Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Richard and Jean Ambler

Mr. Amber:  I’m Dick Ambler and my wife, Jean, is with me.  This is Thursday, October 27, 1988. I was born in 1922 and Jean the same year.  My family had temporarily moved to Detroit at that time, so I was born in Detroit, and my Dad built a home on Rogers Street.  In 1925 we moved into that home.  However, prior to that I came out and we stayed with my great grandfather who lived at the corner of Rogers and Main in that brick home with kind of a tower.  I remember that I always wanted to climb that tower, but I was too little, and they wouldn’t allow that.  But then we moved into our home on 340 S. Rogers which was a nice home; and my Dad, at that point in time, owned Ambler’s Furnace and Foundry Works which was on Cady Street.  They poured the metal, and I used to go down and watch that.  Talk about safety rules, boy, they didn’t have them then.  They would carry that molten metal in small pod carriers, I guess you call them, and they would step over things and pour it into these molds that they had made.  But they ended up with furnaces and all the sheet metal work that went with it, and it was kinda fun.
Across the street from us were two young men who came over from England, the Frid brothers, and they started the laundry, and they ran that laundry which was in the building that’s still there.  I think Bellinger’s is in there now, that multi-story building.  And that was the Northville Laundry owned by the Fried brothers and they later, as you may recall, moved down here on Center Street and built a place about where Hardy’s is now or in that general vicinity.

QUESTION:  Is that spot actually where Friendly’s was and is now offices?
:  Yes, I think maybe.  Yeah, and then Richard Brothers took it over later.  But at that time, and I happened to be reading in The Record today, that Mike Allen was quoted as saying that Cady and S. Main joined and they did.  But ironically, I was riding with Lee Holland this morning, and I mentioned to him asking if he ever remembered the little bridge.  In other words if you go down and you go by the car wash there was a little landscaping office.  If you veered to the right, that’s where the road went.  To the right of that and across that creek was an old steel bridge, and that was the main street in and out of Northville.

QUESTION:  The street went from the mill on over underneath the tracks?
:  Yes, It continued on and really almost went behind my dad’s foundry; but also at that point in time, the Stinson Aircraft Company owned one of the buildings, and the Globe Furniture Company was in there, and as a boy we used to go into those buildings.  I don’t know how welcome we were, but there would be old aircraft parts.

QUESTION:  Was it still operating?
:  No, not when I was there, but you know what was there back in those years?  We had the Northville Spring, but it was spring water at that time.  In fact, there was Silver Springs Pop Company.  Did you know that?  It’s behind the railroad track.  You go under the railroad tracks, and you go back there, and they had an open glass-covered casing with the lights so you could look down and actually see the spring.  Now that spring was all disrupted when they built Highland Lakes and that’s why we’re now digging for a well to replace our well water.  But that was originally Ali spring water, and as a boy I clearly remember hauling that water for my mother.  She liked that spring water, and in fact I had a pony, and I used to think it was good for him, and I’d haul it over for him.  But that old street and that old bridge I remember very well.  It came in almost where Ruby Office Supply is.  I don’t know whether it’s still there.  Now my dad and my grandfather owned a lumber and ice company, and it was on the park drive just what would that be, just east of Rogers Street almost at the end of First Street, and the creek was dammed up there.  And there was a huge Ambler Pond, and that pond in the winter time, they would cut the ice and then store it in sawdust and sell the ice in summer.  But as a boy, that dam had cracked and had about an eighteen inch crack in it.  It was a big dam.  We used to be able to go down and run across the dam and jump over that and hopefully not fall through.  There was also a slaughter house down there.  It was closed up.  So they did have a slaughter house but that wasn’t ours.  I don’t know who owned that.  And then of course, they came through with the park drive and I remember that.

QUESTION:  So it went right on over to Rogers, from Center to Rogers?
:  When they put in the park drive?  Yeah, because previously they came right through town.  They came in over that little bridge, and they had to come up Main Street and then go through town that way.

