Mary Catherine Hustoles, August 15th, 2015
LW: Today is August 15, 2015. This is the interview of Mary Catherine Hustoles by Lily Wilson. We are in Detroit, Michigan at the Dossin Great Lakes Museum. This interview is for the Detroit 1967 Oral History Project and the Detroit Historical Society. Mary Catherine, can you start by telling me where and when you were born.
MH: I was born in Evanston, Illinois in 1929.
LW: Okay. And when did you move to Detroit?
MH: In 1953.
LW: And what brought your family here?
MH: My husband’s job.
LW: Your husband’s job, okay.
MH: Yes, that was in the good old days when the man was in control.
LW: Oh, okay. And where did your husband work?
MH: He worked for the City of Detroit Planning Commission.
LW: And his name?
MH: Edward Joseph Hustoles.
LW: And tell me about what you were doing in July of 1967.
MH: I was home while my husband and my children were at the Detroit baseball game.
LW: Okay, at Tiger Stadium?
MH: At Tiger Stadium. They were on their way home and they found out that there was something going on. Really didn’t know what it was but then realized that it was a riot.
MH: And had to be something big. Ed thought at first it was a fire, a huge fire or whatever and it turned out that it was the riot. The next day I went and heard that the devastation that was going on around 12th Street and 14th Street and I said to my son, “Go downstairs and collect half of everything that’s in our cellar,” which was canned goods.
MH: And he did. He took them and put them in the car and took them down to our church, which was on the corner of Mansfield and Penbrook. It was called Immaculate Heart of Mary Church and it was a receiving center for the suburbanites to bring foods and stuff into. He came back home and said, “Mom you’ve got to get down there. It’s chaos. They don’t know what they’re doing so you’ve got to help.” So I did. I got dressed and I went down. Our assistant pastor was there and his name was Daniel Murphy and he said, “Mary Catherine, they can’t get trucks out here to take in—“
Can we stop?
[Break in recording]
Father Dan Murphy said to me, “If we can take your station wagon,” which it was one of those big, nine-passenger station wagons, “and fill it with food, we can take it down there because they can’t get trucks here to take the food down there.” And I said, “Sure Father.” So he and I went with a loaded van all the way down. We took Grand River down and I can remember that we had to have the communication radio station on to let you know where there was shooting going and when to avoid those areas. We worked our way down Grand River to what is called St. Leo’s Church and now is called St. Charles Lwanga for a drop-off center. Dropped off the food and then came back home. The rest of that week I went down at least twice a day if not once or twice a day for the whole week into different churches in the area. Primarily because, then again it was a Catholic church so it was Catholic churches that we were going to but then at the end we were ending up with Baptist churches and that sort of thing and I cannot remember the names of any of them but I did do a dry run the other day just to see St. Leo’s to see if it was still standing –
LW: Is it?
MH: And it is.
MH: And it was beautiful to see it. And they do have a food center that they’re doing. A pantry, what do they call them?
LW: Soup Kitchen?
MH: Soup kitchen. And they have a day care center for the group.
LW: Oh, wonderful.
MH: So that was nice to see. It was not nice to see Grand River as it is today. I could count on two hands the number of buildings that were open from Southfield all the way down to 15th Street so that was sad. Getting back to my story, on Friday they told us that that would be the last day that we would be doing anything. That particular day, coming up the driveway there was a car with two men in it from Ohio and they stopped me and this was pretty much at the end of the day and they said, “Tell me, where can we drop off this food?” And I said, “What have you got?” He said, “Well, what we did was we went to the store and we loaded up with cases of canned goods and it’s all here.” I said, “It would be great if you could take it right down to where it had to be delivered rather than us unpacking it and packing it again,” and to think that these two boys, out of their own pockets filled up their car and brought food to the city.
[Cell Phone rings]
On Saturday of that week, Father Cunningham had us all meet at Blessed Sacrament Cathedral.
LW: On Woodward?
