Ypsilanti Parades

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings, Summer 2012,
Summer 2012
Original Images:

We remember Hometown parades

Ypsilantians love a parade and we have lots of them in our town. Most of Ypsilanti’s parades have hundreds of folks marching and thousands more on the sidelines watching and waving. Some newer and shorter parades encourage the folks on the sidewalk to get up and walk in the street with them. Like Garrison Keillor’s fictitious “Lake Wobegon,” sometimes we have to participatae in the parade and then get a place on the sidewalk and watch the rest of the parade go by. It’s a continuous process and one that is enjoyed by all.

Ypsilanti’s notable parades include homecomings for all the schools and colleges in the area, the solemn Memorial Day example––which is not a parade at all, but a procession, the oldest Independence Day Parade in the state, and the 35-year-old Heritage Parade that celebrate’s our community’s proud history.

Other parades that pop up intermittently have included a Santa Claus Parade, St. Patrick’s Day Parade, and countless line-ups of vintage vehicles. This July will see the famed Great Race vintage vehicles finish their route around the Great Lakes as they stop here for lunch on the way to the finish line at Dearborn’s Henry Ford.

[Photo caption from original print edition]: In 1937, the American Legion sponsored the Fourth of July Parade on Michigan Ave. [Fletcher-White Archives]

A Tribute to the Unknown Dead

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings, Summer 2010,
Summer 2010
Original Images:

Author: Mabel Stadtmiller

(This Memorial Day tribute was delivered by Mabel Stadmiller in 1927. She was elected to the position of Ypsilanti City Treasurer in 1924 and served in that position for 33 years.)

To me, a grand-daughter of a Union Veteran of the Civil War has been assigned on this Memorial Day, the privilege of paying tribute to the unknown dead. A tribute to those who pledged themselves in rank and file with the fallen heroes whose names we know, for the protection of the flag of our country. These comrades, though we cannot call their names, once stood shoulder to shoulder with all other heroes of the Civil War, on the bloody fields of battle, and guarded equally well the sacred bonds of statehood, and fought in unison for Liberty and the dear old flag.

We have come today as sons and daughters of our soldiers and sailors to do homage to a Nation’s dead. By these sacred ceremonies we revive the memories of brave and loyal hearts who dared stand for the right, and did not fear to bare their breasts to a storm of steel in defense of human liberty, a united country, and the brotherhood of man.

In this silent camping ground under God’s blue skies, their bodies may lie in decay, but we pledge ourselves to keep green the memories of their heroic service and unselfish sacrifice. Their names may not be recorded individually upon history’s page, but their lofty spirits conceived, resolved, and maintained the integrity of an institution which, pray God, may live on forever in prosperity and peace.

The examples of these loved ones, these unknown dead, in fighting to banish the crime of slavery in our fair land, these examples, I say, inspired America to send two million of her sons under the Star Spangled Banner to battle for Liberty’s cause on the war-torn fields of France and Flanders. Righteous victory attended our heroic soldiers and sailors, as they returned with our beloved banner resplendent with new honors, adding to imperishable glory won by our fathers under Abraham Lincoln in the war for the Union.

No flag that floats today on earth, like the flag these unknown dead once saved, holds out so brave a hope for all mankind, or sheds such a radiant light upon the path of human life.

Let us entwine each thread of the glorious fabric of our country’s flag around our hearts, and catching the spirit that breathes upon us from the battles and the victories of America’s sons, let us resolve now and forever we will stand for the principles and institutions which this monument to our unknown dead today symbolizes. Let us make the high resolve that our American flag, as it came to us from the hands of these our fathers, unstained and unchanged, shall so wave over our graves.

Cold in the dust this perished heart may lie, but the spirit that warmed it once can never die.

And now this day, I place, in loving memory, the garden’s and the woodland’s choicest emblems of beauty as a tribute of love and respect to our unknown dead.

Photo Captions:

Photo 1: Mabel Statmiller was elected to the position of Ypsilanti City Treasurer in 1924 and served in that position for 33 years.

The First of August Celebration

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings, Summer 2010,
Summer 2010
Original Images:

Author: James Mann

August is the only month in which the United States doses not have a holiday, an empty time between the 4th of July and Labor Day. This was not always the case, as for many years the African-American population of the nation celebrated the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation on August first. The celebration in Ypsilanti in 1886 may have been typical of the holiday. That year the first of August was celebrated on Monday, August second. The Michigan Mutual Benevolent Society and the Good Samaritans joined with the committee in charge to plan a gala day.

