Marsha Greene, August 7th, 2015

Title

Marsha Greene, August 7th, 2015

Description

Marsha Greene discusses growing up in Detroit, first on the east side on Vernor Avenue, later on the west side in three different neighborhoods. She discussed highlights of her childhood including family, friends, and neighbors as well as her favorite hamburger spot and penny candy store. On a more serious note, she recalls the violence that led her to walk away from Mackenzie High School, earn a GED, and enroll at Wayne County Community College. She recounts her parents’ fear of taking their naturally outspoken children to visit the Deep South. In the final section of this interview she discusses the terrifying night during the unrest in 1967 when the apartment building where she was visiting her cousin’s family was laced by bullets, and she recounts the violence they witnessed that night and the next morning.

Publisher

Detroit Historical Society

Date

05/23/2016

Rights

Detroit Historical Society, Detroit, Mi

Format

WAV

Language

en-US

Video

Narrator/Interviewee's Name

Marsha Greene

Brief Biography

Marsha Greene was born in Detroit in January 1959. She grew up in Detroit first on the east side and later on the west side. She attended Mackenzie High School and then Wayne County Community College.

Interviewer's Name

Noah Levinson

Interview Place

Detroit Historical Museum, Detroit, MI

Date

09/07/2015

Interview Length

00:50:55

Transcriptionist

Mark Kwicinski

Transcription Date

01/15/16

Transcription

NL: Today is August 7, 2015. This is the interview of Marsha Greene by Noah Levinson.  We are at the Detroit Historical Museum on Woodward in Detroit, Michigan. This interview is for the Detroit Historical Society and the Detroit 1967 Oral History Project. Marsha, could you first tell me where and when were you born?

MG: I was born in Detroit, Michigan, in January of 1959.

NL:  And what part of the city do you remember first living in when you were growing up?

MG: What they called the “Black Bottom.”

NL: And could you tell me about the neighborhood?

MG: I don’t remember a whole lot about the “Black Bottom” but I remember like prior to us moving – I remember the day we moved – and then the day we moved onto Vernor. And from the time we moved on Vernor up to the present that’s my memory.

NL: Okay, so tell me about the neighborhood at Vernor. Where was it and when did you move there?

MG:  It was on Vernor and Mount Claire, and we moved there –I think I was three years old when we moved there. And it was fun, it was fun. We moved into an apartment building and the neighbors was really nice. It was like one big family unit. The kids all played together, you know. We had pets, and it was really fun. And it was a clean area. There was a little store across the street. I can’t remember the name of that store but it was a little store right on the corner across the street from where we stayed and we would go over there and get our little penny candy and our little cookies and the owner, he was a really nice gentleman, I wish I could locate him today because I would like to tell him thank you. He was really nice to the kids. He would always tell them you know “no no no, tie your shoes, tie your shoes. You’re gonna fall.”  So those are memories that I remember during that period in that area. And it was nice, the apartment building sat on the corner and there was houses that sat behind us and everybody was just friendly, you  know you walked down the street and everybody is like “hi, how you doing. Hello, how you doing.” It was really friendly.

NL: Was it an integrated neighborhood?

MG:  Yes, at that point, at that time. There wasn’t a lot of white families in there when we moved. But there were on Mount Claire there were still a lot of families that lived in the homes over there. It was nice ‘cause one young lady, her name was Judy.  I remember playing with her. I would always try and ride my tricycle and she would always tell me “no, you’re doing it wrong, you’re doing it wrong.” And she would always try to help me, so, you know.

NL: So people really looked out for each other.

MG: They did, they did, at that time, yes.

NL:  Do you remember was your apartment building that you were in. Was that integrated?

MG: No, it wasn’t.

NL: And where were you living in July 1967?

MG: In that apartment, 10828 E. Vernor.

NL: How do you remember hearing about or first noticing the civil disturbance of 1967?

MG:  One day I walked – I came out of the dining room and I walked toward the back of the apartment where my mother’s room was and my mother was crying. I asked her why she crying and she said that someone had just killed President Kennedy, John F. Kennedy.  And I was like “okay”; and I didn’t understand that at that point, you know,  and then it was shortly after, and it seemed like it was days after, everything just went crazy you know, it just went crazy. There was people burning up buildings and businesses, and nobody was loving any more. Everything was mad, everybody was mad. And when you start off always seeing love and compassion, all of the sudden it becomes madness, it was not easy for a little kid to understand what was going on.

