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.

a closeup view of a pile of old wood ties, which are heaped up like matchsticks and covered in snow
Sehvilla Mann / WMUK

If you’ve seen a railroad, you’ve seen railroad ties, the beams that brace the track crosswise from underneath. In the US they’re usually made of wood. But when listener Gordon Stewart went abroad, he noticed concrete ties on railroads.

This got him thinking. “Why don’t we use concrete ties in the states, having seen them in Europe and a number of other places and thinking it would be a lot of advantages to them?” he asked.

A wide view of a busy intersection under a gray sky. A black car, white van and white truck are passing by on the busier road. The traffic lights are strung on a wire across the road. You can see the green and red lights.
Sehvilla Mann / WMUK

Like many of us, Western Michigan University English professor Nic Witschi is working remotely during the pandemic. But normally he commutes on foot, walking up busy Stadium Drive from Rambling Road. In the 20 years since he started making the trek, he’s noticed something odd about the surface.

The picture shows a concrete spillway with a mill pond behind it, in a wooded area (the trees are bare since it's winter). There is muted sunlight.
Sehvilla Mann / WMUK

We are so glad to bring you this new episode of “Why’s That?” It’s our first since the pandemic arrived in Michigan. We are ready to take your questions again, and we hope to hear from you!

A wooded roadside with a couple of road signs and piles of chipped wood are visible in the picture.
Sehvilla Mann / WMUK

Sheila Marie Everett lives in Paw Paw and commutes to Portage, and recently, she noticed that crews were clearing trees along I-94. “And chipping them and sort of leaving the wood there and the logs were stacking up, and I wondered how much tree removal was going on and why and where was the wood going,” she said.

We will answer those questions – but first, we’ll hear some intriguing ideas for the future of a busy, if not always beloved, interstate.

A black and white aerial photo shows buildings, a rail line, part of a neighborhood, but also an area with what look like white rectangles, which were the east side sludge pits.
Courtesy photo / City of Kalamazoo

In 1968, or just before, the air began to stink on Kalamazoo’s east side.

The smell was so bad that people could hardly bear it, said Jim VanderRoest, who lived on Arthur Avenue near East Main Street and was about 12 at the time. “It was just a putrid odor, and it permeated the whole neighborhood,” he said.