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Posted on Thu, Dec 8, 2011 : 5:59 a.m.

Red kettle shenanigans in downtown Ann Arbor

By Rich Kinsey

In years past, members of the Ann Arbor Police Department used to ring the bell to fill the red kettles of the Salvation Army, usually on the last Friday before Christmas. There were numerous kettles staffed by both uniformed officers and detectives all over the city. I recall there were several on Main Street alone.

On one of those days, I spied Chief Douglas F. Smith in a proper chief uniform except for the red and white Santa hat and then captain — and now Saline police chief for the next few weeks until he retires — Paul L. Bunten ringing up a storm at the corner of Main and Washington streets, where the Mongolian Barbeque is located today. I am not sure what business was there at the time, but it was after S.S. Kresge dime store had moved out and before the Mongolian Grill invaded with its delicious barbecue and conquered the corner.

On this particular holiday Friday, Chief Smith and Captain Bunten did not see who was ringing the bell farther down Main Street in front of the Kline’s Store and just a door away from Fiegel’s Mens Wear. It was an extremely busy Friday afternoon. Traffic was heavy, and the sidewalks were crowded with frenzied shoppers doing quarter-to-panic holiday shopping.


The Salvation Army does a lot of good with its Red Kettle Campaign.

While I was ringing the bell near my assigned kettle, I spotted one of the young clerks at Fiegel’s about to leave. He knew me pretty well since I had wardrobed myself for the Detective Bureau at Fiegel’s. I asked him if he wanted to have a little fun with the chief of police and Captain Bunten. He said it sounded fun. I handed him a $5 bill and told him what to do.

I waited and got as far out on the sidewalk as I could to watch the fun. The young haberdasher had retrieved his car. He rounded the block and was now southbound on Main. He pulled up directly in front of Chief Smith and Captain Bunten. His car was blocking the crosswalk and the rest of it was in the Tow Away Zone.

Chief Smith and Captain Bunten just watched in amazement. When the car stopped the clerk left it running, jumped out of the driver’s door and marched straight up to Chief Smith as if in a hurry. The clerk then told the stunned chief of police, "Hey General, here’s five bucks, watch my car for me, would you?"
Paul Bunten told me later that he and the chief just looked stunned at each other for a moment. They could not believe the nerve of this guy. The clerk went to walk past the two rather tall, high-ranking cops and was in for his own surprise.

One of them collared the now shocked clerk. Not like in New York where they "collar perps" instead of "arresting suspects," but merely a grab to stop this joker’s forward motion. Both police bosses started to discuss with the young man the finer points of parking in an urban area, proper respect for the pedestrian community, and the fact that they were not doormen but police officers and they would not be watching his car but towing it if he did not move it — NOW!

At about that time there was some frantic gesturing by the haberdasher pointing my way. The first hint of this finger pointing got me laughing hysterically. Then the bosses looked my way, nodded and did their own mocking "Shame on you, Kinsey" finger pointing.

Both the bosses came down to my kettle when they were through ringing the bell, and we all had a great laugh. I figured when I plotted the "Hey General, can you watch my car" prank that this pair of bosses could take the joke.

Chief Smith was the only chief of police to ever sneak up behind me while I was briefing the afternoon shift and place his wet leather gloved finger in my ear — a "Wet Willy" in prankish jargon. I was cranky and turned to protest, "Hey, you son of a … Oh, hello Chief Smith, so nice of you to join our briefing, sir." The shift and chief had a good laugh.

Chief Bunten of Saline, with more than 47 years of distinguished law enforcement service, is a mentor and a good friend to this day. I knew he could take a joke, as he had perpetrated many during his long and illustrious career. I loved working with Paul Bunten because we got the job done, but there were always laughs along the way.

I feel bad that the police department no longer rings the bell for the Salvation Army. The Salvation Army does a lot of good in our community. Personally I cannot pass a kettle without sliding a buck or two in. The Salvation Army depends on this time of year for donations — help them out and toss some change or a few greenbacks in the red kettle.

Lock it up, don’t leave it unattended, be aware and watch out for your neighbors.

Rich Kinsey is a retired Ann Arbor police detective sergeant who now blogs about crime and safety for He also serves as the Crime Stoppers coordinator for Washtenaw County.



Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 4:26 a.m.

I am not gay, however, I do agree with M. Supporting an organisation which openly discriminates against the LGBT community is wrong no matter how long they have been around and how cute the bucket is or how much they allege to give back from every dollar. It is easy to criticize M if you aren't gay. But would you say the same things if the SA openly discriminated against Jews or blacks? I doubt it. Unless, of course, you really are ant-semitic or a racist, right? Would you have your grandkid put money in the bucket still?

shadow wilson

Sun, Dec 11, 2011 : 2:05 p.m.

