The Great Depression
Divison Avenue
Division Avenue - Fulton to 28th
Division Avenue and 28th Street, looking north - 1927
Division Avenue and 34th Street, looking north - 1945
Division Avenue Bus Line.
Drive-in Theaters.
Starter buildings.

- Division Avenue -

Left click on the images below for larger versions.

A typical plank road.

Actual planks from the
GR - Kalamazoo road.



Division Avenue was originally called Gull Road. When the name was changed to Division Avenue is not known here. Only in 1924 was the stretch of Division Avenue south of Burton Heights paved with cement.

The photograph at the left is dated 1905. It is of a plank road between Delton, MI, and Cedar Creek, in Barry County. The plank road was started in 1852, and completed in 1854. In 1870 the Grand Rapids & Indiana Railroad reached Grand Rapids, going through Kalamazoo, and the plank road from Grand Rapids to-from Kalamazoo was instantly obsolete.

Vast amounts of wood were used to make the plank roads - mostly oak and pine - which eventually rotted away and had to be replaced. The maintenance, and the amounts of wood, were not sustainable, and the plank roads would have had to be replaced with more permanent construction at some point even if the railroad had not come along. The photograph above, right, shows a couple of planks, in an undated photograph. The planks were about 16 feet long, a foot wide, and three inches thick according some sources. Covering a road approximately 50 miles long, the road contained as much as 3 million board feet of lumber, 3 inches thick, enough to build a vast number of houses.

Riding a buggy along a plank road was a bumpy experience. Think of the old brick roads in downtown Grand Rapids. The plank roads were a reaction to swampy, rutted roads that were essentially impassible for parts of the year. They were generally toll roads. Someone had to pay for the upkeep. Even so, speeds were low, and there were hotels, inns, taverns, and other places to eat and rest, at frequent intervals. The Godwin Hotel, which burned in 1865, was one such place. See sections "G" and "H" for more details. Stage coaches were the primary commercial vehicles on the roads.

Left click on the images below for larger versions.

The structure above, built in 1855, was a tavern/hotel on the plank road. Located at 9320 S. Division - about 92nd and Division. The structure housed a commune in the early 1960's, but has since been nicely renovated. It has a large room with a fireplace where travelers would have no doubt rested before continuing their teeth-jarring journey to Grand Rapids. It's not clear how long it took to go from Kalamzoo to Grand Rapids, but speeds were likely low and stops not too many miles apart.

Whether structures like the one above were owned by the plank road company or private parties were encouraged to build them is unlcear. There were apparently dozens of places at one time. A few still exist as homes.

When the Grand Rapids and Indiana Railroad reached Grand Rapids these businesses mostly went out of business. The roads were likely mostly abandoned too, and maintenance stopped. For a while the roads were used by farmers, but even there the railroads eventually hauled farm output to Grand Rapids and other areas.

In 1957 the new 131 freeway was completed between Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo, and once again scores of motels and restaurants that were not easily accessed from 131 went out of business. Division Avenue has not recovered in the intervening 50 years, and seems unlikely to now.

Below is another example of an unidentified Kent Country plank road. In time the marshes were all drained, the trees cut down, and dirt roads became more practical.

Left click on the image for a much larger version.

The following book excerpt was provided by Lee (Tanner) Collins, class of 1941.

Excerpt from a Book called, WAYLAND- Where Yesterday meets today-

by Ruby Smith- Published 1966 by Gaus & Sons New York

The old stage road crossed the old Walsh farm, East of town, (Wayland) now the residence of the Gaulke family.

The Concord type coach, drawn by four horses was used and could accommodate six to eight passengers with baggage carried in the "boot" of the coach and the driver seated on the perch.

In 1841, there were no regular stage routes to the early Michigan settlements, and only ox-teams and wagons were used.

The "Good Intent Line" of stage coaches (poster dated 1854) lists stages to Kalamazoo, Battle Creek, Grand Rapids, Hastings, Flat River, Saranac, Ionia and Yankee Springs. This company operated eleven routes, used 190 horses, employed sixty-five men and had forty-five stages.