QUESTION:  I think that was put through after we moved to Northville.  The fish hatchery was there at that time, wasn’t it above Ambler Pond, upstream from it?
:  Oh yes.  Where it is now where the tennis courts are.  That was a beautiful fish hatchery.  It was a national fish hatchery. 
:  The U.S. Government owned it.
MR. AMBLER:  The head of the fish hatchery lived across the street in that huge home, and I used to go and play with his son.  Of course, in those days, we did our swimming in the gravel pits around here, and there’s a gravel pit up behind Rural Hill Cemetery, in fact I think the Beals live there now.  It was Lawrence Gravel Pit at that time and some of these that now advertise lakefront property front on those old gravel pits.

QUESTION:  The Thomson’s off Seven Mile Road?
 MR. AMBLER:  Yeah, that was a later development than Lawrence’s gravel pit.
QUESTION:  And the Blue Heron Condominiums are on a gravel pit?
:  Yes, that’s right.  And of course, we had Taft Gravel Pit and that was right here on Eight Mile and Taft.  If you went up the hill and they filled that all in.  But there were two or three small pond gravel pits up there that Taft owned.
QUESTION:  Our children used to play up across that field?
:  Sure, sure they did, of course, and ours as well.  But also, of course, I remember that Cady Street and Dunlap Street were gravel when I was a young boy, and I remember when they were paved.  That was a major paving project.
QUESTION:  What street was that?
:  Cady Street, Dunlap, all across West, Wing.
QUESTION:  I know it was about 1958, 1959, ‘60 when they paved Center above Baseline?
:  That’s correct.
QUESTION:  It was a dirt road when we first moved here?
:  Yeah.  I was active in attempting to join the township and the city in the unification campaign.  At that time it was brought out that my great grandfather, William Ambler, was active in splitting the township of Northville and Plymouth into two townships.  They each have half the territory of normal townships.  So they split them apart, and we were trying to put the two pieces back together, not Plymouth Township, but so he was active in politics.  He had a little office where the bookstore is on Main Street, Bookstall on the Main.  That was my great grandfather’s office and was also my father’s office at one time, and I worked in there as a boy working for Forney Coal and Jim Spagnuolo and Bill Forney also owned Stroh’s distributorship.  I would check the drivers in on a Saturday night and would have all kinds of money.  That was during the depression, but they didn’t have a problem with sales of brew at that time.  Another thing, and this is rambling and going different directions, but one thing that stands out so vividly in my mind:  I started with Chrysler in 1955 and I would say from 1955 until 1965 or maybe a little later, if I would in the winter be involved in negotiations, and maybe leave Detroit at 3:00 or 4:00 in the morning to drive home, I would cut a path in the snow from Farmington Road to Northville in maybe four inches of snow.  And that’s only twenty years ago, and now the traffic.  You’d never see a car coming home at that hour of the morning.  Another thing I remember very clearly, Jean was a telephone operator.  We went together in high school, and then I left and I went up to Chelsea to work.  She was working sometimes the midnight shift.  She would call me from the telephone office.  I’d go to the office at 6:00 in the morning to get a call from her.  She would call me, and then maybe every three or four minutes she’d have an interruption and she’d say “Hold on.”  You could hear a bell or something, and then I’d hear here say, “Number please”, and he’d give her the number—she’d say, “Thank you” plug him in and then she’d come back and we’d talk ‘til someone else.  They were darn few and the numbers would be, “I’d like to call 24 or 102 or 324J or 324N”.  Remember, those were your numbers? 
:  That was my number.
MR. AMBLER: That was the way our telephone system worked.
QUESTION:  Was it a local telephone system in town?
:  No, no, it was Michigan Bell.  But they had the office up above Orin Jewelry, up there was the telephone company.
QUESTION:  It wasn’t a separate exchange system then, it was part of Michigan Bell system?
:  No, part of Michigan Bell but it was the old system.
QUESTION:  How about your days at school-grade school and high school?  What kind of sports did you get involved in?
MR. AMBLER:  We were involved in football, we had a football team. We had the band. We had basketball. In those days we played schools such as Trenton, Melvindale, and Berkley. Jean was very active and, in fact, she still kinda thinks she was a superstar as a basketball player. But the girls did win a lot of games.
Jean:  We won two years in a row, and we played other schools—Berkley, Melvindale, Redford Union, and after that the girls didn’t play other schools for a long time. But we had won the trophy for two years in a row so we got to keep it. I’m only 5’2” and a lot of the gals were, maybe the tallest on would be 5’6”. We were all shorter.
QUESTION:  Who was the tallest?
:  Gladys Ludwig
MR. AMBLER:   And Mrs. Watts was the night telephone operator, and if there was a fire or the police, you called Mrs. Watts and she’d alert…
QUESTION:  She had a Watts Line?
:  Yeah, exactly, and in addition, I don’t know whether you heard this before, the way the police were notified, because they didn’t have radios in the police car, there was a light. To call the police, she’d put the light on which hung at the four corners on one of the poles. And this red light would go on, and when the police circled back through, he see his light was on and he’d call and find out what was happening. Have you heard that before?
QUESTION:  No, I know the town I came from in New York State, they had their own telephone exchange. Anytime anything happened, you could call the telephone exchange and find out what was going on. She was usually at the center. All the information would come back into there.
:  Grade school, we were in the building that burned. It faced West Street and cornered on Cady. In fact, my dad was on the school board at that time. I remember going to the fire early in the morning as I recall, 4:00 or 5:00, but we went to the fire; and there was a little boy, I mean I was a little older that this kid, I must have been fifth or sixth grade. There was a little boy standing next to us, and pretty soon a second floor of the room collapsed, and the little boy said “Oh boy, there goes my room”.  But then we were all jammed up and a lot of kids were skipped –
Jean:  Including you, you skipped a very important grade. They put him from the fifth to the seventh grade.
MR. AMBLER: I skipped the sixth grade, I wasn’t that smart, but I’ll take it.

