Monica Moffat, July 25th, 2015
Bruce’s Sound A Go-Go—Detroit—Michigan
Detroit Police Department
The Living End—Detroit—Michigan
west side of Detroit with a Detroit Police officer during July 1967. She shares her stories of being on sniper watch with other residents at her apartment complex on Virginia Park Street and an incident during which she left her apartment to shop for cigarettes and was subsequently shot at by a sniper.
LW: Today is July 25, 2015. This is the interview of Monica Moffat by Lily Wilson. We are at the Detroit Historical Museum in Detroit, Michigan. This interview is for the Detroit 1967 Oral History Project and the Detroit Historical Museum. Monica, can you tell me where and when you were born?
MM: I was born in Detroit at home; I was delivered by my father. [laughter] And, uh, do I have to tell you the date?
LW: If you would like to, yes.
MM: I’d prefer not to, thank you [laughter].
LW: Okay. And what street did your parents live on?
MM: Um, when I was born?
MM: I was only there for a few weeks and mainly I was raised on the west side in Rosedale Park.
LW: Rosedale Park. Okay. So tell me, um, let’s jump right to what you were doing in 1967?
LW: Where you were living.
MM: I was living at that time; it was a very tumultuous time in my life. I was 19 years old. Oh I just told how old I am though didn’t I? [laughter]
LW: It’s okay, it’s okay.
MM: I was 19 years old. My parents were separating; my mother was moving to Europe and everything was just in turmoil. So the family home was whatever, whatever. But I had already pretty much been on my own.
LW: I see.
MM: So at that time it was kind of a wild, a wild experimental time for Monica and at that time I was living with a Detroit policeman on Virginia Park in an apartment house. He was with the Tactical Mobil Unit.
MM: And I’m trying to remember exactly where the place was because it’s not there anymore, but I’m quite sure it was on Virginia Park between the Lodge Freeway and Third Avenue.
LW: I see. Okay.
MM: Alright, it was a small apartment building.
LW: Okay and that was on the west side of Detroit.
MM: Just, yeah, just the west side.
LW: Okay. And where were you working at the time?
MM: I wasn’t working then. So, well I was working I guess. I wasn’t working like a “regular job;” [laughter] I was a barmaid at the Living End which was a coffee house/bar.
LW: Where was that?
MM: I believe that was near the Lodge Freeway. I can’t tell you exactly where because it’s not there anymore either. But it really was underground, pretty much underground; you reached it by going through an alley. And it was a really fun, fun place to work at. This is where people like Phil Marcus Esser would play; I loved him and Odetta started there. There were , let's see, Rodney [Coden ?] played there, Charlie Latimer—in fact I dated him for a little bit, I recall—the Irish Rovers, I dated one of them. This was so long ago and I just loved it, it was really fun there. So I played there and then I also had another friend in that apartment building who—a couple girlfriends actually—who both danced. So, I needed cash [laughter] so I interviewed at a place called Bruce’s Sound a Go-Go [laughter] and I got a job there dancing go-go. So I did that as well.
LW: Okay and where was Bruce’s?
MM: Again, I just know it was on -- pretty sure it was on Livernois. That part of town was fairly new to me and I wasn’t real clear on exactly—I just knew how to get to some of these places.
LW: Sure. Okay so you had grown up on the west side, what street were you living on while your parents were still together?
MM: Um, West Mooreland.
LW: It what neighborhood?
MM: It was called North Rosedale Park.
LW: So, you were living with a police officer in 1967?
MM: Correct, uh-hmm.
LW: And you had a couple of jobs at that time. And can you tell me about where you were and what you were doing when this civil disturbance started in July of 1967?
MM: Right, I remember that no one knew it was a civil disturbance except that my then-friend, Bob, received a phone call to get in. So, from the phone call, he must have known it was really serious because I remember him telling me—I watched him get dressed and put all these things [laughter] into his pocket: his cuffs and his clubs and his [laughter] all this stuff—and he was concerned about our safety and I don’t quite remember whether at this point is when he told me about snipers, I think it was probably later; so he may have stopped back or something. But he was very concerned about someone attacking the building, snipers shooting into it, Molotov cocktails, whatever. And a lot of the folks on Sunday left. They took off; people who lived in the apartment building. I was one of them that stayed and I remember him getting out his .357 Magnum, loading it and handing it to me and telling me, very seriously, “You keep this with you at all times.” Now I had no idea what that gun would do, you know, I had no idea that if I did try to shoot it I would probably fall on my butt [laughter].
LW: You’d probably hurt yourself.
MM: [Laughter] Or hurt myself.
LW: So were you afraid when he handed you this gun? I mean, not just have the gun, but of the severity of what he saw out there and was coming back and letting you know?