That morning visitors from neighboring towns arrived on every train, although not in any great numbers. Most of the visitors came from Ann Arbor and Jackson, with a few coming from Toledo. The procession formed at 10:00 am at the corner of Adams and Congress, now Michigan Avenue. The procession marched down Michigan Avenue and then up River Street to the railroad depot at Cross and River, meeting trains from both ways. The procession then formed on Cross Street and marched to Huron Street, then to Michigan Avenue, and then to the Fair Grounds, now Recreation Park, where the celebration was held.

“The notable feature of the procession was the wagon of girls, each dressed in white, wearing the red, white and blue. The Goddess of Liberty sat at the pinnacle of the pyramid shaped wagon. Each wore the name of some state. The procession was headed by the Dexter Juvenile Band, who furnished the music for the occasion. The boys gave good satisfaction,” noted the Ypsilanti Commercial of Friday, August 6, 1886.

On arrival at the Fair Grounds dinner was served. The program was opened with music and then a prayer was offered. Ypsilanti Mayor Cornwell delivered an address of welcome, which was followed with an address by Congressman Allen. “His remarks were very appropriate for the occasion, giving a review of the manner in which the great sin of slavery was introduced and rooted out. He said that colored people are now a part and parcel of this great Republic, and as such should be protected in their rights,” reported the Commercial.

An H. P. Jabobs of Natchez, Mississippi, who was a former slave, and had lived in Ypsilanti for some years, gave an address of some length. “He spoke of the brave record of the colored people, showing that they were as brave as any race of men ‘that walked on two legs.’ We hear a good deal about “how to solve the …problem.” I will tell you how: “let him alone.” You will see him filling the highest positions in the U.S. Let him work that out himself.”

The celebration ended with a ball game and foot races. The ball game between Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti teams ended in quite a wrangle. “Dissatisfaction with the umpire’s decision caused it. The game was stopped,” noted the account. Foot races were run, including the fifty yard race, and the 100 yard race. “The other races failed to come off, there being no entries.”

(James Mann is a local historian, storyteller and author. His books include “Ypsilanti: A History in Pictures,” City of Ypsilanti Fire Department 100 Years,” and “Our Heritage: Down by the Depot in Ypsilanti,” co-authored with Tom Dodd.)

Ypsilanti Christmas in the 1950s

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings, Winter 2009,
Winter 2009
Original Images:

Author: Peg Porter

There was a time, not so very long ago, when Ypsilantians could do all their Holiday shopping right downtown. After Thanksgiving, the family might pile into the station wagon and head to Detroit to visit Santa at J.L. Hudson’s. But Santa also made local appearances in the lower level of Mellencamp’s, one of Ypsi’s premier men's stores. Across Michigan Avenue, Shaefer Hardware’s Toy Store was stuffed full of anything and everything a kid could want. There were cozy slippers for Grandma at Willoughby’s and Moffett’s. Mom would love a pretty sweater from Young’s or Hartman’s. If Dad insisted on practicality there were appliances large and small at the “Gas Company,” or the many hardware stores.

Downtown glittered and sparkled. Salvation Army members in full uniform sang or played Carols at their Red Kettles. Store windows were brightly lit, bedecked in red and green. A friend of mine remembers the little animated dolls in Seyfried’s window. Garlands with colored lights stretched across the street, often causing havoc for drivers trying to read the traffic signals. If you are too young to remember what Christmas used to look like, think “It’s A Wonderful Life.” For that is the way it was.

With the restrictions of wartime lifted, this was a time to celebrate. Detroit Edison encouraged the use of electricity through the exchange of light bulbs and small appliance repair, both for free. At the holidays, there were lights everywhere. In the early 1950s, the Jaycees sponsored a Holiday Home Decoration contest. To win this contest required ingenuity, creativity and a higher electric bill. There was a certain level of risk involved as well. Lights were strung across roof lines and Santas, sleighs, and reindeer were hauled up ladders to perch on the roof. Some residents decorated the tall pines on their property. The Nissly home on Wallace had a tree that towered over their two-story house. It helped that they owned the Michigan Ladder Company.

