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May 12, 1995 - Image 39

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1995-05-12

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

and their two children stopped in at the
cafe after taking in the famous Hudson's
Thanksgiving Day parade. They loved the
malteds.
It was crowded, all right, "but we
thought it was great."
Invariably, someone from the Purple
Gang was there. Everybody knew they
were in trouble with the law. But how the
heck could you complain about a group of
Jewish guys who beat up on anybody who
beat up on Jews? (One patron remembers
Purples dashing out in the middle of the
meal to take care of a couple of toughs
taunting a Jewish boy).
"Of course you ignored them while they
were eating," Mrs. Steinberger says. "But

Henrietta Ruda today, and (on page 38) with her
husband, Julius, while she was working at the
restaurant.

then you would go home and tell every-
body, 'Guess who I saw today!"
I t wasn't too fancy, but it was nice.
The inside of the Cream of Michi-
gan, located at 8621 12th St., was dec-
orated in blues and yellows, with tables
and chairs plus a counter where you could
catch a quick bite.
About 60 years ago, when the Cream
was at its height of popularity, the world
was quite a different place. A Steinway
piano cost $495, a pair of men's leather
shoes went for about $8, and anyone who
wanted breath "sweet as a seabreeze,
fresh as all outdoors" used Squibb tooth
powder.
The Detroit Tigers won the 1935 World
Series and the Detroit Red Wings won the
Stanley Cup the same year. Joe Louis was
on his way to becoming the world's heavy-
weight boxing champion. The United Au-
tomobile Workers (UAW) was founded.
Detroit was the car-making capital of
the world, producing four out of five of the
country's 4 million new vehicles. A 1939
Life magazine described the city as
"restive, anxious, dynamic," with Detroi-
ters eager to brag that their hometown
"leads the world in making adding ma-

chines, cigars, electric irons, freight cars,
garment hangers, stoves, gasoline torch-
es, medicines."
Woodward Avenue was the center of
Detroit life, Father Charles Coughlin was
preaching anti-Semitism from his Shrine
of the Little Flower in Royal Oak, and the
wealthiest residents found homes at Gray-
haven along the Detroit River.
Twelfth Street was a lively place, the
epitome of an urban thoroughfare, a mix-
ture of residential and commercial
frontage.
The area was developed around World
War I, and Jews had been settling there
since about 1910. They came from Hast-
ings Street, where much of the housing
had been affordable but of inferior
quality. That was fine for new immi-
grants, but now it was time to move
up.
By the late 1930s, 12th was the
main street on the Jewish west side.
There were countless synagogues.
Some, like Beth Joseph, were store-
fronts. Others met in converted hous-
es.
In its many years on 12th Street,
the Cream of Michigan had a variety
of neighbors: barbers, grocers, butch-
ers, fish and fruit markets, shoe stores
and banks.
During the 1930s, a two-block
stretch of 12th Street was home not
only to the Cream of Michigan but
to Streng Chevrolet and later Jack
Mann Chevrolet. There was an A&P,
a Kroger and a C.F. Smith grocery
store. Jacob Bellick, Morris Rosner
and Anna Miller all had delis, and
Joseph Schwartz owned a "bottle ex-
change" at 8536 12th. The Astor The-
ater (where you could catch a film for
a dime) was there, and the Littman's
People's Theater — where you could
see live Yiddish performances — was
just a few blocks down, at 12th and
Seward.
Red may have been one of the few
lipstick colors available, and nearly
everyone seemed to have the same hair-
style (fluffy at the top, curled in the back),
but women still needed to be up on the
latest beauty techniques. Where else for
such an education if not the Hygienic
School of Beauty Culture at 12th near
Philadelphia, where you also could have
your hair cut — if you dared.
Religious articles could be bought at
Solomon Chesluk's store at 8663 12th.
Chesluk, who in 1921 immigrated with
his family from Poland to Detroit, was a
talmudic scholar and friend of Isaac Her-
zog, who later became chief rabbi of Is-
rael.
The Cream of Michigan's longtime
next-door neighbor was the Crow Dairy.
No doubt many Purple Gang members
bypassed that spot's tame drinks and
made a stop, instead, at the Fell Broth-
ers beer garden, just across the street from
the Cream.
One of the Cream of Michigan's most
popular beverages was a celery soda (of
which Dr. Brown's still makes a version,
called Cel-Ray). Faygo was available, as
was a good, strong coffee and, of course,
Vernor's.

CREAM OF THE CROP page 40

PHOTO BY TOM SHERRY

Cream Crop

LUCKY STRIKE

Above: Inside
the Cream of
Michigan: "You
saw everybody. The
high guys and the
low guys."

CIGARETTE

Y

OU'LL enjoy this real Burley cig-
arette. It's full of flavor—just as
good as a pipe.

IT'S TOASTED

The Burley tobacco is toasted; makes
the taste delicious. You know how
toasting improves the flavor of bread.
And it's the same with tobacco exactly.

I)
a)

Cr)

C ■ 1

3u eranteed by

4

›—

/MOON P

CD

39

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