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September 17, 1956 - Image 54

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Publication:
Michigan Daily, 1956-09-17
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Page Eight

THE MICHIGAN DAILY

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September 17, 1956

THE MICHIGAN DAILY

September 17, 1956 THE MICHIGAN DAILY

NOTEBOOK

ON

A

TOWN

Ann Arbor is the autumn city of the autumn west
with unique temperament' writes Mr. Yates, who
carrying on 'a love af fair with her for 18 years.'

PLAYER TOM HARMON, A GRIDIRON HERO
... odd and disconnected, but a.genuine note of familiarity

By DONALD A. YATES
IF I were a poet I think one day
I would allow myself the ex-
travagance of writing that Ann
Arbor is the autumn city of the
autumn west. This wouldn't make
a great deal of sense, of course,
but such is the poet's right, pro-
viding he communicates.
And that expression should not
fail to communicate a certain de-
gree of meaning to all who know
Ann Arbor well. She is a very
unique town, with unique charms
and unique temperament. I say
"she" because I have come to dis-
cover that these characteristics lie
deep in the soul of a graceful and
feminine town. I should know if
anyone knows because I've car-
ried on a love affair with her for
eighteen years.
For a small boy Ann Arbor was
the oversized hills and the elating
Saturday movie matinee of child-
hood. She was the sort of town
that because of her river and her
parks and her trees and her people
was kind to children without seem-
ing to try.
But she was - and is - many
other things; and has many oth-
er moods, too - as is fitting and
proper to a woman. One thing
about Ann Arbor - she is the
most dedicated football enthusiast
I know. I can remember the heady
exhilaration of the football season
in Ann Arbor even back into my
grade school years. I know my
memory does not deceive me here,
for it is still just the same today.
This above all else - with her
heart having been wooed and won
by the college boy - Ann Arbor
is a football town. The e'ffect is as
if her vital breath were suspend-
ed from the end of one season to
the beginning of the next. Those
who know Ann Arbor will best
know what I mean..-.
ON SIX or seven Saturdays each
year the Main Street and State
Street merchants put out the big
maize and blue banners in front
of their shops, introducing early
in the day the exciting, festive
spirit of a local holiday.
And on these days the thousands
of fans from out of town pour
into Ann Arbor for the game, fill-
ing the cash drawers of the mer-
chants. The fans park their cars
as directed by soliciting eight- and
ten-year olds who stand at the
curbs and cry the crystallized
"Park here! Park here!" And they
fall into the long lines of game go-
ers which move down State Street
and Main Street, plied by the pe-
rennial vendors hawking pennants,
pins, chrysanthemums, balloons,
toy monkeys, dolls, and gen-yoo-
ine miniature orchids.
I remember that the beginning
of my own contact with Michi-
gan football took place in the
fall of 1936 when I was pretty far
down in the ranks at grade school.
Jimmy Duart and I hit on the
idea of spending our Saturdays at
the big University football games.
Since we lacked the ready cash
to pay for tickets we were ini-
tially stumped. But the stadium
fence hasn't been built which can
withstand the full charge of a
boy's imagination. So thereafter,
without paying a cent, we got in.
We climbed the fences - we
surmounted the barbed wire, tore
our pants, but we got in. We dug
holes under tie fence in the chill
early morning dawn of the day of
the game - these openings were
good only for one admittance,
though, since they always closed
them up on us before the next
weekend.
We'd climb atop a ticket box
and lie there for an hour before
the game, until the crowd inside
had reached its peak - then we'd
leap off the back side of the build-
ing (all of a ten foot drop that
still looks frightening to me to-
day) and race into the mob.
Or we'd stan( outside one of
the busiest gates and look terribly