In 1849, Canton Smith and Julius Granger ran a line between Grand Rapids and Battle Creek.

In 1850, there were stage connections with Lansing, Battle Creek and Kalamazoo.

Stage connections between Battle Creek, Ionia and Lyons were twice a week.

The first type of stage used in the early pioneer days of Michigan had a long body, which swung on straps attached to the running gear. It was called the "thoroughtrace" type. It was used on the old Battle Creek-Hastings stage line in the early fifties. A more modern type was used on the Kalamazoo, Grand Rapids service through Prairieville, Yankee springs, Whitneyville and Cascade.

One of the stage drivers on the Kalamazoo, Yankee Springs, Grand Rapids route was Benjamin F. Fox, resident of Yorkville for over sixty years. He was an expert in driving the coach. The stage line between Grand Rapids, Yankee springs and Kalamazoo was discontinued when the vehicles were transferred to the new plank road built between Kalamazoo and Grand Rapids by way of Plainwell and Wayland.

The plank road between Kalamazoo and Grand Rapids was completed in 1855 and prospered only about five years. It was laid out by L. S. Trask and followed fairly well the existing route of U. S. 131. During those brief years of prosperity, Mr. Gantt held his stock and watched it reap sizable dividends as commerce flowed between the two growing cities. In 1856 Gantt and Wm. H. DeYoe (Kalamazoo Postmaster) wagered their stock in the plank road on the outcome of the 1856 presidential contest between John Fremont, Republican and James Buchanan, Democrat. Gantt, lost his stock.

The road was operated on tolls collected along the route. The toll station was near the city limits on Douglas Avenue in Kalamazoo and on Division Avenue in Grand Rapids. Passengers paid six cents to travel two miles North to Cooper. Then another toll was collected near Grand Rapids at Cuttlerville. Keeper of the tollgate at the Kalamazoo Allegan County Line was Philander a Ware who died in 1900. He was on duty at the gate 24 hours a day. His daughter was Mrs. J. H. Gilman. Several of her brothers and sisters were born in the toll-keepers house. A stone marker on U. S. 131 at the county line recalls the site of the old toll-house. Wm. Pattison and J. K. Ward were probably the best know operators of the stage from Kalamazoo to Grand Rapids.

Mrs. Martha Gilman, wrote in 1952 that, "This summer marks one hundred years since they started building the old plank road." She recalls, "One time some fellows were coming from Grand Rapids, all dressed up-coming here for some fun." They met another team going the other way. They were out for a good time, too. They met just beyond the Douglas Avenue toll station. They all had tall stovepipe hats on and they were dressed in their best." "When the two coaches met, nobody would get off the road," she said. There was a fight. Both wagons rolled off the road-the horses got away, the hats got crushed and everybody looked terrible when it was over. They all went back where they came from. That sort of thing happened many times in stagecoach days. The wagon that had the heaviest load was supposed to have the right-of-way. "And the circus when it came to town, used to come over the road, elephants and all."

Mrs. Gilman said her mother used to call her father from work for meals by going out on the road and firing a pistol into the air.

Railroad competition soon forced the stage line out of business. The last coach pulled up to Kalamazoo House, October 22, 1869. Humorist Mark Twain is said to have poked fun at the Michigan plank roads back in 1840 and 1850. It seems he made a stagecoach trip over the Kalamazoo-Grand Rapids plank road to give a lecture in Grand Rapids, when asked how he enjoyed the trip, he replied, "the road would not have been so bad if some scoundrel had not now and then dropped a plank across it."

- Division Avenue - Fulton to 28th -

The scenes shown here of Division Avenue between Fulton Avenue and 28th Street are things Godwin students would have seen and experienced, some as places of employment or businesses owned, and some from the windows of the Division Avenue bus. Most of the places shown are gone as of year 2013, and many that remain are in declining neighborhoods. But in the 1950s and before, areas like Burton Heights were thriving communities and business districts. There were many businesses along Divison, including factories, car dealerships, gas stations, grocery stores, etc. In year 2013 the buildings are either gone, or largely unrecognizable. But it was different 50 and more years ago, as the photos and other material below attempts to show.

