Proof! Size Doesn't Matter!
A Historical Vignette
by Tom Parquette
Part Two of Four
(Part One is HERE)
Motor City, Motown, Hitsville, City of the Straits, Paris of the Midwest, City of Trees, Hockeytown, City of Trees. All of these monikers, and more have been used to describe Detroit. It has also been called the Renaissance City as well as "The Arsenal of Democracy." That last tag is perhaps the one that sadly, chokes so many today. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, in one of his 30 Fireside Chats, referred to Detroit as an "Arsenal of Democracy" in recognition of the rapid transistion of the Detroit auto industry from domestic production to war production for World War II. Roosevelt was correct then to recognize the greatness of the industry and it's geographic base in southeast Michigan. Detroit and the automotive industry were at their peak then and it seemed, regardless of the union issues and other quasi-normal societal issues, the city was pulling in the same direction. The city was the true melting pot of America with stable neighborhoods, consistent employment at a very living wage and growing bigger all the time. Jews, Italians, Irish and blacks worked side by side in the industry though the neighborhoods were distinctly separate in the city.
Detroit's population experienced doubledigit growth throughout most of the first half the the century, softening a bit during the depression years and then climbing right back after the war, at least until 1950. Once the fourth-largest city in the US, Detroit’s population reached over 1.8 million about 1950 and then began the decline. But the decline which started in 1950 was no different than the declines experienced by so many other major metro areas. The migration to the 'burbs had begun.
If we fast forward to today for a moment, we find the City of Detroit has become virtually an economic, social and geographic waste land. Rather than the above mentioned nicknames or terms of endearment used to describe Detroit in the past, we now often hear the terms, 'Arson Capital of the US', 'Murder Capital of the US' and 'Bankrupt City'. Sometimes all in the same breath. The pictures attached to this article only begin to touch on the real savagery which has befallen Detroit.
Abandoned house in Detroit's east side
Every writer seems to follow a path of laying blame for the 'problems'. One of the latest excuses I've heard is the near collapse of the automotive industry in Detroit. Sorry, but that one doesn't cut it. Detroit's reversal of fortune began during the peak of the industry, not in the last few years.
Some blame it on the riots which took place in 1967. Police vice officers raided an after hours club in Detroit known as a "blind pig" in a mostly black neighborhood at Twelfth Street and Clairmount. The police attempted to arrest some 82 people in the club. Tensions advanced and looting, fires and vandalism soon spread from northwest Detroit to the East Side. The riots lasted five days and were increased as the police and the 82 Airborne were called in to diffuse the problem. The riots concluded as the worst civil uprising in the nation’s history claiming some 43 dead, 1,189 injured and over 7,000 arrested. The property damage was enormous and Detroit set the stage for further rioting to follow in LA, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Boston,and others.
Detroit riot zone, 1967
Tomorrow we'll look past the riots and the decline of the auto industry as Proof! Size Doesn't Matter continues–
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