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SAUGATUCK-DOUGLAS HISTORICAL SOCIETY | BOX 617 | DOUGLAS, MI 49406 | 269-857-5751 | www.sdhistoricalsociety.org


AUGUST  2010

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Mark your calendar

Thursday, September 16, 7PM at the SCA
"A Passion for Painting: Rediscovering 100 Years of Art in Saugatuck- Douglas" presented by Ken Kutzel and Jim Schmiechen.

Wednesday, October13, 7PM at the OSH Annual Heritage Preservation Awards.


Featuring a 100th anniversary guided tour of the Ox-Bow School of Art.

Please join us for an unforgettable day at Ox-Bow, a century after Frederick Fursman and Walter Marshall Clute, artists from the Art Institute of Chicago, gazed across the Kalamazoo River and envisioned a natural artist’s respite from the noise and havoc of a newly industrialized America.

With field guide in hand, we invite you to feel the muse of the woods that inspired so many; to see secluded artists’ cabins; to tour the campus studios; to observe artists at work; to fully experience the spirit of a place called Ox-Bow. Tour tickets ($20 in advance/$25 day of the event) will include bus transpiration and access to buildings normally closed to the public.

Additional Heritage Festival events will include:
guided hikes through Tallmadge Woods to the scenic Crow's Nest overlook
a chance to win a dinner for eight at the historic Park House Inn
the Saugatuck-Douglas Art Club’s annual Clothesline Art Show
and more ---

How do you think the Society should celebrate Ox-Bow's 100th birthday? Send your ideas to Sally at swinthers@verizon.net or call (269) 857-4181

Join the party! Sponsor a Heritage Festival 2010 event! Connect with a diverse crowd of art, history, and nature lovers. Contact Sally at swinthers@verizon.net or call (269) 857-4181for the details.

As always, the Heritage Festival needs volunteers from now until September 18. To lend your talents to this festival, contact Sally at swinthers@verizon.net or call (269) 857-4181


FA biographical sketch of dance master and Saugatuck resident R.G. Huntinghouse was presented in the June SDHS Newsletter. Here, his granddaughter Marion, shares a few Saugatuck Memories. Her full story can be found on the SDHS web pages by clicking HERE

R.G. and Marion, About 1924, Note His Dancing Shoes

I don't know if any of you had grandfathers that were inventors or appeared in Ripley's Believe It or Not column - but these are a few stories about my grandfather R. G. Huntinghouse. He was born in 1861 in Milwaukee at the time of the Civil War and was named Rudolph, but he liked to be called R. G. because it had a nice ring to it. No one ever questioned what his second name was until one time in filling out an application, the full second name was required. He said he drew a complete blank and the only name beginning with a G that he could think of was his sister's, so he became Rudolph Gertrude.

R. G. had a summer retreat - a 10 acre farm just outside of Saugatuck, Michigan. I spent my summers there until I finished high school. At that time Chicago had three Sunday papers and R. G. saved the comic sections from these all winter, taking them to the farm when he went up there for the summer. He would stack them on a couple chairs in the summer kitchen so that my sister and I had reading on rainy days. I don't think I fully appreciated the effort that he made to do this for us. His knack for doing things in a big way carried over to the garden. He liked raspberries, so planted a large area of them. I was the chief picker - my sister was too small. It was hot; there were bees and stickers; the berries if over ripe squished; and I hated it. And the worst part was that the nicest berries were always given away and we ate the ones that were mushy. He was always climbing ladders to paint and repair things. Every few years he would paint the trim on the farm house and loved to try new color combinations - one time it was pink and baby blue; another apple green and pink; once Chinese red and black, and then there was the time he decided to mix up all of his left over paints and we were pea green. And he used to let me help paint - a mess didn't disturb him one bit.

It was in Saugatuck that he started to work on his non-sink swim suit.* I was under the impression that he had a patent on it, but when I researched this in Boston, I could find nothing. Patents are listed by category and I went through every possible listing - safety devices, outdoor equipment, beach, clothing, boating, and I couldn't find his name. But I was able to check back and learned that there had been a ship that went down in Lake Michigan near Saugatuck at about this time with the loss of 30 lives. R. G.'s idea was that if his swim suit had been worn by everyone on the boat as an under garment, they would have been saved. The suit had four 1 to 1-1/2" wide rubber tubes from the hips to the top of the suit (two in front and two in back) and these were connected by another rubber tube that circled the hips. There was a small valve on one of the front strips - when needed, you inflated the tubes by blowing into the valve and closing it. The tubes were covered with a flannel fabric so they wouldn't irritate the skin. You can imagine how I looked. I was his chief tester as he worked up his idea. I can remember going to a small lake near the house (by now I refused to go to the big beach at Lake Michigan) and with R. G.'s directions, inflate the tubes and jump in the water, floating like a big bubble. I don't think R. G. could find anyone interested enough to develop this further and as he used to say - the bathing suits started to get so skimpy that it was impossible to put enough rubber tubing in them to keep a person afloat.

