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HIWAY AMERICA – BODIE CA. BEST GHOST TOWN IN THE WEST

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Bodie, California: Best Ghost Town In The West!

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The Curse of Bodie: Legacy of Ghost-Town Ghosts?

Today, the ghost town of Bodie, California, is one of the most authentic abandoned gold- mining towns of the Old West (figure 1). It is also reputed to be a “ghost” town in another sense: Some claim, according to a TV documentary, that Bodie is inhabited by ghosts who guard the town against pilferers (Beyond 2000). Supposedly, a visitor who dares to remove any artifact can be plagued by the dreaded “curse of Bodie.”

Boom Town

The 1849 discovery of gold at Sutter’s Mill in the western Sierra foothills lured men and women to California from across the United States and indeed the world. Prospectors equipped with picks, shovels, and the ubiquitous gold pans searched for placer deposits-loose flakes and nuggets that have eroded and washed into streams.

These deposits were searched for by “panning” (an art I once learned in the Yukon) in which the lighter dirt is deftly washed out, leaving behind the flakes of “color” that are collectively called “gold dust.” The discovery of sufficient placer deposits sparked quests for the “mother lode,” involving hardrock mines laboriously dug, blasted, and shored up with timber (Williams 1992, 5; Smith 1925).

A decade after the gold rush began at Sutter’s Mill, four prospectors made a rich strike on the opposite side of the Sierras-that is, in the eastern foothills. They agreed to keep the discovery secret until the following spring, but one, W.S. Bodey, returned with another man, a half-Cherokee named “Black” Taylor. Having traveled to Monoville for supplies, the pair were returning to their cabin when they were caught in a blizzard and Bodey perished.

Named for its discoverer, camp Bodey was soon rechristened “Bodie” when (according to local lore) a sign painter misspelled the word and the new version was preferred (Bodie 2001; Misspelling 2003). At first Bodie was largely neglected due to other strikes in the area. Mark Twain was among the gold seekers who rushed to nearby Aurora, Nevada, for instance.

However, Bodie eventually boomed. In 1876, a freak mine cave-in exposed a valuable body of gold, and the Standard Consolidated Mining Company responded with a large investment in equipment and lumber. Another rich strike followed in 1878 in the Bodie Mine, which, in just six weeks, shipped gold bullion worth a million dollars. Meanwhile, Bodie grew rapidly, with boarding houses, restaurants, saloons, and other enterprises springing up (Williams 1992, 9-10).

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Camps like Bodie attracted a breed of adventurous types:

Besides the business and professional men, mine-operators, miners, etc., there were hundreds of saloon-keepers, hundreds of gamblers, hundreds of prostitutes, many Chinese, a considerable number of Mexicans, and an unusual number of what we used to call “Bad men”-desperate, violent characters from everywhere, who lived by gambling, gun-fighting, stage robbing, and other questionable means. The “Bad man from Bodie” was a current phrase of the time throughout the west. In its day, Bodie was more widely known for its lawlessness than for its riches. (Smith 1925)

There were other perils and hardships, including the savage winter of 1878-1879 in which hundreds died of exposure and disease, and mining accidents that claimed victims by falling timber, the explosion of a powder magazine, and other means (Smith 1925; Bodie Cemetery n.d.).

Given Bodie’s reputation, it is perhaps not surprising that one little girl, whose family was moving to the mining town, reportedly prayed: “Goodbye God! We are going to Bodie” (Smith 1925).

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Decline

Hardships and violence aside, Bodie was a thriving, bustling place, containing some 600 to 800 buildings and a population that reached over 10,000 (Williams 1992, 10; Johnson and Johnson 1967, 20). As it appeared about 1880,

The traffic in the streets was continuous and enlivening. There were trains of huge, white-topped “prairie-schooners,” bringing freight from the railroad, each drawn by twenty or more horses or mules, and pulling one or two large, four-wheeled “trailers”; ore wagons, hauling ore down the canyon to the mills; wood wagons bringing huge loads of pine-nut from long distances, for the mines and mills and for general use; hay wagons, lumber wagons, prospecting outfits, nondescript teams of all descriptions, spanking teams driven by mine superintendents’ horses ridden by everybody, and most exciting of all, the daily stages that came tearing into town and went rushing out; the outgoing stages often carrying bars of bullion, guarded by stern, silent men, armed with sawed-off shotguns loaded with buckshot. . . . (Smith 1925)

However, like other boom towns, Bodie’s period of glory was brief, lasting from 1879 to 1882. The decline was slow, with the two major mines-the Bodie and the Standard-merging in 1887 and operating successfully for the next two decades. A disastrous fire struck in 1892 and-with a steady decline in the interim, including additional mine closings and abandonment of the Bodie Railway in 1917-another devastating fire destroyed much of the town in 1932 (Johnson and Johnson 1967, 20-21). Although Bodie was already dying, further decline having resulted from Prohibition and the Depression, some mining continued. However, there were no new strikes and companies eked out only minor profits, largely by using the cyanide process to extract gold from old tailings (i.e., mine refuse). By the 1950s even this recovery operation ceased and Bodie became a ghost town. Explains one writer: “When people were leaving Bodie, there were no moving companies in the area. People simply packed what they could on one wagon or truck and left the rest behind.” He adds, “That is why many of Bodie’s buildings still contain belongings that were left here years ago” (Williams 1992, 36).

In 1962, after years of neglect, Bodie became a State Historic Park, and two years later the Ghost Town of Bodie was dedicated as a California Historic Site. It has also been designated a National Historic Site. Bodie is maintained in a state of what is termed “arrested decay,” which means the buildings are protected but not restored (Johnson and Johnson 1967, 21; Bodie 2001, 3).

Ghost Town, ‘Ghost’ Town

Old, deserted places inspire the romantic and the superstitious to think of ghosts, and Bodie is no exception. It represents an entire townful of potentially haunted houses and other premises-168 remaining structures-as well as the Bodie cemetery. It is, gushes one ghost-hustling writer, “A ghost town that is really a ghost town” (Myers 1990).

However, the reports of ghostly activity tend to fall into categories of familiar, well-understood phenomena. Consider, for example, occurrences at the J.S. Cain House at the corner of Green and Park streets. Once the home of a prominent businessman and then the residence of caretakers’ families, it is supposedly haunted by the specter of a Chinese woman, possibly a maid who worked for the Cains (Hauck 1996).

Reportedly, this “heavy set” Chinese lady appeared to children in their second-floor bedroom. Also, a ranger’s wife stated:

I was lying in bed with my husband in the lower bedroom and I felt a pressure on me, as though someone was on top of me. I began fighting. I fought so hard I ended up on the floor. It really frightened me. Another ranger who had lived there, Gary Walters, had the same experience, in the same room, except that he also saw the door open and felt a presence and a kind of suffocation. (Myers 1990)

All of these effects are well known and may occur when one’s consciousness shifts into a state between being fully asleep and fully awake. In this condition, seemingly realistic “waking dreams” often occur, involving ghosts, aliens, or other beings. Also in this interim state one may experience “sleep paralysis” in which, although the mind is awake, the body is still in the sleep mode. The sensation of being held or strapped down is a typical consequence (Nickell 2001).

Some apparitional or auditory experiences such as those reported at Bodie-for example “a woman peering from an upstairs window in the Dechambeau House” or “the sound of children’s laughter . . . heard outside the Mendocini House” (Myers 1990)-may be similarly explained. These typically occur when the experiencer is relaxed or performing routine work. Such a mental state may allow images or sounds to spring up from the subconscious and thus be superimposed upon the consciousness (Nickell 2001).

One man visiting the Bodie cemetery with his little girl noticed her giggling and apparently playing with an unseen entity. This was supposed to be “The Angel of Bodie,” a child who was killed when she was accidentally hit in the head by a miner’s pick (Myers 1990). Actually the dead child was Evelyn, the three-year-old daughter of Albert and Fannie Myers, who died in 1897. Her grave is surmounted by the figure of a child angel, sculpted of white marble (Bodie Cemetery n.d., 5)-an ideal model for a little girl’s imaginary playmate (see figure 2).

Figure 2: Investigator Vaughn Rees examines the tombstone of “The Angel of Bodie,” reportedly one of the resident ghosts.Figure 2: Investigator Vaughn Rees examines the tombstone of “The Angel of Bodie,” reportedly one of the resident ghosts.

I have found that some people seem especially susceptible to ghosts-because they are more inclined to believe or because they are especially imaginative. I continue to use a questionnaire that helps me analyze reported ghost encounters, and thus far I find a good correlation between those experiences and the number of traits associated with fantasy proneness (Nickell 2001).

This correlation continued with my research at Bodie, although colleague Vaughn Rees and I obtained only four completed questionnaires there. (A ranger stopped the project since I had not obtained official permission, something I usually try to avoid to keep employees from being told what to say.) Nevertheless, even with this limited sample, the highest ghost-experiences score was matched by a high fantasy score, and similar results were obtained with six questionnaires we obtained at another California ghost town, Calico.

In addition to perceived phenomena, photographs represent another form of “evidence” for alleged ghosts at Bodie. Again, however, there are familiar patterns. For example, streaks of light in some photos (Lundegaard 2002) are consistent with the camera’s flash rebounding from something-such as the wrist strap-in front of the lens (Nickell 2001).

Bodie Curse

Yet, if some people are to be believed, there are not only ghosts in the windswept town but, purportedly, spirits who are responsible for protecting its treasures by implementing the “Curse of Bodie.” Explains the narrator of one television documentary:

Bodie’s inhabitants were of hardy stock, fiercely possessive of what they had built in this barren desert, and it is said that the long-dead spirits want to ensure that what they left behind remains intact. According to legend, anyone who removes anything-large or small-from the town is cursed with a string of bad luck. Misfortune and tragedy are heaped upon the victim until the stolen item is returned. Some claim that the ghosts of Bodie patrol the crumbling ruins to guard against thieves. (Beyond 2000)

According to park ranger J. Brad Sturdivant, “The curse still exists today.” Spooked former visitors often return old nails and other souvenirs taken from Bodie. While “Most of it comes back in an unmarked box,” the ranger states, “We still get letters . . . from people saying, ‘I’m sorry I took this, hoping my luck will change’” (Beyond 2000).

The earliest use I have found of the phrase “The curse of Bodie” appears in the 1925 reminiscence of a former resident. However, he was speaking of something entirely different, namely what had befallen Bodie and caused its decline. As he wrote: “the curse of Bodie, as it was of ‘The Comstock,’ was the stock market, which was manipulated by stock gamblers in San Francisco for their own profit, regardless of the merits of the mines, and without thought for the thousands that found their ruin in the unholy game . . .” (Smith 1925).

