Thursday, March 15, 2012

Kalamazoo, Of Course

A couple of TV stars showed up in Kalamazoo last week, and of course there had to be some questions about the uniquely named city.

Jonathan and Drew Scott, the “Property Brothers” on HGTV’s home remodeling show, came to town for weekend appearances at the Home Expo, an annual event featuring local builders and various products offered to homemakers.  In a newspaper interview, Jonathan said one of the most frequent questions posed by their fans lately was, “Is Kalamazoo a real place?”

A view of downtown Kazoo. It's real.
How could anyone question the existence of Kalamazoo?  Didn’t Glenn Miller immortalize the place by writing and playing that big-band musical hit, “I’ve Got a Gal in Kalamazoo?” Weren’t those famous Checker taxi cabs manufactured in Kalamazoo?  What expert angler never cast for the big fish with a Kalamazoo-made Shakespeare reel? And, thousands of  music lovers strummed or listened to notes from Gibson "Banner" guitars, fine instruments made for years in Kalamazoo.

Oh, yeah.  Only fully mature adults are likely to remember those things.  So we can forgive a few youngsters in the 13 countries where “Property Brothers” is broadcast if they aren’t convinced of the reality of Kalamazoo.

The question caused the Geezer to reflect on advice in the old Associated Press Style Manual on how to present names of cities in news stories.  The manual said use both the city and state names in the first mention of the community in a story. After that, drop the state name.  But for a major metropolis, omit the state identifier altogether.  Write or say only “Los Angeles” or “Chicago,” not “Los Angeles, CA” or “Chicago, IL.”

Kalamazoo is no major metropolis, but its one-of-a-kind status ought to qualify it for the metropolis rule. Anybody who knows about it knows it’s in Michigan. When you've said Kalamazoo, you've said it all.

A precise location is a bit more difficult.  But, if you lay a ruler on a map on a line between Chicago and Detroit, measure the distance, and divide by two, you will hit pretty close to Kalamazoo.

Kalamazoo also is about 15 miles south of our home, but we’re not a landmark.  We welcome visitors, however.  Just turn on your GPS, set it on Plainwell, Michigan (yes, Plainwell needs a little extra identification) and let one of the marvels of the electronic age guide you to within five miles of us. We then can direct you here for a rest stop and a little visit and then precisely tell you the way to Kalamazoo. It is a real place, and a rather nice one at that.


Anonymous said...

Another good one!

Little bug

schmidleysscribblins, said...

As the child of Glenn Miller fans, I certainly know where Kalamazoo is and have even been there way back in the mists of time. Dianne

Sightings said...

I associate Kalamazoo with breakfast cereal. Am I wrong? Or am I thinking of Grand Rapids? I could swear I sent some boxtops off to an address like that in order to get some sort of prize, circa 1960 ... probably a little plastic army man, which I used to like to play with when I was ten years old.

What does Kalamazoo mean, anyway? An American Indian name?

Dick Klade said...

Diane--One "claim to fame" for my college fraternity is that Glenn Miller was a pledge there (U of Wisconsin). He transferred schools, however, and didn't become an active member.

Tom--You probably sent those boxtops to Kellogg's in Battle Creek. That's in the area, though--about 20 miles east of our home.

Kalamazoo is an Indian word meaning something to do with water, but nobody knows exactly what.

Dick Klade said...

Via e-mail, Bill Hamilton said:

Your blog about Kalamazoo brought back memories of embarrassment. I can't remember what age I had achieved when I first heard Glenn Miller's tune. I remember my interpretation of what I heard very well, however. What I remembered hearing was: "I've got a gal in Kalamazoo-zoo-zoo" and from then on I thought that was the name of the town in Michigan. Three or four years later I referred to Kalamazoo-zoo-zoo in a mixed group, and I was chastised heartily for being a dummy in interpreting the name of the town. I went home a dejected guy with tears in his eyes. One of my buddies started calling me "zoo-zoo" in fact.

JHawk23 said...

Wasn't Glenn Miller also the fellow who immortalized the Chattanooga Choo-Choo, thus also making that Tennessee locale another of those whose state need not be mentioned?

Dick Klade said...

JHawk--You are revealing your status as a fully mature adult by recalling that the Choo Choo song was another Miller band hit. Yes, Chattanooga also should qualify for a metropolis identifier exemption.

Miller also made "Pennsylvania 6-5000" a famous phone number. Wikipedia just informed me that one gets a hotel in New York City, not a place in Pennsylvania, with that number.

Surprises are everywhere. A few years ago we visited the original Hotel California, also made famous in song. Guess where it is? Mexico.

Sightings said...

Yes, Battle Creek -- that's it! And I didn't know that about Hotel California. There is a Hotel California in San Fran. -- but the song refers to one in Mexico, not San Fran., huh?

Boy, we're getting quite a geography lesson today!

joared said...

Ah, yes! I recognize those names, those tunes and that orchestra.

We have an interesting town east of us that Jack Benny and Rochester made famous ... Cucamonga. We've all come to know it now as Rancho Cucamonga and the community is growing like wildfire or by leaps and bounds -- pick your own cliche'.

Kay said...

My husband says we have driven through Kalamazoo. I love the sound of it. My son's partner is from Michigan also.

Anonymous said...

I live in Kalamazoo. On a mission trip to Pennsylvania, the kids there didn't take us seriously when we said where we were from.