MH: On Woodward. We had round tables and there were two from the suburbs that were gathering food, two from the site that was collecting the food, and two from the inner-city so that there was a group discussion at each table that many people at it. After that, there was a representative from every table that went up and spoke and said what did they feel what came out of this. What did we learn and it was in learning that we heard devastating stories of people that were in desperate need and embarrassed and afraid to come out and it was an opening of hearts and doors at that time. When that happened, after that, that next year, Father Cunningham started Focus Hope and that was the beginning of Focus Hope in 1968.
LW: What was your home address at that time?
MH: I’ve got to think.
EH: 18627 Riverson.
MH: No, we weren’t on Riverson.
EH: Then we were 20274 –
MH: Yeah, 20274 Mansfield.
LW: What neighborhood is that in?
MH: That’s between 8 Mile and 7 Mile between Southfield and Greenfield.
[Cell phone rings]
LW: Okay. And what was that neighborhood like at the time? I just want to get a sense of it.
MH: It was a pristine neighborhood. We were in a two-story building. We had three bedrooms. A bath and a half, living room, dining room, kitchen. And that whole block, well our whole block was, it was interesting cause on our side of the street we’re all Catholics and the Catholic church was right on the corner of Mansfield and Penbrook. On the other side of the street was all Jewish families and so there was maybe one or two children on that side. On this side we had nine next door, six next door to that, four next door to that, seven on the one end, and eight on the other, and we had four. So you think about the amount of kids that were there so it was a happy-go-lucky neighborhood. And the kids played with everybody.
LW: Wonderful. I wanted to talk about the collecting and sorting sites that you visited at the various churches throughout Detroit. What were the people there like that were helping because I imagine there was many people helping with this effort?
MH: Well, because I’m lily-white they came out immediately to my car and unloaded the car. I had no problem with that. The last church that I remember going to was a Baptist church and I had a hard time finding it. I was with my son and he was seventeen at the time and he was the last man I could find and he said, “Mother, you wouldn’t consider me a man because I was only seventeen,” but he did well [Laughter]. And we went up and down 12th Street trying to find an entrance to this church. People were standing in line on the outside of the fence - it was a fenced area – and finally got into the area, with my car, going through the people. I got out of the car and I said, “Tom, don’t you dare open the door. Don’t open the window. You just stay right here and wait until I come back,” because you could see the line was agitated, too, because of the fact that they were in such a long, long line. I walked all the way through that line into the church and immediately the gentleman that was in charge spotted me and came and brought guys. He called guys right away because they knew I was coming with baby clothes and baby food and that was the call for that area. When I got back out to the car, my son had the window dropped and there was a woman pounding on the door saying, “I need baby clothes. I need food. I have twins,” and I came up behind and I said, “I’m sorry,” I said, “but you’re just going to have to wait with the rest of the people in line and we will get this in there.”
MH: And so that was emptied. Also, in that trip coming down 12th Street, 12th Street at the time was a lot of commercialism. A lot of little stores, a lot of Mom and Pop stores along the line and the one store I remember so well was a Mom and Pop grocery store and they had a card table out in the front and they had a cash register sitting on it and they were selling milk and they had potatoes and they had bread and they had a few staples that they were selling from not the burned out store. The store again it was all burned out. Two doors down was the shoe store and all there was was the shelves and the shoeboxes. Everything, the roof was gone, the walls were gone and that was down. As we were driving up, and that was northbound 12th is Rosa Parks now. As we were driving up, the National Guard pulled up with their guns and what. That was when it was really an eye opener for me to realize just how much was going on and what kind of devastation there was at the time.
LW: And you were at the Baptist church trying to get -
MH: Food into the place.
LW: Baby clothes and food.
LW: When you were at the various sorting sites were things being dropped off or were they coming to your home? I’m sorry I want to get that clear.
MH: No, the stuff was coming in from the suburbs to our church.
LW: To the church at Mansfield and Penbrook?
MH: At Mansfield and Penbrook and they could not get that stuff down by truck at that time and I did it by station wagon and literally I could not see out of the back of the car –
LW: Cause there was too much stuff?
MH: - I had it right to the ceiling. They packed as much as they could into the van and I did not go alone. I always had a man in the car with me.
LW: And did you carry a gun with you?
LW: No. Okay.
MH: And to this day, I don’t carry a gun.