mournful and despairing. Sooner
or later a sympathetic fan would
come by and ask, "Do you want
an extra ticket?" Those were mag
ic words!
AFTER a little experience with
this type of adventure, Jimmy
and I devised a few more subtle
methods of gaining entry.
Between us we'd discover some
distant relative or family acquaint-
ance who worked Saturday after-
noon as a ticket-taker at the
games. Around kickoff time we'd
edge up to him in the hurrying
crowd and whisper confidentially
the name of the significant per-
sonal link. We were then slipped
through unnoticed into the game,
But the neatest trick in our
repertoire was the one, of course,
which was the most daring. It was
simple: we walked up to the gate,
turned around quickly and walk-
ed in backwards; as we came
abreast of the pair of grasping
ticket-takers we restrained them
for that single critical moment
with: "I'm coming out!"; then, a
step beyong their reach, we wheel-
ed about and dashed off into the
protective crowd. However, this
was a strategy never to be em-
ployed at the same gate twice!
IMPRESSIONS of those early
games are not very distinct in
my memory, and only a few per-
sistent images have stuck in my
mind as recollections of the Mich-
igan home football games of the
late thirties and early forties.
The fabulous figure of that per.
iod in Michigan football history
was the three-time All American
Tom Harmon. I remember one
fall day when, as sixth grade con-
tributors to the Mack School Star,
a fellow classmate and I rode from
school up to the campus in a.
a taxi to interview the great grid-
iron hero.
Armed with pencil, notepad, and
appointment, we assailed his door
on Cambridge St. (the hallowed
shrine still stands!). We were
there greeted by a charming young
lady who seemed to be his sec-
retary.
The All-American himself was
garbed in robe and slippers in the
act of opening the day's batch of
fan mail. The interview which
followed was business--like in na-
ture and yet, somehow, it achieved
what I felt was a genuine note of
familiarity. It seemed only short
minutes later that we found our-
selves outside, on our way home,
with that tremendous adventure
behind us!
OF the Harmon of the playing
field, it is strange, I have only
one impression, just an odd, dis-
connected fragment. I was sitting
in the north end zone of the stad-
ium on a cold, darkening .day -.
the opposition had just scored -
and Michigan formed to receive
the kickoff.
I watched a lone, brave figure
back slowly toward the end zone,
his sleeves rolled up to his el-
bows, the large maize numerals on
the back of his jersey standing out
valiantly against the gathering
darkness - 98. I remember noth-
ing more . . .
Harmon is enough exposure to
convert anyone into what I have
become-a Michigan fan who will
not quit.
IN the summer, Ann Arbor tra-
ditionally goes into the hands of
the townspeople who are usually
absent then or too busy to make
much special use of it. Conse-
quently, they leave it virtually un-
touched and in excellent shape for
the following September.
For the balance of the year Ann
Arbor is possessed by the Uni-
versity. Early in September the
first students start to slip back
into town to arrange their lives
for the coming school year, and
they take over with immediate au-
thority.

With the opening of the fall
semester, two distinct ways of life
begin to operate within Ann Ar-
bor. The townfolk generally show
a mild lack of interest toward and
a mild tolerance for the students,
while the latter manage to accus-
tom themselves to a town whose
water softening plant they'll nev-
er see, whose industries they'll
never hear of, whose farmers'
market they'll probably never vis-
it.
There are not actually many ar-
eas besides football where the Un-
iversity and the town elements
come into contact. There is one
spot, though, where a boy growing
up in Ann Arbor may come into
contact with what is strongly iden-
tified as Michigan tradition.
This is the Arboretum.
TICHOL'S .Arboretum i s a
changeless tract of University
property which has undergone no
significant improvement or mod-
ernization in a century. It lies
about a mile to the south and east
of the site of North Campus, on
this side of the Huron River, and
it is covered with hundreds of
carefully tagged plants, trees and
shrubs. It is formally dedicated to
the pursuit of botanical studies at
Michigan,
informally, though, and more
commonly, the "Arb" is known as
the traditional "lovers' lane," the
ideal spot for the picnic or a
moonlight stroll.
This approximately mile-square
area of rolling hills, pine forests
and mossy glades has subtly ac-
quired a bit of the connotation of
the parked-car-on-the-side-road
in the sniggering usage of the
male students and coeds alike at
Ann Arbor.
ONCE upon a time the Arb'oretum
had an entirely different set of
meanings for me. That was many
wyears ago when, as a boy of
twelve, and in the company of
twenty-eight other young gentle-
men, I attended a summer day
camp.
We had our camp headquarters
located on the Edison property ad-
jacent to the Arboretum. From
there we made daily invasions in-
to the University territory which
we considered as our rightful
realm; and throughout eight weeks
of the hot, rainless summer we ex-
plored every known trail of the
hilly tract and struck out on many
new ones. The place as I recall
really has some wonderful hide-
out spots!
Several years later, during my
high school years, oftentimes on
summer nights I used to walk
alone out to the Arboretum to
philosophize and, when in love, to
compose inspired verse.
remember quite vividly the
very spot - at the crest of a
wooded ridge - where, as the sun
hung low one early summer ev-
ening, I sat and penned these
deathless lines of a tragic, impas-
sioned love poem:
The tortuous day is ending,
A dusky shroud appears;
Day's shadows moan and fade
away;
-Cool, silent night is here.
Pastoral scene before me,
Pierced by solar darts,
Dissolved itself to darkness
As the Golden Disc departs.
The valiant oak above me-
Gay rainbow stilled with grief--
Its garb belies its sadness,
It sighs and sheds a leaf.
This beauty beckons memories.
Then memories forlorn!
My heart beats low for it does;
know
The tragic memories borne. ,
The Arboretum always seemed1
to me to have an ear attuned toI
such melancholy plaints .. .

