Hi all! Recently,Lisa from Boondock Ramblings and I started a new blog feature called Hometown Views, where we share different buildings, traditions, memories all from our hometowns. We started this because during our online friendship we have enjoyed comparing the areas we live – rural to suburban outside Detroit. This week is all about our respective “Main Street”.
Our main drag here in Wyandotte is Biddle Avenue, named for Major John Biddle, who had served in the War of 1812 and then settled here in the Detroit area. The city has been around, settled by non-native settlers, since 1854. Before that the Wyandots lived here, forming their village of Maquaqua. I have read that the descendants of the Wyandots that used to live here now live in the Amherstburg area of Canada, across the Detroit River.
So pretty right? Times may have changed, but the street still remains charming in my opinion. This is how it looks today.
Our main street of Biddle Avenue has its own roving photographer, Kelly Christopher Luttrell. You can spot him and his camera roaming about the streets of Wyandotte on pretty much any given day – and almost any given time. He is up early most days, photographing the sunrise above the river. He is out in blizzards and rainstorms, hot days and windy. His collection of photos of the city are an archivists dream. He was even designated the city’s photographer by our last mayor, and no one has as much city pride as Kelly. We graduated together, and he was kind enough to allow me the use of a few of his photographs for this post. He is an all around good dude. He even made a Wyandotte calendar!
My family has lived in this city since 1950. My mom remembers running these streets, going to the movies at one of the three movie theaters that used to stand here. My dad bought his clothes at the store that is visible in this last photo, the one with red marquee. And, all through college, I worked at the store that used to be in the building next store, an office supply store named Gail’s Office Supply. The Gail family owned it, and if you remember the show WKRP in Cincinnati, Max Gail played a character in that show. I loved that job – all the pens! All the stationary! And even cooler, Billy worked two jobs right nearby – the first a few blocks down, at an art gallery as a framer, and also at the old Wyandotte Theater as a projectionist. Billy and I used to meet for lunch every day at the little diner on the corner, located a few doors down from Gail’s. I was young and as a young ‘un could eat french fries with ranch dressing with a black coffee every day for lunch. We ate there for years, until a coffee shop opened up right next door to Gail’s, Java Joes, then we practically lived there, lunch and in the evenings, hanging out with friends. My brother worked at Gail’s too, and later at Java Joes. So much of my personal history, right there one little block.
The Wyandotte Theater was said to be a playhouse before a movie theater, with a connecting underground passageway to the apartments across the parking lot. I haven’t been able to substantiate this claim but I like this story so I included it. It did have a giant stage in front, which I know from obviously going but also because one time my mom, brother and I went to the see Care Bears movie when my brother was like five. At the end of the movie during the credits, my brother, always a wild child, broke away from my mom, and ran up the stairs on to the stage to dance with the Care Bears on screen. And of course, my mom made ME go and get him…
The theater during my mom’s youth. I can guarantee you she is probably in this photo somewhere. (Photo by David Zornig)
But before this theater showed The Beatles, it showed a bit older fare..all the way back in the 1930s. It opened in 1938, with the “Main” as it was called, seating 1500 people. (Lisa your whole town could fit in here twice!) The “Annex” opened in 1941, and sat 800.
Here is a bit more legend for you. When Billy worked there, I would go hang out with him in the projection room, which had a huge vault door. He told me that the vault door was there because in the olden days the old film could catch fire easily and the projectionist would have to slam the door shut, hoping that the vaulted door would prevent the fire from getting too out of control before the building could be completely evacuated. This could be a tall tale, so don’t go telling your friends this is fact. It was neat to sit in there, but I hated closing up the theater at night. I always helped so that we could leave earlier and hang out, but dang it was so dark in there after lights were out. Like pitch black, especially in the Main. And there was of course, the ghost. It was said that a previous projectionist had killed himself in the Main, and that he haunted the theater. Because every old theater needs a ghost. I do remember one night though Billy went to go turn off the lobby and marquee lights while I waited in the lobby with another friend of ours who worked there. The lights went out, Billy walked into the lobby, and boom – all of a sudden the lights were back on. So Justin and Billy both went the second time to turn them back off, leaving me alone in the dark, which I was a little scared about. The lights went off, and as soon as they got into the lobby again, boom, back on. Again! We all looked at each other and mutually decided it was time to take off!
Sadly, the theater couldn’t hold its own against the bigger box offices, and eventually closed, and was demolished. That was a sad day for every Wyandotte resident, I think.
Back to Biddle, let’s end on a lighter note! The Wyandotte Parade. I love a parade, and apparently so does our town. Every 4th of July and Christmas, citizens from the area gather to watch the bands, the police, the floats parade by. And I love it.
All photos here are taken again from the Bacon Library’s Online Local History Archive. The first is in 1920, then 1959, and then finally 1988, when George Bush visited and walked in the 4th of July Parade. (Bill Clinton actually visited too although in a later year, and gave a speech on the porch of the library, that same one pictured. All the businesses on Biddle closed that day, including Gail’s and we all walked down to watch.)
And a few more from recent history, mine. Gotta love my mom’s yellow sunglasses in that first photo! I’m with my two cousins Brian and Melissa in the second picture, but I am the one with my arm outstretched like a little beggar. The one with the dog – I am in the black coat walking my dog Penny (I miss her so much!) who I adopted from the pound, and my SIL is in purple walking her pound puppy Sassy. We were walking with the pound to show people what amazing dogs you can find in the pound (and cats, but they don’t really like parades…).
Wyatt’s first parade! You can only see the tippy top of his head – don’t worry he could breathe because I was a nut and checked like every two seconds. And, why am I also always holding a McDonald’s coffee?
I feel like I could tell you so many more stories, but we will leave it here for now. I hope you enjoyed this little journey! Now take a minute to walk along Lisa’s Main Street in Dushore, PA!