Saturday, August 5, 2017

Detroit Bookfest 2017 Surpasses Expectations


Organized as a "goodwill effort to help generate a deeper love and appreciation of books in the Greater Detroit community," the Bookclub of Detroit sponsored Bookfest 2017 was a rousing success for the city and festival organizers. Held in Shed 5 at the historic Eastern Market on Detroit's eastside, people from every corner of the city and the surrounding suburbs came out in force. The foot traffic was strong all day. Thousands of people attended.


Author Herb Boyd
In adition to rare and used books, contemporary works and their authors were present as exhibitors, most notably Herb Boyd, the author of recently published Black Detroit: A People's History of Self-Determination. I was happy to meet Herb and get his autograph on my copy. Michigan independent author Claudia Whitsitt and yours truly shared a table and did quite well at the end of the day. 

Making a sale.
Books were not the only attraction. Vendors included food trucks, craft beer, photography, vintage LP vinyl, movie memorabilia, local craft items, clothing, and more. The festival was a free, family friendly event and a good time was had by all.

While talking with Janet Jones, owner of Source Booksellers in Midtown Detroit, I commented on how Bookfest appeared to be a big hit. Her response was, "That it happened at all was good for the city." I agree with Janet and I will be back next year for Bookfest II.

Congratulations to Ryan M. Place and his team for organizing such a well-run and well-received event. In addition to the Bookclub of Detroit, other Bookfest sponsors were the City of Detroit, Eastern Market, Margrave Pictures, Cafe D'Mongo's, John K. King Used Books, White Raven Books, Black Lotus Brewing Co., and DJ Zig-Zag.
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Life In Michigan pictorial: http://www.lifeinmichigan.com/detroit-book-festival-2017/

For more information on Detroit's Eastern Market:
https://www.easternmarket.com/ 

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Willow Run Bomber Plant Changes Ypsilanti Forever


Original Three-story Ypsilanti Depot Station.
At the turn of the century, before the second World War, Ypsilanti had an active downtown area along Michigan Avenue. Northeast of town, there was a thriving business district called Depot Town.

Depot Town was the area's commercial hub and provided services for weary train travelers. Ypsilanti's three-story brick depot station was ornate compared to the depot in Ann Arbor. In its day, it was said to be the nicest train station between Detroit and Chicago.

The Norris Building built in 1861 was across from the depot on River Street. It was originally supposed to house a retail block on the ground floor and residential rooms on the two upper floors. Instead, the building became an army barracks during the Civil War. The 14th Michigan Infantry Regiment shipped out of Depot Town in 1862, as did the 27th Michigan Regiment in 1863. 

The facade of the historic Norris Building remains on North River Street, despite a fire which decimated the rear portion of this last remaining Civil War barracks in Michigan. Work has begun on rebuilding the historic building.

Michigan State Normal School was located west of Depot Town on West Cross Street and northwest of downtown Ypsilanti. It spawned a growing educational center which later expanded its mission to become Eastern Michigan University. 

Ypsilanti's residential area with its historic and varied architecture filled the spaces between. Surrounding everything was some of the most fertile farm land in the state.

The water-powered age of nineteenth century manufacturing on the Huron River gave way to the modern electrical age of the twentieth century. The soft beauty of the gas light to illuminate homes was replaced with the harsh glare of the incandescent light bulb. The times were changing for Ypsilanti--ready or not.

***

The countryside was prime tillable ground with fruit groves scattered about the countyside. Henry Ford owned a large tract of land in an area known as Willow Run, named for the small river that ran through it. The Ford patriarch used the land to plant soybeans, but the United States government needed bombers for the Lend Lease program with Great Britain. On December 8, 1941, one day after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, the Nazis declared war on the United States on behalf of their ally. America was drawn into the second world war.

The Roosevelt administration asked the Ford corporation, now run by Edsel Ford, to build a factory that could mass produce the B-24 Liberator Bomber. Edsel Ford, Charles Sorenson (production manager), and some Ford engineers visited the Consolidated Aircraft Company in San Diego to see how the planes were built. 

That night, Sorenson drew up a floor plan that could build the bomber more efficiently. His blueprint was a marvel of ingenuity, but the Ford corporation made one significant change in his master plan.

