Listening in on Cass history…

The El Moore

The El Moore which is in Midtown, which used to be the Cass Corridor, which is in Detroit, which is in Michigan.

The point being that there are so many different lenses through which to view the El Moore and the surrounding neighborhood. History is not a single stream, and nothing/no one exists out of context. So as we amble along on this journey, somewhat as a skeleton picking up scraps of history to be added as flesh to our bones along the way (gruesome image, I know), it becomes clear that sometimes you have to stop and listen to what somebody else has to say. For example this wonderful excerpt from  “Would the Real Midtown Please Stand Up?” , posted two years ago on the Detroit blog Critical Moment:

Origins of the Modern Corridor

According to Hogg, The Corridor really didn’t develop it’s modern identity until the 1950′s, when city politicians decided to clean up the slums over on Michigan Avenue, pushing a lot of the folks who lived there back to area by Cass Avenue.

“They wanted to clean up the area because every third doorway was a bar — and it was kind of cool in the fifties, when I went down to get a drink. No one asked you for any ID and you’d get a shot. Well they cleared that out and they didn’t know where to go. So they came back and into the Corridor and that was a lot of the people who lived in the tenements in the bars over Michigan Avenue.”

Jumbo’s Bar played a critical role in the cultural life of the neighborhood. Jumbo, the owner, was known as the Mayor of the Cass Corridor and looked out for many of the down-and-out vets who ended up in the area.

“They’d bring him their government checks and he’d give ‘em what they needed for their groceries, or whatever, and made sure they held enough for their rent and their utilities, said Hogg. “And he would bankroll them like a bank, and would take care of them literally. Jumbo knew every politician in Detroit and every cop in Detroit.”

Hogg said the vets used to mix with the university students back in those days.

“In the fifties it was a little bit different because a lot of the guys were coming from the war and the GI bill and they were hellbent on getting an education,” he said. “These guys had been around shooting and dying and stuff and they had a different attitude, a little swagger. A couple poking knives in the bars? You didn’t want to get in a fight with one of them. They were good at kicking ass. Maybe you were a nineteen, twenty-years-old, whatever, you better just buy ‘em a drink.”

Those who have ears to hear…

About Keith Owens

Keith Owens is a freelance writer, columnist, blogger and musician whose most recent work has been featured in Model D Detroit, BLAC Detroit, and the national political affairs blog PoliticusUSA. He has also published three novels through Detroit Ink Publishing (www.detroitinkpublishing.com), the eBook publishing company he co-founded with his wife, Pamela Hilliard Owens. Keith and Pam live in a 100-year-old home in the Historic Boston-Edison District a few miles north of the El Moore.

El Moore