Rosalind Naebers, February 7th, 2017
WW: Hello. Today is February 7, 2017. My name is William Winkel. This interview is for the Detroit Historical Society's Detroit '67 Oral History Project, and I'm in Monroe, Michigan. And I'm sitting down with—
RN: Rosalind Naebers.
WW: Thank you so much for sitting down with me today. Would you like to share your story?
RN: Yes. Okay. During the riots, I was studying at Wayne State, so I was living up Woodward, at where Blessed Sacrament Cathedral is, on Woodward and probably Boston Boulevard, in that area. And there was a group of sisters there. The Sunday morning of the riots, we were not aware that that was going on. And even the pastor, who was Bishop Walter Shaner, who is now deceased, he was not aware, and he was a member of the National Guard, and he, after mass, said, "Well, bye bye, I won't see you for two weeks, I'm going up to Grayling for my two weeks of National Guard duty, so bye bye."
The next day he was back. And there were tanks and troops coming down Woodward at that point. And during this time, while he was there, he would bring some guys to the rectory, to the priest house, and give them a good meal. So I put that in, because I don't think many people would realize, you know, the National Guard bit, on a human side.
Okay, that's there. Some of the sisters that were staying with me volunteered to work at Henry Ford Hospital, in the, probably, emergency room, and they did mostly records, stuff like that. I'm not very good at stuff like that, so I stayed home, and there was one of the sisters who was sick. So I took care of her and also I cooked supper, and there was about one or two other sisters that stayed there. And it was sort of eerie, because you really couldn't do much, all right. That's all the little things that happened.
I don't kow if anybody else told you, there was a curfew. And one night, it was fifteen minutes before the curfew, we were outside. And we were still in the long habits at that point. And a helicopter hovered up above until we got inside. We still had fifteen minutes! Good grief. [laughter].
But at night we could hear the machine guns. We didn't see action, but we could hear a lot of action. And I thought I weathered it all pretty good and in— probably was October, I went back to where I taught, which was at the corner of Evergreen and Ford Road, and there was a whole line of churches along there. And one of the churches, a community church, was having a festival, and they had helicopter rides. You know, they talk about delayed action. I was a mess, until those helicopters stopped. I'm very emotional, so don't worry about this. But anyhow, that whole Saturday afternoon, I could not concentrate on anything. It was just the sound of helicopters. Now, if it affected me that way, what about some of the people that were in the midst of the action?
I know some of the other sisters will say they saw looting going on and everything like that. And I didn't have any of that. And some of the people said that the store owners went to the sisters to come and take all their stuff and hide them in the convent basements. You know, like TVs and things like that, that were being stolen. So some people, some of the convents were used for that. So we missed, of course, about— Wednesday or Thursday we went back to school, I don't know. But Wayne State closed, because they were in the middle of it, and of course, that would affect where I was studying.
So it wasn't too bad, but I'm glad the experience was over. And my mother lived sort of near Van Dyke and Mack, in that area, and she did not feel very safe, and she and my brothers went and stayed with my sister who lived a block away from St. John's Hospital. And then after— she had been talking about moving— but after the riots she did move and she said, "I just feel safer." And in fact, she moved just two or three blocks away from my sister, in that area.
But I think a lot of people did decide to move to other parts of the city that they considered safer.
WW: Did it change the way you looked at the city?
RN: No, I don't think so. No. Because I grew up there, and I always felt very safe there. And I lived at various places in the city when I taught, too, so, how much of the riots affected me? It wasn't. But I would say people who lived near Fourteenth Street, where they really saw the looting and heard more, and saw more of the shooting. We just heard it at night, because we could hear the helicopters and the shooting at night. But when we went back to Wayne State, it was almost a really funny feeling to go down Woodward, and then going to class and some of the people in the class had been really right on top of all the action, so— But I always felt pretty safe.
WW: Is there anything else you'd like to add today?
RN: Let's see. I tried to make notes. I think I covered about everything.
WW: Thanks so much for sitting down with me.
RN: You're welcome.