NL: What did you understand what was going on or what did you think you understood?

MG: That I didn’t understand it at first. I didn’t. I was like confused and I would always ask my big brother “why are they doing this” and “where are you going,” you know.  He said “everybody’s rioting, everybody’s breaking into buildings, and I’ma see what buildings are already open ‘cause I’m not breaking into no buildings ‘cause my mommy gonna git me.” So, I was like “but why are they doing that?” He said “because somebody killed Kennedy.” That’s all he would tell me. And you know I couldn’t… That was his logic, I’m not necessarily saying that was everybody’s logic, but that was his logic. But he was a pre-teen, so he was old enough to know what was going on. But I guess it confers [confirms] what he was gonna tell me.

NL: Do you remember were any of the lootings and the break-ins in your neighborhood on Vernor?

MG:  Yeah they broke in the store across the street.  And up Vernor like if you go…I don’t know if this was west or south. There were stores. There were stores on Mack, there were stores on Gratiot. And they burned up a lot of those. They burned them up, they broke in them. You know there were banks. They was burned up and broke in. But some of it didn’t look like it would’ve been a person that broke into the building because a lot of them had big holes in as if something shot it and opened it up. “Cause I was like “now, why are you doing that?” I was always a questionable little kid.

NL: Did the store that’s right across the street that you talked about a moment ago, did that one burn down or was it able to reopen later?

MG: He reopened it. He reopened it. A lot of people in the neighborhood kind of helped him, you know, board up windows and do stuff like that to get open, ‘cause he had been really good to everybody around there.

NL: Do you remember seeing police and National Guard?

MG: I remember seeing the National Guards. They used to early, early morning they used to march up and down the street and run or jog or whatever they call it early in the day.  And it would be a lot of them. And then late at night at 6 o’clock you saw them all the time they was driving and walking and running up and down the street because 6 o’clock was the curfew. So they were always outside at that point, and we saw them then but you know, you never thought nothing of it at that point. At that point I didn’t think nothing of it. I was like “ooh.” I thought it was nice, you know, I was seven years old.

NL: How long did you and your family stay in that neighborhood after the riots?

MG: I would probably say a month or so before we were able to move out of there. Our mother kept trying to find somewhere for us to go.

NL: So where did that end up being?

MG:  We ended up moving on the west side on Tuxedo off of Livernois.

NL: Is that Highland Park?

MG: That’s in Detroit.

NL: That’s in Detroit. And can you tell me about that neighborhood on Tuxedo?

MG: That neighborhood was a really nice neighborhood. We stayed in a two family flat. Next door there was a pastor and his wife and we joined their church and we went to church with them. The school was like three blocks away and all the kids on the street we play. There were – our neighborhood was – the street I stayed on we had a pastor right on next door to us on the right-hand side of us and up beneath us we had a family that had a disabled daughter and across the street from us we had a family that was – they were deaf but their son could speak, one of their children could speak, he could hear and speak. But the other child, I think the sister – he had a sister and a brother. So I think it was three children but only one of them had hearing and speech. And they stayed across the street from us. And then we had another family down the street, and … Further down the street there was little girl. I never saw her parents but I knew she wasn’t all black you know, and they stayed down the street, but this did – you know there was never no conflicts. Of course, the kids picked on each other but we all got out there we all played together. And it was really nice. And around the corner, ‘cause we stayed the second street off of, we was on the second block south of Elmhurst, and there was a police station that sat on the corner of Livernois and Elmhurst. And it seemed like we was always around when something tragic happened. This was during the time when Martin Luther King died. Someone --- they tried to blow up the police station. So the next day after we heard the big explosion they barricaded, you know they barricaded the police station, and the police station stands right to today.

NL: You brought up Martin Luther King. That was just barely a year after the riots.

MG: Right, because we were staying in that neighborhood. And once again, like I said, I’ve only seen my mother cry a couple times and that was the second time I’ve ever seen her cry.

NL: In addition to that, do you remember the reactions of your family and friends when that happens?

MG: Frustrated, hurt, you know, “why are they killing all the good ones?” You know, “why is that happening?” That was what I remember hearing a lot of.

NL: What did your parents do for work?

MG: My mom was a beautician, and my dad… I don’t remember exactly what my daddy was doing at that time. But I also had a stepfather. And my stepfather worked for Fords.

