When Opponents Weren’t Enemies: Michigan’s Harry Kelly and G. Mennen Williams–Politically Opposed, Mutually Respectful

It was once Armistice Day–in recognition of the end of the Great War, begun 100 years ago with an assassination in Sarajevo and ending with the loss of millions of lives, the restructuring of the world’s balance of power and with heavy reparation requirements on the defeated paving a certain path to another world war 25 years later.   Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman and George Marshall refused to let history repeat itself in 1945 and created a plan to rebuild former foes into allies—not the humiliated vanquished whose death we might celebrate.  The GI Bill would create the foundation of a new middle class—turning returning soldiers into college graduates. Today we thank our veterans for their service but do we really follow the lead of “the greatest generation?” Opponents, Not Enemies One week away from our biannual trench warfare of election ads, millions of dollars are spent and hundreds of characters assassinated… Read More…

Death of a Whistleblower: Detroit’s Bankruptcy, Edward Snowden and Jerry Buckley

*Updated on 3/24/14 with video of hotel implosion courtesy of Laurie Rutzel Lessard. 50,000 people is a considerable crowd at a ballpark, but a graveside service is pretty remarkable–particularly in a thunderstorm. Two recent news events have merged for me to remember the 1930 Detroit gangland assassination of a man with a questionable past that was compared to half of Mount Rushmore’s occupants… Quite a quote from the one-year anniversary memorial service on Belle Isle honoring a martyred radio announcer–even elaborated upon by none other than  Fr. Caughlin, the controversial radio-priest who would soon be baiting FDR after his New Deal proposals started taking root when President Hoover did not win re-election in another 18 months. For Detroit, it was not the first in a long series of black-eyes celebrated most recently in last week’s Time, which made our city the “Or Else” for even Chinese concerns. We’re the ugly… Read More…

The Roaring Twenties in Detroit: A City in the Black—and Purple

Kevin’s recent illustrated humor post on Detroit’s Museum Yard Sale, about the proposed selling of the city’s more valuable art pieces, reminded me of the last time I visited the Detroit Institute of Arts about 10 years ago (I live in New York so have an excuse for not visiting there more often). My husband, author Warren Berger, and I were there on a scouting mission. Warren was checking out locations for scenes in his novel THE PURPLES, which chronicles/imagines the rise and fall of the young rumrunner Purple Gang in 1920s Detroit. [Nota bene: The novel started life as a great screenplay drafted by Kevin, Brian d’Arcy James, and Warren all sparked by—in a nod to My Media Diary’s theme—a massive family research file of news clippings compiled by Kevin. A key figure in their Purple Gang story is Harry F. Kelly (photo below), a relative of mine, Brian, and Kevin’s… Read More…

Building a Mansion to Last Forever–or at least 8 years

This oddball-house that was torn down forty years ago keeps popping up–two years ago in a box of china and yesterday in an e-mail. The certain things in life that Benjamin Franklin mentions, death and taxes, can also include another item–that certainty is anything but certain.   In 1923 my great-grandfather Henry Kelly moved his law firm and large family to Detroit from Ottawa, Illinois where his Irish immigrant grandfather James had settled after helping build the Erie and Illinois canal systems as a mason.   James had left Ireland with a conviction that he was going to the right place with the right job.  His son, Martin, decided to become a farmer.  At the risk of invoking Gone With the Wind’s Gerald O’Hara, “Why land’s the only thing that matters.  The only thing that lasts.”  For Martin, the chance to finally own land and not be a tenant like his… Read More…

Ever Want to Knock on Your Old House Door?

I love this picture.   It was taken in 1966 in the basement of my parents’ home on Ward in Detroit.  It almost looks like a Norman Rockwell painting, the way my Uncle Bill is leaning back with the cue, my Uncle John is supervising in his vest, and my Uncle Joe is taking the shot with cousin Matt advising.  My dad is holding me and even my grandpa is watching from the booth. It’s a perfect image of this nostalgic time that I can’t even truly remember.  We moved from the house in 1970 and those pre-6-year-old memories aren’t too specific–just a collage of images mixed with feelings.  A fire hydrant we climbed on, the curtains I set on fire by moving a candle too close to the window, burning leaves in a can in the backyard, the cardboard lunar module, complete with Neil Armstrong’s footprints.  My dad even… Read More…