidance counselor at West Junior High School.

In 1973 Marie married Jess Mangas whom she had known since 1941, when he and his then wife Mildred rented an apartment at the house on 7 N. Normal. Jess had worked at the Ford Motor Co. in Dearborn for many years. He and Mildred moved from 7 N. Normal in 1953 to a new home at 1310 W. Cross St. Jess retired from Ford in 1964, and following Mildred’s death, began courting Marie. Shortly thereafter, Marie and Jess moved to Sarasota, FL where Marie had a home that she and Owen has purchased in 1958.

Owen and Marie’s daughter Ann attended Roosevelt High School and the University of Michigan graduating in 1952. In 1953 Ann married Patrick Heck of Toledo and had four children, Teresa, Catherine Ann, Patrick and Maria. In March 1975 Ann divorced Patrick Heck.

On March 14, 1977 she married Lieutenant Colonel Charles S. Kettles (a corporate merger with net assets of 10 children). Ann had known Chuck since her high school days when he was living next door. Chuck was drafted for the Korean War in October 1951 after completing two years at Michigan State Normal college. He completed Officer Candidate training at Fort Knox, KY and the Army flight Training program before being assigned to Korea. He achieved a distinguished record as an officer and Army aviator being awarded the Army Distinguished Service Cross for heroism in combat in Vietnam.

The Kettles family have truly been pillars of the Ypsilanti community, for Eastern Michigan University (EMU), Cleary University, Washtenaw Community College and Washtenaw Technical Middle College (Charter School).

Ann Cleary Kettles began working at EMU in September 1972. Her excellent organizational and leadership abilities were recognized and she rapidly advanced from secretary in the Nursing Department to becoming Director of Records, Registration and Academic Advising in early 1990, a position she held until her retirement in January 1996. She also served on the Board of Trustees of the Washtenaw Community College for over 12 years and Chair of the Board for the last four years of her service. She served on the initial board for the Charter School created under the Washtenaw Community College and on the Board of the Red Cross of Washtenaw County.

She began serving as a Trustee of Cleary College in March of 1985 and retired as a Trustee Emeritus in 2003. Ann suffered a hemorrhagic stroke in October of 2001 at the age of 71 that left her paralyzed on the right side. With the determination that has been her “hall mark,” she continued to serve on three of the boards for over two years before accepting the fact that it was no longer practical.

Chuck served on the Ypsilanti City council for four years. Further, he developed and implemented the Aviation Management Program in the College of Technology, Eastern Michigan University that continues to graduate students in Management and Flight. He was instrumental in establishing a scholarship in the name of Capt. Robert Arvin, USA which provided over $110,000 to deserving students over the ten year period of the Foundation. The program continues as an endowed Scholarship in honor of Bob Arvin, a graduate of Ypsilanti High School and the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, NY. Arvin lost his life in Vietnam after having earned two Silver Star medals for heroism.

Patrick Cleary II attended Roosevelt High Schools and the University of Michigan and received his B.S degree in 1956. he entered the U.S. Navy Flight Training later that year. He married Wilma Louise Stiltner in 1957 and was designated a naval aviator in 1958.

Pat and Wilma had two sons, Patrick Roger Cleary III in 1962 and Michael Jenks Cleary in 1964. During Pat’s 24 years of service with the U.S. Navy, their family lived in the Far East including Guam, Japan and the Philippine Islands. They also were stationed in San Diego and San Jose, CA, Lexington Park, MD and Washington, DC. While living on Guam, Wilma taught school and in Japan she taught English to Japanese doctors.

Following his retirement from the Navy in 1980 as a Captain, Pat was employed by Litton Industries and retired as a Vice-President and General Manager of the Warfare systems Division. After Pat’s retirement, Wilma opened a boutique in Alexandria, VA, successfully operating it until she retired in 1991. After she retired, she and Pat traveled extensively in Europe, Canada and the U.S. Wilma passed away in September 2015.

Patrick Roger Cleary III graduated from The College of William and Mary in 1984 and also became a naval aviator. He retired in 2013 as a Captain. He married Annemarie Dinardo in 1989 and they have two daughters, Emma, 22 and Erin, 17.

Michael Cleary graduated from James Madison University in 1987 and went to work with the Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI). He married Ellen Grube in 1990 and they have three children; Bridget, 20, and twins, Owen J. Cleary II and Dana, 16. Michael eventually transferred from ONI to the Defense Intelligence Agency where he is currently a senior executive.

In the three decades from 1980 to 2010 Cleary College saw many milestones achieved including accreditation as a university, a high ranking among specialty colleges and being ranked as the second best value education in the state of Michigan just behind the University of Michigan’s extension campus in Dearborn.

Today, two of P.R’s. and Helen’s descendants continue to be involved with the Cleary institution. Anne McKenny, a software engineer and manager for General Motors, was named to the Cleary College Board of Trustees in 1990. She continues as the longest sitting member on the Board and one of the University’s most significant donors. Patrick Roger Cleary II is also deeply involved with Cleary University, having been on the Board of Trustees since 2003. He has now been named as the vice-Chairman of the Board.

(Patrick Roger Cleary II has served on the Board of Trustees of Cleary University since 2003 and was recently named Vice-Chairman of the Board.)

Photo Captions:

Photo 1: The original Cleary College building in 1893. This picture was taken in circa 1905.

Photo 2: The two-room thatch roofed cottage where Patrick Roger Cleary‘s parents lived in Ireland in 1858 when Patrick Roger was born. The picture was taken in 1938, 39 years after Patrick Roger left Ireland for the United States.

Photo 3: Patrick Roger Cleary at age 25.

Photo 4: Patrick Roger Cleary started teaching penmanship in many towns in southern Michigan in 1880.

Photo 5: Cleary included handwriting samples in this 1883 newspaper ad.

Photo 6: The cyclone that struck in Ypsilanti on April 12, 1893 did severe damage to the newly constructed Cleary College building.

Photo 7: By the end of the decade, Patrick Roger and Helen had had four children born to them; (L to R) Marjory Julia in 1892, Ruth Marie in 1894, Mother Helen, Owen Jenks in 1900, and Charles Brooks in 1890.

Photo 8: Donald Silkworth and Owen Cleary at the cornerstone laying ceremony in 1960.

Photo 9: The Cleary College building that was located on the Northwest corner of Washtenaw Avenue and Hewitt Road in Ypsilanti.