NL: What kind of work did he do there?

MG:  He was a … Well I know he was a union leader, and I don’t know, was he working on the line at that time? ‘Cause he worked there forever it seemed like. But I think maybe he might have been on the line at some point and then after a while he was no longer working the line, he was like supervising.

NL:  How long after you moved did you stay in the neighborhood at Tuxedo?

MG:  We stayed there five years, yeah we stayed there five years and then we moved on Wildemere, and that’s between Fenkell and the Lodge Freeway and that’s also in Detroit. And then we stayed there until my stepfather bought my mom a home and we moved on Littlefield and stayed there 40-something years.

NL: Little, where is that?

MG: Littlefield, and that’s in Detroit. That was West Chicago, Schaeffer, Plymouth area.

NL: Can you tell me about those neighborhoods too?

MG:  Wildemere was…It’s the neighborhood, you know. I went to school right across the expressway. Wildemere was just a neighborhood. I had friends over there, I had a lot of friends, and it hurt me to move because I was older so friendship meant friendship at that point.  But it was a nice neighborhood. There wasn’t no conflict.  But you know the damage that the riot had did had affected so many different areas. I know when Martin Luther King died they just tore up Twelfth and Fourteen. Fenkell was affected not majorly, not majorly, I mean there was a Frenchy’s hamburger place, was on the corner of Wildemere. I used to love to go up to Frenchy’s. Whenever my mom would say “okay, I’m giving you an allowance, you can go and spend this.” Most kids went to the candy store, I went to Frenchy’s. That was one of my most fondest memories. And then my brother had a bunch of friends and play baseball and football and stuff in the street, that’s when kids played in the street and played ball. And I would always wanna get out there and play too and they let me play for about a few minutes and then they make me go in and my mother would call me in, you know “you don’t need to be out there you’ll hurt yourself.” And I’m like, I’ m like “aaaah” but I remember that area was a joy to me because all the kids would interact. They were older, a little older, and I was still in elementary school. I hadn’t graduated yet from elementary school. But we were older and you know we got out on the streets and played and just had fun. We had the block club party, everybody just get together, block off the street and just have fun. We all get together and go out to the island and go out to the park, the whole street. We had a lot of fun on that street. But it was just a neighborhood. It was a mixed neighborhood, there was all kinds of families on there. But I don’t think we…there was no white families on Wildemere. We had a lot of them when we moved on Littlefield ‘cause the neighborhood was very mixed, when we moved on Wildemere – I mean not Wildemere I’m sorry, on Littlefield. It was very mixed, and it was beautiful. The people would come out and be like, “Hello, how ya doing? Good morning.” And you heard this all day. You walked up and down the street, someone greeted you. We were always taught to always greet anyone whose path we crossed. We was always told whether you like them or not you say hello, and you say good morning. And so we would always do it but to get it back, you know  it was like, “Wow, they said hi!” So it was really good. I loved it on Littlefield. Littlefield was a beautiful place to grow up on, a good area to grow up on.  But over the years like everything else in Detroit it started going down. But it didn’t do that until after about thirty years.

NL: Do you remember any instances of tension being in that integrated neighborhood of Littlefield, or just the friendly folks?

MG: No. It was just so friendly. And my mom had spoke on that a lot on that when we were coming up, how different Detroit was from Tennessee, because she came from Tennessee. You know, people speak to you. When she came here she was in high school., and in Tennessee, you couldn’t eye to eye anyone. Her teacher was white and so she automatically hold her head down. And so her teacher came to her and lift her chin up and told her “You don’t put your head down here.” She said it made her feel so good, because they didn’t have that growing up in Tennessee. I’m sentimental, so forgive me for the tears.

NL: That’s quite all right.

MG: But we didn’t encounter it. Certain times my father wanted to take us back home with him where he grew up at in Mississippi. My mother said no, no, because they grew up here. They’re verbal. They speak to everyone. No, I can’t have that. They’ll say something out of line to them and they’re liable to respond. It wouldn’t be negative, but we would respond, because we were taught to always respect people. So she was like no, so she would never let us go back to Mississippi, back to Deep South. We went to Tennessee every year because my stepdad was from Tennessee and my mother was from Tennessee.  So we would go back every year for the summer and spend a nice length of our summer in Tennessee.

