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Volume 38, number 3

November 2016

Grand River Times The Newsletter of the Grand Rapids Historical Society Inside this issue: Cover Story: November program Letter from our President page 2

WACs, WASPs, SPARs, and Marines: Nicknames, Recruiting, and the Wartime Experience of Servicewomen from Grand Rapids

PRESENTED BY: Will Miner, Grand Rapids Public Library History and Special Collections

West Michigan Jewish Soldiers: The Civil War and Beyond page 4 2017 Program Schedule page 5 Happening in History page 6 Photo Sleuth page 7

Thursday, November 10, 2016, 7:00pm Ryerson Auditorium, Grand Rapids Public Library Just two days after the historic 2016 presidential election and one day before Veterans Day, The Greater Grand Rapids Women’s History Council is co-sponsoring and providing the November program of the Grand Rapids Historical Society. Honoring veterans, the Grand Rapids Public Library’s Will Miner will highlight the WWII experiences of local women Marines to illustrate the first large-scale employment of women in the United States armed forces.

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Next program: After the November program, the Grand Rapids Historical Society’s next program will be on January 12, 2017 at the Grand Rapids Public Library. Carl Bajema and Tom Maas will be speaking about:

The Streetcar Era in Grand Rapids Continued on page 3 Grand River Times


GRAND RAPIDS HISTORICAL SOCIETY Dear GRHS Members, Doctor Mary Jane Dockeray gave an enlightening presentation on what lies below the city. The natural things. The water, the gravel, the gypsum, the rock, the oil, and more. For that we all say thank you. I am sorry that I did not take a photograph of the slide projector that Dr. Dockeray uses for her presentations. Yes, slide projector. It is the one that she brought into classrooms where she educated thousands of Kent County students about the natural world around them. She started in 1949. The Grand River Times is the Google slide projector 1949 and you will surely see a newsletter of the Grand Rapids projector model that is a lot like hers. Historical Society, published six Growing up in the 1950s, I remember going downtown with my times annually. Established in 1894, godmother Margaret Delaney. I don’t remember heading down there with the the Grand Rapids Historical Society is dedicated to exploring the history whole family, all eleven of us. I am not sure when I first noticed those metal plates of West Michigan; to discover its or gratings on the sidewalks or when I first saw one open. After peering down, I romance and tragedy, its heroes saw that there were steps and an entrance to the building below street level where and scoundrels, its leaders and its product could be brought in without going through the sales floor. I no longer felt ordinary citizens. The Society collects and preserves our heritage, comfortable walking on them for fear I would tumble down. There were some who came to the talk in October hoping to learn about passing it on to new generations the man-made underground in the center of the city. We know that there were through books, lectures, and education projects. tunnels going under much of the sidewalk downtown, but, were there also tunnels going from one street to the next? Were there tunnels large enough to drive a team of horses and a wagon through? Is there proof? Are there photos, first-hand Executive Committee: accounts at the time? Why were they there? Are they mapped out? When streets Gina Bivins, president are torn up for improvements or a major rebuild what is discovered? What is the Matthew Daley, vice-president low-down on the down low? If you know the answer to any, or all of the above John Gelderloos, treasurer questions please email me at or write it up and give it to me Nan Schichtel, secretary at the presentation on November 10 at 7pm at the Grand Rapids Public Library. The November program is co-sponsored by the Greater Grand Rapids Women’s History Council. This organization does a great job of telling the history Board members: of women in our community that made an impact on the area or on the world. Alan Bennett Please visit their web site at for information on upcoming programs Charles Bocskey and how to get involved in their organization. Thomas Dilley Tim Gleisner Marilyn Hamill Chris Kaupa Gordon Olson, emeritus Wilhelm Seeger, emeritus Jeff Sytsma Jim Winslow Tony Wright Kurt Yost

Jessica Riley, editor Grand Rapids Historical Society c/o Grand Rapids Public Library 111 Library St. NE

Grand River Times

About the Grand Rapids Historical Society. The Grand Rapids Historical Society sponsors eight programs each year, beginning in September and running through May, including lectures, audio/video presentations, demonstrations, collections, or special tours. Membership. Membership is open to all interested persons with annual dues of $30 per family, $20 for seniors and students, or $400 for a lifetime membership. The membership year runs from May to the following May. Members of the Grand Rapids Historical Society receive eight newsletters each year and a subscription to our annual magazine, Grand River Valley History. Members also receive a 20% discount on books published by the society as well as books published by the Grand Rapids Historical Commission. Change of Address. If you will be permanently or temporarily moving to a new address, please notify GRHS before your change occurs. Let us know your new address and the date you plan to leave and plan to return. Email to, or mail to Grand Rapids Historical Society, c/o Grand Rapids Public Library, 111 Library Street NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49503 2