The entries will be in order of street number, starting with Fulton and Division, and working south.

Fulton to Oakes.

Left click on the images below for larger versions.

June 2, 1928



Division Avenue, from Fulton to Oakes, June 2, 1928. The streetcar tracks are being relocated. Seven years later, GM will remind Grand Rapids about what a big presence it is in Michigan, and in the Grand Rapids area in particular, and suggest that it replace its essentially new trolleys and trolley system with the rather more smelly buses that of course GM manufactures. Grand Rapids was one of the first cities of any size to do this. So the work seen in the old photo above, left, was largely a huge expense for little gain. The buildin in the upper left of the photograph exists in year 2013, and houses Craig Architects, shown in the photo at the right, above.

The area on the west side of Division was, or would come to be, called the Heartside Area. Perhaps bounded by Fulton and Oakes, north-south, and Division and Commerce, east-west, it was the scene of music and many bars and lounges in the 1930s and 1940s. A sign by Jefferson suggests the Heartside area went further east - maybe an old map can resolve this.

The James Lowe house, shown in a 1927 or before photograph below, was located at 152 South Division. Assuming the street numbers are still the same in year 2013, that would put the house near the northeast corner of Division and Cherry, next to the Moose building. Shown below is the location in about June, 2013. The building is the Chaffee Building, built in 1928 according to the date along the roof line.

Left click on the images below for larger versions.

1927 or before.

About June, 2013

Located on the southwest corner of Division Avenue and McConnell Street, at 433 Division Avenue, Fifi's was another of the many coctail lounges along division that existed up through the 1950's. Safe neighborhoods at the time, people would stop at them on the way home from work, on weekday nights, and in the evening on weekends. It's not clear what the building is used for in year 2014.

GPS coordinates: 42.954973 -85.667897

Left click on the images below for larger versions.

GPS coordinates: 42.949834 -85.667812

Left click on the images below for larger versions.

711 Division - c1950

711 Division - July 2011

725 Division - July 2011

A grocery and beer and wine store in the late 1940s and thereabouts, 711 Division Avenue. 725 Division, on the NW coerner of Divison Avenue and Graham Street SW, was more recently the site of a war zone known as the Limelight. Long know for shootings and stabbings, especially on the weekends, the establishment changed names at some point, and has now been closed down.

About 1495 Division. GPS: 42.937339, -85.667803

The old Steelcase building, at Garden Street and Division Avenue. The building still exists as of year 2013.

Left click on the images below for larger versions.

March 12, 1952


1516-1544 Division. GPS: 42.936231, -85.666248

The Macey Company, at 1516 to 1544 South Division. Just what it did is unclear. Today the location is an empty lot. The Pere Marquette railroad tracks are just north of the building, and still exist in year 2013, as part of the CSX system.

Left click on the images below for larger versions.

Left click on the images below for larger versions.

About 2451 South Division Avenue, May 19, 1948. The area by the sign "Cabins," on the east side, by Plaster Creek, is where the Grand Rapids city buses would make their turn to head back north. The south side of 28 Street was the last place heading north that a Division Avenue bus could pick up passengers. Apparently those norht of 28th Street had to walk to Plaster Creek to catch a bus. One sees what appears to be a Division Avenue bus heading south. South End Body Shop is to the left.

- Division Avenue and 28th Street in 1927 and after -

Left click on the images below for larger versions.


1927 - see white house.

2012 - see white house.


c1931 - note MCRR



"This exciting view of a road through a rural scene was taken in 1927, of S. Division Avenue looking north from 28th Street." The tracks belonged to the Grand River Valley Railroad (as it was called in 1876), and went from Grand Rapids to Jackson, 84 miles. In the late 1940's and early 1950's Budd diesel rail cars were used for the last passenger service along this track. See section "R" for some details. Note below that the bridge has "MCRR" painted on it. The line was still called the Michigan Central RR. At some point, the NY Central would obtain the line.

