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Archive for March, 2013

Did You Know That Blueberry Ridge Subdivision Residents Were on National TV in the Late 1970s?

March 13, 2013 2 comments

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One of the reasons for initiating the White Lake Environmental History Project was to uncover little known stories about our industrial pollution era.  A recent interview of several Blueberry Ridge subdivision neighbors showed this to be true.  Even though I’ve lived in the White Lake area all my life, I had never heard this intriguing story.

The neighbors — Bev Hunt, Jim Cousino, and Jane Hanna — talked about how they (and others in the subdivision) found out their wells were contaminated by chemicals from the former Hooker Chemical Company and what they did to get the company to provide them with safe drinking water.  The group wrote letter after letter to politicians at all levels, including U.S. Representative Guy Vanderjagt, Governor Milliken, and President Carter.

In the interview (scroll down to see here at: Oral Histories)  they talk about how things began to change when their issue became national news, with a spot by TV journalist Brit Hume, and when news of Hooker Chemical (Occidental)’s pollution problems almost halted the company’s purchase of another company.

A small group of people CAN make a big difference!

Blueberry Ridge Milliken letter pg 1

Letter to Governor Milliken (page 1)

President Carter article

News article on Hooker Chemical issue getting the attention of President Carter

Vanderjagt response letter

Response from U.s. Representative Vanderjagt

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Categories: Uncategorized

Not Just Digging Up Dirt

March 1, 2013 3 comments

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Last week, a small but interested audience braved a wintry snowstorm to listen to environmental historian and Great Lakes author, Dave Dempsey, on the value of researching White Lake’s environmental history.  One major point that Dave made is that the research is not all about “digging up dirt.”   He said, “Dirt may be found, but so will heroism.  Both are part of any history.  Reality is complicated.  There are very few unadulterated villains in environmental history.  Much damage was done to the environment by people who didn’t know what they were doing.  And good was done to communities by the same people who were doing so much damage.”

We are finding this to be true.  One of the more recent oral history interviews was of Dexter King, a former manager of the Whitehall Leather Company.  He speaks of how the tannery in its heyday provided 175 local jobs and about half of the tax base for the city of Whitehall.  Dexter recalls how a gymnasium was built, attached to the tannery, and served as a center of many community activities.  There were dinners and family gatherings in the gym.  Both Whitehall and Montague high schools held their basketball games at the tannery’s gym for many years, until they were able to build their own gyms.  Dances were held and bands played.  Dexter recalls one was a nine piece orchestra!  Tannery employees could stop in the gym after work and play informal games of basketball, ping pong or volleyball.  Kids would arrive on the weekend days to play their own athletic games in the community gym.  The Whitehall Leather Company also donated 200 feet of shoreline to the city of Whitehall, to be added to the100 feet donated by the Svensson family, for a city park.

This is the story that our history tells us.  And it’s important to acknowledge. See the video here (scroll down) at the:  White Lake Environmental History website

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Categories: Uncategorized