The notion of a quite different Bodie curse-one that does not harm the town but instead defends it from pillagers-is of much more recent vintage. Not surprisingly, it appears to follow efforts to preserve Bodie as a historic site. Obviously the “curse” is being officially promoted today when a ranger encourages the idea on a television program and the museum/gift shop displays an album of letters from those believing themselves accursed.

Although these letters may be only a selection and three are undated, the earliest of the remaining twelve was sent in 1992. Having taken a nail from Bodie, the writer states: “Life since then has been a steady downward slide. It’s possible that all the unpleasant events of the past nine months are a coincidence, but just in case the Bodie curse is real I am returning the nail.” Another letter, from 1994, is addressed, “Dear Bodie Spirits”:

I am SORRY! One year ago around the 4th of July I was visiting the Ghost Town. I had been there many times before but had always followed the regulations about collecting. This trip was different, I collected some items here and there and brought them home. I was a visitor again this year, and while I was in the museum I read the letters of others who had collected things and had “bad luck.” I started to think about the car accident, the lost [sic] of my job, my continuing illness and other bad things that have “haunted” me for the past year since my visit and violation. I am generally not superstitious but . . . Please find enclosed the collectibles I “just couldn’t live without,” and ask the spirits to see my regret.

This was signed, “One with a very guilty conscience.”

On the TV series Beyond Bizarre (2000), a German man related how his uncle had removed a small bottle from Bodie and two days later had a car accident on the Autobahn. The next day his son took the bottle to school to show classmates and on the way home had a bicycle accident. Said the man, “Yes, I do believe in the curse of Bodie.”

Figure 3: Artifacts from Bodie - especially ones pilfered from there, like this old fork - supposedly attract the fearsome “curse.”Figure 3: Artifacts from Bodie – especially ones pilfered from there, like this old fork – supposedly attract the fearsome “curse.”

Belief aside, such anecdotal evidence does not prove the existence of a “curse” (or “hex” or “jinx”)-an alleged paranormal attack. Indeed, belief in curses is merely a superstition, a form of magical thinking. Once the idea takes hold, there is a tendency for any harmful occurrence to be counted as evidence for the belief, while beneficial events are ignored. Through the power of suggestion, the magical conviction spreads from person to superstitious person, until many believe, say, in a King Tut’s curse, a Hope Diamond jinx, or a Kennedy family propensity for misfortune (Nickell 1999).

A different mindset allows one to shrug off such nonsense. Skeptics sometimes hold “Superstition Bashes” during which they break mirrors and challenge other superstitions without fear of consequence. In attendance may be a resident spokesperson (such as myself), identified as a friggatriskaidekaphobiologist-that is, one who studies the fear of Friday the Thirteenth and, by extension, other supposed causes of bad luck.

I have even specifically challenged the Curse of Bodie-not by pilfering items from the site, which is appropriately illegal-but by collecting artifacts that have come from there. As shown in figure 3, these include an 1879 check, drawn on the Bodie Bank, and two 1882 issues of the newspaper, The Bodie Evening Miner. If it be argued that these were not pilfered from Bodie, the other item, an old fork, reportedly was: I bought it from an antiques dealer who said she picked it up herself at Bodie several years ago without apparent consequence.

I would like to donate these items to Bodie. I am only waiting for the time when the town’s custodians officially cease promoting superstition and disclaim the existence of any Bodie curse.

Acknowledgments

I am grateful to CFI Librarian Tim Binga, SI managing editor Ben Radford, and intern Dawn Peterson for research assistance, and to Paul Loynes for his professional word processing.

References

  • Beyond Bizarre. 2000. Travel Channel documentary, September 24.
  • Bodie Cemetery: The Lives Within. N.d. Bridgefort, California: The Friends of Bodie.
  • Bodie State Historic Park. 2001. Guide booklet. Sacramento: California State Parks.
  • Hauck, Dennis William. 1996. Haunted Places: The National Directory. New York: Penguin Books, 36-37.
  • Johnson, Russ, and Anne Johnson. 1967. The Ghost Town of Bodie. Bishop, California: Sierra Media Inc.
  • Lundegaard, Karen. 2002. Identifying spirit photos. Available atwww.karenlundegaard.com

/Spirit_Photos/SPhoto16.html

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  • Misspelling of Bodie. 2003. Available at www.bodie.net/st/Bodey.asp.
  • Myers, Arthur. 1990. The Ghostly Gazetteer. Lincolnwood, Illinois: Contemporary Books, 40-48.
  • Nickell, Joe. 1999. Curses: foiled again. Skeptical Inquirer 23(6), November/December: 16-19.
  • —–. 2001. Phantoms, frauds, or fantasies? Chap. 10 of James Houran and Rense Lange, Hauntings and Poltergeists. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, 214-223.
  • Poag, Larry. 1997. Poag’s Guide to Shopkeepers and Shootists of Bodie. Lake Grove, Oregon: Western Places.
  • Smith, Grant H. 1925. Bodie: The last of the old-time mining camps. California Historical Society Quarterly IV: 1; reprinted in Williams 1992, 11-24.
  • Williams III, George. 1992. The Guide to Bodie and Eastern Sierra Historic Sites. Carson City, Nevada: Tree By The River Publishing.

Joe Nickell

Joe Nickell's photo

Joe Nickell, Ph.D., is Senior Research Fellow of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSI) and “Investigative Files” Columnist forSkeptical Inquirer. A former stage magician, private investigator, and teacher, he is author of numerous books, including Inquest on the Shroud of Turin (1998), Pen, Ink and Evidence (2003), Unsolved History (2005) and Adventures in Paranormal Investigation (2007). He has appeared in many television documentaries and has been profiled in The New Yorker and on NBC’s Today Show. His personal website is at joenickell.com.

HIWAY AMERICA-GREENWICH VILLAGE WHAT REMAINS OF N.Y. BEAT GENERATION?

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Greenwich Village Sunday (1960 Documentary On The Counterculture / Beat

Culture In 1960’s New York)

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Greenwich Village: what remains of New York’s beat generation haunts?

Inside Llewyn Davis

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A new Coen brothers film celebrates Greenwich Village in its 60s heyday, but what’s left of Dylan and Kerouac’s New York? Karen McVeigh takes a cycle tour of the area
Inside Llewyn Davis still
A still from the Coen Brothers new film, Inside Llewyn Davis. Photograph: Alison Rosa/Studio Canal
Karen McVeigh
@karenmcveigh1
Sunday 22 December 2013 01.00 EST Last modified on Thursday 22 May 2014 06.51 EDT

Five decades have passed since America’s troubadours and beat poets flocked to Greenwich Village, filling its smoky late-night basement bars and coffee houses with folk songs and influencing some of the most recognisable musicians of the era.

A few landmarks of those bygone bohemian days – most recently portrayed in the Coen brothers’ film Inside Llewyn Davis, out on 24 January – still exist. The inspiration for the movie’s fictional anti-hero, Davis, was Brooklyn-born Dave Van Ronk, a real- life blues and folk singer with no small talent, who worked with performers such as Pete Seeger and Bob Dylan, but remained rooted in the village until he died in 2002, declining to leave it for any length of time and refusing to fly for many years. Van Ronk’s posthumously published memoir, the Mayor of MacDougal Street, takes its name from the street that was home to the Gaslight Cafe, and other early 60s folk clubs.

The Village stretches from the Hudson River Park east as far as Broadway, and from West Houston Street in the south up to West 14th Street. Its small scale makes it easy to explore on foot and perfect for a musical pilgrimage, but the arrival last summer of New York’s bike-sharing scheme, Citibike, makes for a more adventurous experience.

CitiBikers in Greenwich Village
CitiBikers in Greenwich Village. Photograph: Alamy
I picked up a bike outside Franklin Street subway station, south of the Village in Tribeca, and headed out to the river, at Pier 45. Looking south you can see One World Trade Center: at 541m, it’s now the tallest building in the western hemisphere. Cycle or walk to the end of the boardwalk that juts out into the Hudson, facing Hoboken, New Jersey, and look to your left and you can see the Statue of Liberty. From there, it’s a short cycle along Christopher Street, up Hudson and along West 10th, to Bleecker Street, where designer boutiques such as Marc Jacobs, Michael Kors and Lulu Guinness mark the area’s steep gentrification.

On MacDougal Street, a jumble of comedy cellars, theatres and cheap eateries have mostly replaced the old, liquorless cafes and basement bars of the folk scene. It is the hub of New York University’s campus and many of the bars, falafel joints and pizza houses are priced for students, with $2 beers thrown in.

But several older venues still exist, including the Bitter End, which staged folk “hootenannies” every Tuesday and now calls itself New York’s oldest rock club”. The White Horse Tavern, built in 1880, still stands on the corner of Hudson Street and 11th. It was used by New York’s literary community in the 1950s – most notably Welsh bard Dylan Thomas. It was here, myth has it, that the writer had been drinking in November 1953, before he was rushed to hospital from his room at the Chelsea Hotel, and died a few days later.

Dave Van Ronk
Folk singer Dave Van Ronk, the inspiration for the Llewyn Davis character. Photograph: Kai Shuman/Getty Images
The original Cafe Wha? remains at 115 MacDougal Street, on the corner of Minetta Lane. In the bitter winter of 1961, when the Coen brothers movie is set, cash-strapped artists similar to Davis would take their chances at the open mic. It was here that Bob Dylan made his New York debut, and Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac performed. Cafe Wha? continued to attract artists and musicians long after the Village folk scene gave way to rock’n’roll. A notice on the door catalogues a few of the famous names who played here: Jimi Hendrix, Ritchie Havens, Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard and the Velvet Underground. It is still a popular music venue, with a house band playing five nights a week.

The real centre of the folk scene back then, however, was Washington Square, where musicians would gather on Sundays to swap ideas, learn new material and play. According to folk singer and historian Elijah Wald, the ballad and blues singers who sat around the fountain in the park created sounds that would influence artists from Joni Mitchell and Joan Baez to folk-rock groups the Lovin’ Spoonful, the Byrds and the Mamas and the Papas. The hero of the Coens’ film is not Van Ronk, according to Wald, but he does sing some Van Ronk songs and shares his working-class background.

When I visited on a sunny but cold December day, there was only one musician, a saxophonist, playing under Washington Square’s stone arch, but at weekends the park fills with rap and jazz musicians playing to tourists and students. Bikes are not officially allowed inside the square, but there are Citibike stations around it, so it’s easy to park and walk around.

A block north of the park, on West 8th Street, is a historic 107-room property once known as Marlton House and home to many writers and poets, who were attracted by relatively cheap rates and the bohemian neighbourhood. Jack Kerouac wrote The Subterraneans and Tristessa while living here and, in a darker episode, Valerie Solanas was staying in room 214 in 1968, when she became infamous for stalking and then shooting Andy Warhol.