NL: So she was worried, she thought that it might be dangerous?

MF: For us, in Mississippi, yes

NL: Not in Tennessee in parts of the South, just because of the different culture—

MG: Right. The fact that they still didn’t have – in the part of Mississippi that he was from they still wasn’t allowed to – the schools still weren’t integrated or anything. She had a problem with that. She knew that my sister was very feisty and my brother was very talkative. I was the quiet one. But she knew that if someone said something out of line to us or used the N-word to us, and we never heard that word or knew what it meant, you know we was going to be like “Why are you calling us that, that’s not our name.” So she was scared for that reason.

NL: Did you ever have any experience in Detroit or in the northern part of the U.S. where a white person felt disrespected if you talking to them eye to eye this like this?

MG: One time. We were walking down the street on Wildemere. We was living on Wildemere at this time, we was walking down Fenkell. Because there were white couples and families in the area just not on our street. And we was walking down the street, it was me, my sister, and two of my cousins and this lady and her daughter were walking toward us and the little girl, I guess she had never saw black people. And she says, she starts screaming “Mommy, Mommy, an N- Word.” And it just caught everybody off guard. My sister and one of my cousins were older than us, and their instant response was “oh my goodness … really? I don’t think it was “really” back then, it was something else, you know the slang conversation back then. And my sister was really all done with it. And I was shocked because like I said, we wasn’t raised on the N-word. And I’m asking her “what’s that?” You know, (unintelligible) me and my mom, “don’t you ever use that word” and I was like “okay.” But that was the only time I ever had that encounter, the only time.

NL: Did you have any inkling as to why your family was moving every several years growing up? Was that discussed with you and you r siblings?

MG: Yeah. Because my mother wanted to put us in a better area, she wanted us to be able to get better education, to move us up to a better area. When we left the East Side, we left the East Side because there was still lootering, and there was still a lot of things. People went from being friendly to being hateful, you know and then my mother was fearing for our lives. And then people in the building we had been staying in these years had started breaking into each other’s buildings. Then it was the drug scene. Drugs were being (unintelligible) used. So she was like “oh no no no, we gotta go, I can’t do this,” you know “I can’t be in here.” And one time someone broke into our apartment when we were in there. So that was enough for her. That was enough for my mom

NL: So as neighborhoods changed, you moved to safer areas.

MG: Yes, she took us out of there.

NL: Where did you go to high school?

MG: I went to Mackenzie.

NL: Can you tell me about that some more?

MG: Oh gosh. Mackenzie was Mackenzie.

NL: What does that mean?

MG: Mackenzie was a good school. They had some really good teachers. They had a lot of students that did wanna learn. They had a lot of students that were there for other reasons: to get high, to gamble, to fight. Mackenzie was Mackenzie. It was always something going on at Mackenzie. Always. Always something going on at Mackenzie.

NL: What part of town is that in?

MG: That was on the west side. That was a mile from Littlefield ‘cause we used to walk to school. It was always something going on at Mackenzie. Always.

NL: So there was some serious issues there. Did you feel safe there though?

MG: Not at all. No, not at all.

NL: Did you ever consider changing schools or was that an option at that point?

MG: I did. I stopped going.  I was on my way to school one day and a young guy that I went to middle school with, he was a mouthpiece, you know? He intervened in everybody’s stuff. If it was fighting he wanted to intervene in that, if there was fussing he was intervening in that, whatever it was. He was always into your business. And I was on my way to school and I had caught the bus this particular day, and I got off the bus and I got on, and normally – like I said, I could walk to school – but I didn’t feel like walking. So I caught the West Chicago bus to Wyoming, and I caught the Wyoming bus to Mackenzie, which is only like walking from here to Warren.

NL: Okay, just a couple of blocks.

MG: Just a couple of blocks. I got off the bus, and  bunch of guys – we had a flagpole at the front of the school – a bunch of guys at the flagpole and they was fighting. And I got off the – ‘cause I could see it as I was getting off the bus. And next thing I know you heard a gunshot, boom! -and everybody scattered. And there lays my ex-classmate. So they said he had intervened  in -- the two guys originally that was fighting – and one of them stopped fighting and turned around and shot him. So I turned around, walked right back up to West Chicago and went back home. I said “I can’t do this.” You know it was a lot, it was drugs, certain floors of the building --- that’s what they need to do a movie on: Mackenzie. There was a lot going on at Mackenzie. It was a lot. I mean a lot of people graduated from Mackenzie and went on to do wonderful things but a lot of people was caught up; if you didn’t have a certain mindset or willpower you wouldn’t have survived Mackenzie. And we had awesome talent come out of Mackenzie: football, basketball, singers. We had a lot of talent come out of Mackenzie.