Return of Education Movie Night

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings
Original Images:

Author: Hosted By James Mann

Education Movie Night in the Archives will return this fall, beginning on Friday, September 11, 2015. Movies will begin at 7:00 pm, in the Archives of the Museum. The educational program provides free admission and free popcorn. Entrance to the Archives is on the north side of the Museum, on the side opposite from the parking lot.

Friday, September 11, 2015
Moby Dick 1956, Running Time: 1 hour 55 minutes
Film adaptation of the novel by Herman Melville. Consumed by rage, Captain Ahab (Gregory Peck) seeks revenge on the great white whale, Moby Dick, who maimed and disfigured him.

Friday, September 18, 2015
The Long Voyage Home 1940, Running Time: 105 minutes
Adapted from four one act plays by Eugene O'Neill, and set in the early days of the Second World War. The crew of the cargo ship SS Glencairn set sail for England with a cargo of high-explosives. Members of the crew begin to suspect that one of their number is a spy. John Wayne plays Swedish sailor Ole Olsen.

Friday, September 25, 2015
The Informer 1935, Running Time: 91 minutes
Based on the novel by Liam O'Flaherty. In Dublin of 1922, wracked by Civil War, Gypo Nolan, a brute of a man, turns informer and sells out his friend Frankie McPhillip to the Black and Tan for money. Now Gypo must try to keep suspicion from him, as others search for the informer. Victor McLaglen received the Academy Award for best actor, and John Ford for best director.

Friday, October 2, 2015
Submarine 1928, Running Time: 93 minutes
Two career Navy men (Jack Holt and Ralph Graves), are the best of men, until both fall in love with the same woman. The two have a falling out, and vow never to speak to each other again. One of the two is transferred to a submarine, which, while on maneuvers, collides with a ship. The other, a deep sea diver, is called on to save the men trapped in the submarine.

Big Sister Is Watching

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings
Original Images:

Author: Fred Thomas

I had the pleasure of being a public school teacher in Michigan for 32 years. A parent shared the following letter that they received in 1956 from the Office of the Dean of Women at Western Michigan College in Kalamazoo, Michigan. I think you will find it is one more example of how the world has changed. Her name and address have been changed to protect the innocent. Enjoy!


Dear Parent or Guardian:

In order that you may have a clear understanding of some of the policies of Western Michigan College, we are writing parents or guardians of all women students who are here in 1956-57.

Because the campus is extensive, students have tended to hitchhike from one area to another. The college is definitely opposed to hitchhiking at any time, and hopes students will ride the college bus or accept rides from specially designated areas only with a person known by the student.

You will find enclosed, if your daughter is a new student and not living at home, a card which you may, if you wish, fill out and return to my office. This will permit your daughter to spend weekends away from her residence, at places other than home. If it should be necessary for her to be out of her residence overnight during the week, she will be expected to have in my office or in the office of the dormitory director, a written note from you giving such a permission. If the time element makes this impossible, the permission may be given by a telephone call from you, to me or to the residence hall director.

It is our policy to send a postcard to parents, specifying the dates when a girl has been out of her residence overnight, and her destination. You need not reply to the card, unless the information on it does not agree with your knowledge. Perhaps it should be pointed out that there have been occasions, such as after some of the big dances, when students have signed out for a certain destination, and then gone elsewhere. When we do not hear from you, we assume you know of your daughter’s plans.

We also want you to know that Western Michigan College is opposed to liquor, including beer, being introduced into any college building, and that students entering their rooming places under the influence of liquor may be subject to dismissal from the college. However, since many colleges are faced with the fact that sometimes liquor is served at non-college affairs, and that students, including girls who are minors, might possibly attend such affairs, in order to better understand the student and perhaps be of help to her we would like to know whether your attitude on the use of liquor agrees with ours.

This office is anxious to be of service to you and your daughter in every way possible. We are always happy to hear from, or meet parents, and hope you will feel free to communicate with us at any time.

Sincerely yours,
Elizabeth E. Lichty
Dean of Women


(Fred Thomas moved to Ypsilanti in 1948, graduated from Roosevelt High School in 1958, and then from Eastern Michigan University in 1965. He currently lives in Phoenix, Arizona. He is a regular contributor to the Gleanings.)

Photo Captions:

Photo 1: The card sent to parents by Western Michigan University in 1956 when their daughter was off campus overnight.

Professor Phelps and the Teaching of Sex Hygiene

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings
Original Images:

Author: James Mann

“Possibly Miss Jessie Phelps, Professor of Physiology at the Michigan State Normal College, did not tell pleasant things to listen to, in her talk yesterday on 'Teaching Sex Hygiene in the Public Schools,' on the Chautauqua course, but she told things that if true, parents had better not ignore longer,” noted The Ann Arbor Daily Times News of Saturday, July 11, 1914.

Professor Phelps was the final speaker for the “Good Health Week” at the Ann Arbor Chautauqua. Her comments were reported throughout the state, sometimes in a sensational way. Some of her comments would be controversial today. Professor Phelps said that “Children should be told the true story of the stork…To tell the child that the doctor, or God brought the baby is not the truth from the child's standpoint, and it gives a false notion of the function of both decent doctors and the right of God. The story can be told in a thousand ways. Each relator must consider the time and the experience of the child. If no questions are asked that naturally leads to telling of the story, then opportunity should be made, and the matter forced if necessary.” The way in which the story was told had to be sincere and direct.

She said children should become acquainted with the human nude at an early age. “Children should be familiar from the first with the nude of each sex; young and adults (the parents) bathing and dressing together freely, frankly and without prudish apology. Pictures and statues of the beautiful nude should have a place in homes where the adults can show the right regard for the body. In all ways the body must be respected and honored but not pampered or coddled.” There must have been some statements made in reply, concerning the bathing and dressing of children and adults together. In a communication to The Daily Ypsilanti Press, published on Wednesday, July 15, 1914, Phelps stated that this part of her talk occupied five lines out of the four hundred lines of her paper.

Children need to be told about the subject in the proper way, noted Phelps, so as to avoid unfortunate discoveries. She called for parents and teachers to work together, to bring about an understanding of the body that would result in the child growing into gallantry and modesty. “The powerful sex force which fills every virile life would be transmuted into myriads of forms, expressing itself in art, in play, in work, in charm of personality, in religious life and in social service just as it does among all socially active and civic-minded women and men. Fine bodily control would take the place of silly vulgar talk and action.”

