Monthly Archives: May 2016

Cemeteries are part of city’s heritage

Copied from The State Journal – Lansing, Michigan – Friday, May 28, 1976

Cemeteries are part of city’s heritage

By Mike Hughes, Staff Writer

They are sprawling pieces of Lansing history.

There are 38,000 people buried there, including R.E. Olds and James Turner and J. W. Knapp and Howard Stoddard and E. W. Sparrow and a young drowning victim whose name is still unknown.

THERE’S A soldier who fought in the Revolutionary War and a soldier who fought with Sherman in the Civil War and long rows of soldiers who fought in other wars.

There are simple old headstones now marred and broken and unreadable. And there are giant memorials, shaped like houses and towers and trees and angels.

There are quiet, powerful signs of the devastation of war and disease.

LANSING’S city-owned cemeteries are all spruced up, ready to greet the rush of Memorial Day visitors.

This is the high time of the year for the cemeteries,” Parks Director Ted Haskell said. “I think it used to be just people visiting veterans’ graves, but now it seems like a general time for everyone to visit the cemetery.”

Howard Cannady, who is in charge of the cemeteries agrees, “We’ve had quite a crowd here already,” he said. “Tuesday, we had to empty the trash cans twice.”

NOT ALL of those visitors are there because of friends or relatives. Some are genealogy buffs. Some simply like to be near solitude and beauty and history.

Solitude? Well, maybe not a North Cemetery, a little old place that has been attacked by progress. Now it has an apartment building towering over one side, busy throughways and brash commercial strips closing in on other sides.

But at the other two, Mt. Hope and Evergreen, there’s a feeling of quiet serenity. There’s a total of nearly 200 acres, with rolling hills, woods and a rural mood.

BEAUTY? BOTH the landscaping and the monuments are often spectacular.

The history? Haskell began noticing that when he started working for the parks department 26 years ago.

His job then was to cut the grass and trim the trees, but he often found himself stopping to read the headstones. “It reminds you of the play ‘Our Town.’ You remember how that was set in a cemetery, with each one having its own story.”

THERE ARE plenty of those stories in the Lansing cemeteries.

Even if you’d never heard of him, for instance, you could tell that Ransom Eli Olds must have been someone special. His large, columned mausoleum is at the top of a hill. To get to it, you walk up a shrub-lined stairway with 17 stone steps. The building has stained-glass windows and a copper door.

By contrast, one recent headstone has no name on it. The young man’s body was found in a river and was not identified. Still, a woman comes and decorates his grave, apparently because she feels someone ought to. This year, she’s planning to bring a flower urn.

AND ANOTHER gravestone tells of a young family, with three children, that was killed in a car accident. At the top of the stone, there are statues of three angels.

The city bought new flags this year for each of the veterans’ graves in area cemeteries: 3,600 of them. “It’s only when all the flags are out like this that you see how great the local involvement was,” Haskell said.

Many of those 3,600 weren’t war victims. But many others were, and part of that story is told at the “Little Arlington” section of Evergreen.

HASKELL AND Cannady walk among the rows of flags there and read the dates on the gravestones – 1944, 1945, 1944. 1944, 1945, 1943, 1945 … on and on. “You know, you hear so much about taxes,” Haskell said. “I suppose this is another kind of tax that a community pays.”

It’s the Little Arlington section that receives the spotlight each Memorial Day weekend.

After World War II, Lansing people began looking for a special memorial. The city agreed to set aside a special hillside spot, with enough room for 125 graves. Some 11,417 people and groups contributed a total of $25,000 for a monument.

THAT MONUMENT, dedicated in 1950, is an imposing sight. It’s a 17 ½-foot, 36-ton spire of Vermont granite. Chiseled on one side are these words: “To those who served their country well and those who died that our ideals of freedom should not be forever lost, this memorial is sincerely and humbly dedicated.”

There will be a parade at 10 a.m. Saturday in downtown Lansing, followed by a quiet noon ceremony at Little Arlington. Then, throughout the long three-day weekend, thousands of people will come to visit.

The cemeteries that thousands will visit this weekend have come a long way since they were first developed more than a century ago.

THE CITY has had a cemetery even before it had any parks. The first one was in what’s now Oak Park, in the northern part of town.

