By Lawrence Cosentino


(Left) War Bond Rally, 1943: During World War II, bond rallies were held almost everywhere, but they were especially intense in Lansing.

Among Michigan cities, only Detroit had a higher proportion of war production than Lansing, even before Pearl Harbor. Some 24 Lansing factories turned out war materiel, including the world’s largest producer of airplane propellers, Kelvinator-Nash. The plants churned away 24 hours a day, through holidays and Sundays. To save power, the city’s retail stores, theaters, and even the Capitol remained dark at night.

(Above) Michigan Parade, 1990: Throughout the ‘90s, Vernon and
volunteers organized a series of “Michigan Parades” as a way to, as he
said, “welcome the new millennium.” After a couple of years, the
parades were a serious hit, drawing crowds of 80,000-plus. The Michigan
Parade folks got so good at having people walk down the street, others
looked to them to help get their own processionals off the ground,
including the African American parade, MSU sesquicentennial and the
first Santa Claus parade (a forerunner to Silver Bells in the City’s
Electric Light Parade). “We’ve had a lot of fun putting on parades and
making people happy,” Vernon said.

Courtesy of the Cesar Chavez Collection at MSU Museum (Below) Cesar Chavez marches: In the 1970s, local supporters took to the streets on several occasions with visiting labor organizer and civil rights activist Cesar Chavez (not pictured). Shown here are (from left, starting with man with raised arm) Lou Adado, Tony Benavides and Debbie Stabenow.

(Right) Knights Templar rally, 1914: The signature moment of every Knights Templar conclave was the formation of a huge “passion cross” by elaborately costumed marchers. At a 1921 conclave, 5,000 members committed themselves to “patriotism, republican ideals, and love of fellows.”

(Above) Pioneer Day Parade, circa 1913-1915: By the early 20th century, the “city in the forest” was already more city than forest. One way to keep frontier culture alive was to roll a symbolic log cabin down a newfangled brick road on Pioneer Day. The man with the rifle and bullet pouch is J.N. Bush, a Lansing man who loved to hunt wild turkey and deer. In a note by Bush’s daughter, Mrs. Randolph Shoemaker, you can almost hear the frontier quietly close: “At the age of 87, [father] donned his regalia and went to the woods, but came home disgusted, said there was nothing left to shoot except at a mark, which he hit every time.”

(Above) Michigan KKK Parade, Sept. 1, 1924: Look up the Sept. 1 Lansing State Journal on microfilm at the downtown main library, and you will see a notice: “Pages Missing.” That day, the Michigan Ku Klux Klan held its biggest “Klonvocation” ever, drawing an estimated 50,000 people to Lansing to watch 15,000 white-robed Klansmen (and women) from all over the state march down Michigan Avenue. David Votta, local history expert at the downtown library, said the pages were torn from the library’s copy and hundreds of others. He’s never seen the front page, but he guesses that somebody didn’t like a picture of Ingham County Kleagle Lawrence H. Nichols getting a new Reo sedan — perhaps minions of R. E. Olds himself, staving off a P.R. disaster. The next day’s coverage of the parade in the LSJ is shockingly anodyne. “Colorful parade here is seen by thousands,” reads the jumpline.

The parade started at 2 p.m., headed west on Michigan Avenue and took an hour to pass in review “before huge crowds.” Judge Charles J. Orbinson of Indianapolis gave a speech, urging Americans not to let the country become “a dumping ground for other nations.” The other speakers were designated by Klan numbers, not by name. Among the floats was a huge birthday cake honoring the first birthday of the Women’s KKK of Michigan. At the height of the festivities, a small airplane buzzed Michigan Avenue with a big flaming cross. The Klan was particularly active in the Lansing area that year, going so far as to circulate a petition opposing Michigan State College’s football game with (Catholic) Notre Dame.