Tom Shipley


Tom Shipley


Tom Shipley was a student at Schoolcraft College who worked at a local gas station during the summer of 1967. He remembers the gas rationing and how his uncle asked his dad to bring alcohol for his workers who were accustomed to buying some after work while the stores were closed.


Detroit Historical Society




Detroit Historical Society, Detroit MI






Written Story


I was a student at Schoolcraft College in the summer of 1967 and one of the classes that I was taking was a Problems of Sociology with a Mr. Agosti who I believe lived in Dearborn at the time. We were talking about a lot of the sociological issues that related to Detroit and Mr Agosti would tell us things like the reasons that the expressways were sunken was so that people didn't see the blight in the city and they were planning the new I-275 and how that would not be in a ditch because it was in a more affluent area. Even the assigned reading had ties to Detroit and how poverty developed, etc.
My father and uncle also owned a Standard Oil station on Schoolcraft and Greenfield in Detroit and another Standard Oil station and car wash on Schoolcraft and Asbury Park in Detroit. When the civil disturbance started things like putting gasoline in cans was prohibited, there was a curfew for selling gasoline and since we normally worked until 11 PM, it was nice to be sent home at 9PM or so at least for a week. The police usually detailed an officer to watch the gas tanks in the evening and over night. Gasoline was also delivered after midnight but that week there was no night delivery of gasoline. We also were able to see how the riots affected people as I worked mainly at the Schoolcraft and Greenfield station. Two of the guys lived near Joy Road and Grand River and one was a guy named Walt and the other was Julius McCoy. They used to ride together because McCoy didn't have a drivers license or a car. Walt was an older guy who had a 1963 Pontiac Bonneville convertible but he never put the top down. During the riots McCoy was mad at Walt because all that week, he drove the Pontiac to and from work with the top down on the Pontiac. We never had any incidents at the station during the riot but we would see troops on the Southfield Freeway on occasion.
My Uncle ran the station on Schoolcraft and Asbury Park with the car wash and there were some issues down there. About 25 or 30 guys who worked in the car wash lived in Detroit and all of the liquor stores were closed that week. Many of the car washers made very little money and were able to advance 4.00 of their pay every day and that called that the 'Fast Four". They would use it to pick up something to drink on the way home but during the riots some started experiencing DT's. I can remember my Uncle asking my dad to bring in all of the excess alcohol we had at home because he needed to give it to some of these guys so they would come into work. We had plenty of alcohol in the basement bar of our house because at that time all of the businesses would give each other bottles for Christmas and dad only drank Old Grand Dad or Seagrams so there was plenty of extra alcohol to give away.
In the middle of the week I had to drive to Kalamazoo because I was transferring to Western Michigan University in the fall and that was my assigned day to speak to my advisor and register for classes. Everyone wanted to know what was going on in Detroit as they didn't have the wall to wall news coverage that we have today. I can vividly remember that day because driving back from Kalamazoo, when I got to Detroit and was going north on the Southfield Freeway, I could see plums of black smoke east of the Freeway towards downtown. It really brought the riots home to me seeing part of the city now going up in smoke.
Also my Grandmother Magdalene Stanton lived at 319 Josephine between John R and Brush, behind Northern High School. She was staying at our house in Livonia Saturday night watching some of my younger siblings but by Monday or Tuesday she was ready to go home and wasn't worried about the riots. My parents tried to talk her into staying with us in Livonia but there was no changing her mind. I drove her home down McNichols to the Lodge and then to Chicago Blvd and her house. Her neighbor Mr. Ross was sitting on his back porch and I think that he was a doctor as well as being black. When we pulled into her back yard he said "Mrs Stanton don't you worry. If I see any young punks coming around my gun is at the ready.' Most of her neighbors were professionals and it was always a very quiet neighborhood. My grandmother had lived there since 1927 and she wasn't worried about any danger.
In the weeks after the riot, we did a lot of talking about issues on why people would go to this extreme and burn down the city. Mr. Agosti summed it up and said that for years people who were on the lower rungs of the economic ladder had been seeing things they could not afford. The riots were their opportunity to take what society was not giving them the opportunity to get on their own. The other observation he used to give us in 1967 was that if you wanted to see what Detroit would look like down the road in 10 years, just look at Flint.

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Submitter's Name

Tom Shipley

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“Tom Shipley,” Detroit Historical Society Oral History Archive, accessed May 18, 2021,

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