Kalamazoo Conservation sets free tire recycling

The Kalamazoo Conservation District is providing scrap tire dropoff sites in June and July at no cost to Kalamazoo County residents. Improperly discarded tires make up a large amount of roadside trash and can also become breeding grounds for mosquitoes.

The South County dropoff date and location: Tuesday July 26, 2022: 9 a.m.-2 p.m. at Swan Park, 50 East VW Ave., near 18th St.

The tires that are collected will be recycled and used in roads, driveways, playgrounds and a variety of other products. 

Appointments are required and can be made by signing up on the Kalamazoo Conservation District’s website below.  Kalamazoo County residents can sign up for any of the sites and must provide proof of county residence. Each household may sign up to drop off up to 10 passenger tires. The 10-tire limit will allow more households to participate. Please note that there is also a 10-tire transportation limit set by the Michigan Department of Transportation. Only passenger tires with rims removed will be collected. No businesses are allowed to participate.

The event dates and locations:

Other dropoff points besides the July 26 location in Vicksburg:

Thursday June 16, 2022: 3-7 p.m. at the City of Kalamazoo parking lot, 322 Stockbridge Ave, Kalamazoo.

Wednesday June 29, 2022: 9 a.m.-2 p.m. at the Comstock Township Transfer Station, 6604 East Main St., Comstock.

Thursday July 21, 2022: 3-7 p.m. at the Richland Township Office, 7401 N. 32nd St., Richland.

If you would like to sign up for one of these events, please go to the Kalamazoo Conservation District’s website at kalamazooconservation.org. If you have questions, please call the Kalamazoo Conservation District office at 269-775-3368 or email kalamazooconservation@gmail.com.

A unique collection: Upjohn paraphernalia

Jeremy Winkworth has an indescribable collection of Upjohn items. His guest bedroom is full of memorabilia from Upjohn.

By Jef Rietsma

Collector? Jeremy Winkworth.

Collection? Upjohn memorabilia

How did your collection begin? “I started at Upjohn in 1980 and I was in the quality group at the Portage manufacturing site for 37 years. I moved into this apartment in 2014, by myself. I was still working but I had the time and I had 1,000 square feet to do whatever I wanted. So, I just fell into going into estate sales, antique shows, and on eBay, and I just picked out fun things to put on the wall.”

Winkworth said he was with a group cleaning out a warehouse in 2009. They ran across a dozen boxes that featured Upjohn’s corporate history. Winkworth kept the boxes in his office and over the course of time took inventory of their contents. The biggest find, he said, was a few boxes containing 16-mm film dating to the 1940s.

Did you keep any of the items from those boxes? “No, but I did digitalize the film and I scanned all the documents. Around 2013, I started a website focusing on Upjohn history, using a number of the documents and photos recovered from those boxes. The site has grown to 800 web pages and 1,800 images. The earliest videos on the site are from the 1930s and it’s interesting to see how people dressed, how people acted, what the standards were back then … it’s just really fascinating to see.”

Was Upjohn memorabilia widely available? “Not to a great extent. A lot of the early items I now consider collectibles were aimed at doctors and pharmacists. Those are primarily the people who were given Upjohn trinkets and memorabilia, the things that I have attempted to acquire over the past decade or so. In the 1930s, Upjohn launched a publicity campaign to try to persuade people to go to their doctors instead of tough it out or use a home remedy. So, there were items produced at that time, too.”
What’s the most you paid for an item? “I found a metal sign, an outdoor sign, that was $200 that I found at an estate sale.”

Is there an item that eludes you? “Upjohn used to have briefcases, handbags, travel bags, doctor bags that were very distinguishable and on the outer part the bags looked like simulated alligator skin, even though it was cowhide,” he said. “Well, all these bags were made of actual gator skin up until WWII, and I would like to find one of those pre-WWII alligator skin bags. But I’ve been fortunate to pick up some really, really good Upjohn items, so at this point, I feel like I’ve kind of made it.”

What is the one item from your collection you would grab if your apartment was on fire? “That’s a tough question but I have a little diorama of a production line in the 1940s. It’s made of models and it’s amazing it has survived. I picked it up in an estate sale here in Portage, it was owned by a father of a friend of mine. He was in the carpenter shop, so he had actually worked during that era when the model was made and displayed. I was the only one at the estate sale who knew what it was. I think I paid $50 for it.”

Do people attempt to buy items from you? “No, not really. I do get a number of messages, mostly from former employees who reminisce about how they loved working there when it was Upjohn. But I do sometimes buy duplicates of items I already own, just in case I happen across another collector who might be in search of something. I’m happy to help them out.”

