Bob Hynes, September 21st, 2016
WW: Hello, my name is William Winkel, today is September 21, 2016. I am in Detroit, Michigan. This interview is the for the Detroit Historical Society’s Detroit 67 Oral History Project, and I am sitting down with Mr. Bob Hynes. Thank you so much for sitting down with me today.
BH: Pleasure to be with you William, thank you.
WW: Can you please start by telling me where and when were you born?
BH: Yes. I was born in Boston, Massachusetts–Brighton, Massachusetts, part of Boston–in 1932, July 11, 1932.
WW: What year did you come to Detroit?
BH: I came here after a long military career in college. I ended up here in 1966.
WW: What brought you to Detroit?
BH: I had been here a couple times and interviewed and auditioned for a position as host of the Morning Show on Channel 7, and I won the audition. And then I came here on Labor Day, we premiered the show on Labor Day 1966, an hour and a half every day, Monday through Friday on Channel 7.
WW: What was the name of your show?
BH: Bob Hynes Morning Show.
WW: You said you came here a couple times before you settled down here, what was your first impression of the city?
BH: I liked it. I drove into town, I visited some friends down in Southfield and stayed in that area, and I thought it would look pretty good. I had no angst at all about coming here. At that time, there was some minor problems, but there were everyplace around.
BH: So I didn’t have any quandaries. I just spent four years in Germany before that in the military, and saw things coming out of World War II, after the fifties–’45 and the rest of the time. It seemed fine to me, I didn’t see any big problems.
WW: When you came here for the final time, where did you settle down?
BH: We settled into Bloomfield Hills, we rented for a year off of Telegraph Road in Bingham Farms. Then I bought a house in Bloomfield Hills.
WW: What made you choose Bloomfield Hills?
BH: I went to ask somebody, I said, ‘If I’m coming into town, I’m going to buy a place, where should I go?’ This fella looked at me, and he says, ‘There’s two places to live. Either Grosse Pointe or Bloomfield Hills, if you really want to be comfortable.’ I said, ‘What’s the difference between the two?’ He says, ‘Well the people in Bloomfield Hills think they have money, but the people in Grosse Pointe have the money.’ So I broke up and said, ‘Okay.’ But it was a little far to drive, so I didn’t even consider the commute. So my wife started looking and then we found this house.
WW: As you’re settling yourself into the city, do you notice any tensions throughout the city?
BH: If there were any, I saw them a little bit around Northland. Northland was the shopping place in 1966. It was very close to Channel 7. Before my family joined me, I lived in quarters on the campus at Channel 7; they had a cafeteria with a couple of bedrooms up above, and I stayed there for a while. I would go into Northland, and that was one of the few places where it seemed to be–we’d get some news out of it, and it would pop up, but I thought it was a great shopping center, it was a shame that this happened.
There was a hotel there, I remember when my wife first came to visit me, during my time hosting the shows, we stayed there at the Northland Inn which was a fine Inn. Then later, things started to get a little rougher and what have you.
You’ve got to remember I’m doing a 90-minute daily talk show, and I’m talking to everybody in the city. I’ve got the mayor coming in, I’ve got the governor at that time, he comes in and he’s talking to me at different times. Bob Talbert was one of the leading people for the Free Press and he would come in and we would talk. So you’re getting feelings from them too as you get conversation going. Talked to the Police Chief, I talked to anybody that we would interview. Sometimes authors and actors would come through and all of this in promoting TV, movies or TV shows. It was a lot of fun. Musicians, that came into visit from other places. Popular place in Detroit was the Playboy Club, which was downtown on Jefferson, and it brought in a lot of fine acts. I met a lot of the people and my music director on the show, and we usually had music three days a week, anyway, was Matt Michaels, and Matt worked at that show also, so he would book and help book some of the talent for that. And these people come in and stay and enjoy what Detroit had to offer.
I have a feeling we’re building up toward the Detroit Riots and in all honesty, I am not going to say I would suspect at all that something would happen. In fact, that day, when we received word, it was a Saturday if I remember correctly, and–
BH: Sunday, yes. Well Saturday we had company and we had been out in the backyard and having a cookout–you know, a regular thing you do on a weekend.