QUESTION:  Speaking of that, learning at that time…(inaudible)
:  Yes.
Jean:  He lost out on everything they taught him since sixth grade.
MR. AMBLER: Well, anyway, they did skip half of my class.  I think half of it skipped ahead of me because they were the smart ones and then we caught up and we skipped.  But they did skip a lot of kids.
QUESTION:  What building were you in then?
:  When we went from that building, we moved into the old red brick high school which faces Main, and the Junior High had an assembly on the first floor and the senior high had an assembly on the second floor.
Jean: and the Junior High was run by Ida B. Cooke. We had her in the seventh and eighth grade and the school on Taft Road was named after her. As it turned out, Rick, our son was major of that student council at that time, and when they dedicated the school, Ida B. Cooke, he made a speech.
MR. AMBLER: And I didn’t think a young kid would have a senior...(inaudible) But kids from Westpoint Park which was Farmington Road and Seven Mile, they came to our high school came into our high school.  They had to find their own way, we didn’t have any buses. There weren’t any buses. Another thing about school, one of the best things that ever happened to me, I was goofin’ off in geometry class in probably the ninth grade and this teacher finally lost all her patience, and she came over to me and grabbed me by the hair, and I mean she shook me. And I combed loose hair out for at least a week. And I’ve seen her at some class reunions, and from there on I had the best grades in geometry I’ve ever had. I all of a sudden realized, and my parents didn’t support me, they supported Miss Brasfere. Saw here at a class reunion three years ago, and I said “Do you remember?” and she said, “I sure do, your dad was on the school board and I’m giving you rough treatment”.  But it was good, and I think it is still good as long as it’s not abusive.  Some of those things have changed.
QUESTION:  Attention must be paid?
:  That’s right.
QUESTION:  We’ve encountered your family name in political connections in the 1880’s.
:  Yes, well my great grandfather, William, was active on the town, I don’t know if it was a village or a township; they were both and they overlapped. You got services from both. My dad was Township Clerk when we lived in the village. The village and the township overlapped on a lot of things.  My dad was on the school board. My grandfather spent a lot of his time in Detroit. He was a lumber salesman, and lumber was a big thing in those days, and I did mention at one time that we did have a lumber company, and they lived on Cady right at the bottom of the school. There’s a vacant lot there now. That was my grandmother’s home, and I spent a great deal of my time there as a boy. We had a farm there. You could have horses in town.  We had horses that we kept in that barn. In fact we had a colt born there. Now, or course, you can’t have horses in town. As I mentioned before, that was a dirt road back in the early days.