The best shape to build a front to back assembly line operation is in a straight line. But to avoid the higher taxes in Democratic Wayne County, the bomber plant took a hard right to the south on one end to stay within Republican Washtenaw County, which had lower taxes. This was at the insistance of Harry Bennett, Ford's head of security who had strong ties to Washtenaw County being a graduate of Ann Arbor High School.

The construction of the plant in Willow Run began in May of 1941, seven months before Pearl Harbor. Lengendary Detroit architect Albert Kahn designed the largest factory in the world, but it would be his last project. He died in 1942.

The federal government bought up land adjacent to the bomber plant and built an airport which still exists today and is used for commercial aviation. The eight-sectioned hangar could house twenty Liberators.

***
Soon, workers flooded into Ypsilanti and the rapidly developing Willow Run area where makeshift row housing was hastily constructed. Overnight, the sleepy farming and college town of Ypsilanti became a three shift, 24/7, blue collar community. 

Suddenly the area was hit with a housing shortage. Ypsilanti homeowners rented rooms to workers or converted their large Victorian homes into boarding houses. It was wartime and money was to be made. Some families rented "warm beds." One worker would sleep in the bed while another was working his shift, but still there was a housing shortage. Many people slept in their cars until they could make other arrangements. 

Ford sent recruiters to Kentucky and Tennessee to draw workers in from the south. That is when the derisive term "Ypsitucky" originated. Long time residents did not like the changes they saw in their town. The bomber factory workers worked hard and drank hard. Fights broke out in local bars, and Ypsilanti developed a hard edge and a dark reputation.

Because so many men were in uniform serving their country, there was a shortage of skilled labor at first. But then the women of Southern Michigan stepped up big time. They donned work clothes, and tied up their long hair in colorful scarves. It was calculated at the end of the war that 40% of every B-24 Liberator was assembled by women.

***

Little known factoid: The first stretch of expressway in America was made with Ford steel and Ford cement. It connected workers in the Detroit area to their jobs at the bomber plant in Willow Run via Ecorse Road. It's still there and runs along the north end of the former GM Hydromatic Plant and Willow Run Airport.

***

The Yankee Air Museum housed on the east end of Willow Run Airport was established in 1981 to restore and preserve the almost forgotten history of Willow Run Airport, and to commemorate the achievement of the men and women who helped win the war by the sweat of their brow producing 8,685 B-24 Liberators.

Background history of the Yankee Air Museum: http://yankeeairmuseum.org/our-history/

The following link has some vintage bomber plant footage: http://www.annarbor.com/news/ypsilanti/pbs-to-air-documentary-about-ypsilantis-legendary-willow-run-b-24-bomber-factory/

Monday, July 17, 2017

Clinton LeForge Runs Amuck In Ypsilanti

Ypsilanti Daily Press--August 26, 1935.
To the reader: The documentation for this post was collected by the late George Ridenour and Lyle McDermott of the Ypsilanti Historical Society.

Clinton LeForge was known as a collector of Native American artifacts and fancied himself a self-taught expert in archeology. He spoke about his collection wearing an Indian headdress and a ceremonial robe and claimed Indian blood coursed through his veins.

"Whatever the Indian has done has been in defense of his wigwam and hunting grounds," LeForge said in an Ypsilanti Daily Press interview. "The Indian killed only in defense of his family. Trespassing on Indian land meant death in the native code." 

LeForge believed peace-loving Algonquins and the warlike Iroquois used the Ypsilanti area as a neutral burial ground. He gathered over 3,000 artifacts such as arrow heads, spear heads, tomahawks, and grinding stones from his property and searching along the Huron River, Ann Arbor Trail, and the Sauk Trail--all known Indian pathways.

Local farmers familiar with Clinton's interest in Indian artifacts would give him relics they found while plowing their fields. During the excavation of the Detroit Urban Railway in 1901, many Indian remains and artifacts were removed by souvenir hunters who damaged many of them. Clinton got his share, you can be sure of that.

