Cliff and Nancy Hill

Historic Rockford manufacturing facility to be razed

September 20, 2012 // 0 Comments

by CLIFF AND NANCY HILL   Ironically, while the Rockford Historical Society is gearing up to move its Rockford Area Museum to the vacant 63rd District Court Building adjacent to Rockford City Hall, at the very same time, what might be the oldest manufacturing facility in Rockford is about to be demolished and removed. The Burch Body Works facility, located in the very heart of Rockford on the southeast corner of Rum Creek and Monroe St., was until January 2006 the home of Rockford’s oldest continuously operating business. Dating back to 1866, when it manufactured horse drawn carriages and drays, today Burch is an innovative provider of practical solutions for custom work truck applications in the Great Lakes region, across the country, and around the world. In late December 2005 the employees of Burch purchased the business, but not the property, from its current owner and shortly thereafter relocated the company’s operations to a more suitable manufacturing facility on Childsdale Ave., in Plainfield Township. Speaking for Burch Body Works, LLC, Andrew Laitila said, “We hated to leave Rockford but the antiquated building was beyond repair and a totally unsafe work environment. It was also functionally obsolete and ill suited for any type of commercial business let alone the manufacture and installation of our highly specialized work truck products.” Upon Burch’s move out of Rockford, the property owner placed the beautiful 6+-acre Rum Creek-side property on the market. All attempts, thus far, to sell the property have been unsuccessful. In the meantime, for the past six years, the main building on the property has fallen into further disrepair. Even though securely gated and surrounded by an eight-foot chain link fence, the property has been repeatedly trespassed upon and the building broken into and vandalized. More relevant, at some point in early winter 2011 a major portion of the building, on its northeast corner, collapsed in upon itself. With a great concern for the neighborhood and its citizens and also for those who are illegally entering the property and putting themselves in harms way, the City of Rockford this past spring presented the property owner with a demolition order. The property owner is cooperating and willingly complying, has secured demolition funding, and is currently working through the […]

Hate standing in line?

September 20, 2012 // 0 Comments

Consider voting absentee in the November election by CLIFF AND NANCY HILL “We, the people” (the electorate) of the United States are so polarized by partisan politics and rhetoric that voter turnout in the General November 2012 Presidential election is expected to be huge. In Rockford, both sides of a full ballot will decide elective offices that will offer up choices from the Presidency of the United States right down to Rockford City Council. Topping it all off, voters will be asked to consider six separate proposed amendments to the Michigan Constitution. With all of this on our plates in the polling booth, is it any wonder on Election Day, Tuesday, November 6, that long lines will be evident at polling places across the country. If your time is valuable and you are one who does not like to stand in line, even in an election of this magnitude, there is an easier alternative. Consider casting an absentee ballot. One does not have to be a senior citizen to request an absentee ballot. A number of valid excuses allow any registered voter to receive and vote, at their leisure, an absentee ballot in the privacy of their own home. Receiving an absentee ballot is a simple process. First off, either in person or on the phone, contact your local Clerk and request an application form for an absentee ballot. When received, check an appropriate box, sign your name and return it to your Clerk. Upon receipt, the Clerk will mail an absentee ballot to your home address. How simple and easy! No standing in long lines, no need to fit election day into your hectic and busy life, no need to be late for work, and you can even have a cup of coffee while you ponder and exercise your civic duty. Your reporters have voted via absentee ballot for many years. We wouldn’t have it any other way. Heck, in the not-to-distant future it’s envisioned that everyone will cast their votes electronically from anywhere they choose on Election Day. For those of you who live in the City of Rockford, City Clerk Chris Bedford and the office staff at Rockford City Hall would be more than happy to service your request for an absentee […]

‘Pure Michigan’ tale of two bridge walks

September 13, 2012 // 0 Comments

by CLIFF AND NANCY HILL Labor Day morning found the Hills in Mackinaw City to again participate in this year’s 55th annual Labor Day Mackinac Bridge Walk. This is a tradition we began many years ago and plan on continuing for as long as we’re able to walk or can find somebody willing to push us across in a wheelchair (as many do). As usual, we were on one of the first school buses transporting walkers across from Mackinaw City to the walk’s origin in St. Ignace in the U.P. “eh”. We stepped off promptly at 7 a.m. right behind Gov. Snyder and his entourage in the vanguard of what would be some 45,000 participants to follow. It was a “bluebird” morning with a hazy sun rising on the eastern horizon. With cool temperatures and no wind it was, in our opinion, one of the best 5-mile “strolls across the Straits” we’ve ever taken. We finished the walk in Mackinaw City in a very respectable one hour and three minutes. This being a Presidential election year, we were schmoozed by what seemed like hundreds of politicians at the finish line. Enough of politics already, we headed off to our favorite breakfast spot, Darrow’s Family Restaurant just blocks away and were seated just before a waiting line of famished bridge walkers snaked out the front door and down the block. The place is just that good, and we certainly didn’t forget a piece of their famous homemade pie for breakfast dessert. However, what follows is about an idea we have been toying with for the past few years, so here’s the rest of the story. For the last three years we have been lodging a short drive of 20 miles southeast of Mackinaw City in Cheboygan, MI. We love Cheboygan; it is a special can-do City full of friendly and caring people, much like Rockford. Best of all, we are afforded reasonable room rates and no one is taken advantage of by the exorbitant holiday lodging rates in Mackinaw City. Situated on the shores of Lake Huron, Cheboygan lays claim to being the homeport of the USCG Cutter Mackinaw. Cheboygan is a small city and with a population of 5,250. It reminds us of our own […]