QUESTION:  How about you and the other boys in high school? What kind of activities did you get involved in?
:  Well, all kinds of things.  Speaking of Joe Spagnuolo, I had a Model T Ford.  I had Joe on the inside, and I had a boy on both running boards.  It was a coupe. We tipped it over down on the fairgrounds.  We were fooling around and we tipped over, and the fellow on the board that it fell on, ran; his name was Art Mitchell. The fella on the other side flew like a rocket and landed on his chest and skinned himself up pretty bad.  The car landed on Joe’s side; his foot was caught, and he was squealing just like a … but he wasn’t really hurt. I crawled out, and we got these other two fellas (the one that ran, and the one that was all scratched up, Kenny Chapel) and we picked up the car to get Joe’s foot out and then we told him “Quick, get out of here”.. “You gotta help us pick it up and we gotta get outta here before we get in trouble”.  So we tipped it up. You know they were mean. You had the old rain trough on the side, but it like 1/8” thick steel, it didn’t even dent that darned old Model T. But Joe and I when we both worked in the summertime, we’d take a ride and drive up to Walled Lake in that Model T. I worked always in the corner drugstore as a soda jerk for years and enjoyed that. At that time the drugstore would be open until 10:00 every night of the week and midnight on Saturday. That was just a way of life. I would go from school to football practice and then I would run back and be at the drugstore at 6:00 and work until 10:00 and then go home and go through the routine again. It was the good old days. We had a lot of fun.

QUESTION:  Speaking of the stores. How different are the businesses now than when you moved here. What changes have been made? Like a so-and-so store is now this, what was it then?
:  One thing. The grocery store you were served everything. You people remember that.  C. F. Smith Store.  We had an A&P Store on the main street where in some of what are now the old buildings. We had a meat market, and they would butcher the animals right there and you would get fresh meat. I remember Mr. Freydl, that would be Charlie Freydl’s father and Mr. Ponsford.  Beth Lapham’s father.  They both had stores here when I was a boy. You would see them at dark in the wintertime; you’d go by, and they’d be sewing. They’d have their eye shade on light, and they sewed suits and made clothes right in their shops in their tailor shops.
QUESTION:  Were they in the same location as Lapham’s and Fredl’s still are?
:  I thought Lapham’s was across the street. One of them was across the street, but I don’t know which one. I remember the depression and the bank failure, and that wiped out a great deal of people including my father, absolutely went broke. He was a stockholder in the bank, and stockholders at that time not only lost what they had but they had to match what their stock was worth. In other words, if you had $2,000 worth of stock, you lost that, and now you had to pay $2,000. Those were the rules back in the old days. He had the foundry and of course he kept thinking things were going to turn around, and he didn’t want to lay his people off. Before he got done, he had a farm out here. I used to take my pony and cart and go off to the farm at Ten Mile near Beck and pick up vegetables and bring them in and sell them in town. That was before my dad went broke, that was back when he owned the farm.

QUESTION:  Now this Great Salem Train Wreck, that was before your time?
:  Yeah, I don’t remember that.
QUESTION:  Jack Hoffman tells about it in his book. I don’t know what year that was. Probably in the 1800’s.
:  Yeah, I don’t remember that. Course, I do remember and I’m sure you’ve heard of this hill Buchner’s Hill. We used to go to the top of that with a sled, and we’d post someone at Randolph Street. You could go from there to the Fairgrounds. You had to have a sentry posted along the route because you flew out, and here comes a car.
QUESTION:  Was there still ski jumping down there on the other side of Seven Mile?
:  I think there was some big ski jumps that were held there, but that’s before my time.  But as a boy, we did a lot of skiing there and we built jumps.  But I think there were some professional jumpers there.  Course, the Northville Fair was a big deal.