Even a casual investigation of the LeFurge/LeForge family records reveals Clinton had nary a drop of Indian blood in his background. For that matter, he also claimed he was a veteran of the Spanish-American War, but there is no record of his enlistment. His 1930 Federal Census report indicates he had no military service. It is clear that Clinton LeForge was a raconteur and not above stretching the truth, nor creating it out of whole cloth when the purpose suited him.

When LeForge died in 1949, his estate included his Indian artifact collection valued at $2,488.50 and some Mayan pottery valued at $285. How this material was appraised is undocumented. What is known is his widow Grace LeForge did not share her husband's enthusiasm for Indian artifacts and sold the collection to a private collector for an unknown amount of money.


Ann Arbor News, March 15, 1935.
In 1931, tired of scratching a living off the land, LeForge tried his hand at selling insurance and practicing law. But in March of 1935, LeForge was named as a suspect in the murder of seven-year-old Richard Streicher, Jr, an Ypsilanti child found stabbed and frozen under the Frog Island Bridge in Depot Town.

Prior to the boy's killing, LeForge represented Mrs. Lucia Streicher in a divorce action which was dropped immediately upon Richard's death. The buzz around town was that Lucia and Clinton were having an affair. The day after the boy's body was found, LeForge went to the Streicher apartment at Lucia's request and removed Richard's toys from his bedroom, an act that raised eyebrows in the community and set idle tongues wagging.

Ypsilanti Daily Press, March 8, 1935.
Then, for some reason known only to her, Lucia Streicher turned on Clinton and implicated him as a possible suspect in her son's murder--a charge he vehemently denied. LeForge wanted to clear himself of malicious rumors circulating around town, leading him to take a battery of polygraph tests on two separate occasions hoping to clear his name--one polygraph given locally at the Ypsilanti State Police Post and the other in Lansing at Michigan State Police Headquarters. Lieutenant Van A. Loomis, state police polygraph examiner, wrote in his analysis of the data that he was convinced LeForge was innocent and knew nothing that would help solve the Streicher case.

Further damage to LeForge's reputation came eight months later when he was arrested on November 28, 1935, for the embezzlement of $3,685 from the estate of Darwin Z. Curtis. That was a huge sum of money during the Great Depression. LeForge pleaded guilty to the charge and made restitution to the Curtis Estate, paid $50 in court costs, and resigned from the Michigan Bar Association. The judge sentenced him to five years probation--a virtual slap on the hand. After LeForge's disbarment on September 8, 1936, nothing more is known publicly about his activities until his accidental death on August 30, 1946.

LeForge was operating a saw mill on his property at 7120 Ford Road. He was milling a 2" x 8" length of timber when the saw blade kicked the board back hitting him squarely in the chest crushing his ribcage. When Grace went outside to check on her husband, she found him dead on the ground. The Washtenaw County Coroner came to the farm and pronounced him dead at 6:00 pm. Clinton I. LeForge was sixty-four years old. He was buried in a family plot in Highland Cemetery on September 2, 1946, leaving a two-mile length of county road as his legacy.

The Richard Streicher, Jr. Murder: http://fornology.blogspot.com/2016/11/little-richard-streicher-ypsilantis.html

Monday, July 10, 2017

Clinton LeForge--Grandson Of An Ypsilanti Pioneer


To the Reader: The documentation for this post was collected by the late George Ridenour and Lyle McDermott of the Ypsilanti Historical Society.

One of the most colorful and controversial residents of Ypsilanti was Clinton Isaac LeFurge. He was born in Superior Township on June, 1885, to Insley B. LeFurge and Mary Ette Gale. In his mid-thirties, Clinton changed the spelling of his last name to LeForge. While looking through an heirloom family Bible, he found the names of twenty-two Leforge (sic) ancestors recorded on the flyleaf dating back to January 12, 1723.

Almost 200 hundred years later, Clinton chose to adopt that spelling and capitalize the letter F. LeForge is how his name appears in most public documents. The David LeForge family Bible is in the collection of the Ypsilanti Historical Society, contributed by Mrs. Dwight A. (Cora) Peck, Clinton LeForge's sister.

Young Clinton grew up a farm boy on his parent's 160 acre farm which ran along what was locally known as Paper Mill Road leading to the Huron River. He attended Bennett--a one-room schoolhouse on Geddes Road about a mile from his house. He showed promise as a student, so his parents sent him to Ypsilanti High School--a two mile walk.

