I keep my blog as a personal record of what I'm up to, which might be seen as working towards "An elegant sufficiency, content, retirement, rural quiet, friendship, books, ease and alternate labour, useful life"

I'm certainly not there yet.  There is quite some way to go!










to Saginaw




I’d googled places along the way to Saginaw, including Paper Source, a favourite shop to visit when we are on this side of the Atlantic.




My Hero had googled “breakfast” and come up with Toast, described as an upscale diner in the same location; Birmingham.




So, fortified with one of their specialities, Key Lime French Toast (yum!) we headed over to Paper Source to take a look around.




Via Woolly & Co, a glorious knitting shop right opposite.  How could we walk right past without looking inside?




Colour.  Texture.  Pattern.  Put that together with a warm welcome from ‘Fiber Fairy’ Gigi and Mary and I were quite happy to stay for a while Winking smile




But we didn’t have all day to stay and play, so we took a short walk around this delightful small town, popping into Anthropologie (to take photos of their visual merchandising concepts) along the way.  I might add that both Woolly & Co and Anthropologie had comfortable sofas for those not interested in knitting or display concepts…




On then, driving through the leafy suburbs of Northern Detroit towards Saginaw, our destination for tonight.




Next place on our list was Meadow Brook Hall, where the garage door provided a place for a useful reminder.




Meadow Brook Hall had been the home of Matilda Dodge Wilson, widow of John Dodge, the car manufacturer, who’d died of the ‘flu when she was just 37.  Now one of the wealthiest women in the country, she met and later married Alfred Wilson, a lumber trader and together they built the hall in Tudor Revival style.




We really enjoyed our visit, which took us around all of the public rooms of the house including this lovely garden room.




The proportions of each room made the house feel very liveable and not at all the stately home we’d expected.




But our enthusiastic and knowledgeable guide delivered her commentary in the most peculiar style which became rather distracting.  Instead of simply telling us, “Here is the Games Table” , we heard “We’re going to be having the Games Table in here”.  Of course, the three of us think on similar lines and as soon as we caught each other’s eye…well!




Still, we enjoyed our visit to the hall and it proved to be a good stop along the way.




Because we had a little more shopping in mind a bit further along.




Having all made purchases of some kind, we were ready for the last stretch, past Flint and on towards the base of the thumb.




So, here we are in Saginaw-esome!


The Motor City




After breakfast in The Dime Store again, our eyes looked upwards to the Guardian building, the skyscraper with the star shaped top and the flag.  We knew it to be another must-see but didn’t really know much more.




As we got a little closer, we could see colourful Pewabic tiles on the lower floors.




The doorway was grand too, but nothing could prepare us for what was inside…




The stepped and very colourful Mayan-style design hinted at on the exterior continued throughout.




The barrel-vaulted ceiling was breathtaking.




Even the elevator lobbies were richly decorated, with stained glass windows too.




And to one side, up a short flight of steps, was the “retail arcade”.




Originally a banking hall, it was felt that customers would appreciate the ability to have a private conversation without their voices being heard throughout the building.  So a layer of horsehair was laid and then covered with painted canvas on the ceilings of each alcove. 




Needless to say, the retail arcade maintained some interesting shopping opportunities, particularly in the Pure Detroit shop, where these bags caught my eye.  Made from seat belt webbing, they were beautifully made but disproportionately heavy.  Clever though.




Anyway, we had plans for this morning, didn’t we?  And you know what happens to plans?

The answer is they get adjusted.

We pulled up at the Motown Museum (again), parked the car in the  car park of the funeral parlour next door before being gently reminded that it was reserved for funeral use only.  But it was one of those times when an English accent works wonders and the charming attendant waved us over to a spot near the fence and we were fine.  Until we arrived at the museum to find it fully booked up until this afternoon, that is.  Bleh.

I bought us tickets for the 3pm tour then and we returned to the car, where the parking attendant looked askance and we explained the situation. 

“I’ll reserve your spot for you till later, then” he said!




We headed for the Detroit Historical Museum, then.




Inside was an exhibit of old Detroit streets, in similar vein to those which used to be in the Castle Museum in York (and of similar vintage).




