Dearborn’s Ford-Wyoming Drive-in Theatre #1 nationally!

Off Season by Derek Farr

Off Season by Derek Farr

The Freep tweets that Dearborn’s Ford-Wyoming Drive-in Theatre was the top grossing movie theater in the nation last weekend. The Henry Ford shares a little of the history of this Michigan icon:

The Ford-Wyoming drive-in was built by Charlie Schafer, opening for business in May 1950. He and his family grew a veritable movie house empire in the Metro-Detroit area under the umbrella of Wayne Amusements, but the Ford-Wyoming is the only evidence of the legacy that remains. When it was first built, there was only one screen—the backside of the immense Streamline Moderne structure that sits at the front of the property. One screen with accommodation for 750 cars grew to nine screens and a 3,000-car capacity, and the theatre began to make the claim of being “the largest drive-in in the world.” Today the theatre has downsized to five screens.

Read more at The Henry Ford & visit the Ford Wyoming Drive-in online for current shows.

Derek took this photo way back in 2012. See lots more in his massive Detroit album on Flickr.

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Detroit March to Freedom – June 23, 1963

Walk to Freedom Detroit June 23 1963

Detroit March to Freedom by Jim Yardley (courtesy Walter P Reuther Library)

Dr. Martin Luther King speaks at Cobo Hall
Dr. Martin Luther King speaks at Cobo Hall

Click on Detroit shares that the Detroit March to Freedom on June 23, 1963 was at the time the largest civil rights demonstration in U.S. history, with 125,000 marching down Woodward Avenue culminating in a speech by Dr. Martin Luther King at Cobo Hall:

The crowd carried signs and moved in relative silence as tens of thousands more watched from sidewalks and buildings.

The route of the march started at a twenty-one-block staging area near Adelaide Street. It followed Woodward Avenue to Jefferson Avenue, then headed west through the Civic Center. An hour and a half after it began, it ended at Cobo Hall, where 25,000 people, an estimated 95% of them African American, filled the building to capacity.

Thousands of demonstrators who could not find a seat spilled onto the lawns and malls outside, and listened to the programming through loudspeakers. Inside, public officials, African American business and civic leaders, and dignitaries including John B. Swainson, Congressman Charles Diggs, and Rev. Albert Cleage were among the speakers.

They note that the rally is remembered primarily for Dr. King’s first delivery of what became the “I Have a Dream” speech two months later at the historic March on Washington. Read on for more.

You can see a bunch more photos in the Walter P Reuther’s Equality & Civil Rights Activism in America photo gallery. Here’s a cool overview of the massive crowd from the Detroit Historical Society & listen to the speech right here:

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Michigan, Ohio, and the Best Worst Deal Ever

Lake of the Clouds by Tom Mortenson

Lake of the Clouds by Tom Mortenson

CMU’s Clarke Historical Library reminds us that on June 15, 1836 Congress passed the Northern Ohio Boundary Bill to resolve the ongoing boundary dispute between the state of Ohio and the Michigan Territory. Both claimed the mouth of the Maumee River (present-day Toledo) and offered surveys supporting their positions. The congressional compromise awarded Toledo to Ohio and granted Michigan the western Upper Peninsula and immediate statehood. Ohio was elated, but Michigan struggled, and eventually accepted a solution they believed was unfair.

Michigan State University’s Geography Department takes a deeper dive into the Toledo War and its aftermath, explaining that:

Sentiment against the proposed compromise was almost universal at first. A resolution adopted in March had dismissed the area that Michigan was to receive as a “sterile region on the shores of Lake Superior, destined by soil and climate to remain forever a wilderness.” The Detroit Free Press called it “a region of perpetual snows—the Ultima Thule of our national domain in the north.”

Senator Lyon said the region could furnish the people of Michigan with Indians for all time and now and then a little bear meat for a delicacy, but he was nevertheless one of the few who thought that Michigan might eventually find it got the better of the bargain. There was resentment of the fact that Arkansas had been granted statehood unconditionally the same day that Michigan had been offered admission only on conditions that most Michiganians regarded as disadvantageous to the state.