“No child can attend rural or village schools a year without receiving instructions about these matters,” noted Phelps. “Usually it is along the streets, in the alley, behind the barn, given by companions who know little, and that perhaps in the wrong way. Perverted half truths are the most dangerous kind, because they pique morbid curiosity and establish wrong images. It is worth all the trouble to give every little child a fair first view, that he may ever after think upon these things without fear or shame.”

The thirty of forty women who listened to Jessie Phelps read her paper discussed it among themselves after the talk, and none took issue with the subject. A mother of eight who was present, said she had raised her children in accordance with the views of Miss Phelps, and her experience had proved the wisdom of her teaching.

Jessie Phelps died in January of 1961. The Phelps dormitory at Eastern Michigan University is named in her honor.

(James Mann is a local historian, storyteller and author of eight books on local history. His work includes Wicked Washtenaw County, Wicked Ann Arbor and Wicked Ypsilanti.)

Photo Captions:

Photo 1: Jessie Phelps was a Professor of Physiology at Michigan State Normal College.

Photo 2: The Phelps Dormitory at Eastern Michigan University is named in honor of Jessie Phelps.

Controversy on the Michigan State Normal Campus

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings
Original Images:

Author: James Mann

Grace Fuller served as the Dean of Women on the Michigan State Normal Campus in the early 1900s and was a respected and admired administrator. The class of 1910 dedicated the Annual Aurora to her. Edwin A. Strong, a senior and member of the Aurora staff, included the following in his dedication remarks: “To Grace Fuller as a mark of appreciation for the interest she is taking in the welfare of the girls of our College, we gratefully dedicate this book – The Class of 1910… I was asked by the management of The Aurora to attempt to account for Miss Fuller, our genial Dean of Women…and in so doing to account also for her unusual acceptableness and usefulness in this institution…we find everything to praise in Miss Fuller’s great devotion to her chosen work – the economics of the home, with especial reference to the great problem of human foods…But it is as the wise and efficient Dean of Women that she is best known among us. In this capacity her home has come to be a social center of great attraction for the girls of the school, who find in her a faithful friend and judicious adviser, and, through her influence, an introduction to a wider circle of interests than they could otherwise have known. And so I feel grateful for this opportunity of expressing to her the high appreciation and warm regard of both the town and the school – faculty and students – and the hope that she may continue to find as now great happiness and usefulness in her work.

However, just four years later Dean Fuller found herself in trouble with the law. According to local newspaper accounts a warrant for the arrest of Grace Fuller, the Dean of Women at the Michigan State Normal College, was issued on Saturday, January 31, 1914, by Justice of the Peace Stadtmiller. The charge against Dean Fuller was assault. Dean Fuller, it was alleged, had slapped her maid, Viola White. “The girl says that she had been reprimanded for various acts,” reported The Daily Ypsilanti Press of Saturday, January 31, 1914, “…which had been considered misdeeds by the Dean, but on the evening of January 23 the limit was reached when, as she states, because dinner was late the Dean severely boxed her ears.”

Viola White had applied for a warrant a week before, but Justice Stadtmiller had refused because she had no witnesses. “Since then, however,” reported the Ann Arbor Daily Times News of Monday, February 2, 1914, “the White girl’s mother is alleged to have received a letter from Miss Fuller, stating that she, the Dean, had slapped the girl because she needed it. This letter was brought to Justice Stadtmiller and a warrant was issued on the strength of it.”

Dean Fuller appeared before Justice Stadtmiller to answer the charge of assault and battery on Thursday, February 24, 1914. She stood mute, and the court entered a plea of not guilty. She was told to appear for examination on February 24, 1914, and was released on her own recognizance. On Thursday, February 24, 1914, Viola White filed a damage suit against Dean Fuller in the circuit court seeking damages of $5,000. “She alleges that on January 23, while she was in the Dean’s employ as a domestic, the latter committed an assault upon her, when she failed to perform her duties to the satisfaction of her mistress. She avers that the proper remedy that the Dean had, was to discharge her, and that instead she took bodily vengeance upon her. She says that as a result she suffered greatly and asks the $5,000 as balm for her suffering,” noted The Ann Arbor Daily Times News of the same date.

The case came to trial before the Justice Court on Monday, March 9, 1914, where a considerable amount of time was spent choosing the jury. John Kirk, attorney for Dean Fuller, tried to prove the assault was justified. “Professor Frederick Alexander, director of the conservatory of music, Mrs. Wilma Linyd, a guest of Miss Fuller when the alleged assault is supposed to have happened, and the Dean’s mother testified that the White girl was impertinent in her remarks to her mistress, and that she provoked the alleged assault which the witnesses claimed consisted only of the Dean pushing the girl away from her,” reported The Ann Arbor Daily Times News of Tuesday, March 19, 1914.

The Daily Ypsilanti Press of the same day reported: “Miss Fuller testified that the White girl crowded so close to her, stamping her feet and demanding her money, with the threat that she was about to leave, after the Dean had reprimanded her for not having a meal ready on time, that she was forced to push her away. In doing so she admitted that she slapped the White girl.” The jury of six men deliberated the case for ten minutes, before returning to the court room to announce they were unable to agree on a verdict. The jury was ordered to try again, and this time considered the case for almost an hour. They returned to the court, and again said they were unable to reach a verdict. There were three for conviction and three for acquittal. The case was dismissed and March 18 was set as the date for a second trial.

This second trial was never held, as the case was dismissed, as it was to be heard in the circuit court during the May term. In the end, an agreement was reached and Dean Fuller paid Viola White $25, reduced from the $5,000 she had been seeking. By this time it had been announced that Dean Fuller had resigned from her position at the Normal College. She was moving to Illinois, where she was to take charge of the women’s department at the state prison at Joliet.

(James Mann is a local author and historian, a volunteer in the YHS Archives, and a regular contributor to the Gleanings.)

Photo Captions:

Photo 1: In the early 1900s Grace Fuller served as the Dean of Women at the Michigan State Normal College.

Photo 2: Old Pierce Hall was one of the main buildings on the Michigan State Normal School campus in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

History of Adult Education in Michigan

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings
Original Images:

Author: Jack D.Minzey

Prior to 1960, adult education was a rather simple program in Michigan. Students under the age of 21 could enroll in the regular school program and earn their diploma. There was an alternate program called the General Education Development diploma (GED), but this program had little credibility and was not generally valuable as a requirement for employment. In the late 1960’s, Don Butcher and Clyde LeTarte were hired in the Michigan Department of Education. Both of them had previously been associated with the Mott Intern Program. Dr. Butcher was the representative to the program from Northern Michigan University. Clyde LeTarte was a former community school director from Muskegon who was one of the interns, chosen as one of the 50 interns from a total of over 2,000 applicants. Dr. Butcher went on to be president of several universities, and Dr. LeTarte was a dean at Eastern Michigan followed by roles as President of Jackson Community College and a member of the Michigan Legislature.

