Cindy Overmyer

Title

Cindy Overmyer

Description

Cindy Overmyer was 12 in July 1967 when she and her family came home from a vacation. She remembers going to the store to buy supplies but seeing empty shelves and the feeling around the city.

Publisher

Detroit Historical Society

Date

08/09/2016

Rights

Detroit Historical Society, Detroit, MI

Format

Text

Language

en-US

Type

Written Story

Text

My memories of the Detroit Riot (which is what my family always called it):

We were driving home from visiting my grandparents on their farm in Northwest Ohio - I was 12 and had been staying with them on the farm since school let out in June. Dad chose to drive the "scenic route" back along US 12 through Saline, then we got on 94 east to connect eventually to the Southfield Freeway to get back home to Birmingham. We hit the freeways in downtown Detroit at about 11:30 pm Sunday night , the first night of the riot. Having been in rural Ohio the previous few days, neither Mom or Dad had heard anything about it at all. Dad, who lived in Detroit in the late 50's & early 60's before he and my Mom got married and had plenty of experience driving around the city at night, couldn't figure out #1: why there was absolutely no traffic on the road (we were about the only car out there) and #2: why were there so many police cars (with lights flashing) passing us and zipping around at pretty high speed. Both Mom and Dad were very worried; being 12 I didn't thnk anything of it.

Next morning, however, Mom woke me up very early and said "Come on, we have to get some groceries in the house right away. Something serious is happening downtown in the city." We lived at the time right near the A &P grocery store at 15 Mile and Adams (the store was two blocks down our street) and we zipped over there within 1 hour of the store opening - and found the entire store completely sold out of food at 10:30 in the morning. The only things left on the shelves were things like charcoal lighter fluid, all the booze and household cleaning products: I guess there was a ban on selling that stuff. That really made an impression on me, seeing that store completely empty. And Mom couldn't get a straight story out of anyone about when the next deliveries of food could come in (probably because all the distribution centers were downtown) and the two managers sounded scared.

Next, we went to get gas in the car and found that you couldn't top off the tank, you couldn't buy gas in a can to fill your lawnmower, and the stations were closing at 2:30 pm. By the time we got back home, WJR was talking " 7:00 curfew across the entire Detroit Metro area" and what little news J.P McCarthy could tell his listeners wasn't good. From Monday night on, I'm pretty sure there was a news blackout of sorts in the area because our relatives started calling Mom from Ohio and Lansing wondering what the heck was going on and there wasn't much Mom could tell them. The T.V. news blackout could also have stemmed from the fact that all 3 networks still broadcasted from studios downtown at the time (WXYZ hadn't moved to Southfield yet) and maybe folks just couldn't get there to man the stations. But I think (and my memory is sketchy on this) that by Wednesday, when President Johnson sent in the troops in the tanks and the city was under martial law, most local media coverage ceased.. I don't remember seeing that famous film footage of the 101st Airborne patrolling along the JL Hudson's display windows or the National Guard rolling down Woodward in tanks until LONG after the event. I do remember the Detroit News and the Free Press didn't publish for a couple of days, which felt really strange.

I also remember LOADS of rumors spreading around: every neighbor my parents talked to (and their kids, my friends, as we spoke among ourselves) had heard that "tanks were rolling through Birmingham" or "There's a sympathy riot in Pontiac and we're right down Woodward from them!" and other such things. Our next door neighbor was a designer for GM and was supposed to work at the New Center headquarters that week (he usually worked out of the Tech Center in Warren) but he didn't go to work at all. And my Dad, who had lived downtown over by Wayne State for years and loved the city, was really upset. Even though we were nowhere near any danger, everyone seemed scared - really scared. It felt like nothing would ever be the same again.

Last but not least (and this was a big deal to me as a 12 year old getting ready to become a teenager next year:-), the #1 rock song that summer on the charts, and one of my favorite songs ever, was Light My Fire by the Doors and both CKLW and Keener 13 were forbidden to play it!!

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Email

Submitter's Name

Cindy Overmyer

Submission Date

08/08/2016

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Citation

“Cindy Overmyer,” Detroit 1967 Online Archive, accessed December 6, 2019, http://detroit1967.detroithistorical.org/items/show/349.

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