Then, in 1873 the city picked out an obscure spot at what was then the southern city limit. “People thought it was just a hopeless old sand hill,” Haskell says.

With planning and care, that “hopeless sandhill” became Mt. Hope Cemetery, a stunning peace of landscaping. Now it stretches over 84 acres, with 27,500 people buried there. (The Oak Park burials were eventually moved there.)

EVERGREEN WAS added in 1922. It totals 104 acres, with 11,005 burials so far.

And North was added when the city annexed some land from Delhi Township in 1960. It includes 3.77 acres and 356 burials.

Mt. Hope and North are already sold out, although there are still some spots for families that reserved large sections. There are about 500 new burials a year and at this pace Evergreen will be sold out in another 30 years or so.

OVER THE years, the city’s cemetery division has grown into a $250,000-a-year operation, with nine people working full time and 19 other seasonal workers. The interest from the perpetual care fund alone comes to $90,000 a year.

The parks people are in charge, and Haskell says that’s a logical enough combination. The basic elements are the same as in the rest of the parks work – landscaping, maintaining and management.

Haskell, like previous Lansing parks directors, is a forestry graduate who had no background in running a cemetery. But he’s picked it up along the way, and has even written a nationally published pamphlet on cemetery management.

THE CEMETERIES reflect the fact that foresters have been in charge. They offer plush mixtures of different types of trees, shrubs and greens.

And the monuments also provide a visual feast.

At one point, near the entrance of Mt. Hope, huge markers reel off the names that have become famous in Lansing – Olds, Dodge, Turner, Sparrow, Potter, Ranney, Scott, Stoddard, Prudden, etc.

THE JAMES Turner spire towers into the sky. The Prudden mausoleum is huge and imposing. The Dr. George Ranney monument includes a plaque spelling out the colorful highlights of his life – surgeon and prisoner-of-war during the Civil War … Congressional Medal of Honor winner … founder of the state medical society in 1866 … wrote paper in 1874 that first showed the relationship between bad water and typhoid fever outbreaks … etc.

And then there’s the “Little Arlington” monument at Evergreen, towering and dominating. Another inscription there will be seen by a lot of people during the Memorial Day weekend.

By the grace of almighty God may all who pass this way hold sacred in their hearts the memories of those who fought and died that liberty might live.”


photo-1976-05-28-Cemeteries are part of city's heritage-Lansing, MI1976-05-28-Cemeteries are part of city's heritage-Lansing, MI




Michigan School for the Blind 100th Anniversary

Copied from the Lansing State Journal – MI – Sunday, September 28, 1980

Blind students treated ‘too normally,’ they say

MSB alums rap modern schooling

By Sharon M. Bertsch – Staff Writer

Football teams and broom making, boarding school deviltry and a chance “to be normal” – the Michigan School for the Blind gave all these things to its children.

For 100 years, it was the boarding school for Michigan’s brightest blind children.

An American revolution occurred in the 1970s, though. State and federal special education laws moved three-quarters of Michigan’s blind children back to their homes and community schools.

Multiply-handicapped blind children were taken out of mental institutions and sent to school for the first time in history.

ABOUT HALF of the school’s students now are retarded, if only because blindness makes it hard for them to conquer their other handicaps. More than half the 115 students are “severely multiply-impaired.”

Teaching these children is so expensive that the executive branch of the state government is trying to merge MSB with the School for the Deaf in Flint or find a way to cut costs.

Many of the school’s graduates view the revolution with horror.

It’s a revolution that no one was prepared for,” says poet Lucille Sawyer, who attended the school in 1920-28 and now lives in the Riverfront Apartments.

Shunted” into public schools, blind children can’t shine socially or in extracurricular activities, many Lansing MSB graduates believe.

The sighted world will “accept an unsighted child to a line, and beyond that they won’t go,” John Noland declared in his wife Erna’s concession stand in the Highway Building downtown.

NOLAND ENTERED the school’s fourth grade in 1920 and left in 1929. His wife finished the last three years of high school there in 1933.

MSB, though, had football, basketball and wrestling teams playing other small high schools like Williamston and Webberville. MSB had marching bands, proms and plays.

School Superintendent Nancy Bryant likes the change. “I would not send my own children away to school,” she has said.

