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April 01, 2010 - Image 62

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2010-04-01

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Arts & Entertainment

Where The Heart Is

Members of the Jewish community found a home
in the idyllic neighborhoods surrounding Palmer Park.

The living room of this house on Parktide in etroit

is the setting for Palmer Park, the play by Joanna

McClelland Glass, who moved into the home in

"I think Palmer Parkers are a
special breed. We're young and
energetic and idealistic. We've
chosen not to run to the suburbs to
live in bland uniformity on Look-
A-Like Lane. We're fighting for
diversity because, without it, we'll
have a country that's well, it'll be
like that line in that old Sunday
school song, 'You in your small
corner, and I in mine.'"

1968. The production will be presented at both the

- From the play Palmer Park

Jewish Ensemble Theatre and the Hilberry Theatre. -

Judith Doner Berne
Special to the Jewish News


endy Zack remembers regular-
ly feeding the ducks and riding
the ponies in Palmer Park.
"I lived my entire childhood there says
Zack of her home on Parkside in north-
west Detroit, where she graduated from
the Emma Stark Hampton Elementary
and Junior High School —now the
Barbara Jordan Academy — in 1962.
Indeed the heavily Catholic Palmer
Park area, developed between 1915 and
1941, welcomed hundreds of Jewish fami-
lies in the '40s, '50s and '60s when deed
restrictions in areas of Grosse Pointe and
Birmingham-Bloomfield kept them out.
Those who could afford it flocked to the
tree-lined streets of expansive brick and
stone houses in Palmer Woods, Sherwood
Forest and the University District — or
built their own. The interiors, which often
included maids' quarters and a butler's
pantry, were characterized by intricate
plasterwork, leaded and stained glass win-
dows, oak-paneled libraries, hand-pegged
hardwood floors, one or more fireplaces,
Pewabic Pottery the and crystal chandeliers.


April 1 • 2010


Within walking and biking distance
was the Avenue of Fashion, a series of
high-end shops at Seven Mile and along
Livernois, many of them Jewish owned.
Think Nat Greene, Ferguson's, Rose Alkon,
Cardinal and Claire Perone. Remember
Junior Gentleman, Marie Newman, Hack
Shoes, Bosco's barbershop and Emile's
and Nino's beauty salons. Recall Billy's
Delicatessen (the famous Darby's was fur-
ther west) and Robin Hood eateries as well
as Ranier's bakery. B. Siegel department
store anchored the area.
Adjacent to the park, on Manderson,
was the majestic Art Deco-style, William
Kapp-designed Temple Israel, to which
the congregation moved in 1950. Until its
education wing was completed later in
the decade, Temple Israel held some of its
Sunday school classes at Hampton.
General Motors Treasurer Meyer Prentis,
oil tycoon Max Fisher, lumber kingpin
Brooks Baron and supermarket owner Max
Shaye are just a sampling of the Jewish rich
and famous Palmer Park residents who
lived alongside Albert and William Fisher
of Fisher Body, soon-to-be Michigan gov-
ernor George Romney and United Artists
Theatres owner John Kunsky.

"George Romney used to drive me
to Hampton:' says Lois Shaevsky, of
Bloomfield Hills, who serves on several
nonprofit boards. "He'd take us in the
morning and his wife, Lenore, would
pick us up:' says Shaevsky, who gradu-
ated from Hampton in 1952. "I remember
when she was pregnant with Mitt."
The area and Hampton, its neighbor-
hood school, spawned hundreds of doc-
tors, lawyers, judges, journalists, artists
and politicos, as well as nationally known
figures like comedienne Gilda Radner,
New Line Cinema founder Bob Shaye
— and two New York-based food critics
and authors, Gael Greene and Raymond
Sokolov. (Sokolov, while at Hampton,
placed second in the National Spelling
"You knew who lived in every house
says Joel Adelman, a lawyer from
Huntington Woods who graduated
from Hampton in 1956. "Gesu (Catholic
School) was for the Catholic boys, and
the Jewish boys went to Hampton. I have
a very positive memory of the neighbor-
hood and the school."
"That whole neighborhood was the
safest, most wonderful, idyllic neighbor-

hood growing up as a child:' echoes Zack,
now a practicing psychotherapist and on
the faculty of Georgetown University in
Washington D.C.
"The Jewish community was so strong.
That's where my heart is."

Chance Meeting
It was 22 years ago in Montreal that Zack
happened to meet Canadian-born play-
wright Joanna McClelland Glass. As they
exchanged introductions and found out
that both had lived near Palmer Park in
Detroit, Zack discovered that Glass had
bought the house "I grew up in."
Glass told Zack "she loved that house
and even carried a photograph of it
around in her wallet. I just couldn't
believe it:' Zack says. "Then she pulled
out the photo, and there was the driveway
where I used to play"
If you were writing fiction, their meet-
ing wouldn't be believable, says Marva
Maxwell, Zack's mother, who now lives in
West Bloomfield. They hadn't known who
bought their house, Maxwell explains,
since they sold it to a real estate agent
when they moved to Huntington Woods
in 1968.

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