“Peeping Tomb” – Sunlight & Stained Glass in Detroit’s Historic Woodlawn Cemetery

Original photography by Kevin Walsh. Also featured on Digging Detroit.

Detroit’s Woodlawn Cemetery offers a unique historical walk through Detroit’s golden era, founded in the late 1890s by Detroit’s captains of industry and politics

Founded in 1895 – Woodlawn Cemetery – 19975 Woodward Ave, Detroit

I first encountered the magic of Woodlawn on a walking tour with Bailey Sisoy-Moore, founder of Detroit History Tours. I then was forutnate enough to become a guide in her tour company’s “Buried in Detroit” bus tour of multiple historic cemeteries.

Incorporated in 1895, it offered the opportunity of a … Read More…

Presidential Report Card from one Teacher’s Lifetime: LBJ to Trump

Note:  I actually wrote the following in the weeks following Donald Trump’s 2016 inauguration and it has sat in my draft bin ever since. I decided to shelve it and wanted to give some time for Trump’s presidency to actually have some history behind it, feeling that while I graded the new president low scores even after just one month, I had hopes they’d improve–I guess more of an early progress report than a semester grade.

Following innumerable crises and jolts to our system, let alone in just the last 12 months an impeachment, a pandemic, nation-wide protests against inequity and finally the terrifying events at the capital on Wednesday January 6, 2021 I remembered to take another look at this post–as the nation was jolted into a Washington-version … Read More…

Day 28 – The Reichstag Fire, “Dangerous” Immigrants & Emergency Decrees

“Just cannot believe a judge would put our country in such peril. If something happens blame him and court system. People pouring in. Bad!”

Thus, in typical thin-skin, knee-jerk Twitter-ese, President Trump issues a Don Corleone “and that day may never come” warning in the wake of a court-ruling stalling his seven-country travel ban.

Nothing makes people more willing to give up their rights than an emergency.  And nothing primes the pump better for an emergency decree than a worst-case-scenario actually happening.

Adolf Hitler didn’t take over Germany by force–he was elected chancellor, not dictator in 1932 and sworn in on January 30, 1933.  He promised change, jobs for the working class and most importantly plenty of scapegoats to blame for losing … Read More…

Back to the Classroom, Slide Projectors, Mountains & Mole Hills

Four years ago, my intended formula for this blog was pretty simple–pick a form of media (TV show, movie, billboard, cat footprints) and let it take you down a path or two.  But the last path I took was in August, before I returned to the high school classroom for my 26th year.  Being in an office setting since 2012 certainly gave me more physical and creative energy for activities like blogging as well as producing a documentary series, but it also pulled me a bit away from some basic reality-check questions that I’ve always enjoyed from teenagers–beyond “Can you give me passing grade and a pass to go home?”

The days following Election Day produced some poignant conversations for this English major turned video production teacher–with just a minor … Read More…

Cheers to the 19th Amendment–96 Years Ago Today!

Welcome to MMD’s newest contributor, Bailey Sisoy Isgro, owner of Detroit History Tours!

Speaker_Gillett_Signing_the_Suffrage_Bill

August 18th should be a national holiday. We should make potato salad and grill hot-dogs. Fireworks should be loosed and kids should wear patriotically themed face paint. It’s the anniversary of the liberation and equalization of the largest disenfranchised group in the history of America. Women.  On August 18th 1920 The 19th Amendment, guaranteeing women the right to vote, was ratified into the U.S. Constitution. Ninety six years ago today, women in America earned the right to vote.

The amendment was the culmination of more than 250 years of … Read More…

Podcast: Inside the Detroit Blues Society

 

Join  host Pete Kalinski from Royal Oak’s Boo’s Music Bistro inside Mr. B’s Restaurant as he welcomes two of the city’s foremost fans and promoters of Detroit’s legendary blues legacy–President of the Detroit Blues Society, Steve Soviak and Vice President Tom McNab.

It’s first meeting in 1985 began a multi-decade of transformations to increase public interest in the Society. Large-scale events included a number of indoor and outdoor concerts and school workshops. Increased membership and a more organized approach allowed the Society to embark on special projects. Educational programs became more formalized and in 1996 the Scarab Club Educational/Blues Heritage Series began. Each event featured a theme based on some aspect of the Detroit blues tradition.

IMG_6664Read More…

Defining the American Masses: The Common Man or Third-Graders without a Chaperone?

“You’ve reached group-sales for the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  How may I help you?”

“Hi there!  Our third-graders are touring Manhattan and we thought we could bring them by tomorrow.”

“Certainly.”

“That’s great.  This chaperoning is wearing us down so thought we’d drop them off in the morning, catch a show and a few beers and pick them up around 5 or so, if that’s okay”

“Umm….Well, we need to have the kids chaperoned…because, you know, there’s a lot of priceless items…”

“Thanks so much.  We’ll be by at 10!”