Now about the Ripley column** -  it was in the mid 30's that he appeared in it as having danced more than 1,000,000 miles. R. G. owned a dancing school in Chicago that taught everything from ballet to ballroom dancing. He theorized that every waltz consisted of so many steps and he had waltzed a certain number of times every day for a certain number of years - thus the over 1,000,000 miles of dancing - and every mile with his arm around a girl he used to say.

R. G. is buried in the small old cemetery in Saugatuck. A year after he died, I was there to plant flowers on his grave and had our son who was about six with me. Steve was having a great time hiding behind tombstones and shrubs. I wasn't making much progress while trying to keep an eye on him. I finally got him to stay near and he asked if he could say a prayer and sing a song, but mainly I thought at least I'll know where he is and I might get finished. I was so busy trying to get done that I didn't pay too much attention to what Steve was singing and all of a sudden the song he was singing registered - it was "Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer". R. G. would have loved it.
submitted by Marion Britz, granddaughter of R. G. Huntinghouse

*In her diary entry of Aug 1, 1933, Elizabeth Pamperien, whose family summer cottage was two blocks south of the Huntinghouse home on Maple St., wrote "Went to see Huntinghouse and he gave all of us Huntinghouse Non-sinkable Swim Suits. It is so funny". Elizabeth has passed on now, but local girlfriend Vivian Powers Chambers, recalls "They had tubes of air in them to hold you up. We never took them to the beach, but tried them out in the Kalamazoo River between Saugatuck and Douglas, under the bridge. The suits were not very flattering with all the tubes in them so we did not want to wear them anywhere else. They did work though." Vivian and sister Betty had taken dance lessons from R. G. when they lived for a time in Chicago. One possible inspiration for R.G. may have been the 1932 Joe E. Brown movie, "You Said A Mouthful" in which the "broke inventor of a non-sinkable bathing suit is mistaken for a champion swimmer by an attractive woman".

**In the Ripley's cartoon of Dec 5, 1933, they wrote: "DANCED OVER 1,200,000 MILES - Mr. R. G. Huntinghouse of 4616 North Clark St., Chicago, estimates that during the 54 years he has conducted his dancing academy he has danced a total of over 1,200,000 miles. During his daily grind of 14 hours, he has averaged 66 miles on week days and 15 miles on Sundays - a total of almost 32,000 miles a year."

Have you seen the Art Poles at the 2010 Historical Society Museum Exhibit?
Click HERE for details.


Peg Sanford calls things to order as John Pahl waits his turn.

A large crowd braved uncertain weather early afternoon Saturday, August 14th, to honor Saugatuck historian, May Francis Heath (1873-1961), with the dedication of a memorial plaque in the public square. Peg Sanford orchestrated the program which included an official welcome by Saugatuck Mayor Barry Johnson, who remarked that the house he lives in was built by May's grandfather, S. A. Morrison. SDHS president Harold Thieda, called May a "Renaissance Woman," who, at a time when "the woman's place was in the home," played a leading role in the community. Woman's Club President Karen Drongowski introduced Allyson Lane, the first recipient of the $1,000 May Heath Memorial Scholarship for service and academic achievement. Marsha Kontio outlined May's many contributions. She founded the Saugatuck High School Alumni Association, the Woman's Club and the Art Club; headed up the 1930 Centennial; wrote the first definitive history - Early Memories of Saugatuck, and led or joined in many other church and civic efforts.

John Pahl remembers

A highlight of the event was the comments by 90- year-old John Pahl, former president of the Allegan County Historical Society, who knew and admired Mrs. Heath. He told of approaching May in the late 1950s for assistance in saving the Civil War Monument at the County Courthouse from being moved to a place of lesser honor. He told her they might be in for a fight to stop the move. May's reply was emphatic as she slammed some papers she had in her hand to a table top, "I'm always ready to fight for history!" She helped muster public opinion and won over the county board.

Great Grandchildren Unveil Memorial

May's Great grandchildren, Bill Bleeker, Lisa Diaz Nash, and Jim Diaz thanked the audience for honoring May, shared some family memories, and unveiled the memorial plaque. A reception followed that included refreshments donated by DeMond's and some home baked goodies from Peg Sanford's kitchen.


SDHS member's favorite summer culinary creations, and a healthy portion of playful spirit, were on offer at the August 11 picnic at Mt. Baldhead Park.

Three nine-foot tables were brought in to hold the potluck feast. Even so, late arriving entrees had more trouble finding suitable parking spots than the cars across the river in downtown Saugatuck. Wildflower bouquets in venerable blue mason jars adorned the covered tables and rock music from the "Music in the Park" wafted in on the warm breezes.

