Some long-time residents of Northville share their memories and experiences.
Wednesday, June 26, 2013
Ed Mroz and Jim Schrot
RA – Richard Allen JS
– Jim Schrot
JC – John Colling EM
– Ed Mroz
RA. We are meeting today, Friday, June 9, 2006, to interview
Jim Schrot and Ed Mroz along with John Colling and Richard Allen to do an oral
history interview. Both Jim and Ed have an extensive background as Constables
plus other things that we don’t know that we are about to find out. Maybe you
should each identify yourselves so that our recorder can identify voices.
JS. Okay, Jim Schrot, a retired Constable from Northville
Township. I started with the Township in 1967 and then became an elected
Constable in 1972. I also worked with the Township police department and
retired after twenty-two years with them as a Reserve Lieutenant. It’s been a
great interest to work with the Township and watching it grow over the years.
Today I think it’s reached its limit, its full growth.
RA. Ed, would you speak so your voice becomes identifiable.
EM. Okay, my name is Ed Mroz, a resident of the Township
since, let’s see, December 1, 1978, is when I moved into the Township. I was a
Township Constable first elected in 1988 ‘til we were disbanded in January
2004, was it Jimmy?Yeah, 2004. In
addition to that I was a reserve police officer here from 1979, May to November
30, 1999. So that was twenty plus years. Previous to that I was in law
enforcement in the city of Livonia. I was a reserve officer there for ten
years, from 1968 to 1978. Previous to that I was a reserve officer in the city
of Detroit from approximately 1965 through the early part of 1967. As a
Township resident I’ve seen it grow from basically, when I came out here, a
rural community. I can remember when I first moved out here, Haggerty was a
gravel road, a rutty gravel road on top of that. It has continued to expand,
our public services, the library and everything has just continued to grow.
It’s amazing in these few years of progress that I’ve seen and lived through,
like my partner, Jim, said, I think we’re peaking out right now. I’d like to
see it a little more personal like it has been and not just another community,
so to speak, like Livonia where any piece of ground that’s open, they want to
put a building or a parking lot on it or a mall of some sort.
RA. Jim, when did you move to Northville Township? Where did
you come from?
JS. Well, we came, actually, from Washington State. I was
discharged from the service and we stayed there for a while and then moved to
the Township. That was approximately in 1953 or 54. I guess I’ve been here ever
RA. What made you pick Northville Township from Washington
JS. Well, we have relatives in Michigan. I have a sister in
Farmington. The area driving through it, it seemed like we kept coming back to
it. We built our first home, actually, in the city of Northville, at 40 Welch
RA. Was it south or north of Eight Mile?
JS. It was north of Eight Mile.
RA. The Oakland County side.
JS. Right. We located the home on Seven Mile, west of Beck,
which dated back to about 1835. There were additions on the home, but we were
the third or fourth owner. It seemed like there was a lot of activity during
the Civil War in that location for the Underground Railroad and different
things. It’s kind of a unique situation. If you go down the basement, it is
still stone, it still has the bark on the beams, going down the basement. It
just seemed it was a great place to raise a family. We have three boys and one
daughter. It’s always been a good atmosphere in that area of the Township.
RA. Your home, if I recall, backs in to Maybury Park, which
was Maybury Sanatorium at that time?
RA. It’s a notch in the property, let’s put it that way.
JS. Yes. It was a sanatorium. It was a working sanatorium.
While I was Constable, we took the last person out of the sanatorium, escorted
them out. After that it kinda declined and then went down to when they made the
State Park and the living farm, and it seemed that it just fit in with the
family…another enjoyable thing.
RA. When you came in the area when you were Constable, was
it full time or part time?
JS. Well, we were on call at any time. We didn’t work on a
schedule, but we made our own schedule so it wasn’t a routine, the same thing
everyday. We might go out in the morning; sometimes we’d go out in the evening,
a lot of times at night.
JC. What actual duties did you have? People that are
listening to this today, we don’t have Constables.
JS. The education and the working things were the same as
your police officer today. What’s kind of unique is out of the Constables in
1929, they formed the State Police. We worked with the Sheriff’s Department. We
took care of the local things in the Township that were involved in the county,
and we also worked with the district court. We formed the district court
officers. Other than that…We also worked with the DNR; we were Deputy
Conservation Officers. We patrolled Maybury State Park and took care of the
West End of the Township, which was rural. A lot of people don’t actually
realize or know that one thing at Six Mile and Northville Road used to be a
dairy farm. That burnt down, a lot of our patrol was in which is now Highland
Lakes—that was Death Valley. There were 102 roads going in. People and curious
kids couldn’t find their way out. We kind of escorted them out. Napier road was
another area that was rural. We had poaching, we had stripping of cars; we’ve
had a drug bust, beer parties, anything that would entertain the people, they
were out in that area. We also took care of the Detroit House of Correction if
they had escapees, because we knew the area. We could locate some of the
prisoners easier than they could because they weren’t familiar with it.
