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You long for Vernors or Strohs on a warm summer day, with Ernie Harwell on the radio; you know Al Kaline has nothing to do with batteries; and your road map is attached to your wrist.

Alas, I will not be able to join you all at the Big Orange Shindig in my beloved hometown. I will be stuck on the Maine coast, working to elect more and better Democrats. And enjoying some water sports, now that the water temp all the way up to the low 60's - almost bath water.

I am proud to be a Detroiter. Proud of what that city once was, and the part my family played in it. We enjoyed the high water mark of American manufacturing and the American working class. Any working class for that matter.

I was born there in 1957. The city was still living in the WWII boom. Population was nearly 2 million. The Lions were NFL champs. The Red Wings were Stanley Cup champions. It's been pretty much all downhill since. It was 40 years until the Wings won again, and the freakin' Lions haven't won a damn thing since.

It was home. I had my first love there. A '72 Chevy Nova with that sweet little Chevy 307 small block V8. She had some giddyup, serious giddyup.

It has been a long 34 years since I lived there, but join me below the orange bug splat for some Detroit and Michigan locations that may not appear on your official tour. Fellow Detroiters, old and new, feel free to chime in with corrections, comments, and additions.

Sadly much of what made Detroit Detroit is empty, abandoned, or bulldozed. At least the Detroit I knew and loved. But lets start with what made Detroit great: making stuff, lots of stuff. Big stuff: cars, tanks, planes, missiles.

First, three major manufacturing complexes of note: The Rouge, the Detroit Tank Arsenal, and Willow Run. All were significant manufacturing complexes, and made Detroit the Arsenal of Democracy. Between the three of them, at their peak, tens of thousands of people worked there. Good union jobs, too.

The Rouge. In Dearborn, near Greenfield Village, The Henry Ford Museum, and The Glass House. At one time the largest auto plant in the world. An integrated complex: raw materials came in, cars rolled out. Almost everything but the tires was made there. The iron ore came on Ford boats. It had its own steel and glass mills, engine plant, and final assembly. Peak employment around 100,000. Now, a lot less than that. A lot less.

When I was a kid, and before lawyers, this was popular school field trip. Now, the tour shows a video, drives you around, and you get to see part of the assembly line from a catwalk. 50 years, or so, ago, we walked along the line, got to see the blast furnaces and the rolling mill, probably some other cool, noisy, smoky places, too. They were making Mustangs, IIRC. Now it's F150s.

The current tour does include the Miller Road Overpass, site of the infamous Battle of the Overpass. Ford's hired goons attacked UAW organizers, including the Reuther brothers,  on the bridge. (Uncle Henry was not a nice man, fucking rich asshole in fact.) This was an important event in Detroit labor history, and made the Reuthers heroes in Detroit, at least in our family.

You can then get onto I-94, the first interstate, west out to Ypsilanti and Willow Run. It was built as the Detroit Industrial Freeway to facilitate transportation between Willow Run and factories in Detroit, Dearborn, and Downriver.

When my father worked at Willow Run in the late 50s and early 60s it made the Corvair, and Ralph Nader famous. It was built in 1942 and built the bulk (over 8,000) of the Army Air Force's B-24 bombers in WWII. It was the home of Rosie the Riveter.  Kossack, xaxnar, has written several recent diaries about Willow Run, the Yankee Air Museum, and the successful effort to save a portion of it from demolition. Willow Run Airport was, until replaced by Metro, Detroit's major airport and housed an Air Force base (which went to the University of Michigan).

Ypsi had a not so nice nickname of Ypsitucky. Ford recruited poor whites from the South, especially Appalachia. He also recruited southern blacks. The two didn't mix well. Two of the worst race riots in the 20th Century were in Detroit, 1943 and 1967. 1967 killed Detroit. That and GM's "Southern Strategy", which wasn't any different than Nixon's southern strategy.