You need to remember this was before Home Depot and “pre-fab” decorations. The majority of decorations were crafted by the homeowners. My father, Don Porter, loved Christmas. My mother, Ruth, was in charge of decorating the inside of the house except for putting up the tree, that was for Dad. But the exterior of the house was his. He spent hours down in his shop putting the various elements together. He gathered fresh greens and then just about two weeks before Christmas, for a frenzied few hours he put together his masterpiece usually finishing just as it got dark. We all gathered outside to watch the lights go on and hope a fuse didn’t blow. Then we went in to a warm meal.

Dad won the Jaycee Award at least five years in a row before he officially withdrew from the competition. He continued to decorate and a parade of cars moved slowly by our house each evening to see what “Don Porter did this year.”

His most elaborate window was not “showy.” Instead he made individual “stained glass” designs for each window pane. Each piece was put together using black construction paper and colored cellophane. Then one by one they were placed in the panes and secured. The lights inside the house made the window glow.

Christmas is best seen through a child’s eye. It can be magical. When my brother was about six he began to question the existence of Santa Claus. I, then 12, took him aside and told him to listen very carefully just before he went to sleep. If he stayed quiet and really listened, he would hear the faint sound of reindeer hooves on the roof. The next morning he told excitedly, “I heard them. I really heard them.” The magic of Christmas is not denied to adults who can let their inner child take over for awhile. If you listen, you too will hear reindeer, the jingle of bells, or even the crystalline sounds of angel voices.

Happy Holidays!

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

Photo Captions:

Photo 1: The Don Porter House around 1950, winner of the Ypsi Jaycees lighting contest.

Photo 2: The Don Porter House in 1962 decorated for Christmas. The lantern in the forefront stood on the Olivet College campus and was a tribute to Ruth Porter’s father, R. C. Young, who had paid his tuition bills by being a lamplighter.

Report from the Museum Advisory Board

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings, Winter 2005,
Winter 2005
Original Images:

Author: Virginia Davis-Brown

What an exciting fall this has been at the Museum. We were thrilled when we had over 400 visitors see our “Lost Ypsilanti Speaks” exhibit. We have decided that it will continue next year with new sites as well as the old ones. We hope that it brought back some memories and you were able to better understand the history of Ypsilanti.

This year we were able to have the “Quilt Exhibit” again and what a wonderful exhibit it was with 127 quilts displayed throughout the museum. It seemed that every one was different and had it's own story to tell. We want to thank all who were kind enough to lend us their precious quilts. Our special thanks to Sandy Knight for demonstrating the technique of quilt making.

There are two new exhibits now on display at the museum, one is a collection of 54 miniature lamps that were loaned to us from Irene Jameson's collection. They are all different and beautiful. The other is honoring people who served in World War II with a display of uniforms and items of that period. You must come in and see them.

It is a busy time as we have decorated the Museum for the holidays. The Christmas tree is up and all the decorations are in place waiting for the Open House on December 4, from 12:00 noon to 4:00 pm and the New Years Eve celebration starting at 6:30 until 10:00 pm. If you have not spend part of New Years Eve with us before, we invite you to come to our house to enjoy the music, refreshments and visiting with old friends and maybe meet some new ones on the last night of the year.

It has been a wonderful year for all of us and we thank you all for your support, but there is one thing that you can do for us this next year. We are always in need of docents, so if you have a couple of hours a month that you could spare please let us know. You can always call me at 484–0080 or let anyone at the Museum know and we will be in contact with you to receive training.

Happy Holidays from all of us at the Ypsilanti Historical Museum!

A Christmas Surprise for Grandma

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings, November 2004,
November 2004
Original Images:

Author: Gloria J. Shuttleworth

Grandma lived on Sugar Creek Mountain all alone. It was a beautiful mountain, with tall cedar trees all over the mountain top. In the middle of the mountain was a crystal clear lake. The water in the lake was the prettiest blue you've ever seen. When the water was calm, you could see the fish swimming around in the lake.

I loved sitting by the lake when I was a little girl. Grandma would pack us a lunch, and we would sit at the lake for hours on end. Hour after hour, grandma would tell me stories about her life on the mountain.

I remember the day that grandpa drowned in the lake. My parents had tried to talk grandma into moving into town, but she wouldn't hear of it. My parents knew not to argue with her, because they knew that grandma was set in her ways.

“I've been on this mountain for so long that I've forgotten which is the oldest, me or the mountain,” grandma had said, with a twinkle in her eyes. I knew my parents worried about her being alone, because grandma was the only person who lived on Sugar Cliff Mountain.

