Monday, December 26, 2016

Detroit Tobacco Industry Once Known as the Tampa of the North

The following is a guest post researched and written by Mark Lawrence Gade, a Michigan State University graduate and Detroit history enthusiast and docent.



Only four years after becoming a state, the tobacco industry in Michigan got its start when George Miller became the first tobacconist in the city of Detroit in 1841. By the 1850s--with the help of New York's Erie Canal--many Germans migrated to Detroit. These Germans enjoyed smoking and knew how to produce excellent cigars; soon they dominated the city's industry.

Raw material was nearby in Southwestern Ontario. The Canadians produced a high-quality tobacco crop in sandy and silt-loam soil. With tobacco so close at hand, demand for Detroit's quality wrapped cigars turned a cottage industry into an early form of mass production employing thousands of workers throughout the Detroit area.

Long before Henry Ford's assembly-line, the cigar industry deconstructed the rolling of cigars into specialized tasks. Each worker performed one part of the process, so few people had the skill to make a whole cigar. Baskets or crates of cigars were moved from station to station down long tables. The process was efficient and Detroit cigars became known for their consistent quality.  


Then came the American Civil War and the soldier's high demand for tobacco products. To the Yankee or Rebel soldier, tobacco represented the convenience and consolation of home. The hand-rolled cigarette was still an item of luxury, but the cigar represented victory, and the pipe comfort and solace. Soldiers North and South often relaxed by chomping on rich, gooey plugs of chewing tobacco or by smoking delicate clay pipes before, during, and after battles. Much of this tobacco was processed and packaged in Detroit.


Sixteenth governor of the State of Michigan (1873-1877) John Judson Bagley moved to Detroit in 1847. In his early twenties, he started his working career as a humble apprentice in a small chewing tobacco shop. After seven years, he bought the business and renamed it Mayflower Tobacco Company turning his company into an industry leader. Bagley manufactured a rectangular form of chewing tobacco in a tin with a friction-fitted lid that became an industry standard. Bagley made a fortune and helped make Detroit a leader in the manufacture of tobacco products.

At the turn of the twentieth-century, the tobacco industry employed many young women--mostly Polish immigrants. In 1913, the ten largest Detroit tobacco companies employed 302 men and 3,896 women, making the cigar industry the largest employer of women in the city. The process of hand rolling cigars was labor intensive and involved some skill. Too tight and the cigar would not draw properly, too loose and the cigar fell apart. Although women were not organized into labor unions, they were able to make $25 to $40 a week. That was a good wage a hundred years ago.


A cigar company sit-down strike.
On June 26, 1916, Detroit's San Telmo Company signed a contract with its unionized male cigar makers giving them a significant pay increase. The women wanted equal pay for equal work. Three days later, women at the Lilies Cigar Company walked off the job. Soon there were strikes shutting down all the major Detroit cigar producers. Through their united action, women workers achieved some of their demands.

The center of the tobacco industry remained in the North until the 1920s. When Prohibition went into effect with the passage of the nineteenth amendment in 1920, the major marketplace for cigars--saloons and hotel bars--were closed and the social patterns of America were shaken.

Patent office drawing of automatic cigarette making machine.
But the writing was on the wall for Detroit's cigar and tobacco industry. The invention of the automatic cigarette rolling machine in 1881 reduced demand for cigars and other tobacco products. James Albert Bonsack's machine was patented and installed throughout many Southern states causing a shift in the tobacco industry away from the North. Inexpensive mass-produced cigarettes were all the rage in the fast approaching twentieth century. Detroit's ambition shifted too--towards the automobile business which would revolutionize the new century.

In 1966, the last cigar manufacturer in Detroit--Schwartz-Wemmer-Gilbert--closed its doors. Detroit was once home to thirty-eight tobacco companies.

Another German dominated industry in Detroit was the brewing of beer. Here is the story of the Strohs family: http://fornology.blogspot.com/2015/02/detroits-strohs-brewing-company-with.html

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Merry Christmas History From The Ford Rotunda


Over a period of twenty-seven years, the Ford Rotunda hosted over 16.5 million visitors. In the 1950's, it was the fifth most popular tourist attraction in the United States. 

The building was ten stories tall. Its steel and aluminum framework was covered with Indiana Limestone to match the Ford Motor Company's Administration Building across Schaefer Road. The building resembled four gear wheels stacked in decreasing size from the top to bottom.

It was originally built for the Chicago World's Fair and opened to the public on May 14, 1934. After the fair was over, the building was reconstructed on a site in Dearborn, Michigan and used as Ford's World Headquarters for a brief time. The building was closed to the public during World War Two and used as a tech center for military training.  



The Ford Rotunda was reopened on June 16th, 1953 to celebrate Ford Motor Company's fiftieth year in business. It was used as an exhibition center displaying all the recent models of Ford automobiles. In addition to a Test Drive Track ride which circled the building, other exhibits were The City of Tomorrow, The Hall of Science, and something called The Drama of Transportation.

Fifty-one years ago on November 9, 1962, the roof was being waterproofed with hot tar in preparation for the annual Christmas Fantasy exhibition. The roof caught fire and within an hour, the building had burned down. The nine year long holiday tradition came to an end. 


Those of us from the Detroit area who grew up when the Rotunda was in its heyday, namely we Baby Boomers, sadly remember the passing of this great Christmas tradition.


