Wednesday, July 26, 2017

watching from windsor '67 part two: let the analysis begin

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Panel from the Detroit Historical Museum's exhibit, Detroit 67: Perspectives. July 8, 2017.
One of the elements I appreciated in the current Detroit Historical Museum exhibit on the civil unrest in Detroit in 1967 was its analysis of the media coverage. One panel lists what elements that we might expect today were missing.

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Panel from the Detroit Historical Museum's exhibit, Detroit 67: Perspectives. July 8, 2017.
 
For television coverage, a space designed to evoke a middle class living room displayed footage on screens resembling vintage sets. As you'll see from the articles included in this post, the Canadian coverage followed a similar playbook.

As the disturbance grew the morning of July 23, authorities urged the media to avoid or downplay reports, in order to maintain calm. It quickly became impossible to hide what was going on. CKLW-TV (now CBET) provided the first local TV report around 2 p.m. Soon, reporters from outside the region began descending on the region.

The Windsor Star initially ordered its employees to stay out of Detroit, threatening to dismiss anyone who did. According to Herb Colling's book Turning Points, the paper's executive editor was "concerned about the safety of his staff and about insurance coverage and liability, especially if someone is injured or killed." Reporters grew demoralized as peers from London and Toronto headed across the border. The paper's bureaus in Chatham and Sarnia went ahead and sent staff across, but they had to send their reports to other papers.

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Front page, Windsor Star, July 25, 1967. Click on image for larger version..

By the morning of July 25, the Windsor Star reversed its decision and allowed its staff to cross the river. Among the first were first were Walter McCall and Kevin Doyle, who opened their eyewitness account with the following description:

The city many Windsorites regard as an extension of their own was struggling to return to normal this morning. But Detroit will somehow never be the same. Commuters, most of whom had not seen Detroit since they left their jobs Friday, were confronted with grim and often shocking sights as they slowly filtered back to work today. Khaki-clad militiamen, their rifles slung over their shoulders, looked strangely out of place patrolling back and forth in front of Hudson’s. Convoys of Michigan State Police cruisers, bristling with automatic weapons, threaded their way around barricades blocking the entrances to side streets. 

Over the course of the day, revised front pages updated the body count. Reports updated the situation at the border, where restrictions were gradually eased. Tunnel bus service resume and commuters were allowed to cross, but those curious to see the riot for themselves continued to be turned back.

One article outlined the effects on Windsor's nightlife. Clubs which depended on American audiences, such as the Elmwood Casino, Metropole, and Top Hat, cancelled their shows. Downtown bars reported healthy business from those who came down to watch what was unfolding across the river.

The editorial page chimed in with its thoughts:

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Windsor Star, July 25, 1967.

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Cartoon by syndicated political cartoonist Herblock, Windsor Star, July 25, 1967.

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Windsor Star, July 25, 1967.
W.L. Clark's column touches on a growing fear in Windsor: that the upcoming annual Emancipation Day celebration might provoke racial unrest.

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Windsor Star, July 25, 1967.

Emancipation Day, which I'll discuss in more detail in an upcoming post, is a longstanding tradition celebrating the abolition of slavery. As the following story notes, it became a touchy topic for those prone to participating in call-in radio shows.

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London Free Press, July 25, 1967.
Papers seized upon the statements of radicals and hotheads, with varying degrees of shock value. They also played up the atmosphere being carnival-like in some spots.

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London Free Press, July 25, 1967. Click on image for larger version.

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London Free Press, July 25, 1967. Click on image for larger version.

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London Free Press, July 25, 1967.
We move on to coverage from Toronto...

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Globe and Mail, July 25, 1967. Click on image for larger version.

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Globe and Mail, July 25, 1967.
Canadian papers noted how looting was a multiracial effort, though while reading some reports I had the sinking feeling that's a familiar strain: blacks who engage in such activity are dangerous, while whites are just having a good time. The Globe and Mail went with an AP report.

