The Final Resting Place of the Nordmeer’s Anchor

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings
Original Images:



Author: Joyce E. Mammoser

Have you ever traveled across the country and saw something so out of place that you exclaimed loudly, “How in the world did that get there?”

One such phenomenon which perhaps you may have seen is the Nordmeer anchor which presently is ‘anchored’ at 8496 Crane Road in Washtenaw County’s Milan, Michigan, just ten minutes southwest of Ypsilanti. The Nordmeer was a German freighter which met its fate in November 1966 just off the shore of Lake Huron near Alpena, Michigan, when a blizzard with 70 mile-per-hour winds stranded the vessel, running it aground where it eventually sank. The sound of a ship running aground has been described by the author, Joseph Conrad, as “a sound, for its size, far more terrific to your soul than that of a world coming violently to an end.”

In the following story, I will attempt to explain just ‘how in the world’ the anchor came to rest in a waterless area over two-hundred miles away. The owners, Tom and Carolyn Scott, are all too eager to share their story. In fact, because of the many passers-by who have stopped to question the Scotts or to just snap a picture, Tom and Carolyn are creating a display to be mounted at the entrance to their driveway adjacent to the anchor’s moorings. It reads:

What Is THIS Doing HERE?

Behold: the port side ANCHOR of the NORDMEER, a significant artifact of Michigan Great Lake’s maritime history.

On November 19, 1966, this German freighter was making its maiden voyage through Lake Huron off Alpena’s coast when it approached the hazardous buoy-marked shoals of Thunder Bay. Despite the mandated employ of a local guide, the NORDMEER met its shipwreck fate. Much has been written about the blizzard weather and heroic rescue attempts that finally resulted in the entire crew’s survival 10 days later. Efforts to salvage ship and cargo continued for years. In 2010 the last visible remains of the NORDMEER slipped beneath the waves. A light bell buoy marks the vessel’s final resting place.

This NORDMEER mooring, however, was destined to ANCHOR a new beginning, to bountifully fulfill a joked-about dream to own an ANCHOR. Behold: Tom Scott’s wedding gift from Carolyn, 3-25-83, secured from Master Diver Bob Massey, salvager of the NORDMEER.

And now YOU know!

The Scotts have owned the shiny black 8,000+ pound anchor for 32½ years. The anchor is proudly displayed leaning against a tree beside the roadside entrance of their acre-long driveway for all to appreciate as they pass by. Tom had always wanted an anchor, so rather than a gold replica to wear on a chain around his neck, Carolyn surprised him with the Nordmeer anchor as a wedding gift.

Their own appreciation has been enhanced over the years by continued research of the Nordmeer’s fateful maiden voyage on Lake Huron forty-nine years ago. Introduction to the anchor’s history was appropriately made by the very man who salvaged the sinking Nordmeer, master diver Bob Massey. Even after the huge flatbed truck transported the rescued anchor 240 miles southward from Thunder Bay off Alpena, Michigan’s Lake Huron coast to their home in Milan, Michigan, Tom and Carolyn have returned to the shipwreck scene several times.

In late 1983, they spent an entire day devouring related files at the Alpena Press. (Their access was granted thanks to a newspaper editor/friend’s personal phone call). In the summer of 1992, their desire to learn more about their beloved anchor took them to Michigan’s Marine City Park on the St. Clair River shore. There they met and photographed the anchor’s “sister anchor” from the starboard side of the Nordmeer. She was handsomely displayed, but in her prone position with her gray, dull top coat, she could not match the awesomeness of their 9-foot erect lustrous black artifact. Still, they were glad to meet ‘her.’ In the summer of 2003, they visited Alpena’s Thunder Bay Marina, and on a clear day with calm water the nearly hidden remains of the Nordmeer were visible from a third-floor window where they said their goodbyes.

The writing of this article all came about after reading the recent Michigan History, July/August 2015, issue. Shown on the cover is a picture of the sunken Nordmeer with the caption, Nordmeer, A Diver’s Delight in Thunder Bay. The article itself is entitled, A Thrilling Thunder Bay Rescue written by Ric Mixter. If you haven’t read the well-written and informative article, your local library is sure to have a copy of the magazine or you could contact Michigan History at 800-366-3703.

And, if you haven’t already done so, drive down Crane Road and witness for yourself the magnificent Nordmeer anchor!

(Joyce Mammoser is a member of the Ypsilanti Historical Society and a neighbor of the Scott family on Crane Road.)


Photo Captions:

Photo 1: In 1983 the Nordmeer anchor was transported by heavy-duty wrecker and flatbed to its new location on Crane Road.

Photo 2: The anchor arrived in 1983 during the winter and was covered with dirt, rust and snow.

Photo 3: The Nordmeer anchor was a wedding gift from Carolyn to Tom who had always wanted an anchor.

Photo 4: In 1992 Tom and Carolyn visited the Nordmeer “sister anchor” in Marine City.

Photo 5: The Nordmeer anchor in 2003 with a fresh paint job.

Photo 6: Tom and Carolyn Scott in 2003 hold hands during a visit to the anchor in their front yard on Crane Road.

Photo 7: The anchor is leaning up against a tree at the end of their driveway on Crane Road.

Photo 8: The anchor decorated for the Christmas season.

The Mushroom Traffic Signals

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings
Original Images:


Author: Al Rudisill

According to the “History of Ypsilanti” on the city’s web site: “By the 1920s, officers had begun to patrol the streets in a Model A Ford wielding two submachine guns. The first man to actually be called Police Chief was John F. Connors, who managed the department from 1922 to 1929.” An article in The Ypsilanti Press of February 28, 1924 was titled “Traffic Orders Must Be Obeyed – Police Make First Arrest for Disregarding Signals and Regulations.”

