Thursday, July 2, 2020

Thursday, 7/2

It's re-purposing carried to the extreme.

The Marquette Regional History Center needed a newspaper article last week, and I was able to toss one off for them in 20 minutes. How? Well, I took one of the scripts I had written for my “Pieces of the Past” video series, added a few words to it, and turned it in. It ran in yesterday's Mining Journal, which means that I can now share it with you here. So this will be the third time something I wrote a few months ago has shown up in different formats.

If only ALL my writing was this easy.

By the way, I have tomorrow off so there won't be one of these. Have yourself a great holiday weekend!



Anyone who's ever been in Marquette is familiar with the Janzen House. The Janzen, for a long time, was a traveler's hotel. In fact, it was one of four such buildings that once sat on the 100 west block of Spring Street, a block that for a span of over sixty years was home to Marquette's “Hotel Row”

Why that particular block of Spring Street? Well, the hotels were located there because of their proximity to the Main Street train station. Until 1948, when that train station closed and a new passenger terminal was opened on Fifth Street, visitors and business people could just hop off the train, walk a few feet to the establishment of their choice, and check in.

The first of the hotels, built right after the station itself, was the The Merchants Hotel. Constructed by Karl Rohl on the corner of Third and Spring, the Merchants was a three story wooden structure. When it first opened you could get a room at the Merchants for $5 a week. If you wanted to bump that up to ten dollars a week, they'd feed you meals, as well. Or course, there was one caveat to that great price.

You had to be a man to be a guest at the Merchants Hotel. At least when they first opened, they wouldn't allow women to check in.

Merchant's Hotel.  Photo courtesy Marquette Regional History Center

The hotel hung on for a few years after the train station moved but ended up closing in the 1950s. It was replaced by a new A&P Store,a building that still stands as the home of the Marquette Regional History Center.

Right next to the Merchants was the Windsor Hotel, which sat it what is now the site of a city parking lot. Opened by Peter Kremer in 1891, it changed its name to the Central House three years later. The smallest of the Spring Street hotels, the Windsor stood out from the others by having an in-house saloon and by having a horse barn built in back. It was, mostly likely, downtown Marquette's first parking garage.

Windsor Hotel.  Photo courtesy Marquette Regional History Center

The Windsor closed in 1915.

On the other side of the street sat two hotels that were almost mirror images of each other, the Janzen and the Brunswick. The two hotels were built around the same time, in the late 1880s, and even shared a small courtyard. The Brunswick was a slightly bigger facility, and had what one newspaper article of the time called “one of the finest dining rooms in all the city”. Like the Merchants Hotel, the Brunswick suffered after the closing of the downtown train station in 1948. It did hang on for another twenty or so years, eventually becoming a long-term hotel, where retired workers and indiividuals without other housing would live. After catching fire a few times, the structure was eventually torn down in the late 1960s. It was replaced by law offices and another parking lot.

Brunswick Hotel.  Photo courtesy Marquette Regional History Center

The one ex-hotel that's still standing on Spring Street is the Janzen. Like the others, once the train station moved it too changed its clientele. Like the Brunswick, it became more of a home for retirees and transients. It did manage to host one final famous visitor, though, as in the late 1960s a high ranking government official from Czechoslovakia came to NMU to speak on the superiority of the Communist system. Through a mix up, he was booked at the then-seedy Janzen, a stay that probably did nothing to change his mind about the excesses and failures of the capitalist system.

A public fundraising campaign in the early 1980s brought much-needed capital to repair the then crumbling structure. Since then, the Janzen has been used as transitional housing for individuals looking to re-enter society. One of the oldest remaining buildings on that block, it stands as the final testament to what was once Marquette's “Hotel Row”.

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Wednesday, 7/1

I'm still VERY up in the air about it.

If you've been reading these the past few months you know that I've been letting my Corona-hair grow. Except for little trim of scraggly hairs here and there, I've been letting it blossom since the beginning of March, and now it's feathery and curly and, basically, out of control.

You can't see most of it in this picture, but it might give you an idea of what it looks like.

I'm up in the air about keeping it for two reasons. One is that it, at the moment, looks a little wild. It looks like I haven't gotten it cut in almost four months. It's like it's in the middle of doing what I want it to do—grow out. In a couple of weeks it might look amazing, like a chiseled adult, but for right now it looks like a 14-year old with braces and acne.

So I'm willing to let things slide on that account.

However, as my hair's getting longer the (ahem) gray in it is a little more noticeable. I shouldn't be surprised; while my hair's a combination of black & gray on top most of the hair underneath is quite gray, and since I now have more of it showing it just goes to reason that what's popping out is that color (or more to the point, that lack of color).