For a video presentation of the Ford Rotunda from the Dearborn Historical Society, view this link: http://vimeo.com/46364168

For more detailed history of the Ford Rotunda, consult this link: http://automotivemileposts.com/autobrevity/fordrotunda.html

Monday, December 12, 2016

Ypsilanti's Hutchinson House Built with S&H Green Stamp Fortune

In 1896, Thomas A. Sperry and Shelley Byron Hutchinson went into the S&H Green Stamp business together. The New York Times business section described this newly formed company "the first independent trading stamp company to distribute stamps and books to merchants."

Not much is known about Mr. Sperry. He was an Easterner. His home was destroyed by fire in 1912, with damages estimated to be $150,000. He was an avid art collector and a number of valuable paintings went up in flames. A year later, Sperry contracted ptomaine poisoning on a return ocean cruise from Europe. When he returned to the United States, he was so ill he couldn't travel to his home in Cranford, New Jersey. He was forty-nine years old when he died.

Sperry's brother, William Miller Sperry, inherited his brother's business interests and gained control of the company. In 1921, Shelley Hutchinson sued the estate of Thomas A. Sperry alleging that Sperry defrauded him of his full share of dividends to the tune of $5,000,000. Secret funds were diverted from company funds to Sperry. Hutchinson won the suit. The founders' family successors sold the franchise in 1981.


Much more in known about Shelley Hutchinson. His grandparents were among the first settlers in Ypsilanti, Michigan, still little more than a frontier outpost. Shelley's father Stephen Hutchinson married Loretta Jaycox on November 26, 1862. Shelley was born two years later in a log cabin in Superior Township on October 19, 1864. From 1874 until 1894, the Hutchinsons lived in a four room wood frame house at 509 N. River Street, across the street from the Champlain mansion. As a kid, he attended the Union School through the eighth grade--a typical education for a nineteenth-century boy.

Shelley was ambitious and intelligent. While working at a family shoe business with his father and brother in Battle Creek, Michigan, in the 1880s, he conjured up the idea for a trading stamp business he could promote to merchants as a customer retention program. On a small scale, the idea was promising, so a regional headquarters was established in Jackson, Michigan, chosen for its central location between the state's eastern and western borders.

Three years later, Hutchinson met Sperry in New York--an Easterner with money and business connections. Soon after they went into business, stamp redemption centers sprung up in many of Michigan's major cities. With early success, the promotion was expanded eventually growing into a nationwide coast-to-coast business concern. Sperry and Hutchinson made money hand over fist.

Shelley Hutchinson met Clara Unsinger, who was a stenographer in the company. Clara was the granddaughter of an Ypsilanti deacon. They were married on April 27, 1894. By the turn of the century, Hutchinson had amassed enough money to build his dream house. He considered building in New York, but his father urged him to build in Ypsilanti to be reunited with family and friends.

Feeling a boyhood affinity for the area, Hutchinson decided to build his thirty-room Richardsonian Revival mansion across the street from where he grew up--the site of the deteriorating Champlain mansion on the corner of North River and East Forest streets. Construction began in 1902 and was completed in 1904. Hutchinson called his mansion Casa Loma--Spanish for house on the hill. The site was believed to be Ypsilanti's highest point--on the east side anyway. He moved in with his wife, three children, parents, and brothers and sisters.

See the link below for more views of the house.

Building his mansion on Ypsilanti's east side was a social mistake for the wealthy millionaire. The Huron River was the town's dividing line. The east side was the working class neighborhood, and the west side was primarily for the wealthy and social elite. Hutchinson was never accepted into Ypsilanti high society because he was "new money" and shunned the "old money" denizens. He and his wife Clara rode around town in a fine phaeton carriage with matching horses. The newly rich pair wore only the finest clothes, and the "Stamp King" wore a silk top hat. During the height of his success, Hutchinson bought diamonds by the pocketful from Tiffany's in New York.

In an early undated Ypsilanti Daily Press article, the reporter wrote a "rags to riches" story about Hutchinson. Quoting merchant A.A. Bedell, "Hutchinson was always immaculate in dress, dark haired and handsome. One day, he stood in (my shoe store in Depot Town) and a shaft of light struck his diamonds, a glittering array. He had half-caret diamonds in each cuff link and wore two diamond rings, one of three carets and one between seven and eight. His shirt stud had a three and a half-caret stone." People said when Hutchinson walked in the sunshine, he sparkled.

But the domestic situation at Casa Loma was less than stellar. The Detroit News reported on July 3, 1906, that Mrs. Hutchinson deserted "the mansion on the hill" in anger taking her three children with her to live with neighbors across the street at 629 N. River Street. Clara had had it with her Hutchinson inlaws and complained to the reporter that she was forced from her home penniless--except for some diamonds she left with. Hutchinson's father and sister publically claimed they wished Clara would return to manage the place. As for her husband, Shelley retreated and went south for his health. The domestic situation was intolerable for him too.

As the story goes, Shelley had been gravely ill and entrusted his wife with his diamonds. Upon recoverery, he asked for them back. Clara refused saying he gave them to her. She hid the diamonds away, but while she was sleeping one night, her husband found her hiding place. Shelley locked the diamonds in a tin box and placed them in his roll-top desk in his locked home office. Two could play at that game. Clara took her husband's key and unlocked the office door. After a brief search, she found the tin box and opened it with a can opener. Then she left the mansion taking her children.

The Ypsilanti Daily Press reported on January 14, 1910, that a divorce was granted giving Clara custody of the three children, $9,000 cash paid out over five years, and her husband's diamonds. She sold the largest one to a neighbor and the rest to a diamond broker in Detroit. In 1912, Hutchinson's mansion was sold at public auction to the Ypsilanti Savings Bank to satisfy an unpaid mortgage and back taxes. The home is now used for a commercial property and houses several businesses.