RA. Were there two Constables at that time?
RA. Who was your partner, or partners as time went on,
before Ed came on the scene?
JS. I was just thinking back. I had Joe Lukomski. He was
also with the reserve department. I had Dick Mitchell for a short time. His
father, you might say, was the active, original Constable of the Township. I
had Paul DeJohn for a short time; and then I had Ed Mroz, and he’s been with me
for a long time. We worked real close together.
RA. Where was the home base for the Constables or law
enforcement for the Township at that time?
JS. We worked right out of the Township Hall.
RA. And that was where?
JS. Well, the first one that we worked out of was actually
in the City, which, I believe, it was possibly the original library and then it
became Township Hall. Then we moved on to Sheldon Road in the Child Development
Center, and then we moved on to Six Mile. Unfortunately, I never worked out of
the new Township Hall.
JC. Ed, you’re kind of quiet. Do you want to add to that?
EM. I came in kind of late in the game, you might say. I was
elected in ’88. I actually took over my duties in 1989. I took over for his
previous partner, Joe Lukomski, which is kind of unusual because Joe and I
graduated high school together in the city of Detroit from St. Andrew in 1958.
It was just strange, when I decided to join the reserve department before I
became a Constable, I was walking up to Township Hall and he was coming down
the front steps in full uniform. I looked at him, because I hadn’t seen Joe
since we graduated; this is in 1979. A conversation came about and I found out
at that time that he was a Constable as well as a Reserve Officer. I said,
“Wow.” I’ve always been completely orientated to what I can do and something I
like doing and at the time when he actually left the Township of Northville, I
applied and ran for office and was elected. As to our duties, like I say,
during my tenure, our jobs, basically what we did, started to be supplemented
by the police department as it continued to grow from a very small department.
I can remember back when I worked as a Reserve Officer, when we worked Sunday
night there would be just my partner and I as the only two officers on duty.
There was no backup other than the city of Northville, and sometimes they would
and sometimes they wouldn’t. So basically it was just he and I, and we handled
the entire Township on a Sunday evening patrol. There were quite a few tousles
around the time and you did what you had to do. As a Constable, there were a couple
instances I was involved in, One, I can relate, we had a problem with dogs. It
actually happened at Maybury State Park, where they were attacking the animals.
Jim and I both had a real good relationship with John Beemer. John was a great
guy and was instrumental in bringing the farm back online. I talked to the
regular officers and there wasn’t a whole lot they could do. They could just
position someone there all evening. I contacted John Beemer and they were
having a problem with the sheep. I told him to put them out that night, and I
was going to spend the night out here. I came on the scene at probably11 p.m.
and stayed until about 4:00 in the morning. I remember the sheep being out in
the field, and had those dogs appeared and caused them any harm or duress, I
was going to take over the situation whatever way possible. I can safely say
from that time on we never had a problem with those dogs; I don’t know what
happened to them but I never saw them after that. There have been other
instances. I remember one of the previous Trustees, Russ Fogg, he contacted Jim
and I one evening. People had contacted those animals, loose animals, there’s a
name for them, I can’t remember it. Anyway, they had caught one in their trap,
they set these traps up and the people never came out to take the animals to
the park and release them. So they kept calling us. They called the police
department, but they’re not going to get involved in anything like that, so we
went out and rectified that situation too. There have been other instances too.
Patrol, certain areas of the Township which were rural, we used to do a foot
patrol on them. As to poaching Jim mentioned earlier, we had quite a problem at
Maybury where some of the residents were actually poaching. We appeared on the scene
one afternoon and met with one of the DNR officers, one of the sergeants, I
don’t remember his name. He was quite pleased to see us out there with them. It
was quite an isolated area, and poachers are poachers. Most are done with bow
and arrow, but you never know if they’re armed.
RA. I remember as a Trustee hearing the story one night that
someone was hunting in there and they went to Jim’s house, and he said, “I
think I know where he’s going to come through the fence.” And they got him.
Jim, maybe you can embellish the story. I just know the short version I heard.
JC. What were they poaching, deer?
