I had a mild case of melancholy recently as I reflected on my childhood, so I took my mentee downtown to Campus Martius to see the Christmas tree and find out if he was game enough to attempt to ice skate. The tree was okay, as far as trees go but if I had my way folks would discontinue the practice of chopping down live trees and go synthetic.
In refection, I am reminded of the trees that old Miss Doig’s father would cut down and deliver to Courville Elementary each year. Miss Doig, one of the gym teachers at Courville, was well into her sixties, which made her father ancient, yet each year, he faithfully delivered a tree from his farm to our school. The Spruce trees from the Doig farm would almost touch the ceiling of the Courville auditorium which would have made them on average 28-30 feet tall. I know that the tree downtown is fifty-five feet tall but in my child’s mind the tree at Courville was grander because old Miss Doig and her ancient daddy gifted one to the students each year. I know that form of community still exist but one rarely hears about that sort of thing in urban areas.
This past weekend, we began our outing by having lunch at my favorite downtown eatery: Lafayette Coney Island. When we got to Lafayette there was literally a line of customers out the door. Fortunately for the two of us, most of the patrons needed a table for four to six. There was a table for two near the door where we sat and scarfed down some specials, coneys and chilli cheese fries.
Back in the day, my father would take us to his favorite hamburger joint on one of the side streets where Comerica Park now stands. We – me, mother, father and my two brothers – would have burgers then go look at the television cameras that had been set up the night before for the Thanksgiving Day Parade. The J.L Hudson’s Thanksgiving Day Parade was the kickoff event of the Christmas Holiday Season. And before ozone depletion, there was always snow in November, so all of downtown Detroit was decorated and to children looked like our vision of the North Pole.
After lunch we got bored pretty quickly, as we watched skaters fall and crash into the barrier of the skating rink. The rain transitioned to snow, as we snacked on munchies we had purchased on what was once Kern Block. As we sat rinkside, we got a little chilly, so we walked down to Hart Plaza.
Walking around Hart Plaza without merchant stands, cops, security guards, music blaring out of tinny speakers and thousand of people milling about was a treat for me. We walked beneath the Horace Dodge Fountain, inspected the statues on the river front and the impressive ‘Stargate’ monument, gifted to the city for our tricentennial. I’m not sure the kid was as impressed as I was about the artistry of at Hart Plaza. It is truly a testament to the greatness of downtown Detroit. The battery on my Chocolate Cherry phone was low, otherwise I would have taken more pictures.
Downtown Detroit is a jewel that is grossly unappreciated because of the incessant dogging by out state interest and national media. What the media fails to report is: the amount of tourism that occurs in the downtown area. Don’t take my word for it just try to get a table at Lafayette Coney Island or a parking space at Eastern Market on any Saturday afternoon.