Friday, January 9, 2009

Hushing the Smell of Hush Puppies



The smellscape is dotted with commercial beacons. Bakeries, pulp mills, sugar refineries, and candy companies become olfactory landmarks as generation after generation grows up around them. But times change and the scent departs. As it does, a little bit of our shared history evaporates forever.

The latest smellscape to be erased is in Rockford, Michigan, a town just northeast of Grand Rapids. One hundred and one years ago, G.A. Krause built a tannery there on the banks of the Rogue River. In an unavoidably stinky operation, it turned pigskins into the suede leather that became famous as the Hush Puppies shoe brand. The Wolverine World Wide company—also the maker of Merrells—has now decided to close the Rockford tannery and warehouse as part of a major corporate restructuring.

Columnist Tom Rademacher of the Grand Rapids Press interviewed locals about the tannery and memorialized its equivocal olfactory legacy in yesterday’s paper. Nobody liked the smell, some hated it, but it was undeniably the “smell of money” for the charming little town of Rockford.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

I was in Dallas by the Owens Farm/sausage factory over the holiday, smelled nothing, and thought of you...
-Lucinda

Anonymous said...

I'm currently doing a topic on smell at school, and I love all your interesting views and facts! Thanks for enlightening us on it! =)

Avery Gilbert said...

Lucinda:

I guess I'd rather have you be reminded of me by a sausage factory that doesn't smell than by one that does! But seriously: is the smellscape of Dallas becoming less colorful?

Anonymous:

There is much to learn, Young Grasshopper. Good luck with your school project.

Anonymous said...

Honestly, I don't remember it ever smelling, but I was usually only in the neighborhood after hours. My friend who lived nearby said he could hear the pigs when they arrived, though. I bet they also created a smell. I'll ask him.

My dad grew up near a paper mill in Michigan, and when we went to visit when I was a kid, it still stank.
-Lucinda

+ Q Perfume said...

I was once in a slaughter meat factory and I must say that the stench made me so sick I had to see my previous lunch quite a few times...
Also in a leather factory in Morocco - same smell...
The morge smelled like flowers after that

Avery Gilbert said...

+Q Perfume:

Quite the irony that modern perfumery was born in Renaissance Italy--to cover up the stinky leather used in ladies' gloves. Back then the tanning process involved vats of urine . . .