NL: Did you finish high school?

MG: I didn’t finish at Mackenzie, no.

NL: Where did you finish at?

MG: I ended up going and getting a GED. I was like “I can’t do Mackenzie.” Actually when I stopped that day that – his name was Bones, that was his nickname, Bones – when he got killed, that day I walked back up to Chicago I caught the Chicago bus down to Greenfield, Greenfield to Joy Road and I went and registered for the WC3. ‘Cause back then you didn’t necessarily have to have a high school diploma to start college classes.

NL: What is WC3?

MG: Wayne County Community College.

NL: Oh, I see.

MG: So that’s what I did. I said I can’t do this no more, it just… you know, and when I go by Mackenzie now, they tore down the old Mackenzie and they built the new Mackenzie. And when I go by there you now I look at where the flagpole – the flagpole is still there – and I look at it and just shake my head, ‘cause you know it was a lot going on at Mackenzie. But like I said a lot of people was able to take it. But like I briefly told you on the phone, death is not natural for a seven year old. So you know, any time I would come into contact with stuff like that it would just, I don’t know, it did something to me and I could not go back to it. ‘Cause I would always think all the way back to when I was seven.

NL: It was quite understandable. On a hopefully lighter note, I wanted to ask you about -- you mentioned a place called Frenchy’s earlier.

MG: Yes, Frenchy’s was a hamburger place.

NL: Tell me more about that.

MG: Oh my goodness, Frenchy’s had the best hamburger and french fries. And they still had a little jukebox in there, and they was just so friendly. And a lot of guys – it was a post office on Linwood and Fenkell, a lot of guys from the post office would come there. Business people would come up there and eat. There was no confusion and there was such a warm, friendly atmosphere when you go in there. I would just go in there and sit at the counter and the waitress would say, “What can I get for you, honey?” and I was like “Can I have a hamburger with pickles and french fries?” and she said, “okay, are you gonna get a Coke today?” I’m like “Yes, I want a Coke today” and I'd be all excited but it was just – it was just awesome. And then you would listen to people’s conversations, they’d be talking about what’s going on, you know, the president, the mayors, they’d be talking about things that mattered. It wasn’t no talking about what happened at home or the streets, you know these guys would be sitting in there talking business, about things that’s gonna happen. You know and then they’ll see this little girl sitting at the counter, say “what are you gonna do when you graduate from college?” You know, they would emphasize college. “I’ma be a chef.” They was like “oh okay,” you know,” they don’t have female chefs.” Because female chefs wasn’t at that time. “They don’t have female chefs,” “ I’m going to be the first one.” That was always my comment. “I’m going to be the first one.” And I would just listen to them, I would just sit there and listen to them, eat my french fries. I would just listen to everybody’s conversations. And it was just, wow that place just, it was – it was beautiful for me, you know and anybody that went up there felt the same way. They wouldn’t let a bunch of kids in, you know not a bunch of kids can come up in there at one time. And if you come up in there the owner would tell you, he says “now you know” – that’s how he used to talk – “Now, you know.” The kids were like “Yes sir, we just want french fries!” “Okay, now you know.” It was nice. We never heard of nobody robbing him. Nobody broke in his place. And I think at some point, I think he just closed out, but we had already moved away by that time.

NL: Was it a big place or small?

MG: It was a nice size. It took up the corner. He had a front parking area and he was kind of set back, and  it took up that corner. So it might have took up like from this corner to probably where that doorway is. It might have took up that little area. It was a nice sized little place.

NL: Can you tell me what it looked like there?

MG: It was a white building. I think he had reddish color seats on the inside with blue lines on them. Not stripes, but like a blue line. He had booths, the little boothy areas, across the windows and then he had the booth – I mean the counter went from one end to the other and he had little round stools on the counter, they spinned around because I used to spin around. I think he had a Coca-Cola clock up there, and they wore the little white hats. It was just nice. It was just nice, and he was a white guy. He was so nice, and he would always say, “Now you know.”

NL: Were they big hamburgers or like sliders?