GRAND RAPIDS HISTORICAL SOCIETY Continued from front page Having committed their entire societies to the Second World War effort, warring nations lost fifty to eighty million people while tens of millions more were wounded or taken ill. Such losses led both Allied and Axis nations to employ more women than ever before as workers, nurses, clericals, and auxiliaries. Some countries also used women in combat roles. Early on, geographical location allowed the U.S. to resist the idea of women in the military, so American women were invited into military roles relatively late. The argument of proponents of women’s service--that having women fill non-combat jobs allowed more men into combat units-prevailed in early 1942, near the peak of Axis success when the cost to the Allies was very high. Initially, the armed services were unwelcoming, but women were first accepted by the Army, later the Navy and Coast Guard, and finally the Marine Corps. Using their portrayals in the media, how women were recruited and trained, and even the nicknames they were given, Miner will illustrate women’s struggles for acceptance. Though their integration continues to the present, the Second World War can be viewed historically as when women were finally accepted into the armed services of the United States. This presentation will highlight the record of struggle in Grand Rapids and examine how, though being the most resistant of all the forces, the Marine Corps ultimately became the most progressive branch of the armed services in its acceptance of women. Please join us on November 10 when Will Miner will use local press reports, oral histories, and historical photographs to illustrate the experiences of area women as they challenged popular opinion and military tradition for the opportunity to defend their country.

Will Miner served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1992 to 1996 and is currently a library assistant in the archives of the Grand Rapids Public Library. A 2003 graduate of GVSU, he earned a Masters in Library and Information Science from Wayne State in 2013.

Grand River Times

New Members Lynda Lutz Rebecca Masck Wayne Zandbergen



West Michigan Jewish Soldiers: The Civil War and Beyond By Peg Finkelstein and Megan Yost This project got started by the research we were doing in the Peg & Mort Finkelstein Archives at Temple Emanuel for an article which I was writing for the Michigan Jewish Historical Society’s Journal. Megan Yost, our research associate, has worked on the cemetery records here for over eight years and was familiar with the subject. We had always known of three men David M. Amberg, Sidney A. Hart and Dr. Daniel Laubenstein, from Temple Emanuel who had been involved in the Civil War, but didn’t really know the complete history behind their stories. After a short period of time, Megan called to say she had found three more congregants in our cemetery who were never listed as being veterans. Abraham Levy, Sigo Tyroler and Charles D. Rose. She had also found the actual muster records from the civil war on several of these men. Continued research into each of these six people turned in to about five months of research. During that time period I had to rebuild their entire lives to be able to know all of the facts about them. Some of these individuals we did have a considerable amount of research on in our congregant's files, as two of them were founding members here at Temple Emanuel. One was especially difficult as no other information was available, except a short paragraph in the local history books and in our files. After finding these additional three veterans, Megan began to do a complete research history on each congregant in not only our own Oakhill Cemetery, but also those of Ahavas Israel’s, Greenwood and Ahavas Achim cemeteries. She also followed up with the B’nai Israel in Muskegon, Mona View Cemetery as well as she had previously worked up a database for them from their cemetery map. With this vast amount of material being entered into our archives, we felt the need to share it with those congregations involved and the community as a whole. We do understand that a lot more research needs to go into validating those veterans that have been documented thus far. The final information will be shared with our Jewish Historical Society of Michigan and our own local community.

Material for the displays throughout Temple Emanuel are being taken from the Peg & Mort Finkelstein Archives and research data collected and printed for this project. Material from Ahavas Israel’s Gen and Jack Finkelstein Archives has also provided us with articles used in our displays. Grand River Times

West Michigan Jewish Soldiers: The Civil War & Beyond Events Jewish Veterans from the Civil War & Beyond is being featured in several presentations during Veterans Week November 6—November 11, 2016

November 6, 2016 10:30 a.m. —12:30 p.m. Open House to view displays or join in the roundtable discussions on the effects of war to all soldiers’ lives.