BH: And then we woke up Sunday and it had happened overnight, as I recall, in a blind pig. This was the events of the next were really into the news, everything we can hear, and watching the news, which brings me to my small part in this, and that was as the host of the show, we decided on Monday, my show was on in the morning, so we decided after the show, which ended around 9-9:30, you have a cup of coffee with your guests and all, and then you start to look to the next day to get busy. So we decided to see if we could get a film crew and go down 12th Street, the area where this had happened. And I had a very knowledgeable crewmember, a producer, I remember there were three of us in the car, anyway, and it was like one of the original SUVs, but small, like a big, oversized station wagon. We decided to go down and see what had happened. So I’ll bring you to my story if I may.
BH: We got down there, we’re on 12th Street, and we thought this whole thing was over. Even at the end of my show on that Monday morning, I had said, ‘Well thank God something like this without getting too [unintelligible]’ I said, ‘Thank goodness things are returning to normal,’ or something like that. Now, I go downtown, and I got a microphone in my hand, and I’m doing a feature for the next morning. With all the bravado in the world, I’m there, and I have the microphone, and I say, ‘Well here we are at 12th Street.’ And over behind the camera crews, we’ll pan around in a second, we have the back hose moving debris apart, clearing up the roads again, and as you look around in this area, this is 12th Street, and this is where there were problems last night, but we think it’s all cleaning up now and it’s coming to the end, and I’m happy to be here, and just about that time, shots rang out. I looked around and I didn’t even know what it was, I’m looking at my crew, and they’re looking in all directions, and one of the fellas that was there had come back from Korea, and he was our driver and the chief cameraman. He said, ‘Let’s go!’ In other words, we can come back here anytime, let’s get out of here. So we ran for the vehicle and everybody cleared the streets, we were just, we didn’t know what was going on. Then you hear the sirens, the automobile sirens, the police car sirens going. I didn’t know if we were going to come back that day or not. This fella that was driving called to the rest of us, he says, ‘Down on the floor! Down on the floor!’ Well, ‘Wait a minute, I’m the host of the show, do I have to get down on the floor?’ ‘Get down on the floor!’ Then he says, ‘Wind those windows down!’ This was back in the old days when you had to wind it down, we didn’t have too many power windows then. And we’re winding, and I’m shouting, ‘What am I doing this for?’ And I’d had some military experience, but not as much as he, or in the places that he had. He says, ‘So we don’t get glass in our face’: he was concerned about bullets hitting the windows and ricocheting around and getting us, so that tells you we were not in immediate danger.
He took off, and we decided to chase a couple of the police cars to see where they were going. Incidentally, just back for a minute, no bullets hit our car or anything, but we did have a feeling they hit a couple of the buildings over behind us. So we’re getting our courage back now, we’re chasing the police cars, and all of the sudden he looks up and he says, ‘Up there, there’s some guys with rifles on the roof,’ and they were a couple of blocks away, and there were a couple of fellas up there with rifles of some sort. The police cars had come to a stop and they were waving us away, and now came the decision for him, which had nothing to do with me, I was just going to interview and stop some people on the street and do a few things. This is now he’s covering news. Do you get your camera out with bullets flying through the air? How far have we come? I think he felt, ‘Wait a minute, we better get away from here.’ And one of the police officers suggested we move on. So we moved on and we were going to come back to that area, and decided it would probably be more prudent–we had some silent film that we brought back to the newsroom and head back–we said for the type of feature that I wanted to do, was ‘this is where it happened and now peace has taken over, Detroit is returning to its senses and the bad guys are wherever,’ of course who knows who are the bad guys. So anyway, I was shook up for the rest of that day, and it was my memory of that.
I apologize for not remembering–I didn’t see too much of the guys from the newsroom, because I worked on the morning show and we had our own staff and what have you. We worked in the studios mostly. But I think- I was pleased for his leadership, whoever it was. I think he was very cautious and at the same time intelligent in what he was suggesting that the rest of us do.