Bit farther west you will find Ann Arbor, The Big House, and my second childhood. Quiet this time of year, but a nice town to stroll around. On the steps of the Michigan Union is a plaque commemorating it as the birthplace of the Peace Corps.

You can then head up US-23 and visit my Mom, or head east on I-96. At Wixom Road is a big empty field that was Ford's Wixom Assembly Plant when I was making Lincoln Continentals there 35, give or take, years ago. Up Milford Road, left on GM Road, is the GM Proving Grounds where my grandfather was a test driver-mechanic for Cadillac for 40 years. During WWII it was tanks and armored vehicles, some of which rumbled through his hometown in Germany.

Continue east on 96 to my official hometown of Farmington, where I-696 begins. The Ruether Freeway. Take it over to Warren and the Detroit Tank Arsenal. Home of the Sherman Tank, it produced many to most of the Army's tanks from 1940 until the mid-90s. From the Sherman to the Abrams.

If you are into urban/industrial archaeology there are other places you can visit or at least see where they once stood. The famous Packard Plant on the East Side. Detroit's old sports venues, home of childhood dreams - the Olympia (my greatgrandfather was a bricklayer on that one), beloved Tiger Stadium, next to Cobo Hall is (was?) Cobo Arena, the first home of the Detroit Pistons after they moved from - yes - Fort Wayne, Indiana. The Michigan Central Terminal. The old Strohs Brewery, where a couple family members brewmastered.

There is the Hart Plaza. Named for Senator Phil Hart, one of the greatest, and quietest, progressives of the 60s and 70s. Used to have ethnic festivals there every summer. Bells Isle is a nice island park in the river. Used to picnic there and watch the freighters go by.

Head on up to Grosse with an E Pointe with an E to see how the other half lived. Dodges, Fishers, Fords, and others had some mighty fine estates along the river there.

In the New Center Area is the Golden Tower of the Fisher Building. From there WJR, the Great Voice of the Great Lakes, broadcast. Ernie Harwell, all I'm saying. Across West Grand Boulevard from that is the original General Motors Building.  "General Motors" was spelled out in giant red neon letters on the roof, facing the Lodge Freeway.

My father finished his 30 years as a GM carpenter there, after his start at Willow Run. When I was a kid the 14th Floor of the GM Building was the Hub of The World Economy, the executive floor at the heart of the behemoth that was Generous Motors. My father snuck us - all six kids - up there a couple times during the GM Building Christmas party.

He retired from GM in 1989, with dignity, a pension, and healthcare, thanks to those Reuther brothers and others at the UAW. Solidarity forever, for the union makes us strong.

On the building's corners you'll find the letter "D", for Billy Durant, the small town hustler who started/bankrupted/reacquired/rebankrupted GM. Lost it in the end to DuPont and died running a bowling alley in Flint, IIRC. Helluva a guy. Helluva company in its time, too.

Not far away is Motown Records. The real Motown Records, not the barren, soulless sham lost somewhere in California. Motown + Ernie Harwell = Summer in Detroit. The soundtrack of my youth.

The current GM Building is down on the river by Cobo. It was originally built after the devastating '67 riot by Henry Ford as the Renaissance Center, or the RenCen. Apartments, offices, and a shopping center. It was hoped it would reignite downtown. It didn't. Neither did casinos or the People Mover transportation system. (Detroit had a trolley system, but when the biggest company in town makes busses...... the Detroit Street Railroad become DSR busses.) Emergency manager and bankruptcy haven't helped much either.

You could sneak over to Windsor, Ontario - by going south by the way, look it up. Nice place. Most of Al Capone's booze came across that river, thanks to the (whole rhythm section was the) Purple Gang. If the Tunnel Barbecue is still there, check it out.

You could explore Michigan. Go to Hell (out by Pinkney and Ann Arbor, charming little place). Visit the Thumb; say Bad Axe, or Port Huron - birthplace of the 60s Students for a Democratic Society.