JS. Actually, there were about three locations at Maybury
where they had cut the fence and put it back to get access into the park. That
was real heavy poaching going on in that area. Another area that was real bad
was Napier between Five and Six along the railroad and the overpass. What Ed
mentioned about Highland Lakes, we had a unique situation there. It was when
they put the sidewalks, the asphalt in around the lake. The geese would land in
the lake and then swim in to the shore, and then do their thing up on the
asphalt and then go on the grass. People would get very annoyed with it. They
contacted different animal control, different things, and they said there was
nothing they could do. They called us and I said, possibly we can. The way we
solved it was about twenty feet from the shoreline, we drove stakes in and then
put a string all the way around the lake. The geese would land on the lake and
swim in, hit the string, and then go back out on the lake. They were very
satisfied. They could walk on their paths and enjoy their evening.
RA. I know leaving tall grass along the shore keeps them out
too. I know another one that had the most unique one. They bought a tape
recording of a goose distress call. They had a PA system and they played it
every fifteen minutes. The geese would land and hear that distress call and
were gone. Eventually, they would quit coming.
EM. Relating to that same thing, I don’t know if that was
the cause of my demise. During Halloween we used to have a lot of problems in
the Township, and I was working as a Reserve Officer at that time. We used to
cover the Township pretty extensively. I can remember at Highland Lakes,
chasing some young people that were doing egging and that type of thing in the
Township, and tripping over something in one of those backyards chasing one of
them, and I did a complete somersault back there. I don’t know if it was one of
Jim’s lines or what, but it came out of nowhere in the pitch dark. It was just
little things that come to mind.
JC. Most of the activities you did, were they self-generated
or people calling in?
EM. Oh they called. We used to get calls like this from the
Township Board, certain people. Russ Fogg was really involved in the Township,
and anything in that regard he showed a lot of interest in the Township. We got
a lot of support from most of them. Some things you just didn’t want to bother
the police department with; they didn’t have the time and it’s not in their
field of expertise. So they would contact us and we’d take care of it.
JS. I think what the people enjoyed or took advantage of,
was that with their own family or children, they could contact us and find out
about different problems. We handled questions on drugs, some on marijuana and
different things like that. They felt if they went to the police department, it
might create a problem, where we could just advise them and steer them the
right way. It seemed more personal to the people in the Township. At one time
we had a phone hooked up outside the building where the people could drive up
and call in, and we wouldn’t even see them. We would talk to them and advise
them on what they should do or not do. It was kind of unique. I felt that the
Constables, and that was statewide, they had more personal contact with the
EM. In regard to personal contact with people, the Township
one year authorized us to enforce the dog ordinances. I think you were on the
board then, Richard?
RA. Yeah, probably. If you did it, I was.
EM. I think you were. It was funny some of the comments we
got. Half the people we contacted didn’t know there was an ordinance about
that. I remember doing a lot of footwork, because this was done on foot. You
would drive into a subdivision and then walk the subdivision. I can remember
Jim, at days end, Jim would take half the street and I would take the other.
Usually we were quite tired. One thing we did get was a response from the
people. When they found out we were out there, they just feel we gave them
stuff about inoculations and that type thing. It made a lot of sense for the
protection of their children and of course, the neighborhood children to get
their animals inoculated and licensed them. If they got lost, we could find
them. By far most people were behind us and the endeavor, and I know the
response of people coming into the township hall to get a dog license was
unbelievable. I don’t know if it was tripled or quadrupled, but it was quite a
following of the people that they followed the letter of the law. We also did
this at Kings Mill one time. We set up a class on Saturday and Sunday for
people who were employed. It is difficult at odd hours to come into the
Township and pick up a license. We actually handled that right out of Kings
Mill. We didn’t have to do all the walking; they came to us.
RA. When you were not being Constable, what else did you do?
EM. I retired from my position at Progressive Tool after 46
years, ten months and four days. I was ninetneen when I started and was 66 when
I retired. Progressive Tool was one of the largest, if not the largest,
manufacturer of tooling in the United States at that time. They are still quite
large, course the competition is out there. As an employee there I held a lot
of different positions. I was a shipping and receiving man, I was Traffic
Manager for several years. I did a lot of purchasing. I handled various things.
RA. Jack of all Trades?
EM. Yeah, I worked my way up. I started out as a truck
driver and worked my way up.
RA. How about you, Jim?
JS. Well, actually, before I went into the service, the
army, I served an apprenticeship as an electrician and then I went in the
service. When I came out I finished working as an electrician, a journeyman, 42
years. I never utilized that in the Township. I figured they had their building
department and inspections and that was no concern of mine.
JC. When were you in the service?
JS. I served from 1950 to 1958.