These two men shared the same educational philosophy. They were concerned that there was no high school completion opportunity for the hundreds of thousands of people in the State of Michigan who did not have a high school diploma. And they felt that such a program should be provided at public expense. They wrote the rules and regulations for a more progressive plan for adults and were able to have it passed by the Michigan Legislature. Under their plan, any adult, over 18 years of age, could enroll in a special high school completion program run by their local school district.

They were well aware that educators and their administrators and boards of education did not generally perceive adult education as their prerogative. Most public school people have a philosophy that education is for students between the ages of 5 and 18, if the age of five occurs on or before the first day of December. Under normal conditions, public schools would not take on the additional task of high school completion for adults. However, the new law had provisions which made it very attractive to school superintendents and boards of education even if not to their faculty.

Under the new law, classes for adults would be offered at times which did not conflict with the regular school schedule. The same classes as required by the state for regular graduation would also be offered to adults. These classes would be taught by certified teachers, and in order to graduate, students would need to earn the same number of Carnegie Units as required for the regular program.

The attractive part of the program for school superintendents was that for every four classes taken, the school district would receive credit for reimbursement from the state for one full time student (FTE). Since the classes would be taught by teachers who received far less pay and who received no fringe benefits, the cost for such a program would be minimal. In addition, buildings, equipment, teaching stations and even some custodial service would not be an extra cost. School districts now were reimbursed for students who represented a huge profit for the school district.

But there was one more advantage which most people did not see or understand. The school formula for state reimbursement made these programs even more lucrative. Reimbursement to school districts was based on a formula in which the number of students was divided into the state equalized evaluation of the community. The size of the product became the number which determined the number of dollars which the district received for each student. Obviously, the greater the number of students, the lower the product, and the lower that number, the more money would be received from the state for all students. Superintendents and business managers quickly saw that with an adult education program, they would not only receive money for the additional adults, but they would also receive extra money for every student in their district. This was a bonanza, and practically all of the more than 7,000 state school districts took advantage of this program.

There were some very positive and unexpected things that happened because of this program. School districts now started to use their surplus monies in some unique ways. Many of them hired community school directors who not only ran adult education, but added literacy classes, extra programs, over and above the school day, for regular school students, and vocational, social and recreational programs for other adults in their communities. The result was that not only were the adults without diplomas served, but children got extra programs which were not available in the past, and community members became much more supportive of their schools because they now received some services for their investment.

Then came a circumstance which was to prove the downfall of this very successful program. Dominic Jacobetti, a powerful legislature from the Upper Peninsula, was made aware that there were students in his district who had high school diplomas, but needed financial assistance for particular job training. The actual case presented was that some of the women in his area wanted to become beauticians, but did not have the means to pay for such training. Representative Jacobetti used his influence to amend the adult education law. Under the new law, students with high school diplomas, but in need of further vocational training, could also be reimbursed in programs offered by the schools if the classes led to a future vocational need.

This opened the door for some very liberal interpretations as to what is a needed vocational experience. Most school districts interpreted it in a very professional manner. However, there were a few that saw the opportunity to be more creative, and so programs that may not have been technically illegal, but certainly unethical, were developed. In one district, for example, the community school director offered senior citizens the opportunity to go to Tiger baseball games. He then gave all of the participants a high school credit for doing so and turned their names in for reimbursement by the state. In another district, it was decided that a good source for enrollments was in a senior citizen high rise. Unfortunately, enrollments were not closely monitored, and when the state auditor came to check these enrollments, they found deaf mutes enrolled in music classes, blind people in art classes and people enrolled who were deceased.

The most grievous of the violators had an even more devious plan. In that district, they devised a plan which included involvement with a state institution of higher education. With the cooperation of university officials, they created non college credit courses for college students. These classes covered such topics as remedial math, remedial reading, remedial science, how to study, etc. They were able to get student enrollments by offering certain incentives. Enrollments for the state were counted on the number of students in attendance on the fourth Friday in September. To encourage such attendance, various incentives were offered, including such things as free pizza offered on the day of official enrollment. There is no record as to how successful or what the duration of these classes were. The obvious question is why would college level students, who have already met academic standards and testing for admission, need such courses.

In any event, the courses were very successful as far as the financial return for the local school district. It was reported that these enrollments resulted in over four million dollars a year in extra revenue, and there are no statistical data to indicate how much more money was available as a result of the state reimbursement formula.

This misuse of money went on for ten years. There were efforts to end such activity. Letters, phone calls and personal contacts were made to the superintendent, the Provost and the Michigan Department of Education, all to no avail. The main concern of other superintendents and community school directors was that these activities would eventually end this very special program for all school districts.

These predictions came to pass. In 1991, John Engler was elected governor of the State of Michigan. One of his early actions was to address this issue. He could have rewritten some of the rules and regulations and created stricter enforcement of the entire adult education program. Instead, he solved the problem by eliminating all reimbursement related to adult education except for the actual, documented costs of the program itself. This eliminated the full student reimbursement, the money earned from the uniqueness of the formula, and all the community education programs.

There were a few districts that continued their programs on the basis that they now philosophically supported the concept of adult education. For most districts, however, they reverted back to the old philosophy that “education is for kids” and the programs disappeared. The biggest losers were the adults who needed a high school diploma as a minimum requirement for most jobs in the state. And as a corollary of that, Michigan now had a less trained work force than when the adult education program was active.

This is a story which is not widely known. For many people, it was a story of little interest. For the education community, it was not perceived as a major loss. Instead, the teacher’s union made political gains from the whole experience by advertising widely that the Republican Governor had eliminated large sums of money from the public schools and that this was further proof that he did not support public education.

(Jack Minzey is a retired professor and administrator from Eastern Michigan University and a regular contributor to the Gleanings.)