I thought maybe I’d share this with you, that this was there, but we looked down in that 12th Street, just back to that for a moment, to see all the buildings broken up, and the damage that was done, and the trucks that were pulling up underneath this back hoe, which was the shovel that was dumping stuff on the back of them, and it looked like things were getting back to normal, William. I was sorry that it took a little bit longer to happen. We continued after that if I could just give a plug for the show and for Channel 7 and for ABC and what our records were, we would book after that time the leaders of Detroit and get them in there, and give them progress reports on how things were going, people cared very much what was going on. One of the foremost I think was Father William Cunningham, who became a very close friend of mine, and gave sacraments to a couple of my kids. I had great respect for him. He and Eleanor Josaitis started Focus: HOPE, and there were a lot of good things that came out of that time. But I’m happy to share that experience with you.
WW: Wow. Thank you for sharing that. Just a couple quick questions. How did the studio react when you told them that you wanted to go down to 12th Street?
BH: What’re you gonna do? … go down and see what’s going on, they say it’s clearing up. You know, ‘Okay, we’ll take a look at it when you get back and let’s see what we can do with it,’ which is usually how we do something, see what the product was when we returned.
BH: A producer asked for a couple of things, and when you’ve got two or three people working on a little production like that, usually come up with some pretty good ideas, put one or two together, and you say, ‘Oh yeah, well this might work, this might work.’ So, they laughed at me the next day, when I said, ‘We had a few bullets bouncing around down there.’ ‘Yeah, sure, Hynes, yeah’ [skeptical tone]. But I knew, and we knew, what had gone on there. And thank God as I said before Detroit came to its senses after that.
WW: Uh-hm. Did you still do a feature? Because you spoke about how your feature was going to be along the lines of–
BH: No, we never really did go back down there. One of the reasons was mine was going to be spontaneous as a personality. I wasn’t working for the news department, I was working for the program department doing a show for programming. So news kind of took over and they did that, and they covered it very, very well. In fact, Channel 7 I was proud of but all the stations in Detroit covered it very, very effectively. It was good, the coverage that we got on that.
WW: How do you refer to what happened in ’67? You said earlier, you called it a riot. Is that how you interpret the events of July 1967?
BH: Well I think when we first heard the reports on Sunday, I probably got it from the radio because I tuned in–later I worked for WJR for 20 years–and they were very progressive on it, as were other stations in Detroit. When you were plucking the dial around to find out what was going on, on Sunday, I think that already some of the news people had started to pick it up and refer to it as riots, revolt, uprising. People were in a blind pig and things went wrong and it brought down a city for a little while.
WW: Did you see the city any differently after everything calmed down?
BH: Oh it was obvious it was fearful to go down there for a little while. It took a lot, an awful lot to get people to–Jerry Cavanagh was Mayor and he did his best. Governor Romney, he was doing his best from Lansing to get people to settle down. And also the leaders of the town, there were some wonderful leaders, we would get the police chiefs in there and talk with them and they were very good about giving you updates to keep people as calm as possible. But like anything I think it kind of faded out a little bit; I don’t mean to put it down, what I’m saying is, it became a little bit of history and it was part of what we had to do to make Detroit a better place.
Then, you know, crazy things happened. The Detroit Tigers had a great year in 1968. We were all down there at the ballpark if we could get tickets. The Norm Cash’s of the world, and the Jimmy Northrop’s, and the rest of them that were Tiger players, they were out there doing interviews, I talked with almost everyone of the guys from the 1968 Tigers. They were down there everyday at old Tiger Stadium to go to work. Then our hockey teams were doing well. Sports was … all of those teams, all of those things that were a part of Detroit, I think they helped to make it a stronger place again. That was my personal opinion.
BH: Yes, because they were pulling for the right direction. You know what? Unlike today, I did not consider it as much of a Black/White situation, I did not think of it as a prejudice–it did happen because of some prejudice, but we had a lot of white guys, a lot of Black guys, we all worked together, this is what you do, you know? So I didn’t feel it was a big prejudicial thing down there. I think prejudice is probably stronger today that I felt it was at that time. That’s my opinion again.
