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Arts & More: The String Doctors swing at New Year's Fest. And, Michigan women's history kept alive at WMU archives.

By: Lorraine Caron & Nancy Camden
Kalamazoo, MI
December 29, 2011

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The String Doctors at Kalamazoo New Year’s Fest

It takes about 500 volunteers each year to put on Kalamazoo’s New Years Fest. It starts with a band of tuba players on the evening of December 31 at 5:30 in Bronson Park and ends at midnight with a ball drop and fireworks. Dance, comedy, radio theatre, juggling and magic are all a part of the event. And, there’s music…from a Russian Choir to opera singer Susan B. Anthony, a KISS tribute and a band of four acoustic music veterans who call themselves The String Doctors.

Guitarist and mandolin player Joel Mabus is one-quarter of The String Doctors. He says the other players are Peter Knupfer on fiddle, Ray Kamalay on lead guitar, and Dave Rozen is the usual bass player. (But, for the New Year’s Eve performance Frank Youngman will fill in on bass.) The band got started about 2 or 3 years ago, and each member is in several other bands, so The String Doctors don’t get to play together all that often.

If you haven’t heard The String Doctors yet, blame the economy, which has prevented them from producing a CD. But, Mabus says, they recorded an hour-long television performance for WKAR that has been seen on PBS stations around the state.

The String Doctors play tomorrow night at 6:45, 8:45 and 10:45, in downtown Kalamazoo’s First Congregational Church as part of New Year’s Fest. More information is at New Years Fest dot com.

Michigan Women’s History is kept alive at WMU                                                              

[Nancy Camden] Sharon Carlson is Director of The Archives and Regional History Collections at Western Michigan University.

[Sharon Carlson] This diary is about the size of a deck of cards. It was written in pencil.

[Camden] This is s a glimpse into one part of the archives—diaries and letter that reveal the lives of nineteenth and early twentieth-century Michigan women.

[Carlson] Sallie Haner Johnson as she becomes in 1868, this is her diary.

[Camden]  Inside East Hall, the Universities oldest building on campus are carefully-handled written documents available for carefully-monitored research.

[Carlson]  Sallie is a woman in her twenties when she starts writing these diaries from 1862 to 1869. These are diary entries in the days leading up to Sallie’s marriage. She references Sid. He’s getting a suit for the wedding.

[From the Haner diary –voice of Rebecca Reinker] Monday, 24 February, 1868. Ma did not wash today. Sid had to go to Constantine to attend his suit.

[Carlson] And, then the date of her marriage.

[Reading from the Haner diary] Wednesday, 26 February, 1868: Am going to Kalamazoo this afternoon.. It commenced snowing after we started quite hard. We arrived at the Burdick House. Dark. 

[Carlson] Obviously, Sid her husband was very vested in this and took her to what would be considered the nicest hotel in Kalamazoo, the Burdick House.

[Reading from the Haner diary]  Nine o’clock we were married. I never dreaded anything so in my life. Married by a preacher.

[Carlson] The person who was her love interest, she ends up marrying up his brother.

[Camden] From the old diaries that you read, do you think this is like journaling?

[Carlson]  We have some diarists, they are definitely using their diaries as a way of working out issues in their life and I would put the Haner diaries in that category. I would also put another set of diaries, the Mary Barney diaries in that category. We have diaries— I will reference Nancy Delia Delano. She is a resident of Cooper Township. I’ve never been able to determine that she marries. She’s a seamstress. She lives first with her father and then, she lives with her brother. Most of her diaries are simply an account of the work that she is doing. And, sometimes it is her work as a seamstress. And, sometimes it’s other chores that she is attending to on the farm. In her case the backs of the books are sometimes doubling as account books.

[Camden] Material from the archives document the lives of women from varying economic classes—some rural and some from cities and towns in southwestern Michigan. In addition to diaries, the archives include woman’s club minutes and organization records and diaries.

[Carlson]  In the Caroline Bartlett Crane collection, we have a number of letters—she wrote prolifically and others wrote to her. And, she was very much an advocate of Suffrage or getting the vote for women. We have a couple of letters that are written by hand to Caroline Bartlett Crane from Susan B. Anthony. Including a letter that—I will call it the most back-handed compliment that anybody could be given upon their marriage. I think it’s around 1896 and Caroline as a professional woman, as a thirty-eight-year-old woman has had the audacity to go and get married. And, Susan B. Anthony scolds her throughout this letter saying, well, I realized that you are of an agitated mind. A woman who has too many irons in the fire, the house will suffer or the profession will suffer. And then, in the final analysis, you know, she says, well maybe you will find more in him and he will find more in you. And, you know, congratulations.       

[Camden] When you read first-person documents, it’s different from reading about them in a book. Do you feel a connection to the person whose letters and diaries you are reading?

[Carlson] Sometimes, you feel as if you’re experiencing the highs and lows of a person’s life. I can imagine, you know, Sallie carrying this diary. And, it tells us about a very different way of life; but, it also tells us a lot about commonalities, connections that we have with people that lived a hundred, a hundred-and-fifty-years ago.

[Reading from the Haner diary] Thursday, 27 February, 1868. Arose this morning and found it still snowing. The sun tries to shine a little by spells. We eat breakfast about eight o’clock. Snowed hard all the way home. Sid went and took the horses and cutter back to town.

[Camden] For WMUK, I’m Nancy Camden