There was a fascinating display of a century of Detroit culture, which explained the roller coaster of fortunes experienced by the city over that time.




We enjoyed the room with the music story there to read and listen to.  Who knew that so many musicians came from the area?  Stevie Wonder and the Motown stars of course, but also Alice Cooper, Eminem and Iggy Pop amongst others.




We were keen to see the Motor City exhibit, needless to say.




This was concerned mostly with the manufacture of cars, bringing together parts from  a variety of sources and in particular, on the development of the assembly line.




The big deal, for which there was a countdown, was the body drop where the body is dropped precisely onto the chassis below.




Having waited a while for the big moment, it was a bit of an anti-climax, the more so as it almost immediately began to lift again, ready for the next show!




We scooted around the rest of the museum, including an interesting, if a little uncomfortable exhibition about the Underground Railroad, which we hadn’t realised, went as far as “Canaan” or Canada, just across the river from here.  But we’d done with the history and were ready for the art, in the DIA across the road on the opposite side of Woodward Avenue.




As soon as we went through the door, we were confronted by Art in the form of Thalassa by Caledonia Curry.




Inside, of course, was art of the  more conventional sort, including works by Mary Cassatt




and this fine painting by Henri Gervex, which we admired for some time, took a photograph and identified the artist too.  Yet neither my hero nor I spotted the unfinished panel down the side.




Mary did, though.  So what’s going on there, then?  (I have no idea)




The principal sight in the Institute of Art is the set of murals by Diego Rivera though and we were keen to take a close look.




Filled with detail, it was only when we returned to the hall to take a second look that we noticed a few things and asked a docent for some additional details.




So it was she who pointed out the artist’s self portrait in there: See the chap wearig the bowler hat at the back of the group of workers?




She also pointed out Edsel Ford in the lower corner, discussing plans with William Valentiner, the Institute director of the time.




Later, we picked up one of the tablets and explored the pre-loaded apps, one of which gave a great commentary on this section, noting Rivera’s disdain for the middle class visitors who’d come to watch the workers earn their living.  He’d also found amusement in including Dick Tracy in the crowd (wearing a grey hat and coat) and two comic book characters leaning over the wall,  

We could have spent hours just looking, learning and listening to the stories but it was time to go.  We had tickets and it was going to be third time lucky. 




Wasn’t it?




We were back.  We parked the car again – the funeral service parking attendant kept his word and there was “our” space (not really, for it was surely pure coincidence that there wasn’t a car in that spot!) and off we went to have fun in the Motown Hitsville HQ.

Sadly, no photos allowed, but believe me that all of those amazing singles by Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson, the Supremes, Martha and the Vandellas, Four Tops, Temptations….the list goes on….were created here in those two very ordinary houses.  Such simple, low-tech and totally uncomplicated recording processes completed in just one room – Studio A.  The same studio A where we stood this afternoon, singing “I got sunshine….on a cloudy day…..”  Really, there wasn’t that much to see, but that really was the story

Finally.  We made it to Motown!


The Henry Ford again




But first things first.  Breakfast at Dime Store where I’d say they hit the spot perfectly!




From there, it was a relatively short drive through the Detroit suburbs to Dearborn, where we planned to take over where we left off yesterday.




Greenfield Village is part of The Henry Ford and consists of a “village” created from structures moved mostly from different parts of the USA.  Many have historical significance but apart from Thomas Edison’s home, we had no idea what to expect.




An early arrival was a great idea.  You know how we like to have these places to ourselves.




Mind you, we did wonder if we should have dressed for the occasion.




Or perhaps used a different mode of transport to get us here?




We began in the collection of buildings known as the Liberty Craftworks.




Arranged around a small pool, it was quite an attractive setting.




First, the weaving shop, brought from Bryan County, Georgia.




Here were sock looms (familiar to anyone who’s lived in Leicestershire!)




and a set of conventional looms too, both manual and powered.  A young docent was on hand to explain and answer questions, but just like the museum yesterday, this was “bite size” learning.  Fine with us.  We had plenty to see and do and time was limited, as always.




So, on to the potters next.  Here was a 7-day working pottery, creating items to sell and to use throughout the park.  I think we arrived before the potters, though Winking smile




A couple of artists were demonstrating the sgraffito technique on slip-glazed plates, though, which was interesting to watch.