In an Ypsilanti Press interview in 1955, the ninety-one-year-old Hutchinson was living in New York. He was quoted as saying, "Some of the people (in Ypsilanti) were jealous of me because of the big house, but they had no reason to be. I was good to everybody." Shelley Hutchinson returned to Ypsilanti one last time time in 1961 for burial in a family plot at Highland Cemetery--several blocks north of his mansion. He was ninety-seven.


Most people in Ypsilanti are familiar with the outside of the Hutchinson House but have never seen the interior. Check out this link to see just how extravagant it is. https://www.flickr.com/photos/sjb4photos/sets/72157622572604360/

For more detailed information about the Hutchinson family, read Janice Anschuetz's article "River Street Neighbor's Gossip and the Hutchinson Marriage," which appeared in the Ypsilanti Historical Society's September 27, 2010, newsletter Ypsilanti Gleanings. http://ypsigleanings.aadl.org/ypsigleanings/37044

Monday, December 5, 2016

S&H Green Stamps--Emblem of a Bygone Age



Sperry and Hutchinson Company were the originators of S&H Green Stamps, as much an American cultural icon as anything. The company began offering redemption stamps to American retailers in 1896. Stores bought the stamps and offered them as bonuses based on the dollar amount of the purchase. S&H Green Stamps was the earliest retail customer loyalty program selling and distributing stamps and books to merchants. With a unidirectional cash flow, this shoppers' incentive made its originators multi-millionaires.

Stamps were issued in denominations of 1, 10, and 50 points. Stamp pages were perforated with glue on the reverse side to mount in twenty-four page collector booklets. Each booklet contained 1,200 points. Reward gifts were based on the number of filled books required to obtain the object. Green Stamps had no real cash value.

S&H Green Stamps could be obtained at supermarkets, department stores, and gas stations. Completed booklets could be redeemed at one of 800 distribution centers located around the country. Most popular in the early 1960s, S&H boasted that its reward catalog was the largest publication in the United States. They issued three times more stamps than the United States Postal Service.

Economic recessions in the 1970s reduced sales and decreased the value of the rewards. Shoppers began to see the stamps as not worth the trouble, and stores started to drop out of the program. In 1981, the founders' successors sold the business.

Green Stamps entered the realm of pop art iconography when Andy Warhol used a three step silkscreen process to print a 23"x22.75" canvas in 1962. Three years later, he used offset lithography to print the classic green stamp images on forty-nine 7'x7' panels to act as wallpaper within a gallery exhibit at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in Philadelphia. A single panel recently sold at auction for $6,250.


S&H Green Stamp founders Thomas Sperry and Shelly Byron Hutchinson are the subject of my next post. Hutchinson was from Ypsilanti, Michigan, and became the town's richest self-made man.

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Thursday, November 10, 2016

America Plays Its Trump Card


Respect the presidency regardless of who holds the office. Whether you like Trump or not, he will soon be our president. Either support him or become part of the loyal opposition. As Americans, those are our only viable choices. 

Denying reality is not an option and neither is cutting-and-running. We are all bound up in this moment of history together.

In Hoc Signo Vinces.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Ambiguity Mars The Jane Mixer Case

Forty-eight years after the murder of University of Michigan coed Jane Mixer, a University of California San Diego professor believes the man convicted of the crime--Gary Earl Leiterman--may be innocent. After consulting with six DNA experts, Distinguished Professor of Psychology John Wixted has written an article in this month's Association for Psychological Science Observer in support of his belief that contaminated DNA evidence convicted the wrong man.

In 2005, Gary Earl Leiterman was identified through DNA analysis as Mixer's assailant in her March 20, 1968 murder. Mixer's presumed murderer, long held by the public to be John Norman Collins, was exonerated by default when Leiterman was convicted of Mixer's murder thirty-six years after her death. 

Perspiration stains found on a nylon stocking tied around Mixer's neck were examined for DNA. The FBI using their CODIS (Combined DNA Index System) database came up with a direct hit on Leiterman. Complicating the DNA evidence in this case was a spot of blood found on Mixer's hand. It matched the blood of John Ruelas, who was only four years old at the time. 

The obvious contamination at the crime lab did not sway the jury. They found Leiterman guilty of murder in the first degree after deliberating less than three hours. Since his incarceration, Leiterman has been proclaiming his innocence because of irregularities at the crime lab where the Mixer forensic analysis was done.
 
Professor Wixted believes Collins may still be the prime suspect in Jane Mixer's murder. He believes there is compelling evidence pointing to Collins's involvement--though there is no hard evidence to support that finding. Leiterman hopes he and his lawyer can get a new trial clearing him of the crime after serving over ten years of his life sentence.

Giving Leiterman hope are updated FBI standards and protocols for DNA labs (Quality Assurance Standards for Forensic DNA Testing Laboratories) effective September 7, 2011. Of its seventeen provisions, #7 Evidence Control, #9 Analytical Procedures, and #14 Corrective Action look the most promising for Leiterman's defense. The new provisions were tightened to ensure the quality and integrity of DNA data generated by these labs. Had these protocols been in place during the Leiterman trial, it is doubtful the DNA evidence would have been admissible in court. What that means for Leiterman's future is yet to be determined.

Professor Wixted's article: http://www.psychologicalscience.org/publications/observer/2016/nov-16/whether-eyewitness-memory-or-dna-contaminated-forensic-evidence-is-unreliable.html

Friday, October 28, 2016

The Jane Mixer Murder--John Norman Collins or Gary Earl Leiterman

In her profoundly personal memoir, The Red Parts, Maggie Nelson gives readers a glimpse of what lies behind the curtain of American jurisprudence and its affect on the surviving members of one family. Miss Nelson is the niece of Jane Mixer, John Norman Collins' alleged third victim.

