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.

Sehvilla Mann / WMUK

Years ago when Julie Allen’s son was in a stroller, she’d take him for walks on South Westnedge Avenue. That’s when a building set well back from the road caught her attention.

“I probably walked by it four or five times before I actually noticed the house,” she says.

It’s brick, one story with big windows. But it’s the shape that sets it apart. At a glance the house looks almost round. Look closely and you can see the house has eight sides, like a stop sign. 

Van Buren District Library/Webster Memorial Library / Toni I. Benson Room, Local History/Genealogy

John Mairs owns an electrical business that takes him all over southwest Michigan. A few years ago, something caught his eye in Van Buren County – a road sign for “Tea Pot Dome.”

The sign lies just west of County Road 671 and the Red Arrow Highway, a few miles west of Paw Paw. Mairs says he couldn’t figure out what it referred to.

“My very first thought was it was geographic, but there’s nothing here to support that - pretty flat,” Mairs says.

West Main Park at the corner of Elm and West Main streets
Rebecca Thiele, WMUK

West Main Park is at the corner of West Main and Elm in Kalamazoo — right across from Comensoli’s Italian restaurant. You can walk across it in about 30 seconds.

Arcadia Creek runs through it. There’s a bench, a few picnic tables, and that’s about it. It’s not a quiet spot, but it’s one of the oldest parks in Kalamazoo - founded just a few years after Bronson Park downtown. It's also the oldest city-owned park.

Sehvilla Mann / WMUK

Not long after he moved to Kalamazoo 19 years ago, Frank Cody started hearing stories about the City of Parchment – the town that formed around a paper mill, the Kalamazoo Vegetable Parchment Company.

"Then I found out that there were a history of different paper companies in Kalamazoo that were founded at different times,” he says.

Intrigued, Frank wanted to know: what drew paper manufacturers to Kalamazoo?


Sehvilla Mann / WMUK

Tomme Maile lives near the rail yard on Mills Street in Kalamazoo - so close, he says, he can smell the diesel from his house.

The short-line railroad Grand Elk puts trains together there. Maile says he’d always known it as Botsford Yard. But sometime in the last few years he noticed the name had changed to Gearhart.

“I was kind of concerned that rich history would be lost with the name change,” he says, noting that the yard has been around a long time.

Maile wanted to know: how long has there been a rail yard on Mills Street, and why the new name?


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