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October 30, 1977 - Image 13

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Publication:
Michigan Daily, 1977-10-30
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Page 10-Sunday, October 30, 1977-The Michigan Daily

The Michigan Daily--Sunda

city

of trees

FICTION

--- --- --- --- - --- -- -- , 1:1: : i: i i;; i i i::::: 1 i!:::: i 11 !:::: 1
ORION ....... Will . . .............

(Continued from Page 9)
After listening passively, making a few
despairing hand motions and
defeatedly hanging up the phone, he
walked back to the car. He eased into
the driver's seat and sat in silence, con-
templating his next move. His wife was
afraid to ask.
"Oh yeah, everything's fine at the
house." 'He had talked to Pat, who was
house-sitting along with Cindy. "The
house is still there. You gone haveta get
a new bike, Michael Ray. Somebody
knocked Cindy off and took it, couple
days ago. You may as well get comfor-
table. We're goin' ta visit yer Granpa in
South Bend," he added firmly as the
wagon sped down the ramp onto the
freeway.
* * *
R OBERT T. FLAGSTONE ate lunch
every day at the Tender Trap, a
bar featuring scantily-clad barmaids
slinking around in a smokey, half-lit
atmosphere. He was known to, in
some of his routinely boisterous
behavior, grab one or two supple
honeys and bounce them on his ample
waist. More often than not, he would
manage to slip a bill or two into their
bikini bottoms for future considerations
other than the everyday tittie-
squeezing. At a mayor's convention in
Atlanta, Flagstone legend maintains he
cleared a room except for two ladies of
dubious reputations, who then
proceeded to perform their tricks. A
small audience was allowed to watch
this frivolous expenditure of taxpayer
funds. He was to write off all the bills
incurred on the trip.
Flagstone was defeated in his fourth
re-election bid in April of 1972. Lionel
Reeves unseated the incumbent by
pledging to clean up the corruption
which had strangled the city for more
than a decade. As he cleaned out the
last remnants of his personal
belongings, Flagstone offered reporters
one last round in his office. "To the
future," was the mayor's toast, and his
captivating grin betrayed not the least
bit of remorse or sorrow.
* * *
The red Country Squire zoomed down
I-94. Chicago: 86 miles. South Bend:
next 4 exits. Michael Smith pulled off on
the second South Bend ramp and looked
for the first gas station he could find. A
Standard pinnacle gleamed in neon
spendor a quarter-mile down the road.
Pam and Janice lay snoring in the back
of the wagon. The back half had been
converted into sleeping quarters, com-
plete with an overflow of blankets and
pillows. Michael Ray and Rod san-
dwiched their older sister in the middle
seat as they fought to maintain con-
sciousness. The long ride from Mon-
treal to Detroit to South Bend had taken
its toll. Only Deloris, the oldest,
remained wide awake. She kept up a
steady stream of conversation with her
mother as Mrs. Smith, in turn, made
sure Mike didn't doze off at the wheel.
The wagon, almost scraping the
pavement under the weight of clothing
and assorted possessions for seven,
pulled into the isolated service station.
The invisible orchestra of insects was
the only sign of life.
Mike went to the garage, peeked in,
and failing to see anyone, walked over
to the telephone booth. He dialed a
number and after an initial joy, his
gladness gave way to a stunned, silent
disbelief. He shook his head several
times in affirmation. After he hung-up
the phone, he banged his fist against the
See CITY, Page 11