RA. Let’s see, in the 50s. What do you remember particularly
about shopping, schools, or what have you in the area?
RA. Township or City, either one.
JS. One of the most unique little restaurants, it was kind
of a coney island, used to be at Five Mile and Northville Road where the gas
station is. It seemed that people came from everywhere to go to that place?
JC. Was that Carl’s Place?
JS. Yes. We didn’t have a lot of stores or restaurants.
There were a few in the City; but as far as patrolling both with the Constables
and the police department…At DeHoCo they had a mess hall set up in the basement
for those working on the road. You could go in there and eat. It was kind of
unique. It was cooked by the prisoners and you just ate there and left.
RA. DeHoCo was functioning when you were here. I kind of
recall there were farms scattered up and down. Maybe you can give a little
background on DeHoCo and what they did.
JS. Right. What was unique back then was the area from
Napier to Ridge on that side, which would be the south side (5 Mile?), was the
pig farm. The rest of the area on the north side was all farms, and they grew
all the products for Maybury Sanatorium and the State Hospital, Child
Development Center, Hawthorne Center. About that time almost 60% of the
residents in the Township worked at one of these facilities. Like my neighbors,
their family, they worked the farms, they worked in the kitchens. It seemed
like the whole township was involved in it.
RA. Local employer.
EM. One thing Jim is forgetting also are the years of
service he has given to the Township as a resident and law enforcement and his
farm. We used to wonder talking to the law enforcement officers around here how
in the world he held on to a regular job with all the sidelines he had. We used
to get a good laugh out of that.
JS. It was kind of unique when they started the fire
department in the Township. They put the call out and they said, “Can you help
us out?” Most of the time it was building equipment or restoring it.
RA. Bob Toms (Fire Chief).
JS. That’s right.
EM. Oh yeah.
RA. The original…
JS. Fire chief.
RA. I’m going back to the military, he was the original
JS. Yes, he was.
RA. If there was something to be found that he could get for
next to nothing, and rebuild it, he had it.
EM. He was a unique individual.
JC. Back then if you did fire work, did you get paid for it
or was it strictly voluntary?
JS. The first part was voluntary. I was with them for 10
years. It seemed that they got all the equipment working and operating. I
remember one time they put out a little article in the Northville Record for
volunteer firemen. It was kind of unique because the first three who responded
were about five feet or under and they couldn’t reach the pedals on the truck.
EM. I don’t want to interrupt you, but you just brought
something to memory. When Jim was working as a reserve police officer we were
partnering up with one of the regulars and to this day I wish we could of got a
picture of it. When our Chief of Police, Jim Werth, when he was a younger
officer, course he was a lot bigger guy, there was an incident when Jim and
John were working together. They both got out of the car at the same time and
looked like a couple of Lion fullbacks coming at you.
JS. That was at the time, when they had the Dodge Polaris, I
think it was called.
EM. No, no, that was Malibu.
JS. The little car. I remember that because we had to come
back to the station and get another car because when I got out of the car I
folded the door, (laughter). It was kind of unique. I know one thing when they
started the police department; actually, who became chief at that time was a
Constable of the Township.
EM. Oh yeah, Chief Nisun.
JS. We worked together for about three years and then we
started the police department. That involved wiring the cars and doing our own
EM. Wasn’t our second chief, Chief Hardesty, didn’t he come
out of the Constable Association?
JS. Well, his father did.
EM. Oh, his father. I wasn’t sure if he did or not. I know
he was a reserve and then became a regular office and then eventually made
JS. They lived in Salem and he took care of the west side of
EM. Washtenaw County.
JS. Yeah. He backed us up an awful lot.
JC. Getting back to when you first started with the fire
fighting work, was that combined with the City and the Township?
JS. When I started with the fire department they were
starting their own, although they had a mutual aid with the City. They gave me
the job of driving the tanker truck. That was kind of unique because at that
time we had a station on Sheldon Road, and the Child Development Center had a
fire station so that is where we worked out of. I was responding to a fire and I
was supposed to turn west on Seven Mile. They cross the horses at Sheldon Road
(and Seven Mile corner) because the barn was located up there (St. Lawrence
Estates now), and I’m coming down the hill and it was a little bit slippery,
kind of a rainy, snowy night, The horses were crossing and I didn’t want to hit
them. So I was blowing…this thing had an air siren and had an air horn. So I
figured I can’t make the turn. I went straight. I was going to go up through
the City and then go across. I’m not sure what they called the race, but it was
a big money race. I went by and I’m blowing the siren and the horn. The horse
that was supposed to be the big winner was in front and it turned and ran
backwards. We had quite a controversy with the Township and the racetrack for
the next three days trying to figure out what had happened.