LW: A lot of people did during that time -
MH: Oh sure, sure.
LW: - and that’s what we’re leaning so I wanted to ask that.
LW: What was the name of your church again?
MH: The Immaculate Heart of Mary, which no longer exists.
LW: And at your church, which was a Catholic church, was there at least during that time, was there a mix of races, black and white, helping sort all of this stuff?
MH: No, no. But we did have in the church probably at that time we had two members of the church that were African American and that was the start. And just to add to this IHM was the church that had the funeral for Iola [Viola] Liuzzo in, I want to say that was 40 years ago. The one that was, her funeral was there and Martin Luther King was at that funeral along with Hubert Humphrey.
LW: Okay, wow. And Iola? What was?
MH: Liuzzo. I think it’s L-I-Z-Z-O-A, is it? Edward, do you know?
MH: We can check on that.
LW: Oh sure that’s easy to fact check. So your church was a significant place in and of itself for various reasons.
MH: Our pastor was the first one that accepted the funeral at that church.
LW: Wow, okay.
MH: She was denied because she was white and she had been down in Selma. She’s the one that was murdered in Selma.
LW: I see, okay, got it.
MH: And right now, in fact I think it was last Saturday, they dedicated the park again to her and they have a big memorial plaque up to her in the park and that’s around Penbrook and Mansfield in that area.
LW: Now –
MH: We’d have to look that up, too.
LW: Where was all the food, you obviously had your son clean out part of your cellar.
LW: You contributed what you could.
LW: And you mentioned the young men driving up from Ohio. Who else was donating food?
MH: People from the suburbs were driving it in. We were announced over the radio that we were a location center to be dropped off. We were a drop-off a point. And so that’s how the food came to us and that’s how the boys heard from Ohio that there’s a church on Penbrook and Mansfield that’s accepting donations.
LW: About how many churches were all those good distributed to? If you just had to estimate.
MH: At least five, six.
LW: And multiple times a week you were going to them.
MH: Right, right, right.
LW: And that was for a week, about five days.
MH: Right. Exactly five days.
LW: During the rioting, Monday to Friday.
MH: Right. It stopped on Saturday.
LW: And in addition to people knocking on your windows and asking for the things that you had, were you ever harassed? Did you ever feel like your life is truly in danger while you were going throughout the city?
LW: Why do you think that is?
MH: I come from a background of my father, who was a very religious, just a little story about him.
MH: We had donated blood in Chicago for my sister who was dying.
MH: And when we came out there was drug addicts that had gone into the blood thing in Chicago on Card Street. It was a great big donation center. They had their arms up and when the media was over, they put it down and got their money and they ran cause they got paid for it. In addition to that, we were walking down the sidewalk on Card Street and a drunk came along to my father and he handed him money and I said, “Dad why would you give him the money? I mean Geez-oh, he’s only going to go drink it up.” He said, “I don’t know that. That might be the cup of coffee that’s going to save him.”
MH: And it’s been like that for me. I’ve seen that kind of work in my family and I just have faith. Faith that I’m okay.
LW: Yeah. That you were going to be okay doing something good.
LW: You were going to be protected. Okay. So, in addition to baby clothes, baby food, and general provisions, what other kinds of things were being donated? Anything unusual that you saw come in?
MH: There was furniture.
MH: There was little pieces of furniture that came. But no, it was primarily canned goods and food that was going down there because there wasn’t anything for them.
LW: Sure, the grocery stores were –
LW: Out. Okay.
MH: And they didn’t have that many grocery stores in the area.
LW: Now, most of the people, all of the churches, let’s say five churches that you were dropping off these donations to, where they predominately black people waiting in line?
LW: Any white people at all?
MH: Not that I recall.
LW: Not that you recall. Cause you said you stood out when you got there.
LW: And these were all churches, Catholic and then you mentioned the Baptist church, up and down the 12th Street area?
MH: In that Grand River, 15, that one church was at 15th and Grand River and the other one was on 12th. I really can’t recall all of the places that we went. You just went where you were told to go you went.
LW: What in addition to seeing some of the buildings that had been looted and burned, like you mentioned the shoe store and the Mom and Pop store, what other types of devastation did you see? Did you witness any violence?