The History of the Peck Street Primary

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings
Original Images:

Author: Jan Anschuetz

There is no street sign that identifies Peck Street today. It is the second driveway north of the intersection of East Forest and North River Street. At one time it led the way to an artesian well, now covered by a stone, which early settlers to Ypsilanti could draw pure water from until they built their own wells. In the early 1820’s the Peck family had built a double log cabin on their property, which had extended from Forest to Holmes, the Huron River to Prospect Street. The cabin was located on River Street at Peck Street. If you follow Peck Street today you will come to a large brick structure. It is an unusual shape and size, now located on the Anschuetz/Swaine property at 101 East Forest. It began as a dream of Sophia Peck who came to this area from New York in 1823 where she had been a “school marm.” The wilderness that she arrived in needed many things including a school, so after her husband Joseph established a farm, built a mill and replaced their log cabin with a large and fine house still standing at 401 East Forest, he built a brick school house called the Peck Street Primary.

The brick school house was large enough to accommodate 100 students and was operated by the Peck family until they sold it in 1850 for $40 to the 4th Ward School District which converted the curriculum of the school into a graded system and it became one of the first graded schools in the state of Michigan, as opposed to students studying at their own pace in primers. The building and the grounds that it was built on were sold again in 1866 when it was “bursting at the seams” and a bigger building was needed for the growing number of students. The 4th Ward students then went to the much larger school called the Seminary. The building and grounds were purchased by Leonard Wallington and with his father in law George George, and his brother in law Worger George helping, he converted the structure into a malt house. As maltsters they bought grains from farmers, converted it into malt, which was then sold to several breweries in Ypsilanti. In the picture you can see the daughters of Leonard and Patti George Wallington playing in the yard next to the converted school building in the late 1870s. The Wallingtons as well as the George families all lived on River Street.

About 1872 a young man, Frederic Swaine, whose family were licensed brewers to the Kings and Queens of England for many generations, came to Ypsilanti from Kent, England, fell in love and married the daughter of George George. He also invested in the malt house and within a few years he bought out his in laws - George George, Worgor George and Leonard Wallington. With his inheritance and his knowledge of the latest brewing methods, he soon added steam power to the malt house and greatly changed and enlarged the building, creating a two story 50 x 94 foot structure. His business was so successful that he rented nearby houses to store grain. He also built a large Victorian Italianate home on the property in 1875 for his young family.

Sadly, this ambitious young man died at the young age of 47. His wife, two young daughters and the bank attempted to continue the business, but the malt house was closed around 1900 and the large building was used to store ladders from the Michigan Ladder Company.

The malt house came to an end for good about the year 1912, when it was torn back to the original school section. The bricks were sold and used to build a commercial building at Michigan Avenue and the Huron River. The two additional lots that it stood on were sold and Sears Roebuck kit houses were built on them by the owners of the lots – the Lidke and Bortz families.

However, parts of the Peck Street Primary remain. The structure that now exists was once part of the school. The brick wall defining what is now the Swaine/Anschuetz property from the building to East Forest is the remains of the exterior west wall of the malt house. The present owners of the property have found two slate pencils and a slate from just outside of the school, and while installing a fence 35 years ago, the family dug up seven tombstones. Later they found out that they were used as either fill or garden stones when the George family remains were moved from Prospect Cemetery to Highland Cemetery and newer headstones were purchased. The west wall of the building was replaced in 1873 when the original school house wall fell down due to the huge quantity of grain that was stacked against it. The north side, which would have been the entrance of the school, faces what was once Peck Street. It is now a driveway. When the Anschuetz family purchased the Swaine house and property in 1971 the rotten roof was letting in rain and damaging the brick walls. All of the trusses had to be replaced and the bricks repaired. The weight of the snow and ice on the roof caused it to collapse around 1985 and it was again rebuilt.

More information can be read about the Peck family, Peckville, the George and Swaine families and the Peck Street Primary in articles researched and written by Janice Anschuetz and published in the Ypsilanti Historical Society publication – Ypsilanti Greanings, the Summer-2010 and the Fall-2011 editions.

(Jan Anschuetz is a long-time member of the Ypsilanti Historical Society and a regular contributor to the Gleanings.)

Photo Captions:

Photo 1: Parts of the Peck Street Primary School that was built in the early 1800s still on the Swaine/Anschuetz property on River Street.

Photo 2: The Swaine girls with friends outside the Malt House in c1885.

Photo 3: An advertisement for Wallington, Swaine & Company Maltsters indicating that cash was paid for barley and hops.

Photo 4: Maude and Ethel Wallington with Florence Swaine with the Malt House in the background in c1879.

Leonard Menzi's Lost Negatives

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings
Original Images:

Author: Sean McConnell

Large monuments are often erected to commemorate famous people or events, allowing passersby to reflect on the past. One may also learn about the past from the historical narratives recorded in books. Yet sometimes it is a dusty box of negatives, housed in envelopes yellowed with age, that brings the lives of those long gone to the forefront. Such was the case when Alexis Braun Marks, head of Eastern Michigan University Archives, gave me a large collection of negatives to digitize earlier in the summer. The negatives date from the late 1920s to the early 1940s and document Roosevelt School’s history.

Roosevelt School was constructed on the Michigan State Normal College campus in 1925, becoming the second laboratory school on the campus after Welch Hall. Roosevelt remained a laboratory school until 1969, when the Michigan State Legislature governed the dismantling of the laboratory school system. Roosevelt served as both a grade school and high school during its time on campus, and the building now accommodates classrooms for Eastern Michigan University. We knew little about the newly discovered negatives when I started digitizing them, beyond what we gleaned from words penciled on the envelopes. We knew that the negatives portrayed Roosevelt students and faculty inside and outside the classroom, but we did not even know who created the negatives. We soon found our answer after viewing the images for the first time.

Over 800 negatives have been scanned to date, and hundreds more remain. The name “Leonard Menzi” was written on some of the envelopes. I initially suspected that Mr. Menzi may have been the photographer in question, but I became certain only recently. A few of the images feature a tidy white house on an Ypsilanti street corner. After locating Mr. Menzi’s address in the 1940 census, I confirmed that it was the house in which he lived. I later searched through the Roosevelt School collection, housed in the Eastern Michigan University Archives, and found books that Mr. Menzi produced. Many of the images in the negative collection appear in these books as prints. Ypsilanti Gleanings readers likely know that Leonard Menzi taught science at Roosevelt starting in the late 1920s and served as the school principal from 1940 to 1961. Mr. Menzi’s negatives provide a reminder of his interesting life and Roosevelt School’s unique programs, as well as the beauty of the Michigan State Normal College campus.

