In this interview, Christine Rogers discusses her neighrborhood, Lafayette Park.
Detroit Historical Society
Detroit Historical Society
Christine Rogers moved to Lafayette Park with her twin sister in 1963. They were both some of the first residents in the Chateaufort Co-op. While her sister has passed, Christine still lives there and is still content with the lively neighborhood she moved into.
MT: If you could just state your name first. CR: Christine Rogers. C-H-R-I... You want me to spell it? MT: Yeah sure. CR: C-H-R-I-S-T-I-N-E R-O-G-E-R-S MT: Alright so where and when were you born? CR:Well I was born in Ecorse, Michigan. 1933. January 24th, 1933. MT: Alright and so when did you come to Detroit? CR: To live down here? MT: Yeah. CR: 1963. MT: 1963. And what brought you? CR: Truth be told, I wanted to get away from home in terms of an apartment. I came down with my sister. I had a twin sister. We first thought about an apartment and then John Anderson... (to Janet Weir: You remember him?) used to be a teacher at Ecorse and his wife taught with my sister, Lucy. And they said “You need to invest. Why don’t you come downtown?” So we came downtown and put a downpayment on a house, but it was during the time where young women didn’t leave home until they were married. So my parents didn’t know that we were doing all this. MT: Alright. CR: So we’re the youngest of seven. And everybody in the family knew it, except they did not want to be home on Saturday when everyone would come and have breakfast. We were saying to mother and dad, “We’re gonna move,” and they said “Yeah.” They were upset and shocked. Downtown?! So they wanted to see where we were gonna move, when they came over, well it wasn’t pretty like this. It was just being built, no trees, no nothing. So my parents said, “If you wanted to move to the projects why didn’t you move over here?” Well you see, they had property and if we had mentioned we wanted to move, we probably would’ve been staying out there. But we defintley wanted to move Downtown, so that was it. In fact, we had purchased our furniture in ‘62. MT: Okay. CR: From Gorman’s. Gorman’s was over on Livernois. My sister, older sister who had been an art teacher helped out with decorating. She painted all these pictures over here [gesturing to the wall besides her] MT: Oh, wow. CR: Up there you see the twins with their mother. That’s when the twins were fourteen. MT: That’s really awesome.So what did you hear about Detroit before coming down here? CR: Carolyn and John lived in Inkster and they were gonna move Downtown, and Downtown was just building up. In fact, when we moved here, Victoria Davenport, she wasn’t Davenport but Anderson, was at the end unit. I think we were the second one up here, a lot of the originals are not here anymore. The only ones left, really are two. Me and Phil and Carol Campbell. They came at the same year back in ‘63. But the rest of everyone else are either deceased or they’ve moved on. MT: What was your first impression after you moved here? CR: Excited. MT: Yeah? CR: We were… Well, you have to think about Ecorse… Ecorse didn’t have much to it. You didn’t do anything. Teachers didn’t go to the bars. They didn’t do anything but teach and teach Sunday school. There wasn’t a lot to do out there, so when we came here it was different. I was teach teaching Southwest School and I moved to the Jones School and Ernie moved to Sampson, west side. And we had two cars. We had Thunderbirds then and new furniture. It was exciting. Not only that, but we could walk to Hudson’s. We walked to Husdon’s on a Monday. MT: Yeah, it sounded like there was a lot more here than you had back home. CR: There wasn't anything back home you could do. In those days, teachers didn’t go to the pub, they just lead that life of that. Where as here we went to a little bar off Mack after teacher meetings. MT: Oh, okay, I like that. So it asks what neighborhood you live in now, but obviously you live in Lafayette Park. What is your neighborhood like? CR: Now? MT: Yeah. CR: Oh, it’s wonderful. We’ve been here a long time, we’re all very neighborly with everybody keys. If anyone gets locked out, they have an idea where the keys are. Interesting story, the Pecks were locked out and they came to our house. But we didn’t have their key. They had taken a walk and forgotten, so I said “Who has your key?” They said “Chris Beck.” And I said, “Well we have his key. So if we give you his key, can you get your key?” They said “Oh yeah it’s always in the cabinet.” So we gave them that key. Well they got there, across the street and it