By Laura Tucker-DeVries
“There are places I’ll remember, in my life Though some have changed”
Lennon and McCartney
As a child growing up on the east side of Detroit in the late ’50s and 60’s—there were so many events I witnessed, experienced and “lived” through—wonderful things, horrible things—things that changed the world.
Fasten your seatbelts for a trip down memory lane…
At 9 years old, I went on a fabulous road trip with relatives from Detroit to California via the iconic Route 66, which ran from Chicago to Los Angeles. It was also known as Will Rogers Highway, the Main Street of America, and my favorite—the Mother Road. Although I was a child, I’ll never forget the roadside diners, service stations, and trading posts. I am so glad I had that opportunity—great memories.
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Then, on the afternoon of November 22, 1963, we heard the shocking news from crying teachers that our President John Fitzgerald Kennedy had been shot. We were sent home immediately to find out later that he had died. A tearful and choked up Walter Cronkite broke the news to a bewildered and frightened nation.
A couple of days later, the nation watched as Lee Harvey Oswald was murdered on live TV. Even at that tender young age, I knew the world would never be the same.
A few months later, on the very same tiny black and white TV, I watched the Ed Sullivan show as the world changed again with his introduction of The Beatles. Who knew those four mop-topped gents from “across the pond” could bring our weary souls such a glimmer of hope? A few years later, I was lucky enough to see The Beatles live at the Olympia Stadium—it would be an understatement to say that it was a day I will NEVER forget…
If you were an Eastsider of Detroit, you probably remember the D.S.R. bus line and trips to Eastland, seeing the Beatles first movie—”A Hard Day’s Night” at the Ramona theater, street dances behind the stores at 7 Mile and Gratiot. All Detroiters remember fun days spent at Edgewater Park. I saw celebrities such as Michael Landon, Bobby Rydell and Freddie (Boom-Boom) Cannon there.
In the summer of 1965, I remember seeing many Motown groups at the Michigan State Fair bandshell such as the Four Tops and the “tempting” Temptations—great times!
In the spring of 1967, a cousin of mine who worked at CKLW radio station in Windsor arranged for me and a girlfriend to attend the “Swingin’ Time” dance party show which aired on their sister TV station, CKLW TV Channel 9. We got to go backstage and meet the Everly Brothers and we were interviewed on air—so exciting. Since it was taped, we were able to watch it the next day with a big bunch of school chums.
Shortly after, in the sweltering summer of 1967—Detroit was a breeding ground for racial tensions and that summer brought forth the worst of humanity culminating in the “Detroit Riots”.
There were many contributing factors percolating in the city at that time– 43 people died, over 300 injured and over 1,400 buildings burned according to history.com. Because my parents worked downtown, I saw a lot of the devastation and National Guard troops and police trying to maintain some semblance of order in a very chaotic climate. I would go on the rooftop of the building in which they worked, and could see the fires scattered throughout the city and hear the never-ending sounds of the sirens. It was a very frightening scene that I couldn’t quite comprehend at the time.
From the ashes–like a phoenix–rose the promise of a new Detroit, a new understanding of humanity and equality. The city’s re-awakened spirit held the hope of many to rebuild a better place for those to come.
I remember all of these things, they are a part of the fabric of MY soul. The good and the bad memories are woven together bringing me to a place of a bittersweet life well lived.