November 9, 2016 Open House/Wine and Cheese reception at 5:30 p.m. and view displays. Film at 7:00 p.m. Film is “Jewish Soldiers in Blue and Gray” from the Jewish Film Library at Brandies University.

Temple Emanuel 1715 Fulton Street, E. Grand Rapids, MI 49503 There is no charge for the film, but registration is required by calling, Temple Emanuel at (616) 459-5976 The film is being underwritten by Temple Emanuel, Ahavas Israel, and the Jewish Federation of Grand Rapids.

November 11, 2016 5:30 p.m.—6:10 p.m. Wine & Cheese Reception, followed by a special combined religious service at 6:15 p.m. with Oneg Shabbat to follow services. 4


2017 Grand Rapids Historical Society Programs All programs (excluding May program) are being held at the Grand Rapids Public Library in the auditorium at 7:00 p.m.


Presented by: Carl Bajema and Tom Maas

Step back in time with street cars in Grand Rapids. Horse cars, cable cars, steam dummy trains, electric street cars and interurbans all carried passengers within and to-and-from Grand Rapids between 1865 and 1935.


Presented by: Jeff Sytsma

Who were the Blodgetts, and what did they do? And what’s the story behind that palatial estate people refer to as the Blodgett Estate? Find the answers to these questions as we look at John W. Blodgett and the palatial home he and his wife built, which still stands as a testament to an era from the last days of Downton Abbey, Gatsby, and the Roaring 20’s.


Presented by: Louis Moore

Although Grand Rapids doesn’t have a ring reputation that rivals larger boxing cities, the “Furniture City” has produced some of boxing’s best and most colorful fighters, including Stanley “The Michigan Assassin” Ketchel and Floyd “Money” Mayweather. While paying special attention to local fighters, and examining social issues like race, ethnicity, and class, this presentation will discuss the history of boxing in Grand Rapids.


Presented by: Robert Girardi

In Louisville Kentucky, September 1862, in the midst of a political and military emergency two Union generals came into conflict. Brigadier General Jefferson C. Davis quarreled with his superior, Major General William Nelson, and shot him to death in front of numerous witnesses. Civil War historian and author Robert I. Girardi will discuss the murder and its aftermath from his perspective as a veteran Chicago Police Department homicide detective.


Presented by: Mark Thomson

Come hear the story of the founding and history of St. John’s Home and the remarkable women who came to save hundreds of orphaned children and, in the process, changed an entire community.

Save the Date: History Detectives Saturday, January 28, 2017 What’s happening? If you’ve ever read or heard any local history story, chances are you’ve been left wondering more about something — maybe a detail you think would be great to have fleshed out and related. The Grand Rapids Public Library’s annual winter program, History Detectives, is the place to come to learn about those details!

Where and when? Our History Detectives program will take place at the Main Library’s Ryerson Auditorium on Saturday, January 28, 2017. This all-day event runs from 9:30 a.m. – 4:00 pm, is free to the public, and requires no tickets nor reservations. Space is limited, and our past programs have been so popular, that an overflow area with a simulcast experience will be provided on site. Attendees can stay all day, or may pick and choose which sessions they’d like to join. Each session lasts 45 minutes, and a lunch break will take place from 12:15 p.m. — 1:00 p.m. Grand River Times



HAPPENING IN HISTORY: NOVEMBER 2016 Reading the Great Lakes Thursday, November 3, 2016, 7:00 p.m. Main Library—111 Library St. NE Come explore the Lakes with the Grand Rapids Public Library! They are reading a range of titles including mystery, history, fiction, and nonfiction all taking place in the Great Lakes region—from Chicago to Cleveland. This book club will be lead by librarians and will take place the first Thursday of every month. Additional copies of the book are available to be checked out on Level 4 of the Main Library. For a complete list of books, visit November’s selection is The Hard Way on Purpose: Essays and Dispatches from the Rust Belt by David Giffels. Western Michigan Genealogical Society Saturday, November 5, 2016, 1:30 p.m. Main Library- Ryerson Auditorium 111 Library St. NE Topic: Colonial Research in America Presenter: Karen Krugman This presentation on Colonial Records focuses on the records of the colonial period - what they are, where to find them, what to expect when searching for them. If you have ancestors living during this time this talk will address your concerns about research in that time frame. Karen Krugman has been researching since 1990, and professionally since 1998. Since 2002 she has spoken to genealogy groups in the metro Detroit area as well as other areas of Michigan and Ohio. She has written five books based on her family history research and was co-author of The Ford Family Cemetery book, which includes photos and other information on the cemetery where auto pioneer Henry Ford is buried. Grand River Times