MM: You know I don’t remember being afraid. I remember it being—I’m sure there was a lot of adrenaline going, because I know the other people in the building—there were maybe a half a dozen, maybe eight of us that kind of ganged together. You know, I was young, I was dumb, I didn’t really quite understand what was -- and we have to remember to that the whole thing was, you know, kind of rolled out over the days. So the first day we didn’t really know, you know, Sunday. The next day we started getting a pretty good idea of things that were going on and we heard the gun shots, you know, and we saw smoke or whatever, and then it became more serious. But, the whole time we were very concerned about snipers or whatever.
LW: You were?
MM: Yeah, we were.
LW: This was on the west side in Virginia Park?
MM: On Virginia Park.
LW: On Virginia Park. So in that area, what was –aside from your friend Bob, who you were living with, telling you that he’s worried about your safety and someone attacking them, were there apartment buildings near yours close enough to the activity that you could actually feel like this is a real threat, like, "I’m seeing this happening and anything could actually happen here?"
MM: You mean how incidentally when things were happening?
MM: Not really, no.
MM: One funny thing that were watching at the beginning we were doing sniper watch—
LW: What was that like?
MM: Everybody had x number of hours, we had a good pair of binoculars and we went to as high as we could go in the building and would watch the other houses—lot of them were big, old Victorian houses—were frat houses, actually. And I remember one evening I was doing it and I looked across, kiddie corner and there was a big Victorian house and it was kind of a garret at the very top, you know, a rounded room and I looked in with my binoculars and there was somebody looking back with their binoculars [laughter].
LW: Oh man.
MM: And I just sort of made a tentative wave and they waved back [laughter]. So I realized they were doing the same thing we were doing [laughter].
LW: I see. So you mentioned that a group of you sort of banded together necessarily people that were living in your building?
MM: They were still living there, yeah. So we ended up putting together our food, which wasn’t much, because most of us didn’t cook we had went out. And we put together our cigarettes and we’d get together and cook up whatever we had. It wasn’t real nutritious [laughter], what we did.
LW: Did you leave the apartment during those three days?
MM: I did later, during the -- well I’d say I don’t remember if it was the third day or fourth day, something like that. One of my friends and I, we were out of cigarettes—which was even worse than being out of food—so we decided to try to sneak out and she had a little car, I don’t remember what it was, but some little tin can and we got into her car and at that point there weren’t any guards on the road, obviously, but we snuck down the alley—and we went down, it was either Third or Second, I don’t remember which. Totally, absolutely nobody there; we thought, we were just saying, “Wonder how far we have to go before we find a place that’s open?” Duh, you know? [laughter] And then we heard gunfire, and there was a ‘ping, ping’ like on the concrete around us, so of course we stopped the car and in retrospect I can tell you it was a sniper. What we did was we stopped the car, we should have just kept going but you don’t think about those things: we stopped the car and she was driving so we both go out, because it was on the driver’s side, we both got out of my side and crouched down next to the car thinking, Oh darn!, you know, it was better than darn [laughter] and we were thinking What the heck are we going to do now?, scared to death. It was real, it was like Oh my gosh, this is real! [laughter]
LW: So there were no other cars on the road?
MM: There was nobody around. There was no one in the buildings, it was just all vacant.
LW: What street was this on?
MM: This was either Second or Third; I think maybe Third. Because I know it was one of those two one-way streets.
LW: And you were driving north—?
MM: I can’t tell you if it was south or north.
LW: Okay. But you were trying to find?
MM: A place to get cigarettes.
LW: Yeah, a place to get cigarettes.
MM: Something had to be open.
LW: Something had to be open, okay.
MM: We were rescued by, I think it was the police and it wasn’t a big group it was like a couple cars that came down, of course yelling at us [laughter] to stay down and then they went into the building and, of course, the firing stopped and then we were told, in no uncertain terms, “Go home now!” So we did.
LW: Wow. This was in broad daylight?
MM: Yes, broad daylight, yeah. Scary, scary.
LW: And you think maybe like the second or third day?
MM: Yeah, it was probably like the third day, I’m thinking, because, well if you count Sunday as the first day, there was not much going in or um, we didn’t know much then.
MM: Monday, I’m not sure if it was Monday or not, by the end of day Monday, but when the troops came in it might have even been Tuesday. But they came down Virginia Park and I clearly remember tanks and trucks with the corps men, whatever they were, whichever they were in them and being kind of, you know, again naïve. I thought, Oh, this is really interesting! So I walked out onto one of the balconies that overlooked Virginia Park and I walked out to see and the line stopped and one of the fellows in the back of a truck, who had their submachine guns pointing; turned around, pointed up at me.
MM: Silly me. [laughter] I don’t know what I thought, but I put my hands up and just backed into the door. And I heard later that some people were shot that way, just looking, because everybody was trigger happy; you know they were all trigger happy.