Leonard Menzi hailed from Oberlin, Ohio, where he received his Bachelor of Arts degree at the liberal arts college that shares his hometown’s name. He later earned a Master of Arts degree in Education from the University of Chicago. Not bound by national borders, Mr. Menzi traveled all the way to China to teach science and serve as principal of the North China American School. He lived in Tungchow with his wife, Margaret, whose parents were Christian missionaries. The Menzis arrived in Ypsilanti at the end of the 1920s, when Mr. Menzi secured employment at Roosevelt. Materials on the North China American School may be found at the Yale Divinity Library, but you do not have to travel all the way to Connecticut to view materials on the Menzis. Margaret Menzi donated her papers to the University of Michigan’s Bentley Library, including photocopies of the diary she kept in China. An even shorter trip to the Eastern Michigan University Archives’ website leads to the numerous images Mr. Menzi took of his family, colleagues, and the students who populated Roosevelt School’s classrooms.

Mr. Menzi taught science at Roosevelt before becoming principal in 1940, and he also participated in extracurricular activities. He organized in 1931 the “Kodak Klub,” also known as the “Photography Club,” and shared with students his passion for photography. Betty Pooler wrote in the 1932 Hillcrest yearbook that “members take, as well as develop, print, and enlarge, their own pictures.” These pictures were showcased in Roosevelt’s main lobby. While the Photography Club clearly existed as a pleasurable activity for Roosevelt students, the organization maintained a practical side as well. Betty noted photography’s burgeoning popularity and found that it “is to meet this rapidly growing demand that members of the photography group are so zealously studying.” As the Great Depression ravaged many Americans’ fortunes, the Photography Club members knew “that by diligent application they will find themselves safely out of the ranks of the unemployed.”

Photography Club members actively engaged in their chosen craft, and also highlighted other well-known photographs. According to a 1938 edition of the Rough Rider, Roosevelt’s school newspaper, the Eastman Kodak Company displayed photographs in the lobby. Kodak presented, among others, the infamous image of the burning Hindenburg. Photography Club members were to display their own images the following week, and Mr. Menzi was to award the student who took the best photograph. Besides awarding talented photographers, Mr. Menzi encouraged students’ creativity when he paired his own photographs with students’ poetry. The collaboration resulted in the 1935 edition of Adventures in Creative Expression, also housed within the University Archives’ Roosevelt School collection. Mr. Menzi photographed numerous fall and winter scenes around campus, including the fall image displayed in this article, and placed them in the book. A student’s poem appeared beside each photograph. Lillian Anspach, then 10 years old, perfectly captured this photograph’s autumnal imagery:

Fall is here. The trees are
shedding their golden hair.
When this season is over the
branches will be bare.

Other teachers also created a lively atmosphere at Roosevelt. Louis A. Golczynski, a science teacher as well, decided that Roosevelt needed a zoo and started housing animals on campus. Students writing in the 1931 Hillcrest called the zoo “something decidedly unique in secondary education circles.” Mr. Golczynski provided shelter for a “strange menagerie” of “coyotes, mice, guinea pigs, skunks, and raccoons” and many other animals. The zoo proved popular. In “one week a guest quota of three hundred was reached,” showing the Hillcrest writers that “the animal hotel is attractive to those who seek entertainment or information.” Geese apparently found shelter at the Roosevelt School zoo alongside the coyotes and mice.

Mr. Menzi and his colleagues promoted progressive education at Roosevelt School. Instead of rote memorization, students learned how to think critically and to apply knowledge. Teachers created programs like the Photography Club to supply students with skills. An article in the Fall 1930 edition of the Integrator, the Ypsilanti teachers’ newsletter, referred to a proposed industrial arts program that would “give students on the junior high level an opportunity to explore and experiment in the fields of printing, wood work, general metal work (which includes bench metal, forging, and foundry), mechanical drawing, electricity, and home mechanics.” The Industrial Arts program became enacted under the guidance of Duane G. Chamberlain, and Roosevelt soon contained home workshops. Mr. Menzi took photographs of the workshops, including the one shown in this article of a boy painting a chair in 1941.

This is a small selection of a wonderful collection of images that have been scanned and uploaded to the University Archives’ LUNA database that features faculty, student plays, baseball teams, campus grounds, field trips, and numerous other people and events. These images provide a perfect supplement to the Roosevelt School collection, which includes scrapbooks, yearbooks, and other administrative records. Everyone is welcome to visit the archives to view the collection of photographs and documents, or to access the database of images on the Eastern Michigan University Archives’ website and see these past scenes from a unique Ypsilanti educational center.

(Sean McConnell recently graduated from Wayne State University with a Master of Arts in history and a graduate certificate in archival administration. He is an aspiring archivist.)

Photo Captions:

Photo 1: Leonard Menzi hailed from Oberlin, Ohio.

Photo 2: Menzi’s Photography Club members posing outside Roosevelt School in 1938.

Photo 3: Mr. Menzi photographed numerous fall and winter scenes around campus and then placed them in a book with student poems.

Photo 4: Geese apparently found shelter at the Roosevelt School zoo alongside coyotes and mice.

Photo 5: Mr. Menzi took photographs of students working in the school shops such as this one showing a student painting a chair.


Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings
Original Images:

Author: Peg Porter

Every family has one. Every organization has one or more as does every community. Who are these characters? They are individuals known not by what they do, where they live, gender, or any other of the ways we identify an individual. They are uniquely themselves, sometimes following the beat of a different drummer. Mention their name and you will see a smile or maybe hear a chuckle. A typical response might be, "Oh, I know him/her. He/she is quite a character."

College or university communities harbor more than their share of characters. Typically, institutions of higher education have a greater tolerance for individuals who are "out of the ordinary.” In fact, these characteristics may be highly valued and even encouraged. So it was for Susanne Stinson (also known as Susan) who was recruited for a position as a master teacher in the newly expanded laboratory school, Roosevelt, at Michigan State Normal College in the 1920s.

The laboratory school was to be staffed by "Master Teachers," who held advanced degrees and had MSNC faculty status. Susanne Stinson, a native of Maine, held both a bachelors and masters degrees from Columbia Teachers College. She began her career at MSNC as an eighth grade English teacher. As a Master Teacher she supervised student teachers. The Master, or critic teacher, was also expected to stay informed on advances in education. She attended the University of Chicago, a leader in the development of techniques and practices to enhance student learning. John Dewey, the foremost expert of his day in education, started the Laboratory School at the University of Chicago. The school continues to this day.