Today I was going to visit grandma, and the excitement grew inside me at the thought of spending time on the mountain once more. After all, it had been ten years since I had seen grandma. It's hard to believe that my career had kept me away for so long. As I approached the top of the mountain, I could see grandma staring out the window of her little log cabin home.

Grandma greeted me at the door with a big hug. “I am so happy that you could come to visit with me,” said grandma. This Christmas is going to be so wonderful! I have a special surprise for you dear. Little did grandma know that I had a very special surprise for her as well.

“Well, we can't stand around here all day,” said grandma. There's a lot of work to get done. I have invited the people from the village to come to my Christmas party on Saturday evening.

After I had freshened up a bit, we spent the day baking all sorts of cookies and candies. Grandma had a story to tell as we baked the goodies for the party.

She told me about how she used to bake apple pies for grandpa.

“He loved apple pies,” said grandma. Those were his favorite.

She said that after the pies would cool off, that grandpa would send her into the living room, under the pretense that he would clean up the kitchen. Grandma knew what he was really up to, but she never let on that she knew. Grandma would go into the living room and sit in her rocking chair. She would sing some of the songs that she knew grandpa loved. About an hour later, grandma would wander back into the kitchen.

“Why Henry!” she said kitchen, grandma retired for the evening. I made myself a cup of tea and sat down in front of the fireplace.

Sitting alone in the quiet house, I pondered my childhood memories of my grandparents. They had always been such a fun loving and happy couple. Shortly after they were married, grandpa built the log cabin home for his “Little ole Emmy”, as he called her. Just before Christmas, almost twelve years ago, grandpa was outside gathering firewood, when grandma heard a horrible scream and a terrible noise. She ran outside to find that an area of the ice on the lake had fallen through. She yelled for grandpa over and over but no reply ever came. They searched the lake for over a week, but no trace of grandpa could be found. Finally, they called off the search. One of the men who had helped in the search said they'd probably never find grandpa now.

Just then, as my thoughts were still racing around in my head, my grandmother brought me back to reality. “We have to be up very early in the morning dear, so off to bed now,” she said. I slowly walked to my grandmother's room, and kissed her goodnight.

Morning came early at grandma's house. As I entered the kitchen I could smell the homemade biscuits and gravy cooking on the stove. “What's on our list of things to do today?” I asked. “The men are coming from the village this morning to put the lights on the trees, and we have lots of presents to wrap for the children,” she said.

Just then, there was a knock at the door. It was the men from the village ready to start putting up the lights. Grandma was so excited as she stepped back to watch them.

“Let's wrap those presents now Laura,” said grandma. As I watched grandma wrap the presents and tie the ribbons, I knew that so much more was being placed around them. With each piece of wrapping paper grandma was also wrapping them with love. After the last present was wrapped, we realized that we'd been wrapping presents all day! It was now getting dark outside and grandma wanted to go outside to view the lights. As we stepped out onto the porch, we gasped. The sight that met our eyes was so beautiful to behold! The snow was glittering and the reflection of the lights on the snow was beyond words! It was breathtaking!

That night I went to bed with a heart full of love for my grandmother. I knew that someday I wanted to be just like her, full of love for others. Saturday evening the village people started arriving just after dark. Grandma always waited until evening to have her Christmas party, because she loved the lights. All the guests gathered around in the front yard and began to sing Christmas carols. Oh, how grandma loved that!

Ole Ben was a jolly fellow who worked at the village store, and he was chosen to help Santa hand out the presents. The children shouted with glee, as they unwrapped their gifts. Grandma said, “Laura, come here dear, I have a surprise for you.” As she handed me the present, I could see the love and pride in her eyes. “I love it grandma”, I said, as I bent down to kiss her cheek, “I will cherish it forever.” Grandma had made a quilt out of some of my dresses that I had worn as a little girl.

“Grandma, if you could have just one special gift for Christmas, what would it be?” I asked her. Without even stopping to think, she replied, “I would like to see your grandfather just one more time, so I could feed him the apple pie that the horses quit snatching when he left us.”

Just then grandma's face lit up like the lights on the Christmas tree! Everyone turned to see what grandma was looking at. Walking slowly toward her, with an apple pie in his hand, was grandpa! There was two slices missing from the pie that he was holding. The village people were speechless, as they thought they were seeing a ghost. Grandpa chuckled, as he yelled out, “Emmy, those darn horses snatched the pie and got away with two pieces, difference to me, but slowly my memory started to return.