RA. I know one night, it was a snowy night. I began to think
it was you I saw, somebody driving the tanker down the hill. He tried to make
the turn on Seven Mile and started to slide. I could see his eyes were about
like saucers and he was trying to get that thing around that turn on that snowy
EM. That was an experience coming down that hill in the
wintertime, if they don’t get it out there.
RA. The tanker was another thing that the Chief had you put
together from bits and pieces, as I recall.
JS. Oh yeah.
RA. He found a tanker and he found a chassis and had these
two pieces put together, because the truck was garbage.
JC. Now you mentioned that you worked with DeHoCo. Did you
get calls from the other facilities here like you mentioned the youth home, the
hospital, and so forth? Did you get involved in those or did the county or
state handle it?
JS. The supervisor from the Child Development Center called
a number of times, If they had problems there, we’d back them up. If they had
some of the people out, the youth, we’d try to locate them. We also had DeHoCo;
when they had prisoners out, they had a siren that they would blow. That was a
first alert and then they would call any local authority in the area. It seemed
like they called Plymouth Township. Northville Township was very small--they
only had two officers. We’d respond to that. We knew just about where the
prisoners would go to hide.
EM. In addition, they basically had three prisons with close
proximity to each other. DeHoCo, and there was one, Phoenix Correctional
Facility, the one they tore down. Of course, the Scott facility, did it have a
different name then?
JC. Was Scott facility the one on the corner?
RA. Yeah. The one they tore down then.
EM. Yeah, that was Phoenix Correctional Facility.
RA. Okay, I didn’t know the name.
EM. Three in close proximity. The people who live in the
Township now don’t realize. They complain about the one we have now. Back then,
where would you put people who needed to be incarcerated? In the western end of
JC. Another old time thing here, we’ve had a lot of
EM. Quarrying, oh yeah.
JC. Did you find that the young people like to…?
EM. Yes. One of the funniest experiences I ever had was the
quarry on Beck Road where the subdivision is. We responded to illegal fishing.
That was a great fishing hole. You know, you really couldn’t blame the people
to go in there and go fishing. But when you get a complaint you have to respond
to it. One time we went out there, it was the funniest thing. We called them
over to the shoreline, and I don’t know if you were with me that time Jim. The
canoe came over. Just as they were exiting their canoe, it flipped over on
them, right at the shoreline. Just to watch that, I remember backing away, I
laughed so hard. You know, you have to be professional in uniform at all times,
but just to see those two adults flip over. We gave them a warning and sent
them on their way. That was an experience. Just to see them getting out of
their canoe at the shoreline and flip right over. They just got drenched.
JS. You mentioned Highland Lakes. Accessing off on Eight
Mile or on that side of the lake, they had a kind of a rope swing.
EM. That was on Griswold, Jim. Swing on Griswold.
RA. I remember seeing a swing in there.
JS. They’d swing off the rope and down into the lake. We’d
get calls constantly there and a lot of the motorcyclists used to hang out,
that was a good spot. One thing that was unique about Highland Lakes, we have
some legends in this Township, and one of them was Goofy Dan. It seemed nobody
really knew his name, so that’s what they referred to him as. One of his
favorite things was, in the wintertime, was to go to the lake over there off
Griswold, cut a hole in the ice, and dive in. We constantly got calls that
somebody fell through the ice. We knew who it was and we knew that shortly he’d
come out and go home. What was unique was that he rode a bicycle. I don’t think
he ever owned a car; he rode a bicycle all his life in the Township. We had one
other person. I can’t recall his name. He would walk through the City, usually
the first part of October, and carry a cement block. He’d walk down and pick
out a window, and throw the cement block through the window. Then, they’d take
him to court and the judge would sentence him to 90 days in DeHoCo for the
winter. (Laughter) It got to be kind of a situation where it happened every
year. Finally, they told him, just carry the block down and sit on the block,
and we’ll pick you up and put you in for 90 days and then you can spend the
winter there. There were more people here who were real legends.
EM. Oh yeah, Every community had a few of those.
JS. Like Milan George’s farm on Six Mile was almost a mile
square. He had one program that he worked, and my oldest son worked for him for
probably three or four years, while they were in high school. He hired all the
kids from high school and they worked the farm. They were bailing, they were
planting. If you came back the second year, then you got a little better job.