How sad that the LGBT must be brought into this. And how transparent that it is then suggested that we give to ond their "charities" If it only were that simple. The Salvation army is one of the few charities where most of the money goes to directly help those in need. So if you want your dollar or two to directly help someone drop it in the bucket.Life is complicated. The only perfect thing out there might be Santa Claus and he is not out collecting money for the needy.One can disagree with the beliefs of a charity and still give because good things are being done. I am always perplexed when an organization is criticized for their fundamental beliefs.........

Frustrated in A2

Fri, Dec 9, 2011 : 3:25 a.m.

Chief Smith and Capt. Bunten are two great people, I have good memories of both!!!


Thu, Dec 8, 2011 : 11:52 p.m.

Love your columns!


Thu, Dec 8, 2011 : 6:33 p.m.

I miss the guy who used to sing Christmas carols while ringing the bell. He had a great voice, used to see him by Target when they used to allow the red kettle.

Silly Sally

Thu, Dec 8, 2011 : 6:53 p.m.

A good reason to skip Target - I have for this reason (their policy)

Silly Sally

Thu, Dec 8, 2011 : 6:22 p.m.

Some prefer to harm the Salvation Army which does much more to help the needy than most ever do, than place politics aside to achieve a common goal of helping the needy.


Fri, Dec 9, 2011 : 3:01 p.m.

Hey, Stalin had the trains running on time!

Ron Granger

Thu, Dec 8, 2011 : 4:18 p.m.

The clerk then told the stunned chief of police, "Hey General, here's five bucks, watch my car for me, would you?" Was it Rodney Dangerfield?


Thu, Dec 8, 2011 : 4:17 p.m.

I give to the SA kettles every year as well make several dropoffs to the SA store throughout the year. I will say that when I have had SA pickups at my house the men, all of whom have been (most likely) ex-felons have all seemed to have benefited from the support of the SA. They have all been some of the roughest looking sort with manners and new purpose in life thanks to working with the SA. Many people dwell on Adam brought sin to man and that makes them sinners forever, but then don't dwell on the fact that through Jesus there is Salvation forever.

John of Saline

Thu, Dec 8, 2011 : 9:08 p.m.

I've noted prison tattoos on guys at SA centers when dropping stuff off. They were working hard, too.


Thu, Dec 8, 2011 : 3:31 p.m.

It was a toy store that used to be where MB is now-----I remember getting Teddy Ruxpin there in the mid 80's.


Thu, Dec 8, 2011 : 3:26 p.m.

A nice uplifting article. It sure is a refreshing break from the usual news.


Thu, Dec 8, 2011 : 2:56 p.m.

Another great story from Det Sgt Kinsey, you should write a book! I'll be slipping a few greenbacks in a red kettle today!


Thu, Dec 8, 2011 : 2:48 p.m.

Thank you for the lovely story. In these uncertain times it is refreshing to read a humorous story of charitable deeds and service to others. It has the additional benefits of annoying the anti-Christian activists in AA! All of these things make me smile a big happy grin!


Thu, Dec 8, 2011 : 6:18 p.m.

SemperFi- Thanks for your comment. Actually, I am not Christian. I just find many anti-Semitic and anti-Christian people in Ann Arbor. There are several posting here and articles like these get them going. It is so predictable a reaction I half believe does it on purpose. In that way, the newspaper controls the reaction and these, otherwise very bright people are drawn in and onto another soap box. It's all very Pavlovian. Why can't we can't as a community just be proud and amused by the author and subject. I read an entertaining story of amusing people who serve others. Many comments seek to be a referendum on the finances of SA, or LBGT, or Christianity. There are even a couple comments who say nothing, excepting their need to make a statement of sarcasm. Impling what I have no idea? Why would you be cynical toward anything in this article. Btw thank you for service. (I say that without judgement on any mission of the Marines or the finances of the Marine Corp. I thank you without comment on the Marines DADT policy, retraction of that policy, or any other LGBT issue. Lastly I say thank you regardless of your personal is just gratitude)


Thu, Dec 8, 2011 : 4:24 p.m.

I agree that it is an amusing story and I enjoy reading Det. Kinsey's stories. However, this is very telling about your personality that you would delight in annoying someone who is not of your chosen religion. How Christian is that?


Thu, Dec 8, 2011 : 2:45 p.m.

Please remember that some of the money you give to the Salvation Army goes directly towards legislation to hurt the LGBT community. Unless you hate gays, don't give to the Salvation Army.


Thu, Dec 8, 2011 : 8:57 p.m.

Oh it is an either/or statement...I must pick? When someone, anyone makes a blatant statement such as "unless you hate gays..." I am very do I tell my 8 year old grandson he can no longer put money in the kettle because it makes him a gay-hater...what a ludicrous statement...

Daniel Soebbing

Thu, Dec 8, 2011 : 8:08 p.m.