I remember now going out to gather firewood. There was a nice piece of wood on the lake. I thought the lake was frozen over so I stepped out on the lake to get the piece of wood. I remember hearing the lake crackle and that's the last I remember about the accident.

“Laura, how can I ever thank you for bringing grandpa home to me?” asked grandma. Laura replied,” Seeing the happiness and the love you have for each other is all the thanks I need.”

As Laura retired to bed that night, she couldn't help but think about the surprise that she had given to grandma for Christmas. She knew in her heart that it was the best surprise present that grandma would ever get. What a warm and wonderful feeling came over Laura as she fell asleep, thinking of her grandparents.

The End


Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings, November 2004,
November 2004
Original Images:

Author: Gery Pety

After hearing some really strange tales about Ypsilanti and sightings of ghosts and other spirits that inhabit our older homes in this area, it is only fair to spin a few yarns at this time of the year near Halloween.

As we all know this area is plentiful in graveyards and cemeteries as this area has been settled for more than 200 years. Over the course of time these old burying places, for one reason or another, have to be moved. In fact, cemeteries in the Ypsilanti area have moved so much that they should have been made mobile right from the start! This would have saved a lot of time and effort years down the line. But my story continues…

I'll bet you never knew that there was a cemetery behind the store on Michigan Avenue and Summit Street. (Now known as the Summit Grocery/ party store) Sometime in the late 20's or early thirties, as the story goes, this very small cemetery and its “residents” were moved to Highland Cemetery on North River Street. Since then strange things have been known to happen in this neighborhood, to hear some of the older folks talk. Apparently, the population of the living was creating a demand for the property along Michigan Avenue and the city fathers decided they would move it's “residents” to a more out of the way place to make way for a new batch of taxpayers. As everyone knows, the dead are notorious for not paying their taxes in a timely fashion! This possibly could explain where the term “deadbeat” comes from. Well anyway, there being no exact science to finding everyone buried over many generations in a graveyard, some “body” is bound TO GET LEFT BEHIND! Next time you walk past this area think about what I just related to you. Notice the different age of the homes in the area. Their style. See any other differences? Did they get everyone? Ponder what I just said…. Just maybe… they didn't. Really!

Have you ever visited the Willow Run School District Administration building on Spencer Lane, in Willow Run? Ever notice the small but stately monument on the left of the building. No it's not a lawn ornament, or an Egyptian artifact, nor even a birdbath. No, it is definitely none of those things! According to what carved on its side, this commemorates the removal of the headstones of this graveyard to make room for the “new” school building, but most of its residents still repose on the grounds just under your feet. (Goes to show you what happens when you no longer have a valid voter registration card, the politicians and bureaucrats will walk all over you!)

And of course everyone is aware of Prospect Cemetery. Oh! You might know it by its more recent name: Prospect Park. In the late 1860's all of its occupants were evicted to the just-opened “garden” style park named Highland Cemetery. The newspapers at the time claimed they got every last one of the inhabitants moved to their new home at Highland. But was this fact or just speculation on the newspapers part, you'll never know, really.

Or have you ever heard the story about the little village just West of Ypsilanti situated near the intersection of what is now Packard and Carpenter Roads. This area was farmed by, I believe two related people, possibly brothers, named Carpenter in the latter part of the 1800's. This area was known as Carpenter's Corners and was a very small village with its own cemetery. Sometime in the early part of the 20 & century (c 1910) a parcel of this land, including the cemetery, was sold to another farmer. This farmer being a practical person, and wanting to get the most return on his farm investment decided to move the cemetery by himself. Well, being a very, very, very practical farmer, he just decided to just toss the head stones into a near by stream and save himself the ghoulish task of moving the inhabitants. Who would know or remember where that old cemetery was anyway. With all of these obstacles now out of the way he just farmed over the entire area. If you visit this cemetery look at the brass plaque located there. In the 1930's the DAR and another civic group decided to try and rebuild the cemetery as well as they could. The result was the Terhune Pioneer Cemetery just off of Terhune Street in Ann Arbor. The stones are still gone but the residents remain. So if you should venture your way into the Brandywine Subdivision just look for a wooden staircase just about halfway down Terhune Street. Its there… stop in… say hi. It is a very very quiet, restful place-Really!