The article goes on to describe the arrest of Frank Scott for disregarding the “Mushroom Light” traffic signal. The article describes Scott’s offense as follows: “Scott didn’t have time to wait for the D.U.R. (Detroit United Railway) car to take on passengers and leave the waiting room; he accordingly drove around on the left hand side and went on. The chief wasn’t in his car so he didn’t see Scott that time. It wasn’t more than a few minutes later that he came driving back on Michigan Avenue and this time he decided the mushroom light wasn’t put there for any specific purpose and he cut on the wrong side of that too. This time the Chief stopped him. This afternoon he is to appear in municipal court and will doubtless be instructed as to what the city traffic regulations are. It is altogether likely he will find out what the penalty for violating them is also.”

In the article Chief Connors was also quoted as saying, “Autoists will have to learn the traffic signals are to be obeyed. The police department has been lenient during the winter when the streets were slippery but the thing has gone too far, now. All autoists seen disregarding the mushroom lights will be brought into court from now on.”

According to court records in 1924 there were 54 Washtenaw County Traffic Court cases from the City of Ypsilanti involving the mushroom signals. Fines in these cases ranged from $4.25 to $10.00 and jail time ranged from 0 to 40 days. Three of the 54 cases resulted in 40 days jail time, 10 of the 54 cases resulted in 20 days jail time, 21 of the 54 cases resulted in 10 days jail time, and in 10 of the cases no jail time was assigned.

At the time there was a great deal of debate regarding traffic signals. The issue related to keeping traffic to the right of center at each intersection. One side argued that mushroom type signal lamps created less of a hazard to errant drivers of motorcars and horse drawn vehicles who miscalculated a turn. The other side argued that pedestal mounted lights were easier to see from a distance and it would cause less damage to run into a pedestal signal than to disregard a mushroom signal and run into oncoming traffic. As time passed the argument became moot as automatically timed traffic signals were suspended over intersections rather than placed in the center of intersections.

(Note: This article was inspired by the research being done in our Archives by Marcia McCrary. She is indexing early Ypsilanti court documents and has run across several cases of fines and jail sentences imposed on individuals for violation of mushroom traffic signals.)


Photo Captions:

Photo 1: The earliest mushroom lighted traffic signals were placed in the middle of an intersection to show drivers where the edge of their lane ended.

Photo 2: Some of the lighted mushroom designs had “Keep to Right” cast into the base.

Photo 3: In 1922, Thomas Hayes designed a mushroom that doubled as a traffic signal with “Stop” and “Go” lighted sections. This mushroom was often used with an overhead or post mounted signal that could be seen from a distance.

Photo 4: Patrolman Emil Susterka in 1934. Susterka later became Chief of the Ypsilanti Police Department in 1958.

Dealership/Salesman Quiz Answers

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings
Original Images:

Author: Jack Miller

Answers for the Dealership/Salesman Quiz

  • Ray Augustus - C/D
  • Joe Blauvelt - X/V
  • Harold Beadle - H
  • Floyd Brady - H
  • Sam Bass - B
  • Eugene Butman - D
  • Ken Butman - D
  • Paul Chapman, Jr. - H
  • Ralph Chapman - H
  • Virgil Christman - U/R
  • Jim Chumbley - I/Y
  • Joe Coats - E
  • Carmen Coleman - L/I
  • Spencer Davis - N/U/R
  • *David E. Davis, Jr. - M
  • C. James Davis - Q
  • Clifford Dickey - D
  • Edwin Doran - L
  • Paul Dorsten - E
  • Dave Finley - O
  • Hubert 'Red' Foley - T
  • Lee Haviland - P
  • Dave Hazelwood - I/Y/O
  • Michael Ichesco - E
  • Sam Lambdin - J/X/K

QUESTIONS about dealerships email: hudsondealer@gmail.com

  • Pete Lincoln - I
  • Ed Lyke - B/S
  • Wayne Hackett - P
  • Rene Michaud - A
  • Lois Michaud - A
  • Carl Miller - G
  • Ron Norris - J/X/K
  • Tom Payne - M
  • Albert Peck - C/D
  • Joe Rocha - B
  • Carl Schultz - W/B
  • Myron Serbay - E
  • Ray Serbay - E
  • Joseph M. Sesi, Sr. - W/B
  • Joe Sesi, Jr. - B
  • Cal Smith - I/Y/O
  • Bob Silva - A
  • Herbert Teachout - U/R
  • Cecil Thomas - F
  • David Walls - H
  • Melvin Walls - B
  • Allen Wiedman - C/D
  • Jack Webb - D/O
  • Bernie Vercruysse - T
  • *David E. Davis, Jr. sold and raced Porsche sports cars at European Cars Ypsilanti for owner Tom Payne before entering the automotive magazine editing and publishing business both "Car & Driver" and "Automobile" magazines at Ann Arbor. He was known as the "Dean" of the automotive writers.

Match the Ypsilanti Owner/Salesman with the Dealership

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings
Original Images:

Author: Jack Miller

Some sales people later became dealership owners and some dealerships moved to other existing or new locations.

  • ___ John Aldridge
  • ___ Ray Augustus
  • ___ Joe Blauvelt
  • ___ Harold Beadle
  • ___ Floyd Brady
  • ___ Sam Bass
  • ___ Eugene Butman
  • ___ Ken Butman
  • ___ Paul Chapman, Jr.
  • ___ Ralph Chapman
  • ___ Virgil Christman
  • ___ Jim Chumbley
  • ___ Joe Coats
  • ___ Carmen Coleman
  • ___ Spencer Davis
  • ___ *David E. Davis, Jr.
  • ___ C. James Davis
  • ___ Clifford Dickey
  • ___ Edwin Doran
  • ___ Paul Dorsten
  • ___ Dave Finley
  • ___ Hubert 'Red' Foley
  • ___ Lee Haviland
  • ___ David Hazelwood
  • ___ Michael Ichesco
  • ___ Sam Lambdin
  • ___ Pete Lincoln
  • ___ Ed Lyke
  • ___ Wayne Hackett
  • ___ Lois Michaud
  • ___ Rene Michaud
  • ___ Carl Miller
  • ___ Ron Norris
  • ___ Tom Payne
  • ___ Albert Peck
  • ___ Joe Rocha
  • ___ Carl Schultz
  • ___ Myron Serbay
  • ___ Ray Serbay
  • ___ Joseph M. Sesi, Sr.
  • ___ Joe Sesi, Jr.
  • ___ Joseph Sinkule
  • ___ Cal Smith
  • ___ Robert Silva
  • ___ Herbert Teachout
  • ___ Cecil Thomas
  • ___ David Walls
  • ___ Melvin Walls
  • ___ Allen Wiedman
  • ___ Jack Webb
  • ___ Bernie Vercruysse
  • Ypsilanti Dealerships