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Globe and Mail, July 25, 1967. Click on image for larger version.

Here's the Toronto Star's front page, featuring a view from syndicated American columnist Jimmy Breslin:

star 1967-07-25 front page

The paper sent two of its reporters, including future longtime Toronto Sun columnist Gary Dunford, to be their "Star man on the scene."

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Toronto Star, July 25, 1967.

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Toronto Star, July 25, 1967.

A pair of pieces contrasted Detroit and Windsor:

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Toronto Star, July 25, 1967. Click on image for larger version.
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Toronto Star, July 25, 1967. Click on image for larger version.

The Telegram sent reporter Robert MacBain into Detroit. His key quote on the front page: "Seventeen cases of foaming detergent couldn’t have made me feel any whiter than I did yesterday in the heart of the burned-out and looted west side.” 

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Front page, the Telegram, July 25, 1967. Click on image for larger version.
Here's the rest of MacBain's report:

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The Telegram, July 25, 1967. Click on image for larger version.

The Telegram's editorial:

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The Telegram, July 25, 1967.

Filling in for Telegram TV critic Bob Blackburn, Kathy Brooks criticized CBC's Newsmagazine program for spending more time covering the fallout from Charles deGaulle's visit to Quebec. "Discussions about news judgement rarely get anyone anywhere," Brooks wrote, "but this time, in the long run, a rising death toll in a race riot seems more important than what kind of flag was flying on President de Gaulle's ship."

Monday, July 24, 2017

watching from windsor '67 part one: unrest breaks out

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Poster hanging outside the Detroit Historical Museum, July 8, 2017.

A police raid on a “blind pig” (an unlicensed drinking venue) at 12th Street and Clairmount Avenue in the early morning hours of July 23, 1967 provided the fuse for five days of civil unrest in Detroit. Whether you call what happened that week a rebellion, riot, or uprising, the repercussions are still evident around the city, and remain a well-debated subject.

Given Detroit’s proximity to Canada, the events that unfolded affected Windsor, and were commented on elsewhere around the country. What I aim to do with these posts is show Canadian reaction to the events in Detroit, primarily from newspapers in Toronto and Windsor.

This series grew from several streams of things I’ve done over the past year:


  • Collecting newspaper stories: Side stories I saved while researching Canada’s centennial, others I tracked down out of personal interest.
  • Museum visits: if you’re visiting Detroit during the next two years, I highly recommend the Detroit Historical Museum’s Detroit 67:Perspectives exhibit, and its accompanying online material.

Some of this material was originally gathered for a piece I was going to write for an online publication, but was abandoned due to other commitments and finding many side stories about race in Essex County during the 1960s. These stories I want to explore further, and will write about as time permits. I’m still digesting some of these events around Amherstburg and Harrow, stories never discussed during my formative years which are eye-opening (but not terribly shocking).


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Part of an exhibit on 1967 in Windsor on display at the Chimczuk Museum. Photo taken July 9, 2017.

In his book Turning Points: The Detroit Riot of 1967, A Canadian Perspective, Herb Colling describes the atmosphere in Windsor as July 23 wore on.

For most people in Windsor, July 23 is a normal summer Sunday with church attendance, swim meets, backyard barbecues and picnics in the park but, by afternoon, the reality of racial turmoil is literally burned into the Canadian consciousness. At 2:00 p.m., the first smudges of black smoke in Detroit are visible from Windsor. As darkness falls, five major fires burn several blocks apart; their flames reflect orange and pink off the clouds.

All afternoon, Windsorites congregate in waterfront parks on the border to watch the smoke and listen for sounds of the riot. Teenage boys sit on the hoods of their cars or lean against break walls as they hug their girlfriends protectively. They gossip with picnickers and fishermen, point and exclaim every time they see a new disturbance. In Canada, the riot is a uniting force, a powerful draw for a shocked people with a morbid fascination—a horror on one hand and yet an excitement that something significant is happening in their own backyard.