If you came back the third year, then you were kind of a supervisor. He had one
program in the Township. Because it was so rural, he didn’t want everything growing
up in weeds. So he would put everything, all the vacant property in the
Township, in corn. You might own the property and live in Arizona, retired, or
something. It was kind of a sharecrop. He’d pay your taxes. People were amazed;
there wasn’t one square foot of vacant property that didn’t have corn on it. It
was kind of unique. We liked it because it kept it rural.
EM. The Township is growing too fast, but you can’t stop
progress, I guess.
JC. Of course, I-275 wasn’t here. That opened up this
community for a lot of people.
EM. It sure has.
JS. If you came east from Napier Road...Napier Road is dirt,
gravel, Ridge is dirt, Beck Road’s dirt, Sheldon was a, well...we used to refer
to it as a lane and a half road because if one came the other way, you had to
EM. I live just south of Six between Haggerty and
Winchester, and when I first moved into the sub, I can remember looking north
of Six Mile Road. We had a huge barn, you remember that.Just about where the Lakes of Northville, by
the old Township Hall, we used to watch the walk-aways from the state hospital
(Northville Psychiatric Hospital) coming down the hill, running away. We used
to see them walking in the subs, and before you know it, the locals would come
pick them up and that type of thing.
JC. Did you get into the walk-aways?
EM. They used to walk into the garages and try to get
bicycles and cars if you left your keys in them. We used to have a big problem
with walk-aways at one time.
JS. The state hospital was really unique because I remember
they had two male subjects that lived there, and after they were done working
for the day, they usually had them cutting grass or whatever, they would walk
together over to Charlie’s (Northville Charlie’s Restaurant) and they’d share a
bowl of chili.
EM. That’s Rocky’s now right?
JS. Yeah. For a while they’d call, and then they figured
they were just sharing a bowl of chili, and then they’d go back. So they didn’t
RA. No harm done.
JS. When they got out of there, it was kind of unique, they had
one person who was about four hundred pounds or a little better; it would take
four or five people to corral him and try to get him back there.
EM. My experience with that is they’d walk away and walk
across the street and go and have a cold one at Charlie’s, later on Rocky’s.
JS. A lot of people don’t remember that right directly
across from the state hospital, they had the bus station.
RA. I was going to say, maybe expand on that a little bit. A
lot of us know about the bus station but not the progression of things.
JS. That’s where the buses turned and went back to Detroit.
They knew it. They’d just go over there and get on the bus.
RA. Wasn’t there a Northville bus line there that from there
down went east to Grand River?
JS. Right. The bus depot.
EM. I moved into the township just about the tail end of a
lot of this. Some of this I experienced with Jim, but a lot of it happened
before my time. Talking about things in the Township, how many people remember
there was a baseball diamond on Six Mile Road just west of Beck, Thomson Field?
That was beautiful.
JS. That was a unique situation there. It was brought up in
the Township Board that we should get more involved with the community and
athletics with the children. They residents put it together and donated a
backstop for the baseball field and put up a partial a fence in the area. The
company I worked for donated all the work for the lighting. It just seemed that
the whole community was involved and they put the baseball field together, and
it didn’t cost anything.The kids played
for a number of years. We had leagues at night, and all kinds of activities.
RA. And mosquitoes, they were thick down there.
EM. There’s a point somewhere in the township, I’m trying to
remember the exact street. It was behind the township hall at the time when I
first came out here. I was shown it by one of the regular officers. It was the
highest point in the township at that time. It’s where Lakes of Northville is
now. It was kind of a unique situation to go up there at night; it used to be a
lover’s lane back then. You could actually see from that point all the way down
to the city of Detroit and see the Ambassador Bridge.At that time I remember it being lit up. That
was a unique view that anybody who lived here then, whoever didn’t partake in
that, missed a very great sight.
JC. You used to see it at Haggerty Road, but now you can’t
because the buildings are there.
EM. Right, but at that point, it was a clear view.
RA. Also on M-14 where the overpass is on Sheldon Road. If
you look quick, you can see it. My landmark used to be the Burroughs stack
until they took it down. I have trouble getting oriented now, because when the
stack was there, it was easy to pick it out.
JS. Regarding that incident of the bridge and the lighting,
actually we’re the second highest elevation in Wayne County.
EM. Northville Township is?
JS. No, where our property is where the hill goes back. Because
that hill goes up again for Maybury Sanatorium. It is very common to see the
lighting for the bridge and different things.
EC. What most people don’t know is way back when the
glaciers were here, Detroit was underwater, and the beach line runs right
through Northville Township, in fact, I live on it. It’s sand all the way down
where we are, which were the beach deposits. Further out you got what they call
moraine, which are the stones and stuff dropped by the glaciers.
