Cranbrook Archives is excited to announce a new online collection of material that highlights the contributions of the Vettraino family at Cranbrook. The collection includes a sampling of photographs and documents of the family, as well as other Italian immigrants who worked on campus clearing the land and building roads and stone walls; maintaining the landscape; and working in the Cranbrook Fire and Police Departments.
Michael (Mike) Vettraino came to Cranbrook in 1905 to work with one of George Booth’s first landscape architects, H.J. Corfield. Mike served Cranbrook for more than 50 years and received the Founders Medal in 1955. For more than 110 years, his children and grandchildren have continued to honor his legacy, serving the Cranbrook community not only as grounds-keepers, but in many other areas of the campus. We are pleased to be able to share their amazing legacy.
– Cranbrook Archives Staff
One account is that Dom was the first boy my mother ever kissed (which is interesting, given her own mother’s view toward Catholics back when).
As a young boy, I enjoyed a ride in the fire truck during a 1959 fair held at Cranbrook; it was hosted by the Junior League, I’m told. Dom was the driver. (I’m still wanting a photo of the Ferris wheel that had been erected between the Art Academy and Jonah).
One autumn morning I had to take my first Cranbrook bus ride. I was surprised to be greeted by name by the driver (Wally, a Vettraino inlaw). Only much later did I learn that bit of history, and that he had once been George Booth’s chauffeur. (I wish I had known that bit of info then so as to interview Wally.)
About ’72, one summer I had the privilege of working alongside Nick Vettraino as a groundskeeper; Dom and John were my bosses. That was the year Nick let the grass grow tall in the Valley so he could mow a huge peace sign (such were the times). Those few weeks gave me a unique campus perspective that no other family member has.
Around ’88, I reconnected with Dom and the fire truck at a Booth family reunion. It was then that I learned that he and John had built the truck themselves, from a chassis they had ordered from Ford. I was impressed by both their engineering prowess and fiscal management. One regret is that I didn’t ever get to drive the truck in the Leland 4th of July parade when Dom and I both lived in the Traverse City area.
I have nothing but fond remembrances of both Dom and Wally, such were there always friendly dispositions (John I didn’t know as well).
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