Monthly Archives: September 2012

50 Shades of Wildcat Willy

This Willy picture was taken during the 2012 homecoming football game by Jenna Thompson, who can be reached at jennatho (at)

NMU’s mascot, Wildcat Willy, has many lives. Since a real, live bobcat on campus in the 60s was not a success, Willy has remained two-dimensional but has experienced a number of surprising looks.

One of the first records of Willy is a history written by a former wildcat in the winter edition of Horizons, the alumni magazine at NMU. The article talks about what it was like for 1989 graduate Jay McQuillan to be Willy during hockey games. McQuillan was instrumental in promoting Willy’s image on campus, including changing the name from “Willie” to “Willy” and making the mascot fully clothed. The pictures on the internet version of the article aren’t great, but it’s clear that Willy’s head back then was mostly mouth.

Another example of Willy is this homecoming picture from 1990. He looks much more aggressive than he is now. It’s also interesting that The North Wind spells his name “Wildcat Willie” even though the Horizon’s article above says that his name was changed to “Willy” in 1984-1985.

In the interim, there are a number of other Willy looks. The USOEC featured a rendition of Willy that’s very tough looking for some clothing. That picture is in this CAMPUS article.

There is also a patch being sold on Ebay that features Willy. The tag on the item says that it was sold from the NMU Bookstore. As for what year it was sold, the item description on Ebay says, “A TREMENDOUS Item that I believe to be Around 45 YEARS OLD or OLDER!!” I’d have to agree. If these pictures are any indication that Willy becomes less scary with the years, this patch is probably from long before the 80s.

Willy now is much more friendly. He has a Facebook page and the mascot can be rented for various events. His face is generally more animated and round. However, if his job was to intimate the other team during sporting events, I think he would have been more effective in years past.

Written by Lucy Hough


Entering NMU

Door plateIf you were enrolled at NMU from 1915 to the 1960s, you would have had to place your hand on this to enter the school.

This is a door plate that graced the front door of Kaye Hall, one of the main academic and administrative buildings at the time and was considered the central point of NMU. The building had class rooms and offices, a large auditorium and an atrium. Classes, conventions, meetings and commencements were held there. As such, it is possible that just about every student touched this plaque to get into the building at one point or another.

The building was condemned in the 1960’s and eventually, after much contention, demolition began in 1972. The door plate is currently on display in the conference room of the President’s office.

Written by Stephen Glover of the BHC

The Dark Side of Archiving

This blog is dedicated to all those who consider the practice of archiving to be a dull and tedious profession. Yes, it is boxes, papers and file folders, but there is a treacherous aspect that often goes unacknowledged. Contrary to popular belief, archiving is not for the faint of heart. Archivists must be brave, confident, and above all, they must have a strong stomach.  Let us look at some first -hand accounts of the little known, much feared, dark side of archiving…

June 10th, 1987

Marcus Robyns, a university archivist, found himself at a ranch just south of Beaumont, Texas. He had been summoned there to collect farm records, dating back to the pre-civil war era, that the owner had been keeping on the ranch property.  Marcus was assigned to the task of retrieving the records from the “old barn”.  As he entered, he couldn’t help but noticed the smell of the place; it was fowl, yet he couldn’t quite figure out what it was. He made his way to the rickety ladder that led up to the loft where the boxes were stored. When he reached the top rung of the ladder he was met with a horrifying scene. A sea of bones covered the floor of the bar loft! Dozens of tiny skulls, arms, and tails lay between him and the boxes of irreplaceable material he had been trusted to gather. He had but one choice: traverse the sea of bones and recover the material.

“I’ll never forget the sound of the crunching; it was horrible” Robyns recalls with a shudder.

The boxes were safely removed from their storage space and brought to the Beaumont repository. It wasn’t until later that he discovered that the bones had come from the family of barn owls that resided in the loft of this old barn. They were nothing more than generations of meal scraps left in the loft, but the memory still haunts him.