Thirty-six years after Jane's perplexing murder on March 20, 1969, the Mixer family had to endure testimony of the details of her tragic death in a trial held in Wayne County, Michigan, in 2004. For over three decades, Jane's murder was lumped together with the six other unsolved killings in the Ypsilanti/Ann Arbor area, despite fundamental differences including where, how, and what condition the body was found.

Armed with a positive DNA match, as well as convincing circumstantial evidence, Gary Earl Leiterman, a retired male nurse working in Ann Arbor at the time, was found guilt of her murder. John Norman Collins claimed since the beginning he never knew Jane, now he was exonerated for at least one of the seven Michigan murders he was accused of. Even a broken clock is right twice a day.

With unflinching honesty, Miss Nelson tells us the ins-and-outs of her aunt's case with brutal clarity and a benumbing sense of self-awareness that only comes from profound emotional trauma. Early in her book, she asks herself, "Who am I to tell Jane's story?" I can think of nobody better. Later in the book, she finds herself getting drawn into the media vortex of the trial and its aftermath. Miss Mixer has some insightful things to say about American media's fascination with the "dead-white-girl-of-the-week" club.

After reading Maggie Nelson's memoir, I am reminded that disturbing the feelings and memories of the families of the other victims in the Collins case is not to be taken lightly. These girls deserve to be remembered as living human beings, rather than victims of something wicked that happened in another time no longer relevant today. For their memories and what happened to them to simply fade away is unacceptable.

This is Ypsilanti, Michigan history, however unpleasant for some individuals or for the city. The six other murdered girls deserve to have their stories told for the record as well, like Maggie Nelson did for the memory of her aunt, Jane Mixer. I want to honor these lost young women by relating the most accurate account of these matters as possible and bringing some degree of closure to people who cared about these young girls. In the end, the public deserves the truth.

http://www.trutv.com/library/crime/serial_killers/predators/collins/13.html

Saturday, October 22, 2016

John Norman Collins Trolls Strike Back



Early on in my writing of Terror in Ypsilanti, my primary goal was to pay a debt to history and restore the real names of the victims which were changed in the novelized treatment The Michigan Murders. John Norman Collins's name was also changed to mask his identity--a courtesy he does not deserve. Many of the people in law enforcement who worked on these cases and others in the know were dissatisfied with Edward Keyes's version. Too many assumptions and presumptions.

Even John Collins criticized the liberties Keyes took with the descriptions of his family and his motivation for committing these crimes--his mother. Collins claims he never read the Keyes book, but how else could he comment on it? In Terror in Ypsilanti, I went easy on Collins's family. They never killed anybody.

Over the five years it took to research and write this book, I received nasty emails from a number of people using fictitious names. For example, one goes by the handle Disrobing Furball. Some complaints came from Collins acolytes and some from fraternity brothers who took exception with any re-examination of these cases. Some few of these guys have reason to feel uncomfortable. They knew or suspected Collins of these crimes early on but remained silent.

Now that my nonfiction treatment of this subject matter is out, these same people have surfaced on my Amazon book page giving me particularly nasty reviews. They stand out because my reviews are overwhelmingly positive, but these have a distinct pernicious quality and are thinly disguised personal attacks. I would regard their comments more seriously if they were informed, and they had placed their real names on their reviews. But they hide behind pseudonyms. All I can say is consider the source.

In a recent Detroit News article [September 27, 2016], Collins claims he hasn't read my book but is quoted as saying it is "HEARSAY AND SPECULATION." For five years, he has refused to speak or meet with me but uses a go-between when he wants to communicate--knowing I'll get word of it. The woman he has chosen for this duty has been corresponding with Collins for years and speaks with him every Tuesday over the phone for fifteen minutes. She and I have been communicating for the last several years and have developed a cordial relationship.

Last Tuesday, Collins phoned and told her he was "Super Pissed! But my Ypsilanti and Center Line friends have my back." Now, I know the source of the toxic reviews. As an author, criticism comes with the territory, and I expect to get my fair share, but personal attacks are a horse of a different color. I welcome all fair and honest remarks and reviews.

Amazon Terror in Ypsilanti page: https://www.amazon.com/Terror-Ypsilanti-Norman-Collins-Unmasked/dp/1627874038/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1477158434&sr=1-1&keywords=terror+in+ypsilanti

Friday, October 14, 2016

Terror in Ypsilanti Media Exposure--On the Air and On the Net

On October 1, 2016, AM1700 Ypsilanti talk show host Mark Maynard interviewed me about my true crime book Terror in Ypsilanti: John Norman Collins Unmasked. If you were unable to attend one of my recent book talks, this interview is the next best thing. The running length is forty-nine minutes. 

The Saturday Six-Pack with Mark Maynard:
https://soundcloud.com/am1700/the-saturday-six-pack-with-mark-maynard-episode-051


If you don't have a spare hour to listen to my radio interview, Investigation Discovery Crimefeed featured Terror in Ypsilanti in its September online edition. One of my readers put me on to it last week. Here is the link in case you missed it too: http://crimefeed.com/2016/09/new-book-takes-on-the-john-norman-collins-case/?sf35908515=1 
 

Friday, October 7, 2016

Drew and Mike's Terror in Ypsilanti Podcast

Corner Brewery book talk in Ypsilanti
Thank you to the people who came out to hear me speak about serial killer John Norman Collins last week. Both of my Ypsilanti venues were standing room only, and I sold out my entire Michigan stockpile of Terror in Ypsilanti books. Many people whose names appear in the book were in attendance--several from law enforcement and many who contributed information vital to the factual telling of these terrible events.