Go Up North. Your pinkie is Traverse City, Grand Traverse Bay, Cheboygan, Petoskey, Sleeping Bear Dunes, etc. Mackinac (aw not ak, btw) is your middle finger and The Bridge. Youppers live above The Bridge, trolls live below it.

Other old car towns: Flint, Saginaw, Bay City, Lansing, (Wide Track) Pontiac.

You can't take the boats to Bob-Lo, though.

I do believe better times will come again for Detroit and Michigan. It will be a very different Detroit. The city will move on from just cars and the massive industrial complex that built them, and gave me and my family a nice life.

That's it, I think. If I remember more I'll write an update. If current Detroiters have anything to add or correct, feel free. I never let facts ruin a good story.

Enjoy Detroit. Enjoy Michigan. Have a Founders for me. And Go Blue.

Tue Jul 15, 2014 at 2:41 PM PT: Thanks for all the positive comments and putting this on the Community Spotlight. Deeply appreciated. Some things I missed:

- Sanders Ice Cream
- Strohs Ice Cream. Got 'em through Prohibition.
- Sir Graves Ghastly. I also remember another late night horror movie, Dead from Detroit it's..... But i am drawing a blank beyond that. Any help?
- Sonny Eliot, the great TV weatherman. Inga-dinga-ringa-dine
- CKLW, the great Windsor rock station. AM.
- George Kell. Ernie's TV counterpart. Tiger Warm-Up host. Back when we only had a game of the week. Before ESPN, kiddies.
- The Michigan State Fair. And the big stove, symbol of Detroit's pre-car stove making industry. Great rides. Great food.

Pardon my typo on Belle Isle. Bell's is a brewery, great brewery.

Tue Jul 15, 2014 at 2:41 PM PT: Thanks for all the positive comments and putting this on the Community Spotlight. Deeply appreciated. Some things I missed:

- Sanders Ice Cream
- Strohs Ice Cream. Got 'em through Prohibition.
- Sir Graves Ghastly. I also remember another late night horror movie, Dead from Detroit it's..... But i am drawing a blank beyond that. Any help?
- Sonny Eliot, the great TV weatherman. Inga-dinga-ringa-dine
- CKLW, the great Windsor rock station. AM.
- George Kell. Ernie's TV counterpart. Tiger Warm-Up host. Back when we only had a game of the week. Before ESPN, kiddies.
- The Michigan State Fair. And the big stove, symbol of Detroit's pre-car stove making industry. Great rides. Great food.

Pardon my typo on Belle Isle. Bell's is a brewery, great brewery.

Tue Jul 15, 2014 at 2:42 PM PT: Thanks for all the positive comments and putting this on the Community Spotlight. Deeply appreciated. Some things I missed:

- Sanders Ice Cream
- Strohs Ice Cream. Got 'em through Prohibition.
- Sir Graves Ghastly. I also remember another late night horror movie, Dead from Detroit it's..... But i am drawing a blank beyond that. Any help?
- Sonny Eliot, the great TV weatherman. Inga-dinga-ringa-dine
- CKLW, the great Windsor rock station. AM.
- George Kell. Ernie's TV counterpart. Tiger Warm-Up host. Back when we only had a game of the week. Before ESPN, kiddies.
- The Michigan State Fair. And the big stove, symbol of Detroit's pre-car stove making industry. Great rides. Great food.

Pardon my typo on Belle Isle. Bell's is a brewery, great brewery.

Tue Jul 15, 2014 at 2:48 PM PT: Sorry about the multi-update. Weather Service wasn't kidding about the severe thunderstorm warning. Don't get a banging gully washer like that on the Maine coast very often. That was a midwest t'storm. Freaked out my internet connection, too.

Originally posted to Out To Sea on Mon Jul 14, 2014 at 02:55 PM PDT.

Also republished by Motor City Kossacks and Community Spotlight.

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