MG: They were about that big. Which for a kid it was like that big. He gave you a hamburger, he gave you a plate full of french fries. He had been there, the neighbors had said that he was there when they moved there and they moved there in the sixties. I would say mid-sixties, they moved there, and Mr. Frenchy was there then. They said he was there then. But nobody never broke in. You know, you would see police cars up there but they’d be up there to eat. And we would see police cars come and we’d be like “Uh oh, they going to get somebody, they coming to get somebody.” You know, kids. But they would go in there and they would sit down and eat or drink coffee or whatever. But he was such a really nice older guy. He was older then, older as to say he might have been in his 40s at that point, you know. So I don’t know if it was a family-owned business. But – bunch of kids would come in there and he would be like, “now you know.” And they’d be like “Yes sir, we just want french fries!” He’d be like “Okay, you have all your money?” They’d be like “Yes sir.” He never talked down to them or shooed them out. Now the kids, the teenagers, older guys at that point had started getting into fighting. You know you never saw nobody fighting in his parking lot. Nobody was in his restaurant fighting. They just didn’t do that time him because he had been nice. Now they did that to other places, they’d go in there and get to fighting or fight outside the building. But him, it’s like they gave him his respect. He was a nice guy. I don’t know if his name was Mr. Frenchy’s, but we called him Mr. Frenchy’s because the restaurant was named Mr. Frenchy’s.

NL: Do you remember how much it cost for a meal there?

MG: No, I don’t remember. I know my allowance at that time was fifty cents, and I know that my hamburger, french fries and a pop cost more than fifty cents. But I don’t think it was much more. ‘Cause I remember back then they had  – Right Time was the cooler, it was literally a cooler called Right Time. And the party store on the corner – like Frenchy’s was on Wildemere, and then there was a store on the next corner –  I think that was Parkside – there was a store, and he sold Right Time, Ripple and he sold candy. And I remember a guy came in and was buying it and he told him 45 cents, and cigarettes was like 50 cents. Gas was…I don’t remember how much gas was. But I can remember a lot of those little itty bitty detail things, things that excited me and made me feel good. And penny candy was just that, a penny candy. You would get Squirrels, five Squirrels for a penny. ‘Cause I could take a quarter – ‘cause we wasn’t allowed to eat sweets, and when we got one opportunity, every blue moon, my mother would say, “okay, you can go buy you some candy,” and she would give us a quarter. And I would come back with what we use as lunch bags now? I would come back with that full. I would have cookies, I would get the big old oatmeal cookies, and I like the one candy it was called Snaps. They were white on the outside and had black licorice in them. I used to get those. I’d get me a roll of Dots. I would get Squirrels, and the Wax Lips, and a Coca-Cola and a bag of Better Made potato chips, all off of a quarter. I remember that.

NL: That’s a pretty good haul.

MG: Yeah, I would have a bagful.

NL: You can only get ten minutes at the meter now for that.

MG: If that, if that.

NL: Do you have any other memories or stories you would like to share especially about 1967?

