Ypsilanti Citizen Opinions Sidetrack

Thank you Ypsilanti
By Dan DuChene & Christine Laughren
Jun. 23, 2010   ·   5:07 p.m.

Christine Laughren and Dan DuChene, co-owners of the Ypsilanti Citizen, pose in front of their company's banner at Frenchie's during the Citizen's one-year anniversary party.

The Ypsilanti Citizen was launched in November 2008 to inform the Ypsilanti community about the news and events that were happening in their area.

Since our launch,...read more

Crossroads Summer Festival; rockin’ ladies night
By Dave Heikkinen and Frank Wright
Jun. 23, 2010   ·   4:37 p.m.

Barbara Payton and the Big Boss Trio rock Washington Street.

A special Ladies Night was held Friday at the 2010 Ypsilanti Crossroads Summer Festival in conjunction with the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life.

Just...read more

Crossroads to hold Ladies Night for Relay for Life
By Dave Heikkinen and Frank Wright
Jun. 16, 2010   ·   9:13 a.m.

On June 11, the 2010 Ypsilanti Crossroads Summer Festival featured a rousing opening set from roots and blue grass band Dragon Wagon.

Dragon Wagon was joined on...read more

Electric rail pollution leads to dirty laundry
By Laura Bien
Jun. 15, 2010   ·   11:42 a.m.

From the approximate vantage point of the present-day Materials Unlimited, the interurban car barn and powerhouse on Michigan Avenue loomed large.

Maggie Smith was not looking forward to a forenoon of sewing pleats.

She put down her newest customer’s summer dress. Downstairs, she offered to get potatoes...read more

EMU students in wartime
By Laura Bien
Jun. 1, 2010   ·   10:32 a.m.

The 1942 Aurora yearbook, the 50th
anniversary edition, included images that contrasted modern and
old-time students.

Leroy Grindle was an Ypsilantian soldier who lost his life in WWII. He was a member of the Michigan Normal (EMU) class of ’41, and is memorialized with a black...read more

Biking into Ypsilanti's past

O. E. Thompson was the first to sell bicycles in the
city, at the Thompson Block. Image courtesy of Ypsilanti Archives. Photo by Ypsilanti Archives

O. E. Thompson was the first to sell bicycles in the city, at the Thompson Block. Image courtesy of Ypsilanti Archives.
Krispy Krunchy Chicken

To the Archives

By Laura Bien
Dec. 8, 2009    ·    10:54 a.m.


As the temperature heads downward, Bike Ypsi continues to roll forward with weekly Sunday 1 p.m. rides.

Bike Ypsi’s fortitude in wintry (finally) weather recalls the stamina of early Ypsilanti bikers, some of whom thought nothing of breezing over to New York state, via Canada, just for fun.

“Mr. Warren Smith and his college friend, Wallie Campbell of Ann Arbor, spent a part of their vacation very pleasantly,” said the Oct. 10, 1885 Ypsilanti Commercial. “Sept. 1st they left this fair city on their bicycles, taking the plank road to Detroit.”

The plank road was Michigan Avenue, which at this time was a wooden road. A plank road is like a railroad track turned upside-down. Supported on two parallel wooden ‘ties,’ a series of abutting boards forms a theoretically smooth surface. In reality, plank roads in Michigan were usually poorly maintained by the private companies that ran them, with missing or rotting boards alternating with gaping holes—no easy path to cross on a bicycle.

The cyclists continued to Windsor and Niagara Falls and ended up at Rochester, N.Y., to watch bicycle races being held there.

“The roads in Canada most of the way were splendid for miles and miles, a perfect plane and straight, and the scenery was beautiful,” said the paper. “They said that the worst road they had was between Ypsilanti and Detroit.”

Bicycle races were held in Ypsilanti as well. The June 11, 1896 Ypsilantian newspaper said, “The stores will be closed, Friday, from 1 to 5:30 p.m., to give the employees a chance to attend the bicycle races at the fair grounds.” The races were located where, today, Bike Ypsi kicks off their Sunday rides—Recreation Park.