Bikes and Smiles were the order of the day at Wolverine Worldwide YMCA

September 6, 2012 // 0 Comments

by CLIFF AND NANCY HILL The Kent County Sheriff Department, in collaboration with the Wolverine Worldwide YMCA and Devos Children’s Hospital Safe Kids Coalition, conducted a bicycle give-a-way and safety event for 29 area children on Tuesday, August 28. Making it all possible were 29 new or gently used bikes that had come into the possession of the Kent County Sheriff Department. Bikes needing repair were completely refurbished to safe operating conditions by Kent County Jail inmates. “The inmates take a great sense of pride and ownership by playing a part in this worthwhile program,” said Sheriff Larry Stelma who was on hand for the give-a-way event. “It’s a win-win for everyone involved today including the inmates.” “The 29 children chosen to be recipients of the bikes had been identified by the Wolverine Worldwide YMCA as area kids who lack the financial means to afford a bicycle,” said Toni Szczepanski, Volunteer and Community Outreach Coordinator for the Rockford area YMCA. Thrilled kids received an age appropriate bicycle that had been previously tagged for them, and them alone. Before they were allowed to test-drive their bikes around the parking lot, the kids had a sit-down bike safety lesson. After which, each was personally fitted with a brand-new bicycle helmet provided by Devos Children’s Hospital Safe Kids Coalition. Personally attending to that task was Amy Horn, the hospital’s Safe Kids Program Assistant. With helmet in place, each kid on his new ride headed through a mock riding course, complete with orange cones, which had previously been set up by Sheriff Deputies. Also on hand were two Deputies and their beautiful chestnut horses from the Kent County Sheriff’s Mounted Unit. For some of the kids (Sienna Gorby, 8, in particular) the horses were the highlight of the day. “Today’s presentation was but one of many community service and outreach events provided by the Kent County Sheriff Department every year,” said Sheriff Stelma. As the afternoon’s festivities drew to a close, the new bicycle owners loaded the bikes up to return home for many years of out-of-doors riding pleasure. Enjoy kids, and to quote Roy Rogers (and Fred Meijer) “Happy trails to you”.                

Rockford’s ACE high royal flush BBQ boot camp

August 30, 2012 // 0 Comments

by CLIFF AND NANCY HILL “It was awesome”, said Rockford master plumber Blaine Kellermeier after the second of two summer grilling seminars, complete with sit-down dinners, which were hosted by Pete Kruer of Rockford’s ACE Hardware. “I consider myself a fairly accomplished backyard griller,” continued Kellermeier, “but I’ve managed to learn something new while attending each of these classes.” Last week’s second “ BBQ boot camp”, held in the beautiful ACE gardens adjacent to the hardware store, focused on pork butts and briskets. As with the first class, real BBQ experts were on hand to bring everyone in attendance to the next level. Presiding over the class were radio show hosts “Barbecue” Bob Nurmikko and Randy “Jop” Joppie, aka “The Grillin ’Guys”. Also instructing was Rob Russell of Kansas City’s Ace of Hearts Barbecue Specialties. Russell has a reputation of being the top expert on BBQ grilling in the nation. Highlighted during the evening, was pork butt and brisket preparation – especially trimming techniques to remove excess fat. Although one may, there is no reason to leave all of the fat on a brisket. Smoke and rubs will not penetrate it and it will take more time to fuel and cook the brisket with all of the fat intact. In the end, you are not going to eat the fat – you are going to cut it away and discard it. Classmates learned, especially when it comes to smoking, the necessity of placing meats that are as cold as possible on the grill. Meat will only take up smoke between 40 degrees F. and 140 degrees F. If you start with meat at room temperature, you will not end up with a desired perfect smoke ring. Much time was spent stressing the importance of using premium natural hardwood lump charcoal and maintaining proper temperatures during the entire process – before, during, and after. Tenderizing techniques and methods, which included marinades and a hand-tenderizing tool called a ‘Jaccard’ were discussed and demonstrated. Injection methods and ingredients were also touched on. As with any large roast, we were reminded it is important to let a brisket rest for at least 30 minutes before slicing so the juices inside have a chance to redistribute. We could go on […]

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