There aren’t too many teachers or directors of any respected institution that would permit this scenario.  After all, it’s hard to take a selfie of you and Van Gogh if there’s some kid drawing horns … Read More…

The $10 Voter-Apathy Tax: Avoiding Lead-Poisoning & Raising $1 Billion for Michigan

My first job was supposed to be as a dishwasher–until my buddy heard me mention I was applying for the job and got there an hour before me.  I ended up becoming the kitchen slopboy/custodian–mopping the basement and scraping out the grease under the prep table after the health department again threatened to shut down the swanky Pagoda.

Place your bets, ladies and gentlemen. Place your bets...

Place your bets, ladies and gentlemen. Place your bets…

The place is long-gone but I still have that first green pay-stub reflecting my 9 hours that July 1979–for $3 an hour.  I remember looking at the top right and seeing $27.00 … Read More…

From Detroit to the Bulge: Priceless Snapshots of One Soldier’s Journey Across Europe

Before he was selected in WWII’s first draft for 18 year-olds, Detroit’s Lawrence Dupuis didn’t know the value of being color-blind.  “They would take me up in the aircraft and I could detect where the landscape had been disturbed and camouflage was laid down.”

Dupuis1

His cartooning skills were even put to use, although someone else would have to color the wall-sized illustration below:  “This drawing was painted on the stage of the Great Dunmow Airport Building that was to be used as an all-purpose room by the 8th Air Force who were to take over the field.  They sent over a sergeant to check the … Read More…

The Right to Bear Left: 2nd Amendment Mad-Libs, Replacing Cars for Guns

What if, under an old desk in James Madison’s study,  the following were found scribbled on the back-side of the Second Amendment–the words in bold written into blank spots like a Mad Libs page…

Amendment 2.5:  A well-regulated Transportation System, being necessary to the mobility of a free State, the right of the people to keep and conduct Transportation Devices, shall not be infringed.

After all, the right to transport yourself is a pretty inalienable right, too, isn’t it?

600px-eisenhower_interstate_system

Eisenhower saw the immediate benefit of the German autobahn–allowing quick movement of Hitler’s troops across WWII.  But in addition to Cold War defense, Eisenhower also saw the expressways as a vital route for emergency evacuation–all under strict central government oversight.  After all, you wouldn’t want … Read More…

“Spotlight” on America’s Conscience: The Church, Jameis Winston & Refugees

“It takes a village to raise them. It takes a village to abuse them. That’s the truth of it.”

Spotlight‘s Mitchell Garabedian (Stanley Tucci) 

 

Michael Keaton’s character, Walter “Robbie” Robinson, in the newly-released Spotlight, is seeking Boston Globe confirmation of the Archdiocese cover-up for 70 priests involved in child molestation.  He passes the list to his longtime friend and attorney, “We all knew something was going on.”

His friend kicks him out of his house and then follows Robbie into the street and asks him why he didn’t do anything–if he knew something was going on.

Robbie pauses and can only say, “I don’t know.”

Spotlight’s portrayal of the 2001 investigation by the Globe’s Spotlight unit (Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams and Brian d’Arcy James) … Read More…

New Podcast: “Detroit in World War II” with Author Greg Sumner

Note:  This podcast was co-produced with Digging Detroit and can also be found at this link.

A look inside the “Arsenal of Democracy” as Professor Gregory Sumner of University of Detroit Mercy joins Digging Detroit’s Thomas J. Reed Jr. and Detroit History ToursBailey Sisoy Isgro at Detroit’s historic Abick’s Bar.   Sumner previews his upcoming book-signing, Detroit in WWII, at Abick’s on November 10, 2015.

Thanks to our Abick’s host, Eric and Kit, we visit with Prof. Sumner in the cigar room–formerly a barber shop.  Amazing eats was provided once again by Andy Surowiec of Smokin’ Pole BBQ!

Topics include:

  • Advantages of being an Hoosier looking in at Detroit
  • Coming out of isolationism with the $1 men and patriotism of Joe Louis and  Edsel Ford
  • Warren Tanks … Read More…

New Podcast: Archivists Roundtable at Historic Abick’s Bar in Detroit

What to keep, what to throw away? The eternal question for the archivist.

In a partnership with Digging Detroit, we take our podcast on the road and chat with some of Michigan’s top historical archivists in a roundtable discussion at historic Abick’s Bar on their unusual world–sometimes spent in dusty shelves and digging through dark basements and mysterious attics–but often waiting for you at the reference desk.

They’ll share some familiar requests, general misconceptions, surprise treasures and offer some great advice for everyone on preserving documents, photographs and memories for posterity.