Curiosity over what was going on created traffic jams along Riverside Drive. “Most of the time [the fires] appeared as dull, rosy glows against the skyline,” the Windsor Star reported, “but every now and then a tongue of flame shot into the air in a spectacular burst visible for miles” A band concert scheduled for Dieppe Gardens that evening went ahead, with the smoke providing a backdrop. Reading the descriptions feels like there was an element of spectator sport going on among those who gathered on the waterfront, with the mix of awe and horror that accompanies watching crashes. 

There was a limit to how much Windsorites could fulfill their curiosity. By 9 p.m. the border was closed except for emergency personnel and those who could prove they had legitimate business or pre-scheduled vacations allowed to cross into the United States. Tunnel bus service was suspended. Chrysler workers were sent home when parts were held up in Detroit. People were stuck on either side of the border, resulting in nights spent with friends and relatives, jammed phone lines, and hotels on the outskirts of Windsor filled to capacity. Some Detroiters jumped in their boats and sailed over to Canada.

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Front page, Windsor Star, July 24, 1967. Click on image for larger version.

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Front page of final edition, Windsor Star, July 24, 1967. Click on image for larger version.

While there was radio and television coverage, newspaper readers in Windsor and elsewhere in Canada had to wait until the morning editions rolled off the presses on July 24 for print analysis. 

The first commentary was by veteran editor W.L. Clark:

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Columnist John Lindblad expresses the ill-feelings and unease conventional media had toward growing black militancy of the era:


ws 1967-07-24 page 19 four star edition

There were maps of where the unrest was occuring:

ws 1967-07-24 riot map

And there stories such as this one, about looters clearing out stores along the "Avenue of Fashion" along Livernois. Apparently Lawrence Welk albums were not a hot commodity.

ws 1967-07-24 shoppers with taste

Starting that afternoon, coverage of the unrest in Detroit competed for front page space in Canadian papers with the fallout from another story unfolding on July 24: French president Charles de Gaulle’s “Vive le Quebeclibre!” speech in Montreal.


Let’s just say there’s lot of anger toward deGaulle and his words on editorial pages as the week goes on...

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Front page, London Free Press, July 24, 1967. Click on image for larger version.
The London Free Press’s evening edition raised the question of whether a riot or rebellion was happening:

lfp 1967-07-24 riot or rebellion editorial

Apart from straight reporting, there was little commentary in Toronto’s papers on July 24. Here are the front pages from each of the city's three dailies.

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Front page, Globe and Mail, July 24, 1967. Click on image for larger version.

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Front page, Toronto Star, July 24, 1967. Click on image for larger version.

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Front page, Telegram, July 24, 1967. Click on image for larger version.

The closest piece to editorial comment that day was Lubor Zink’s column in the Telegram, which I suspect was in the can before unrest broke out in Detroit. Commenting on black riots throughout the United States in recent years, the eternal Red-fighter naturally detected “Communist complicity” in what was going down.

tely 1967-07-24 zink on commies and race riots
Click on image for larger version.

Next: Coverage from July 25, 1967

Monday, April 17, 2017

a programming note

As I figure out where my life and career stand post-wedding and post-Historicist, one area I’m reviewing is my online presence. With the various projects that are currently on the go, and (possibly irrational) worries that I spend too much time in front of my computer, I’m determining how my time online may be better spent, especially placing findings, thoughts, and writing which falls outside of contracted work.

Here’s a preliminary plan:

  • Twitter will be where I post links to my work, worthwhile links related to history or local matters, quick contextual posts related to the news cycle, and old ads/pictures/stories that may amuse or anger you. I promise never to act in trollish ways, and maintain a respectful space on a platform that doesn't often act in respectful ways.
  • Instagram will be where I post pictures primarily from walks and roadtrips, from neighbourhood strolls to exploring the backroads of North America. My partner-in-crime will keep an eagle eye on my feed to ensure I toss in enough tags for each post!
  • Facebook is primarily a personal space for me. Several people have suggested that I create a professional FB page focusing on my work and related, non-personal items. A fan page, basically. Do you think this is worth pursuing, or would it waste time?
  • JB’s Warehouse will carry on for anything history-related, whether it’s bonus features for my published pieces, oddball flights of fancy, or computer housecleaning which deserves more than a quick tweet or Instagram post.