Next stop, the print shop where Todd was demonstrating the Washington Press.  He printed off a small handbill as an example – thank you, Todd, it’ll go nicely in my journal!




The tinsmith had just gone for coffee, so we heard a brief explanation of the uses of his craft before going next door to the last of the craft workshops.




Here was the glass workshop, hot as hell and not really doing much creating whilst we were there.  We didn’t hang about.




Outside, life was perking up and things were happening.




We were enjoying wandering about the small streets, poking our noses into interesting buildings to see what was going on.




Our next conversation was with the lady in Grimm’s Jewellers, which had been situated opposite Edison’s workshop in 1881.  When Henry Ford was working for Thomas Edison, he’d cycled over to the shop frequently, to chat to Englebert Grimm.




The engineering precision and manual skills required for clock repair were greatly admired by Henry Ford and the two men became good friends.  This was the actual shop, moved piece by piece from its original location and rebuilt here, we were told.




The village was a pretty busy place this morning; the first full day of the summer season.  There were plenty of small activities in which to participate, led by the staff members in costume.




As we headed over to the white house on the main street, we noticed a woman telling a story.  We knew this to be the home of the Wright Brothers, and she was telling the story of their first flight, speaking as their sister, Katharine.




No sooner had we stopped to listen, when look who came home!




Wilbur and Orville Wright continued the story themselves, explaining their background and what it had been like.  They played a good part, were interesting to listen to and the whole show was rather entertaining.




Having heard the story, we went next door into their original cycle store and workshop, moved here from Dayton, Ohio.  There was a model of their original plane with photos of the first flight.




In the workshop, behind the cycle shop were the original tools and machines used by the brothers.  A docent was explaining that the most difficult part was making a wooden propeller, which had not been done before but which later engineers have considered to be extraordinarily effective.




Back out on the street, a young woman came up to us and invited us to see a show, taking place in the Town Hall shortly.




We were ready for a break, so settled into our seats and enjoyed the pre-show: 6 talented singers who performed music by Cole Porter.  We chuckled at some of the words: 

If you're ever in a jam, here I am.
If you're ever in a mess, S.O.S.
If you're so happy, you land in jail. I'm your bail.
It's friendship, friendship, just a perfect blendship.
When other friendships are soon forgot, ours will still be hot.
Da da da da da da dig dig dig.
If you're ever down a well, ring my bell.
If you're ever up a tree, just phone to me.
If you ever loose your teeth when you're out to dine, borrow mine.

Read more: Cole Porter - Friendship Lyrics | MetroLyrics




The show which followed was equally great and was themed around Broadway shows.  Four more extraordinarily talented performers sang and danced their way through thirty minutes of non-stop fun.  The whole show was right on the button – not a step or note out of place.  Amazing.




After that, a look around Thomas Edison’s workshops seemed a little tame.




Even though these were the actual machines with which he lit those first electric lights, somehow, it felt a little empty.




The lamps themselves were rather beautiful though, hand made especially for the workshop here.




Edison’s chemistry labs were here too, together with his other works, including the phonograph.




As we stood outside his workshop, we questioned whether we needed to continue right along to the very end of the village, to view the Cotswold cottage?  We decided that, on balance, we didn’t!




Greenfield Village had more than delivered!




Time to move on, though, driving along Ford Avenue, where almost every building bore that name too.  Had we more time, it’d have been fun to do a factory visit, but we had other things on our list!




Hitsville, USA!




Except…      Huh.  We’ll just have to come back tomorrow!




We “made do” with the Fisher Building, just along the road.  This Art Deco classic looks interesting from the outside, but step inside and…








It being Monday, we could only explore the ground floor – had it been a weekend, we could have taken a tour of the building.  But no matter.  We were happy to wander and admire.




It was stunning.




The ceilings were beautiful.




And the mosaic panels on the wall, so brightly coloured and beautifully constructed.




Inside is a theatre, closed this afternoon, so it wasn’t possible to see inside.  But surely, it was equally elaborate.




Opposite, just across the road is the equally impressive former HQ of General Motors, now renamed Cadillac Place and being converted into apartments.