The LeFurges: Insley/Mary and Clinton/Cora--1903.
It was common at the turn of the twentieth century for farm kids to drop out of school in the eighth grade to work the family farm. Many young women received little formal education beyond the domestic chores they learned at home. Graduating from high school was a significant achievement, but Clinton was not satisfied with that. He went on to earn a law degree in 1908 at Detroit College of Law, but it would be twenty-three years before he would practice law.

The following year, Clinton married Edith Grace Crippen and wasted no time starting a family. Soon they had two daughters and two sons. Earning a living to support his growing family through farming prevented Clinton from pursing his legal career. To compound matters, his father Insley died May 5, 1915, leaving him his mother's only means of support.

On November 12, 1920, Mary Ette transferred ownership of the family farm--160 acres of prime farmland--to her son Clinton in exchange for her "full use and possession of" the farmhouse until her death. For Clinton's part, he agreed to "keep up repairs and pay taxes during that time" as well as work the farm. The transfer was not recorded in the Washtenaw County Register of Deeds until January 30, 1924.

Sometime during the 1930s, Detroit Edison was stringing electrical lines in Superior Township and officially renamed Paper Mill Road, changing it to LeForge Road. In those days, it was customary to name county roads after the name of the predominate land owner. The same can be said for Gale, Vreeland, Geddes, Wiard, and Whittaker roads, among many others throughout Washtenaw County.

Clinton LeForge was a well-known figure in Ypsilanti as a self-taught Native American expert and collector of local Indian artifacts. For five years, he maintained a law office on South Huron Street before things started going wrong for him. More on that in my next post: "Clinton LeForge Runs Amuck In Ypsilanti."

How Ypsi Got Its Name: http://fornology.blogspot.com/2015/08/ypsilanti-michigan-history-whats-in-name.html

Friday, June 30, 2017

How I Sold 2,000 Terror In Ypsilanti Books in Six Months

My first shipment of direct-marketed books

On Wednesday, June 14, 2017, my publisher Sam Henrie of Wheatmark Publishing interviewed me for their Authors Academy webinar entitled How I Sold 2,000 Books in Less Than a Year. I recently learned that most self-published books sell fewer than 50 copies and 200 is considered a success. Sam wanted me to discuss my marketing secrets. My number one piece of advice for beginning authors, "When the muse comes looking for you, she better find you writing."

In this sixty minute interview, I discuss how my marketing plan evolved from the publication of my first book Zug Island: A Detroit Riot Novel (2011) to the release of my current book Terror In Ypsilanti: John Norman Collins Unmasked (2016). 


My first book talk with Zug Island first edition.
If you are not as sick of me as I am of myself, give a listen. Afterward, I think you will agree that getting New York professional voice artist Chris Ciulla to narrate the audiobook was the correct choice.

This recorded-live webinar interview was conducted over the phone. Please excuse the slight lag time between questions and answers.

***

How I Sold 2,000 Books webinar: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o77sREwmPXY

mp3 link: 20170614HowISold2000unedited.mp3 

mp4 link: 20170614HowISold2000unedited.mp4

Terror In Ypsilanti audiobook (5 minute sample listen): https://www.amazon.com/Terror-Ypsilanti-Norman-Collins-Unmasked/dp/B06XS9HJD2

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Terror In Ypsilanti Wins Book Awards


Literary Classics Press Release, Rapid City, South Dakota:
"The 2017 Literary Classics Book Awards and Top Honors Book Awards Finalists have been announced. Selected from submissions by entrants around the globe, these distinguished honorees are recognized for their contributions to the craft of writing, illustrating, and publishing exceptional literature. In this highly competitive industry these books represent the foremost in literature in their respective categories."

***

This month, I learned my book Terror In Ypsilanti: John Norman Collins Unmasked won a 2017 Literary Classics Silver Book Award in their true crime category. Last month, I earned a similar honor from the 2017 International Book Awards as a finalist in their true crime category. I am hoping to hear from a third writing competition to made it a clean sweep. 