So just when you thought that cemeteries and graveyards were some distant, out of the way place where your aunt Maude is buried, think again! You might be living next to, passing by, or standing right on top of an old cemetery. Really!!

Administration Committee Report

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings, November 2004,
November 2004
Original Images:

Isn't it a wonderful time of the year? Mother Nature has out done herself this fall with all the beautiful color she has given and in some places there are still lovely red trees trying to hold on to there beauty a little longer.

In the stores, when I have gone shopping, I hear the tinkle of bells and hear the Christmas music which makes me realize the year of 2004 has almost ended.

It has been an eventful fall for us at the Museum. The Quilt Show was a success with over 100 quilts on display for all to see. Some were unique, some beautiful and some were made with love for the use that a quilt was made for, just to keep warm. I want to thanks all these 40 people who so generously let us use their treasures, Without them we could not have had such a wonderful display and thank you to all the extra docents who volunteered so we could be open extra hours.

After a couple of weeks we realized we only had a few days to start decorating the museum for Christmas. The crew of Museum Elves put on their pointed toe shoes and red hats and went to the basement to see what could be used this year. After the consultation on design and color, they were off on Monday morning, and low and behold by Thursday the museum was ready for inspection. You must stop by as it looks like the pages of your favorite Home Design magazine.

Our hours this year will be Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sundays from 2 P.M. to 4P.M except for December 5, our Open House, then they will be from 12P.M. to 5 P.M. These hours start on November 26, and run through December 31 when we again will be participating in the annual New Years Jubilee. What a wonderful celebration when children, parents and grandparents can all go to good clean entertainment. Again this year, we will be honored to have Joseph Pratt, the classical guitarist. Of course you can have your favorite cup of hot chocolate or coffee and a snack. Our building is free but donations are always accepted to help with the upkeep of the Museum.

This will be a perfect time to take a few minutes to browse in our gift shop and maybe pick up a gift or two, Remember that we have a lot of books on the City and History of Ypsilanti.

Now on behalf of the Administration Committee and the Ypsilanti Historical Museum we wish you a HAPPY AND HEALTHY NEW YEAR.

Doreen Binder Virginia Davis-Brown

Kathleen Campbell Kathryn Howard

Joan Carpenter Betty Kerr

Grace Cornish Karen Nickels

From the President's Desk

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings, November 2004,
November 2004
Original Images:

Author: Joan Carpenter

Dear Members,

The Holiday Season is here and the end of another year is approaching. The older we get the more quickly time seems to pass.

The Museum has been transformed into a “Winter Wonderland” of years gone by. One feels as though he or she has been transported back to the 1800s when they pass through the door.

Christmas trees, wreaths, candles, toys, clothing and displays will capture your attention and create a feeling of holiday happiness due to the many hours of work by the Museum elves. I'm certain you will agree with me when you visit here for there is something for everyone to ohh and ahh over, from childhood to elderhood.

As the year 2004 draws to an end, many thanks go out to the members who volunteer their time to the Museum. We greatly appreciate those who serve as docents, (those folks who spend hours explaining and showing off the lovely, funny, precious and strange items used by the people of the past), members of the Administration Board, chaired by Virginia Davis-Brown, who keep the House sparkling clean and plan the schedule and events that are held within this beautiful building, and to the members of the Board of Directors who take the responsibility of running the business end of the Museum. They all deserve a big round of applause!

It is with great regret that at this time I am resigning as president of the Board of Directors. The three years I've spent serving in this position has been one of the most interesting and wonderful experiences of my life. I thank you all for your support and wish my successor the wonderful experiences I've enjoyed.

Happy Holidays to you all,
Joan J.Carpenter

Christmas Story

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings, Winter 2003,
Winter 2003
Original Images:

The following story is taken from a book: OUR BOYS AND GIRLS. Oliver Optic's Magazine. 1868. Boston: Published by Lee and Shepard.



CARL SCHERNI sat alone in his library. It was Christmas Eve. The tall, myriad-fingered fir was holding out its generous arms in the next room, laden with toys and useful gifts for his children. The fragrance of its balsam breath reached him through the open door. It was ten times sweeter than the air in his library. If you ask why, I only need point to the cigar-stand on the table beside him. As he rose to take an Havana from the hand of the statuette, which for twenty years had held out to him his choice brown roll, Carl started. A package filled the bronze hand in place of the rolls. What could it mean? “Ah, it is Christmas Eve, and the good wife means me to be satisfied with some gift to-night, instead of my usual treat. I wonder if she is looking in at the door!” He turned his head. All was still. Carl took the package from the moveless fingers. He looked at it, felt it, smelt of it, but learned nothing.