Underpasses were subsequently built under the railroad tracks on both Division Avenue and 28th Street. The photograph above, dated 1930, shows construction beginning on the Division Avenue viaduct. It's an illusion that the track has been raised - in fact, the road was removed north of the X-ing sign, and there is now a hole just before the track. Lewis Lull, class of 1940, says that the underpasses were in place by 1930, when he moved to the area. If the 1927 date given for two of the photographs is correct, the underpasses were put in place not long after it was taken.

It's incredible how much grading was done in the process of putting in the viaducts. The land along division was essentially flat before, until one reached Burton Heights, off in the distance, and just past plaster creek. For years the viaducts have not properly drain, and Division has to be closed while storm water was pumped out. In year 2013, the railroad track is essentially abandoned. The bridges will likely be removed at some point. What else is unclear. Might the ravines be filled in again? It appears the viaducts were in fact an expensive mistake.

Dick Speas, class of 1948, mentions that in 1937 or 1938 a Mrs. Kinney, mother of Ed, Richard, and Janet, took a number of kids in the neighborhood on a picnic. The "picnic grounds" was the wedge of property bounded by the railroad tracks, Division Avenue, and 28th Street (then Laraway). Why this was a picnic area remains unclear, since even at that time the "grounds" were small and noisy, and the facilities non-existent. Of course the roads weren't as busy then, and 28th Street was a two lane road. Anyway, Dick mentions the steps that led from a sidewalk next to Division Avenue to the "picnic grounds." These were still visible in the early 1950's, and always seemed kind of mysterious. There was no evidence at that time that the area was ever used for picnics, and the steps seemed to lead to a structure that no longer existed.

- Division Avenue and 34th Street in about 1945 -

Photograph provided by Mildred Annis, class of 1940.

The photograph above of Division Avenue looking north is from about 1945. The street still had little traffic, and was lined in places with large oak trees. Bob McDonald, who lived on Clements (formerly Godwin) Street, and knew the area well, provides a lot of the following information.

The house on the right side, likely a farm house in earlier years, was north of the Twin Cabins Tourist Court, located at 3430 Division Avenue. The cabins dated from perhaps the 1920s or 1930s, and were built by George Hammel, a contractor, who lived in the large house. They were still there in October, 1972. Arlan's discount store, was built on the southwest corner of 34th Street and Division Ave, at approximately the site of the Godwin family house, which was built before 1855. It was still standing in about 1954, but burned shortly thereafter.

The house just north of the Twin Cabins and the large farm house housed a business that sold a brand of coal stokers - sounds like "Jewel." North of the house was a grocery store - sounds like "Vogaler's". North of that was a vacant lot in the early 1940s.Then was a Standard gas station, followed by Harding Auto Sales. On the corner of Division and Godwin (now Clements) Street was a Sinclair station owned by Jack Kent. At 3300 Division Avenue was a Zephyr gas station, For decades one could see the "flying horse" red neon sign at night.

In year 2006 all of the cabins and the houses are long gone, including the large oak trees that once lined Division Avenue in the Godwin area.

Left click on the images below for larger versions.


Called the Halfway House, implying that it was half way between Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo, it was located in the Kellogsville area, and was some kind of hotel and restaurant for stage travelers on the plank road. Division Avenue was called Gull Road years ago, a name still used north of Kalamazoo, and was a plank toll road. The structure still exists in year 2013. It is located on 52nd Street, about a block from Division Avenue.

- Division Avenue Bus Line -

Left click on the image for a much larger version.

1929 Division Avenue Bus Line schedule.

Provided for scanning by John Kamstra, a local collector.

Another view of the 1929 bus line schedule.

Provided by Alta May (McConnell) Kaiser and Lea (Tanner) Collins.

The area along Division Avenue between 28th Street and 68th Street was really starting to grow in 1929. Both the bus and the interurban line that paralleled Division Avenue once it got south of 28th Street until 1928 made it possible to live in the Godwin Heights, Southlawn, Home Acres, and Cutlerville areas and still work in the business in and south of Grand Rapids. Started in 1924 with one makeshift bus, the bus line had a full schedule in 1929, and a number of buses. The one shown above is number 7, It would have taken a number of buses to support the schedule shown, with buses leaving every 10 to 15 minutes during the rush hours. A trip from Cutlerville in to Grand Rapids might take 20 minutes, so as many as three buses could be in service each way at during the rush hours. How much the line suffered during the Great Depression is unknown, but it did survive. While up to 25% of the population was out of work during the Great Depression, 75% did have jobs, and most needed transportation. It's possible that the line did even better at this time because many people probably did not want to run their cars in order to save money.

