Kalamazoo is a college town home to numerous universities and colleges (three to be exact). Some people do view this town as more than just a hub of education, though, and those people are the ones who called Kalamazoo home growing up. Here are 15 things that only people who grew up in Kalamazoo understand.
1. Jack’s Wholesale Windows
Odds are, you can look back on your childhood and pick out several local commercials that were infamous for being just plain awful. People who grew up in Kalamazoo understand and agree that champion of bad commercials in the area was Jack’s Wholesale Windows. These commercials taught us what never to do in an advertisement and that it’s never “too late in the season to be gettin’ new winders.”
2. You never really wanted to go to WMU
There’s nothing wrong with Western as a university, but if you were raised in Kalamazoo you never really wanted to enroll here. The lack of wanting to attend WMU had nothing to do with the school itself, mostly with the fact that it wouldn’t provide the change of scenery that potential college students are always looking for when they graduate.
3. The Kalamazoo Promise is a thing
Imagine this: You spend kindergarten through 12th grade in one school district and get rewarded with free tuition to any public or private in-state university. That is a reality for Kalamazoo public school students as the Kalamazoo Promise, started in 2005, does exactly that. Even just attending four years at a Kalamazoo high school will cover up to 65% of tuition, which is also pretty sweet deal.
4. Don’t go to Shakespeare’s unless you want a high school reunion
Kalamazoo is home to many bars and Shakespeare’s is one of the few that primarily attract people in their 20’s. This means, as people who grew up in Kalamazoo already know, if you attend this establishment (especially on weekends) they’ll see at least five people they went to high school with there. Impromptu high school reunions aren’t bad, but odds are they don’t want to see some of these people (because high school was weird).
5. Day trips to Chicago are definitely a thing
Day trips to the Windy City should only be available to people who live within Illinois, right? Wrong! In Kalamazoo, the train station has a direct route to Chicago which means that many born and bred Kalamazooians (not an official term) had many weekends were they dedicated a day to partaking in the big city lifestyle. It’s no surprise that many people who grew up in Kalamazoo now call this city home.
6. They know how gross the Kalamazoo River is
The Kalamazoo River has been long known as a not so fun place to swim in. The icing on the cake was the 2010 Enbridge oil spill where over one million gallons of oil leaked into the river and created a clean-up cost of over one billion dollars. Though it is “cleaned” up now, any individual from Kalamazoo will most likely never swim in the river and will never get in the mucky water unless they are in a boat or a kayak.
7. The Strykers
Stryker Corporation is a medical technologies firm based in Kalamazoo that has long had a firm grasp on the community. From baseball stadiums named after its founder, to having a hand in bringing new developments to the city, Kalamazoo natives have long been aware of this family and the money they have poured into making this area into an exciting hub.
8. Tim Allen’s Kalamazoo connection
The father that everyone loved from Home Improvement does indeed have a connection to Kalamazoo as he attended WMU. It doesn’t stop there though, as everyone who grew up in Kalamazoo is probably tired of hearing by now. In 1978, Allen was arrested with around one and a half pounds of cocaine at the Kalamazoo airport and faced possible life imprisonment. If he didn’t only end up serving a little over two years, then he would’ve never emerged from obscurity into the beloved actor we all know and love. This is one of the things many people who grew up in Kalamazoo know!
9. Oberon Day
Bell’s Brewery has long been a mainstay of the local scene and along with that is the yearly release of its Oberon Ale. With the release coming around late March or early April, the entire town of Kalamazoo lights up with orange and blue to celebrate the quintessential summer beer coming back into production. Even if they weren’t old enough to drink, people who grew up in Kalamazoo understand that once Oberon is being sold again, the warmer months are ahead. This is one of the relatable things many people who grew up in Kalamazoo know!
10. The rivalry with Grand Rapids
People who were raised in Kalamazoo love Grand Rapids, no doubt, but there is a rivalry between the two cities as they both at craft beer hot spots. Kalamazoo has Bell’s (among others) and Grand Rapids has Founder’s (among others), creating a friendly battle between who is the better beer town. Grand Rapids usually ends up winning that battle, but Kalamazoo natives still have massive pride for their hometown breweries. This is one of the major things many people who grew up in Kalamazoo know!
11. Kalamazoo wasn’t always fun
Current students at WMU or K-College might think that Kalamazoo has always been a place with culture and excitement, but people who grew up here would tell them otherwise. Up until the last decade or so, the downtown area was devoid of business that would make people want to spend an evening there. Now, there is an art scene in full swing and a seemingly endless list of new businesses calling this area home. This is one of the other things many people who grew up in Kalamazoo know!
12. Your prom was either held at one of two locations
If you went to high school in or around Kalamazoo, odds are that your prom was at one of two places. Those two places are the State Theater or the Radisson Hotel, both of which are smack dab in the center of downtown. No gym proms for these bunches of hormonal teens, no way. They were all lucky to have a true “ballroom” experience for their last high school hurrah. This is one of the prominent things many people who grew up in Kalamazoo know!
13. An all time Yankee great went to high school here
Kalamazoo is like most midwestern towns for the reason that people from here go crazy whenever a famous person has a connection to the area. Derek Jeter (one of the best shortstops in recent memory) graduated from Kalamazoo Central High School and still makes regular trips back. People who grew up here like to share this fact because they understand that they have pride for the area and share that pride with an all time great.
14. Beer is just a way of life
Craft beer has not only revitalized West Michigan, but the entire state as well. Kalamazoo is home to one of the older micro-breweries in the country (hello Bell’s again) which has not only further developed the area, but people’s taste buds as well. If you were brought up in Kalamazoo, craft beer is just a part of your life whether you actually like the taste of it or not (let’s be honest though, it’s delicious and you love it).
15. Once you leave, you realize how much you love the place
It’s probably that teenage cynicism, but even the people who want to escape Kalamazoo after high school have an immense love for the place. Kalamazoo offers so much and once people leave, they realize how they took advantage of what a great area they grew up in. Whenever there is a chance to revisit their old stomping grounds, natives of Kalamazoo will jump all over the chance.