Why's That? | WMUK

Why's That?

Second Friday of the month at 6:45 am, 8:45 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

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.


The photo shows trees with leaves just coming in, right, and a long multilevel building in shadow, left. In the background behind the building is a tall, pale chimney.
Sehvilla Mann / WMUK

To the west of Kalamazoo, in the Village of Lawton, just off the main drag, there’s a sprawling brick building with arched windows and sturdy walls. Here’s what’s special about it: This building has a chimney, or smokestack so tall you can see it from all over town. For locals, it's a symbol of home. For visitors, it’s a curiosity.