Why's That?

Second Friday of the month at 6:44 am, 8:44 am and 5:44 pm

Why's That? explores the things in Southwest Michigan – people, places, names  – that spark your curiosity. We want to know what makes you wonder when you're out and about. 

Maybe it's a question you've had for years, or maybe it's just come up. Perhaps it rests on a subtle observation, like this one about ABC streets in Kalamazoo. Or maybe you just saw something, found it strange, and wanted to know more about it. That's what happened in "A Tiny Park with a Tragic Story."

From train signals to watersheds, from unusual houses to water hardness, we hope you'll let us know what in Southwest Michigan makes you ask "Why's That?" It could be the start of a great radio story.

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?


Sehvilla Mann / WMUK

You don’t need a green thumb to notice that Kalamazoo is full of greenhouses.

“And they aren’t small ones. They’re very, very large,” says listener Barbara Bott.

They grow bedding plants – flowers and vegetables for home gardens. Barbara wants to know: why so many? Why here?


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