As indicated just above the calendar, buses were available for charter. Many a Godwin student from the 1950s and before can remember many a field trip to local event events and sites. A trip to walk around a farm, sometimes singing "99 bottles of beer on the wall," to the delight of the teachers.... A trip to a play at another school. An after school trip to Bowen's roller rink, which was also rented just for Godwin students for a few hours. Sometimes for longer class trips, to Kalamazoo. The buses were ideally outfitted for the slush and snow of winter. The heaters always seemed to work, and after standing alongside the old build on 40 Ottawa Avenue, the origin of the southbound trips, in winter is was always a pleasure to find the bus warm, and one could just sit back and wait for their stop. Few minded a one to six block walk to their houses after getting off the bus. Godwin chartered the buses for school buses, for students who lived east of the old airport for example. This likely saved the school money, since there were none of the overhead costs of owning buses and hiring drivers.

As indicated at bottom right, it was suggested that people take the bus and save wear and tear on their car. And in all likelihood, money. In many cases there would be no worries about parking, and the possible cost of parking. And there's little doubt that a 15 or 20 minute ride spend reading the paper was preferable to the vagaries of rush hour traffic.

Alas, cheap oil, and the paved roads that eventually followed from this, the disintegration of the downtown area in the early 1960s, and ever greater suburban sprawl, pretty much doomed the line. Without the focus of the downtown area, and without a relatively concentrated supply of customers, a fixed route bus line no longer filled a clear need. As of year 2005 the Division Avenue Bus Line no longer exists. Ironically, the use of buses in year 2005 is higher than ever, but it is mainly in the form of school buses, a sad result of the even more sad phenomena of school consolidation.

History of the Division Avenue Bus Line.

Left click on the images below for larger versions.


Material provided by Lillian Annis, class of 1941.

Left click on the image below for a larger version.

Division Aveneue bus depot, 1946.

A photograph of Bob Christian in December, 1957. From the December 23, 1957
issue of The Photo Reporter, made available by Bob Ferguson, class of 1955.

Does anyone know what the name of the theater mentioned in the piece, and shown in the bottom photograph, was? It became the headquarters for the Division Avenue Bus Line. Or where Glen's Garage was? The interurban that ran parallel to Division Avenue south of 36th Street, operated until about 1928. Were there any stops between 36th and 44th?

It's interesting to note that Godwin was just making the transition from a one room school house to the new building on Division Avenue in 1924, when the bus line started. And it was only in 1927 that the first class graduated after completing twelve years. Prior to that Godwin only went to grade ten, which was typical at that time.

The Division Avenue Bus Line no longer exists as an independent line. At some point it was taken over by the Grand Rapids City Bus Line. To what extent it made the growth of the area along Division Avenue, between today's 28th Street and 68th Street, possible is not clear. But providing transportation between the area and the businesses in Grand Rapids must have made it possible for a lot of people to live in the Godwin Heights area and continue to work in Grand Rapids. Over time, people opened many businesses in the stretch between 28th and 68th Streets, and the area became more self sufficient. Growth in the region served by the Division Avenue Bus Line was apparently explosive between 1924 and about 1929, reflecting a nation wide boom akin to the dot-com boom of the late 1990s.

In year 2005 the notion that an area would be dependent on a bus line seems quaint. But in the 1920s, most people took buses, trains, interurbans, and trolleys to get where they were going, or walked, rode a horse, or used a horse and buggy. Parts of Division Avenue were only being paved, with cement, in about 1924. Eastern Avenue ( formerly East Avenue ) was still a dirt road south of 28th Street at least. Between 1924 and about 1950 Godwin made the transition from a one room school house to a multi building complex, and Charles Saur had seen it through the entire process and then left the school system. By 1960 essentially all of the farm land within about five miles of Godwin was gone. In that sense the area had matured. All within a span of about 25 years.

