Motown Memories

Off the keyboard of Newzhound Joe

Discuss this article at Joe’s Newz Channel inside the Diner

The Diner’s most prolific Newz Aggregator Newzhound Joe debuts here with his first Diner Article, Motown Memories. Detroit is often held up as the Canary in the Coal Mine for Industrial Cities from Berlin to Moscow to Beijing to Tokyo. The rest here from Joe…


Since I’ve travelled to the Detroit area many times over the years, I thought I’d share some of my experiences there. Some of this involves “restaurant talk” because much of my travel in the area is about getting to different restaurants while visiting the mother-in-law. There’s been some “fatty talk” in the commentary recently. Just for the record, I like to eat a big dinner – but I’m not a “fatty”. :icon_mrgreen:

Mother-in-law lives in Grosse Ile which is about 25 miles South of Detroit. A favorite place of mine to eat dinner is R.P. McMurphy’s in Wyandotte. It’s home is a 1890’s red brick building and is described as “turn-of-the-century saloon”.

RP’s has a very good NY Strip and Prime Rib at very affordable prices. Next door is a Merrill Lynch office. Here’s a picture of the bull sculpture in front of the office:

It was constructed by manipulating water heater cores. It’s ironic to me that the bull sculpture is completely hollow.

Down the street from RP’s is Frank’s Restaurant & Pizzeria. This is the best pizza place in the area.

On some of these trips, we used to drive a little further north and eat at the Auburn Cafe located in River Rouge. They serve up a pretty good “family style” Greek meal. I’d guess the abandoned Packard Plant is about 10-15 miles from this restaurant. The landscape really changes once you cross from Wyandotte into River Rouge – it gets very “industrial”. The population of River Rouge peaked around 1950 with over 20,000 people. It currently has under 8,000 inhabitats. From the map below, the railroad action (gray lines) picks up north of Wyandotte. This is also where you notice some really large abandoned plants off West Jefferson Street (east side). It really looks apocalyptically post-industrial to me.

The landscape probably gets even more “industrially toxic” (or “post-industrially toxic”) a little further NE of Auburn Cafe. This is where Zug Island is located. The reason I say “probably gets even more industrially toxic in Zug Island, is because the island is off-limits to the public for the most part (cameras are prohibited on the premises). It was once a robust hub for steelmaking & processing. Notice the gray RR lines in the image below:

Probably a good thing I never made it to Zug Island – from Wikipedia:

One of the most pressing problems in the neighborhoods surrounding Zug Island is poor air quality. According to an article in the January 20, 2010 edition of the Detroit Free Press, the neighborhoods around the area comprise six of the ten most polluted zip codes in Michigan. In the article, residents cite air quality samples containing lead and high levels methyl ethyl ketone, large numbers of cancer and asthma cases, and foul smells with “sparkly” dust that must be removed with toilet cleaner.[2] Interviewed separately, residents of the area say the foul smells are strong enough to cause dry heaves.In 2011, the Zug Island area was identified by Canadian scientists and Ontario’s Ministry of Natural Resources as the source of mysterious rumblings and vibrations that have plagued hundreds of area residents with cyclical vibrations reportedly being felt in the ground up to fifty miles (eighty kilometres) away.[3][4]The city of River Rouge reported in the Star that it cannot afford to spend any more money on investigating the hum. They claim the City Council had already spent over $1 million to help Windsor and Ontario find the source of the noise. However, they say it likely comes from the Steel Mill facilities on the island.[5]

On some trips we would drive through Detroit to get to Canada via the Ambassador Bridge. Much of the drive from Grosse Ile to the Ambassador Bridge is one depressing sight after another of urban decay. After crossing the bridge, we travel through Windsor, Ontario and then south to Colchester where Uncle Phil has a vacation home. Once you get out of Windsor, the landscape changes to something very different. It almost looks Amish. Lot’s of farming and very rural. Speaking of Amish, I shared a house with four Mennonite guys for a year back in the college days. I think there are alot of similarities between the two groups. It was really different for me – maybe I’ll tell ya about it sometime.


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