MG: Yeah, 1967 was – you know, I made the comment about how death wasn’t natural for a seven year old, and it wasn’t. I went and spent the weekend with my – I don’t know if it was the weekend, it might have been during the week – with my cousin, and they stayed on Goethe and that was maybe five minutes away from my mother, if that. ‘Cause we could walk from my mom’s house to my aunt’s house. My aunt stayed on the corner of Goethe and Fairfield, I want to say Fairfield, but I don’t know if that’s the street. But anyway, she stayed on the corner; right across in front of her, if you looked out her front window you would see Southeastern’s Football Field.  If you looked out the side window, which was supposed to be the front of the building but it really wasn’t it was the side of the building, you saw-Foch was the middle school and then Southeastern was the high school. So the National Guards was already here, and they camped out-that’s where they camped out, when they came in, that was their headquarters, the football field. When I got over there – ‘cause they had been there already by the time I went to spend my time over with my aunt and cousins.  And the people in the apartment building they would fix sandwiches and take coffee and feed the soldiers. And we would look out the window, me and my cousin leaning out the window watching them, feeding the soldiers, waving to them and everything. That night, me and my cousin were sitting in her living room and we was playing jacks, sitting on the floor playing jacks, the TV was on, and we kept hearing something, someone like, it sounded like somebody had a little -- pop, pop, pop. But it didn’t sound like a gun. But during the time we heard that little sound we kept hearing something go “ping, ping” but we thought, okay, some big mosquitos, okay. We didn’t pay it no attention. We’re kids, kids don’t… So, first we heard the pinging sound, “ping”– that’s what it sounded like too -- and then my aunt’s TV went out. And we was like, “the TV went out,” we turning the knob, not paying attention to it. She had plates on her wall, plates she had from her mother. They had little stands and she had them on her walls. And we’re still playing jacks on the floor, TV went out, we was like “TV went out,” and then the plates start breaking, and you know they broke like [beating on the table] constantly. And plates was breaking and holes was coming in the walls like the size of oranges. We screamed when we started seeing these holes, and my uncle hollered to us “get down, get down, crawl, crawl!” He came, he was crawling, and we got to the hallway that takes you back to the bathroom and the bedrooms, and he put us in the hallway and he said “get down!”  And he laid his body across me, my cousin and my aunt, and he stayed that way all night, all night. We kept hearing a “boom, boom, boom”, it was no longer a pinging sound. It was like “boom.” And we could hear the – it just seemed like the building was shaking with all this gunfire. By that time I knew what it was, that it wasn’t a mosquito, you know, after I saw those big holes, I knew what it was. And when it stopped it started calming down and we heard this man outside saying, “help me, help me, please help me. My wife been shot.” And he had a kid with him, and the child was crying. You could hear this kid crying. He said this about three times. Then you heard all this gunshots and then you heard silence. And I remember my aunt hollering, “Jesus, Jesus!” And I was like “they didn’t… “, you know, I was saying to myself, you know at that point I knew, “they didn’t just shoot him” you know because you didn’t hear anymore. So the next day – we stayed in that position until daybreak. That next morning they wouldn’t let us leave the building. They was removing people. One man was shot in the shower. No, he was shot on the toilet. There was a lady that, they found her in her apartment, she was shot in the shower. There was other people they was finding throughout the building. And they wouldn’t let us leave the building, we couldn’t leave yet. So there were no phone lines, couldn’t get to nobody. We were in the window, me and my cousin, we were in the window, by this time instead of us hanging out the window like we were we was actually literally peeking out the window behind us, and there was a car pulled up alongside of the building and Hutzel Hospital wasn’t that far. It was like right up the street around the corner. And the guy pulled up, and he said… I heard the officer – you could hear the soldiers telling him “no, sir, you need to turn around.” “My wife is in labor. I just want to take her to the hospital. The hospital is right up the street. Please just let us go straight through.” The guy told him “No. You need to turn around.” He said, “Sir, my wife is in labor.” You know, and you could hear her and we could see her through the window because we were like this over the window sill. And they pulled this man – I don’t remember, I think one officer opened the door but the other was already pulling him through the window. They took him on to Foch, like I said Foch was right there. They took him over there to Foch and they threw the man up against the building and shot him, and me and my cousin is looking out the window like… you know. And you would hear that all day, you would hear just open fire, all day. But we saw them kill this man. I saw that, and that stuck in my head right to today. That image is just … so, you know, I don’t do the firework thing, I don’t do the gun thing. I don’t let my kids play with guns, [or] my grandkids play with guns and they all understand why because I explained to them that death for a child is not natural. I mean, death isn’t natural for anybody. But death for a child is not natural. It’s not. And then they finally let us out of the building but Foch - if the building and that door could speak, whew, it probably would tell you guys so much. Because there was a lot of death going on in that door during the time the National Guard was there. And they crossed their barriers, they did. A lot of things they did to people they didn’t have to do. They didn’t have to beat up – one guy that stayed in the apartment building with us – I don’t remember what his name was… ‘cause he was a troublemaker. But still they beat him up, they beat him up badly. Badly. And then there was people that was coming home that didn’t get off of work by the time [of] the curfew, and they came from a distance, you know, ‘cause a lot of people worked, they didn’t all work on the East Side, you know. People worked downtown and they had to get home and everybody didn’t have a car so they had to catch buses and … you know a lot of people went to jail, you know there’s a lot of people that probably popped up missing and nobody ever knew what happened to them. But, just hearing that man holler saying his wife got shot. You know, if you guys could find the radio station that broadcast, ‘cause they broadcasted that for a couple weeks, you know it’s probably in their archives. But if you can find it, and they can…’cause that would be something that would definitely need to be… The National Guard, they did a lot. They did a lot. And these was young black and white guys, you know? They wasn’t old military guys, you know people like “oh you know, but they were older” – No it wasn’t! These was young guys. The National Guard didn’t have older people. These were young guys, these guys had to be between I would say 24 - 30. They were young that was running up and down the street, that was doing these things and I’m quite sure they were following orders. But death to kids is not natural. It’s not, it’s not. And then I was talking to my son’s aunt and was telling her I was coming to do an interview. And she said, “oh, please give them my information.” She said “Because I remember my mother’s friend, you know, she was pregnant and her husband – they took her husband.”  I was like “Oh my God.” I said “Sherry, we saw that, we saw that!” She was like “please have them call us.” And I can give them the information. It was a lot of things that went on during that time, but those were things that was memorable for me.