If Michigan did not want the huge area in the northland that Congress offered, it is equally true that some of the residents of the Upper Peninsula did not want to be part of Michigan either. Congress had received a number of petitions from persons in this region asking that the area south of Lake Superior be organized as the territory of Huron. Michigan Territory, as originally established in 1805, had included the eastern Upper Peninsula, including the settlements at the Straits of Mackinac and at Sault Ste. Marie. These areas had been represented in the 1835 convention that drafted Michigan’s constitution and had defined the new state’s boundaries so as to include these parts of the Upper Peninsula within that state. Thus the statement that Michigan received the entire Upper Peninsula in return for surrendering the Toledo strip is not correct, but nevertheless the error continues to be perpetuated. It was approximately the western three-quarters of the Upper Peninsula that was involved in the compromise. Some people in the eastern section preferred to become part of the proposed Huron Territory, pointing out that Sault Ste. Marie was cut off from Detroit for six months each year and claiming that the region was treated by the rest of Michigan as a remote and neglected colony. Congress, however, paid no attention. Politics was more important than geography, and Michigan was saddled with the problem–never satisfactorily resolved–of uniting two areas which nature, for many thousands of years, has set asunder.

…Sure, Michigan did “lose” to Ohio in a way. At the time, we didn’t get what we wanted, the Toledo Strip, and they did. However, as a state we never really lost anything. While Toledo was conveniently located on the water, we still had Detroit, which was and continues to be the center of industry here in Michigan. We lost a little bit, but gained tremendously. At the time of statehood, surely the acquiring of the Upper Peninsula was thought to be a disadvantage. Time proved to tell that it was nothing like that at all. We really lost nothing, and gained immense mineral wealth, fortune from logging, and vast natural beauty.

I’ll definitely take that trade! Tom took this photo back in October of 2013. See more in his Upper Michigan gallery on Flickr.

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What the heck is Honolulu Blue?

Detroit Lions by Healthier Michigan

Detroit Lions by A Healthier Michigan

Yesterday as it often does, my curiosity got the better of me and I had to find the answer as to why the Detroit Lions official blue is called “Honolulu Blue”. Fortunately,  The Evolution of the Detroit Lions’ Uniform by Bill Dow has the answer:

When WJR owner G.A. Richards purchased the Portsmouth (Ohio) Spartans in 1934 and moved the team to Detroit, the newly renamed Lions unveiled a striking uniform consisting of a blue jersey, silver pants, blue socks, and a silver helmet.

According to a 1950 Lion media guide, “the blue, a distinctive shade was especially developed for G.A. Richards.” According to team lore, their first owner came up with the color after admiring the hue of the Pacific Ocean on a trip to Hawaii and the shade was named “Honolulu blue.”

In 1999, Glenn Presnell, the then lone surviving member of the first Lion’s team and the league’ oldest alumnus, described his role in selecting the first uniform in an interview with me.

“When we met with Mr. Richards, my wife and I also helped select the Lions’ colors, “ Presnell said. “He had asked us to look at the different jerseys in the next room. There were all different colors, orange and black, red and white, you name it. We saw that Honolulu blue and silver and said we liked it best. So Richards chose that.”

You can read on for more including the Lions brief & doomed flirtation with Hoosier colors.

See more in A Healthier Michigan’s Lions Thanksgiving Day 2014 album!

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An easy ride at Little Sable Point Lighthouse

Little Sable Point Lighthouse by Kevin Povenz

Little Sable Point Lighthouse by Kevin Povenz

Terry Pepper’s Seeing the Light has a bunch of information about the history of Little Sable Point Light:

Congress appropriated $35,000 for the project, and 39 acres of land were selected on which to construct the new Light station. The construction of a light at Little Point Sable was destined to be a daunting task, since the location was distant from any area of supply, and there was a total absence of roads to the site. Work began in April 1873 with the construction of a dock at the beach and temporary housing for the construction crew.

A pile driver was towed to the point, and in accordance with Poe’s plan, 109 one-foot diameter pilings were driven into the sand to a level nine feet below the surface in order to form a solid base on which to build the tower. Twelve feet of cut stone was then carefully laid atop the pilings to provide a solid base for the tower’s brickwork. The brick walls had a thickness of five feet at the base, tapering to a thickness of two feet at its uppermost. With the advent of winter, the crews were removed from the point, and work had to wait for the next spring.

…Being built of a particularly hard and durable type of brick, the decision was made to leave both the tower and ancillary structures in a natural, unpainted condition, since it was expected they would withstand the rigors of the weather without deterioration. This was no doubt a decision which sat well with Keeper Davenport, as painting was an activity in which the authorities held considerable stock, and he found himself in the enviable position of not having that millstone around his neck every year!

…It did not take long before mariners began complaining that the natural brick coloration made the tower difficult to see during daylight hours. As a result, the tower was painted white on September 24, 1900, and thereafter, keepers assigned to the tower would be stuck with the drudgery of the annual painting ritual.