For Carl, with love and hope.

He knew the handwriting. It was Paulette's. He scarcely understood why she wrote more than “with love.”

“Hope, hope,” he said aloud, in a questioning way. He took up his penknife to cut the string, but first walked to the open door, looked at the tree, and thought of the gentle hands that had wrought and hung there so many gifts of love. Love seemed glinting in letters of burnished gold from every burden that weighed down the yielding boughs. He thought of Paulette's kindness and forbearance for more than twenty years. And surely it had been well returned! Yes; still there was one thing, Carl knew, which even for her he had not been willing to give up. True, she had never blamed him, nor teased him about it. Noble wives never do. But she had told him how she felt, and what she would like more than a little. And he had smiled and kissed her, and smoked on, as even noble men will do!

He passed on by the tree into the bedroom. Paulette was asleep. A smile lingered about her lips, and he thought it was born since she placed the package in the bronze hand. So he went back to the library, and cut the cord to see. Ah, Paulette! You have hit the nail on the head! You have beaten Santa Claus tonight. Only a curiously carved box, of some rich, dark wood; on the cover a quaint little man, dropping a silver dollar into the open mouth of a bag. A pile of dollars lies on one side, from which he has just taken it, and under the bag are more, rolling away to the edge of the cover. Ah, there is a hole in the bag ! So he may keep on taking up dollars and putting them into the bag; and they, alas! will keep on rolling along to the cover's edge, and quite out of sight.

Silly man! Can he not see there is a hole in the bag? Ah, but where is he looking? What does he hold in the other hand? Surely it is a cigar! The end is bright scarlet. He is watching the tip of blue that rims the scarlet with a pale, dusty edge. He does not look at the bag!

“A fine cigar-box, truly. Very suggestive!” said Carl. “With love and hope !’ Just like Paulette! How long has she been studying out that bit of mischief? How long a time has old Rupert spent over it? or has it been made to order at all?”

Just then Carl spied a narrow slip of paper in the box-“Haggai, i. 6.” That was all. He thought it might be enough; so he found the chapter and verse. “He that earneth wages, earneth it to put into a bag with holes.”

“A pretty striking text,” said Carl to himself. “Old Peter Barnes does that; working all the week like a slave, and putting his money in the ale-house every Saturday night. Punch bowls and brandy cups are bags with big holes. But this queer little man isn't holding a cup. I suppose there are other bags with holes. If I had one, I should like to drop an Havana or two into it to please Paulette.”

What else Carl thought just then I can't say. He looked around uneasily, then went to a little drawer in his secretary, and opened a banded box of cedar, and took out a cigar. The thoughts he had after that went up with the smoke; but they came back again, for that was a farewell cigar for Carl. He thought a while after he threw the last of it into the dying fire. Then he took the cedar box, wrapped it up, directed it to his wife, and hung it on the strongest arm of the Christmas fir. It may seem a trifle to change a man. I can't explain it; but I know that on smaller pivots than this little symbolic cigar-holder many a destiny has turned. A glimpse of a long-forgotten wedding-ring once stopped the hole in a drunkard's bag. An old Bible, in a neglected corner, once stopped the hole in a gambler's bag. An act of Quaker honesty once stopped forever the hole in a robber's bag. Be this as it may, the next morning, when the eager children were shouting and clapping hands over wonderful gifts, and Paulette's tears fell silently on the lid of a cedar box, Carl stopped all the fuss by telling his wife and children to be quiet while he gave them

The Story of Hans and Claire.

Of course they were ready, and this was it:-

Once there was a poor little boy, and he lived in a poor little home. His father worked hard to put bread into six little mouths besides his own; so he ran away from home, to make his own fortune. He fared badly enough for a while, till at length he met a very sweet lady, too beautiful for me to describe.

“If I could only live where I might look at her, and listen to her voice! “

His good fairy heard his wish, and said,-

“If you will be true, and pure, and good, I will put you where you can always see her face and hear her voice.”

