Saturday, January 15, 2011

A Few Thoughts About the Riot

August 1967
  Last week’s tragic rioting and destruction in Detroit proved at least one thing— that people can adjust to an emergency if they need to. Rochester area people seemed to accept quite readily the curfew regulations and little grumbling was heard. But what inconveniences we had were absolutely nothing compared with the anxieties and fears that our law-abiding neighbors in Detroit had to endure.
  What perplexed many suburbanites was the regulation prohibiting the carrying away of gasoline from filling stations in containers. Since it takes gasoline to run power lawn mowers, it was a perfect opportunity for us husbands to put off the mowing chore by advising the wife that we were out of gas.
  The regulation hit home Thursday at The Clarion too. A few times a week we send a boy to a filling station to buy two gallons of gasoline to wash off the presses at the end of each press run. As we suspected, they wouldn’t sell him any. So we had to do what any determined person would do (even those bent on manufacturing Molotov cocktails), we bought a piece of hose and siphoned gasoline from the company truck. I’m advised by our publisher/press operator that while today’s gasoline makers may claim a lot of wonderful new additives and octane, they sure haven’t improved the taste any.
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  IT WAS NO EASY task to keep up with the curfew. It was up to local officials to determine if their own political subdivision should remain with the curfew or not. Things began to get snarled Thursday when Governor George Romney announced that it was being lifted in Detroit. By late afternoon, the City of Rochester and many other cities followed suit. But because of the throng of sight-seers who jammed the devastated areas of Detroit in the early evening, the curfew was imposed again. By then it was too late for Rochester to change back.
  On Friday night I took a swing trip leaving from Avon Township where there was a curfew into Rochester where there was none. Then it was back into the township again with its curfew and into Troy where there was none, stopped short of Birmingham where there was a curfew and back up to Avon township where there was none. If the curfew had been enforced anywhere along the way, I likely would have needed a good lawyer.
  Gawking at the ruins of Detroit continued to be a diversion over the weekend for many thousands of people. There were reports that cars were bumper-to-bumper. Instead of packing up the car for a visit to the beach or picnic grounds on a nice summer weekend, the sight-seers packed up their kids and headed for Detroit— making it an attraction akin to Disneyland.
  One can only wonder what lessons these families took home with them.