The Ypsilantian of spring, 1896 is full of chatty bike-related tidbits.

“Miss Florence Batchelder is the proud possessor of a Crawford bicycle.

“Joe McGrath is sincerely wishing that bicycle tires would stay where they are put, and not come off and cause the riders to fall and dislocate their collar bones, as his did, last Sunday.

“The bicyclists of Ypsilanti were out on parade for the first time this season, last Friday night. Over 75 bikes were in the procession, among them the tandems owned by C. S. Sweet and W. I. Fell.”

O. E. Thompson was the first merchant in town to sell bicycles, and other local merchants welcomed the cyclists.

“Bicycle racks are becoming almost as numerous as hitching posts,” said the May 28, 1896 Ypsilantian. “Among the firms having new ones this week are W. H. Sweet and E. M. Comstock & Co.”

A week earlier, the paper had said, “A new bicycle rack has been placed in front of Lamb, Davis, & Kishlar’s store. This will be a great convenience to their bicycle riding customers.”

Samson’s store, which rented and sold bikes, created a “bicycle parlor and training park,” where new owners could practice riding. The paper pronounced the park “elegant.”

Even the mayor recognized the cyclists. Speaking to a local chapter of the League of American Wheelmen, Mayor Putnam was quoted in the September 27, 1889 Ypsilanti Commercial. “We welcome you not alone as individuals but as worthy representatives of one form of physical culture—a power which demands of those who would practice it steady nerves, keen eyes, and clear, well-balanced heads . . . The old Romans, twenty centuries ago, built and kept in repair better highways than we do today. If the wheelmen shall help to produce reform in this direction, coming generations of Americans will rise up to pronounce you blessed.”

The League of American Wheelmen advocated for the creation of paved roads and the improvement of rural roads. More than 100,000 members strong by 1898, the group coordinated local activism into a national political movement, the Good Roads Movement. Around the turn of the century, as cars were becoming more numerous, automobile clubs began adding their support to the movement, eventually dominating it. It was bicyclists, however, who instigated the creation of good modern roads.

But bad roads didn’t stop a group of Detroit Masonic brothers from their 1896 bicycle trip from Detroit to Ypsilanti. The city received fair warning.

“Word was received here Saturday morning that an invasion of our Queen City was contemplated by a large number of Masons on wheels from Detroit,” said the July 11, 1896 Ypsilantian. “[L]ater a telegram was received that they had actually started, 60 strong . . . and would sojourn here for the night. The alarm at the inner door of the fraternity was immediately given and consternation reigned.”

The paper continued, “Telegrams were sent to the brethren along the line to stuff them so they would be glad to turn back. They were first attacked by an old Mason of Dearborn who filled them with milk and doughnuts, then at the Wayne County House they were filled with strawberries and cream, while at Wayne they were obliged to partake of cold meats and coffee.”

A delegation of Ypsilanti Masons set out to meet the visitors and escort them into town. The welcoming party “reached the ridge of Mrs. Dunham’s farm from which a river of mud beyond could be seen, and the heavens opened their floodgates upon their heads. Nothing daunted, however, Alderman Davis raised the banner and said, ‘Boys you have traveled over rougher roads before, follow your conductor and fear no danger.’ With this he plunged in and was soon wallowing in the mire; the rest followed with various results.”

The party waited at Denton for their visitors, “and soon a sorry lot of wet humanity hove in sight. The railroad track was used by the weary travelers for the journey from Denton, the delegation reaching Ypsilanti about seven p.m. A good supper at the Hawkins [a country-style tavern at Michigan Avenue and Washington] refreshed them, and later in the evening they were banqueted at the Ypsilanti lodge rooms. The party went to Ann Arbor Sunday, returned to Ypsilanti and took the 5:13 train for home,” presumably stashing their bikes on the train, perhaps in a boxcar.

“A grand good time was had by all.”

Laura Bien is the author of “Tales from the Ypsilanti Archives,” to be published this winter. She also writes the historical blog "Dusty Diary" and may be contacted at ypsidixit@gmail.com.



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