wasn’t there. So they called him at school and he said “What are you doing” so they say “We got locked out and the twins have your keys.” [mimicking Chris Beck and shurgging]: “Oh, okay.” So he told them he had moved the keys so they got in, but after that, they gave us their key. MT: Okay. CR: So we have his key, really not with the rest of the keys but it was in a little carafe on the shelf. So the kids knew after where it was and whatnot. So there goes that and I got Jan’s key. JW: [mumbling]. MT: So do you believe your neighborhood and Lafayette Park are integrated? CR: Pardon? MT: So do you believe your neighborhood and Lafayette Park are integrated? CR: Oh gosh, yes. I can look down the list [of Chateaufort residents] and see how many blacks and how many whites we have. If I could look down the list there and tell you. You want me to do that? MT: You don’t have to. CR: I just happen to have the addresses so I can just count. MT: Alright, that works. CR: okay, well just a minute. MT: I’ll put you on pause then. JW: [indistinct mumbling]. CR: It’s fully integrated. We know everybody. MT: Yeah, its impressive you can go down the list like that. JW: Some of the new people, we’re going ‘hmm’. CR: Yeah, some of the new people… that’s why I wanted Jan here. Some of the new people I haven’t met. Actually, we only have the two large windows here so you don’t really know who’s coming and going. Those enclosed backyards that we love, you don’t know who’s coming and going. JW: [indistinct name] lives next to [indistinct name]. CR: Huh? JW: [indistinct name] lives next to the [indistinct name]. I’m not even sure I know her. CR: You know ‘Toria that has the two girls? JW: She put her name on something and had the wrong address so I’m getting her mail. CR: No kidding. I get Gwen’s mail only because my number is 1543 and hers is 1534. I keep telling Gwen… See, we used to have a mailman we didn’t have to worry about that. He knew everybody and he would just give the mail. Now we have different ones. We have a lot of social affairs. Let’s see now… [phone rings]. MT: Alright, so you were talking about the social affairs because you cut off. CR: Halloween. I got the invite on the refrigerator, go take a look at it and you’ll. MT: Okay. CR: If you’re gonna give candy and stuff, you turn it over on the other side and put that pumpkin in the window. MT: Oh. CR: At a certain time we’ll go down to Cathy and Ann’s and trick or treat or whatever. All of us sit around and talk, you sorta know everybody. MT: Yeah, that’s really nice. CR: Then we have a picnic. Really in July… JW: August. CR: August, because it’s at the same time we have our church picnic. Jan and I go to the same church. We’re sorta double cousins. [Jan and Chrstine laugh] JW: We have the Christmas party. CR: We have the Christmas party that sometimes is gonna be at someone’s house and you bring a treat there and sorta sit around and talk. JW: The annual meeting. CR: Annual meeting. Oh, we have the annual meeting. Then something else that happens is we’re going to have to move our cars at certain times because they’re going to clean the streets. Well, everyone’s moving cars. The lady next door, I got trouble in my arm, and she’ll be dusting off the car saying, “Christine let me have the keys.” I think we’re better off without garages. The people who have garages don’t really know each other because you travel and go to your garage. I know Lisa Ann says she doesn’t know her neighbors. I say she’s right behind Saint John’s Presbyterian Church. She drives in there and she doesn't know anyone. JW: [indistinct mumbling] CR: We just happen to see everybody, and then you take a walk. There’s the Dequindre Cut and there’s a lot of places. Once, while [indistinct name] walked in a group and [indistinct name] was walking and she had a nice thing. “Don’t call me if you’re not walking and you don’t show up at 6. You’re not walking.” We got the same route our by the tennis court and back and maybe a couple times. So if you’re coming late you just go that way [the opposite direction] and meet us. That’s sorta nice. MT: Yeah. CR: If you’re in a group, you don’t mind walking the Dequindre Cut and we’re not far from home so if you get tired you just turn around and go home. MT: Yeah. So that’s sorta what you do for fun in the neighborhood. Where do you go shopping in this area? CR: I go different places. I might go to Harbor Town. I might go to Gordon Foods. I might go to Lafayette. If I’m Southfield’s way, I’ll do shopping that way. I get my soup at Western Market, I love it. I just go different