After the banquet was gobbled up, members were challenged to guess the original purpose of six artifacts. The objects included a bung hole reamer, a boat chinker, a manual laundry agitator, a quill sharpener, a house jack and a log hook. Most Saugatuckians a hundred years ago would have been able to identify these objects, but our very best picnickers could only identify two out of six.

Blame the heat, not the ability.


Mysteries, Memories & Old Tales
of Saugatuck & Douglas

Tuesday, August 24, Remembering Ox-Bow by Norm Deam sponsored by Button-Petter Gallery
Tuesday, August 31, In the Open Air by Maryjo Lemanski sponsored by Water Street Gallery
Wednesday, September 1, Saugatuck & Douglas Area Gay History: A Preview of the Video by Steve Croley & Bridget McCormack  sponsored by Saugatuck Brewing Company This a repeat and update of the Tuesday, August 10 Talk


The Society would like to once again thank the following companies and individuals for their sponsorship of this year's Tuesday Talks.

2010 Tuesday Talk Sponsors
Button-Petter Gallery (sponsor of two Tuesday Talks)
Clearbrook Golf Club & Restaurants
Harbor Duck Adventures
Jane & Al Osman, Osman's Flowers & Firs
Judy Oberholtzer
Saugatuck Brewing Company  (sponsor of two Tuesday Talks)
James Brandess Studios & Gallery
Water Street Gallery

SDHS 101

Final "101" session coming up! After holding two successful orientations this year, the society will present its final "SDHS 101" meeting on Saturday, September 11, at the Old School House, beginning at 10:00 a.m.

Old and new members are invited to attend and discover how valuable our Society and its history are to our community. If you plan to attend, email noteablenyla@yahoo.com or call 269-857-5704.


The Board continues to wrestle with overseeing the Society's

Society Projects

many projects and financial resources while preserving and nurturing the passion of its dedicated volunteers. A set of
Guidelines and a Project Proposal Form are available

on the Society’s website. These will be used for all new projects proposed within the Society.

If you are interested in starting a Society project, please use the Guidelines and Proposal Form and the Board will give it due consideration.


Photos by Marsha Kontio who is practicing her technique.

May Heath and the Village Square

Saugatuck's Cannon

A few days ago, a public memorial was unveiled to May Francis Heath in the Saugatuck public square. How fitting was this location! May was born on Butler Street two blocks south of the square at what was later to be the Elms Hotel, and for almost all of her life she lived within a three block radius of the square.

The ancient cannon which is a feature of the square was purchased and donated to the city by her grandfather Stephen A. Morrison, "the man who named Saugatuck". It had been fired to celebrate a variety of public events for many years before, but the title to it was divided among several people. In 1889 Morrison arranged to get a clear title and it was later refurbished and formally turned over to the city by him in 1895.

Heath family legend is that the water fountain, which the memorial now adorns, was given by May to the Village of Saugatuck, "so her husband Doc would have someplace to wet his whistle on the way home from work, without having to stop by the local saloon." This fountain originally was placed in a corner of the square, but when the memorial bench to Dr. R. J. Walker was dedicated in 1944, it was moved to become a centerpiece for the bench.             submitted by Chris Yoder

by Jack Sheridan
(Click on an image for the answer)

HISTORY: Shuffleboard was popular in 1939.
MYSTERY: What was across the street?

HISTORY: The annual car rally was big in the 1950s.
MYSTERY: Do you recognize this location?


HISTORY: An unsolved History Mystery photo [lower left] appeared in the July Newsletter.
MYSTERY: The mystery has been solved, thanks to the Upton family.


HISTORY: Ca 1935 The Green Parrot Cafe -
 pie per cut ten cents.
MYSTERY: Where was it located?

Click HERE for a larger image.


To become a member or renew your membership select from the following categories:

Individual $30
Household $50
Corporate $150
Historian $250
Life $500
Senior (65+) $20
Senior Household $35
Student $5

Send check payable to the Saugatuck-Douglas Historical Society to: PO Box 617, Douglas, Michigan 49406. You can also click HERE for a Society Membership Application.

Send items for the newsletter to: Fred Schmidt, PO Box 617, Douglas MI 49406 or email info@sdhistoricalsociety.org


The Saugatuck-Historical Museum is located in the historic Pump House at the foot of Mt. Baldhead on the west bank of the Kalamazoo River. The Museum's 2010 exhibit is titled:

"A Place Called Ox-Bow: 100 Years of Connecting Art, Nature, and People"

The Museum is open daily from noon to 4 pm through Labor Day and on weekends during September and October. Click HERE to learn more about the Museum and view images of the 2010 exhibit.

The Society's Technology Center is located in the lower level of the Old School House History Center at 130 Center Street in downtown Douglas.

Society Phone: 269 857-5751
Museum Phone: 269 857-7900
Tech Center Phone 269 857-7901

If you would like to contact us with comments, please email us at info@sdhistoricalsociety.org or call us at 269-857-5751.
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