We headed for a highly recommended “Made in Detroit” branded shop, Shinola where the design was lovely, the staff delightful, the journals very practical and the rest of the stock

rather too expensive for a mere souvenir, sadly.




Never mind.  We consoled ourselves with BBQ ribs at Redsmoke this evening.






The Henry Ford


Leaving Lansing on a Sunday morning, we anticipated a lunchtime arrival in Detroit.  Perfect for an afternoon at the Henry Ford then.




We hoped the owners of the car parked next to us remembered they’d left their drinks on the back of their vehicle before they drove off!




It being Father’s Day, it was pretty busy.  It was also pretty pricey and with only a basic idea of what was to see and do here, we struggled to decide which ticket to buy.  My Hero returned from the queue with combined museum/village entry for the three of us and eyeing the darkening skies outside, it seemed the logical thing to head for the museum first.




Stepping inside the entrance though, we wondered what we’d just paid for.




There appeared to be a random display of old agricultural vehicles on one side and vintage kitchens and furniture on the other.




Well, we weren’t too interested in the tractors, so headed towards the furniture, finding solace in the exhibit about the construction of an Eames reclining chair – Made in Michigan, it seems!




Across the way was a bright and quirky space which immediately attracted our attention.  We headed there next.




We had no idea what the exhibition was about, but there were a few colourful things on display and it was surely going to be more interesting than old tractors.




Perhaps it was about creativity?




I was attracted by the items chosen to display and the overall style, but I wasn’t quite sure what it was about.




Living a good life, perhaps?  We’ve noted how there’s a number of new magazines on the shelves here concerning wellness, creativity and mindfulness.




But Evil Knieval’s jumpsuit?  Maybe it’s about taking risks too?!




We were a little confused but hey, the displays were well put together and I was curious enough to want to see more.




So we carried on through.




There was certainly the most unusual collection of things on display.




Including a display of fonts.




I think I’d heard of Rat Fink Fonts.




Several of the exhibits concerned fonts and lettering.  Maybe that was the theme?








But just as I thought I’d got it, I spotted Heath Ceramics, another familiar brand.




Alongside was a different pottery brand.




Across the way was a display of Herman Miller goods too.  They’re the firm that makes the Eames chairs amongst other things.  But there’s lettering there too.  Hmmm.




I caught up with Mark and Mary by the silk screen printing display.  “Have you worked out what this is all about yet?” they asked.  Hah.  I’d been about to ask the same question!




I replied that I had no idea, but I was enjoying the exhibits and was taking plenty of photographs in the hope of working it all out later!




But standing nearby was a young woman staff member and rather than wonder any longer, I thought I’d ask her to explain.  Please.




We hadn’t been far from the right idea, but hadn’t quite got it yet.  House Industries had started life as a design house, branching out into font designs along the way.  The exhibition’s intent was to show how early enthusiasms had influenced the designers’ later work, which included graphics for Heath Ceramics and Herman Miller amongst others (Adele, Shake Shack, The New Yorker…the list goes on)




The last display showed the designers at work, alongside their products.  Maybe we should have started here?




But it appeared we were not alone in not quite getting the point of the exhibition.  We’d missed the explanatory introduction at the entrance “but everyone does – no-one reads it”




Well yes.  Later we returned and there it was.  We watched as visitors arrived and saw their eyes fall on those colourful dolls and bright banner on the left, not even noticing the panel on the right which was so dull in comparison.

Exhibition design!  But how surprising that a design-led exhibition got it wrong!

Having worked it out, we enjoyed it all the more and felt rather more positive about the museum as a whole as a result.




Now, how about this, the Dymaxion House?  Buckminster Fuller’s 1946 design for prefabricated housing to accommodate large numbers of people returning from WW2.




Well, interesting but rather strange inside.  No wonder it didn’t fly (metaphorically speaking!)




Next up, an exhibit of recent history, aimed at a series of generations from the Eisenhower generation right through to Generation X.  We found some aspects amusing – I stood and listened to Blondie on an 8-track stereo whilst Mary and Mark sat on a sofa watching 1970s TV.  But seeing the (very popular) children’s hands-on Lego table overshadowed by the Shotguns and Rifles exhibit right next to it cancelled out some of those more positive feelings I was having about the place.