 July 12th, 2012

It was a particularly slow day at the Central Upper Michigan and Northern Michigan University archives, no patrons had strolled through the doors yet that morning.  I decided to wander to the back to see what my co-workers Jaime and Allison were up to. Most days I would simply inquire about their projects, but that day I thought I would take a look at some of the material myself.

I sat down to read a diary they were processing, marking the worn leather and broken clasp.  As I lifted the cover I felt something fall into my lap.  A pile of long, brown, 50 year old hair was strewn across my legs. I shrieked, jumping up from the chair.

“There’s hair in this diary!” I yelled in disgust.

Human Hair found in ~50 year old diary

Jaime and Allison ran to my aid, each one letting out a small scream when they saw the heap of human hair that had made its way onto the floor. We were then faced with the upsetting task of placing the hair back into its spot in the diary.

I no longer look through materials that come through our doors. I live in fear of the horrors that could be lurking in every box.

These are only a couple accounts of the menacing encounters archivists deal with on a daily basis. While their work may appear uneventful, they wake up each day knowing that the dark side is waiting…

Prepared by Savannah Mallo and Olivia Ernst.

Covering fall weather in the student newspaper

On Saturday, Sept. 22, fall officially begins. But with the cold rainy weather in Marquette all week, it feels like fall (and possibly inklings of winter) have already reached NMU.

newspaper picture of rain

Published in The Northern News in 1963

NMU’s student newspapers have covered similar times in the past with relative depth. On Oct. 13, 1963, this photo was printed on the front page. The caption under the photo says, “Students have had to navigate puddles and hurry to class to stay dry recently. More than two inches of rain has fallen in the area the past couple of days. But don’t let the gloom drag you too low; the weather service says that skies will turn partly cloudy, and the temperatures will reach 60 degrees on Friday.”

The changing seasons in the U.P. have also taken center stage in the newspaper. This middle-spread of the newspaper is about good places to see the changing colors throughout the Upper Peninsula, and even though it was published in 1984, those places are still scenic and beautiful when the leaves change.

Fall colors

Published in The North Wind in 1984

Written by Lucy Hough

Impact of Bosch beer in the Upper Peninsula

Bosch Can 1Established in 1874, the Bosch Brewing Company’s beer was an Upper Peninsula favorite for as long as it was open. Over the years the company changed its name two times; had branches in Hancock, Calumet, Ishpeming, Eagle Harbor, Baraga and Houghton; produced three different kinds of beer; and in its peak made 100,000 barrels of beer a year. Although the first brewery did well, there were many hard times for the company.

The first brewery, named the Torch Lake Brewery, was constructed in the Calumet area and was a favorite spot of the copper miners in the area. Their strong support helped establish the company and allowed it to grow and expand. Unfortunately, in 1887, a fire destroyed the brewery and much of the surrounding town.

An insurance policy taken out on the building was large enough to rebuild the facility. From that point, the company steadily grew until 1919 when prohibition swept across the nation and the company was forced to close.

Bosch can 2The company’s breweries were able to reopen in 1933 when prohibition was finally repealed. It again had very good success and growth for a number of years, reaching its peak production in 1955. After five more good years, sales began to decline and the Bosch family sold the company to local investors.

The investors updated facilities and expanded the line of beers available. They had decent success until the 1970s. Unable to compete with the larger breweries in Detroit, St. Louis and Milwaukee, the company delivered its last keg of beer in September of 1973. The trademarks were sold to a Wisconsin brewery, but the Bosch line was eventually discontinued.

These cans are a small example of the different kinds of cans produced by the company over the years. The premium beer can has the company’s tag line, “from the Sportsman’s Paradise.” These items are currently in storage, off display.

Written by Stephen Glover of the BHC

Step by Step: The Archival Process, Part 3

County of Marquette Commission Minutes Finding Aid

A sample finding aid

Now that the material’s mold and dust have been taken care of in the accession stage, it is safe to move on to the third step: processing. “Processing”, in the archival world, means an in depth arrangement and detailed description of a collection.  The material is sorted into specifically labeled folders and grouped accordingly into boxes, all acid free of course.