AM 1700 Ypsilanti interview
In addition to my book talks, I was able to land a front page article in The Detroit News reported by Kim Kozloski on September 27, 2016. On the tail end of my tour, I gave two media interviews, one on AM 1700 broadcasting from historic downtown Ypsilanti and the other by popular Detroit area podcasters Drew and Mike.

If you were unable to attend my book talks, you may be interested in listening to the following podcast link. My interview starts one hour and twenty-three minutes into the show.
<http://drewandmikepodcast.com/drew-and-mike-oct-6-2016/>

Terror in Ypsilanti: John Norman Collins Unmasked is available in a quality paperback edition on Amazon and other online retailers. The e-book is also available on Kindle, KOBO, Nook, and other digital formats. Autographed copies can be purchased from my website http://gregoryafournier.com.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Terror in Ypsilanti - September 2016 Book Talks

Me speaking at Brewed Awakenings in Saline--April 2016.
photo: Ryan M. Place
For anyone who missed this post the first time around, several Terror in Ypsilanti book talks are planned at the end of September for Southern Michigan. If there is enough demand, I will return in the spring and schedule more. Here is what I have scheduled:

  • September 24th - St. Cece's Brewery [6-8 pm], 1426 Bagley Avenue, Detroit, in Corktown. Over 21 only! Sponsored by Book Club of Detroit.
  • September 27th - The Corner Brewery [5-7 pm], 720 Norris Street, Ypsilanti. Over 21 only!
  • September 28th - Adrian District Library [6:30-8:30 pm], 143 E. Maumee Street, Adrian
  • September 29th - Ypsilanti District Library [6-8 pm], 5577 Whittaker Road, Ypsilanti.
  • October 1st - 1700 AM Radio interview at 6:00 pm.
Autographed copies will be available but limited to stock on hand. Signed copies can also be purchased at my author website listed below. Come to one of my book talks if you can. I'd like to meet many of you in person and try to answer any questions you may have. 

For more information about my books or to buy an autographed copy, check out my author website:
gregoryafournier.com 

Also available at Amazon.com
Kindle, KOBO, B&N Nook,
Google Books, and ibooks  

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Victorian Theater and The Limelight


In the Victorian period, the expression in the limelight meant the most desirable acting area on the stage, front and center. Today, the expression simply means someone is getting public recognition and acclaim.

The limelight effect was discovered by Goldsmith Gurney in the 1820s based on his work with an oxy-hydrogen blowpipe. Scottish inventor, Thomas Drummond (1797-1840), built a working model of the calcium light in 1826 for use in the surveying profession.

The calcium light was created by super heating a cylinder of quicklime (calcium oxide) with an oxy-hydrogen flame that gives off a bright light with a greenish tint.


Eleven years later, the term limelight was coined to describe a form of stage illumination first used in 1837 for a public performance at the Covent Garden Theatre in London. 

By the 1860s, this new technology of stage lighting was in wide use in theaters and dance halls around the world. It was a great improvement over the previous method of stage lighting, candle powered footlights placed along the stage apron. 

Limelight lanterns could also be placed along the front of the lower balcony for general stage illumination providing more natural light than footlights alone. 

A lighthouse-like lens (Fresnel lens) was developed that could direct and focus concentrated light on the stage to spotlight a solo performance. Actors and performers must have felt they were living in the heyday of the theater.

The term green room has been used since the Victoria period to describe the waiting area performers used before going on stage. Theater lore has it that actors would sit in a room lit by limelight to allow their eyes to adjust to the harsh stage lighting, preventing squinting during their stage entrances.

Although the electric light replaced limelight in theaters by the end of the nineteenth century, the term limelight still exists in show business, as does the term green room.

Today, the green room celebrities use before appearing on talk shows is not usually painted green. The room still performs a similar function as in the Victoria age--to prepare a performer to go on stage.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Zug Island Novel Gets Facelift

July 2017 marks fifty years since the Detroit Riot left its indelible mark on American history. Anyone who experienced this week of bloodshed and arson can never forget it--43 reported deaths, 7,000 arrests, 4,000 injuries, 2,500 buildings looted or burned to the ground, 5,000 residents left homeless, 16,682 fire runs, and a river of fire ten blocks long.

Zug Island: A Detroit Riot Novel tells the story of two young men, one white and one black, who push the boundaries of race as they explore each others culture. Set in 1967 against a backdrop of industrial blight and urban decay, Jake Malone and Theo Semple get a crash course in race relations as they stumble in and out of rhythm on Detroit's mean streets discovering the face of racism comes in every shade of color.
 
Kirkus Reviews, a publishing trade magazine, said of Zug Island, "The novel is tightly written with a dramatic plot, well-rounded characters, and clear insights into social history. An engaging, dynamic story that grapples intelligently with the themes of race, class, and morality."

My newly revised 2nd edition has a new cover and includes several enhanced scenes. Since writing Zug Island in 2011, I've learned more about the Detroit communities of Delray, Black Bottom, and Paradise Valley, and the enhanced narrative reflects that. Also new is a segment on the Algiers Motel murders conspicuous by its absence from the original. 

Copies are available online from Amazon.com, B&N, and Kindle. 