But few Godwin students from 1960 ( before the Urban Renewal program ruined downtown Grand Rapids ) can forget the peace of mind of being able to board a Division Avenue Bus Line bus for a trip to or from Grand Rapids. Providing reliable transportation in all weather, one didn't have to worry about the expense or inconvenience of taking their car into town. If they owned a car at all. While people did have to brave the elements at times while waiting for a bus, and the kind of bus shelters seen in year 2005 did not exist in 1960 and before, once the bus did arrive there was a sense of security, and a dependable ride in store. Because buses could not pick up passengers north of 28th Street, the area served by the Grand Rapids Bus Line, riders of the Division Avenue bus line essentially had an express run in to town once north of 28th Street.

Like so many things familiar to Godwin students in 1963 and before, the Division Avenue Bus Line as a stand alone company is just a memory now.

Left click on the image for a larger version.

Myron McNaughton was part owner of the Division Avenue Bus Line in the 1950s, and had the unenviable job of providing bus service for Godwin students during the school year. The Morning route included students from the east side of the old airport, and the evening route included those students plus some from St. John Vianney.

Sadly, having to ride a bus to and from school had all of the drawbacks it has today. Students spent their time riding a bus rather than walking, participating in after school events, or even doing homework.

It's not clear when Myron McNaughton retired or otherwise stopped driving a bus. But he was a familiar face for many students for many years, and provided flawlessly dependable service to Godwin, as well as probably saving the school a great deal of money. In those times Godwin did not need to own its own buses, and incur the expense of running and maintaining them. A private company, the Division Avenue Bus Line had the flexibility to offer as-needed service in a way that a city line might not have been able to.

Eventually the Division Avenue Bus Line included a Clyde Park route. A 1958 schedule is included below.

Left click on either image below for a larger version.

Material provided for scanning by LeRoy Rockwell, class of 1959.

- Doo-Wop -

Spanning a period of perhaps 1954 to 1962, doo-wop is a particular style of rock and roll. Some people apparently take doo-wop and rock and roll to be synonymous. Click here for an opportunity to play someone's pick of the top 100 doo-wop songs if your computer has a sound card and speakers.

- Drive-in Theaters -

The first drive-in theater - 1933 - in Camden, New Jersey. The name "Drive-in Theater" was coined by the investors, and clearly stuck. A drive-in web site gives a great deal of detail about this cultural phenomena that lasted about three decades, and likely put a number of neighborhood theaters out of business. Greater privacy, some family members could sleep, and you could bring your own food.

By the middle 1960's many drive-ins were no longer suitable for families, and most went out of business. A complete listing of drive-ins in Michigan can be found in the "drive-in" web site. Those that people at Godwin might have visited are shown below. ( There was a drive-in on about 60th Street and Division Avenue which doesn't seem to be on the list. )

There seems to be a pattern wherein entertainment goes out of fashion, only to return again. Not long after the demise of almost all drive-ins, and long after almost all of the neighborhood theaters, and all of the downtown Grand Rapids theaters, were demolished, indoor theaters made a comeback, this time in the guise of multiple screen establishments, typically with small seating capacity, more spartan accommodations, and showing several different movies. Now it is claimed that drive-ins are making a comeback, as family institutions once again. What's old is new again? Why the renewed popularity? This time around there are rented movies, cable, and satellite services to compete with. Is this nostalgia, or perhaps cabin fever? Maybe some of the 1,000 derelict drive-ins around the country can still be renovated and revived. Who doesn't remember good times in a car watching a movie. Something like a video picnic.

Temporarily, the entire list of defunct Michigan drive-ins is shown below. If anyone spots one that should be in the list above, please get in touch.

Beltline Drive In.

Left click on the images below for larger versions.

November 3, 1949.

1400 28th Street.

Located at 1400 28th Street. The image in the bottom row, right, shows the location of the Beltline Drive In. The site is occupied in year 2013 by Frankie V's Sports Bar. When opened in 1949, or before, 28th Street at this location was still mostly open land, with some farm houses, and a lot of gravel pits, all the way out to Wilson Avenue.