  • A - Campus AMC
  • B - Sesi Lincoln Mercury
  • C - E.G. Wiedman Ford
  • D - Gene Butman Ford
  • E - Serbay Chrysler Plymouth
  • F - Cecil's Auto Sales
  • G - Hudson Sales & Service
  • H - Paul C. Chapman & Son
  • I - Vincent Chevrolet
  • J - Norris Motors K-F
  • K - Ron & Sam Buick
  • L - Doran Chevrolet
  • M - European Cars Ypsilanti
  • N - Davis Desoto Plymouth
  • O - Finley Webb Chevrolet
  • P - City Motors Nash
  • Q - Davis Sports Cars
  • R - Teachout Motor Sales
  • S - Lyke Auto Exchange
  • T - V & F Auto Sales
  • U - Ypsi Body Shop
  • V - Deluxe Motors
  • W - Alan Chapel Inc.
  • X - Obermeyer Oldsmobile
  • Y - Jim Chumbley Chevrolet

  • Answers on page 34

The Ypsilanti Nomads

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings
Original Images:



Author: Fred Thomas

Harold Foster, a local policeman, started the Ypsilanti Nomads in 1953. They met at a double-bay Shell gas station on the northwest corner of Michigan Avenue and Denton Road, about six miles east of Ypsilanti. When I joined in the spring of 1957 the Ypsilanti police station at South Washington and Perrin Street served as their meeting place. At the time both the Ypsilanti Police Department and the Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Department sponsored the club. Harold Foster was still the advisor. The Nomads’ ages ranged from 16 to 25.

Some of the members were Dick Albertson, James Arnold, Dewey Barich, Leon Chapman, John Coleman, Pat Cook, Larry Dennis, David Eaton, Orval Forbes, Melvin Foster, Don Gimson, Marvin Hayes, Clyde Hoover, Egbert House, Bill Kessick, James Lambert, David Meldrum, Jack Miller, Ted Mull, Leigh Moore, Thomas Newton, Cecil Rollins, Richard Towler, Jack Washburn, and me. I joined at sixteen and stayed in a little over a year. I enjoyed attending meetings and participating in club sponsored activities. Two events in particular stand out in my memory. One was a Nomad organized reliability run that a friend and I teamed up for, and won. The other was the 1957 City of Ypsilanti Fourth of July Parade.

The Nomads’ club car was a chopped, channeled and stripped Model A. It’s power came from the 312 cubic inch Thunderbird engine. The coupe competed at Detroit Dragway and at the Michigan Hot Rod Association’s drag strip in New Baltimore.

The parade gave the group an opportunity to publicize themselves locally. In addition to the individual volunteer cars, the coupe also traveled the procession route. It was transported on a truck donated by Moorman’s, a local lumber company. Their warehouse parking lot also served as an assembly point for participating cars before they continued to their assigned parade locations. Don Gimson’s ’57 Plymouth and Marvin Hayes’s ’56 Ford escorted the coupe display along the parade route.

It had been mentioned at a mid-June meeting that the club was looking for additional cars to represent the Nomads in the upcoming parade. Larry Dennis, who was about my age and drove a white 1932 Ford, volunteered and invited me to ride along. Boy, I couldn’t wait to roll down the crowded route in his little deuce coupe. A few weeks before the parade Larry decided to channel the car. This was done by lowering the body down over the frame. The floorboards had to be removed and reinstalled.

The Fourth of July arrived and Larry hadn’t been able to get the coupe’s floorboards welded in yet, so he bolted the bench seat directly to the frame. I arrived at his home early, only to find him making final preparations. He soon cranked up the V-8 motor and we took off for the west side of town. As we traveled city streets, pavement raced by beneath the open chassis. Exhaust made its way into the cramped interior. The sound of rumbling mufflers added to the excitement and further pumped our adrenalin as we rolled along, passersby pointing at us, a couple of young guys eager to take part in the festivities. It never dawned on us to think about the dangers of toxic fumes.

Arriving at the parade staging area, we took our assigned place with the other Nomad cars. Jack Miller’s 1957 Rambler Rebel assumed the lead position in the Nomad contingent. Straight from the dealership a Rebel would do 0-60 mph in as little as 7.2 seconds. The 255 horsepower V-8 left many non-believers at the line. It didn’t look like a hot rod, but it was.

In second position was Don Gimson in his 1957 Plymouth convertible. Like many youthful members Don was always cleaning his car. The photo shows Don and a friend doing last minute polishing. The coupe on the Moorman truck was next, followed by Marvin Hayes in his ’56 Ford convert. We were last.

Promptly at 10:00 a.m. multiple bands struck up a resounding march and the procession moved forward, following a route to Michigan Avenue and directly east through downtown. Larry’s deuce idled along due to the measured forward progress of the band units. Hot air and exhaust gases continued to invade the car. People awed at the unusual little automobile and Larry grinned ear to ear. He was so proud of the channeled coupe.

We had only gone a couple blocks before things turned ugly. Steam began to rise around the radiator fill cap. The temperature needle inched toward hot. Larry accelerated the hopped up mill, hoping to circulate the coolant more and lower the temperature. This was to no avail. Vapors continued to rise in front of the engine.