Silly Sally, it would be nice if the Salvation Army was willing to put politics aside to achieve the goal of helping the needy. They are the ones that are using donations to attack the LGBT community. All M did was point out how the Salvation Army is spending the donations that it receives. If shedding light on the practices of the Salvation Army is in any way doing it harm, they only have themselves to blame.

Silly Sally

Thu, Dec 8, 2011 : 6:21 p.m.

So, "M" rather harm the Salvation Army who does much more to help the needy than heor she ever has or ever will, than place politice aside to achieve a common goal of helping the needy.

Kent Jocque

Thu, Dec 8, 2011 : 3:49 p.m.

Here's an article regarding how the Salvation Army views LGBT relationships. It includes a response from the Salvation Army. There are additional relevant links at the bottom of the page, <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> There's a lot of choices out there when it comes to charitable giving.


Thu, Dec 8, 2011 : 2:22 p.m.

The Ann Arbor Moose ASSC. also rings the bell for the Salvation Army at the Westgate Kroger store every afternoon starting at 4:00 pm.


Thu, Dec 8, 2011 : 1:37 p.m.

Super cool story!* *Sarcasm


Thu, Dec 8, 2011 : 1:36 p.m.

I agree with motorcycle miner . The Salvation Army is one charity that I know will use my money wisely.

Silly Sally

Thu, Dec 8, 2011 : 6:26 p.m.

Some prefer to harm the Salvation Army which does much more to help the needy than most ever do, than place politics aside to achieve a common goal of helping the needy. They even want to stop others from giving. Some choice. Is this what the LGBT is all about? Remember that when you are cold and suffering.

Usual Suspect

Thu, Dec 8, 2011 : 5:58 p.m.

And the Salvation Army is one of the choices. Thanks.

Kent Jocque

Thu, Dec 8, 2011 : 4:08 p.m.

Here's an article regarding how the Salvation Army views LGBT relationships. It includes a response from the Salvation Army. There are additional relevant links at the bottom of the page, <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> There's a lot of choices out there when it comes to charitable giving.


Thu, Dec 8, 2011 : 1:20 p.m.

Thank you very much for your support, Rich! Merry Christmas!


Thu, Dec 8, 2011 : 1:14 p.m.

I think it was a children/baby store where BDs is now, but I can't recall the name.


Thu, Dec 8, 2011 : 2:04 p.m.

Bingo! That was when you actually went dowtown to shop. Kiddie Land, Klines....


Thu, Dec 8, 2011 : 1:52 p.m.

It was a toy/childrens store named Kiddie Land.


Thu, Dec 8, 2011 : 12:05 p.m.

The firefighters still ring bells every year....


Thu, Dec 8, 2011 : 9:23 p.m.

and thankfully they're all easy on the eyes!


Thu, Dec 8, 2011 : 12:02 p.m.

The salvation army is a true charity that gives back 99 cents of every dollar back to those in need and the community..a far cry form the red cross , united way and other venues that take a lot in and give a little out...


Thu, Dec 8, 2011 : 3:34 p.m.

Betty your hubris astounds me! You know nothing about me, my religion, or how much I monetarily and physically support my town and region; yet you feel perfectly comfortable mocking me. How magnanimous toward your fellow man. Pray tell me which book that practice comes from. &quot;Wish they spent as much energy serving their fellow man...&quot; My family and I volunteer hundreds of hours a year, every year, year round, AND we contribute generously to local charities AND tomorrow I will be contributing my 134th pint at the Red Cross. Join me and I will tell you more.


Thu, Dec 8, 2011 : 3:32 p.m.

Betty, please get off your high horse. Motorcycleminer made a false claim. 99 cents of every dollar donate does not go to those in need. That is a fact. Period. Plain and simple. Many of us are not anti-Christain, but rather for equality. Equality is more of a &quot;Christian&quot; characteristic than hate and bigotry. The Salvation Army uses a part of its donations to lobby government for anti-equality measures to further their selective interpretation of the bible. I am a Christian, I do not donate to the Salvation Army, but rather to organizations who do not discriminate against ANY person in need. Please, get a grip lady.


Thu, Dec 8, 2011 : 2:53 p.m.

Motorcycleminer-I believe the anti-christian activists are taking you literally. They are even begining to slice and dice the budget of SA! Wish they spent as much energy serving their fellow man-in what ever way-religous or other-they see fit. Rest assured they are all talk and bluster, not dedicated to service like the people in the story.


Thu, Dec 8, 2011 : 2:44 p.m.

They are on record as giving about 60-70% to charity, 10-20% to evangelizing, and about 10% to operations cost. There's no way a Christian organization is giving away all the money they get without using some of the money to convert people. That's how it works.


Thu, Dec 8, 2011 : 2:06 p.m.

According to Forbes for 2004 Revenue was $3.1 billion and Charitiable Services was $2.14 billion. A far far cry from 99%.