QUESTION:  It was the Wayne County Fair, wasn’t it?
:  Northville Wayne County Fair, and we used to have a beautiful horse show. 
: They would come from all over to show their horses.  There would be the hunters, the jumpers, and I had good friends from Ann Arbor that came, and all their children would jump and they’d have the judges and ribbons….
MR. AMBLER: Harness racing, but there was no betting.  They had the poultry exhibits and the sheep and the pigs and the whole thing.  They had the business exhibits.  I remember my dad always had his furnaces on display.  There usually would be a contest.  I remember he used to have something for the person who guessed closest to the number of ears of corn.  It was a big attraction.  And then we had the midway and side shows, and it was run by Northville businessmen.  I remember I worked for Bill Foreman in his little office, and he was in charge of concessions at the Fair.  So I had free passes to all the concessions.  It was a lot of fun.
QUESTION:  How much building was there then?  Was the grandstand…?
:  The grandstand was just a piece of what it is now.  I’m not sure, they probably tore that down.  I can’t remember, but I would say the grandstand would hold a thousand people, don’t you think, Jean?  At least.  They’d come and they’d have fireworks, and they’d have harness racing.
Jean:  And was the track the same size?
MR. AMBLER:  Yes, I think it was always a half-mile track.  On the infield was where Northville High School played football.  There were no seats.  People would stand along the sidelines, and they put the goalposts up.  All our track events were held here.  The track was used for running, and later, probably, in mid 30’s they moved the football out to Hines Park.  You know where that football field is?
QUESTION:  That would be the Cass Benton Park?  The playing fields were in Cass Benton Park; where are they located now? 
MR. AMBLER:  In Hines Park, ‘cause Cass Benton Park was just that little park.  Then when the whole parkway went through, Hines Park surrounded it; but if you recall Cass Benton is just that little circle there.  I used to go out there for picnics. You remember that Jean, going out to Cass Benton for picnics, and then it became surrounded.  That Hines Park was a beautiful addition to the park system.  Cass Benton, I think, made the contribution of that original property for a park.
QUESTION:  Where in that area is the precise location where they played football?
MR. AMBLER:  It would be west.  Between Center and Northville Downs, and Cass Benton Park, the first entrance way to the left going east.  You’re going south, the first entrance way going east, and would run right into the football field.  There are tennis courts down there.
QUESTION:  There are baseball fields… and soccer fields?
:  Probably now.  At that time and again, I don’t remember, they might have put up tiers of seats, but basically, you stood on the sidelines and watched football.  At one time, the only transportation for the teams was people who would volunteer to drive.
QUESTION:  Rather than walk?
MR. AMBLER:  Oh yeah.  You ran down to that field, that was a pretty good hike to start with.  You practiced and then you ran back.  Those things are so different.  The enthusiasm of the coaches.  I remember Ted Roth would organize breakfasts, and we’d go there at 6:00 in the morning to breakfast basketball.  You’d bring your cereal and whatever you wanted to eat, and you’d practice for two hours, and they were very enthusiastic.  No different in that regard that I can see.