Recorded August 4, 2015 at Abick’s Bar & Grill

Host

Pete Kalinski:  Digging Detroit Host/Producer

Guests:

Rebecca Bizonet:  Oral History Project Archivists at The Walter P. Reuther Library, Wayne State University

Andrea Gietzen:Read More…

Which America is Yours? A Proposed Four-Party Hogwarts Government

Maybe Washington could do with a leach or two…

If you were sick in ancient Greece your body’s chemicals were simply off-kilter–a bad mix of the four humours:  blood, phlegm, black bile and yellow bile…

There are four seasons (for now), four legs on a chair and four balls for a free base–but only two parties running the country.  Have you had much luck on a two-legged stool lately?

Wouldn’t it be great if, like mood rings, we could glance at someone’s wardrobe and know who we’re about to ask to babysit your kid?  The Scots had it right–you could spot an enemy clansman running up the heath by the pattern of his kilt.  Even in the Harry Potter series, my own kids walked around the house with Griffindor’s gold-and-red scarves.  Now … Read More…

The Consolidated States of America

This past summer the kids and I took our annual trip to the beach in North Carolina from Connecticut.  We decided to play the old license plate game along the way.  Of course, the kids added a new media twist to it using an app.  As we ventured down the east coast and tracked our states we started to question why there were so many states.  Why was Rhode Island an actual state?  No offense the Dakotas, you are awfully small.

3 teenagers and a preteen quickly reeducated me in the history of the United States, the colonies and how we came to be.  The capitalist and cost optimizer in me then challenged them with new thinking.  What if you had to start over today … Read More…

New Podcast: Digging Detroit – Dodge, Detroit & Women in Industry

Digging Detroit’s Tom Reed and Pete Kalinski discuss the early days of Detroit’s automotive history with historians Bailey Sisoy Isgro and Madelyn Rzadkowolski.

Topics include:

  • Advertising’s current portrayal of the Dodge Brothers
  • Dodge’s famous dependability—and fix-it-yourself car kits
  • General Patton and the Dodge military contract
  • Women and Detroit’s cigar industry as a vehicle for entry into the workforce (and why Detroit was a cigar center)
  • Using campaigns of conscience to get women into the workforce during WWI
  • Detroit’s African American 600% population boom between 1910-1920
  • Detroit as the “Paris of the Midwest”
  • More campaigns of conscience to force women out of the workplace after WWII
  • Dodge’s role in the arsenal of democracy
  • Fear of women earning too much–and gaining political clout)
  • Promoting the myth … Read More…

An Apology to My Daughters, Gloria Steinem, Betty Friedan Among Others…

As I was reading a magazine today I turned the page to an article about Congress’s First Black Female Republican and I sat there stunned for a few moments. How could this be? I was honestly struck dumb with the realization that this was a milestone that was just NOW happening in the year 2014? Hadn’t it happened sooner? I had assumed that we had all sorts of women of every color and race populating the corridors in Washington DC. I was truly stunned that this was an event to celebrate in the year 2014. Where have the last 30 years gone?

I was raised with the idea that I as a woman could do anything. I sat down in front of the TV back … Read More…

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 … Read More…

Ken Burns-on-a-Shoestring: Creating Buzz to Launch Mini-Doc “Digging Detroit”

“The Joe,” the battleship-gray windowless box on the Detroit River, is slated for 2017 demolition, making way for high-rise condos, a hotel and shopping as part of a pay-back to creditors owed $1 billion.  For a few months in-between wrecking-ball and ground-breaking, Detroiters will once again have an unobstructed view of the river at the corner of Fort and 3rd–as if looking back in time and seeing the Purple Gang hijack another bootlegger at the docks, before moving its haul up the street to the speakeasy beside the church.

And that same little brick building on the left will probably still be standing when the condos are torn down in 60 years–perhaps making way for the next home for the Wings.

When the 1974 picture above was taken, I was probably immersed in Channel 50’s after-school reruns of Get Smart, Gilligan’s Island or … Read More…

Perhaps “Compromise” and “Politics” Can Coexist? Candidate Fishman Switches Sides and Hopes So

At first, term limits made sense.  At first, letting the giant wooden horse into the gates of Troy made sense, too.  For many, the possibility of voting for a Democrat who was a Republican nine months ago makes less sense.

“We’ve always had term limits; they’re called elections,” joked retiring US Republican Congressman, William S. Broomfield in 1996 to me when he was being inducted into the Royal Oak Dondero High School Hall of Fame.  Michigan had just voted to only allow its state elected officials a few terms under the design that it would eliminate “career politicians.”

Instead we have legislative musical chairs with no one staying in one job long enough to make any decisions that have any impact beyond six years.  Like … Read More…