Class Eyes Frankenmuth Bootlegging, Bay City Prostitutes, Saginaw Ex-Slave
Literary History of Tri-City Area in Focus Monday at SVSU OLLI Class
January 20, 2012
By: Dave Rogers
Frankenmuth author Norman Krafft includes the seamy side of Frankenmuth tourism in his history of the churchgoing farm town.
Pretty dull, the Tri-City area, right?
Not exactly, if you read the literature and history.
The literary history of the area will be in focus Monday, Jan. 26, 9:30 - 11:30 a.m. and for two successive Mondays at the Osher Lifelong Learning Program at Saginaw Valley State University.
The class will be led by yours truly, D. Laurence Rogers, author of the recently published "Apostles of Equality: The Birneys, the Republicans and the Civil War." The importance of abolitionist politician James G. Birney, a pioneer Saginaw County resident, to the formation of the Republican Party and the Civil War will be highlighted.
A good example of the hidden history of the area that will be highlighted in the class is Norman Krafft's "Beloved Brother: Bootleg and Bounty, Frankenmuth and the 1930s."
The book cover states: "Read about life in this beautiful, prosperous little agricultural community - thoroughly German and provincial - able to resist the influence of the surrounding world for nearly a century after its founding in 1845 by 15 German immigrants - but uncharacteristically willing to defy some of the despised laws of Prohibition."
Mr. Krafft, 84, a retired General Motors worker and onetime adjuster of the Frankenmuth Mutual Insurance Company, also wrote books on the history of the Frankenmuth School District and the Frankenmuth Fire Department.
The title reflects the church and the German brotherhood as well as the farming bounty, said Mr. Krafft. Few complaints have been made from local folks although the book reveals the seamy side of the 1920s and 1930s when Frankenmuth hotels hosted a nude dancer from Flint and continued to sell home brew from the back rooms.
As local histories go, "Beloved Brother" is a modest best seller; Mr. Kraft says about 1,500 copies have been sold and the book is available on Amazon.com and in the Frankenmuth Museum.
Besides local authors, the OLLI class will feature such books as "Holy Old Mackinaw: A Natural History of the American Lumberjack," an outrageous chronicle of bawdy times in Bay City by Stewart Holbrook. The book, published in 1940 is comprised mainly of specious stories gathered in local saloons, sold nearly a million copies, reportedly 500,000 alone to soldiers during World War II.
Holbrook made the world aware of such legendary Bay City lumbering era "pointed ladies" as Cassie Hawkins and Polly Dickson, the latter said to have been the queen of the Catacombs.
A more academic approach to prostitution was taken by Prof. Jeremy Kilar in his book "Michigan Lumbertowns: Lumbermen and Laborers in Saginaw, Bay City and Muskegon 1870-1905," published by Wayne State University Press in 1990.
Dr. Kilar cited written statements by early writer John Fitzmaurice in the 1895 "Shanty Boy" that Bay City and Saginaw between them had 1,400 prostitutes in the lumbering era; Saginaw had more than 200 saloons and grog shops and Bay City had 162.
The class will also feature reviews of more sedate literature including books by Edward Jablonski, Howard Kohn, Rabbi Jossef Kratzenstein, Dr. Martin Jaffe, Ned Brandt, Ray Herek and poetry by Irene Warsaw and Theodore Roethke.
An amazing but little known memoir written by ex-slave Isaac D. Williams, who settled in East Saginaw in 1868, is also featured in the class. Another book by Dr. John Jezierski of SVSU entitled "Amazing Images: The Goodridge Brothers, African American Photographers, 1847-1922," is part of the literary history.
More than 50 books by local authors and by out-of-town authors about this area are featured in the class. More information may be obtained from the SVSU OLLI program 964-4475 or online at SVSU.edu/olli.
Local News Article 6673
Dave Rogers is a former editorial writer for the Bay City Times and a widely read,
respected journalist/writer in and around Bay City.
(Contact Dave Via Email at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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