MH: No, I did not, but afterwards, after the riot was over with, you know they talked about Detroit burning, the whole city burning, well, it was only a small area, really, relatively when you think about all the houses that we had in the city of Detroit. I’m losing my train.
LW: In terms of
MH: Oh, after, when I had relatives come in, I would deliberately take them down and show them the area that it was just from here to here to here. Saying from here to here you can’t see it [laughs] but from 14th Street and 12th Street and the north and south streets and Pingree was the east street to go down because there were just the chimney stacks and that’s all you saw. The houses were burned out and that was an eye opener right then and there to see that. But in taking them in the area, we had worse areas on the east side of Detroit, I mean, they weren’t devastated by the riot.
LW: Were you ever stopped by police fire or National Guard or Army when you were driving through these areas?
MH: No, but I saw them. I saw National Guard, I saw the fire, I saw the police.
LW: No one ever stopped you and said you can’t go down this street?
MH: I was never stopped. And I was, what? 35 years old? A woman. What is she doing in this area?
MH: I mean, he almost had a heart attack when he found out what I had done because he was out of town and didn’t know that I was -
LW: So your husband didn’t know that you had been going in and out of the city those five days or going to the area for those five days?
EH: Well, at the beginning but I called [unintelligable] and I said, “Tell Mom to stay home. You know, just stay in. It’ll take care of itself and we’re away from it at night.” Younger son said, “Mom’s downtown driving in food.”
[LW laughs – unintelligible]
LW: Mom didn’t stay home.
EH: Yeah, Mom not only didn’t stay in, she was in the middle of the riots back and forth.
MH: And my daughter Marybeth was probably thirteen at the time, got the neighbor child next door and they went door to door trying to pick up canned goods to take down there and they were disappointed that they only got one can of soup.
LW: But you feel as a mom during that time, part of what drove you to do this, you mentioned that your dad had sort of set a precedent for being philanthropic, do you think that as a mom you were thinking in the back of your mind I want my children to see how to behave in these times of crises?
MH: They saw it? [laughs]
LW: So maybe long term, that was the effect, but at the time you were just thinking –
MH: I was more concerned about getting help to the people that needed help.
LW: Now, how many hours would you say you’d be at one of these things, these churches?
MH: You know, I don’t remember time element but I could not do more than two trips a day because there was a curfew on. We weren’t allowed on the road after six o’clock so whatever you did, you had to be there and back again. So if you started out early in the morning enough you could get the car loaded but we had to have enough people to load the car to do it and then bring it back and empty it and bring it back. It was a six hour day for me, probably.
LW: How did you feel when you came home?
MH: Exhausted. Emotionally, physically, and mentally.
LW: What do you think made it emotionally exhausting?
MH: Seeing the devastation and the want, the need.
LW: Do you think that that want and need existed before the rioting and the looting had taken place?
LW: In what way?
MH: Only with hearing the stories of what happened at that seminar whatever you want to call it at the end. To have them pour out their hearts and to deny yourself when you needed help and were too embarrassed to ask for help. That’s got to be heart rendering.
LW: So the forum that you held, that you were part of at the –
MH: The Church.
LW: The Immaculate, um, I’m sorry.
MH: Blessed Sacrament.
LW: Most Blessed Sacrament on Woodward, the big archdiocese, right? Tell me about the people that were coming there. Tell me a little bit more. There were black and white people? Was it only Catholics?
MH: No, it was a variety of everything and it definitely was a mixture of black and white people. Naturally, the suburbanites definitely were white. The collection centers were mixed but in our particular case we were white from our church that had gone down there and the people that were there that lived in the area, naturally, were African American.
LW: So even at that time it was an African American –
MH: Shortly, well, I don’t say shortly thereafter but that’s when the realtors came in and did a hold back on housing. If you wanted to look for a house in Detroit they’d be, “No no, you don’t want to go there, you want to go out in the suburbs.” Redlining is what they called it.
LW: And blockbusting where a black family –
MH: Yeah, that started. We were in that particular house that we were in on Mansfield, we were in that house for twenty-five years and we were the last white family to move out.