The poor boy's eyes sparkled as he promised the fairy he would. Then she held a glass before him, and lo! he was as handsome as the beautiful lady! His face was ruddy, his locks glossy, his eye bright, his smile radiant. Then the lady thought, “I would like always to look at him, and hear his voice.” And the good fairy pleased them both, and pronounced them man and wife. Then she whispered a secret to the boy-a man now.

“Here is a bag; drop every dollar you earn into it, only spending what is for your real and best good, and you will fill the bag. If you fail to do so, you will find it empty.”

So Hans dropped his dollars into the bag, and Claire dropped dollars in also; and it began to grow fat, and they had enough be-sides to supply all their need. Their home was very happy. Every one loved to come and see them; and all said, “What wonderful people are Hans and Claire!” They did not lack for favor from small and great; and their good fairy smiled on them daily.

One day Hans went with a stranger on a long journey. He rode through vale and forest, and open field, and beside broad rivers, and talked of all he saw with his new companion. They came to a field where a strange plant grew.

“What is this?” asked Hans.

“Do you not know?” said the stranger. “I will show you.”

So they went into the field. Hans admired the restless oceah of waving green, with rose-hued, bell-shaped blossoms dotting it with singular beauty. Then the stranger tempted Carl. He told him it was a plant “good to make one wise;” that people had found it so for four hundred years. That the first people who lived in this land knew this, and so they dried the leaves, and put them in hollow canes, and smoked themselves wise. Some had rich tubes of silver, and some of tortoise shell, and some of gold, and they grew wiser; and some used the leaves in long, slender, solid rolls, and they grew wisest of all. Soon he persuaded Hans to try a roll; and there, in the midst of this new Eden, he took the roll, and enveloped himself in its mysterious cloud. A dreamy feeling of rest came over him; he forgot his friend, forgot everything for a while. He was growing wise!

Hans went home; and after that he and the stranger met often. Claire wondered who had woven a spell about Hans. He did not come home so early at night. He did not toss and hug the little ones so often. He did not always speak so pleasantly to her. Sometimes he refused the little dainties she had been wont to prepare for him with her own hands. Worse than all, he was changing his friends. Those who had come to see them before were all charming people, such as Hans used to be. Now some were rough men, boisterous men, full of coarse jokes. So Claire slipped away, and left them alone with Hans. He, too, seemed to grow like them. Worse yet, the bag the good fairy had given him began to grow thin. He put in the dollars, but they seemed to vanish. Hans did not at once notice this. He wondered he did not prosper. He wondered his lands began to slip from him, and his taxes to grow a burden. But he looked in every place except the right place to find the reason.


One day Claire wanted some money. She had always had it before, and many a sorrowful face had smiled with joy on leaving her. Now she was denied money.

One day, after Hans went out with the stranger, Claire went in alone, and looked at the bag. She turned it about, over, and upside down, and she found there was a big hole in the bottom. Then the good fairy told her a secret, and when Hans came in she told it to him. He looked at the bag. Sure enough, a big hole, where dollars and dollars must have gone through! He held it up in wonder, and the fairy whispered,-

“Did you keep your promise?”

Hans started. What had he done?

Then she took him with her to the stranger's home, and showed him a chest, in which lay piled a glittering till-full of dollars-dollars which had all rolled out of his bottomless bag. For the stranger owned the treacherous sea of green and rose color, and he knew well how to fill his coffers by blinding other people's eyes. Then the fairy held the glass before Hans. His own mirror surely did not tell such a tale. Sunken eyes, prominent cheek bones, sallow complexion, teeth disrobed of pearl, deep furrows in forehead and cheek-a haggard face, truly!

“Now,” said the fairy, “if you will renew the first promise,-give up whatever is impure,-I will give you a whole bag, and a new face.”

“I will,” said Hans. So she held the glass before him again; and now he felt ready to see Claire. They went together to the bag. It was whole and heavy. Claire looked like a new being. Hans's heart grew light. His choice friends came back. The boisterous, rude, uncleanly people fell away, one by one. His home was transformed. All his dollars staid in the mended bag except those which went for things “pure and good,” and he never missed them.

Paulette understood the story, and said, “Her Christmas gift, with the story, was better than all she had ever made or given in her life.” Carl doubted this; but the children clapped their hands, and said they voted for the good fairy, and would never put dollars into bags with holes in the bottom, even if they slid through in tubes of tortoise, or silver, or solid gold.

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