Characteristic of the entertainment of the early and mid 1950s, drive in's offered a family environment and a lower cost way of getting out to see a movie. Younger kids would often sleep through most of the event in the back seat of the car or statin wagon.

By the late 1950s television, and color television in particular, began to syphon off movie attendance. At the same time, seedier elements began to overrun the drive in's, which then became mostly mating areas for older kids. In year 2012 there are perhaps a handful of drive in's in the US.

In colder climates, theaters attempted to encourage year around use by offering free electric heaters, so motorists didn't have to let their cars run. Another increasingly annoying feature was speakers that didn't work. In year 2012 that could be simply solved by using a car's FM radio for sound, on a signal provided by the theater. But the prospects of any revival of drive in's seems slim.

Stardust Drive In.

Left click on the image below for a larger version.

Originally called the Division Avenue Drive In, the name was laster changed to the Stardust. The photograph above is undated.

Vista Drive In.

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The Vista Drive In, some time after its closing in 1978. It was located at 4500 Lake Michigan Drive.

- Starter Buildings -

Starter buildings were stand alone buildings located about every mile or two along Division Avenue. They were typically two story, with living quarters on the second floor. The intent was for a strip mall to develop around them, as store buildings were added to both sides. Most never fulfilled this mission, but even after 80 years or so most still survive. Below are some examples.

Left click on the images below for larger versions.

About 3281 S. Division.

Division and Withey

4107 Division

- The Great Depression -

Great only in the sense of its magnitude, the Great Depression nominally got underway after the large stock market crashes of 1929. But despite popular impressions, the stock market rebounded some after the initial crash, and started its downward slide again in the early 1930s. Just when the Great Depression ended is a matter of debate. The federal government instituted many works programs, including the CCC ( Civilian Conservation Core ) and the WPA ( Works Progress Administration ). The CCC focused on improving national parks, and other aspects of federal land. The WPA focused on building projects. Some examples include the Grand Rapids Civic Auditorium, the Godwin Library and Division Avenue tunnel, and a new wing on the Godwin highschool building.

But like any public work program, they use tax money, and do not actually generate revenue. So while they put many people to work, and provided them paychecks, they did not help to fix the economy. While some argue that the economy was on the mend in the late 1930s, it is completely clear that US declaration of war on Japan following the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, created full employment, practically overnight. There was a limitless demand for workers in war factories, and for people in the military.

In the early 1930s Charles Saur had his mettle tested as he tried, and mostly succeeded, to find ways to keep Godwin going. As the piece below points out, tax collections were failing all over the country. As much as 25% of the labor force was out of work. People were losing their homes. Without the tax revenues, schools could not function, and many were closing their doors for part of the school season. Teachers often could not be paid. Many people could not even afford food. It's known that Charles Saur did what he could to help, including paying for food for people out of his own pocket.

Godwin financial woes in 1933.

Left click on the image below for a larger version.

The piece above is from the December 15, 1933, issue of "The Godwin High News," and was made available by LeRoy Rockwell, class of 1959.

- Dances -

Dances were probably part of the highschool scene back to the 1930s, at least, when the big bands were popular. At the bigger highschools anyway. Roughly every decades had a new set of heart throbs, characteristic of fads in general. Frank Sinatra in the 1940s. Elvis in the early 1950s. The Beatles in the 1960s. By the 1940s a school could have a record player for a dance even if it couldn't afford a band.

In the 1950s Godwin had its sock hops during the lunch hour. Friday nights were pretty much always the night when there could be a dance after a game - any kind of game. And of course there were the proms and events where Godwin royalty - kings and queens - was coronated during a dance.

Left click on the image below for a larger version.

The photo print says June, 1963, which is when the film was developed anyway. In the foreground is John Podbregar, class of X, and behind him and to the right is Gary Miller, class of 1965.

In perhaps the late 1950s, Wood TV started a program called Bop Hop, which was apparently intended to compete with American Bandstand, with Dick Clark. Jerry Bowersox, class of 1965, points out that each week a different school was given the opportunity to supply dancers for the program. Below is an undated still from one of the programs.

Left click on the image below for a larger version.