The Marlton Hotel
The new Marlton Hotel
Sean MacPherson, who owns the stylish Bowery and Jane hotels nearby, has just reopened the building as the Parisian-inspired Marlton Hotel (marltonhotel.com). I popped in to its very comfortable lobby for coffee and a flick through its copy of John Strausbaugh’s The Village: 400 years of Beats and Bohemians, Radicals and Rogues. And I caught up with Strausbaugh later, to ask him about the village in the early 1960s, when young idealists were living hand to mouth and sleeping on friends’ couches.

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“In 1961, if you were in any way an artistic person in America, in that vast American landscape, you were a lonely figure,” said Strausbaugh. “You heard about San Francisco, you heard about Greenwich Village, and you went there. You didn’t play there to make money; you went there to be heard. Like Dylan, who played at the Cafe Wha?, then got another entry-level gig, then began playing at the biggest places.”

There were others, Strausbaugh said, like Van Ronk, who were talented, but whose ambitions were more modest than those of Dylan and Baez. The unique thing about the Village, he added, is that it survived so long as a bohemian enclave, from the early 1850s, when it attracted poets such as Walt Whitman, to the beatniks and folk revivalists of the 1950s and later.

“The left bank [in Paris] did not last 100 years, but the Village did,” he said.

Many of the buildings and sometimes entire streets in the Village have been preserved and are now home to some of the most expensive real estate in Manhattan and sought-after for their distinctive, old Greenwich Village look. A struggling folk artist might find a cheap meal in one of the student cafes around MacDougal Street, but they would never be able to afford to live in the area – or anywhere in Manhattan, realistically.

“It has not been completely finished off,” said Strausbaugh. “There are still a lot of theatres. But the people who make the music have not been able to live there for 20 or 30 years.”

Greenwich Village: Music That Defined a Generation Q&A at DOC NYC 2012

http://youtu.be/28cc8qaI748

Bleecker Street: Greenwich Village in the ’60s traces and tributes the bohemian Mecca’s part in the emergence of singer/songwriters and the folk revival during the ’60s. The initial passion and sense of discovery in this music remains undimmed, as politically and emotionally conscious songs by Bob Dylan, Phil Ochs, Tom Paxton, Tim Buckley, Judy Collins, and Paul Simon are reinterpreted by contemporary artists like Chrissie Hynde, Ron Sexsmith, Beth Nielsen Chapman, and many others.

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LEGENDS OF FOLK: THE VILLAGE SCENE | Clip | PBS

http://youtu.be/VQjVXeUz7uI

THE VILLAGE MOVEMENT

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HIWAY AMERICA – THE OK CORRAL TOMBSTONE, AZ.

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What Happened at the OK Corral?//

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Gunfight at the OK Corral (WILD WEST HISTORY DOCUMENTARY)

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WYATT EARP – THE REAL STORY OF THE LEGEND (WILD WEST HISTORY DOCUMENTARY)

http://youtu.be/ho4IT3G7Mk4

 O.K. Corral Shooting – Tombstone Arizona (Western Song)

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On Oct. 26, 1881, four men met at the corner of Fifth and Allen Streets in the bustling silver mining town of Tombstone, Arizona. They walked north on Fifth, turned left on Fremont Street and headed toward a vacant lot next to the OK Corral.

Minutes later, three men would be dead, and the four men who had walked to the corral and killed them – Tombstone marshal Virgil Earp, his brothers Wyatt and Morgan, and Wyatt’s friendDoc Holliday – had unknowingly secured their places in history.

The Gunfight at the OK Corral is arguably the single most famous incident in the Old West. But what was it about? And why has it, above all the many other gunfights that took place in the era of frontier justice, achieved such infamy?

To understand the gunfight, you have to first understand the town. Tombstone in 1881 was a thriving, bustling silver mining community.

“There’s a huge misconception about Tombstone in the 1880s: that it was a violent, dangerous place,” says local author and historian Don Taylor. “It was extremely sophisticated and massively wealthy. Thirty-seven million dollars in 1880s dollars of silver was mined here; that’s $8.25 billion today. They had everything.

“They had fresh seafood every day. They would catch it in Baja California; pack it in barrels of salt, ice and seaweed at dusk; freight it by train to Benson or Contention City, immediately pack it on to wagons and bring it here by dawn every day. It was a very opulent town. But again, people don’t understand – especially if they come today – Tombstone was open 24 hours a day.

The miners worked rotating 10 hour shifts; everything had to be open when they got off, including banks. They were also pumping 2.5 million gallons of water out of the mines every day to keep them dry; so you had all the mining activity, all the milling activity, all the water rushing down Toughnut Street, and the town open 24 hours a day. It must have been noisy as hell.”

BIG PIC: The Mega Crystals of Naica Mine

As the mines thrived, so did all manner of supporting businesses: banks, bars, restaurants, hotels – and prostitutes, many of whom worked out of small ‘cribs’ that lined Sixth Street. The riches to be, had attracted plenty of would-be entrepreneurs — among them Wyatt, Virgil, Morgan, James and Warren Earp, and Doc Holliday.

Both Virgil and Wyatt had been lawmen; Virgil had recently been appointed deputy marshal for the part of the Arizona Territory that included Tombstone, and although some record-keeping at the time was poor, it is possible that Wyatt may have been a deputy marshal as well.

Certainly, it appears as if all the brothers were anxious to join the list of those profiting from Tombstone’s booming business: they invested in one of the mines, James tended bar, Wyatt rode as a stagecoach guard and dealt faro – the popular card game of the time – in a local saloon.

But Tombstone’s growth and growing sophistication grated with one segment of society: the ‘cowboys’, a loose confederation of ranchers and cattle rustlers. The cowboys – who were predominantly rural, southern Confederates – eyed the primarily Yankee mercantile class that was dominating Tombstone, and which the Earps typified, with suspicion. And the feeling was mutual.

It didn’t take long after the Earps’ arrival in late 1879 for tensions between them and the cowboys to develop, particularly with Virgil and Wyatt spending time in law enforcement positions. That tension reached boiling point when Wyatt helped in the identification and arrest of some cowboy members in a pair of stagecoach robberies, and the cowboys in turn asserted that Wyatt and Holliday had in fact been the ones responsible for the holdups.

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On the night of Oct. 25, 1881, one of the cowboy leaders, Ike Clanton, got into a heated, drunken argument with Holliday, and the next morning he wandered drunkenly up and down Allen Street, threatening to kill him and the Earps. A series of confrontations steadily escalated until Virgil was informed that a group of armed cowboys had gathered outside Fly’s Boarding House – where Holliday was living – in a vacant lot close to the OK Corral.

Carrying guns inside city limits was a violation of a town ordinance, and it provided Virgil, who was now town marshal, with an opportunity to arrest the cowboys. But there may also have been other considerations at play.

As the self-identified Dr. Jay, who leads historical tours of Tombstone, explains: “Ike Clanton had openly threatened to kill the Earps. And why are they in that alley? Because it’s right outside Fly’s Boarding House. So if you’re Doc Holliday, you show up and here’s a bunch of guys with guns outside your house. You might want to think about, ‘Are they going to get me tomorrow if I don’t get them today?’”

Virgil deputized his brothers and Holliday and they set off for the vacant lot.

“Throw up your hands,” shouted Virgil as they reached the alleyway’s entrance. “I mean to disarm you.”

There was a pause, and the click-click of a gun – or guns – being cocked.

“Hold on, I don’t want that!” shouted Virgil, but it was too late.

There were two shots fired simultaneously – it is uncertain by whom – and then, as Wyatt later testified, “the fight then became general.”

Ironically, Ike Clanton, who had instigated the confrontation, fled the scene, grabbing Wyatt and screaming that he was unarmed.

“The fight has commenced,” snarled Earp. “Get to fighting or get away.” Clanton promptly took off, as did another cowboy, Billy Claiborne.

Within seconds, two of the cowboys – Tom McLaury and Billy Clanton – lay mortally wounded, Virgil Earp had been shot in the calf, and Morgan Earp shot through the shoulder blades. A third cowboy, Frank McLaury, shot in the stomach, staggered into Fremont Street and leveled his gun at Holliday.

“I’ve got you now,” he said, mistakenly believing Holliday was out of ammo.

“Blaze away,” taunted Holliday. “You’re a daisy if you do.”

At that point both Holliday and Morgan Earp fired almost simultaneously; bullets from one or both of their guns struck McLaury in the head, killing him.

The entire gunfight lasted approximately 30 seconds.

The following day, the headline in the ‘Tombstone Epitaph’ newspaper read, “Three Men Hurled into Eternity in the Duration of a Moment.” The cowboys’ supporters insisted their men had been killed in cold blood. The Earps and Holliday stood trial for murder,but were cleared.

A hundred and thirty years later, the gunfight has been the focus of numerous motion pictures, and a part of many more – and was even pivotal to an episode in the original series of Star Trek. So we ask again: why has the slaying of three men on a misdemeanor firearms violation endured through history?

Don Taylor offers one explanation.

“In January 1881, (Tombstone mayor) John Clum joined the brand new Associated Press,” he explains. “So everything he wrote went to San Francisco, Chicago, New York. Everybody knew what was going on here.”

There was also, explains Tim Fattig, who works as a tourist guide at the OK Corral and has written a voluminous biography of Wyatt Earp, another factor: the fact that the gunfight did not mark the end of the Earp-cowboy feud.

On Dec. 28, 1881, Virgil Earp survived an assassination attempt, but lost the use of his left arm. The following March, Morgan was gunned down and killed while playing billiards.

In revenge, Wyatt, Warren Earp, Holliday and others set out on a “vendetta ride” for justice, in which they killed at least three cowboys, including the faction’s de facto leader, Curly Bill Brocius.

“It was the vendetta ride that truly elevated the gunfight in public perception,” Fattig says. “The idea of a brother gaining revenge for one brother’s murder and another being wounded is compelling.”

That’s one reason why Wyatt Earp dominates the history books and the mythology at his brothers’ expense: he was the one who led the ride for vengeance. There is also another reason: In 1931, two years after Earp’s death, author Stuart Lake published Wyatt Earp: Frontier Marshal, a hagiographic account he had produced with Earp’s collaboration. After that came the movies – My Darling Clementine, Gunfight at the OK Corral and more – and the TV series, including The Life and Times of Wyatt Earp.

Wyatt is lionized above the others, in other words, because he outlived them all, and got to tell his story. The rest, as they say, is history.