Attending boarding school for years – going home only for summer vacations and perhaps Christmas and Easter – “disenfranchised them from their communities in a sense,” she says.

That’s why the neighborhood around the school has been a virtual “ghetto” of MSB graduates for years, she contends.

Laughter and deviltry transformed a strict school into a home they loved, though.

We laughed our way through school,” recalls Mrs. Sawyer.

RULES WERE strict. In the early years, boys and girls weren’t supposed to play together or even write a member of the opposite sex.

Boys and girls, as everywhere, though, found ways to get together.

Oh gosh, there’s all kinds of corners up there. It’s a blessing the school house can’t talk,” Noland joked.

I don’t think we were any better than the teenagers today,” agrees Mrs. Noland.

Like boarding students elsewhere, they filched the domestic science teacher’s fudge supply and raided a custodian’s cache of Prohibition wine and cider from the broom shop.

And they skipped school at 11 p.m. to walk to Potter Park to swim, recalls Clarence Horton, former supervisor of Michigan’s blind concession stand operators. The boys had “a standing rule that worked on everything.”

The superintendent at the time admired their spunk. Some of the pranks he tolerated would cause a statewide scandal nowadays.

THE BOYS pitched an unpopular principal, dressed in his best wedding suit, into a bathtub of cold water. When every boy in school confessed to the crime, the superintendent just took their senior dance away.

Life wasn’t all fun, though.

Several graduates mention one administrator who beat and taunted the orphans, illegitimate children or “people from the Southeastern part of Europe.”

When Lillian Hart, now 95, went to the school as a teacher in 1918, it was still “an institution.”

The school dressmaker had one pattern and dressed the state wards – orphans – alike in Indianhead cotton uniforms and sateen bloomers, Miss Hart and Clarence and Agnes Horton recall.

You could tell the girls on the state.” Horton said. “They didn’t do that to the boys. They took them to Kositchek’s” clothing store.

When “a child from a loving home” entered MSB, Mrs. Sawyer could “smell the difference.”

He had another dimension from us. He smelled different, of nice clothes and Ivory soap.”

WE DIDN’T have the confidence that blind children do now. We were more institutionalized.”

By the 1920’s, the school was loosening up a bit. Radios expanded the children’s world, Miss Hart recalled. She lived at the school as a geography teacher until she retired in 1946 and moved to West Michigan Avenue.

By the time Mrs. Horton became an MSB music teacher in the 1930s, the Lions Club Auxiliary was providing used clothing for the orphans.

Another big change occurred when the school convinced Michigan State College professors that blind students were as mentally able as the sightless.

An even bigger change occurred when the school began helping its graduates find jobs in the late 1950s and 1960s, Mrs. Horton recalled.

Mrs. Noland got a teaching certificate from MSC, for example. But no school district would hire a blind teacher. Her younger brother Harold, also blind, was hired by Lansing School District only because a West Junior High teacher befriended him. Harold, who still teaches at Everett High, was one of the first blind teachers in Michigan.

For many children, MSB was their only chance for an education.

Few school districts outside big cities like Detroit and Grand Rapids had classes for blind students.

When Agnes Horton’s parents moved from Chicago to Michigan in 1918, they left six-year-old Agnes in a boarding house so she could attend Chicago’s only school for the blind.

SHE WENT crosstown daily on a street car. A policeman and a student hired for the purpose met her at the two transfer points. When she moved to the Michigan School for the Blind at aged eight, it seemed more like home.

Teachers were dedicated and tried to alleviate the institutional atmosphere with little personal touches, Mrs. Horton recalls.

She liked the matron who dabbed each girl with a drop of perfume before marching them off to church on Sundays.

Early teachers weren’t trained to teach blind children, however. When Miss Hart came in 1918, it was “just another teaching job,” she thought. Braille was “really Greek to me.”

Later she was one of the few teachers to learn to read Braille.

Hired for $40 a month – the same wage teachers received when the school opened in 1880 – Miss Hart worked day and night, and Saturday and Sunday.

Most teachers stayed only a couple of years, got married or moved on,” Miss Hart said.

AMERICANS TODAY understand handicaps better, Mrs. Sawyer thinks.

At the time, though, the school pleaded with parents to treat their blind children like “normal youngsters.”