LW: In what year?
LW: So you stayed significantly –
LW: You stayed twenty years after the rioting.
MH: Yeah, I had even formed a block club for the area where each family donated money, like seven dollars a year, to have the streets plowed and was responsible for that and I had been president of that for ten years. But they continued on with it and they continue on today with that and that I’m proud of.
LW: Wow, that’s wonderful. Were there –
LW: When you were at the sites, were there black volunteers helping sort the food?
LW: There were?
LW: So what was that experience like because the majority of the people that were coming to get the donated goods were black but there was also black volunteers? Were they from the suburbs?
MH: No, they were from the area. At the churches you’re talking about that had received the food?
LW: Yeah, all the various churches that had received the food, exactly.
MH: Yeah, they were working together like a family.
LW: What were some of the things that people talked about going back to Most Blessed Sacrament and the forum after the riots that you participated in. What were some of the things that people said that they learned?
MH: That’s difficult.
LW: What did you learn? What did you say that you learned?
MH: How destitute people were. And that was the big thing for me and that these were families that had houses just like us. They were human beings that needed help.
LW: After the riots or before?
MH: Well, before the riots and after the riots.
LW: What were some of the people saying about, you mentioned the destitution, people being in need, people being in want. What did some of those people say about what –
MH: No. Nothing comes to me that I remember. I just wish we had had cell phones and the opportunity to tape things in the time when it was happening.
MH: Which we have that ability now.
LW: Right, which is why we’re doing that now, fifty years later. So you became aware of obviously the need and want during that week was great, and you were aware that there was need and want during those five days which was not really a surprise if things were being burned down, there was no grocery stores open or electricity. But before that time, were you surprised to learn, right, so after the riots but learning about beforehand, were you surprised to learn about some of the want and need that these people shared?
MH: I didn’t realize that people could be so destitute.
LW: So were they destitute because of lack of jobs? Because they couldn’t get good housing? What were the types of things that fell under the category of being destitute?
MH: I think healthcare was one of the big things.
LW: Okay, healthcare.
MH: And then the food thing was the other thing. Housing, definitely.
MH: And jobs, for sure, there were so many low paying jobs.
LW: And a lot of these folks that came to Most Blessed Sacrament, they were living in the areas that had been damaged during July of 67?
MH: Yes, it was quite a collection of people. I didn’t know what was going to happen that day. I just knew that they were calling a meeting –
LW: I see
MH: - and we all went down and did our thing.
LW: Just a little bit about Focus Hope, because it sounds like, and correct me if I’m wrong, Focus Hope kind of came out of this effort that you were part of.
LW: So tell me a little bit about that. How did that sort of come into being after July of ‘67?
MH: Father Cunningham realized, and it was because of this meeting and of the riot, that they needed to provide young people with jobs. They needed to provide them with education. They needed to provide food in the area and they really have built up that area. I don’t know if you know anything about Focus Hope but it has done a tremendous job and I would advise anybody that’s able to take a tour of Focus Hope to take advantage of it and see just what has been accomplished today of what they’re doing. It’s a graduate school that they have coming out of Focus Hope and some of the kids that are interviewed today owe Focus Hope their life because they got their stuff from there.
LW: So it started off as sort of a week of food donations and clothing donations.
MH: And then building up. He has an assistant, a lady and I cannot remember –
ED: Desantis. Desantis. D-E-S-A-N-T-I-S.
MH: That’s her name.
MH: Both of them have passed away but she was really a forerunner from the suburbs of coming in and working with him.
LW: With Father Cunningham?
MH: With Father Cunningham.
LW: Is it still a Catholic-based organization?
MH: No, it’s non-denominational.
LW: Okay, so it is non-denominational. I thought so.
MH: I’m pretty sure it’s non-denominational
EH: Right from the start.
MH: Right, that’s what he wanted.
LW: Wonderful, okay.
MH: And, as I say, both of them have passed away and not too long ago.
LW: Just to sort of wrap up, in addition to learning about the way that other people were maybe struggling, what impact do you think ‘67 had on you? You see that from that time sprang for this Focus Hope, which is obviously a positive thing for most people that have participated in it. What impact did it have on you, though, personally?