Top Photograph: The purported grave site of the men who were killed in the Gunfight at the OK Corral. Middle: A display at the site of the gunfight shows how close the combatants were to each other when the fight commenced. Bottom: A tourist poses with reenactors playing the roles of Doc Holliday and the Earp brothers in modern-day Tombstone. Photos by Kieran Mulvaney

HIWAY AMERICA – The Oneonta Gorge Oregon, a time lapse Of Portland and weird Portland Oregon

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A TIME LAPSE OF PORTLAND

 Called “Finding Portland”, it took production company Uncage the Soul 51 days and more than 300,000 individual photos to assemble. Thanks to the magic of time lapse photography, each second contains 3.8 hours.

My favorite parts are the Shamrock Run at 1:05 and the long pan out starting at 1:24 that shows just how incredibly beautiful—and close by—the nature aroundPortland is.

Oneonta Gorge, Oregon

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Oneonta Gorge is one of those hidden treasures that you just have to see to believe. Tucked away within the stunning Columbia River Gorge (which is a natural wonder all on its own), this magical creek might be one of America’s most beautiful hikes. It was a miner ’49er named Carleton Eugene Watkins, originally on the West Coast for the California gold rush, who first photographed the area, and he was the one who gave the gorge its name– he called it “Oneonta” after his hometown of Oneonta, New York.

Located near Page, Ariz., this brilliant slot canyon is split into two different sections, commonly referred to as “The Crack” and “The Corkscrew.” The natural canvas of color and unique structure is an Instgrammer’s dream.

zschnepf / shutterstock.com

zschnepf / shutterstock.com

Flickr: gorgejeff / Creative Commons

 The Oneonta Gorge is in the Columbia River Gorge with a unique set of aquatic and woodland plants. The ferns and moss make the walls look like a fairy tale, and visitors can walk through the creek on a warm summer day.

HIWAY AMERICA-WEEPING MARY, STATE HIGHWAY 31, SOUTHERN CHEROKEE COUNTY

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 WEEPING MARY, TEXAS. Weeping Mary is just off State Highway 21 and eighteen miles west of Rusk in southern Cherokee County. The community was probably first settled soon after the Civil War by freed slaves from neighboring plantations. It is said to have been named for Mary Magdalene’s weeping at the tomb of Jesus. Alternately, variations of a local legend state that a black woman named Mary wept from the devastating loss of her land to a white man or that the woman, after making a pact with the area’s freedmen that no one would sell their land to the white settlers, wept over the loss of the community when that promise was broken. Residents established a Baptist church. A local school for black children was operation by 1896, when it had enrollment of forty. In the 1930s Weeping Mary had a school and a few houses. The school was closed around the time of World War II, but in 1990 a church and a few scattered houses still remained in the area. The population was forty in 2000.

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Scenes And Sorrows: A Portrait Of Weeping Mary

 by

to listen click below

http://www.npr.org/blogs/pictureshow/2014/04/02/298329027/scenes-and-sorrows-a-portrait-of-weeping-mary

April 2, 2014 • The rural Texas town was established as a “freedom colony” with land given to former slaves after the Civil War. O. Rufus Lovett photographed Weeping Mary and its residents for 11 years.

Texas is full of memorable town names — Blanket, Stagecoach, Domino and Paint Rock, to list just a few. Each has at least one tale behind it, and All Things Considered host Melissa Block has been telling some of them as part of the series Deep In the Heart Of (A Transforming) Texas.

One of them is Weeping Mary, an unincorporated town in rural east Texas. It was established as a “freedom colony” with land given to former slaves after the Civil War.

Photographer O. Rufus Lovett started photographing the residents of Weeping Mary in 1994. There are a few stories as to how the town got its name, but one tends to stick.

“There was a lady named Mary who lived there and folklore has it, anyway, that a white man wanted to purchase her land. And she did not want to sell it to a white man,” Lovett says.

The man in question persuaded a black man to purchase the land for him instead.

HIWAY AMERICA, AMARILLO TEXAS

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AMARILLO

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Amarillo

Step Into The Real Texas

TO SET THE MOOD PLAY THE SONG

George Strait – Amarillo By Morning (Live From The Astrodome)

http://youtu.be/kX_9Go0Z8e4

Palo Duro Canyon State Park in Amarillo, TX

Palo Duro Canyon State Park

Howdy! glad you stopped by to visit Amarillo, Texas. We’re the place where you can “Step into the Real Texas.” From canyons to cowboys, big steaks to big spaces, everything Texas is famous for is right here. We’re easy to find and once you’re here, you’ll want to stay an extra day or two.Amarillo is in the center of the Texas Panhandle, a 26-county area that is bordered by New Mexico and Oklahoma. Here, the southern plains meet the desert. Founded in 1887 at the intersection of two railroads, today the city is the intersection of Interstates 40 and 27.

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The Amarillo area is a major destination for Old West enthusiasts from all over the globe. The lure of the Old West also draws thousands every year to attractions like the internationally-famous outdoor musical “TEXAS.

The Big Texan Steak Restaurant in Amarillo, TX

Big Texan Steak Ranch

Think Amarillo and you think steak. No place sums up Texas, Amarillo and steak better than the Big Texan Steak Ranch, home of the 72 oz. steak. Eat it and all the trimmings (salad, bread, potato and shrimp cocktail) in an hour and its free! 35,000 have tried; 5,500 have succeeded.

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This is the legendary 32oz steak -if you can eat it all you get it for free

The area’s most famous bumper crop, located south of Interstate 40 just a few miles west of town, the Cadillac Ranch attracts visitors from around the world. The 10 Cadillacs buried nose down celebrate America’s love affair with the automobile.

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Cadillac Ranch Amarillo, Texas
The Cadillac Ranch, copyright by Rik Gruwez, Ant Farm’s Cadillac Ranch

Several myths have been perpetuated about the origin of the Cadillac Ranch, the most popular of which is the one I heard growing up in the Texas Panhandle. As the story went, an eccentric Amarillo, Texas millionaire would buy one Cadillac after another and when it was time to buy a new one, he would have the old one buried nose first on his land. However, the truth is, the Cadillac Ranch was a planned artistic endeavor.

Yes, Texas millionaire Stanley Marsh, 3 was an eccentric. He was also said to be very down to earth, quickly disregarding the “III” as too pretentious and using “3” instead. In 1973, Marsh invited a San Francisco artists’ collective called the Ant Farm to help him in the creation of a unique work of art for his sprawling ranch just west of Amarillo.
The group set about acquiring ten used Cadillac’s, ranging in model years from 1948 to 1963. Built along the tattered remains of historic Route 66, the cars were meant to represent the “Golden Age” of American automobiles. Most of the cars were purchased from junk yards, and averaged about $200. The cars were then buried nose-down, facing west along the old highway. Those that could run, were driven into the half-burial holes, the rest were hoisted in. In 1974 the project was completed and in no time at all, visitors began to come from all over the world, leaving their mark on the ever-thickening graffiti covered cars.

At first, the cars displayed their original paint jobs – turquoise, banana yellow, gold, and sky blue, but barely was the monument complete, when people were scratching or painting their names in the cars. Over time, vandals and souvenir hounds smashed the windows, made off with all the chrome, radios, speakers and even some of the doors. The wheels have since been welded to the axles to prevent more theft. However, Marsh still says “We think it looks better every year.”

In 1997, the Cadillac Ranch was exhumed and replanted about two miles to the west, in order to escape the encroaching city of Amarillo. Under Marsh’s orders, even the old site’s trash and clutter was gathered from the old location and spread around the new location. Otherwise the monument remains the same (and, ever changing) since it was erected.

Marsh encouraged visitors to visit the Cadillac Ranch and seemingly didn’t mind the constant graffiti added to the cars.

However, Marsh had many other “artistic endeavors” in the Amarillo, one of which is the placement of eccentric and odd “road signs” all over the city. As to these colorful signs, he did mind if they are mutilated or stolen. (You can read more about Marsh’s Road Signs by clicking HERE!)
True Texan in form, Marsh had more than a few run-ins with the law over his brand of enforcement. At one point, it was said that he penned an 18-year old boy with a hammer inside his chicken coop, when the boy was caught red-handed with one of his signs.

Throughout the years, the Cadillac Ranch has been repainted many times. In May, 2002, the cars were restored to their original colors. In June, 2003 the cars were again painted, this time in flat black, in response to the passing of the founding member of the Ant Farm.

Some people today may think the burial of these now much sought after collector’s items is a sacrilege. But in 1974, these cars were not popular and most of them were bought from junk yards at an average price of just $200.00. Had they not been used for the ranch “sculpture,” they would have wound up in the metal crusher.

This monument was built as a public sculpture and visitors are encouraged to participate in it. So, it’s ok if you take your can of Krylon with you, leaving your name or an inspiring message, which will, no doubt, be erased by another message soon. Photographs may be taken at the site, however, any commercial exploitation in advertising or product promotion is expressly prohibited without written permission from the artists. The Cadillac Ranch has appeared on numerous TV shows, magazines, and newspaper accounts.

Stanley March, 3 died in June of 2014 at the age of 76.

Amarillo is the largest Texas city on Route 66. Now, a stretch of the old highway, along Sixth Ave. between Georgia and Western Sts., has been revived into a stretch of antique shops, restaurants and cafes.

It’s hard to describe the grandeur and variety of the Amarillo landscape. From 1000-foot deep Palo Duro Canyonand the wide-open spaces of the Texas Panhandle to the whimsy of the world-famous Cadillac Ranch and those magnificent Amarillo sunsets, it’s all here.

George Strait – Amarillo By Morning (Live From The Astrodome)

http://youtu.be/kX_9Go0Z8e4

HIWAY AMERICA- Route 1-40 East 277 miles From Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon Az.

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Road Nomad – Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon

Via I-40 E 277.72 miles

4 hrs 35 mins  /  4 hrs 43 mins based on current traffic

http://youtu.be/gJ1NFbznemg

in old Las Vegas

http://www.inoldlasvegas.com/downtown.html

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GRAND CANYON

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Esplanade

Photograph by Michael Nichols

Averaging a thousand feet (300 meters) higher than the South Rim, the North Rim’s alpine vegetation and more varied vistas appeal to many travelers. The North Rim is also home to several distinctive rock formations like the Esplanade, or Hermit Shale, pictured here.

 

Aerial View

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Photograph by David Edwards

Every year, a staggering five million people flock to Arizona to see the Grand Canyon’s sweeping views, hike its trails, and hop on a mule for a trip through the vast canyon. What looks timeless is constantly changing: The Grand Canyon’s variegated layers encode two billion years of Earth’s history.

Havasu Falls

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Photograph by James Randklev/Getty Images

The twin streams of Havasu Falls splash down into a turquoise pool. The falls are located on the Havasupai Indian Reservation, which lies just outside two billion years of Earth’s history.