WW: Uh-hm. You spoke about having Detroit leaders on your show and giving progress reports about the city. When speaking with these leaders like Romney and Cavanagh, did they seem optimistic for the city moving forward?
BH: Oh yes, oh yes. Oh I thought so. Absolutely. If they didn’t feel that in their hearts, they certainly didn’t show it. You have to convey, I think, as a leader like that, you have to convey that to get things back and rolling again. That was my feeling, yes. We were always excited to see them back in there, and we knew we were probably going to get some type of a positive report. My job, I think, as the interviewer, was to dig at it a little bit and ask the same type of things you’re asking right now: ‘Why, why do you feel this way? What are we doing, what are the progress? Making progress how?’ and what have you. And they would usually map a few of the things that they were doing. Some good organizations such as Focus: HOPE that were getting behind the people and behind the times.
WW: For you and your wife who just moved to the city, at any point during this were you like, ‘Well, we made a terrible mistake’? [Laughter.]
BH: We had my brother-in-law and his wife from Pennsylvania visiting with us. And I have to say that they were going home on Monday, and they couldn’t wait for that Sunday and Monday to pass, and they wanted to get home. They were concerned about driving away. There wasn’t a lot at that particular moment that I could say to them. I had an advantage, and it wasn’t bravery that took us down there, it was curiosity and I think some care or feeling for the city of Detroit. I had an advantage to go downtown and see what was going on that other people did not. I walked 12th Street that day.
BH: I was scared, but the thing that scared me was the firing of bullets–I didn’t want to stop one of ’em. My feeling was we’re going in the right direction, now it’s a couple of days late.
BH: It wasn’t the best of times right then, but I think it started us back toward better times.
WW: Are you optimistic for the city moving forward today?
BH: I am. You and I watched M-1, we watched the rail being built, and there’s always something there and I say, ‘Wait a minute,’ I was in a conversation with someone: will the M-Rail build us up or whatever? I wasn’t trying to be facetious, but I said, ‘I’m more concerned about cars running into the thing than anything else,’ you know? Because we’re not used to having these static – usually you aim toward something and it moves, this trolley isn’t going to move. So I think we’re going to see a lot of bumps and bruises in those things [laughter] just because it is--
BH: --it’s not stationary but it’s certainly a solid thing going on the North or South as I’m looking at it right now.
Anyway, I think our city is coming back. Gosh! Look at what they’ve done–I’m back to sports again, but I do think there’s a lot in that, in the homes that these places, where the Lions and the Tigers play and now the Red Wings. Everyday reading about a new restaurant opening in the city of Detroit. I’m trying to get to some of them, and visit them; there are some real fines ones and I haven’t been too disappointed yet. And the young people moving into downtown Detroit–holy mackerel, that is so great! They can’t build lofts fast enough. It’s vibrant. It’s getting better all the time. Detroit’s a great place to live.
WW: Is there anything else you’d like to add today?
BH: No. I think we just said it in the fact that, yeah, I think Detroit’s going in the right direction. When I came here in 1966, I took a deep breath and I said, ‘Oh.’ Because the reports of Detroit that went around the country were not that great, and people would say to me a very simple little thing: ‘You’re going where?’ Or, ‘You’re going to Detroit?’ In my business, it was usually a contract of a couple of years or something like that, and then you’d move on or you’d go someplace else; I never knew what the future was going to bring when you come from another town. I always pictured myself maybe going back to Boston, I did host AM New York for a short time, and I’ve been out on the West Coast and I did some projects out there. I went to Houston, Texas with Dom DeLuise and we did a show down there. So, yeah, we got a few of these things around, but I always ended up coming back to Detroit–partly because some of those things didn’t work out too good, but the other reason is, I mean, it’s great. It’s got more shoreline than any state, it’s got more boats, it’s a great place.
WW: Thank you so much for sitting down with me today, greatly appreciate it.
BH: Alright, William, good to be with you. Thank you very much.
WW: Thank you.
TIME STAMP END OF INTERVIEW: 23:41
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