QUESTION:  Quite a heritage of sports in high school here.  What do you remember about bowling on the green?
:  Oh yeah.  Bowling on the green?  You mean at Clement and Seven Mile?  Mr. Cobbflesh lived there and he was an Englishman and he built a green.  I remember my dad would go up there and I would watch them and they would bowl on the green.  About Mr. Cobbflesh.  I have a paper here which you’re welcome to look at if you like and you’ll probably remember, and it shows a picture of Mr. Cobbflesh, Dr. Cavell, Dr. Alexander and my dad and Fred Light, that was the school board at that time.  Mr. Cobbflesh was the fellow who lived on the corned that you talked about.  There is still a big house there.
QUESTION:  Would that be the northeast corner of Clement and Main Street?
 MR. AMBLER:  Yes.  If you went up Main Street, once you got past Clement, there was nothing.  In fact the road didn’t go all the way through to Beck.  We used to go up there, and it was Bloom’s woods.  It was beautiful in its natural setting.  We’d bounce around up there in our old Model T’s and things like that, but you didn’t drive a car in that area.  It was like driving through the woods.  In fact, a young man, Dale Bray, who later became head of the Entomology Department of Delaware University, loved bugs and all nature when he was a boy, and he would hike.  He recently visited us because we live in that general vicinity, and he said, “I remember across the street from where you are now there was an artesian well, and I used to drink water over there”.  And sure enough, it’s still there.  We went over there and looked at it.  In fact, he had it dredged it out and made a pond there. 
:  You remember the Hammonds who lived there?  In fact that’s the property where the artesian well is.
MR. AMBLER:  I probably should search my memory for some of the interesting things that I’m sure I can’t remember. 
:  You had a grandmother…
MR. AMBLER:  My grandmother Ambler that was the wife of the lumber company, Ambler Pond, lived to be 103 and she still had all her faculties.  She lived there below the school almost until she was in her 80’s and then she went to a rest home.  She had all kinds of tales, and I didn’t learn enough from her. 
:  It’s too bad we didn’t take more down.
QUESTION:  It’s too bad we didn’t have tape recorders back in those days.  It’s hard to take dictation and write some things down.
 MR. AMBLER:  And to get people like you to draw this out.  You don’t find too many who will do it.  I think it’s a real service to the community.
QUESTION:  Thank you.  It’s amazing what you learn.
:  You talked about the Depression.  I remember my dad telling me that he had this employee, and he had to lay him off, and he didn’t have unemployment compensation, and they had very little money.  This fellow would go home and my dad would tell me, he’d ask the kids, “What do you want? We can have hamburger tonight or a meal of meat or you can just have rice and potatoes.  If you forego the meat you can each have a dime to go to the movies.”  And the kids would like to take the dime and go to the movies.  But it was sometime and I can’t remember but I’m sure this is recorded in history, Henry Ford came along with that $5 a day.  I don’t know when that was but it was during the Depression.  That was big money.  People were working for thirty cents an hour and less.  A $1 a day was not uncommon.  I would go out to Meadowbrook and caddy and I would get a dollar, and men would work all day for a dollar.  There have been a lot of changes.  I thought that little piece of about some of the suffering that people endured during the depression was important.
QUESTION:  Was your means of employment caddying at the golf course?
:  I caddied, I mowed lawns, I worked in the drugstore, I pedaled papers.  I’d start downtown and I would walk down to the Ford Plant, and then I would go up Griswold Street to the railroad bridge; then I would walk down the railroad track and over to the cider mill and back and catch the part of town and go back.  There was a problem.  I don’t know what it was, I don’t think I ever measured it, but it was a good hike.
QUESTION:  What paper was it?
:   The News and The Times. The afternoon papers.
QUESTION:  Did you have any trouble collecting?  Most kids did.
:  We did.  I had one lady stop me one morning.  I collected maybe $2 at that point.  She stopped me.  She lived right on Main Street.  She was with her husband.  He was an invalid.  They were on some kind of state aid.  She called me in and said “Can you loan me $2?”  She was in tears.  “Our money hasn’t come and we don’t have anything to eat.”  And I gave her $2.  When I got back to the paper station, did I catch hell for doing that.  But by golly, she got her check within a couple days, and she called me in and paid me back the $2.  To borrow from a paperboy, you gotta be in pretty dire straits.
QUESTION:  It’s a good reflection of the times.
:  It sure is. I remember Saturday nights, very distinctly, and I’m sure Jean does too. You’d go downtown and the farmers came in with their horses and buggies. And they tied them and they did their shopping. Maybe you remember we had treasure hunts. Whenever you bought something from a participating merchant you got a little ticket with a number on it, maybe a six digit number. Then on Saturday night, they would draw numbers and each store would have a giveaway. It might be an electric clock here, or a toaster here, or a shirt here. They’d put up the numbers, and everyone would come and look at all their numbers and see if they won a prize, and the same thing with the theater. You’d go in the theater. Remember when they advertised? 
:  Remember the dishes? What were those dishes called?  Depression Glass. They would have sets of those that they would give away at the movie theaters. On Saturday nights they would always have a street dance. This was every Saturday night.
QUESTION:  Where was the held?  What part of the street?
:  I would say between Main and Dunlap.