 

HIWAY AMERICA – THE BANANA MUSEUM, Hwy 111 Mecca, SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA

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HIWAY AMERICA – THE BANANA MUSEUM, Hwy 111 Mecca, SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA

Southern California real estate agent Ken Bannister went bananas—literally—more than 40 years ago. What began as his marketing strategy of handing out banana stickers at conventions ripened into a full-blown persona as the “Banana Man.” He’s amassed nearly 20,000 artifacts now on display at the Banana Museum.

It’s just one of the odd collections found across America. Whether devoted to barbed wire or Bigfoot, most of these strange museums spring from the passionate hobbies of individuals like Bannister. And their labors of love are a reminder that what can be considered worthy to collect is as varied as the country itself.

Unlike major institutions displaying Picasso paintings, Egyptian sarcophagi, or Jeff Koons’s latest balloon animal, these strange museums are rarely crowded. You certainly won’t confuse New York’s MoMA with MOMA—the self-described “museum of meat awesomeness” devoted to SPAM in Austin, MN.

HIWAY AMERICA-THE DECAY OF DETROIT

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William Livingstone HouseMichigan Central StationAtrium, Farwell Buildinghttp://blogs.denverpost.com/captured/2011/02/07/captured-the-ruins-of-detroit/2672/

Anatomy of Detroit’s Decline

In a matter of decades, Detroit went from one of America’s most prosperous cities to one of its most distressed. Here is a look at how the collapse of this metropolis – battered by financial missteps, racial tensions and leadership lapses – culminated in insurmountable debt that led the city to file for bankruptcy.

Reliance on a Single Industry

A workman adjusted a Ford Mustang at the final assembly line in a Detroit-area factory on Nov. 6, 1967. Preston Stroup/Associated Press

The expansion of the auto industry nearly a century ago fueled a growth spurt that made Detroit the fourth largest city in the country. By 1950, the population peaked at almost 1.85 million as people moved to Detroit to work at the Big Three auto companies: Ford, General Motors and Chrysler. But it was at the height of this prosperity that the manufacturers began to restructure, and the risks of the city’s reliance on a single industry became apparent, according to Thomas J. Sugrue’s essay “Motor City: The Story of Detroit.

First, there was decentralization. Strikes, inspired by union negotiations and a refusal by blacks and whites to work side by side, were halting progress, according to “Detroit, Race and Uneven Development,” co-written by Joe T. Darden. Factories were built in the suburbs and in neighboring states so that if there was a protest in one factory, work could still continue elsewhere. But as the factories spread out, so too did the job opportunities.

When the industry then experimented with automation, replacing assembly-line jobs with machinery, tens of thousands of jobs were lost. The industry shrank even more during the energy crisis in the 1970s and the economic recession in the 1980s. And foreign competition caused profits to plummet.

As auto jobs moved elsewhere and the region aged, Detroit’s labor costs — retiree health care costs, especially — increased substantially.

Though other cities experienced their own booms and busts, Detroit suffered more because it didn’t diversify, said Kevin Boyle, a Detroit historian who has written extensively about his native city. Places such as Chicago and Pittsburgh relied on other areas – like banking or education – beyond the industries that started their success.

The auto industry “was like Silicon Valley in the 1980s,” Mr. Boyle said. It was doing so well, he said, that Detroit officials didn’t see a need to do anything differently.

 

RELATED

Racial Tensions

A National Guardsman in Detroit during the riots of 1967. Associated Press

Tensions between the races have been high since the 1940s, when Southern blacks began moving to Detroit in search of work at automobile factories, said Mr. Boyle, the historian.

As the migration of blacks who swept into Detroit became especially intense, middle-class whites began moving to the newly built suburbs. But violent 1967 riots turned this stream into a torrent.

“It’s really hard to overstate how deep the fear was, on both sides of the color line,” Mr. Boyle said.

And after the riots, Detroit failed to bounce back, Mr. Boyle said. Businesses followed their customers. Thousands of houses were abandoned as the city’s population plunged.

“In some cities like Chicago, Boston and maybe New York, people say to themselves, ‘I want to be in this neighborhood where I grew up, where my grandparents live or where my synagogue is’ — that really roots people in place,” he said. “Detroit didn’t work that way.”

During the 1950s, the city lost 363,000 white residents while it gained 182,000 black residents. In 1950, the population was 16 percent black, and by the time of the 1967 riot it had grown to a third. Today, about 82 percent of the city’s population is black.

The Rev. Charles Williams II, who leads the Detroit chapter of the National Action Network, said little had been done to ease tensions. Those strained relations have hindered the city’s efforts toward economic progress.

“Race has basically been used as a tool to pit people against each other,” he said. “There’s a sincere, in-depth hate. Folks in the city have been taught to not trust those in the suburbs. Folks in the suburbs don’t trust those in the city.”

 

RELATED

Shortcomings of Leadership

Mayor Coleman A. Young of Detroit at an event in 1980. Richard Sheinwald/Associated Press

The financial crisis facing Detroit was decades in the making, caused in part by a trail of missteps, suspected corruption and inaction. Here is a sampling of some city leaders who trimmed too little, too late and, rather than tackling problems head on, hoped that deep-rooted structural problems would turn out to be cyclical downturns.

Charles E. Bowles, backed by the Ku Klux Klan, was in office for seven months in 1930 before people demanded his removal. His ascension to the mayor’s office was followed by a spike in crime, and he was suspected to be linked to some of Detroit’s underworld figures, according to “Detroit: A Biography” by Scott Martelle. “The stories of gangland feuds and killings were diversions from the deeper agony that spread across Detroit in the 1930s,” Mr. Martelle wrote. “Unemployment was high and deep poverty endemic.”

Edward Jeffries, who served as mayor from 1940 to 1948, developed the Detroit Plan, which involved razing 100 blighted acres and preparing the land for redevelopment. The area sat vacant for several years, and the 7,000 black residents who were displaced moved to neighboring areas where whites, in turn, left. Rather than ending blight, the project simply redistributed it.

Albert Cobo was considered a candidate of the wealthy and of the white during his tenure from 1950 to 1957. He declined federal money for housing projects and facilitated the construction of freeways. Highways were being built across the country that encouraged suburbanization, but while the rest of the nation was expanding, Detroit’s population was shrinking as people used the newly built roadways to leave.

Coleman A. Young was seen as a divisive figure in the 20 years he served as mayor. He won his first mayoral election in 1973, largely on the promise to ease tension between the police and black residents. But while many blacks saw him as a hero who pledged to fight crime, some whites felt he wasn’t looking out for their interests. Mr. Young seemingly breezed to second, third and fourth terms without making the expected bridge-building racial appeals. Isabel Wilkerson, writing in The New York Times in 1989, said the mayor, running in a city in which 70 percent of the voters were black, seemed “to revel in the sort of polarization that other politicians dread.” Though Mr. Young was credited with revitalizing the waterfront, the rest of downtown was often compared to a war zone, with neighborhoods crumbling, businesses boarded up and poverty remaining high.

Kwame M. Kilpatrick, who led Detroit from 2001 to 2008, was nicknamed the “hip-hop mayor” when first elected at 31, in part for his larger-than-life persona, flashy suits and the diamond stud in his ear. He brought new attractions to the city’s riverfront and much-needed business investment downtown, but he also increased the city’s debt obligations to fill budget gaps. After a series of scandals he resigned in 2008 and pleaded guilty later that year to obstruction of justice charges, served four months in jail and was ordered to pay $1 million to the city. He was behind bars two years later for hiding assets from the court, and in October he was sentenced to 28 years in prison after he was found guilty of racketeering, fraud and extortion.

Dave Bing, a former professional basketball star, took office in 2009 pledging to solve Detroit’s fiscal problems, which by then were already overwhelming. During his term, there were numerous announcements of cuts to the city’s work force, efforts to fill annual budget deficits and urgent calls for sacrifices from labor groups. Then in March the state appointed Kevyn D. Orr, a veteran lawyer, as an emergency manager to oversee the city’s operations, rendering Mr. Bing virtually powerless. Mr. Bing announced in May that he would not run for re-election. And in November Mike Duggan, a former hospital executive who campaigned with the backing of Detroit’s business leaders, was elected mayor.

 

RELATED

Lack of an Efficient Transit System

Detroit’s once-glamorous Michigan Theater, which is now used as a parking garage. Sean Doerr/WNET.org

In the hometown of the auto industry, public policies encouraged a car culture, with more money being invested in building highways rather than a public transportation system.

Efforts like

Anatomy of Detroit’s Decline

In a matter of decades, Detroit went from one of America’s most prosperous cities to one of its most distressed. Here is a look at how the collapse of this metropolis – battered by financial missteps, racial tensions and leadership lapses – culminated in insurmountable debt that led the city to file for bankruptcy.

Reliance on a Single Industry

A workman adjusted a Ford Mustang at the final assembly line in a Detroit-area factory on Nov. 6, 1967. Preston Stroup/Associated Press

The expansion of the auto industry nearly a century ago fueled a growth spurt that made Detroit the fourth largest city in the country. By 1950, the population peaked at almost 1.85 million as people moved to Detroit to work at the Big Three auto companies: Ford, General Motors and Chrysler. But it was at the height of this prosperity that the manufacturers began to restructure, and the risks of the city’s reliance on a single industry became apparent, according to Thomas J. Sugrue’s essay “Motor City: The Story of Detroit.

First, there was decentralization. Strikes, inspired by union negotiations and a refusal by blacks and whites to work side by side, were halting progress, according to “Detroit, Race and Uneven Development,” co-written by Joe T. Darden. Factories were built in the suburbs and in neighboring states so that if there was a protest in one factory, work could still continue elsewhere. But as the factories spread out, so too did the job opportunities.

When the industry then experimented with automation, replacing assembly-line jobs with machinery, tens of thousands of jobs were lost. The industry shrank even more during the energy crisis in the 1970s and the economic recession in the 1980s. And foreign competition caused profits to plummet.

As auto jobs moved elsewhere and the region aged, Detroit’s labor costs — retiree health care costs, especially — increased substantially.

Though other cities experienced their own booms and busts, Detroit suffered more because it didn’t diversify, said Kevin Boyle, a Detroit historian who has written extensively about his native city. Places such as Chicago and Pittsburgh relied on other areas – like banking or education – beyond the industries that started their success.

The auto industry “was like Silicon Valley in the 1980s,” Mr. Boyle said. It was doing so well, he said, that Detroit officials didn’t see a need to do anything differently.

 

RELATED

Racial Tensions

A National Guardsman in Detroit during the riots of 1967. Associated Press

Tensions between the races have been high since the 1940s, when Southern blacks began moving to Detroit in search of work at automobile factories, said Mr. Boyle, the historian.