EM. Yeah, I have boulders on my property, huge
JC. To the east of us was a lake at one time, 10,000 years
ago. That’s why you’ve got the rise up there in Hines Park.
JS. One thing that was kind of unique in the Township, the
City had Parmenter’s Cider Mill and we had Foreman’s on Seven Mile Road.
Actually, at that time, the first murder in the Township was handled by the
Constable.I had the radio at home; I
heard, well at that time, Nisun was about three miles away. He was trying to
respond to it. I was less than a mile and I responded. The person who did the
shooting was coming out of the building at that time, and I apprehended him and
put him under arrest as the Constable in the Township. Nisun arrived and the
Sheriff’s Department arrived after he did, and they said, “No, they were going
to take it over.” Nisun said, “No, it was handled by the Constable in the
Township and he’s going to carry it through.” I carried it through district
court, circuit court and put the person away. But it was confusing in court
because the establishment was called Foreman’s Orchard, and the person who did
the shooting, his name was Foreman, but no relation, and the person who was
killed was Jim Foreman. It really got confusing. It just seemed like I had to
handle an awful lot. It was a real experience.
JC. Were there Township attorneys who worked with you?
JS. They did, they were part time at that time.
JS. Ah, I can picture them. Who was that?
RA. Morgan, Don Morgan. He had the distinction of writing
letters to the Township Board and when he got through, you had no idea what he
said. Legal jargon. You worked for the court system for a while?
JS. Right, District Court.
RA. What did you do there?
JS. I was the Court Officer. I worked for Judge Dunbar
Davis. I went over and I talked to him and I observed the court. I could see
that it was kind of a state of confusion at times.I said, “You need a kind of a partner, a
court officer.” He said he never had one. I said that, “It’s up to you if you
want to try it.” We worked it for three days, and he says, “That’s it. You’re
here.” He’s a legend in himself. He always wore bow ties. I went to one of
these novelty stores, and I saw the bow tie, and it had one red light and one
green light, and a little button that you push. So he says, “Okay, the red is
defense and the green is the prosecutor. Okay.” Then, he’d start and if the
defense kept going on and on and on, he’d push the button and turn him off.
EM. That’s called judge control.
JS. That got to be kind of unique in the court. Everyday it
was actually better than watching television the way he handled things. He
could have three cases at the same time, all going. He was a great tennis
player. Actually, the way he put himself through law school, he was an
ironworker. A number of the big bridges in the state, he worked on those. He
never got to Mackinac.
RA. He wasn’t that big a man as I recall. When you think of
ironworkers, they’re gorillas.
JS. Very strong.
RA. You don’t see a fat ironworker.
JS. It just seemed like we had so many different things in
the Township and around the area that we don’t have today.
RA. Where was the court held at that time?
JS. In Plymouth. Actually in the City and Plymouth. I think
on Monday and Wednesday we met in the City, and Tuesday and Thursday we met in
Plymouth city hall. Then shortly after that I developed a night court system
for him. He said, “Well, we can handle it.” I said, “Okay, I’ll show up in the
evening and go through the roster and check in and check the attorneys and get
everything ready.” We did that three nights a week for a while.
EM. That’s four jobs, Jim. I only held three.
JS. Sometimes we had a little conflict because if there was
an arrest made in the Township, sometimes either the Constable or the police
department, I was sitting next to the judge. It used to shake up the defense
RA. I’ve exhausted my questions, do you have anything else?
EM. We’ve covered a lot of territory.
RA. Is there anything else you would like to bring up?
JS. Well, I had one little thing here. At the Historical
Society, do you have a museum and different things and are you involved in
RA. Well, I am and I’m not. My wife (Pat) works for the
Historical Society in the Archives Department and is on the board of directors.
They’re kind of the collectors of historical documents. The Township is trying
to develop, they’re not going to compete with Mill Race, but they want to pick
up things that are peculiar to the Township and are slowly acquiring them and
are in the process of getting funding for a display case downstairs to show
some of the historical things for the Township. What do you have?
JS. I don’t know if you have a copy of this or not (Zoning
map). This is before they developed everything in the Township.
RA. What were the circles for?
JS. There were two things.
RA. Is this the distance from your house?
JS. This is where I live. If we had anything in the area,
like escapees from DeHoCo, these are five miles apart, I mean a mile apart. I
could pretty much tell in the area how long it would take me to get there.
Also, we were involved with the weather watch and the sky warn. If there was a
storm approaching, I knew it was approximately five or six miles from the
RA. Tell you what, when we are finished here, let’s talk to
Joyce Carter. They have a large copy machine downstairs; she can copy it and
give the original back again.