Susanne was born on October 26, 1880 in Hancock, Maine. Her father, Philip Stinson, was a farmer. It seems likely that her given name was Susan. She is listed in the 1900 Federal Census as "Susie" Stinson, living at home, and teaching school. By the time she moved to Ypsilanti in the mid-1920s she was known either as Susan or Susanne. She adopted the name "Susanne" and used that as her first name for the rest of her life.

Susanne was tall, very tall for women of her generation. She did not "walk," she strode. She held her head high and used her height to her advantage. Her voice was what is sometimes called "flutey." That is, she did not speak at the same pitch all the time but her voice rose and fell depending on the situation. Susanne commanded attention. Since she spent much of her career teaching eighth graders, this ability was useful.

She was outspoken. One day she met Eleanor Meston, a first grade teacher, in a Roosevelt hallway. Susanne was nearly ten inches taller than the diminutive Miss Meston. Eleanor said she had just taken one of her boys to the School Nurse's office as she thought he had a temperature. "Eleanor," Susanne boomed out, "we all have temperatures. That young man has a fevah!"

Eleanor took delight in telling that story in later years. It captured the essence of Susanne. There were other stories about Susanne. Judy Morey remembers a cartoon her father drew of Susanne bending over a drinking fountain. The caption: "Water does run uphill!"

I knew about Susanne Stinson before I met her. One day, my mother was driving north on Huron Street. Up ahead she saw Miss Stinson striding down the street toward campus. Unfortunately Susanne had a wardrobe malfunction of which she was unaware. The back of her skirt was caught in her undergarments. When mother later described that incident she nearly collapsed laughing. She said, "There were her long legs out in the open. I did not know whether to stop and tell her or just keep driving." She did the latter. I expect that when Susanne discovered the problem, she just pulled her skirt down without breaking stride.

Susanne was the faculty adviser to Tri Sigma Sorority. I pledged Tri Sigma as did my mother before me. At the close of the school year, the sorority had a formal meeting during which new officers were installed and the Susanne Stinson Scholarship awarded. We all wore white. Miss Stinson came to the meeting at the end of my junior year. She had on a cream colored suit and white tie blouse. I was installed as the chapter president and also awarded the Susanne Stinson scholarship. At the close of the meeting I walked over to her and said how honored I felt to receive the scholarship. She looked down at me. I noticed she had a dab of rouge on each cheek and pink lipstick inexpertly applied. This was clearly an occasion for Miss Stinson. Her reply, "Yes dear, I know both of your parents."

I decided the best course of action on my part was simply to smile and nod my head, for I was sure my father was her student in eighth grade. Dad was never very interested in school work. He was known for his quick wit even at that young age. For while he probably was never disruptive, her memory of him was doubtless not as an eager student. She knew my mother beginning with sorority days. But all I could think of was the Huron Street incident.

Not too many years later, Susanne returned to Maine where she passed away in the early 1970's. Although many years have gone by, there are people who still remember Susanne Stinson. That is another characteristic of characters, they are memorable.

(Peg Porter is Assistant Editor of the Gleanings and a regular contributor of articles.)

Photo Captions:

Photo 1: Susanne Stinson was recruited for a position as a master teacher in the newly expanded laboratory school, Roosevelt, at Michigan State Normal College in the 1920s.

Early Physical Education in Ypsilanti Schools

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings
Original Images:

Author: Unknown, Provided by Claudia Wasik

(The following article was provided by Claudia Wasik who enjoyed a long career at EMU, as a student, professor and coach during her 32-year affiliation with the university. Claudia found the article which appears to have been written in the 1940s or 1950s.)

While the city of Ypsilanti was in its early growing stages, physical culture or physical training was also in its infancy. The term “physical education” is relatively new. It was not until 1927 that legal sanction was given to it. Prior to this time, “physical culture” was in vogue. Traditionally physical education has been of interest to state and local educators. As early as 1847 Superintendent of Public Instruction, O. C. Comstock, stated that among other attainments “the teacher should know something of physical education, sound health and a development of all physical faculties and a system of popular education.” During the 1850’s, reference to the desirability of physical education was noted at the dedication of the Normal School here in Ypsilanti. The main speaker, Rev. John Pierce and A. S. Welch in his inaugural address as principal, advocated physical culture for students.

When attempting to recapture physical education’s past in Ypsilanti, one finds that he must look in two directions; to the university and to the public schools. This is necessary because in most instances it was the graduates of Michigan State Normal College that were to be the teachers of physical training in Ypsilanti schools.

In 1860, Principal Welch requested $1,000 for a building of physical culture. Although the State Legislature denied the requests on two occasions, the State Board of Education, aware of the need, saved a small amount of money of its yearly appropriations and that, along with private contributions, was enough to erect a wooded gymnasium in 1862 for $1,200. Although no special teacher of physical culture was available, formal instruction in calisthenics and light gymnastics were provided by interested faculty members. This building served the students and faculty for only 10 years when it was destroyed by fire. For the next 20 years informal instruction was provided in the large classrooms or hallways of the school.

In 1894, a new gymnasium was erected on the block enclosed by Cross, Normal, Summit, and Ellis streets. Public spirited citizens raised $1,800 which was matched by the state so that this site could be purchased. Since this building was to serve the community and Eastern Michigan for 71 years, many Ypsilanti residents may still remember it.

The exterior was of brick with trimmings of Berea stone and its architecture was medieval in style. The building was divided into a south half for men and north side for women. Each side contained showers, lockers, a swimming pool (13 x 22) and a running track. Equipment such as climbing poles, adjustable ladders, pulleys, vaulting boxes, stall bars, Indian clubs and horses were located throughout. The addition, the west gym, built in 1914, was intended for men only.

With the completion of the new gymnasium in 1894, a department of physical training was formally established. Professor Wilbur Bowen was appointed director and Fannie Cheever Burton, assistant. Two years were required to complete the course of study which included special subjects in applied anatomy, methods in physical training, German and Swedish gymnastics and practice teaching. In 1921 a four year program for specialized students was first offered. Young ladies enrolled in the physical training program of the 1920’s could be found wearing black stockings, black pleated bloomers, middy blouses with a sailor’s tie and square knot. Young men in physical training programs wore white t-shirts and long green trousers with a white stripe.

Activity classes could include performing the “Swedish Days Order” which was a progressive set of activities that systematically exercised all body parts. Indian clubs, dumb bells and wands were sometimes used. Apparatus work included rings, Swedish box, parallel bars, horse and mats. Other classes were devoted to posture correction, precision marching, aesthetic dancing (a forerunner of modern dance) clog and folk dancing, and sports.