 Suggestions related to this plan are appreciated, so leave a comment if you’ve got advice.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

bonus features: opening the eaton centre

This post offers supplementary material for an article I recently wrote for Torontoist, which you should read before diving into this post.


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Globe and Mail, June 21, 1974. Click on image for larger version.
Based on the following description published in the Star in late 1972, the Eaton Centre replaced what was then a barren stretch of Dundas Street.

The south side of Dundas between Bay and Yonge at present offers one of the more dismal views downtown. Two Italian restaurants are the only bright spots on a block made up chiefly of parking lots and a rent-a-car lot and garage. The vista through the parking lots is of Eaton's drab box-like warehouses. 

The same article mentioned an interesting land trade that didn't happen, which some people might interpret as an early 1970s example of "the war on the car" and definitely indicates the regular tension between the city and Metro levels of government. Parkland that was set aside near Trinity Square could have been somewhere else on the property...

The developers had originally offered the city a strip of land along Dundas, but the city rejected the proposal because this land would simply have been acquired by Metro Toronto (which controls Dundas St.) to widen Dundas to six lanes. Metro planners had called for the street widening to support the increased traffic Eaton Centre might be expected to generate; but the city objected, because a widened Dundas on the other side of Bay would have wiped out Chinatown.

(Chinatown moved west along Dundas to Spadina over the next few years, but that's another story.)

In a victory for the city, Metro reversed itself and Dundas will only be widened 14 feet along the Eaton Centre stretch, to provide one extra turning lane for cars entering the development's parking garage. On the insistence of Alderman John Sewell, the city also required Fairview to set its buildings back 10 feet from the street, so that the sidewalk can be widened.

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Globe and Mail, January 8, 1977.
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Globe and Mail, January 11, 1977.
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Globe and Mail, January 13, 1977. Click on image for larger version.


A sampling of the ads Eaton's published in the weeks leading up to the opening of their new flagship store. 

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Globe and Mail, January 15, 1977. Click on image for larger version.


A guide to the new Eaton's store, floor by floor. There would be some tinkering; the "Annex 7" floor opened in October 1977 to clear out items a la the old bargain store behind Old City Hall.  The space, which had been buying offices, was converted, as a store executive put it, into "an adventure area for bargain hunters" that included opportunity buys and scratch-and-dent items.

I'm not sure at what point 3 Below (which was located where the food court currently sits) closed. I don't recall ever going into it as a kid in the late 1970s/early 1980s (eager-beaver me would have wanted to visit every floor), and dimly recall signs indicating it was an employee-only area. 

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Globe and Mail, February 9, 1977. Click on image for larger version.


A shot inside the mall published on the eve of its opening.

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Toronto Sun, February 9, 1977. Click on image for larger version.


The next series of images are a 12-page advertising supplement published in the Star two days before the grand opening. For ease of reading, I've merged the diagrams which were pages 6 and 7 of the original version.


star 1977-02-08 opening supplement p1

star 1977-02-08 opening supplement p2 credits for who built the store

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star 1977-02-08 opening supplement p6-7

star 1977-02-08 opening supplement p8 great pic headline

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Toronto Star, February 8, 1977. Click on images for larger versions.
I compared the opening day store listing with a current directory, and found seven retail/service brands that are still in the mall, though not all of them have been present at all times since 1977. They are A&W, Birks, Brown’s, Le Chateau, Shoppers Drug Mart, TD, and Town Shoes.

Additional material from the October 14, 1977 edition of the Globe and Mail, and the November 24, 1972 edition of the Toronto Star.