RECOLLECTIONS FROM DETROIT'S BABY BOOMER YEARS: 1939 -1980
I'M AN ORIGINAL CATCHPHRASE
FREE CHAPTER PREVIEW!
What I’d like one day, (and I won’t be around for it) is that they can eat their words about what they said about Detroit. Because Detroit’s gonna COME BACK!
~ Mike Ilitch
THE ARSENAL OF DEMOCRACY
This chapter features a photo essay exploring how Detroit Won the Second World War & Saved Mankind from Fascism, including numerous rare and unpublished images.
Most mid-20th century Americans became confident as the country climbed to the apex of global power and consumer abundance, racing boldly into what John F. Kennedy later hailed as “The New Frontier.” Moving forward, full-steam ahead was what Americans expected from their country, their cars, consumer goods, and economy.
THE MOTOR CITY
Detroit’s 1950s automobile culture continues to have an enduring influence on American culture, as reflected in popular music, and rearview mirror wistfulness by aging Baby Boomers.
Post WW2 images of a flourishing downtown including J.L. Hudson's Department Store, Christmas on the Twelfth Floor; Downtown Retail Kings: Crowleys, Sam's, Kern's; Kresge's; Woolworth's; Sanders; Parades; Old City Hall; Olympic Dreams; rare and unpublished photos and ephemera.
Places where Detroiters played after WW2 through the 1970s. A veritable Who's Who of dining and entertainment hotspots, most have disappeared while others that have endured. Lafayette vs. American; Buddy's vs. Little Caesar....
An atmosphere of lawlessness was perpetuated Dduring Prohibition: bootlegging and gambling flourished, as gangsters fought to secure a share of the illicit trade. Corrupt politicians turned a blind eye even as mobsters, including Chicago’s Al Capone and Detroit’s Purple Gang terrorized the Detroit area.
BALLROOMS, THEATRES AND MOVIE HOUSES
In 1950, Detroiters could select from over 150 movie theatres, with 22 others in the suburbs. Stepping out to see a movie was a special occasion; people dressed in their finest attire to travel downtown (usually by streetcar) to catch a first-run movie for only 35 cents.
MUSIC CAPITAL OF
Detroit was the epicentre of a musical revolution that took root in Paradise Valley, the black entertainment district, beginning in the 1930s with the Jazz, BeeBop, Gospel, Rhythm and Blues (R&B), the influential Motown Sound, Soul, Funk, and Rock & Roll. From Motown/Detroit Rock City, these are some of our favorite bands, studios, and artists who hailed from the Motor City.
CHILDREN OF THE SIXTIES
The 1960s were a defining decade for the baby boom generation, ushered in with the election of President John F. Kennedy, closing with a hippie festival: Woodstock. In between, the chain of events were unparalleled in the annals of American history
If you grew up in Detroit after WW2, you remember Edgewater Park, Bob-Lo Amusement Park Michigan State Fair, Belle Isle Park, Detroit Zoo, Detroit Soap Box Derby, Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village, Downhill Skiing, Beaches and Muni Pools, Drive-In Movies, Drive-In Restaurants, Bowling, Drag Racing, Horse Racing, Camp Dearborn- we've got it covered!
Ink-stained wretches, radio stations of our youth, kids TV shows, Dance Parties, the Big 8, KEENER, Uncle Russ Gibb, Robin Seymour, Martha Jean, J.P. McCarthy, personalities and characters, Soupy Sales, Milky the Clown, Bozo, Sagebrush Shorty, Bill Kennedy, Mary Morgan, Bill Bonds, Lou Gordon, Sonny Eliott, Greatest Detroit TV Ads, Detroit in the Movies, Detroit in Books, and much more....
DETROIT SPORT LEGENDS
Detroit baby boomers are fanatical sports enthusiasts; this chapter highlights some of the greatest sporting events between 1939-1980. Detroit;'s Brown Bomber Joe Louis, The Detroit Tigers fabled '68 team, the last game at The Corner, When The Bird Was the Word, the 1957 Lions, The Olympia, Wings and Gordie Howe, Manny Steward and the Kronk Champions, Big Time Wrestling Icons including Dick the Bruiser and Alex Karras, featuring the fabled match at the Lindell AC, U of M vs. Michigan State, Detroit's Original Sports Bar...
GETTING AROUND TOWN
The Life and Death of Detroit's Streetcar System, Detroit's gilded train stations, airports, bus stations- any way to get in and out of town! Lots of rare and interesting photos
ALONG THE STRAIT
Detroit owes its existence to the river. In this chapter, we pay homage to the strait between the lakes, including: the sinking of the Montrose, the ill-fated Tashmoo, life aboard the Aquarama, Tragedy aboard the Noronic, the S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald, Mariner's Cathedral, Chris-Craft boats, racing on the river, Ice FIshing, 48222: Detroit's Floating Post Office, Jobbie Nooner...
As Detroiters know, Canada is south of the border- a geographical quirk. Downtown Windsor was a once popular destination for Detroiters and guests, who could then brag they’d been to Canada. For many years businesses in Windsor catered to American tourists with souvenir shops filled with Canadian kitsch. We look at the building of the Ambassador Bridge and the two tunnels, and some of the great baby boomer restaurants that were popular with Detroiters, icnluding the Elmwood casino, and Tunnel BarBQ.
MADE IN DETROIT
Products that could only be made in Detroit: potato chips, famous beers (including Stroh's), Vernor's: Detroit's Drink; Faygo: Which Way Did He Go?, a selection of Boomer-Era entrepreneurs, Pewabic Tile, How J.L. Hudson's Invented the Modern Mall, KMart Blue Light Special...
Big Stove, Big Tire, Big Fist, Ford Rotunda and the Devastating Fire, Hart Plaza, Detroit's Modern Architects, Cathedral of Finance, The Penobscot, The Fisher Building, The Spirit of Detroit, The RenCen, Who Was Cobo?, St. Anne's Church, Meet me at the Kern's Clock, The Scott Fountain, Big Cow Head, Big GM Headquarters, Big Boy, The Thinker...
PANIC IN DETROIT
July 23, 1967. The events now etched into Detroiters’ (of a certain age) collective consciousness. The root causes of the Detroit riots/ uprising/ rebellion/ unrest/ insurrection, including the nearly forgotten riots of the 1940s. First-hand accounts of the devastation that reverberates fifty years later. Rare unpublished photos. The '68 Tigers: the team that helped heal a city. Detroit City: Six reasons for its decline; Leaving Detroit: "Speramus meliora; resurget cineribus” (We hope for better things.
It will arise from the ashes).
RIDING ALONG IN MY AUTOMOBILE
A photographic tour through some Detroit neighborhoods 1940s-1980, inclduing Skid Row, Eastern Market and some inner burbs. East or west (side) Baby boomer Detroiters know Woodward Avenue is the city’s dividing line. If you grew up in Detroit, you lived either on the East Side, or the West Side. As boomers (and their kids) moved to the suburbs, they generally remained on their side of the divide, albeit further away. These distinctions may be lost on subsequent generations as the city sprawls in all directions, and Detroit’s Great Divide becomes moot.
Post WW2 Detroiters embraced automobile; freeways were built across the USA in all directions. Americans embraced road trips; if you grew up in Detroit, You Went To Bavaria - in Frankenmeuth! You went "Up North" on 1-75 and then across the Mackinac Bridge to the U.P. You drove to Florida for vacations. Or spent a day at Cedar Point. Or the Big Tomato & Point Pelee Canada.