It wasn’t long before the parade had an unexpected delay that stopped all forward motion. Larry turned the car off thinking it might cool down during the pause. Without notification the cars in front started going again. Larry hit the starter button, only to be met by a moaning sound as the motor slowly turned over. And, it turned. And, it turned. The starter let out one last protesting groan and the revolving crankshaft came to a dead halt.

But, we weren’t finished yet. We sprang out and began to push the powerless vehicle. As the coupe picked up speed, Larry jumped in and put the car in gear. The engine sputtered, but failed to ignite as the car slowed to an involuntary stop. Not giving up, we repeated the entire process again. And again! And, again! After the fourth attempt failed, we were directed to push our ride off to the side so as not to hinder the parade’s progress. Wanting to give it one more try we reluctantly followed orders and pushed it out of the way at the next corner.

Meanwhile, the remaining Nomad representatives continued without us. The powerless hot rod found a resting place at the curb. We left it there and ran on ahead, wanting to see the club cars pass along the route. After they passed Larry and I walked back to his car discussing how great the Nomads looked, as we made our way through the dispersing crowd.

Returning to the lifeless coupe, Larry inserted the key and hit the starter. Without hesitation the engine purred. I immediately opened the door and hopped in. Away we went, making our way on side streets to avoid again being stopped unnecessarily. Reaching his house Larry slowed down, with no intention of coming to a complete standstill. He throttled the accelerator and depressed the clutch in an attempt to not stall. I jumped out as he rolled past my Ford which was parked in front of his house. Then he hit the gas for one last blast of fuel to carry the albino deuce up the inclined driveway and into the family garage. Luckily we had left the door open as we departed for the parade.

The Nomads disbanded in 1962 as the once intense interest in the organization dwindled.

(Fred Thomas grew up and lived in the Ypsilanti area from 1948 to 1998 and is a regular contributor to the Gleanings.)


Photo Captions:

Photo 1: An embroidery of the Ypsilanti Nomads car club.

Photo 2: The Nomads’ club car was this chopped, channeled and stripped Model A.

Photo 3: Don Gimson’s ’57 Plymouth and Marvin Hayes’s ’56 Ford prepare to escort the Ypsilanti Nomad’s coupe display along the parade route.

Photo 4: The Volunteers in this picture are: (standing - l to r) Dewey Barich, Marvin Hayes, James Lambert, and Leigh Moore. (kneeling - l to r) unidentified, Bill Kessick, unidentified, Don Gimson, and Mel Foster.

Photo 5: Larry Dennis, drove a white 1932 Ford similar to the one in this photo.

Photo 6: Jack Miller’s 1957 Rambler Rebel assumed the lead position in the Nomad contingent.

Photo 7: In second position was Don Gimson in his 1957 Plymouth convertible. Like many youthful members Don was always cleaning his car. Here he and a friend are doing last minute polishing.

The Force Behind the Yankee Air Museum

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings
Original Images:




Author: Phil Barnes

(Dennis Norton – The Ypsilanti Kid who Grew Up to Lead the Effort to Raise 5.2 Million Dollars that Enabled the Yankee Air Museum to Fly Again.)

Dennis Norton, son of Austin and Dorothy Norton, along with his sister Cindy, grew up on Ypsilanti’s east side at 735 Lowell Street, next to Norton’s Flower Shop. Dennis attended kindergarten through second grade at the old Ypsilanti High School, third through sixth grade at Central on Forest Avenue, entered the new West Junior High School as the first class in the Fall of 1959, and then graduated from Ypsilanti High School in 1965. He had a non-stop approach to everything, academics as well as athletics. While attending Ypsi High, he was one of the key performers on the swim team. His personal best was 23.7 for 50 yards. He, along with Roger Buxton, Doug Peterson and George Sayre, set a school record in the 200 freestyle relay. They were very proud of the accomplishment of breaking this long standing record.

As a youngster Dennis and his Dad, Austin, spent many hours at Willow Run Airport watching aircraft take off and land. Flying aircraft became a hobby later on. Dennis earned his pilot’s license in 1966 and eventually became an instructor teaching new students and current pilots the intricacies of flying. In 1970 Dennis graduated from Eastern Michigan University with a Major in History. While a college student, Dennis worked at Motor Wheel and that experience convinced Dennis that factory work was not for him. He then joined his father, Austin, working in the family business, Norton’s Flowers, which had expanded and moved to the Washtenaw Avenue site. Dennis also became involved in the Jaycees and worked on many projects.

Dennis Norton is well known for his boundless energy and enthusiasm and has been known as a “bulldog” by his close friends. When his mother, Dorothy, was asked about his motivation for the establishment of the Willow Run Yankee Air Museum, Dorothy replied, “When Dennis gets an idea, even as a teenager, he has had a fierce determination to see that idea through to completion.” It’s a well known story that in 198l with his enthusiasm for flying and for preserving aircraft history, the Yankee Air Museum was born. Dennis was the founder and became its first president. Unfortunately, in October of 2004 the museum burned to the ground. However, Yankee staff and volunteers were able to rebuild and in 2010 the new Yankee Air Museum was dedicated. The Michigan Aerospace Foundation was founded to make plans for expansion with Dennis as the President. He has owned a number of planes, including a 1947 French bi-plane, a STAMPE. Through the years he has enjoyed flying the museum planes, the C-47, B-25 and the pride of the Yankee fleet, the B-17.

This all led to an idea to secure part of the Willow Run Bomber plant. In 2011 the question of “where would the B-17 be stored?” was posed. Dennis called Bob Lutz and found that the Bomber Plant was not owned by GM anymore. GM had gone bankrupt in 2010 and the Bomber (B-24) plant was turned over to the RACER trust. In 2011, Dennis contacted the RACER Trust. Ray Hunter, who flew rescue helicopter missions in Vietnam, and Dennis then spearheaded an effort to gain control of at least part of the remaining buildings including a hangar capable of parking the Yankee Air Force B-17 and additional space to expand the Yankee Air Museum. In 2012, a Letter of Intent was signed for one year. Energies were stepped up by Dennis and the foundation to collect funds and 5.2 Million Dollars was raised.