Winning, placing, or showing in one of these writing contests gives authors bragging rights and the documentation to label their work award-winning. Winners receive a certificate suitable for framing, a roll of award emblems to festoon their book covers, and a digital emblem file for internet use.

The hosting organization announces winners with a press release and provides promotional opportunities through their business website and social media outlets. Often, there is a formal award ceremony offering press, photo, and networking opportunities. This year's Literary Classics Book Awards ceremony takes place over Labor Day weekend in the Black Hills of South Dakota.

As I wind down my Terror In Ypsilanti book tour this summer, I plan to shift my attention towards the film industry. So far, two media companies have shown an interest. One company pitched the idea to A&E, but the network is taking their programming in a different direction. Not to worry! There is still plenty of time to shop the project to other production companies, so I am not discouraged.

Terror In Ypsilanti has been out less than a year and garnered more attention and success than I expected. All formats--a quality paperback, digital ebook, and audiobook--are doing well. My publisher Sam Henrie of Wheatmark, Inc. tells me that Terror In Ypsilanti is their best selling title. For more information, click-on the book cover image in the right-hand sidebar.

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Literary Classics Seal of Approval Book Review: For Immediate Release Literary Classics pr@clcawards.org Literary Classics is pleased to announce that the book Terror in Ypsilanti, by Gregory Fournier, has been selected to receive the Literary Classics Seal of Approval. 

The CLC Silver Seal of Approval is a designation reserved for those books which uphold the rigorous criteria set forth by the Literary Classics review committee, a team comprised of individuals with backgrounds in publishing, editing, writing, illustration and graphic design. There’s nothing pretty about murder, and Gregory Fournier’s Terror in Ypsilanti is a testament to that fact. A compilation of first-hand reports of the moments leading up to and following the gruesome deaths of Michigan co-eds, this book follows John Collins, the convicted mass murderer of Michigan, and explains the evidence leading to his arrest and subsequent conviction. 

Extensive research has culminated in this ultimate reference guide for information on John Collins and the Ypsilanti murders. Told in narrative, each incident is detailed, including descriptions of the victims, crime scenes, witnesses, etc. Each of the cases were quite complex, but Fournier presents the facts concisely and objectively. Riddled with graphic detail, this book is not for the faint of heart. Regardless, for anyone wanting specific information on the Ypsilanti murders, or as a general case study, this book is an excellent resource. To this day, John Collins maintains his innocence. Multiple interviews and witness reports are presented showing both sides of the case. After reading the book, the reader is free to draw their own conclusion.

Amazon Author Site: http://www.amazon.com/Gregory-A.-Fournier/e/B00BDNEG1C

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Lunch With Soupy Sales in Detroit

Soupy Sales was born Milton Supman on January 8, 1926, in Franklinton, North Carolina. His father Irving Supman immigrated to America from Hungary in 1894. He was a Jewish dry goods merchant. Later in life, Soupy would quip that the local Ku Klux Klan bought their sheets from his father's store. Milton's nickname came from his family. His older brothers were dubbed "Ham Bone" and "Chicken Bone." The youngest son was "Soup Bone." Milton (Soupy) Supman enlisted in the United States Navy and served in the South Pacific. After the war, he earned a Master's degree in journalism. His oldest brother had become a doctor, and his other brother became a lawyer. Soupy had little choice but to go into show business.

After graduation, Soupy worked as a morning DJ and performed a comedy act in nightclubs. In 1949, Soupy Sales began his television career on WKRC-TV in Cincinnati with "Soupy's Soda Shop," television's first teen dance program. The show was cancelled after a year. Soupy moved to Cleveland and did a late night comedy/variety program called "Soupy's On!" where he took his first pie in the face which became his trademark. After a couple of seasons, Soupy left Cleveland for health reasons. "The station manager was sick of me," he quipped.

In 1953, Soupy Sales relocated to Detroit and worked for WXYZ-TV Channel 7, the local ABC station. Soupy not only had the Lunch With Soupy program, he also hosted a Friday evening variety show called Soup's On, which featured musicians and jazz performers who were working one of the twenty-four jazz clubs operating in the Paradise Valley entertainment district in old Detroit. Top performers like Louie Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Billie Holliday, Charlie Parker, Della Reese, Dinah Washington, Charlie Parker, and Miles Davis, to name a few, made guest appearences on Soupy's show. After an appearance, jazz artists would regularly sell out their venues.