As the migration of blacks who swept into Detroit became especially intense, middle-class whites began moving to the newly built suburbs. But violent 1967 riots turned this stream into a torrent.

“It’s really hard to overstate how deep the fear was, on both sides of the color line,” Mr. Boyle said.

And after the riots, Detroit failed to bounce back, Mr. Boyle said. Businesses followed their customers. Thousands of houses were abandoned as the city’s population plunged.

“In some cities like Chicago, Boston and maybe New York, people say to themselves, ‘I want to be in this neighborhood where I grew up, where my grandparents live or where my synagogue is’ — that really roots people in place,” he said. “Detroit didn’t work that way.”

During the 1950s, the city lost 363,000 white residents while it gained 182,000 black residents. In 1950, the population was 16 percent black, and by the time of the 1967 riot it had grown to a third. Today, about 82 percent of the city’s population is black.

The Rev. Charles Williams II, who leads the Detroit chapter of the National Action Network, said little had been done to ease tensions. Those strained relations have hindered the city’s efforts toward economic progress.

“Race has basically been used as a tool to pit people against each other,” he said. “There’s a sincere, in-depth hate. Folks in the city have been taught to not trust those in the suburbs. Folks in the suburbs don’t trust those in the city.”

 

RELATED

Shortcomings of Leadership

Mayor Coleman A. Young of Detroit at an event in 1980. Richard Sheinwald/Associated Press

The financial crisis facing Detroit was decades in the making, caused in part by a trail of missteps, suspected corruption and inaction. Here is a sampling of some city leaders who trimmed too little, too late and, rather than tackling problems head on, hoped that deep-rooted structural problems would turn out to be cyclical downturns.

Charles E. Bowles, backed by the Ku Klux Klan, was in office for seven months in 1930 before people demanded his removal. His ascension to the mayor’s office was followed by a spike in crime, and he was suspected to be linked to some of Detroit’s underworld figures, according to “Detroit: A Biography” by Scott Martelle. “The stories of gangland feuds and killings were diversions from the deeper agony that spread across Detroit in the 1930s,” Mr. Martelle wrote. “Unemployment was high and deep poverty endemic.”

Edward Jeffries, who served as mayor from 1940 to 1948, developed the Detroit Plan, which involved razing 100 blighted acres and preparing the land for redevelopment. The area sat vacant for several years, and the 7,000 black residents who were displaced moved to neighboring areas where whites, in turn, left. Rather than ending blight, the project simply redistributed it.

Albert Cobo was considered a candidate of the wealthy and of the white during his tenure from 1950 to 1957. He declined federal money for housing projects and facilitated the construction of freeways. Highways were being built across the country that encouraged suburbanization, but while the rest of the nation was expanding, Detroit’s population was shrinking as people used the newly built roadways to leave.

Coleman A. Young was seen as a divisive figure in the 20 years he served as mayor. He won his first mayoral election in 1973, largely on the promise to ease tension between the police and black residents. But while many blacks saw him as a hero who pledged to fight crime, some whites felt he wasn’t looking out for their interests. Mr. Young seemingly breezed to second, third and fourth terms without making the expected bridge-building racial appeals. Isabel Wilkerson, writing in The New York Times in 1989, said the mayor, running in a city in which 70 percent of the voters were black, seemed “to revel in the sort of polarization that other politicians dread.” Though Mr. Young was credited with revitalizing the waterfront, the rest of downtown was often compared to a war zone, with neighborhoods crumbling, businesses boarded up and poverty remaining high.

Kwame M. Kilpatrick, who led Detroit from 2001 to 2008, was nicknamed the “hip-hop mayor” when first elected at 31, in part for his larger-than-life persona, flashy suits and the diamond stud in his ear. He brought new attractions to the city’s riverfront and much-needed business investment downtown, but he also increased the city’s debt obligations to fill budget gaps. After a series of scandals he resigned in 2008 and pleaded guilty later that year to obstruction of justice charges, served four months in jail and was ordered to pay $1 million to the city. He was behind bars two years later for hiding assets from the court, and in October he was sentenced to 28 years in prison after he was found guilty of racketeering, fraud and extortion.

Dave Bing, a former professional basketball star, took office in 2009 pledging to solve Detroit’s fiscal problems, which by then were already overwhelming. During his term, there were numerous announcements of cuts to the city’s work force, efforts to fill annual budget deficits and urgent calls for sacrifices from labor groups. Then in March the state appointed Kevyn D. Orr, a veteran lawyer, as an emergency manager to oversee the city’s operations, rendering Mr. Bing virtually powerless. Mr. Bing announced in May that he would not run for re-election. And in November Mike Duggan, a former hospital executive who campaigned with the backing of Detroit’s business leaders, was elected mayor.

 

RELATED

Lack of an Efficient Transit System

Detroit’s once-glamorous Michigan Theater, which is now used as a parking garage. Sean Doerr/WNET.org

In the hometown of the auto industry, public policies encouraged a car culture, with more money being invested in building highways rather than a public transportation system.

Efforts like Dwight D. Eisenhower’s Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956 helped fuel urban sprawl, and the city’s streetcar system was dismantled the same year. In the 1980s, with federal aid, the city built its People Mover, a monorail that looped around three miles in the downtown area. The project was criticized as not being cost effective, as it primarily serviced visitors to restaurants or the stadium rather than helping the city’s residents get around effectively. Though there is a bus system, it is thought to be unreliable, said Mr. Williams of the National Action Network, a Detroit native. A light-rail system, backed in part by corporate donors, is slated to begin operating in early 2016.

“It’s almost like two Detroits,” Mr. Williams said. “The light rail will go up to West Grand Boulevard, where all the development is taking place. The other side is where the poverty is.”

Without an efficient mode of transportation over the past few decades, blacks and whites didn’t travel side by side as they did in other cities, a missed opportunity to ease racial tensions, said Mr. Boyle, the historian.

“It makes a difference that you have to sit in a subway car or a bus with people who are of different races and different ethnicities, different ages different classes,” he said. “It creates a sense of connection, even if it’s just a superficial one.”

 

RELATED

Impact of Poverty

Shuttered homes and businesses lined a street in downtown Detroit in 2008. Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Officials are now faced with trying to shrink the city, a complicated task because dilapidated homes and empty lots are speckled throughout neighborhoods rather than consolidated in convenient chunks.

About 36 percent of the city’s population is below the poverty level, and, by 2010, the residential vacancy rate was 27.8 percent. With fewer people paying taxes, the city has starved financially and has struggled to maintain social services. Swaths of the city are in total darkness because of nonfunctioning street lights. And the average police response time, including top priority calls, is 58 minutes, according to a report by the emergency manager.

The student enrollment at Detroit’s public schools has drastically declined to 52,981 in 2012 from 164,496 in 2002, according to Michelle A. Zdrodowski, a spokeswoman for the district. In response, several school buildings have been shuttered.

Poverty has been exacerbated by middle-class black families’ moving to the suburbs to pursue jobs or better schools, and to escape crime. Meanwhile, the city’s poor have stayed in Detroit. The city’s unemployment rate is about 19 percent, but the lack of a transportation system has prevented residents from commuting to jobs elsewhere. A plan to cut retiree pensions, which some estimate account for $3.5 billion of the city’s $18 billion in debt, could worsen the lives of some.

As the city works to reinvent itself, it has drawn a community of artists and young people with big dreams of a total makeover for Detroit. Mr. Williams said the challenge was to make sure longtime residents were included in the movement.

“The people who are living in the city of Detroit, who have been holding on,” he said, “they should be a part of the progress.”

 

RELATED

Anatomy of Detroit’s Decline
In a matter of decades, Detroit went from one of America’s most prosperous cities to one of its most distressed. Here is a look at how the collapse of this metropolis – battered by financial missteps, racial tensions and leadership lapses – culminated in insurmountable debt that led the city to file for bankruptcy.
Reliance on a Single Industry
Racial Tensions
Shortcomings of Leadership
Lack of an Efficient Transit System
Impact of Poverty
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Reliance on a Single Industry

A workman adjusted a Ford Mustang at the final assembly line in a Detroit-area factory on Nov. 6, 1967. Preston Stroup/Associated Press

The expansion of the auto industry nearly a century ago fueled a growth spurt that made Detroit the fourth largest city in the country. By 1950, the population peaked at almost 1.85 million as people moved to Detroit to work at the Big Three auto companies: Ford, General Motors and Chrysler. But it was at the height of this prosperity that the manufacturers began to restructure, and the risks of the city’s reliance on a single industry became apparent, according to Thomas J. Sugrue’s essay “Motor City: The Story of Detroit.”

First, there was decentralization. Strikes, inspired by union negotiations and a refusal by blacks and whites to work side by side, were halting progress, according to “Detroit, Race and Uneven Development,” co-written by Joe T. Darden. Factories were built in the suburbs and in neighboring states so that if there was a protest in one factory, work could still continue elsewhere. But as the factories spread out, so too did the job opportunities.

When the industry then experimented with automation, replacing assembly-line jobs with machinery, tens of thousands of jobs were lost. The industry shrank even more during the energy crisis in the 1970s and the economic recession in the 1980s. And foreign competition caused profits to plummet.

As auto jobs moved elsewhere and the region aged, Detroit’s labor costs — retiree health care costs, especially — increased substantially.

Though other cities experienced their own booms and busts, Detroit suffered more because it didn’t diversify, said Kevin Boyle, a Detroit historian who has written extensively about his native city. Places such as Chicago and Pittsburgh relied on other areas – like banking or education – beyond the industries that started their success.

The auto industry “was like Silicon Valley in the 1980s,” Mr. Boyle said. It was doing so well, he said, that Detroit officials didn’t see a need to do anything differently.

RELATED
Motor City: The Story of Detroit (The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History)
Detroit Census Confirms a Desertion Like No Other
Detroit Is Now a Charity Case for Carmakers
Racial Tensions

A National Guardsman in Detroit during the riots of 1967. Associated Press

Tensions between the races have been high since the 1940s, when Southern blacks began moving to Detroit in search of work at automobile factories, said Mr. Boyle, the historian.

As the migration of blacks who swept into Detroit became especially intense, middle-class whites began moving to the newly built suburbs. But violent 1967 riots turned this stream into a torrent.

“It’s really hard to overstate how deep the fear was, on both sides of the color line,” Mr. Boyle said.

And after the riots, Detroit failed to bounce back, Mr. Boyle said. Businesses followed their customers. Thousands of houses were abandoned as the city’s population plunged.

“In some cities like Chicago, Boston and maybe New York, people say to themselves, ‘I want to be in this neighborhood where I grew up, where my grandparents live or where my synagogue is’ — that really roots people in place,” he said. “Detroit didn’t work that way.”