EM. You know what’s interesting as of late is The Record.
They’re showing pictures of the Northville community pre-1900’s, most of them.
RA. My wife picks the pictures out, and every so often some
piece of misinformation gets in there and the editor catches flack from everybody.
EM. Yeah, like Northville Plaza. My wife said, “Mention that
when you’re down there, about TGY.” When my son was a little guy, he loved that
JS. One of the most informative people in the Township, was
the farmhouse right here.
JS. Three sisters lived there. One of them passed away just
recently. When they made up the first book in the Township about the history
and things liked that...
EM. You were involved in that, weren’t you, Jim?
JS. At that time I was involved with the Civil War
skirmishing and traveling all over. They said, “Can you handle the Civil War
part?”I said “Fine.” They said, “We
want more history,” and I said, “Have you contacted the three sisters? They’ll
help you out because they have albums after albums of pictures back when.” If
you look at them where the racetrack is, the hotel that used to be up on the
hill, they had pictures of that and all kinds of stuff. They helped them out.
RA. When you go back to the Civil War, I’ll get shot if I
don’t ask this question. You mentioned the Underground Railroad. What do you
know about it as far as Northville Township’s involvement? I know Salem was
definitely involved. There’s a rumor that there was a safe house up on
Reservoir or what have you.
EM. I didn’t realize that the Underground Railroad came out
JS. Right across from us, I’m trying to think of a name. It
would be right next to Thomson-Sorenson’s, right to the front of their property
there was a large home, mostly fieldstone. What was unique about it was that
home had two basements, and one of them was the Underground Railroad. It was
kind of a bad situation through the development in the Township, we tried to
keep that home, and one of the ideas we had was to turn it over to the Parks
and Recreation and they could use it for an office and different things like
that. They were going to keep ¾ of an acre of property with it. But through
miscommunication, somehow that house got torn down.
RA. That was probably when they started to develop the
Thomson Gravel Pit. That guy went in and knocked stuff down without a permit.
JS. We were really upset about that, quite a few people in
the Township. We don’t seem to keep anything today.
EM. It’s hard to preserve.
RA. That’s why the historical group was formed. We don’t
have an historical district, quote, unquote, like a lot of places do. We have a
piece here and a piece there and a piece somewhere else. That barn they moved
was one of them, and there’s another house that’s been offered to the Township
that dates back to the 1830s. Now the question we have to figure out is how to
move it and not let the taxpayers pay for it, and that may be the challenge.
But the owner of the house wants to donate the house but doesn’t want to
contribute anything to move it. It only has to go a mile, fortunately. 7 Mile
and Napier is where the house is.
EM. What about when they moved the barn to Maybury. That was
unique for something that huge. I was amazed they could do that.
RA. This is easier because there are no power lines, but
right now the Historical Commission is looking into getting a site plan drawn
up for Thayer Park out there. Putting buildings in haphazardly doesn’t make any
sense, and we’re starting to get to a point where we need an overall plan.
JS. One of the unique places in the Township, actually the
City and Township the way the property is, is the Fish Hatchery. We lived here
when that was operating. It used to be kind of a fun thing to go down there and
watch them harvest the fish, get them ready to transport. People don’t know
today what the Fish Hatchery was all about or Fish Hatchery Park. What are they
EM. Or even where it’s at.
JS. Many times we tried, and I’ve gone before the Board, to
try and get some kind of a board put up with information about the Fish
EM. An historical marker.
RA. That may happen yet. Several groups are working on
things. The Township is a piece of the pie and there is one that works for the
Township and there is one that is much broader based.
JS. You can tell my main hobby is trout fishing, and I
belong to the Fly Fishing Club. Every year when they have the program at the
Fish Hatchery, we show up to teach the kids fly-fishing. We have to keep the
history in the Township, that’s the main thing.
EM. There’s so many new residents, they don’t know.They get confused between the Township and
RA. You get, every so often, a newcomer who is a history
buff. We just had one, but unfortunately, she just moved out of the area. She
didn’t live here long, but she stirred up more stuff on history than anyone
who’s lived in this Township forever. She’s sorely missed. (Jen McFall)
JC. You have people here who have moved from Livonia and get
upset because there are raccoons in the back yard.
EM. That’s true, I came from Livonia. (Laughing)
RA. Okay, thank you.
Transcribed by Patricia Allen on October 21, 2006
Edited and approved by Jim Schrot on November 3, 2006
Edited and approved by Ed Mroz on November 3, 2006