Lunch With Soupy had a fixed-set of a kitchen with a window and a table and chair to the left and a door center stage in the background that would interrupt Soupy mid-sentence with frantic knocking. Naturally Soupy would stop and answer the door. Usually, Soupy would play against only an arm and a voice appearing from the door jam.

Soupy wore a dark Orlon sweater, a white shirt with an oversized checkerboard bow tie, and a beat up top hat. Besides the pie-in-the-face running slapstick gag, Soupy was know for the Soupy Shuffle (his signature dance) and his Words of Wisdom like, "Be true to your teeth and they won't be false to you."

Pookie the Lion and Hippy the Hippo
If it was noon in Detroit and you were planted in front of a television set with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and Soupy was on, you knew you were in for a good time. Regulars on the show were hand puppets Soupy interacted with. Soupy was the straight man for voice artist Clyde Adler who did the off-stage puppeteering and voice characterizations. The show's favorite puppets were:
  • White Fang, "The Biggest and Meanest Dog in the USA." He appeared from the left corner of the screen only as a giant white shaggy arm and paw with black triangular claws. Fang spoke in unrecognizable grunts and growls which Soupy repeated in English for comic effect. White Fang often threw the pies when Soup's jokes bombed.
  • Black Tooth, "The Biggest and Sweetest Dog in the USA." She had a black shaggy arm and paw with white triangular claws. She had feminine grunts and groans, and always flirted with Soupy. Her trademark move was pulling Soupy off-camera and giving him big, noisy kisses.
  • Pookie the Lion appeared on the ledge of the window behind Soupy. Pookie was a hipster with a wicked wit. He lip synced novelty records or prerecorded bits. My favorite memory of Pookie was a routine called "Life Got You Down, Bunky?" It was a pep talk he gave Soupy every time Soupy complained about feeling blue. Comically, it was inspirational.
  • Willie the Worm, a latex accordion worm that popped in and out of an apple. Willie was known as "the sickest worm in all of Dee-troit." Willie had a perennial cold and an exaggerated sneeze. He read birthday greetings to Detroit-area kids. Sadly, Willie's health failed him. He did not survive the show's move to the Big Apple in 1964.
When Soupy took his show to WNEW-TV in New York City, it went into national syndication. This was the height of Soupy's popularity. His guest stars included the likes of Frank Sinatra, Tony Curtis, Jerry Lewis, Judy Garland, and Sammy Davis. 

On New Years Day in 1965, to fill a few extra moments at the end of the show, Soupy made an off-the-cuff remark to the kids in his television audience. He suggested they go into their parents' rooms, find their parents' wallets, and take out the green pieces of paper with pictures of bearded guys and mail them to him. In return, Soupy said he would send them a postcard from Puerto Rico. The show was aired live and no transcripts or videotapes exist, so the exact language he used is not known.

Soupy's remark was an ad-libbed gag not meant to be taken literally, but an angry parent filed a complaint with the FCC. The way the press reported the story, it sounded like this was the biggest heist since the Brink's robbery. Some adults were livid that a TV personality would manipulate children for commercial gain.

Show business legend has it that the prank netted some $80,000. Soupy revealed publicly that he netted only a few real dollars which he donated to charity--the rest was fake money.

The station suspended Soupy. The outcry from Soupy's fans swamped the station's switchboards and packed their mailroom with demands that Soupy be reinstated. Within a week, his suspension was lifted. Soupy worked for two more seasons before he gave up the top hat and bow tie and moved to Hollywood to become a panelist on many game shows including What's My Line, To Tell the Truth, Match Game, The Gong Show, and Hollywood Squares in the 70s and 80s.

Milton (Soupy Sales) Supman died of cancer October 22, 2009, at Calvary Hospice in the Bronx. He was eighty-three years old. Soupy Sales is best remembered by his many fans for his trademark pie-in-the-face gag, but in the comedy world, Soupy is remembered for his inventive, anarchic brand of riotous, television comedy. 

 Soupy and Pookie: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aB8e_uRzhMU