MR. AMBLER:  I can remember them in both locations, between Main and Dunlap on Center and between Center and the next street on Main-Center and the Theater on Main.
QUESTION:  What music was it?
Jean:  They had a band.
MR. AMBLER:  They’d bring in a band. When races first started, they started having harness races. There was a fellow who owned Coles Bar, Mr. Cole and he actually went down and figured the odds and took the bets, and there was no government control. He was a bookie. Then, when they finally came in with the track they wanted an announcer.  We had a clothier named ____(inaudible) and he had a P.A. system on top of his car, and he would go down there and announce the races. He then ended up as General Manager of Northville Downs. They came in from Livonia Rack Track, Wolverine, and actually offered him double his salary if he would come and take that over. So he started off with just this P.A. system and doing kind of a community service, and boom, ended up as his career.
QUESTION:  This might be a good time. I don’t know whether anyone else has covered this. What is the difference between the Racing Club and Northville Downs?
:  Yeah. Yeah. The property is not owned by the Downs. That was the original Wayne County Fair property. My father was a stockholder in that and each share was worth about $10 as originally purchased. I can’t tell you how many shares, but there weren’t a great number of shares.  When the race track started, some of the people went out and bought up the shares wherever they could. I remember I was working in Chelsea and a fella came to me and said, “I have four shares of Northville Wayne County stock, and I’ve been offered $50 a share.” I said, “Don’t sell it, it’s worth a lot more than that.”  I think today it’s worth several thousand dollars per share. Anyway, the Driving Club owns the property and the Downs leases the property from the Driving Club. They are two different organizations.
QUESTION:  Is it the Driving Club then that’s expanding the grounds?
:  Yes, I think the grandstand may be the responsibility of the Downs based on their contract but the Driving Club owns the property. Mike Allen, of course, have you talked to Mike?  He would be a good one.  He started his monument work in his garage down next to my dad’s foundry.  When I was a boy, Mike was just a young guy.  He’s quite an artist.  He designs all those tombstones.  He would be up there chiseling away at that granite making tombstones.  He knows the history very well of Northville.  Course he was the mayor here-longest serving mayor of any community.  He would have a lot of history for you.
QUESTION:  I’ll look him up.  Tell us about your dad again.
:  My dad’s name was Sherill Ambler, and he owned the Ambler Furnace and Foundry Works.  He was on the school board, he was on the Village Council, and was clerk on the Township.  He served in many political categories, and he was active in the Exchange Club and active on the Bank Boards which helped wipe him out.  He owned a lot of property.  He owned three or four stores and several houses and lost all of them including that one hundred-twenty acre farm which I wish I owned right now out on Ten Mile.  I had a little brother who died at age nine and that was a terrible tragedy for our family naturally.
QUESTION:  What was it, an accident?
:  He had an asthmatic attack.  He was given some adrenaline that speeds up your heart.  It was going too fast, and they gave him a counteractive shot and it ___(inaudible).  Remember, Jean, this was back when we were probably in high school or in junior high when they redid the street of downtown Northville.  There used to be curbs there 30” high.  You’d have to step up to get up to the sidewalks.  The sidewalks were the upper level.  They came through and redid the downtown streets, and now they have done them again.  What was that five years ago?  1982?  I would imagine that’s about 50 years that they redid them the first time.
QUESTION:  [Inaudible question about church.]
:  This was 1928 I remember that.  They dedicated Fellowship Hall at the Methodist Church.  They built that Fellowship Hall.  Now they built the new Methodist Church.  The Catholic Church was a little old church.
QUESTION:  Rebuilt considerably?
:  Oh, completely rebuilt.
QUESTION:  Was it in the same location?
:  Yes. Same location.  And the Lutheran Church was completely rebuilt.  Presbyterian Church has been renovated, but it’s the same original structure.  The same with the Baptist Church.  They’ve all stayed pretty much the same, as I recall.
QUESTION:  Which is your church? 
MR. AMBLER:  The Methodist Church.
Jean:  Your father and mother were married in the Methodist Church and we were married there and our daughter there. 
MR. AMBLER:   My mother graduated from Northville High School in 1912.
QUESTION:  What was her name?
:  Liotta Kenyon.  I don’t think my dad graduated here.  I think he went to business school in Detroit.  Jean had a pin; we lost it; that was my mother’s that said 1912.  It fell off.  My great grandfather was instrumental in splitting Northville Township and Plymouth Township out of the combined townships.  Each of them are one-half the size.  They’re eighteen square miles instead of thirty-six square miles.
QUESTION:  Why did they split, do you think?
:  I don’t remember.  This was about Mr. Amerman and there’s those school board members that I mentioned.  You’ve probably seen that in the Northville Record.  That was about Russ Amerman--musta been when he retired. 
:  This is Dr. Alexander.  He was a dentist.  You remember Lu and Ed Angold, they’re both gone now.  Louise is dead.
MR. AMBLER:   I read of an old cousin of my dad’s who is still alive and he gave me those prints along with a letter.   
Jean:  Here’s Ida B. Cooke, right here.  This lady right here.  Oh, these are all the teachers.  Here’s Mrs. Chapman.  Miss Palmer was the Latin and the French teacher.  There’s Thad Mann and Mr. Amerman that you were talking about.