Jaime Ganzel is the NMU Archive’s official Arrangement and Description Specialist. She is responsible for processing of all our incoming collections.  When Jaime is given a collection, she starts the long term preservation work. She goes through every document and newspaper clipping and makes reproductions of any damaged pieces or items that have limited longevity that may have been missed in the prior stage.

Once the material is neatly organized and all packed up, she creates a Finding Aid, which is a final report containing all of the information about the collection. The Finding Aid includes a summary of the collection identifying what form the collection is in (such as audio, manuscript, volumes, etc.), a biographical note about the person or organization from which it came, and scope and content note which gives a brief description of what the collection contains. It also has a “related materials” section as well as a complete collection inventory. The information is then entered into our data base and the Finding Aid is posted online so that the collection is searchable by Archives employees and the public.

Many of the online resources, such as finding aids and project websites, are managed by Olivia Ernst, the current Senior Student Assistant and Digital Resources and Technology Coordinator. Some of the larger, more heavily accessed collections (such as the Cleveland Cliffs Iron Company Records) have been digitized, and custom websites were built in order to increase accessibility. Designing, linking digital objects to finding aids, and troubleshooting a custom website is a long process, but in the end it allows patrons around the world (some of our websites have been accessed in places like Thailand) to view the materials from our small Archives.

Editing HTML in WinSCP

Behind the Scenes: A sampling of the HTML for one of our project websites, and the SFTP client used.

Nowadays, most of the digital resources management is done through NMU’s Drupal-based content management system.  This allows for quick fixes for broken links, as well as an easy way to keep the front page up to date and exciting. If you ever notice an error on one of our websites, send an email to– we want to have the most accurate and user friendly websites possible!

That’s it folks, we’ve reached the end of the archival management cycle. Hopefully the Archives is less of a mysterious place now. We hope to help you on your research endeavors soon!

Prepared by Savannah Mallo and Olivia Ernst.

Homecoming since 1935


The front page of The Northern College News in 1950

This year, NMU’s homecoming week starts Sunday, Sept. 16 with the Dead River Games. Current students at Northern are probably familiar with the list of activities that have become tradition during homecoming week, including the scavenger hunt, stepping competition, king and queen competition, and more. And, of course, next weekend brings the homecoming parade, tailgating events, football game and late-night party. Even though homecoming has changed over the years, some key activities have remained.


From a 1982 edition of The North Wind

The two pictures in this post highlight what events have happened in Northern’s homecoming past. In 1950, NMU students participated in the typical parade and football game. There was also a pep rally and a dance hosted by Phi Kappa Nu. And in 1982, besides the football and parade, there were a handful of “games” that are different than the Dead River Games we have today. There was, however, a dance which is similar to 1950’s homecoming.

A big difference is the time of year that homecoming took place. In 1982, homecoming happened mid-September. In 1950, it took place the first week of November. This year’s is even a week before last year’s; it seems homecoming has started earlier and earlier in the school year over time.

According to Russ Magnaghi’s A Sense of Time, homecoming as we know it first took place in late October 1935. That first year, there was a homecoming football game, parade and a dance. Since then, there have been semi-regular events like tug-of-war, pep rallies, bonfires and a couple of attempts at achieving a Guinness World Record (for the largest game of musical chairs in 1977 and the world’s largest pasty in 1978).

“The (1935) event was the beginning of a tradition meant to bring alumni and current students closer together,” the book says.

The importance of incorporating alumni has also remained throughout the years. As seen by The Northern College News front page in 1950, the homecoming headline is welcoming alumni. And this year, the NMU Alumni Association has a weekend-full of events designed to, like in the 30s, bring students and alumni together.

Though some of the activities have changed and evolved over the years, NMU’s homecoming is remarkably similar to when it first started.

Written by Lucy Hough