Now, as Mrs. Sawyer complains, they’re treating blind children so normally that they’re taking them out of the Michigan School for the Blind and putting them in regular public schools.

And she and her schoolmates don’t approve one bit.


Note: In 1994, the Michigan School for the Blind closed in Lansing and merged with the Michigan School for the Deaf in Flint.




original 1980 article

original 1980 article


Early Telephone History in Lansing

Copied from The State Journal – Lansing, MI – Sunday, May 24, 1959

Telephones: Earliest Service Started Here With 60 Customers

Century-old Lansing had just come of age when the infant telephone industry was born in the capital city in 1880.

From that time to the present, telephones have strengthened and lengthened Lansing’s voice to the point where today some 92,500 telephone customers here may call more than 63 million phones in the United States and most of the 118 million phones in the world.

But in 1880, only 60 Lansing customers were interested in telephone conversation.

It was in that year that William A. Jackson, general manager of the Telephone and Telegraph Construction company of Detroit, agreed to establish an exchange here if 50 subscribers signed up. Jackson had brought Michigan’s first telephone to Detroit in 1877, establishing an exchange there the following year.


Jackson commissioned Alfred Beamer, then Western Union manager at Lansing, to line up customers after which the first commercially-used telephone was installed in the old Lansing House, later known as the Downey hotel. The building was torn down years ago to make room for a large department store building.

Within a year from the opening date on Dec. 16, 1880, the exchange boasted 100 phones.

Though this city did not have the first exchange in the state, a Lansing man experimented with the telephone idea three years before the actual installation.

In the period between 1876 and 1879, Dr. George P. Richmond, Lansing dentist and inventor, tinkered with electrical transmission of sound, as did many other scientists throughout the world, including Alexander Graham Bell.

With a simple diaphragm instrument, Dr. Richmond was able to carry on a conversation between his home and office.

Dr. Richmond’s “hydrophone” worked on the variable resistance principle of Bell’s “liquid transmitter” – the one which carried the historic words, “Mr. Watson, come here. I want you!” in March of 1876.

But Bell felt that the manipulation of a container of liquid and the use of “wet” batteries was not practical at that time for untrained persons, so he went on to the “magnetic induction” telephone as being easier to operate.


In 1877, with the assistance of Beamer, Dr. Richmond connected two instruments to a Western Union telegraph line which ran from Lansing to Detroit and back again.

A story in the Lansing Republican of Nov. 19, 1877 told of setting up the 230-mile loop, connecting two instruments in different Lansing locations, and attaching a battery of 372 cups of liquid in the Detroit office. An excerpt said:

Connections were at once made with the circuit, the transmitting instrument being placed in the grocery of H. W. Squires, one door east, and the receiver in the express office. Soon they heard the words, distinctly uttered (by Richmond), “Beamer, Beamer, do you hear me? I will sing, and in an instant the tones of ‘Marching On’ were distinctly heard at a distance of 20 feet from the instrument.

A Bell telephone then also was attached in the Detroit operating room, over which listeners there heard songs and conversations.

Many successful experiments were conducted with the Richmond instrument over lines of varying distances, but it never reached widespread use because of the introduction of new, more practical developments in telephony and lack of financial backing.

In 1881 the first telephone directory was listed with 93 names, but no numbers. Operators memorized the names and their positions on the switchboards, and as new customers were added, holders of directories wrote in new names by hand.

Only three telephones were installed in the Capitol building at that time.

Except in emergencies, the exchange was open from 7 a. m. to 10 p. m.

The first Lansing telephone office was located at 229 Washington st., but with expansion the exchange outgrew the location. Early in the 1880’s it was moved to the old State building.

First telephone operator in Lansing was Miss Nellie Potter, later Mrs. C. R. White of Baltimore. Her assistant was Miss Gertie Beamer. Other early operators included Miss Alice Carr, later Mrs. Chris Breisch; Mrs. Fred Keith, and Mrs. Alice Hill.

Early in 1883 the first long-distance line stretched out from Lansing to Mason, which was followed in June by another to Detroit. In the next two months others spread out to Ionia and Battle Creek.

Though skepticism ran high about early telephones, business places invited people in to “try the new-fangled contraption” and thus helped bring in more trade as people “threw their voices an unbelievable distance.”