This was the thrust Dennis needed and soon after, in 2013, a purchase agreement was signed and the funds generated by Dennis Norton were secured from the donors. Finally, on October 30, 2014, the purchase was closed and the Yankee Air Museum now owns 144,000 square feet of the historic Willow Run Bomber Plant, saving the last small piece from demolition. Only four Willow Run B-24s still exist out of almost 9,000 that were built. None of the Willow Run B-24s still fly, and only two B-24s that were built in California still fly.

A highlight of the Bomber Plant effort was a reunion of all the “Rosies” and under the new brand the emergence of women in the workforce during the war will be emphasized. In 2014, Twenty-one of the original “Rosie the Riveters” gathered to join in a successful effort to set a World’s Record for the most Rosies gathered in one place. “Rosie” was named for Rosie Monroe of Kentucky when in 1943 Walter Pigeon showed up at the plant to assist in filming a War Bond Special, and Rosie was selected to help. Vickie Croston, Rosie Monroe’s daughter from Texas was pleased to be able to attend the 2014 reunion and help set the World Record.

The new effort will expand the mission of the Museum, change its name from the Yankee Air Museum to the National Museum of Aviation and Technology, and launch a new fund-raising campaign to raise an additional 8.2 million to renovate the space and overhaul the museum exhibits. Under the new expanded mission an effort will be made to emphasize the history of the 5-million-square-foot plant that served as the Arsenal of Democracy during World War II and produced 8,685 B-24 Bombers.

Another focus of the new mission of the Museum is to advance science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education with hands-on learning stations.

Plans have been drawn up to include space needed for all the aircraft the Yankee Air Museum owns, expand the aerospace museum which would be comparable to the one at Dayton and Selfridge, and provide a meeting and convention facility that will seat up to 1,000 people, the largest in the area. The next big event will be the Air Show at the Yankee Air Museum on August 29 and 30, 2015 that will include flying demonstrations by the US Navy “Blue Angels.”

Dennis currently lives in Dexter with his wife Carol. One daughter and four granddaughters live in Gaylord, one son and two grandsons live in Dexter and one daughter lives on Portage Lake.

Dennis remains very proud of the success of his efforts and the efforts of the many volunteers who worked to secure pledges for funds. However, he reminds the public that 8.5 million dollars remains to be raised. Call Dennis at 734-971-2750 to pledge or donate to the project.

(Phil Barnes is a frequent contributor to The Gleanings and served on the U.S.S. Philippine Sea (CV47) in the Korean War.)


Photo Captions:

Photo 1: Dennis and his sister Cindy grew up on Ypsilanti’s east side at 735 Lowell Street, next to Norton’s Flower Shop.

Photo 2: Dennis at the controls of the B-17 owned by the Yankee Air Force. Dennis also serves as the President of the Michigan Aerospace Foundation.

Photo 3: One of the promotional signs being used for fundraising for the preservation and renovation of part of the Willow Run Bomber Plant for use by the Yankee Air Museum.

Photo 4: Dennis at the controls of his 1947 STAMPE with son David in the front seat (1985).

Photo 5: Some of the proposed themes, storylines, exhibits, and facilities for the new National Museum of Aviation and Technology.

Photo 6: The section of the Willow Run Bomber Plant that was recently purchased by the Yankee Air Museum.

Photo 7: Dennis in 2013 with the “Rosie the Riveter” re-enactors.

Photo 8: Dennis with Ray Hunter on November 7, 2014 when they received an award for “Deals of the Year” by the Ann Arbor News in recognition of the October 30, 2014 purchase and saving from demolition of the last remaining piece of the old Willow Run Bomber Plant.

Terror in the Streets

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings
Original Images:


Author: Fred Thomas

The roots of hot rodding were in California. As previously noted, fast-action drag racing became popular nationally and interest in it spread like wildfire. Still in its infancy in the early 1950s, “no rules” was the order of the day. B rated movies like “Hot Rod Gang” visually demonstrated lawless driving behaviors which were quickly emulated by the young.

Author John Bartlow Martin was in Ypsilanti in 1952 doing book research. He recounted the following observation:

“The stop-light at Huron and Michigan turns red. Six cars line up at the red light, three cars abreast facing each way, and the occupants of all the cars are kids. The girls are fresh-faced in babushkas. The boy driver of one car heading east strives to appear uninterested in what is going on, but if you look closely you can see that covertly he is watching the traffic signal. Now the car beside him, a roadster painted fire-engine red, races its motor. He races his, and shoots a glance at the red car’s driver; his hands tighten on the wheel and now he looks unabashed at the traffic signal; it flashes green and they are off, the two of them leaping ahead of the car beside them, racing side by side two abreast – here on the main street- exhausts roaring………they hit the bottom of the hill and clatter across the bridge still in second gear, their pounding engines reverberating as taillights’ grow dim in the distance; while back up at the intersection the light has turned red again and six more cars have lined up and are waiting to do it again. ‘Drag-racing’, the kids call it.”

Such scenarios were not limited to Ypsi streets. Similar misbehaviors were taking place in towns and villages across America. This blatant disregard for public safety brought howls of protest from local citizenry. Police departments had their hands full trying to quell the pandemonium. Potentially hazardous competitions caused terror in the streets, and solutions to the problem were sought! Fortunately groups of California car clubs joined together with law enforcement in order to counter the negative public image created by unchecked, rebellious youth. Begun in 1951, the National Hot Rod Association made a concerted effort to unify car enthusiasts throughout the United States and upgrade the public opinion of “hot rodders.” The NHRA philosophy caught on quickly and youthful disciples scurried to join.