MH: What impact did it have on me?
EH: What did you do this week?
MH: I have been – we live in a high rise. Thirty-three story building.
LW: You live in Detroit?
MH: In Southfield.
LW: In Southfield. I saw your address –
MH: And in that building there are a handful of wealthy people and also in between. They have no way of getting rid of this years’ designer clothes to make room for next years’ designer clothes and stuff.
MH: They might throw them out, they throw them my way so I have the opportunity to have a collection site in the building and I take used and slightly used furniture, clothes, little pieces and walk down to COTS which is the Coalition on Temporary Housing [Shelter]. In addition to that, I also go to Crossroads. And Crossroads is a place where they have a chart on every client that comes in and does a background check, the whole thing with them and teach them computers and do that and then send them for job interviews like the one time I had a bunch of tuxedos. What do you do with tuxedos?
LW: From a wedding or something?
MH: They donated them. I mean, the guy could have been a musician and he wore a tuxedo.
LW: The people in your building.
MH: Yeah, so I get the tuxedo and what am I going to do with these? And I took them down to Crossroads and they said we have waiters that need tuxedos.
MH: So it’s an eye opener for a lot of things when you go into those sites find out what do they really need? This week I just went with my husband—I got him to go with me for a change—to Peterborough for a Coalition place and next door is a nursery school and she opened up the door and asked if she could help and I said, “Well, you can have these flowers if you want.” I had some artificial flowers that somebody can use in their house when they’re set out in their own apartments and want that they have a little something. And she said, “No but I’ll take them for you and I’ll take them down.” And I said, “Just what do you do here,” and I said, “I just donated a box of a hundred children’s toothbrushes and you probably could—“ and she said, “Well, no, not really.” She said, “I only take from six months to two and a half year olds and these are the children of the parents that live in the hotel.”
LW: What hotel?
MH: The Coalition. COTS.
LW: What do you mean, COTS?
MH: They live in COTS and they go to their job and they leave their kids here. Now the older kids go to another place and she named the building and I don’t know what it was. She said, “But I’ll see that they get them because my little ones wouldn’t know what to do with them or what.” So she said she would send them to the three-year-olds to six-year-olds and so everything tied in right then and there with just that few words of conversation with her to know what they can use. I said, “Is there anything you can use?” And she said, “Gently used toys for infants, small. So you have to think about it when you do it.” So when I get this stuff through the building, I have to think a couple times, where am I going take this now? But that’s what has accomplished from – and then also, I have volunteered my time over at Providence Hospital. I was there for the opening day of the hospital in 1965 and became president of that organization.
LW: Of the volunteer organization? Okay.
MH: And that was in 1972 that I was president.
LW: So after ‘67 or around that time you started—?
MH: Well, I was volunteering when the riot was going on.
LW: Where were you volunteering?
MH: At Providence Hospital.
LW: Okay, that’s right, 65. So you already –
MH: I had my foot in the door.
LW: You had your foot in the door and you mentioned that your son as soon as he saw the want and the need, he thought immediately, Well, my mom would be good at doing this so obviously you had set a precedent at that point and then from there you had a life-long dedication to volunteering.
MH: Right, yeah, I had a paying job and you can consider it volunteering, I always did, for ten years I was the director for a Food and Friendship program that the meals were brought to that church that we’re talking about and served seniors and in that time we had them from nine o’clock until two o’clock. Wayne State provided us with teachers for it, history, art work, and that sort of thing and it was my responsibility to keep that going even when they ate their dinner and so I had that for ten years and I was paid. And my pay was, this was interesting because I started out at $2.50 and ten years later when I quit, I was at $3.05 and I had to pay my own social security, double, because I was under contract with the city of Detroit. And I don’t even know if Food and Friendship is still going on or not but that kind of paid. I actually put the money away to pay for my income tax.
LW: Okay. You broke even.
LW: Well, I want to thank you for taking the time to share this with us, and your work.
MH: Very good. I felt this important for people to know just exactly, maybe from my point of view, what went on.
MH: I talked, well, you can shut this off if you want.
LW: Okay, alright.