places. I don’t suffer for food, I don’t think about it that much. MT: So are there any stories of your neighborhood that you’d like to share. I know you’ve shared a couple already. Is there anything else. CR: Okay. We used to be able, before Blue Cross built a building, to be able to watch the fireworks. This time, just by chance, I was walking and the Baldwins had said, “Chris we’re going to be sitting in the park watching the fireworks, do you want to come?” Yeah. Then Trish, she joined us. Then Linda. It wasn’t anything planned, it was just that. Or you might see some of the neighbors at Louie’s. JW: In Eastern Market. CR: Eastern Market, yeah. Sometimes you join them. Our church has a lot of activities. MT: Your church is in Lafayette Park? JW: It’s right down on Jefferson. First Church Detroit. MT: So what do you think makes your neighborhood unique? CR: All of us. MT: Alright, that’s fair. CR: It’s sort of like.. Let’s see. It’s like if something is going on, we’ll help eachother out. If I forget something, I got someone I can talk to. You sorta rally behind everyone. [to Janet] Have the found someone for Donna’s place yet or has anyone been going over there? JW: I think whoever inherited thas been there now. CR: Oh, she’s in there now? JW: No, no, they’ve been out to take a look at the place, I’m sure the place is still in escrow. I don’t know if she had a will. CR: Like when one of our neighbors died, Irene Springer died. There are two units out there and they did something and locked themselves in. Part of the door came off so she happened to have Dianna’s number. So Diana was over here. So she called and said Dianna said she’d be right there because he father sorta gets confused. So she there with a screwdriver and sorta helped out. If this was a garage, she might not of known who she was. I don’t feel lonely here at all. By knowing that someone is nearby. We have a lot of privacy here though. I don’t just run over to Jan’s I call and see if it’s a good time to visit and she has the option of saying “no, it’s not a good time.” I mean no one is upset by that. Or I bring something and say “I just want to bring you something, I don’t want to come by the door.” MT: So do you feel comfortable in the city then? CR: Oh yeah. I don’t have problem at all. I am very comfortable when I sit in my garden and I can water with a nightgown on. [to Jan]: They’re gonna move all that stuff tomorrow [gesturing to pots in the garden]. JW: They’re taking my pots out to Jill’s. CR: Oh, that’s right. [indistinct mumbling]. MT: Have you ever considered moving away from Lafayette Park or the city of Detroit? CR: Not really. I’m the last of seven, I don’t have any relatives. There used to be a whole bunch of us, my mom had three aunts that married three brothers, so they were like double cousins. In the old day they used to call and say “hey, we’re coming to Detroit” and mother had her slaves, that was all of us, and would say “They’re coming here from Cleveland.” She didn’t say what you had to do but you come out here and I gotta get corn and you’re gonna shuck it and no one is going home until we get this kitchen cleaned.” We did a lot of that. We used to have a lot of family reunions. Huge family reunions. Detroit had their first big one in 1985 and I had [indistinct name] because Ernie and I loved that Syrian rice. Her and her husband came out and that’s when we had the big basement. If you got here early, it started at 5 on Saturday or Sunday. A lot of the people got here early, so if they got here early we’d have a potluck dinner for everybody and they made the Syrian rice for us. That was in 1985. MT: Alright. So over the time you’ve been in the neighborhood do you think things have stayed the same or have they changed? CR: It’s vibrant. We’re just in the right place. It’s a vibrant place to be. I found that by walking a quick way to Eastern Market, going straight down by Four Freedoms, or at least I call it Four Freedoms. Across [indistinct street name] and there’s a little pathway next to Gratiot and then I go through Central Market. I don’t really do a lot of shopping there because I only want two bananas. You can’t go and see a bunch of bananas and say “I want that one and that one from another.” I don’t need a lot, but the Peck’s eat out all the time. They have, Bob. [to JW]: You remember Bob who used to be our maintenance man. [to MT]: Alright that’s an interesting story, he used to be our maintenance man. They had a lady working for them, Rebecca. And he would come by and those two fell in love with each other and Bill Peck stood up