why's that

Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy

Cooper is a common name, but it turns up in Kalamazoo even more than you might expect. There’s Cooper Township; Cooper Avenue in Kalamazoo Township; Cooper’s Island in Schoolcraft. Folk singer Joel Mabus has played the Cooper’s Glen music festival, which used to be held at the Glen at the Kalamazoo Nature Center.

“And then 10 years ago or more it moved to wintertime festival. They hold it down at the hotel downtown. And they kept using the name Cooper’s Glen, and me and a few other people said, ‘why are you keeping that name?”

Kalamazoo Public Library

We have talked about all kinds of names on “Why’s That?” - from the Gearhart rail yard to the Teapot Dome crossing to Westnedge Avenue. And one name in Southwest Michigan begs for exploration.

John Todd / John Todd Collection, Portage District Library

Rosamond Robbert lived in Dublin and London, then moved to the US in the 1970s. When she got to Southwest Michigan, she wondered: Why are Kalamazoo and Portage separate cities?

“Both with own taxes as far as I knew, both with their own rules, both with a board of governors and everything. And why’s that? They’re so teeny-weeny,” she says.

Western Michigan University/Zhang Legacy Collections

Some terms cannot help but evoke the past. Think "orphanage" or "asylum," or perhaps "poor house." If that sounds like something you would find in nineteenth-century England, you don’t have to go that far. Many Michigan counties once had some kind of government-run residence for people in need. Kalamazoo had not just a poor house, but a “poor farm” on land that is now a county park.

The 32nd Division in the World War, 1917-1919 / Courtesy of Tom George

The Red Arrow Highway runs east from New Buffalo across Berrien and Van Buren Counties. Cross into Kalamazoo, and suddenly the road is called Stadium Drive. A listener asks: why? The road is named after a storied Division of the US Army. Wouldn’t the name “Red Arrow” pay better tribute to veterans?