WMGS Writers Group Tuesday, November 15, 1:30 p.m. Domincan Center 2025 Fulton Street East The Writers Group holds supportive meetings for everyone who wants to learn more about organizing and writing family history. They take time to informally discuss questions relevant to each person’s work, provide helpful, non-judgmental feedback on current or on-going writing projects, discover new research techniques, and have fun making new friends. Genealogy is more than “names and dates.” An ancestor’s story or a personal memory are even more fascinating and enlightening. Those who attend are encouraged to bring several copies of a Work-In- Progress (WIP), but it’s not a requirement and everyone is invited to participate in the discussion. Members include those who are just starting to write and others who have been working on their genealogy for some time. Everyone is welcome newbies with fresh ideas, and seasoned vets whose pens have been in the trenches for some time. If you plan to attend, please let Sister Michael Ellen Carling know you will be there. Call her at 616-514 -3231 (home), or 616-514-3340 (office) and her email address is

Grand Rapids Civil War Round Table Wednesday, November 16, 7:30 p.m. De Witt Student Center Kuyper College 3333 East Beltline NE

Al Broene will be presenting on The Battle of Harris Farm.


GRAND RAPIDS HISTORICAL SOCIETY JOIN THE GRAND RAPIDS HISTORICAL SOCIETY OR GIVE A MEMBERSHIP AS A GIFT The Grand Rapids Historical Society sponsors eight lectures each year. Members of the society enjoy these benefits: 

The Grand River Times is the newsletter of the Grand Rapids Historical Society. Published and mailed to members eight times a year, it includes current items of historical interest, details of upcoming lectures, historically relevant activities, and short articles.

The Grand River Valley History is the society’s annual magazine. Featured are illustrated articles by local history researchers and contributions from the Grand Rapids Public Museum, the City Archivist, the Grand Rapids Public Library, and the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum.

20% Discount on all books and other items published by the society.

Please enroll me as a member of the Grand Rapids Historical Society: ____ New ___Renewal ____Gift _____Lifetime:

$400.00 one-time fee

_____Individual/Family Membership

$30.00 per year

_____Senior Citizen or Student

$20.00 per year

Name: Address: City/State/Zip: Please make check payable to the Grand Rapids Historical Society and mail it with this form to: Grand Rapids Historical Society, c/o Grand Rapids Public Library, 111 Library Street NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49503

GRAND RAPIDS PUBLIC LIBRARY PHOTO SLEUTH Our November Photo Sleuth selection comes from the Robinson Studio Collection's negatives. In this undated photo, four men stand with a topographical model of Camp Lion, a Boy Scout camp north of Comstock Park. If you know who any of these men are, please email the Grand Rapids Public Library's Local History department at

Grand River Times


Non-Profit Org. U.S. postage PAID Grand Rapids, MI Permit No. 234

Grand Rapids Historical Society, Inc. c/o Grand Rapids Public Library 111 Library St. NE Grand Rapids, MI 49503

GRAND RAPIDS HISTORICAL SOCIETY WACs, WASPs, SPARs, and Marines: Nicknames, Recruiting, and the Wartime Experience of Servicewomen from Grand Rapids PRESENTED BY:

INSIDE THIS ISSUE Cover Story: November program Letter from our President page 2

Will Miner, Grand Rapids Public Library History and Special Collections

Thursday, November 10, 2016, 7:00pm Ryerson Auditorium, Grand Rapids Public Library

West Michigan Jewish Soldiers: The Civil War and Beyond page 4 2017 Program Schedule page 5 Happening in History page 6 Photo Sleuth page 7

For more information on Historical Society programs, please visit Grand River Times


2016 11 GRHS Grand River Times 38-03  

WACs, WASPs, SPARs, and Marines: Nicknames, Recruiting, and the Wartime Experience of Servicewomen from Grand Rapids, presented by Will Mine...

2016 11 GRHS Grand River Times 38-03  

WACs, WASPs, SPARs, and Marines: Nicknames, Recruiting, and the Wartime Experience of Servicewomen from Grand Rapids, presented by Will Mine...