in there wedding. That couple comes every Thursday for the Peck’s. I said to [indistinct name] every Thursday, she doesn’t like to iron, and Rebecca can iron. And that couple, when they go to Cape Cod they’ll call us to tell us they’re going and who’s coming, and she’ll tell Ruby that. I don’t have a lot to do, the only thing I do for her is when I come home from church I check to see if there’s any papers that are in the door. When they first left, they forgot and left their hose on so I just put that behind, but I had Bob’s couple so I could call and tell him what I did. They’re sort of fortunate because he can do a lot of handy work. He knows how to build things. I can call him, but not on a Thursday. I can call him if there is something I need done. For instance, I have someone helping me, but her husband has trouble with his back. So I might have Bob come do the heavy vacuuming and the kitchen and whatnot, but I just got this [referring to a new vacuum in the corner], it just came today, so her husband can handle that because it’s really light. [mumbling] It really breaks my back. MT: So what would you like to see happen in your neighborhood? Is there anything you would like to see change? CR: My neighborhood is pretty. The park is pretty, they got tennis courts. It’s just pretty. MT: Yeah. CR: And we’re getting nice people moving in. I hate that moving. [looking at Jan] but she’s not far. She still goes to our church. MT: So when someone says “the neighborhood” what does that mean to you? CR: Good neighbors. I’m not good with the garbage, but I take it out often. When someone sees me at the garbage they say “I got that” because the lids are very heavy and the squirrels are in there and they like to pop out at you. They get to be thugs. JW: They are, they’re terrible. CR: They’re terrible, I was sitting here reading and I hear scratching at the door [mimics sound on the table] a squirrel was climbing up the screen with a piece of pizza climbing up to that ledge [above the door]. So I thought, open the door and close it and he’s gonna run. He wiggled his tail “who you think you talking to?” So I went out with a stick to get him to get off. He jumped onto the table but he didn’t didn’t jump far. I did get that piece of pizza off because I didn’t want him to get into the habit. MT: Of eating pizza on your ledge? Yeah. So maybe just changing the squirrel problem. How do you feel about the state of your neighborhood today? CR: Perfect. MT: Perfect? So if you were to get a project done in your neighborhood what would it be? CR: They’re doing so many projects the Lafayette Park [Homeowners Association]. The park is comfortable, the tennis courts are out, the playground for the children. My niece has her first grandchild so she took the grandchild to the playground. It’s funny, he’s just a little boy and there was a little girl playing over there. He usually doesn’t like to share because he doesn’t have to. The little girl dropped her ball and we were a little frightened he’d pick it up. He picked it up and didn’t say anything, and usually it’s his, whatever he finds. He picked it up and gave it to her. The father said “The species knew each other” and she kept waving at him and it was cute. MT: That’s precious. CR: Taking him to the park, he was able to run. He’s used to dogs so it’s nice to see him run. They live in Southfield and there really isn’t any place for him to run to. MT: So how do you feel about the state of the city of Detroit? CR: Detroit’s on the move. I am very happy with Duggan and I’m just happy with it. MT: Alright, you seem very content with where you are. CR: I don’t want any more things, I’m looking at all the things I have. I went to the hairdresser and one of the patrons there had a suprise for me and Sara, the girl who goes with me. I was like “oh no I got some more stuff.” When I go places, I don’t want stuff. Even at showers, I leave that, and sometimes they say, “Hey you forgot something.” No I didn’t. I don’t want another artifact. [to JW]: What did you do with all that stuff? JW: There’s boxes in the basement and I’m going to consign them. MT: So do you have any last statements for the oral history? CR: What? MT: Do you, like, have any last statements for the oral history? CR: It’s a wonderful place to be. I haven’t regretted one thing since the move. Our neighborhood is friendly and supportive. That’s all I can think of, it’s a wonderful place to be.
“Christine Rogers,” Detroit Historical Society Oral History Archive, accessed October 30, 2020, https://detroit1967.detroithistorical.org/items/show/720.