The photograph of the Royal Oak Civic Plaza that appeared in the Royal Oak Tribune was known as “The City Park” when I was a kid living on Troy St.
It has stirred up some old memories of playing in the park, climbing all of those trees, vaulting over the benches as we pretended to be going for the gold or just hanging around on a warm summers evening seeing who could make up the wildest stories.
The map I have drawn is accurate but not to scale, I figure that the photograph must have been taken from the second floor at the rear staircase of the Consumers Power Building. The angle was 45 degrees north or north-east. The street you see is Second Street at the corner of Troy. It had to be taken after 1941 as the Walcott barn would show and it is missing.
I dated the map 1938 as I was 13 years old and I remember all the families and business places in the area at that time. I am presently 85 1/2 years old and am the last living member of the Guirey family of six kids that lived at 106 S. Troy St. Those six kids had large families that had large families so today all those children and their children all march in the Royal Oak St. Patrick's Day parade. The Guirey clan has won the prize for the largest and the loudest clan nine years in a row.
Mr. Papageorge was a Greek immigrant that opened the first Coney Island in Royal Oak, It was located on Main St. In 1940 they moved to Center St. and sold the restaurant and the house on Troy St. to their cousins the Kutas's that lived on Williams St. Interesting to note was that the Kutas's had two children, Sam who is a retired Navy Admiral today, and Mary who married a man named Jimmy. Jimmy passed away but Mary and her sons own and operate Jimmy's Restaurant on Washington between Lincoln and Seventh St.
On the south-west corner of Troy and Eleven Mile Road was a Three unit apartment building owned by a man named Moss, moving across Eleven Mile Road. On the north-west corner was a large hill with a small farm house on it and behind there, where the senior high rise is now, was the Martin Bus Lines garage which became the Bell Telephone Co. construction garage.
Going west, along Eleven Mile, was the A&W Drive Inn. On the corner of Eleven Mile and Main was a Standard Oil station and the Main Theater.
On the south-west corner of Main and Eleven was Romeyn's Drug Store where I used to squander my paper-rout earnings on Mello-Roll ice cream bars.
On the south-east corner was Middleditch's radiator repair. Contrary to what a lot of people say, the B&C market was the next store south. Next door was Papageorge's Coney Island. the first one in Royal Oak.
On the corner of Main and Second Street was the Grand Leader Dry Goods store.
On the south side of Second was Jackson's Drug store, on the corner and behind it on Second St. was the Detroit Times and News circulation building. The Guirey kids all delivered papers in the Maxwell, Hilldale and Park Street area of Royal Oak. When the papers arrive each day they were distributed to us alphabetically so I knew when I heard Chuck Garrison's name I would be next.
Going south on Main St. was Brigham’s Bakery, next was The Woolworth store, it was so large it took up two store fronts, Next was Harvey Schwartz's Flower shop, and The Sullivan building on the corner of Third St.
On the south-west corner of Third and Main was the Royal Oak Public Library, where Starbucks is now.
On the south-east corner was the Kroger store where Felix Blaquiere and I worked while we were in high school. On the south-west corner of Third and Williams streets was the Texaco station owned by Grant Maudlin. He later became the Mayor of Royal Oak.
Only one house was on each side of Williams street from Third to Second streets, on the west side was the Goutreau's home. Their daughter Melba was in my class at St. Mary’s. I remember she had a birthday party when we were in the sixth grade. I played spin the bottle for the first time and boy, what a shock that was to a kid my age.
On the east side was the Royal Oak Police station. It was a turn of the century house with a cement block addition used as a jail. Ray Hayward was the chief of police.
I can’t remember the names of the families on the west side of Williams between Eleven mile and second except the Kutas family. They were cousins of the Papageorge's and moved into the house next door to us when the Papageorge's moved up on Center Street.
The vacant field on the east side of Troy Street and north of Third St. was our sandlot baseball/ football field. On a very rare occasion the D.P.W. folks would flood it for Ice skating but mostly in the winter we had to hike through the woods from eleven mile to twelve mile rd. to play hockey at the Red Run Golf Club pond. During this period the neighborhood kids were my three brothers, Tom, Mike, Don and I. George Papageorge, Hutchey from across the street, Al, Felix and Marcel Blaquiere that lived on the northwest corner of Fourth and Troy. Gordon Crosby that live on Eleven Mile Rd. east of the Farmers Market, Ray Hilzinger, Don Walcott and Cecil Richards. Boy those were the days my friend. The home plate was at the north-east corner of the lot, A hit on top of the city hall or over the third street fence into Hilzinger's corn field were considered home runs.
This was the group that would be later referred to by the media as the “Greatest Generation" We never felt that way because we were drafted and not heroes. After the war when we returned to Royal Oak we were so happy to see our old friends that we failed to notice that some of our “Old Buddies” were not around. We just figured they moved to warmer climates or something.
Some years later, while in the City Park, I noticed that on the World War II memorial that had been erected the names of our missing buddies from the 30's. Here they were listed among the truly “Greatest Generation”, the truly great heroes from our city. There were the names of Gordon Crosby, Frank Dorsey, Bob Fear, My old Detroit News buddy Chuck Garrison, Chuck Lambert, a classroom buddy from St. Mary's, Pat La Meau, Leonard Potter, Tom Sevald and Norm Walsh. Also from St. Mary's.
I could go on for days reminiscing about our old neighborhood.
But I believe I have made my case when I said that the picture of the park is an old photograph and accurate in every detail.
John is a member of the Royal Oak Historical Society and now resides in Berkley.