Autographed copies are available at my author website: http://gregoryafournier.com


Wednesday, August 17, 2016

John Norman Collins Kelly & Company Interview


In 1988, serial killer John Norman Collins gave a television interview from Marquette Branch Prison in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Years before Ted Bundy, Collins was luring young women to slaughter. From the summers of 1967-1969, Collins murdered a minimum of seven women and left them along the country roadside terrorizing residents in the college towns of Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor. On July 31, 1969, Collins was arrested for the murder of Eastern Michigan coed Karen Sue Beineman.


In my nonfiction account of these murders Terror in Ypsilanti: John Norman Collins Unmasked, I reveal the backstory of this rare Kelly & Company [Detroit morning talk show] interview interspersed with commentary by people associated with these cases. John Kelly hosted the studio portion of the show and his co-host [wife] Marilyn Turner flew up to Marquette Prison to conduct the prison interview.

All of Collins appeals had run out and his attempt at an international [Canadian] prisoner exchange failed. This was Collins's last chance to take his story to the public and make his case that he was railroaded by an overzealous prosecutor and a rogue county sheriff. 

Collins was in control of the interview until Marilyn Turner blindsided him with "Did you love your mother, John?" With that single question, Turner cut through his self-protective stratagems. For the rest of the interview Collins was sullen and disoriented. When the studio audience was polled at the end of the show, votes ran 2 to 1 against Collins. John's roll of the dice to manipulate the media came up snake eyes.


John Kelly and Marilyn Turner1988 Kelly & Company John Norman Collins interview [44 minutes]: https://youtu.be/JfD3O69PCvw

Terror in Ypsilanti: John Norman Collins Unmasked true crime book: gregoryafournier.com also available on Amazon, B&N, and other online booksellers. A Kindle edition will be available soon. It takes a couple of weeks for a new title to work its way into the system. 

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Terror in Ypsilanti Ships



On Friday, August 12th, I took shipment of 500 copies of Terror in Ypsilanti: John Norman Collins Unmasked. Readers who have been waiting weeks for their copies should expect their books in the mail this week. I spent Friday and Saturday getting them ready for USPS pickup on Monday. I would like to note that TIY is made in America.


It has been said "Body odor and excuses--everybody's got some." When my book was sent to the printer, it went on their printing schedule. The contract states in small print that orders of 500 or more copies take a minimum of two weeks. There you have it. Now that I have inventory, future wait times for shipment should be no more than a week.

For people wanting to purchase multiple copies, amazon.com will save you postage, especially if you have Amazon Prime. A Kindle edition will be available anytime soon. It takes a couple of weeks for a new title to work itself into the Amazon network. The book lists for $22.95 on Amazon and $9.95 on Kindle. 

Also available online from:

BarnesandNoble.com 
Google Books
KOBO
ibooks
 
For bulk order discounts, contact Wheatmark.com.

Autographed copies are available on my website gregoryafournier.com for a limited time

If you are so inclined, run a photo of yourself with a copy of TIY and post it on your social media. That would help spread the word about my book. Writing a review for Amazon or goodreads.com would be most appreciated as well.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Ann Arbor John Norman Collins Film Clip Surfaces

Collins leaving the Washtenaw County Building with Sheriff Douglas Harvey looking on.

Last week, Christy Broderick sent me an exclusive short 8mm film clip taken by her grandfather, Washtenaw County Sheriff's Deputy Charles Broderick, Sr. It depicts John Norman Collins walking across the jail parking lot and being loaded into the back of a jail van in 1970. The two officers escorting Collins in the film clip are Dwayne Troltz and George Rider.

Collins mugging for the cameras.
The journey was a short one across the street to the Washtenaw County Building where testimony was about to begin in the Collins case. Collins swaggers and looks jovial in this brief clip. Perhaps he still thinks he can beat the murder rap.

Also seen in the video is Sheriff Douglas Harvey on crutches hobbling across the parking lot. Harvey was the county official who brought the original charges against Collins on July 31, 1969. Judge John Conlin made Harvey responsible for Collins's safety and security to and from the courtroom. The defense saw this as a conflict of interest issue and portrayed the county sheriff as the villain.

Ironically, Sheriff Harvey recently had crashed his new Harley into the back of a semi-truck on Interstate 94. Harvey appeared in court wearing a hip-to-toe plaster cast and testified from a wheelchair. Collins's attorneys Joseph Louisell and Neil Fink could not get the sheriff off the stand quickly enough. They didn't want the jury to feel sympathy for him.

Super 8 Bell & Howell projector.
I want to thank Christy for giving me permission to share this exclusive and historic 8mm film clip on my blog before the images fade away completely. Christy has agreed to have a proper digital copy made for posterity. I hope to upgrade the present link with the improved digital copy.

Christy's grandfather found the reel of Super 8 [8mm] home movie film hidden in a box at home. He told Christy about the film, so they projected it on the wall. She recorded the flickering image on her cell phone and sent it to me. Notice the clicking of the sprockets on the projector.

One minute, thirteen second film clip of Collins and Harvey walking across the Washtenaw County Jail parking lot from 1970:  https://youtu.be/8pohfGroiKo

Terror in Ypsilanti: John Norman Collins Unmasked. Check out my website: gregoryafournier.com

Monday, July 18, 2016

Terror in Ypsilanti: John Norman Collins Unmasked Book Talk Announcements

John Norman Collins
Terror in Ypsilanti: John Norman Collins Unmasked [TIY] is in its final stages and will be available from the printer in the next few weeks. I want to thank those people who have ordered autographed copies from my website http://gregoryafournier.com. Because the book runs about 460 pages, the index is taking longer to compile than my publisher expected.

In anticipation of my first shipment of books, I ran off the shipping labels to stay ahead of the game without realizing that the USPS sends out Your package has shipped notices. Expect shipment in early August. Thank you for your patience and my apologies for any confusion. 