…With the station unmanned, the Coast Guard began to see the ancillary buildings as a liability, and in the first half of 1955 a crew arrived at the station and demolished everything but the tower.

The tower remained in its white painted condition until 1977, when once again seizing the opportunity to reduce the ongoing maintenance costs associated with constant painting, a crew arrived at the station, and sandblasted the tower. Once again, James Davenport’s easy ride was exposed to the light of day!

More from Terry Pepper’s Seeing the Light.

Kevin took this back in July of 2016. See many more great shots in his Lighthouse gallery.

More Michigan lighthouses on Michigan in Pictures.

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The Wonderful Wizard of … West Michigan?

2019 Holland Michigan by Erik

2019 Holland Michigan by Erik

“The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was written solely to pleasure the children of to-day. It aspires to being a modernized fairy tale, in which the wonderment and joy are retained and heart-aches and nightmares are left out.”
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
L. Frank Baum, 1900

L. Frank Baum was born 144 years ago today, and this Sunday marks the 110th anniversary of the publication of his classic fairy tale, the Wonderful Wizard of Oz. The Holland Sentinel’s excellent article L. Frank Baum and the Macatawa Goose Man: Celebrating the origins of “The Wizard of Oz” explores the author’s connection to West Michigan, saying in part:

He was named after his uncle, Lyman Spalding Baum, but never liked Lyman and always was known as Frank to family and friends. As an actor and playwright, he was Louis F. Baum. As a newspaper editor, L.F. Baum, and as the children’s book author most famously known for “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” he was known as L. Frank Baum. But to the folks in Macatawa, he was simply known as “The Goose Man.”

…In 1899, Baum published “Father Goose: His Book.” The collection of children’s poems exploded in popularity and provided Baum with wealth and prestige for the first time in his life, his great-grandson, Bob Baum, recalled.

The author used the profits from his book to rent a large, multi-story Victorian summer home nestled on the southern end of the Macatawa peninsula on Lake Michigan. The home, which he eventually purchased, came to be known as the Sign of the Goose, an ever-present reminder of the fame that came along with “Father Goose.”

“The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” supposedly was written in Chicago, but some of the forest scenes look just like the pathways that run through the dunes, the younger Baum said.

He assumes Macatawa was where part of the book had been worked on or written, as Baum might have found inspiration from the castle in Castle Park for the yellow brick road, some say, or even based some of the characters in the book on personalities he encountered in the small lakeshore community.

“Especially in the Oz stories, a lot of characters and situations that we may not recognize … he drew lots of inspiration from Macatawa for the book.”

According to an undated newspaper article detailing one reporter’s visit to the Sign of the Goose, Baum not only was popular and well-known among the adults in the area, but children were quite fond of him as he allowed them into his home to read fairy tales, which occupied one of the shelves of his large bookcase.

The Holland Oz Project launched last summer with the installation of this floral living mosaic book, a yellow brick road, and colorful landscaping in Centennial Park with bronze sculptures on the grounds of the Herrick Library across the street. A funding campaign to support the project uses personalized engraved yellow bricks for placement along the yellow brick road.

To learn more about the Oz Project, visit their website or call the Holland Area Visitors Bureau at 616.394.0000.

You can see more in Erik’s Holland 2019 gallery on Flickr.

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The Port of Detroit

Letters in Port Detroit by Scott Shields

Letters in Port Detroit by Scott Shields

The Port of Detroit is located along the west side of the Detroit River and is the largest seaport in the state of Michigan:

The port consists of multiple marine terminals handling general, liquid, and bulk cargo as well as passengers. The Port of Detroit’s single most valuable commodity is steel, and the largest commodity handled by tonnage is ore. Other important commodities handled at the port include stone, coal and cement.

…Each year, the Port Authority oversees millions of tons of cargo at 29 private and public sector terminal facilities in the Port of Detroit. International and domestic high-grade steel products, coal, iron ore, cement, aggregate and other road building commodities are shipped in and out of Detroit’s port. It is the third largest steel-handling port in the nation.

More at the Port of Detroit website.

Scott shared this photo back in April in one of my favorite Facebook groups, Detroit’s Urban Beauty. Click to view it in the group & see more of his work on his Facebook page.

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Earth Day at 50

Untitled by Brooke Pennington

Untitled by Brooke Pennington

Happy 50th Earth Day everyone! It’s without a doubt the weirdest one on record, but I thought you might be interested in the Michigan roots of Earth Day, at the University of Michigan to be precise. James Tobin of Michigan Today shares the story of the Teach-In on the Environment that UM held in March of 1970 because Earth Day fell right in the middle of exams. Students and teachers formed a group called Environmental Action for Survival (ENACT) and booked Democratic front-runner Senator Edmund Muskie, Ralph Nader and biologist Dr. Barry Commoner.