NL: It sure sounds like it.

MG: When they was able to let us come out of the building my uncle brung me home to my mother, and I ran in the house and just hugged her and cried and he told her what had happened. And I didn’t even tell them that we saw that guy get killed, you know, I didn’t. ‘Cause they would’ve got mad at us ‘cause we shouldn’t have been peeking out the window. But I didn’t even tell them. But they knew we heard everything and that it could have been our lives considering we were in the front room when they opened fire on that building. And they said, the reason – somebody asked them why they opened fire on the building and they said there was someone on the roof shooting at them. And it was like “okay, even if there was someone on the roof, you had to shoot up the whole building?’ I think it was three floors on that building? If I’m not mistaken I think it was three floors – and that building was shot up. They patched the building back up, but even when they was patching that building up you could see the imprints of these big holes. That didn’t come from a handgun or a machine gun, you know? Whatever it was that y‘all shot at that building there were big holes in the wall. It was the size of an orange! It was the size of an orange. I was like, “wow.” Because when I first saw the size of the hole my eyes got that big, because you only saw stuff like that on cartoons. But this was being real, you know. And I don’t remember if my aunt and them went back to that building after that. I think they did to move. But they didn’t stay, they didn’t stay after that, they didn’t live in that building after that. I remember that. Yeah, because you know what, we had moved before it was time to go back to school. Because I went to Littlebridge Elementary School, and I was in the first, second grade? And by the time school started back, no, we wasn’t on the east side, we had moved. We had moved ‘cause I started in a new school. We had moved before school started. I remember that, that was devastating. When I heard you guys was doing this I thought, “Oh Lord, I can get this off my chest. Maybe this ghost will stop haunting me,” because it was a lot. You know and I never heard anybody talking about it. Nobody ever did anything. You know they made movies over things they didn’t need to make a movie over. Now I remember they did cover the riot on Twelfth and Fourteen, I know they covered that. But I had never heard of anybody covering the ‘67 riot.  I used to always ask my brother because when we moved on Tuxedo, my brother was in high school when we stayed on Tuxedo and he went to Mackenzie. And he was in the twelfth grade when we moved in on Wildemere. I remember him coming home and him and his friend they were out in front of the house just clowning. So, I’m thinking this had to be right after Martin Luther King. Because he like “I’m gonna serve my country, and they aren’t going to keep doing this to people, the good men who want to make America right.” I remember him hollering that up and down the street, and he came in the house and my mother got on him because he was intoxicated. We moved so it had to be right after Martin Luther King died, and then we moved. And when we moved on Wildemere he went and joined the Marine Corps. That same year we moved over there, that was the same year he joined the Marine Corps.

NL: Well thank you for sharing those vivid memories with us.

MG: You are more than welcome. Thank you for letting me get it off of me. ‘Cause this is a lot.

NL: It’s our pleasure. It’s been nearly fifty years since all of that happened. It’s time for the stories to be told.

MG: Yes it is.

NL: Is there anything else you wish to share with us?

MG: No, I think that’s enough.

NL: I would say that’s quite good.

MG: Great, great

NL: Thank you for coming in today, Marsha.

MG: You’re welcome.

Interviewer

Noah Levinson

Interviewee

Marsha Greene

Location

Detroit Historical Musuem, Detroit, MI

Files

Greene.Marsha.photo.jpg

Collection

Citation

“Marsha Greene, August 7th, 2015,” Detroit 1967 Online Archive, accessed March 20, 2019, https://detroit1967.detroithistorical.org/items/show/236.

Output Formats