Around the corner was a “rights and responsibilities” area, with four distinct areas which matched four of our road trips: Womens’ Suffrage (Boston to Chicago, 2014), Civil Rights (the South, 2016), Independence (Washington to Savannah, 1999, pre blog!) and Freedom and Equality (Little Rock to Chicago 2015)




But with an eye on the time, and bearing in mind we hadn’t even thought about the village yet, we decided to focus on the flight exhibit, around the corner.  Here was a Ford Flivver, Henry Ford’s personal airplane design, the “Model T of the air”.  He imagined that everyone would have their own plane in time, but after the sad demise of his test pilot on a test flight, plans for mass production were shelved.




The Ford Trimotor was here too, with pictures of wicker chairs inside and maps of the four day journey across the country.  We moved quickly on to other, more serious designs.




There were three grades of airplanes to fold; beginner, intermediate and advanced.  I started with the beginner model whilst my hero folded an intermediate level design.  Whilst he took my simple plane for its test flight, I moved quickly onto the advanced model.




Both survived for eventual display in the journal!




unlike others, which ended in the scrap bucket!




There were cars here, of course, including this Ford Edsel, a short-lived design of the late 1950s.




My Hero had eyes on the Railroad engines though – enormous beasts like this Allegheny of the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad.




An enormous Canadian Pacific snowplough was nearby, dwarfing the smaller, older engines – and those standing alongside.

By now, we were more or less back where we’d started, but a glance at the time confirmed that there was no way we were going to be able to do Greenfield Village justice before the closing time of 5pm.  Perhaps we could request a raincheck on that half of our ticket and come back tomorrow?  My Hero headed back to the entrance and asked the question.  We could but hope.

Well, he who asks, gets!  Yes, of course….the unused ticket is valid until 2088!

Feeling positive once more, we looked at the plan to check if we’d missed anything.




I decided I’d like to pay another visit to the furniture display, to see how my Eames rocker was made.




As I watched the video of moulding fibreglass, I spotted my desk chair right opposite – a Herman Miller design, too.  Who knew that we owned Michigan-made chairs at home?  I only knew them to come from John Lewis!




As we left the museum, we reflected on the pros and cons of our visit.  It had been a bit of a mixed bag, but the flexibility of the ticket had won us over in the end.  Nevertheless, it’s an odd collection of “innovations” and in showing such a huge range of exhibits, it loses focus.  So, there are railroad engines, but it’s not really a railroad museum.   There are cars, but neither is it a motor museum.  We felt nothing was done spectacularly well and yet, we were glad we’d been.  The House Industries display was fascinating, once we’d worked it out and I’d say that was probably my favourite part.




I thought I’d leave it with a picture of the most valuable exhibit (or so I was told).  The floor.  Nine acres of solid teak flooring, with each one of those planks worth $20, the elderly gentleman said.




So this evening, we’re in Detroit, having passed the bridge to Canada as we arrived.




It was a great night for a fish supper too and the Huron Room was a good choice!




The next chapter


Well, yes, it was time to move on this morning; to leave Kalamazoo and take the next step in our journey.  But our first destination was going to continue the story we started in January.




Here we were in Grand Rapids, at the Gerald Ford Presidential Museum.  Regular readers will know how interesting we find these places and the opportunity to find out more about what happened after the events of the Nixon era was too good to miss.




The Gerald Ford Museum is situated by the river in Grand Rapids and we found ourselves amongst a mere dozen or so visitors in there for most of our visit.  It’s always good to have the run of such a place!




I realised how little I knew about the man and his presidency.  How long had he served?  Where did he come from (well, Grand Rapids, it seems)  but beyond that…what was his background?




We were to find all the answers to our questions in the next couple of hours.




As usual, the first part of the exhibit concerned his childhood.  Looking at the Boy Scout record cards and school reports, I wondered how many of our mothers kept all of these things?  Mine certainly did and it seemed, Mrs Ford did too, though I doubt very much that she ever imagined where they would eventually be displayed.




The exhibits were well designed, if a little static.  Still, they told the story well and explained what I needed to know.




I did know a little about Betty Ford, though.