Member prospects were offered a free booklet entitled, How to Form a Club, plus suggested by-laws and other helpful materials. A joiner received a membership card, NHRA decal and a membership manual explaining the aims and purposes of the Association. This booklet provided suggestions for upgrading the sport, and included a section on club organization and activities. Promoting safe drag racing nationally by standardizing the rules was no mean achievement. However, a milestone was attained when the first NHRA Nationals Drag Competition was held in Great Bend, Kansas, September 29-October 2, 1955. Entrants from many states raced under uniform rules, claimed the respective class trophies, and saw the first national champion crowned! The word was out, and the NHRA had led the way. During the fifties and sixties their information and organization campaigns resulted in innumerable improvements in driver conduct and safety. With NHRA leadership, several thousand car clubs sprang up in large and small communities. Their “Dedicated To Safety” program brought order out of the chaos on the streets.

Becoming a car club member required prospects to pledge to follow rules. Good driving behaviors were expected and violating them was not tolerated. The following is an example of an oath taken upon joining: “I pledge myself to know and to obey all of the laws of the road and also the laws which the members of the club have drawn up”.

Displayed on an individual’s car, the club plaque was a badge of proud membership. Belonging to the NHRA and a local car club made members feel part the national movement based on an interest in hot rods, customized cars, and drag racing. In addition, clubs offered participants the chance to make new friends with whom they could “talk the talk”, and learn along the way. Two early clubs formed in Ypsilanti. They were the Huron Valley Road Runners and the Ypsilanti Nomads. There is conjecture as to which one started first. Suffice it to say that the two of them existed in the early 1950s and remained active until the mid 1960s. Both will be discussed at length in future articles.

(Fred Thomas grew up and lived in the Ypsilanti area from 1948 to 1998 and is a regular contributor to the Gleanings.)


Photo Captions:

Photo 1: Courtesy of Petersen Publishing of Los Angeles.

Photo 2: The National Hot Rod Association was started in 1952 (courtesy of NHRA).

Photo 3: Decal of the National Hot Rod Association (courtesy of NHRA).

Photo 4: Two early NHRA clubs formed in Ypsilanti. They were the Huron Valley Road Runners and the Ypsilanti Nomads

Terror in the Streets

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings
Original Images:


Author: Fred Thomas

The roots of hot rodding were in California. As previously noted, fast-action drag racing became popular nationally and interest in it spread like wildfire. Still in its infancy in the early 1950s, “no rules” was the order of the day. B rated movies like “Hot Rod Gang” visually demonstrated lawless driving behaviors which were quickly emulated by the young.

Author John Bartlow Martin was in Ypsilanti in 1952 doing book research. He recounted the following observation: “The stop-light at Huron and Michigan turns red. Six cars line up at the red light, three cars abreast facing each way, and the occupants of all the cars are kids. The girls are fresh-faced in babushkas. The boy driver of one car heading east strives to appear uninterested in what is going on, but if you look closely you can see that covertly he is watching the traffic signal. Now the car beside him, a roadster painted fire-engine red, races its motor. He races his, and shoots a glance at the red car’s driver; his hands tighten on the wheel and now he looks unabashed at the traffic signal; it flashes green and they are off, the two of them leaping ahead of the car beside them, racing side by side two abreast – here on the main street- exhausts roaring………they hit the bottom of the hill and clatter across the bridge still in second gear, their pounding engines reverberating as taillights’ grow dim in the distance; while back up at the intersection the light has turned red again and six more cars have lined up and are waiting to do it again. ‘Drag-racing’, the kids call it.”

Such scenarios were not limited to Ypsi streets. Similar misbehaviors were taking place in towns and villages across America. This blatant disregard for public safety brought howls of protest from local citizenry. Police departments had their hands full trying to quell the pandemonium. Potentially hazardous competitions caused terror in the streets, and solutions to the problem were sought! Fortunately groups of California car clubs joined together with law enforcement in order to counter the negative public image created by unchecked, rebellious youth. Begun in 1951, the National Hot Rod Association made a concerted effort to unify car enthusiasts throughout the United States and upgrade the public opinion of “hot rodders.” The NHRA philosophy caught on quickly and youthful disciples scurried to join.

Member prospects were offered a free booklet entitled, How to Form a Club, plus suggested by-laws and other helpful materials. A joiner received a membership card, NHRA decal and a membership manual explaining the aims and purposes of the Association. This booklet provided suggestions for upgrading the sport, and included a section on club organization and activities. Promoting safe drag racing nationally by standardizing the rules was no mean achievement. However, a milestone was attained when the first NHRA Nationals Drag Competition was held in Great Bend, Kansas, September 29-October 2, 1955. Entrants from many states raced under uniform rules, claimed the respective class trophies, and saw the first national champion crowned! The word was out, and the NHRA had led the way. During the fifties and sixties their information and organization campaigns resulted in innumerable improvements in driver conduct and safety. With NHRA leadership, several thousand car clubs sprang up in large and small communities. Their “Dedicated To Safety” program brought order out of the chaos on the streets.

Becoming a car club member required prospects to pledge to follow rules. Good driving behaviors were expected and violating them was not tolerated. The following is an example of an oath taken upon joining: “I pledge myself to know and to obey all of the laws of the road and also the laws which the members of the club have drawn up”

Displayed on an individual’s car, the club plaque was a badge of proud membership.
Belonging to the NHRA and a local car club made members feel part the national movement based on an interest in hot rods, customized cars, and drag racing. In addition, clubs offered participants the chance to make new friends with whom they could “talk the talk”, and learn along the way. Two early clubs formed in Ypsilanti. They were the Huron Valley Road Runners and the Ypsilanti Nomads. There is conjecture as to which one started first. Suffice it to say that the two of them existed in the early 1950s and remained active until the mid 1960s. Both will be discussed at length in future articles.

(Fred Thomas grew up and lived in the Ypsilanti area from 1948 to 1998 and is a regular contributor to the Gleanings.)


