Mary Catherine Quick, January 31st, 2017
WW: Hello, today is January 31, 2017. My name is William Winkle. This interview is for the Detroit Historical Society’s Detroit ’67 Oral History Project. And I am sitting down with—
MKQ: Mary Catherine Quick, IHM.
WW: Thank you so much.
MKQ: I was living at Marygrove, at the college, in the summer of ’67. I was doing some driving for the community, and I was in the master’s program, so I was getting my master’s in education on summers. I did that for ten summers, and ’67 was somewhere in the middle of that [laughter].
On the Sunday that it all started, I was driving. I was going down to our summer home in Crofton just outside of Essex, Ontario, and picking up several sisters who had been down there for some vacation time, and coming home. So I left relatively early in the morning and there wasn’t a whole lot of upset in the city, because I went down and I went through the tunnel to go to Essex to Crofton and pick up the Sisters. So I was coming back sometime in the afternoon, and I had no knowledge of anything going on in the city at that point. We came out of the tunnel— and I’m a relatively young Sister, fifty years ago [laughter], with three or four elderly Sisters— I mean, that I would have considered elderly at that point, probably about my age now. And there was chaos when we came out of the tunnel. There were squad cars and pylons and everything, and as we came out, there was a policeman coming at me and I stopped and rolled the window down, and he said, “Where are you going?” And I was going to two different convents up on the Eastside of Detroit, and I told him I was going to the Eastside, and he said, “Turn right on Jefferson, and drive. Don’t stop for lights, don’t stop for anything, drive down the middle of the street.” So, that’s what I did, and that’s all I knew that was going on at that point.
So I got the Sisters home, and I got back to Marygrove, and by that time there was a whole lot of upset on the Marygrove campus. I mean it was Sunday, we weren’t in class, so people were milling around and didn’t know what was going on, and we didn’t have a whole lot of news broadcast going on, we didn’t have cell phones and all that good stuff. It was a little hard to get to really know what was going on, but people had radios, so we knew that there was a riot going on downtown, but we didn’t know how extensive it was.
So, Monday, we had classes, okay? The college went on during the week, but by Monday afternoon, we had armored cars, armored personnel-carrier kinds of vehicles parked at the main entrance and the side, the back entrance of the college, and we had armed— what would you call them? Militia posted at both entrances.
By Tuesday, they came onto the campus and asked for volunteers to go down to Tiger’s Stadium to register and to do the paperwork for the people that they were arresting because they were taking them to the Stadium and they needed clerical workers down there. So there were people who didn’t have classes who volunteered and they went down, and they would come back with war stories. But those of us that were in class, we went on with classes. Because there wasn’t any upset. The upset was coming up Livernois, we knew that, that there were crowds coming up Livernois and smashing windows and setting fire and looting and all of that kind of stuff was going on. We had heard from the community that some of the Sisters who were in convents downtown were huddled in their basements because there were snipers down there. But, we didn’t have any of that kind of upset on the campus, so we just went on with classes. We kept in touch with what was going on on the radio and on television, but we didn’t— the worst thing I had to deal with was I was living on fourth floor of Madame (?) Cadillac with no air conditioning and it was a hot house [laughter.]
So that’s pretty much it.
WW: Being that you were in the city, were you surprised by the outbreak of ’67?
MKQ: Well, I was certainly startled and I was frightened. I was very frightened because there were stories of terrible things going on in terms of looting and burning and all of that. Since then, I have friends who were in the thick of it, and they were very frightened, they were very frightened.
Was I surprised? I’m not real clear on the dates when Martin Luther King was assassinated—
WW: That was a year later.
MKQ: It was a year later. Because I was more frightened when Martin Luther King was assassinated, because I was in Chicago and CVS cleared out and they were just rampaging down Eighty-Seventh Street and breaking windows of all kinds.
But I wasn’t— was I surprised? I don’t think I was surprised. I mean, I had been in Chicago for a while, and we were working hard to keep a neighborhood integrated, which was getting harder and harder to do. There were sit-ins and there were the bus rides, so all of those kinds of things were going on and it was a tense time, but I don’t know that I would say I was surprised.
WW: Did seeing all the violence of ’67 change the way you looked at the city?
MKQ: Not really. I hadn’t been in Detroit very much. My teaching career had taken me outside of the city. I was in Chicago, I was in Benton Harbor, which was a bad place to be. But I lived in Benton Harbor and we were never bothered. The Sisters were not bothered much.
It was one of those things that the tension was rising, but it was the whole culture that was in tension. We were very much in favor of the demonstrations and the marches and all of that, and we had IHM Sisters involved in that all the way right from the very beginning. So, I mean, I was never really involved in any of the marches but I knew Sisters who were, and who had ended up in jail and being arrested and that kind of thing. So, there was a lot of tension in the country, but I wouldn’t say I was surprised.
WW: Thank you so much.
MKQ: You’re welcome.
WW: Appreciate it.
,” Detroit Historical Society Oral History Archive, accessed March 5, 2021, https://detroit1967.detroithistorical.org/items/show/533.