Michigan’s Teach-In on the Environment was not the first Earth Day. It was the huge and spectacularly successful prototype of the first Earth Day, which happened five weeks later—“the most famous little-known event,” one historian has written, “in modern American history.”

…The crowd in Crisler Arena overflowed into the parking lots. Workshops and rallies were swarmed by Michigan students, schoolkids, retirees, and PTA parents. When it was over, the New York Times said Michigan’s Teach-In on the Environment had been “by any reckoning…one of the most extraordinary ‘happenings’ ever to hit the great American heartland: Four solid days of soul-searching, by thousands of people, young and old, about ecological exigencies confronting the human race.”

Measured against the extreme rhetoric and violent protests that set the tone of the era, it was an earnest, even quiet, event. A few speakers were heckled and a few showy demonstrations drew heavy media attention—the “trial and execution” of a 1959 Ford on the Diag; the dumping of 10,000 non-returnable pop cans at a Coca-Cola bottling plant (afterward students picked up the cans and threw them away, an irony not lost on reporters); the smearing of tar and feathers on a building where an oil company was interviewing job prospects.

Read the rest right here. & dig into 2020 online events at earthday.org.

Check out Brooke’s Spring photo album on Flickr for more!

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Remembering Mark “The Bird” Fidrych

Mark “The Bird” Fidrych courtesy Mark Fidrych Foundation

Mark Fidrych reminded you of your childhood, no matter how old you were when he pitched. This was his charm, his curse, his legacy. He personified athletic innocence.
-Michael Rosenberg, Detroit Free Press

I’m a lifelong Detroit Tiger fan & without question one of the most magical summers was the summer of ’76 when The Bird tore up the majors with his talking to the ball, mound grooming antics en route to a 19-9 season, winning AL Rookie of the Year honors (and finishing runner-up for the Cy Young), and leading the league in ERA.
 
He died unexpectedly 11 years ago today, and it still hurts to lose a bright light light like him so young. My dad had a Michigan sports show on TV that year, and I actually got to meet Mark. I don’t remember what he said to me, but I do remember how clear & in the moment he was and above all, what a truly nice human being he was.

More about this weird and wonderful character can be found at BaseballReference.com’s page for Mark Steven Fidrych and definitely watch this interview with Fydrich for a look at this Detroit Tiger original!

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Remembering Mr. Tiger, Al Kaline

Detroit Tigers Al Kaline takes a swing

Al Kaline takes a swing courtesy Baseball Hall of Fame

“I owe everything to baseball. Without it, I’d probably be a bum.”
-Al Kaline

Yesterday, the Detroit Tigers Detroit Tigers and all of us lost #6 Al Kaline. From his playing days in the 50s & 60s to a broadcasting career that spanned decades, “Mr. Tiger” was a fixture, bringing dedication and a simple love of the game in good times and bad.

The National Baseball Hall of Fame entry for Al Kaline says in part:

The 18-year-old Kaline came to the Tigers in 1953 directly from high school, having never spent a day in the minors, and by the next season established himself as one of the game’s bright new talents. By 1955, at age 20, he became the youngest player to win a batting title when he hit .340. That same year the youngster became only the fourth American League player to hit two home runs in a single inning.

Offensive consistency became Kaline’s hallmark over the years, hitting at least 20 home runs and batting .300 or better nine times each. A superb defensive outfielder with a strong throwing arm, he also collected 10 Gold Glove awards. In the 1968 World Series, Kaline’s only appearance in the Fall Classic, he batted .379, hit two home runs and drove in eight to help Detroit knock off the St. Louis Cardinals in seven games.

“You almost have to watch him play every day to appreciate what he does,” said veteran pitcher and former Tigers teammate Johnny Podres. “You hear about him, sure, but you really can’t understand until you see him. He just never makes a mistake.”

By the time Kaline’s 22-year big league career ended in 1974, the lifelong Tiger and 18-time All-Star had collected 3,007 hits, 399 home runs and a .297 career batting average.

“People ask me, was it my goal to play in the majors for 20 years? Was it my goal to get 3,000 hits someday? Lord knows, I didn’t have any goals,” Kaline once said. “I tell them, ‘My only desire was to be a baseball player.’”

Read more in the Hall of Fame and please share memories or links to articles you enjoyed in the comments!

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