9
:t" 1
r "I .as hr Sat'-
.. . m 'itiU3'' S'W Ilrt

OF
Highland Park-The sumn

Excerpted from a novel
By Frank D. Ja

IGHLAND PARK WAS ONE of Henry Ford's original better ideas.
H The label, "The town that Ford built," would befit the Park even more
so than it would describe its Mother City, Detroit. Highland Park is
formally referred to as a suburb, owing to the fact that it has its own
corrupt police department, a couple of fire trucks, its own school
system, municipal taxes, and a mayor to preside over its city hall. (The mayor's
office was occupied for the latter '50s, the '60s, and the early '70s by the ubiquitous,
three hundred-pound, black Republican maverick, Robert T. Flagstone, who had
a notoriously strong penchant for twelve-year-old scotch and women almost as
young.) The inner city of Detroit surrounds the small (2.4 square miles) "suburb,"
except for a border of two blocks which the Park shares with its Polish Siamese
Twin, Hamtramck.
Henry Ford built his world famous first assembly-line in the northeast corner of
the then tiny township. He then proceeded to construct an entire community, whose
sole right to existence lay with the fact that Uncle Henry (as he was not-so-
affectionately referred to) needed housing in close proximity to accommodate the
thousands who would sweat and slave for his profits. (Michael Ray Smith thought
everybody in the Park worked for Ford, Chrysler or G.M. It was not until he was 12
that he discovered that his own father didn't.)
For the fortyor fifty years immediately following the birth of the assembly-line,
the city of Highland Park more than lived up to the logo which greets one as one en-
ters the city from Glendale Ave. It reads: "Welcome to Highland Park; City of
Trees; Best Educational Sytem in the U.S.A." Uncle Henry did believe in the virtues
of private property and elm trees. His layout of the "City of Trees" provided that no
family unit (apartment buildings were unheard of!) should be without its very own
elm tree. So the long, comfortable blocks of boxy, one and two-family dwellings
were provided with more than enough shade of rows of omnipresent elms. And the
school system was one of the finest in the entire U.S.A. Educators nationwide would
flock to examine the internal fiscal workings of this exemplary system. The system
was the hope for the factory town. The hope that their young would not fall victim to
the drudgery they endured everyday. For that better day. Every item a student
might pay for, from erasers to swimming trunks, was provided. Every school has an
Olympic-sized swimming pool. And the system churned out many more than its fair
share of National Merit scholars.
So the city had existed until the reality of "them" hit the town full force in the
'60s. Actually, the process had begun a decade earlier, but the total effect was not
felt until the horrific summer of '67. The fires of that riotous nightmare threatened
to consume the tiny, suburban enclave.
* * *
Pat Smith had heard of her brother's success for years, but she had not seen
him since one summer evening when he was about fourteen. The following morning.
nobody knew where Mike had gone. Four years later, the house received a letter
postmarked in Detroit.) So when Mike offered to let her visit for the entire summer,
she jumped at the chance. At thirteen, she endured two days of monotonous scenery
and arrived in the big citywide-eyed. Quite a change from the two-room plywood
shack. Without heat, plumbing, Ma Bell or any other semblance of 'civilization, the
whole shack'would rattle whenever Tunk did his version of the mashed potatoes.
_ (When Michael Ray had seen him dance, he imagined the shack tumbling off its
- piles.)
Her summer visit became a year-long experiment. Since there was a good

school system-phenomenal compared to Alabama's E
ended up becoming a virtual ward of her brother ...
She had done it before. She had snuck out to the sofi
in the backwoods quite a few times and had always be
much more serious as her dues came and her tall, slend
waist. With child. Jackson T. Walker swore off any knc
even know the 'ho'! And even if I did, how do ah know
mine?)
Mrs. Smith, her sister-in-law and surrogate mothe
with paternity suits or abortions. "You take care of hii
wrong. Him turned out to be a her and at sixteen, Pal
behind the dining-room table. Later the furniture was
the bed.
Pat finished her high schooling at night and roa
classes. Mrs. Smith merely added another plate at the t
A month after Cindy was born, Mrs. Smith had he
bringing the number in the brood to seven. Getting old
morning inquiries her mother/sister suffered throug
graduation and moved into an apartment, two houses do
A couple of years later she was first in line for the
new job and a larger house on Thompson St. to match hi
The first addition she made to the barren rooms wa
it stocked at all times with seven or eight gallons of va
Mike's son, Michael Ray, knew that if he was ever in th
would stop by Aunt Pat's for a visit.
* * *
"Ain't a better place in the world for a nigga to live
tory worker earning $175.00 weekly volunteered.
A week later, 40 people had expired in the chaos,
cluding three black youths who had perished in a hai
confines of a seedy, rotting Twelfth Street motel. (Mo
key.) They had been engaged with a trio of white stree
officers, with riot helmets, M-16s, and full battle gear
splintered the cheap plywood door with the pretense
guns were ever found. The officers were tried in Mason,
been changed. All five were acquitted on all charges.
* * *
UMMERTIME, 1967. THE DETROIT TIGE
Sdogfight with the Red Sox and White Sox to
pennant. Walter Reuter arrived at General
talks with a U.A.W. demand for full emplo
described as the "hottest property" the G.O.
taxes as he prepared to substantially increase Ameri
Southeast Asian ward.
See CITY, Page 9
Frank James, an LSA junior majoring in En
in Highland Park.

11

Doily Photo by ANDY FREEBERG
'The Model City Program was Jerry Cavanaugh 'sprize
offspring. The federal government, with LBJ's enthusiastic
blessing, was to pour millions into the cities it deemed needy
and worthy of receiving the grants. The impetus was un-
doubtedly speeded-up by the heat '67 proVided
A city work crew came to the corner of Glendale and
Thomson and constructed a red, white, and blue sign, com-
memorating Highland Park as a federally assisted Model
City... '

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