By 1898, newer telephone equipment had been installed, many more long distance lines had been built, and 400 phones were operating in the community. In that year Beamer was succeeded as manager by J. H. Lyons, who was followed in 1902 by E. C. Ewer, and Glen L. Williams in 1905. Other early managers included J. E. Scott in 1908, and E. J. Holihan. Ben R. Marsh, later Michigan Bell’s vice president and general manager and chairman of the board, was manager here in 1911.

In 1902 the crank-type telephone left the Lansing scene and was replaced by the “common battery” system which permitted reaching the operator by merely lifting the receiver.

With expiration of Bell’s original telephone patents in 1893, competing companies sprang up around the country and appeared in Lansing at the turn of the century when the Citizens Telephone company was formed.


The Citizens company gave good service for those days but required customers to have two telephones to be connected with others in town. The costly duplication of service came to an end in 1923 when the Michigan State company (which became Michigan Bell the next year) purchased the assets of its competitor. Properties included he Citizens central office building at 220 N. Capitol.

To provide enough space to house both phone systems in the building, the company erected a three-story addition and converted both systems to modern dial operation.

Two years later the exchange has grown to more than 14,000 telephones and reached 18,000 by 1930. To keep pace with that growth, Michigan Bell had erected a fourth floor atop the previous addition in 1927.

With a new high of 30,000 telephones in 1940, Michigan Bell razed the original Citizens building and built a two-winged four-story structure at a cost of $700,000, including $285,000 in new dial equipment.


In succeeding years more central office equipment was added to meet service demands for customers who numbered more than 40,000 in 1945 and soared to 55,000 by 1950.

The immediate post-war years also saw inauguration of Lansing mobile telephone service in 1948. The following year the company launched the extended area service plan here so telephone users could call Dimondale, Holt, Mason and Potterville without toll charges.

When the spectacular $5 million fire hit the state office building in 1951, the telephone company faced the largest emergency project in Lansing since the famed sleet storm in 1922.

Damage to the switchboard and telephone equipment was estimated at $125,000. But even before firemen arrived on the scene, signals on the big 10-ton switchboard on the seventh floor of the building told of big trouble, and restoral plans began almost immediately.

Michigan Bell marshalled forces of up to 60 plant department men, some from Grand Rapids and Jackson, and installed temporary switchboards as rapidly as state agencies obtained temporary quarters. Meanwhile, Western Electric company, manufacturing and supply arm of the Bell system, sent emergency equipment from Detroit and Chicago.

One week after the fire, Michigan Bell had nine switchboards operating.


Installation began in 1952 of a new dial switchboard to serve state agencies, and after testing it was put into service Jan. 6, 1953, representing a total cost of $119,000. It replaced 1 manual switchboards which had served the capitol since the fire.

By 1952 the number of Lansing phones exceeded 65,000 and in that year the automatic answering device nicknamed “Amanda” was introduced for the benefit of business customers who wanted their telephone attended even though they were out.

IN 1954 the new Turner office on Jolly rd. was opened and was the first Lansing proper to use the two-letter-five-numeral telephone numbers. The same type of numbers came to the rest of Lansing and surrounding towns in 1955 to pave the way for eventual development of direct distance dialing here.


In 1956” said Emerson B. Ohl, Michigan Bell manager in Lansing, “more than 90 percent of Lansing’s households had telephone service. And from 1946 to 1956 the number of phones increased from 41,000 to 76,000 nearly doubled in a 10-year period. At present, some 92,500 telephones are now in service in the Lansing exchange.”

Ohl also said that in 1957 some $2 million in new construction was completed in Lansing, which brought the post-war construction total here to more than $16.6 million.

In that same year, 846 Michigan Bell employees were working in the Lansing area and were paid some $3.7 million wages and salaries.

The telephone in Lansing has come a long way since the first 60 subscribers signed up nearly 80 years ago,” said Ohl. “And the future of telephony is just as bright as its past.”