QUESTION:  What about the opera house?
MR. AMBLER:  The opera house, of course, was no longer in use when we were youngsters.  My mother and her sister did perform there at one time in the distant past.  I remember, if you call it, “breaking in”, and as I recall, the stage was upstairs on the second floor and there were big stage curtains.  The lower floor was shops.
QUESTION:  Jack Hoffman’s book has pictures taken inside there.
Jean:  I have the book, but I don’t remember.
QUESTION:  I think these were taken from the Ford Archives.  It says Henry Ford was dying to get his hands on that building and move it to Greenfield Village.  The fellow that owned it refused to sell it to Ford.  He burned it down instead.
:  Henry, of course, used to drive out here.  He was out here weekly.  He drove around, and my father knew him a little bit because he had a business.  I don’t recall that he ever sold anything to the Ford Motor Company; they at least became associated through their business connections.
Jean:  Where was Sam Pickard’s meat market?
MR. AMBLER: That was in the opera house on the first floor. 
:  You would walk in the opera house and there would be the wood shavings on the floor and he would have his meat.  You would get a pound of hamburger for ten cents.
MR. AMBLER:  I imagine Dr. Atchison probably told you, but you know Jean and I lived above the office when he was a young practicing physician.
QUESTION:  You mean the place on the corner of Dunlap and…?
:  Yes. It was a hospital when Jean was a girl.  Her father was a doctor and her mother was a nurse.  They had a pretty good size hospital. 
Jean:  We would have the surgeons come out there, and they would operate and deliver babies and everything else.
MR. AMBLER: Then, Russell had his practice, but there weren’t all the hospitals around like there are now.  Any accidents that took place on Grand River between Brighton and Redford, they’d bring to his office and he would work them over and fix them up.  Freddie Casterline’s ambulance was just running all the time with Grand River accidents and bringing them in here.  Another thing, the main road coming in from Novi came straight down and curved around by the cider mill.  They used to have a lot of accidents there.  That was a sharp curve.  There was a railroad track there; we had lots of accidents with cards getting hit by trains.  You crossed the old black top.

QUESTION:  When we first visited Northville, we could drive right on through there.
:  Yes.  If anybody was going out Eight Mile, they had to come up through town and go up and right through Randolph.  They’d come right down to Baseline and turn and go up Center.  If they came Seven Mile they went through town and around Rogers and out.  That’s all they had.
MR. AMBLER:  That’s probably it.

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