Everything else is running smoothly. Copies will be available sometime in August on Amazon.com and in a Kindle ebook edition. The Eastern Michigan University bookstore plans to carry TIY for its fall semester.


St. Cece's Pub in Corktown.
So far, I have scheduled three book talks and signings for the end of September in Michigan--one in Detroit and two in Ypsilanti.

My first presentation is sponsored by the Book Club of Detroit on Saturday, September 24th at St. Cece's Pub located at 1426 Bagley Ave. in an area known to Detroiters as Corktown. Food and drink can be purchased at the bar and brought downstairs where I'll be talking between 6 and 8 pm. Because alcohol is served, participants must be 21 or older.



On Tuesday, September 27th from 5 until 7 pm, I'll be speaking at the Corner Brewery at 720 Norris Street in Ypsilanti. Attendees must be 21 or older. I.D.s are checked at the door. Light snacks will be available and liquid refreshments can be purchased at the bar.

The focus of this presentation will be the impact these seven murders had on Eastern Michigan University--on and off campus. Three of the seven victims were EMU coeds, and the prime suspect was an EMU student who police believed was responsible for most if not all of the killings. The person credited with linking Collins to the Karen Sue Beineman sex slaying was an EMU graduate and rookie campus policeman.

On a side note, John Norman Collins worked at Motor Wheel Corporation with Andrew Manuel, his partner in petty and grand larceny. What was once the administrative building of Motor Wheel now houses the Corner Brewery across from the old factory.


State of the art Ypsilanti District Library--main branch.
My final talk is scheduled for Thursday, September 29th from 6 until 8 pm. at the Ypsilanti District Library located at 5577 Whittaker Road, south of I-94. My focus for this talk is the impact the Washtenaw County murders had on Ypsilanti and the region. There is no age limit for this presentation, but parental discretion is advised because of the violent and graphic nature of these crimes.

Signed copies of TIY will be available for purchase at each of these events. Hope to see many of you at one of these venues.

Links to:

St. Cece's [http://stcece.com]

The Corner Brewery [http://www.arborbrewing.com/locations/corner-brewery/]

Ypsilanti District Library [http://tln.lib.mi.us/md/ypsi/]

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Remembering My Kid Brother--Rick J. Fournier

Rick's graduation photo--1968
People in Allen Park, Michigan have asked me about my brother Rick. We grew up in Dearborn Township in the 1950s before the streets were paved and the sewer lines were put in. My father built our house with his friends on the weekends. When my mom and dad had two more sons, we moved into a slightly larger home less than five miles away in Allen Park. That was 1963. My parents bought a bar on Allen Road called the Cork & Bottle--now the Wheat & Rye.

Rick graduated from APHS in 1968 through the sheer will and determination of our mother. Rick played the guitar and had no interest in earning a high school diploma. Once he graduated by the skin of his teeth, he hung around never getting a job or any job training. To avoid the Army draft, my parents pushed him into enlisting in the Air Force. Several months after basic training, he went to Okinawa but was given a general discharge. He wouldn't take or follow orders and was insubordinate to his commanding officer.

From there, Rick drifted into psychedelics and became a transient in the college towns of Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti. My brother wandering aimlessly during an LSD trip in 1970 was taken into custody by the Ypsilanti police one brutal winter night . The police didn't know what to do with him, so they called my parents. My parents didn't now what to do with him, so they called Wayne County Mental Health [Eloise]. Rick was locked in a  mental ward for over a year before he was released with a diagnosis of schizophrenia. I don't know what they did to him, but he was never the same. From there, things went from bad to worse. No need to describe his further descent.

Last known photo of Rick from the 1980s.
Rick died in Silverthorn, Colorado, on November 17th, 1994 at the age of forty-four. He died of a massive heart attack while walking down the street. Because he wasn't carrying any identification, it took over a week before authorities were able to identify him.

Rick's obit listed him as an artist and photographer to mask the reality of his sad life. People tried but nobody was able to help him.

Happy trails, my brother.

Monday, June 27, 2016

GREGORYAFOURNIER.COM Author Website Running

Photo: Nicole Fribourg
Spring 2016 was busy for me. I completed Terror in Ypsilanti: John Norman Collins Unmasked (TIY) and re-edited Zug Island: A Detroit Riot Novel for a revised 2nd edition commemorating fifty years since the civil unrest of July 23, 1967.

As if that was not enough, I also earned my cyberpunk badge learning to build and maintain my new author website. Starting today, I am open for business.

Terror in Ypsilanti will go to print in mid-July. Advanced copies are available at gregoryafournier.com. Expect four to six weeks for delivery until books are in the pipeline. All orders must be within the delivery reach of the United States Postal Service.

The final page count for TIY will come near 480 pages including a map commissioned for the book, several reader supplements, a photo gallery, and a subject index. I have not been told the final price point, but I have seen an Author Review Copy of the book and am pleased with the end result. I'm certain the book version won't be listed under $24.95 because of its length and quality.

I am direct marketing TIY on my website for $20 plus $4 postage and handling. An e-book Kindle edition will be available on Amazon.com in the near future as well as the paperback edition. Discounted bulk and library copies will be available soon from my publisher Wheatmark.com. They honor a one-year return policy to vendors for unsold books.


The publishing business is notoriously slow.
In January 2016 at the San Diego State University Writer's Conference, I met literary agent Chip MacGregor. After reading my manuscript, he was interested in representing my book. 

MacGregor was optimistic he could place the book with a traditional publisher but warned it would take two years to see TIY in print. Waiting two more years was unacceptable.

