Saturday, January 12, 2019

Vernor's Gnome Found

The Vernor's gnome--created by artist Noble Fellows--is one of Detroit's beloved corporate mascots. In the 1970s, the company ran a Gname the Gnome contest. The chosen name--Jerome the Gnome--happily never caught on. The Gnome was forced into an early severance program in the 1980s. The bearded man in the green hat faded from sight until the Dr. Pepper-Snapple Beverage Group--present brand owners--brought the logo out of retirement in 2002. They renamed the gnome Woody. That didn't catch on any better than Jerome. Most people call him the Vernor's Gnome.

In case you aren't from Detroit and don't know what Vernor's is, I'll try to describe it for you. Vernor's is a mildly sweet, highly carbonated ginger-flavored soda, with a touch of caramel for golden color and a kiss of vanilla for flavor and bouquet. Warm Vernor's was grandma's remedy for upset stomach or nasal congestion. It is a great hydrating fluid.

In summer, few things go down better on a hot day than a Boston Cooler--ice cold Vernor's blended with vanilla ice cream thin enough to draw easily up a straw. Cafe D'Mongo's Speakeasy on Griswald Street in Downtown Detroit combines Vernor's with Royal Crown and bitters and calls it a Detroit Brown.

A friend of mine--Renee Reilly Menard--from my Allen Park High School days--was going through a box she hadn't opened for many years and found a Vernor's Gnome mascot plush toy from the 1960s in its original packaging. Renee's father worked for Vernor's and brought the plush doll home one day. This stuffed mascot was a point-of-sale promotional item. At some point, it was thrown into a box and forgotten about.

Renee entrusted me with it. I'm tempted to tear open the sealed plastic bag and enjoy the gnome in the moment, but it's rare. I'm thinking it belongs in the Detroit Historical Museum so more people can enjoy seeing it too.
The label reads: Canasia Toys & Gifts Inc, Downsview, Ontario, Made in Korea.

Vernor's Ginger Ale Story:

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

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 award-winning 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 this edition reflects that. Also new is a segment on the Algiers Motel murders conspicuous by its absence from the original. 

Paperback copies are available online from Amazon, B&N, and all five ebook formats. Zug Island Amazon Site