Photo Captions:

Photo 1: Courtesy of Petersen Publishing of Los Angeles.

Photo 2: The National Hot Rod Association was started in 1952 (courtesy of NHRA).

Photo 3: Decal of the National Hot Rod Association (courtesy of NHRA).

Photo 4: Two early NHRA clubs formed in Ypsilanti. They were the Huron Valley Road Runners and the Ypsilanti Nomads

Huron Valley Road Runners

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings
Original Images:



Author: Fred Thomas

The Ypsi Drive In was a small local restaurant located at Michigan Avenue and Burbank, a short walking distance from our home on East Cross Street. I often stopped in for a tasty doughnut or a grilled cheese and a coke. I remember sitting at the horseshoe shaped counter one particular morning. A few stools down from me two fellows were having breakfast. When they got up to go, I noticed this uniquely designed artwork on the back of the black coat one was wearing. The Huron Valley Road Runners emblem was certainly one-of-a-kind.

In 1949 brothers Jim and Nazareth (Naz) Barnabei opened the first area speed shop on Huron at Pearl, supplying hard to get speed hop up items. About that time they also organized the Huron Valley Road Runners. The club continued actively into the ‘Sixties. Over the years other members were Richard Bailey, Elmer Bernardin, Bob Hoeft, Keith Hettinger, Alan Holloway, Don Horner, Ray Kalusha, Ray Oyer, Joe Pittman, Howard Shannon, Walter Weible, and Dick Vercruysse.

The following description from page 7 of Middletown Pacemakers, The Story of an Ohio Hot Rod Club by Ron Roberson would probably have been applicable to any of them. “He would scour the local junkyards for usable parts, and save every spare dollar for that coveted chromed accessory. He might horse-trade a set of wire wheels for a valve job, or maybe a set of heads for a paint job. With greasy hands, little money, and a lot of heart, the 1950’s hot rodder toiled toward his dream. Working with buddies late at night in a dimly lit garage with the musty smell of motor oil, the parts would be merged into a hand-made car. They took Detroit iron, disassembled it and reassembled it into a combination never intended by the auto companies. A big, powerful, modern engine would be shoehorned into a lightweight, pre-war model car. The creation might be a shiny low-slung roadster that would hit the auto shows; it might be a stripped down coupe that would terrorize the local drag strip; or it might be a daily workhorse sedan that would never get beyond primer gray. In any case, it would be faster and sportier than anything Detroit offered. It was a hot rod, and its owner, driver, designer was a hot rodder. Hot rodders built dreams, and during the process lifelong friendships were forged.”

The following paragraphs spotlight unique adventures and vehicles representative of the Road Runners.

1) The rail dragster. On one occasion in 1953 the Road Runners found themselves without a club car to race the following Sunday on Ecorse Road between Denton and Beck Roads where the state police detoured traffic and supervised drag racing. The club had invited the Genesee Gear Grinders down from Flint and needed something to race. An inexpensive car with a flathead motor was quickly acquired. Club associates were summoned to a member’s house where the car’s sheet metal was methodically stripped off and salvage parts were designated for future use. Welders fabricated a frame using industrial pipe. This formed the basic structure of their homemade competitor. Next the front steering and the rear end assemblies were added. The motor was enhanced with aluminum high compression heads and additional carburetion before being lowered into place. After the installation of the radiator and a few minor adjustments, it was time to move the body-less bomb for final tuning. The field next to Vic and Mac’s Mobil Service, the unofficial HVRR hang-out, had been plowed so there was no place to try out their challenger before Sunday. It was decided to go early and assess the car’s potential prior to racing.

Ray Kalusha and Naz did much of the work on the club’s “rail”, as they called it back then. There was not much to the primitive dragster. Don’t look for safety features. The picture shows Ray connecting a radiator hose. By the time the Road Runners showed up, the Flint club had already arrived. Before the police monitored drags started, the club was going to get the bugs out of the rail. To give it a try, Ray pulled the crude machine over onto the service drive which paralleled Ecorse. The front end pointed east when he initially hit the throttle. The next thing he knew, he was heading south. Apparently one rear tire grabbed better than the other. At the time posi-traction was not a luxury. He managed to stop it quickly, even though he was not able to hang on to much. Thinking he could improve the performance, Naz said, “Let me try it.”

They turned the rail around to the west so they could use the roadside ditch for stopping and safety (ha!). Naz revved the engine, and popped the clutch. Same thing happened again! As the front end jumped, the left front wheel came off the ground. Simultaneously, the right rear wheel dug in again. This time gravel sprayed bystanders. The rail ended up in the ditch facing north, with Naz laughing loudly. Naz was not hurt. Not so for the rail. The gas line broke, the brakes were damaged, the battery came loose, and rust had flown everywhere. But, what fun! It was their first “wheelie.” The Gear Grinders members laughed at the rail job and the Road Runners’ predicaments with it.

2) The sad end of a hot rod. Often parked next to the curb in front of the Vic and Mac station on Michigan Ave. was Naz’s “31 Ford roadster. Passers by were drawn to the unusually low rod. Such highly modified vehicles puzzled those unfamiliar with the new sport of hot rodding.

Note the big and little tire combination, and rear mounted antenna. The engine sported dual carbs, and other “goodies.” Unfortunately Naz’s pride and joy was rear ended by a drunk, while parked in front the station. The intoxicated driver exited nearby Ecorse Road at a high speed and made a too-wide left hand turn. The roadster sat in his path. The car was totaled. I recall seeing it after the accident.

3) The cool pickup. Seen here at the Carlton, MI drag strip, this black Model “A’ pickup top was chopped (lowered) by Naz and Jim. A friend’s mother researched legal windshield height specifications and told them it had to be at least 5½” at the mid-cowl measurement. So that’s what it was. The first time Naz took his girlfriend to McNaughton’s drive in restaurant in it, she had to get out and walk around to get their malts off the tray because the tall glasses wouldn’t fit through the chopped openings. Once I had the chance to ride to Silver Lake and back in the truck. For a 14 year old kid it was cool to be in that hot rod.