During the 1950s, the city lost 363,000 white residents while it gained 182,000 black residents. In 1950, the population was 16 percent black, and by the time of the 1967 riot it had grown to a third. Today, about 82 percent of the city’s population is black.

The Rev. Charles Williams II, who leads the Detroit chapter of the National Action Network, said little had been done to ease tensions. Those strained relations have hindered the city’s efforts toward economic progress.

“Race has basically been used as a tool to pit people against each other,” he said. “There’s a sincere, in-depth hate. Folks in the city have been taught to not trust those in the suburbs. Folks in the suburbs don’t trust those in the city.”

RELATED
5 Days in 1967 Still Shake Detroit
Shortcomings of Leadership

Mayor Coleman A. Young of Detroit at an event in 1980. Richard Sheinwald/Associated Press

The financial crisis facing Detroit was decades in the making, caused in part by a trail of missteps, suspected corruption and inaction. Here is a sampling of some city leaders who trimmed too little, too late and, rather than tackling problems head on, hoped that deep-rooted structural problems would turn out to be cyclical downturns.

Charles E. Bowles, backed by the Ku Klux Klan, was in office for seven months in 1930 before people demanded his removal. His ascension to the mayor’s office was followed by a spike in crime, and he was suspected to be linked to some of Detroit’s underworld figures, according to “Detroit: A Biography” by Scott Martelle. “The stories of gangland feuds and killings were diversions from the deeper agony that spread across Detroit in the 1930s,” Mr. Martelle wrote. “Unemployment was high and deep poverty endemic.”

Edward Jeffries, who served as mayor from 1940 to 1948, developed the Detroit Plan, which involved razing 100 blighted acres and preparing the land for redevelopment. The area sat vacant for several years, and the 7,000 black residents who were displaced moved to neighboring areas where whites, in turn, left. Rather than ending blight, the project simply redistributed it.

Albert Cobo was considered a candidate of the wealthy and of the white during his tenure from 1950 to 1957. He declined federal money for housing projects and facilitated the construction of freeways. Highways were being built across the country that encouraged suburbanization, but while the rest of the nation was expanding, Detroit’s population was shrinking as people used the newly built roadways to leave.

Coleman A. Young was seen as a divisive figure in the 20 years he served as mayor. He won his first mayoral election in 1973, largely on the promise to ease tension between the police and black residents. But while many blacks saw him as a hero who pledged to fight crime, some whites felt he wasn’t looking out for their interests. Mr. Young seemingly breezed to second, third and fourth terms without making the expected bridge-building racial appeals. Isabel Wilkerson, writing in The New York Times in 1989, said the mayor, running in a city in which 70 percent of the voters were black, seemed “to revel in the sort of polarization that other politicians dread.” Though Mr. Young was credited with revitalizing the waterfront, the rest of downtown was often compared to a war zone, with neighborhoods crumbling, businesses boarded up and poverty remaining high.

Kwame M. Kilpatrick, who led Detroit from 2001 to 2008, was nicknamed the “hip-hop mayor” when first elected at 31, in part for his larger-than-life persona, flashy suits and the diamond stud in his ear. He brought new attractions to the city’s riverfront and much-needed business investment downtown, but he also increased the city’s debt obligations to fill budget gaps. After a series of scandals he resigned in 2008 and pleaded guilty later that year to obstruction of justice charges, served four months in jail and was ordered to pay $1 million to the city. He was behind bars two years later for hiding assets from the court, and in October he was sentenced to 28 years in prison after he was found guilty of racketeering, fraud and extortion.

Dave Bing, a former professional basketball star, took office in 2009 pledging to solve Detroit’s fiscal problems, which by then were already overwhelming. During his term, there were numerous announcements of cuts to the city’s work force, efforts to fill annual budget deficits and urgent calls for sacrifices from labor groups. Then in March the state appointed Kevyn D. Orr, a veteran lawyer, as an emergency manager to oversee the city’s operations, rendering Mr. Bing virtually powerless. Mr. Bing announced in May that he would not run for re-election. And in November Mike Duggan, a former hospital executive who campaigned with the backing of Detroit’s business leaders, was elected mayor.

RELATED
Obituary for Charles E. Bowles
Obituary for Edward J. Jeffries
Obituary for Coleman A. Young
Former Mayor of Detroit Guilty in Corruption Case
Detroit Mayor’s Tough Love Poses Risks in Election
For Detroit’s New Mayor, Power, With Conditions
Lack of an Efficient Transit System

Detroit’s once-glamorous Michigan Theater, which is now used as a parking garage. Sean Doerr/WNET.org

In the hometown of the auto industry, public policies encouraged a car culture, with more money being invested in building highways rather than a public transportation system.

Efforts like Dwight D. Eisenhower’s Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956 helped fuel urban sprawl, and the city’s streetcar system was dismantled the same year. In the 1980s, with federal aid, the city built its People Mover, a monorail that looped around three miles in the downtown area. The project was criticized as not being cost effective, as it primarily serviced visitors to restaurants or the stadium rather than helping the city’s residents get around effectively. Though there is a bus system, it is thought to be unreliable, said Mr. Williams of the National Action Network, a Detroit native. A light-rail system, backed in part by corporate donors, is slated to begin operating in early 2016.

“It’s almost like two Detroits,” Mr. Williams said. “The light rail will go up to West Grand Boulevard, where all the development is taking place. The other side is where the poverty is.”

Without an efficient mode of transportation over the past few decades, blacks and whites didn’t travel side by side as they did in other cities, a missed opportunity to ease racial tensions, said Mr. Boyle, the historian.

“It makes a difference that you have to sit in a subway car or a bus with people who are of different races and different ethnicities, different ages different classes,” he said. “It creates a sense of connection, even if it’s just a superficial one.”

RELATED
Razing the City to Save the City
Shrinking Detroit Back to Greatness
The Odd Challenge for Detroit Planners
Detroit Insists the Future Will Be Cars, Cars, Cars
Impact of Poverty

Shuttered homes and businesses lined a street in downtown Detroit in 2008. Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Officials are now faced with trying to shrink the city, a complicated task because dilapidated homes and empty lots are speckled throughout neighborhoods rather than consolidated in convenient chunks.

About 36 percent of the city’s population is below the poverty level, and, by 2010, the residential vacancy rate was 27.8 percent. With fewer people paying taxes, the city has starved financially and has struggled to maintain social services. Swaths of the city are in total darkness because of nonfunctioning street lights. And the average police response time, including top priority calls, is 58 minutes, according to a report by the emergency manager.

The student enrollment at Detroit’s public schools has drastically declined to 52,981 in 2012 from 164,496 in 2002, according to Michelle A. Zdrodowski, a spokeswoman for the district. In response, several school buildings have been shuttered.

Poverty has been exacerbated by middle-class black families’ moving to the suburbs to pursue jobs or better schools, and to escape crime. Meanwhile, the city’s poor have stayed in Detroit. The city’s unemployment rate is about 19 percent, but the lack of a transportation system has prevented residents from commuting to jobs elsewhere. A plan to cut retiree pensions, which some estimate account for $3.5 billion of the city’s $18 billion in debt, could worsen the lives of some.

As the city works to reinvent itself, it has drawn a community of artists and young people with big dreams of a total makeover for Detroit. Mr. Williams said the challenge was to make sure longtime residents were included in the movement.

“The people who are living in the city of Detroit, who have been holding on,” he said, “they should be a part of the progress.”

RELATED
Can Detroit Find the Road Forward?
In Embattled Detroit, No Talk of Sharing Pain
In Detroit’s Despair, Mayor Sees Hope
Big Dreams, but Little Consensus, for a New Detroit

helped fuel urban sprawl, and the city’s streetcar system was dismantled the same year. In the 1980s, with federal aid, the city built its People Mover, a monorail that looped around three miles in the downtown area. The project was criticized as not being cost effective, as it primarily serviced visitors to restaurants or the stadium rather than helping the city’s residents get around effectively. Though there is a bus system, it is thought to be unreliable, said Mr. Williams of the National Action Network, a Detroit native. A light-rail system, backed in part by corporate donors, is slated to begin operating in early 2016.

“It’s almost like two Detroits,” Mr. Williams said. “The light rail will go up to West Grand Boulevard, where all the development is taking place. The other side is where the poverty is.”

Without an efficient mode of transportation over the past few decades, blacks and whites didn’t travel side by side as they did in other cities, a missed opportunity to ease racial tensions, said Mr. Boyle, the historian.

“It makes a difference that you have to sit in a subway car or a bus with people who are of different races and different ethnicities, different ages different classes,” he said. “It creates a sense of connection, even if it’s just a superficial one.”

 

RELATED

Impact of Poverty

Shuttered homes and businesses lined a street in downtown Detroit in 2008. Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Officials are now faced with trying to shrink the city, a complicated task because dilapidated homes and empty lots are speckled throughout neighborhoods rather than consolidated in convenient chunks.

About 36 percent of the city’s population is below the poverty level, and, by 2010, the residential vacancy rate was 27.8 percent. With fewer people paying taxes, the city has starved financially and has struggled to maintain social services. Swaths of the city are in total darkness because of nonfunctioning street lights. And the average police response time, including top priority calls, is 58 minutes, according to a report by the emergency manager.

The student enrollment at Detroit’s public schools has drastically declined to 52,981 in 2012 from 164,496 in 2002, according to Michelle A. Zdrodowski, a spokeswoman for the district. In response, several school buildings have been shuttered.

Poverty has been exacerbated by middle-class black families’ moving to the suburbs to pursue jobs or better schools, and to escape crime. Meanwhile, the city’s poor have stayed in Detroit. The city’s unemployment rate is about 19 percent, but the lack of a transportation system has prevented residents from commuting to jobs elsewhere. A plan to cut retiree pensions, which some estimate account for $3.5 billion of the city’s $18 billion in debt, could worsen the lives of some.

As the city works to reinvent itself, it has drawn a community of artists and young people with big dreams of a total makeover for Detroit. Mr. Williams said the challenge was to make sure longtime residents were included in the movement.

“The people who are living in the city of Detroit, who have been holding on,” he said, “they should be a part of the progress.”