Footnotes: Winkworth, 67, was born in England and has lived in the United States since he was 25. A Portage resident, Winkworth also collects Mr. Peanut memorabilia. He calls his eclectic, yet intriguing, home decorations “mantiques.” His Upjohn collection features several hundred items, including more than two dozen original glass pill bottles, some from the late 1800s and still containing their original medicine. He also has a jersey from Upjohn’s 1979 “city league” softball team that made it to the national finals in Massachusetts. Other oddball items: a first-aid kit; wood, shipping containers; handwritten production logs with entries dating to the 1920s; a Michigan license plate that reads 279 UPJ; and a blanket from Upjohn’s one-time conference center, Brook Lodge. Winkworth’s Upjohn website is: http://www.upjohn.net.

Fill ’er up! Gas stations in Vicksburg

Tom Cross Shell Station at the corner of Michigan and Prairie St. From left: Ron Reece, Duane Barnes, Arnold Kramer, and Tom Cross. The station was last occupied by Fred Hiemstra. Previous owners included Clarence Miller, Jack Derhammer, and Don Hollenbeck. Photo courtesy of Vicksburg Historical Society.

By Maggie Snyder, Vicksburg Historical Society

Now there’s nothing but a vacant lot at the southwest corner of Michigan and West Prairie where, for over 80 years, cars pulled up to the pump to get refueled and have their vital fluids checked. When I look at that lot, I can’t help but think about all the other gas and service stations that passed from the local scene during the last 45 years or so, as well as all those that came and went long before my time.

Vicksburg followed the same path as the nation in the development of its gas and service stations. The first stop along the way was the invention of the internal combustion engine and the realization that it could be used to propel some sort of four-wheeled vehicle, freeing travelers forever more from the slow-paced, often balky, and always labor-intensive horse. The next stop, of course, was…for gas!

Vicksburg hotel owner Carson Durkee built what is believed by some to have been the first automobile successfully operated in Kalamazoo County, starting work on it in 1899 and taking his first drive in 1903. Durkee’s car could travel seven miles an hour, and required a gallon of gas every 25 miles.

So where did he go to fill ‘er up?

We don’t know. However, we do know that during the early 1900’s the motor car was regarded as an expensive novelty, of interest only to doctors, lawyers, and others in “elite” society. Volume sales of a dependable, affordable automobile was still decades away, and no one dreamed that gasoline would ever become a sought-after commodity.

At the beginning of the 1900’s, America’s major oil companies concentrated on the production of kerosene for the nation’s lamps, lights and cook stoves. However, one barrel of crude oil yielded 40% gasoline, and only 3% kerosene. In an effort to find a use for gasoline, special gas-burning cook stoves and street lights were developed. But, the highly explosive properties of gas soon put a damper on sales. Kerosene, however, was much more stable and safe and was by far the most popular fuel. So, with little or no market for gasoline, oil companies were forced to just consider gas a waste product in the production of highly profitable kerosene. Therefore, it’s interesting that the development of the internal combustion engine and its application to the automobile was just what the oil companies needed to pump up profits.

Wherever Mr. Durkee got his gasoline, he didn’t just pull up to a pump at a convenience store, put the nozzle in the automatic mode, then go in for a cup of cappuccino and a bag of chips. The very first gas stations were simply bulk depots merchandising the liquid to the infrequent automobilist in cans or other bulk containers. Gas was stored in steel drums perched atop timber supports or perhaps on a cement base. It was dispensed by gravity from a valve-controlled spout into a measuring can, and then poured by hand via a funnel, with a leather chamois cloth inside to trap foreign particles, into the car’s tank. Cars had no fuel gauges, so sight and sound determined when the tank was full.

This filling process delivered most of the gasoline into the car, but of course, some always managed to splash on hands, pants and shoes. Because of the constant danger of explosion, bulk refueling depots were often located on the outer edges of populated areas.

As the number of motor cars on the road steadily grew, a better, safer way had to be found to dispense gasoline. And by 1910, flexible hoses, hand-cranked pumps, and recording dials indicating the amount of fuel pumped had taken much of the mess, guesswork and danger out of dispensing gasoline.

The business of selling gas was fairly uncomplicated by today’s standards. Any business could contract with a supplier, bury a tank, install a curbside pump, and dispense gasoline along with hardware, groceries or any other retail products. In fact, a 1925 fire department map shows a buried tank in front of 108 South Main, where curbside gas service must have once been available, perhaps along with the books, stationery and drugs sold by retailer John Long.

By the 1920’s, however, big cities especially found themselves over-pumped, with perhaps two or three on each business block, as every businessman was trying to get in on the action. Local governments soon began licensing gas pumps, and encouraging their relocation away from the main flow of traffic.

As soon as the local grocer couldn’t sell it directly from his store counter, those interested in the gasoline business had set up a separate location on a suitable lot, complete with a small building to shelter a pump attendant. It wasn’t long before it occurred to somebody that since cars had to stop for fuel, why not take advantage of essentially a captive audience to merchandise other auto-related items, such as tires and oils.

And, well, since the pump attendant was paid to hang around anyway, he might just as well learn how to fix the darn things and generate a little more money through doing minor repair work.

Check for Part 2 of this story in the July issue of the South County News.