Maybe this is just my pride, but the gray bothers me more than the out-of-control aspect of it. With it all feathery and curly I could convince myself that I look like I just came in from surfing or something. But with the gray hair flying everywhere?

Well, it's everything I can do not to convince myself I just came in from the nursing home.

I have a hair appointment a week from today. I have no idea if it'll just be a little neatening or if it'll be a full blown get-rid-of-the-gray cut. Between now and then I'll probably change my mind several dozen times.

I guess we'll find out which way I go in a week.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Tuesday, 6/30

One of my favorite pictures is now 15 years old.

I don't remember why, but a decade and a half ago I had to run down to the station before I went out on one of my rambling Saturday morning runs. I do remember it was early, that it was warm, and that the sun was streaming down East Bluff Street between the First Presbyterian Church and the Longyear Building. In fact, it was because of the perfectly positioned sun that I saw something sitting on the sidewalk, something that caused me to run into the station, grab a small camera I had in my office, and take THIS picture--

I like the picture for a lot of reasons. I like it because of the way it's lit, I like it because I got lucky when I framed it, I like it because the sidewalk's been redone since I took it and the bricks are no longer there, and I like most of all because I think it perfectly captures what it's like being in downtown Marquette early on a weekend morning following a late weekend evening of revelry.

Besides, it's a lot prettier that the piles of vomit that you occasionally see.

I'm guessing the glass comes from the Elks Club, because I took the picture right outside the bar. But this being downtown Marquette (or, at least, the downtown Marquette of 2005); the glass could've come from anywhere. There are plenty of drinking establishments within a three block area of where I took the picture. It wouldn't surprise me if someone just happened to (ahem) accidentally walk off with a drink they hadn't finished when last call rolled around.

You just never know.

As many of you know, I'm not an early riser. I'm not the kind of person who's up and ready to go the same time as the sun. But there are a few times in my life I've been glad to be awake early, and recently most of those times have come when I've captured a picture of something lit by the early sun. This is a perfect example of that.

The fact that it also captures the essence of downtown Marquette after a rowdy Friday night is just a bonus.

Monday, June 29, 2020

Monday, 6/29

How many dead people do you have on your phone?

I needed to make a call to a restaurant for a little take out Saturday, and as I was scrolling through the contacts list on my phone I started to notice a few names of people no longer with us. While I was eating said takeout I did a full check, and I can now say, with some sadness, that I have six dead people on my phone.


Several were old friends Loraine met through her World War II research. Two were people I met through my History Center research. And one was someone who just died way too early. And, just to be fair, there may be another, a friend in France who was having some medical problems and from whom we haven't heard in a year.

But I'm going to be optimistic and say that I just have six dead people on my phone.

For a while I thought of deleting their info; after all, it's not like I can call them and chat or ask then a few questions. But I couldn't bring myself to do that. I have fond memories of all of these people. For a few, their contact info is literally all I have besides those fond memories. And while I know that deleting their contact info won't delete those memories, the info is an actual physical manifestation of their existence on earth.

Unlike, say, those memories.

What, though, will happen whenever I get a new phone and have enter all my contact info in? Will it be worth it to transfer the stuff from my deceased friends? Will it be strange? I mean, it's not anything I'll have to worry about soon; my current phone's only a couple of years old, but it is something to consider. After all, I may have one or two more on that list when the time comes.

I will, however, cross that bridge and, knowing me, devote quite a lot of thought to it whenever that time finally comes around.

Friday, June 26, 2020

Friday, 6/26

I wonder if I need to narrow my “brand” down a little more?

That thought came to me while I was walking on the beach during a half day yesterday, thinking about everything I have to do in the next few weeks—stuff on the radio, stuff on TV , stuff for the History Center, and even an article for the Mining Journal. That's a lot of stuff in a lot of different areas. And it got me to thinking about my “brand”.

A couple of months ago, before all the insanity started., Loraine and I were having lunch with my friend Deanna, who was telling us about a speaker she had just listened to. This speaker, world-renowned for his marketing savvy, said that everyone should have a “brand” that can be described in two to five words. That's it; just a short statement that tells who and what you are. As an example, Loraine has a perfect “brand”--”That World War Two Woman”--five words that describe perfectly who she is and what she does.

Me? Not so much. Unless, of course, you consider “World Class Dork” to be a good branding statement.

We've discussed in here many times about how there are several different “Jims”. There's Radio Jim, TV Jim, History Jim, and, if you wanna go out on a ledge, “Finish Line Jim”. And many people who know me as one kind of Jim don't even realize there are the other different “Jims”, as has been evidenced by people who've watched my History Center videos and have asked I work for the History Center or if I do something different for a living.