 

RELATED

HIWAY AMERICA – ALL ABOUT HOBOS AND THE HOBO MUSEUM, BRITT, IA

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HIWAY AMERICA – ALL ABOUT HOBOS AND THE HOBO MUSEUM, BRITT, IA

Hobo’s Meditation by JIMMIE RODGERS (1932)

http://youtu.be/HQ_xj3aDjWU

DEDICATED TO DAVE CHRISTY 

Hobo, 1894

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Hard Times in America
In the period from 1893 to 1896 America suffered a severe economic meltdown that was surpassed in its tragic impact only by the Great Depression that followed four decades later. The causes were complex. They included a public panic to cash in paper currency for gold, a subsequent depletion in the country’s gold reserve and bankers calling in their loans to private industry as the value of the dollar continued to decline.
Members of Coxey’s Army on their way
to Washington, 1893

A domino effect resulted as major companies such as the Northern Pacific Railway, the Union Pacific Railroad, and the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe declared bankruptcy. An estimated 15,000 companies failed. The price of farm products plummeted, forcing many farmers to loose their farms and their livelihood. The crush of so many defaulted loans led some 500 banks to close their doors – taking their depositors’ life savings with them. Unemployment soared.

There was no government assistance. In Ohio, Jacob S. Coxey – owner of a failed business – decided to take matters into his own hands. In a move that foreshadowed the Bonus Army of 1932, he began a march on Washington in order to force the government to provide relief for the unemployed. As he made his way to the capital he was joined by what he proclaimed was an army of 100,000 destitute. However, when he entered the city he had a following of only 500. His plea fell on deaf ears as both the President and Congress refused to meet his demands. Coxey and his followers were subsequently arrested for trespassing.

The nation’s roads and railways were filled with the unemployed searching for a better life. They became hoboes, panhandling their way across the country in search of a job. Among them was eighteen-year-old Jack London, future author of Call of the Wild (1903).

“Thirty days, said his Honor, and called another hobo’s name.”

London described his experiences as a hobo in a book entitled The Road. We join his story as he arrives in Niagara Falls, NY aboard a freight train. Walking into town in search of food, he runs afoul of the law:

‘What hotel are you stopping at?’ he queried.“The town was asleep when I entered it. As I came along the quiet street, I saw three men coming toward me along the sidewalk. They were walking abreast. Hoboes, I decided, like myself, who had got up early. In this surmise I was not quite correct. . . The men on each side were hoboes all right, but the man in the middle wasn’t. . . At some word from the man in the centre, all three halted, and he of the centre addressed me. He was a ‘fly-cop’ and the two hoboes were his prisoners.

He had me. I wasn’t stopping at any hotel, and, since I did not know the name of a hotel in the place, I could not claim residence in any of them. Also, I was up too early in the morning. Everything was against me.

‘I just arrived,’ I said.

‘Well, you turn around and walk in front of me, and not too far in front. There’s somebody wants to see you.’

I was ‘pinched.’ I knew who wanted to see me. With that ‘fly-cop’ and the two hoboes at my heels, and under the direction of the former, I led the way to the city jail. There we were searched and our names registered. I have forgotten, now, under which name I was registered.

From the office we were led to the ‘Hobo’ and locked in. The ‘Hobo’ is that part of a prison where the minor offenders are confined together in a large iron cage. Since hoboes constitute the principal division of the minor offenders, the aforesaid iron cage is called the Hobo. Here we met several hoboes who had already been pinched that morning, and every little while the door was unlocked and two or three more were thrust in on us. At last, when we totaled sixteen, we were led upstairs into the courtroom. . .

In the court-room were the sixteen prisoners, the judge, and two bailiffs. The judge seemed to act as his own clerk. There were no witnesses. There were no citizens of Niagara Falls present to look on and see how justice was administered in their community. The judge glanced at the list of cases before him and called out a name. A hobo stood up. The judge glanced at a bailiff. ‘Vagrancy, your Honor,’ said the bailiff. ‘Thirty days,’ said his Honor. The hobo sat down, and the judge was calling another name and another hobo was rising to his feet.

The trial of that hobo had taken just about fifteen seconds. The trial of the next hobo came off with equal celerity. The bailiff said, ‘Vagrancy, your Honor,’ and his Honor said, ‘Thirty days.’ Thus it went like clockwork, fifteen seconds to a hobo and thirty days.

They are poor dumb cattle, I thought to myself. But wait till my turn comes; I’ll give his Honor a ‘spiel.’ Part way along in the performance, his Honor, moved by some whim, gave one of us an opportunity to speak. As chance would have it, this man was not a genuine hobo. He bore none of the ear- marks of the professional ‘stiff.’ Had he approached the rest of us, while waiting at a water-tank for a freight, we should have unhesitatingly classified him as a ‘gay-cat.’ Gay-cat is the synonym for tenderfoot in Hobo Land. This gay-cat was well along in years — somewhere around forty-five, I should judge. His shoulders were humped a trifle, and his face was seamed by weather-beat.

For many years, according to his story, he had driven team for some firm in (if I remember rightly) Lockport, New York. The firm had ceased to prosper, and finally, in the hard times of 1893, had gone out of business. He had been kept on to the last, though toward the last his work had been very irregular. He went on and explained at length his difficulties in getting work (when so many were out of work) during the succeeding months. In the end, deciding that he would find better opportunities for work on the Lakes, he had started for Buffalo. Of course he was ‘broke,’ and there he was. That was all.

‘Thirty days,’ said his Honor, and called another hobo’s name.

Said hobo got up. ‘Vagrancy, your Honor,’ said the bailiff, and his Honor said, ‘Thirty days.’ And so it went, fifteen seconds and thirty days to each hobo. The machine of justice was grinding smoothly. Most likely, considering how early it was in the morning, his Honor had not yet had his breakfast and was in a hurry.

But my American blood was up. Behind me were the many generations of my American ancestry. One of the kinds of liberty those ancestors of mine had fought and died for was the right of trial by jury. This was my heritage, stained sacred by their blood, and it devolved upon me to stand up for it. All right, I threatened to myself; just wait till he gets to me.

Jack London

He got to me. My name, whatever it was, was called, and I stood up. The bailiff said, ‘Vagrancy, your Honor,’ and I began to talk. But the judge began talking at the same time, and he said, ‘Thirty days.’ I started to protest, but at that moment his Honor was calling the name of the next hobo on the list. His Honor paused long enough to say to me, ‘Shut up!’ The bailiff forced me to sit down. And the next moment that next hobo had received thirty days and the succeeding hobo was just in process of getting his.

When we had all been disposed of, thirty days to each stiff, his Honor, just as he was about to dismiss us, suddenly turned to the teamster from Lockport — the one man he had allowed to talk.

‘Why did you quit your job?’ his Honor asked.

Now the teamster had already explained how his job had quit him, and the question took him aback.

‘Your Honor,’ he began confusedly, ‘isn’t that a funny question to ask?’

‘Thirty days more for quitting your job,’ said his Honor, and the court was closed. That was the outcome. The teamster got sixty days all together, while the rest of us got thirty days.

References:
London, Jack, The Road (1907).

How To Cite This Article:
“Hobo 1894: Hard Times in America”, EyeWitness to History, http://www.eyewitnesstohistory.com (2007).

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 Boxcar Willie Getty David Redfern 1989

BOXCAR WILLIE : Hank And The Hobo (train country song)

http://youtu.be/oh5hV2M22nk

Death of the American Hobo (Documentary)

http://youtu.be/LWHh9W5IeBo

THE HOBO MUSEUM

580_Museum2
Strangest Museums: Hobo Museum

Rachel Freundt
The Hobo Museum, Britt, IA
Housed in the former Chief Theater, the Hobo Museum celebrates the vagabond lifestyle, which happens to have a stringent code of ethics. It’s full of drifter memorabilia from the likes of Frisco Jack, Connecticut Slim, and Hard Rock Kid. Hobo crafts, art, photographs, and documentaries depicting the unorthodox way of life are also on display. It’s brought to you by the Hobo Foundation, which hosts an annual convention in town. hobo.com

What are Hobo Signs ?
Depression era symbols used by hoboes. In their travels for work, hoboes made marks with chalk, paint or coal on walls, sidewalks, fences and posts. The signs were meant to let others know what was ahead. (some call them the secrete language of the hoboes)

1. Good road to follow
2. Religious talk will get you a free meal
3. These people are rich (Silk hat and pile of gold)
4. Camp here
5. You may sleep in the hayloft here
6. Warning: Barking Dog
7. House is well-guarded
8. This is not a safe place
9. Good food available here, but you have to work for it
10. If you are sick, they’ll care for you here
11. This community is indifferent to a hobo’s presence
12. Authorities are alert: Be careful
13. Officer of the law lives here
14. Courthouse, precinct station
15. Jail
16. Free telephone (Bird)
17. Beware of four dogs
18. No use going this direction
19. Dangerous drinking water
20. Doubtful
21. A judge or magistrate lives here
22. Here. This is the place
23. A kind old lady (Cat)
24. Hit the road! Quick!
25. A beating awaits you here
26. A trolley stop
27. “Ok, alright”
28. This way
29. A gentleman lives here (Top Hat)
30. Police frown on hobos here (Handcuffs)
31. A man with a gun lives here
32. There is nothing to be gained here
33. The road is spoiled with other hobos and tramps
34. Good place to catch a train
35. Hold your tongue
36. A crime has been committed here. Not a safe place for strangers
37. Halt
38. Dangerous neighborhood
39. An ill-tempered man lives here
40. Be prepared to defend yourself
41. A doctor lives here. He won’t charge for his services
42. Keep quiet (Warns of day sleepers, babies)
43. The owner is in
44. The owner is out
45. There are thieves about
46. A dishonest person lives here
47. An easy mark, a sucker
48. Good place for hand out
49. There is alcohol in this town
50. Fresh water and a safe campsite

The hobo signs were copied out of a book called
“Hobo Signs by Stan Richards & Associates”

 

This is a rare example of tramp art in that I have found no references
in tramp art books to this wonderful pillow form.  Its rarity is further
exemplified by the materials used: cloth, heavy carpet-like fabric and a
stuffing of sawdust.  A great deal of time, skill and passion produced this
sturdy object.  It has the classic pyramidic shape repeated with precision in
row after row of a deep red heavy fabric on the top.  The edges where the top
meets the bottom are notched similar to tramp art woodcarvings. The bottom
exposes a smooth fabric that probably covers the entire object and displays a
light rust color.  The dimensions are 9″ x 9″ square and 4.5″ high, in the
middle. The pillow weighs just under two pounds – 1lb. 15 oz.

The following is a beautiful example of bottle art

done by Carl Worner at some time in the early 1900s.
see more at  http://sdjones.net/FolkArt/worner.html

 

The following are some examples of beautiful old
time wood carving.  Notice the intricate detail and the skillful carving of the
balls in cages and chain links.

 

   Next are some great carvings by our modern day
artist “The Tanner City Kid”.  Note that the chain links are fully functioning
links as in a steel chain and the balls in the cages are loose movable objects
that are carved from the interior wood during the hollowing out process.  I
think you’ll agree with me that Tanner’s work is as skillful as any of the old
timers.