MANY summers later, when I
had come along to school at
Michigan, I took a summer-term
job with the University's Building
and Grounds department and
there gained my last major insight
into the soul of Ann Arbor.
My main assignment with B & G
from the start was to the lawn
mowing crew. I was duly issued
my equipment and proudly rolled
out my mower that first day in
the company of the members of
our small mowing squad. With
sickle strapped to the mower han-
dle and grass clippers wedged into
my back pocket I was ready to set
out for whatever adventure the
day might hold.
The routine morning hike we
took with our mowers to reach our
first job of the day was one of
the nicest things about being on
the grass-cutting crew. We'd leave
the B & G shops at seven-thirty
and push along at an easy pace,
enjoying the sunshine and the
clean morning air.
This way we eased into the day's
work in a gracious manner, some-
times not arriving at a distant .as-
signment until eight o'clock.
Another refuge from the tedium
of grass-cutting was the fact that
no matter where we happened to
be pushing .our mower, we never
seemed to be very far away from
a drugstore or restarant. One
"break," I learned, that everyone
took was the customary mid-
morning trip for coffee. And
again, around two in the after-
noon, it was a Coke that we slip-
ped away for.
These refreshment periods, how-
ever, were not legally authorized
affairs, and taking time off from
work for them was a risky busi-
ness. We were obliged to keep a
sharp eye out for the bosses' blue
panel trucks with the yellow and
red University seal painted oi the
doors.
I had never particularly noticed
those trucks before I came to
work for B & G; but clearly, now
I had to develop a perception for
them. After no more than a few
days, I must admit, I was spotting
them like a veteran B & G crew-
man - alerted by their image in
the corner of my eye before they
got within a block!
OUR mowing routine was adapt-
ed to the master-scheme of
Nature which invariably caused
the grass to start growing all over
again as soon as we had it cut. So
we evolved a cycle, a rotating
schedule of areas which we visited
regularly at about two-week in-
tervals.
During the course of that sum-
mer I ran through this schedule
many times. Some of the places
I most distinctly remember visit-
ing with my mower, sickle, and
clippers were - the University
Terrace Apartments, the VA Hos-
pital (with a maze of grass to
cut), half a dozen nurses quarters
and dormitories on University
owned land; the Rackham Build-
ing, the East and West Quads
(with almost no grass), the girls'
dormitories (the only ones then
were Stockwell, Mosher-Jordan,
and Newberry-Barbour); the Uni-
versity Food Service, the League
Mr. Yates is a previous con-
tributor to the Magazine Sec-
tion and will be remembered for
his articles on "Fitzgerald and
Football" and "Picnic." He is
a teaching fellow in the Spanish
department.
(with its charming little garden
at one side behind a tall brick wall
where an apricot tree grows bear-
ing small, delicious fruit - and at
the back a rare ghinka tree that
survived the last Ice Age), the Mu-
seum and the Zoo at the back
door; the Observatory where we
mowed the steep slopes of the
lawn by tying ropes to the han-
dIes of the mowers and lowering
See NOTEBOOK, Page 13

B & G LAWN MOWING CREW
, an easy pace, with sunshine and clean m

NICHOL'S ARBORETUM, IDEAL FOR A PICNIC
... formally dedicated to the pursuit of botanical studies

"HER" HURON RIVER AND "HER" I
... she managed to be kind to children without

UNIVERSITY BLUE PANEL TRUCK
... a crime of unawareness and a loss of talent

"CHARMING LITTLE GARDEN" AT THE
..,apricots and a ghinka tree from the last

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