LW: When your friend Bob came back from working, right, what sorts of things, if anything, did he tell you?
MM: He said that there were many, many, many people killed and shot. And to this day -- I don’t know to this day -- but back then over the next year or two, I heard a lot of stories from the police type people about the fact that it was never really revealed how many people were killed.
LW: I see. So Bob seems to have thought that perhaps more than were reported?
LW: I see.
MM: And the other thing that was happening was course we had a television, so we had the television on and that’s really where we got our news. How we found out what was pretty much going on. And then we saw the break-ins and the looting that was going on in the city. We had, as I said we backed an alley, so one of the guys in the group said, “Oh my God, you guys, you've got to see this!” And this was one of the evenings so we all went to look out the back window and there were a couple of cars pulled in with piles of loot pulled into the garages, piles of loot in their cars and then they would empty the cars, put it in the garage, close the garage door and take off again. So then we just went right to the television and we watched, sure enough—one of them was a white Cadillac, I remember—sure enough we watched on television this white Cadillac showed up, got some more stuff [laughter] and then we ran to the back and watched him bring them back and unload [laughter].
LW: So you were watching, essentially, live what was going on and then on the television?
MM: Right, yeah. [laughter] So—
LW: And this garage was on Virginia Park or near Virginia Park?
MM: It was the next street over, so it was the alley between the two streets. [laughter]
LW: I see. So there were people leaving that area where you were living and going and looting, bringing things back.
LW: Was there any looting or rioting going on in your actual neighborhood?
MM: No, I didn’t see, I don’t know of any that was within me seeing it. I heard, you know, I heard firefights, we saw lots of smoke and whatever, but it wasn’t, fortunately, right near us.
LW: Now, when did you go back to work? Because I assume both places that you worked were closed during that time?
MM: Yeah, well the go-go place was, I understood, it was burned down.
LW: During ’67?
MM: Yeah, during that. So that was out [laughter] which was fine, because it was really kind of an experiment, it was fun. And I worked there for so many hours, because I worked as a barmaid too in between [laughter] that I lost like ten pounds and my costumes were starting to fall off of me. [laughter] So it was okay with me that I—I was already thin [laughter]. So that experience was over and I was trying to remember this morning about the Living End and I know it was closed. I don’t know that it was burned and I don’t know that it ever reopened. I think if it was still existing, really, then I don’t think that it ever reopened. I don’t remember ever going back there.
LW: Really? So both places that you worked during that time, that was it?
MM: Right. That was it. So I had to go back to legitimate work after that [laughter].
LW: You tried legitimate work. So what did you go on to do after ’67?
MM: I went to, let’s see, I found a nice apartment for myself in Harold Park and I went to work at that point for Englander’s Furniture as a bookkeeper. So it was [laughter] a bit more legit then.
LW: And you’ve been a lifelong Detroit resident?
LW: Pretty much ever since then?
LW: And what can you tell me about having lived in Detroit for the past few decades? What has that been like for you?
MM: It’s been really, really interesting; experience part of it, some of it very heartbreaking. But I’ve always had a really positive attitude about, about Detroit. I like to say that I watched it go down the tubes, I watched it go down. By the way, I was always an east sider after that: I was in Highland Park for a little bit and then always on the east side. So as for my heart is on the east side of Detroit and I watched it go down and I was watching it come back up and still am. Got very involved in quite a few of the community groups, things like that I got quite involved in that. I was one of those folks, who, if I overheard you on an airplane or whatever saying bad things about Detroit I would take off my seatbelt and stand up and face you down. I was very, you know—
LW: So you feel very protective over the city, still today.
MM: Yeah, because there are all kinds of wonderful, wonderful places. And my business was in Indian Village. So I lived down on an island in Detroit and then our business, with my husband, was in Indian Village and we were there about 40 years.
LW: What was your business?
MM: Marketing design. So in Indian Village, I just, those people are just, you know, they’re wonderful because they kept everything alive and they renovated. So we had a Victorian house—or actually we called it Victorian house because it was built in 1896. So we owned that building on East Jefferson and we renovated it completely; so it’s a just a beautiful, beautiful view of the gardens and the inside and everything and we know what it takes to [laughter] to put your heart and soul into something, you know? Yeah, yeah. But I’ve always been a great believer in Detroit and just cheer it on, you know. Planting bulbs on Belle Isle, whatever it is that needed to be done; very, very important.
LW: Thank you so much for talking to me, I really appreciate it. Is there anything else you want to share?
MM: That’s what I remember about ’67 [laughter]. And you know I’ll probably wake up tomorrow morning at two in the morning and say “Oh my gosh, I forgot to tell her this!” but that’s fine and you’ve been delightful to interview with.
LW: Thank you so much, I really appreciate it.
MM: Well thank you for the opportunity.**