Photo Captions:
1. OLD TIME SWITCHBOARD – This old timer – called a Gilliland switchboard – was used at Golden, Colo., in 1880, the same year Lansing received its first telephone exchange. Sixty subscribers signed up here for the capital city’s first telephone service, an exchange set up by William A. Jackson, general manager of the Telephone and Telegrapg Construction company of Detroit, and the first man to bring Bell’s new telephone to Michigan.
2. EARLY PHONE – One of more modern phones of its day, this “Blake Transmitter” went into commercial service late in 1878. The above 1880 version sat on a desk stand for support. Bell Telephone company acquired rights to this transmitter in November of 1878, which improved upon the “loose contact” principle of producing undulating current. The principle was described in Bell’s original patent and still is in use today. Loose electrical contact is a means of varying the intensity of current, thus permitting speech.
3. EARLY OFFICE – This brick building at 123 S. Grand ave., now the home of the Lansing Insurance agency, was an early Lansing telephone office, as the familiar Bell telephone signs on the front window in this photo indicate.
4. INSTALLED CABLE – In the early days of telephony, equipment trucks like this helped install lines and underground cable after the turn of the century. The Michigan State Telephone company (note name on truck) because the Michigan Bell Telephone company in 1924 after it purchased the assets of the Citizens Telephone company the year before. Much costly duplication of having two telephone systems in one community thereafter was eliminated.
5. PHONE NERVE CENTER – In 1885, two years after long-distance telephone service came to Lansing, this photo was taken showing Lansing’s operating room. Note the “no smoking” sign on the wall and tin cup beneath it. By 1898 newer telephone equipment had been installed and 400 phones were operating in Lansing.

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original article - 1 of 2

original article – 1 of 2

original article - 2 of 2

original article – 2 of 2



Lansing’s German Folks

Copied from The State Journal – Lansing, Michigan – Sunday, November 5, 1978

Lansing’s German folks prefer independent lives

by Carol Haskin, Staff Writer

There really is no German community, but there used to be,” the Rev. Karl Krauss said, “about 60 or 70 years ago when we came to town.”

In 1909, when Rev. Krauss’s father became pastor of Emanuel Lutheran Church – the same church where Krauss, 80, is pastor today – May Street was known as Lansing’s Little Germany.

THE FIRST German families had come around 1850. Most came from Washtenaw County – farmers looking for new land.

In 1855 they found Emanuel Lutheran Church at the corner of Seymour and Kilborn. The church has remained in that block. Charter members had names that are familiar in Lansing today – Lorenz, Stabler, Stadel, Guenther among them.

More Germans arrived, some settling at South Cedar and Beech Street. Another group, primarily from eastern Germany and Prussia, came to work in the brickyard on East Michigan, an enterprise owned by a German family – the Clipperts.

THE COMMUNITY was active. In 1869 it formed the Liederkranz Club, patterned after the singing societies that had existed in Germany for more than 200 years.

Later, an insurance society, the Arbeiter, was founded, and the Turnverein was organized for tumbling and gymnastics.

The Liederkranz was affiliated with state and national organizations and held songfests (“saengerfests”) with other chapters from across the state. The singers had weekly rehearsals, gave concerts and produced plays.

ON SUNDAY afternoons and summer evenings, members met in the large graveled garden at the Arbeiter and the Liederkranz along the Grand River and listened to the Lansing City Band.

The cultured calm disappeared with the coming of the First World War when a hatred inspired by misdirected patriotism was leveled at Lansing’s Germans.

‘The Huns’ they called them,” Rev. Krauss recalled. “My father was hauled before the Vigilance Committee two or three times.”

THE COMMITTEE, a self-appointed group that hunted out “subversives,” made a practice of harassing residents with German surnames.

Hans Wilde, a music teacher who found Wilde Conservatory on Grand River Avenue, was heckled each morning when he entered a store for his cigar and morning paper.

He had a cool way of handling it,” Rev. Krauss smiled. “He said, ‘I just shut my mouth and whistle.’”

A GERMAN butcher named Saier was kidnapped one night and taken to some woods near Eaton Rapids where he was tarred and feathered.

I think the First World War had something to do with Germans losing their clannishness faster than any other ethnic group here,” Rev. Krauss said. “The treatment they got – I think that made a difference because those halls on Grand Avenue all closed down about that time.

The war changed Emanuel Lutheran, too.

THE CHURCH’S original constitution stated that “the services and the religious instruction in this congregation shall forever be conducted in the German language.”