That, I think, is my problem as far as trying to figure out what my “brand” might be. I'm just involved in too many things. My brand could be “That Guy in the Radio” or “That High School Bowl Host” or “That Dorky History Dude”, all of which are accurate and all of which fit within the five word limit. But it can't be all of them. There's not one over-arching theme in which to fit my “brand”, unless we go back to an old (but sadly seemingly true) statement--

Maybe my “brand” should be this--”Jim Koski—Media Wh*re”.

(By the way, I don't remember who gave me that nickname a decade or so ago. All I know is that it seems to be more true than ever these days!)

Don't worry; there's no way I'm going to officially adopt THAT phrase as my brand, apt as it might be. Maybe I just need how to figure out how to put that concept into a two to five word phrase that sounds a lot better than “Jim Koski—Media Wh*re”. The only problem is that with one exception, I can't at the moment think of a phrase that encompasses everything I do. I wish I could, but at least at the moment, I can't. Maybe you guys have a better idea; if so, please let me know.

And thanks,

(, “Guy Who Talks Too Much”.

(p.s.--see? Not a very good “brand”, is it? 8-))

(pps—have a great weekend!)

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Thursday, 6/25

Well,thanks to places like Florida and Texas it looks like Loraine and I are going to have a second Europe trip this year cancelled.


The European Union is finalizing plans on re-opening the continent to visitors, and in order to (understandably) keep themselves safe they're putting together a list of countries from which people should not be allowed. These are countries that don't have their Covid-19 situation under control, countries where people are still getting sick, countries where social distancing is not well practiced.

Guess which country tops that list?

Yup; despite living in a state that seems to have the Coronavirus under control and despite trying to stay safe by wearing a mask everywhere we go Loraine and I will be among the Americans will not be allowed to head into Europe when it re-opens its borders next month. Now, this could change before we're scheduled to leave in early September, but based on how cases are spiraling out of control across a huge swath of the Southern US we're guessing it's not gonna change. Even though we live over a thousand miles away we're getting lumped in with Texans and Floridians and South Carolinians who've decided that wearing a mask and practicing social distancing goes against, you know, “freedom”.

Geez. Thanks.

On of the criteria by which the EU is measuring whether or not to allow visitors from a certain area is the number of new cases per 100,000 people. It has to be roughly equal to the EU average, which right now is around 2. Where's the US? How about 107 per 100,000. Admittedly, it's not as bad a Brazil's 180 (which also puts them on the “don't visit” list), but it's still going to require quite a shift in both public policy and public sentiment to get that number down.

And both you & I know that ain't gonna happen any time soon.

The EU will be revising the list every two weeks so we, like with this spring's cancelled trip to Germany, still have to go through the motions of getting ready to go, just in case we do get the thumbs-up. I mean, you know it's not gonna happen and I know it's not gonna happen, but we still need to get ready on the (very) off chance that two days before our flight they give us the thumbs-up.

It was so much fun seeing all the work I did in April wasted that I'm sure this time around will be a blast, as well.

As I wrote when this happened in April, this is a first world problem. It's really not anything I should be complaining about. After all, people have been suffering and people have been dying. I just don't get to go on a trip. There is no comparison between the two. I know that, and I accept that. But unlike what happened in April, this trip has been cancelled because some people just don't want to...I dunno, be sensible. Be safe. Be thoughtful of their fellow human beings.

Thanks, Texas. We appreciate it.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Wednesday, 6/24

The word is itself amazing. The fact that means what it means makes it even better.

I've just finished reading a book called “A People's History of the Peculiar” which, as you can imagine, is filled with all sorts of weird & wonderful facts. Among the many bizarre things was a section on phobias—some of the things that people are afraid of. And it was in that section that I came across what might be one of the greatest words ever--


Seriously, that's the word—hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia, 36 letters of English language awesomeness. And while any 36-letter word would be rather awesome in and of itself, it's what hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia means that's the icing on the cake. And just what DOES hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia mean, you ask? Well, I answer, hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia is the fear of long words.

I kid you not.

Go ahead; copy and paste “ hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia” into Google and you'll find out it's legit. You'll find out that someone, somewhere, came up with a very long word to describe the fear of very long words. I don't know if they did it ironically, or if it just worked out that way, but the word and the fear it describes could not have been a better match.

You, in fact, could not have come up with a better word to describe the fear of long words.

Not only that, but if you put “ hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia” in Google it also pops up a song called “ Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia (The Long Word Song)”, put together by someone who not only had an inkling that the word existed but also wrote a song about it.

Don't believe me?

I'm always amazed by some of the weird things I come across in my everyday life, and this 36-letter word may be one of the best. Now, all I need to do is find a way to work it into normal conversation. Or to figure out how to actually pronounce it. Either one of those would work.

(, obviously NOT suffering from hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia!