why's that | WMUK

why's that

A front-yard light post, red with a square yellow leaded-glass lantern, displays a sign with an address, 1805 Chevy Chase
Sehvilla Mann / WMUK

This is WMUK’s “Why’s That?” answering your questions about life in Southwest Michigan. I’m Sehvilla Mann, and you’re not.

If you watched Saturday Night Live in the 70s (which I didn’t, because I wasn’t born yet), you’ll get the reference to comedian Chevy Chase. SNL made him a star, as he played in segments like the newscast parody Weekend Update.

Sehvilla Mann

Sharon Ferraro is the City of Kalamazoo’s historic preservation expert. She’s come to the historic Vine neighborhood to help answer a question about a name. But Sharon and I are early to this meeting with our question-asker. While we wait, Sharon looks for something in the sidewalk.

A man wearing a "Jurassic Park" t-shirt stands with a stack of boxed celery. A bin of loose celery is behind him.
Sehvilla Mann / WMUK

Kalamazoo is known for the things it’s manufactured - guitars, taxi cabs, lots of paper. But it’s also got an agricultural claim to fame, as America’s onetime “Celery City.” In the first half of the 20th century Kalamazoo shipped trainloads of celery far and wide. In 2017, retired carpenter Carl Bussema told WMUK about growing up working his grandparents’ Kalamazoo celery farm in the 1930s and 40s.

Sehvilla Mann / WMUK

In 1971, Erika Loeffler Friedl and her husband bought a three-bedroom ranch house near Western Michigan University, where Erika went on to have a long career as an anthropologist. Fifty years later, retired, their kids grown, the couple lives in the same house. So when a realtor described it as a starter home, it surprised Erika.

Sehvilla Mann / WMUK


This story begins on an island: a patch of land that is surrounded by the City of Kalamazoo but is not part of it. This episode originally aired in Nov. 2019.