PPNA Happenings

Happenings, history and news of the Prospect Park Neighborhood and Ypsilanti

Archive for the ‘EandR Memories’ Category

Memory of Skating at Prospect Park

Posted by ppna on February 11, 2008

Here is another excerpt from a series my brothers’ wrote about growing up in Ypsilanti and the things they remembered.  It seems like this is the first winter in a long time that it would have been practical to set up ice-skating.

Skating at Prospect Park
…as recalled by Eric Anschuetz  (mid 70s)

 Prospect Park served as both the playground for Adams Elementary School and also as a large public park for the east side of Ypsilanti.  In addition to swing sets and jungle gyms, the park had a baseball field and a couple tennis courts.  The tennis courts were in pretty bad shape and they did not always have the tennis nets installed.  In fact, during the school year, the tennis courts served as the “field” for their kickball games.  There was a large classmate named Ricky Ware who kicked a “home run” over the fence every time he came up to the plate.  Once, Eric even managed to kick a home run, which was pretty incredible considering his small size and low weight.

 In the winter time, the two adjacent tennis courts were flooded with water and served as the community ice skating rink.  Neither Robert nor Eric were very good at ice skating.  They suffered from weak ankles and poor fitting figure skates.  Nonetheless, they enjoyed walking down to the ice rink often in the winter to skate.  Their main memory of those days was how cold it was.  They usually walked to the park (about ¾ of a mile) carrying their ice skates.  More often than not, it was so cold, and their feet were so numb, that they ended up walking home with their skates still on their tired feet.  They would take off their skates at home and warm up their feet by putting them close to (or on) the radiator.   

To make the skates interesting, a grown up supervisor would organize games to be played on the ice.  One that they did the most was a group game of tag, called “Pom Pom Pullaway.”  The best skater was usually chosen to start in the middle of the ice all alone, with all of the other skaters lined up along one fence of the tennis court.  More often than not, there were enough skaters to form a solid line across both tennis courts.  At the whistle, all of the skaters tried to skate to the opposite end, while the fast skater tried to tag as many people as possible.  Each of the tagged skaters then went to the middle to help the other skater tag people as the rest of the group skated back the other way.  Usually, the best skater knew the other fast skaters and tried to tag them first to get as much help as possible.  This meant that Robert and Eric would last several rounds before being tagged.  Their sister, Arlea, was actually a much better skater at the time than Robert and Eric.  She actually did some rudimentary figures and spins.  One of their friends, Joe Kellersohn, lived right across from the park and must have gone skating a lot because he was a very good skater.  The older kids often would play ice hockey in another frozen area in the outfield of the baseball field.

There was actually one other place where the twins skated as young children.  It was in the woods behind their neighbor’s house on Forest where Aunt Kitty and Uncle Frank lived.  There was a natural bog back there that eventually dried up but served as a summertime breeding ground for frogs and a wintertime skating rink.  As “proof” of the theory of global warming, the winters sure seemed much colder back then compared to recent years.  From their recollection, the rink was flooded with water sometime in December and remained frozen through at least February.  They’re not sure if they have ever flooded those tennis courts once since they graduated from elementary school.  It doesn’t even seem possible to have it iced over for that period of time any more.  Once, during that time period, Michigan set a record for having 90 straight days of temperatures that were below 32 degrees.  The Anschuetz family also used their enclosed back porch, off the kitchen, as a freezer room and kept ice cream and other frozen foods out there (Dad’s favorite was Jumbo brand vanilla with an elephant on the container).


The park was flooded many times after they graduated from elementary school.   I remember when I was in elementary school at Adams they formalized the hockey rink and instead of just flooding the outfield they built ‘boards’ all the way around the rink.   I also remember that they used front loaders to clear snow off of the rinks and when they did this they created huge mounds of snow where the kids played ‘King of the Mountain’ at recess.


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Memory of the Ypsilanti Boys Club

Posted by ppna on December 23, 2007

The Following is an excerpt from my brothers’ paper, ‘Memories of an Ypsilanti Childhood.’ The time period for this memory is sometime in the mid 70s.