When he told me I would lose creative control beyond the manuscript, I decided to independently publish through Wheatmark. I did not want to see my vision for the book corrupted. By independently publishing, I made all the decisions. My researcher Ryan M. Place in Detroit and I have worked too long and hard to make compromises and cede creative control to a publishing house concerned primarily with the bottom line. 

Building an audience and keeping readers interested is not open-ended. Five years is a long time to ask readers to wait. Several key people who helped me tell this story have died and others anxiously await the book's release. I wrote the best account I could with what I had to work with. Now, it is time for the book to find its audience.

--My author website link: http://gregoryafournier.com

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Eastern Michigan University Student Queried - "Is Paul (McCartney) Dead?"

The biggest hoax in the history of Rock & Roll is surely the "Is Paul Dead?" controversy. On Sunday afternoon, October 12, 1969, Thomas Zarski, an Eastern Michigan University student, called [Uncle Russ] Gibb, a concert promoter and popular D.J. for Detroit's underground music radio station - WKNR-FM.

On the air, Zarski asked Gibb what he knew about the death of Paul McCartney. This was the first the D.J. heard of it. "Have you ever played "Revolution 9" from the The White Album backwards?" Zarski asked.

Gibb hadn't. Skeptical, he humored his call-in listener and played the song backwards. For the first time his audience heard, "Turn me on, dead man." Then WKNR's phone started ringing off the hook.

Apparently, the rumor started when Tim Harper wrote an article on September 17, 1969 in the Drake University (Iowa) newspaper. The story circulated by word of mouth through the counter culture underground for a month until Zarski caught wind of it. He called Uncle Russ asking about it. Gibb had solid connections with the local Detroit and British rock scene because he was a concert promoter at the Grande Ballroom--Detroit's rock Mecca.

University of Michigan student Fred LaBour heard the October 12th radio broadcast and published an article two days later in the October 14th edition of The Michigan Daily as a record review parody of the Beatles' latest album Abbey Road. This article was credited for giving the story legs and was the key exposure that propelled the hoax nationally and internationally.

The legend goes that Paul died in November of 1966 in a car crash. The three categories of clues were:
  1. Clues found on the album covers and liner sleeve notes,
  2. Clues found playing the records forward, and
  3. Clues found playing the records backwards.
The clues came from the albums:
  1. Yesterday and Today,
  2. Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band,
  3. Magical Mystery Tour,
  4. The Beatles [the White Album], and
  5. Abbey Road.
Some people thought the Beatles masterminded the hoax because of the large number of clues. They thought there were too many for this story to be merely coincidental. 

The story peaked in America on November 7th, 1969, when Life magazine ran an interview with Paul McCartney at his farm in Scotland, debunking the myth.

For more detailed information on the myth and the clues, check out these links: 

http://turnmeondeadman.com/the-paul-is-dead-rumor/ 

http://keenerpodcast.com/?page_id=602

Video link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xqBf6iNPVOg

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Ypsilanti, Michigan History - What's in a Name?



Dimitrios Ypsilantis
Where the Sauk Native American trail crossed the narrows at a bend of the Huron River, Gabriel Godfroy--a French-Canadian fur trader from Montreal--established his Indian trading post in 1809. Fifteen years later, Judge Augustus B. Woodward of Detroit with two local land speculators--William Harwood and John Stewart--laid-out a town on land they purchased from the original French settlers.

Judge Woodward was a Grecophile who wanted to name the town in honor of Greek war hero Demetrius Ypsilanti--a general famous for successes in his country's war for independence against the Ottoman Turks. This struck a chord with Woodward. America had waged its own war for independence against the British not so very long before.


Ypsilanti Woolen Company

His partners had a different idea with more commercial potential. They favored a name like Waterford or Waterville which highlighted the water-power feature of the Huron River to attract manufacturing business. Judge Woodward--being the major investor in the land project--had the final word. In 1824, the new town of Ypsilanti spanned both sides of the Huron River on the old Chicago Road (soon to be renamed Michigan Avenue). An area which began as a frontier trading outpost eventually became downtown Ypsilanti.

The east side of Ypsilanti developed when the Michigan Central train line began rail service in 1838, making the city an important economic hub for the area’s growing light-industry and agricultural concerns. A lovely, three-story train depot said to be the nicest depot between Detroit and Chicago was built in 1864. A two block long commercial district grew up along both sides of East Cross Street—aptly named Depot Town.

Original Ypsilanti train depot with landscaping.
The Depot Town businesses on the ground floors catered to the needs of weary travelers and light manufacturing. The upper floors were used for lodging, warehousing, or residential use. Depot Town was a destination for the Underground Railroad before and throughout the Civil War. Soldiers of the 14th and 17th Michigan Regiments left for the South from the Ypsilanti train station platform.

Depot Town Today
A fire destroyed the tower and the upper floors of the depot in May of 1910. New owners--Pennsylvania Central Railroad--decided to rebuild only the ground floor. Amtrak ended passenger service in 1982.

There may be some life in the old girl yet. Depot Town could be a stop on the proposed Ann Arbor to Detroit commuter rail line which would bring more activity into the area. Restoring the Depot Town train buildings preserves a remnant of Ypsilanti's history which could be re-purposed on the interior to increase the commercial value of the property.

I can envision a fine dining, Victorian-styled restaurant. Maybe a seafood restaurant. How about a sushi bar or an Asian noodle shop? Something that doesn't take business away from Frenchie's Sidetrack Bar & Grill or Aubree's Pizzeria & Grill. Ypsilanti's very own Gandy Dancer or something similar would be nice.
http://visitypsinow.com/museums/