4) Comfortable custom. While brother Naz favored hot rods, Jim Barnabei preferred customs which offered more creature comforts. In 1952 he drove a sharp 1949 Ford convertible. A bull nose molding inexpensively replaced the stock hood ornament. The four vertical center Van Auken bars and deluxe bumper extensions kept careless parallel parkers from damaging the body. Dual spotlights and headlight shades completed the front end highlights. Note the HVRR club plaque displayed up front.

5) Gray Gem. The proud owner of the 1940 Mercury convertible was Joe Pittman. It was his first car! While still in school he shelled out four hundred big ones for it. Like many young hot rodders, Joe began customizing the light-green cruiser, eventually covering it completely with a coat of gray primer. Being mildly modified, with teardrop fender skirts and sombrero wheel covers, the classy Merc certainly must have attracted a lot of attention cruising up and down Cross Street in front of Ypsilanti High School during 1952 and 1953.

6) Bailey’s Custom. By 1958 one member’s automotive interests had progressed from hot rods to a 1950 Mercury. In 1959 Richard Bailey decided to give it the full custom treatment. Employing the Alexander Brothers Custom Shop in Detroit, over a two-year period, Richard succeeded in creating one of the nicest customs I have ever seen. It had classic styling. The top was chopped. Headlights and taillights were frenched. The hood ornament, trunk hardware, and door handles were removed. “Inkster” skirts by Jimmie Jones extended from the rear edge of the door to the bumper. The fender skirts, lowering, and molded, full-rocker lake pipes brought its silhouette down dramatically. Everyone admired the all white rolled and pleated interior. Even the carpeting was white! A flawless finish of deep maroon sheltered the exterior. White scallops accented its dynamic design. Appleton spotlights, a hand formed grill, and shiny, chromed wheels added finishing touches. A Chevy V-8 powered it. I recall seeing it the first time at Cecil’s Drive In. I could really appreciate the fruits of his time and money. Richard kept the Mercury until 1962, winning first place trophies at autoramas.

7) Winter Time Hot Rodding. Howard Shannon waits for winter to end so he can finish his roadster.

(Fred Thomas lived in the Ypsilanti area from 1948 to 1998 and is a regular contributor to the Gleanings.)


Photo Captions:

Photo 1: The Ypsi Drive In was located at Michigan Avenue and Burbank.

Photo 2: The Huron Valley Road Runners emblem was one-of-a-kind.

Photo 3: Naz (left) and Jim (right) Barnabei behind the counter at their speed shop.

Photo 4: Ray Kalusha working on the Road Runners Club “rail” dragster as they called it back then.

Photo 5: Naz’s 31 Ford roadster that was totaled by an intoxicated driver.

Photo 6: The “cool” pickup that was lowered by Naz and Jim.

Photo 7: Jim Barnabei preferred “customs” which offered more creature comforts.

Photo 8: Joe Pittman shelled out four hundred big ones for this convertible, his first car.

Photo 9: In 1959 Richard Bailey decided to give this 1950 Mercury the full “custom” treatment.

Photo 10: Howard Shannon waits for winter to end so he can finish his roadster.

Chicago Road Marker

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings
Original Images:

Author: James Mann

Every day hundreds of drivers pass the junction of Michigan Avenue and Congress Street unaware of the historical marker at the site. At the point of the junction is a large boulder placed there to commemorate the Chicago Road, a pathway through the wilderness, constructed in the early 1830’s, to connect Detroit and Chicago.

“The marker is in the form of a 2 ½ ton boulder of black syenite granite, and was procured with much difficulty a few miles west of Ann Arbor,” reported The Daily Ypsilanti Press of Friday, July 3, 1914. “According to Golz and Basom, who supplied it, there are only two other pieces of this variety anywhere near here and these cost from nine to fifteen hundred dollars apiece. The Black Syenite, declares Mr. Basom, is the hardest of all granite, and is rare,” noted the account.

The marker was dedicated on the 4th of July, 1914, with music by a band and an address by Professor. R. Clyde Ford, of the Michigan State Normal College, now Eastern Michigan University. The text of the address was published by The Daily Ypsilanti Press on Wednesday, July 8, 1914. “A road is a sign of civilization,” said Prof Ford. “The greatest nation of antiquity – Rome - left no greater and surer proof of her right to supremacy over other nations than in her mighty roads which she built over hill and dale, mountain, river, and plain to tie her conquered provinces together and to herself, and along those roads then, and later, traveled the culture and commerce of the world. It has been well said that every road is the story of a great need, and nothing shows the truth of the statement more than the way our own American civilization has drifted necessitously and everlastingly along certain great roads of the continent. And like our civilization our roads are inheritances - the modern form of ancient purpose.”

As part of his address, Prof. Ford gave a history of the Chicago Road to explain its purpose to connect Detroit with Chicago and to open the wilderness of the northwest to settlement.
“As a people,” concluded Professor Ford, “we are no longer poor, struggling to wrest a scanty livelihood from the wilderness - we are now a people of wealth, with an income tax, with handsome churches, schoolhouses, colleges, hospitals and penitentiaries as very visible signs of our advancement in civilization. The planting of such a monument as the one before which we have gathered today is a significant event for as a community, it shows that we have not forgotten the pioneers of our history, the men and women who blaze the way into our forests and opened up the land to culture and progress. Such a boulder is a lasting record, but no more so than the work done by the hardy frontiersmen of that early day. May we and our children look upon this stone and then upon the highway - the old Detroit and Chicago Road - and not forget that we stand in a thoroughfare along which have traveled a mighty part of the civilization of early Michigan.”

(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: The Chicago Road Marker is located at the junction of Michigan Avenue and Congress Street.

Syndicate content