October 1 2009
by CLIFF AND NANCY HILL On a bluebird Friday afternoon, the first day of Rockford’s Annual Harvest Fest, the Bishop Hills Elder Care Community hosted its annual fall Petting Zoo. Present was guest of honor, Bishop Hills resident Clarence Blakeslee (Mr. Rockford). Clarence would never miss such a photo opportunity and he came, as always, equipped with a camera. Also present for the afternoon, in no particular order, were the critters from Rockford’s “Farm Animals on the Go”, the pre-schoolers and kindergarteners from Our Lady of Consolation School accompanied by classroom teachers, aides, and parents, and last but not least Jack Bolt, representing the Rockford Historical Society. Bolt was on hand to present Clarence with a copy of Images of America – Rockford, a pictorial book of Rockford’s history by author Roberta (Bobbi) Schirado. The author had personally inscribed the book and wrote on the title page, “To Clarence Blakeslee, a Dedicated Historian”. Clarence thanked Bolt and the Society for the book. He expressed great pleasure because the book was a pictorial history of Rockford. In a quote that couldn’t be more fitting Clarence said, “Pictures are the story of my life.” Indeed, for Clarence, they are. He was never seen about town without a camera, or two, or more hanging around his neck. Clarence spent decades of his life recording, in picture, the lives and times of his beloved Rockford. The presentation of the book was all the more appropriate because it was very likely that some of the pictures contained therein were taken by Clarence himself and donated at a later date to the Rockford Historical Society. Clarence Blakeslee will celebrate his 95th birthday on October 30 (the day before Halloween). He would love to hear from you. Birthday cards can be sent to Clarence, care of: Bishop Hills Elder Care Community, 4951 ll-Mile Road, Rockford, MI 49341.
Some may be getting closer to the $1,000 prize in the Cannon Township treasure hunt. Here are the first four clues: 1) Before the river and the rapids you’ll see, figure it out and you’ll find me. 2) To get ahead on your chase, see the local doc without haste. 3) A well known anchor may aid, find the coin and you’ll be paid 4) It only happens once per year, but when it does some people cheer. Clue five, part one: You will have to look… Clue six, part three: …Mr. Miller gets his due.
When Eric Brown got sick of his regular job and quit 20 years ago, he knew he had to do something. “I never did think I could make a living at it, it just happened,” Brown said. Brown own’s Eric Brown Stained Glass at 33 Courtland Street in downtown Rockford. He is the fifth owner of a stained glass business at that location and October 1 marks the milestone of 20 years in business. “There are maybe a half dozen who have been here longer than me, so I think that’s pretty good,” he commented. Brown said he guesses he’s become one of the “old timers”in Rockford, along with J.T. Stitchery & Frame Shop, Reading Books, the Candle Shop of Rockford, Herman’s Boy, Great Northern Trading Company and Baskets in the Belfry. Brown fell into stained glass as a hobby as a 13-year-old. His older brother was interested in stained glass and decided to make a 400-piece Tiffany lamp. He quit after 20 pieces and Eric took over the project. Brown said he could never part with that first project, not out of affection, but because it really isn’t that good. “It was alright for my skill level at that time,” he said. He followed the lamp with more modest projects and over the years became a self-taught master in his craft. Now the two-story shop that was built after razing the former structure on the site glitters with examples of Brown’s work. “I’m pretty proud of the fact that almost nothing here is made in China, “ he remarked. At one time Rockford was known for the many resident artists. Now Brown is one of very few that create his products himself. “There is me, the Charnleys at Burlap ‘n Rags and Brien Dews at the clock shop,” he said. He remembers when Rockford supported a glass blower, wood worker, weaver, wood carver and more. It may not be easy, but for Brown, it is possible to support yourself as an artist. Along with the stained glass classes he teaches nights, the store is his livelihood. “I’ve seen a lot of them go in and out of business over the years,” Brown said. He attributes his success to hard work, being punctual, affordable and […]
A free presentation at Wild Birds Unlimited, 5426 Northland Drive, Saturday, October 3, will have you hearing like a bat. Demonstrations of eco-location—the bat way to navigate in the dark—are among lessons visitors will experience. Dawn Vezina, educational specialist from the Bat Zone at the Cranbrook Institute of Science, said their bat programs evoke a range of responses from people. “People’s attitudes change, often within a couple of minutes,” she said. “They may be apprehensive about bats, but then they get a close look at them, their attitudes change. They usually warm up to them.” Vezina said other animals will be present for the one-hour show, including flying squirrels and sugar gliders. No touching will be allowed, but seeing the animals up close is exciting. In the program, viewers will learn about adaptations animals use to thrive in their environment, big eyes for night vision, whiskers, and more. The real stars will be the bats. Laurie Tiemen, manager of Wild Birds Unlimited, said she is excited to see the fruit bat, the largest bat and not native to the United States. She said bats are important to the ecosystem, and receive a bad rap. “You should be happy if you have bats,” she said. “They can eat up to 6,000 insects a night.” Vezina said among the bats food are not only mosquitos, but agricultural pests. “They are a huge benefit for farmers and gardeners, and that’s a huge benefit for all of us.” Forty percent of all bat species are threatened or endangered, often because of loss of habitat. In the United States, loss of caves is impacting bats, who need them for nursery and hybernation. In Michigan, bats that used to migrate to the southern United States to the caves of Kentucky and other states now migrate north to the upper peninsula where they hibernate in former mine shafts. People can encourage bat populations by putting up bat houses, which simulate their natural homes in cavities in dead and dying trees. Even city-dwellers can accomplish this. Vezina said bat houses can go up on a pole or building. They should be installed fifteen feet off the ground in a sunny location, preferably facing south or southeast. People can also avoid spraying pesticides. These […]