Gilbert House / Boys Club

When Eric and Robert were in the 4th or 5th grade, Mom went back to work. She was no longer able to greet them as they came home from school, so it was decided that they should join the Boy’s Club. The Boy’s Club was located on Grove road, just across the street from the Bennett twins’ house, only a short walk (about ½ mile) from school. It was located in one of the scariest looking mansions one could imagine – the Gilbert House. The Gilbert house looked exactly like a haunted house. It was a dilapidated, white, three story house with a mansard roof, in much need of repair. At one time, it must have rivaled the best houses in Ypsilanti. By the time the Boy’s Club moved in, it was one rotten step away from condemnation. The house was three stories tall with an attic and a basement. The Boy’s Club offered all kinds of great activities for 10 year-old-boys like Robert and Eric. In the basement was a large wood shop. As they recall, there was plenty of free wood and adult supervision to use the power tools. They remember, vividly, the smell of sawdust upon opening the door to the basement. They must have made many projects, but they don’t remember specifically what many of them were, nor do they recall ever having them displayed around the house. The only project they distinctly remember building was a boat that had a paddle that spun around on a rubber band.

The attic was home to a great slot car track that was only opened on the weekend for races. The track was large and had many overpasses and underpasses. The cars that were used on the track were rather large slot cars. Robert and Eric would watch mesmerized, as they would race around the track lap after lap. They must have shared their enthusiasm with their parents, because one Christmas or birthday, they bought them each a new slot car (with banana colored yellow controllers, as they recall). Unfortunately, the cars were smaller than the ones that normally raced on the track, so when they took them to the track, they were outsized and overpowered, and were very difficult to control.

The main activity at the Boy’s Club was playing pool on the many pool tables. As they mentioned, the Boy’s Club was located in a mansion with many different rooms. Each room had a pool table and a pop machine. They remember that it was at the Boy’s Club that they fell in love with Faygo red pop. The kids did not have pop in the house as a kid, but Mom would give them a quarter to buy a pop to enjoy at the Boy’s Club. They became very skilled at pool. They remember that there was a young black hustler named Stewart whom they played with a lot. Stewart was a legend at bumper pool and Robert and Eric once witnessed him “running the table” to win a game (he sunk five straight balls at the beginning of the game by banking them all off of the wall and into the pocket at the other end of the table). They would spend hours playing bumper pool, 8 ball, 9 ball, and rotation (still the only pool games that they know).

One year (while they were in 2nd or 3rd grade, but before they regularly visited the Boy’s Club on their own), they were members of a basketball league at the Boy’s Club. Eric was on the Trail Blazers and Robert was on the Golden State Warriors. All they remember from that league was wearing a shirt that was so long on them that it was like a dress, and never scoring a basket. They even wore the shirts to school to play in games right after school. Robert and Eric also learned how to shoot BB guns in the basement of the Boy’s Club in events known as “Turkey Shoots.” They got pretty good at shooting and may have even won some contests.

Robert and Eric stopped going to the Boy’s Club around the time that the city built a new building to replace the aging (and probably condemned!) Gilbert House. The new building was built next door and was an ugly green box-shaped building with no windows. It had no charm at all. Half of the fun of the old building was to explore new rooms in the house. They could almost always find a free room, complete with pool table and pop machine. The new building was so open that it completely lost its mystique. Shortly after they stopped going (around 8th grade or so), the Ypsilanti Boy’s Club made national news. They had organized a trip to drive to Disney World and drove a school bus down. On the way down, the bus driver fell asleep in Georgia and ran off the road, killing three people. They remember seeing it reported on the national news that evening. In fact, the Ypsilanti Press published a rare 2nd edition of the paper that covered the event. They knew that one of their friends, Jesse Hunt, was on that bus so they were worried. It turns out that he was not injured. When he got back, he came over to their house and they remember distinctly asking, “What Happened?” His response was, “We got in an accident.” They replied, “We know that, but what happened to you?” It turns out that Jesse was riding in the back of the bus and when it landed on its side, he actually broke out the window with his bare hands (he was a big kid!).

Robert and Eric have many fond memories of the Boy’s Club. Sometime around 1990, they restored the Gilbert House and turned it into condos. Robert and Eric are glad that there are still people able to explore the old mansion as they did when they were kids. They might even still be playing pool in the same rooms that they once did!

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