This display included a little interactivity and it was interesting to read of her story.




I wonder how many women have had similar thoughts at times?




Anyway, having set the scene, the elephant in the room was addressed.


We’d learned about this at the Nixon Library but it was useful to have a reminder of the details as background to the scenario President Ford inherited.




What was clear time and again was that Gerald Ford provided a safe pair of hands in a crisis.




But a couple of assassination attempts must have left him wondering why on earth he had accepted the challenge.  Here, the bulletproof lining to his raincoat was on show




complete with typewritten cleaning instructions!




Here was a replica of his Oval Office and alongside, the story of Betty’s breast cancer diagnosis was told.  Those days must have been far from easy for the whole family but her determination to be open about her health and to speak frankly about sex, drugs, abortion, equality and gun control provoked reactions from all corners.




Unsurprisingly, Betty Friedan expressed her wholehearted support for the First Lady, but a letter from Maria von Trapp was written in a rather different tone




I failed to take a photograph of the gracious reply!




Her best known legacy is surely the clinics which bear her name and an ongoing open conversation about breast cancer and drug/alcohol dependancy.  Her words “Being ladylike does not require silence” were there, high on the wall above her portrait.  How true.




Meanwhile, Betty’s husband failed to win the Presidency and continued in his role as an elder statesman until his death in 2006.  We watched the video of his funerals – three of them, near the Ford’s home in California, in Washington DC and then finally, in Grand Rapids MI.  There, standing beside their four grown children at all three, was Betty.  What an ordeal.




We’d chatted to the museum staff about Grand Rapids and thought that it would be worth walking over the bridge and exploring a little of the city.  But as we left the museum, the Gay Pride rally was assembling on the bridge and as we approached the crowd, preparing to “excuse me” through, the man on the stepladder began a lengthy prayer and we all stood in respect.  Eventually, we managed to make our way through, only to find a deserted townscape without a coffee shop in sight.  We “excuse me’d” all the way back again!




As we did, the crowd was beginning to disperse, party as a result of the arrival of four or five people wearing orange, offering free cheesy snacks.  Well, it doesn’t take long to discover where peoples’ loyalty lies, especially when the offer to “fill your rucksacks!  The sooner we can give all these away, the sooner we can go home”.  The gay pride rally scattered as people gathered a few snacks and began a bit of a procession.  We helped ourselves to a handful and returned to our car!




An hour or so driving through the Michigan countryside brought us to the outskirts of the state capital, Lansing.




Though really, we could have been anywhere in suburban America.




We were completing this day of politics and government with a visit to the State Capitol.




The entrance was a little unprepossessing.  I wondered if we’d got it wrong but a security guard confirmed that this was indeed the Capitol and we should continue down the corridor.




Eventually, we reached the “right” part and found the visitors’ desk, where Renee welcomed us to her tour.




Standing under the dome, we gazed up to the central blue “sky” with gold and platinum stars up there.




Each as “big as a dinner plate” said Renee.  We believed her.




The light fittings were elaborate, originally designed for gas power and the low level lighting we’d noted already was a deliberate choice to recreate the original feel of the building.




We had a glimpse inside the Governor’s grand ceremonial office,




taking special note of the door hinges.




It being a weekend, the house was not sitting,




and the Senate was quiet too.




The wall decoration in the former Supreme Court was pointed out, since it was original and created using horse hair it seems.




Though no horses were harmed in the creation, we were assured.




Standing for a final look around the portraits of former Governors, one caught my eye.  It appears it’s the same one as catches the eye of most visitors and is of John Swainson, a young Governor who considered his life and work to be unfinished when he left office, choosing to have his portrait reflect that.  Interesting!




We were finished with the Capitol though and had just one last thing on our list for today; The Michigan Women’s Historical Center and Hall of Fame.  We’d copied the location from our guidebook, checked it this morning and then again this afternoon as my Hero set the satnav.  But when we got there…




It looked pretty empty.  Derelict, even.  We hummed and hawed a little before decided to leave it.  Only on a further search when we were back at the hotel did we read that it had relocated last month.  Huh.

The interesting sign of the day was to be found in the centre of Lansing this afternoon:




I can think of several places where that sign could be very useful!