Forever” lasted until 1921, when the second Rev. Krauss added an English service.

We had to change the constitution in order to have an English service which was long overdue,” he said. “We lost a lot of people who married outside the German community.”

IRONICALLY, LANSING was guided through World War I by a German mayor – J. Gottleib Reutter.

Reutter had come to Lansing in 1884 at the age of 15. He apprenticed as a butcher and eventually opened his own shop. Reutter later established the Lansing Ice and Fuel Co., still owned by his family.

As mayor, Reutter opened the city market and was behind the securing of Moores and Potter parks.

THE POST-World War I turmoil in Germany and prosperity here resulted in a new wave of immigrants.

I was born in West Prussia,” Rudolph Kwast said. “During World War I they decided to give that area to Poland. My dad didn’t want to live under Polish rule. We children in school would have to learn Polish. We went to Germany. But we couldn’t see how we could succeed to a better way of life there, so we applied to be immigrants to the United States.”

The Kwasts waited two years to obtain visas, then came to America in 1923. After apprenticing in a meat market, Kwast switched to the bakery business. At one time there were eight branches of Kwast Bakery in the Lansing area. Today there are five.

AT 69. Kwast still goes to work each day at 3 a.m. His work day ends at 7 a.m. The bakery business has been good to him.

Germans seem to like sweets more than any people I know,” he said. “It’s mostly the way you were brought up.”

Four years after the Kwasts’ arrival, Hugo Vedder came to Lansing to work in a factory. His wife, Meta, joined him a year later.

IT WASN’T too good there in Germany at that time – all that inflation,” Mrs. Vedder said. “We thought we could go back if we were unhappy, but we stuck here.”

Assimilation wasn’t easy. Few immigrants spoke English, the food was different, and Prohibition beer was no match for German brew. The Liederkranz Club was revived and helped the new arrivals adjust to their new home, a home that was to become permanent with the arrival of World War II.

By that time, Vedder had become manager of research and development at Motor Wheel. He still has close relatives in Germany, and he faced a difficult decision when his Lansing employers asked him to develop anti-aircraft shells.

WE HAD a big meeting,” Vedder recalled. “I told them that whatever was going to happen in Germany, the quicker it was over the better.”

The anti-German sentiment that was so pronounced during World War I was almost non-existent in World War II.

It started a little bit at the beginning of World War II, but it didn’t last long,” Rev. Krauss said. “I don’t know why the difference, but it was such a marked and striking difference.”

REV. KRAUSS was involved in one uncomfortable incident. He was investigated by federal agents after they received a report that he was holding Nazi meetings in the basement of his church.

Years later the minister learned he had been reported by a Jewish neighbor who had noticed lights on in the church basement several nights in a row. In fact, lights were on because church members were painting the basement.

Following World War II and through the mid-1950s new German immigrants came to Lansing. They boosted attendance at Emanuel Lutheran’s German service and at the Liederkranz Club.

THE ECONOMY in Europe at that time was not well,” said Fritz Steinbach, who came to Lansing in 1954. “Decent housing was hard to get.”

Like many Germans who came to Lansing at that time, Steinbach had friends here who immediately got him a job. Despite these friendly faces, the move wasn’t easy.

It’s always a hard decision to make when you leave friends and family and you don’t speak the language,” said Steinbach, now president of Capitol Tool and Die. “I studied English in night school but I think television helps you the most. After they show you a commercial five or six times, you know what’s going on.

IN 1955, Oskar Hornbach, then 18 left Germany for the United States, joined the U.S. Army and was sent back to Germany for almost three years.

Some people looked at me strangely, walking down the street in an American uniform, but there were no problems,” Hornbach, now an attorney, said. “But you have to understand that after the war there was a great love affair between Germany and the United States – a great admiration.”

Some of the new immigrants, like Steinbach and Hornbach, joined the Liederkranz, but many did not.

THE YOUNGER ones who came over after the last war, they didn’t think they had to get together with the German people,” Mrs. Vedder said. “They went their own way. When we came over we felt we had to hold together because not many of us spoke English.”

When a German comes over here I don’t think he says, ‘I’m going to look for a German club for culture and for help,’” Hornbach agreed. “The German is independent.”


the original article

the original article