During the 1920’s a circus sponsored by the Michigan State Normal College physical education club was started. All students enrolled in physical education activity classes took part in the affair held in the West gymnasium. Many townspeople may remember several circuses, each with their grand parade, animal acts, gymnastic demonstrations, swinging ladders, and clog dancing; others recall the excitement of the human cannonball act with identical twins, Dr. Old’s gilded figures depicting famous statuary, Bingo Brown as ring master, the acrobatic feats of Jack Flag and Gus Zelke, and the Zouave drill.

May-Day-On-The-Green was another traditional event sponsored by the physical education department. Women enrolled in physical education classes participated in the program which has as its general theme, “The Awakening of Spring.” The memory of this Spring pageant and the winding of the May Pole is still shared by many and some Michigan State Normal College graduates in the Ypsilanti area continue to remember their particular role in the program; as snow maidens, Spanish and Irish dancers, or even as Queen of the May.

In 1919 the Physical Training Law of 1911 was revised, which made it mandatory that all students in public schools and normal colleges participate in a regular physical education program. Consequently we note that in 1919 Ypsilanti High School employed Deyo S. LeLand and Katherine Patch as physical education instructors. Prior to this time Ypsilanti High School had limited itself to a boys athletic program which had made quite a good reputation for itself.

In 1928 Bill Foy was named Athletic Director of Ypsilanti High School and in the same year he coached the football team to a 7-1-1 record and a State Class B championship. Individual honors went to John “Speck” Dignan who was selected as an all-state fullback. Just recently Coach Foy recalled the dedication of the 1928 team. “In my opinion every boy on that team was an all-stater. They only averaged about 140 pounds but they had lots of desire.”

In the 1920’s and 30’s at Ypsilanti High the physical education program was varied. Apparatus work, sports and swimming were included for the men whereas the girls’ program consisted of light gymnastics with and without equipment, marching, sports, swimming, folk and aesthetic dancing and hygiene. Mrs. Howard Ivans, Sue Hammock, and Janet McAllister Smith supervised the girls’ program.

Intramural programs also flourished. Both boys and girls participated in inter-class contests in basketball, baseball, track and field, swimming, and tennis. Mabel Eichkorn was instrumental in starting a Girl’s Athletic Club in 1921. Mararet Harker and Eleanor Bowen were among the first officers.

In 1926 an Ypsilanti High organization proposed that a formal award be presented to the winner of an athletic contest between Roosevelt (the school on the hill) and Ypsilanti (the school in the hollow). The proposal was accepted and a purple and grey trimmed jug was designated as the award. Roosevelt was the recipient of the first presentation although Ypsilanti regained the jug at the conclusion of the second contest. This competition was continued for many years when it ceased by virtue of a gentlemen’s agreement. Norris Wiltce, former principal of Ypsilanti High School, still remembers the parade activity and the excitement and enthusiasm generated by the competition for the jug.

In 1925 with the completion of a new building, Normal High became Roosevelt High School. Since 1927, boys and girls at Roosevelt have had a varied program of physical education. Heavy apparatus including parallel bars, buck, ropes and bars, boxing, wrestling, swimming and other sports were offered to the boys. The girls program consisted of dance, swimming, hygiene and sports. For many years the physical education program was conducted by Art Walker and Chloe Todd. Art Walker also was the athletic director and a coach.

In 1929, an athletic league for class “C” high schools in the area was formed. Roosevelt, along with Lincoln, University High of Ann Arbor, and other schools joined what was to be called the Huron League. In the early 1930’s Roosevelt won championships in track and baseball, coached respectively by Howard Chanter and Art Walker. Roosevelt, along with University High, took the greatest number of League Championships in tennis. These teams were coached by Leonard Menzi. During this time, Chloe Todd conducted physical education classes for the elementary boys and girls of Roosevelt as well as for the high school girls. The highlight of the program was the May Day performance. For years, dances and gymnastic activities culminating in the May Pole Dance were performed by costumed children in the formal gardens behind Sherzer Hall in honor of the Queen and her court.

Lincoln School opened its doors in 1924 and in 1925 Robert Peel was named director of Physical Education for both boys and girls. A physical education program similar to the other two high schools was organized at Lincoln. In 1927, a new director of physical education and athletics was named. Under the new director, Larry Dunning, Lincoln won League championships in track in 1933, 34, 35 and 39. In 1929 the girls’ physical education program came under the directorship of Alice Beal.

Elementary school children in the city schools had limited physical education programs. For a short time in the 1920’s Deyo LeLand was Director of Physical Education in the Ypsilanti Schools. Under his leadership and supervision, classroom teachers were responsible for the physical education program. For a few years, a Spring Festival was held which involved all the elementary school children in the city. Costumed children performed dances, gymnastic exercises and vocal numbers.

Field days were also popular for the elementary children. From all the city schools, boys and girls met at the city parks and participated in bicycle races, sack races, dashes, baseball throws, and jumping events.

This reflection into the past should serve to remind most Ypsilanti residents of their rich and proud heritage as a forerunner in physical education programs.

(Postscript: “What fond memories I had when I found this article, starting with the very impressive castle-like appearance of the building. Upon walking up the massive stairway to the building, you entered a large hallway that was kept immaculate by a matron (Addie). The floors even in the 50's still shone and looked new. I remember being told as a freshman that women were only allowed to enter by the Summit street (south) door and that women were not to enter the North gym which was for men. Of Course I could never forget navigating the boiler room and squeezing around the hot water pipes in order to enter the swimming pool (11 x 66) which had a ceiling height from the pool deck of approximately 10 feet. I can still see the hole in the ceiling.It was a sad day indeed when the building was demolished for a parking lot. What a tragic end to such a majestic structure.” - Claudia Wasik)

Photo Captions:

Photo 1: In 1894 a new gymnasium was erected by Michigan State Normal College on the block enclosed by Cross, Normal, Summit, and Ellis streets. The building served the college and community for 71 years.

Photo 2: The exterior of the gymnasium was of brick with trimmings of Berea stone and its architecture was medieval in style. The building was divided into a south half for men and a north half for women.

Photo 3: Activity classes at the Normal College could include performing the “Swedish Days Order” which was a progressive set of activities that systematically exercised all body parts. Indian clubs, dumb bells and wands were sometimes used.

Photo 4: Some physical activity classes at the Normal College were devoted to posture correction, precision marching, aesthetic dancing (a forerunner of modern dance) clog and folk dancing, and sports.

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