Most people are familiar with traditions of All Hallows Eve or Halloween. In my hometown the scariest night was October 30th or Devil’s Night. It was a night for pranks. It was popular in the 1930s and 1940s. Older youth would soap window or decorate trees with rolls of toilet paper. Occasionally, a hole from a bb gun would be found in a front window. Younger children would stay indoors.
In large cities such as Baltimore ,New Orleans and Philadelphia, pranksters turned to arson. The most notable urban area to see this change was Detroit. Racial riots, a shrinking population and factories closures led to burning of abandoned buildings and homes.
My husband’s family lived in the inner city of Detroit. The flight of white neighbors to the surrounding areas and the increase of rental properties led to the decline of neighborhoods.
As more people left, fewer police and firemen had to cope with set fires. In 1983, more than 800 acts of arson were reported on Devil’s night.
Fires spread to adjoining structures with the loss of property and lives. Detroit was burning and the city leaders were at a loss how to stop the destruction.
In 1986, a city wide curfew for youth under age 18 was in effect after 10 p.m. It continued through Halloween. Groups of neighbors patrolled their streets and reported any suspicious activity. These groups were named angels of the night.
The curfews and angel patrols continued until 2017. As a result of the angels and police, the number of arson incidents dwindled each year. Detroit paid a high cost. Many neighborhoods were abandoned with one to two homes on a square block. Traffic lights blinked with no traffic. Homes were cleared and remaining owners planted crops where city playgrounds once stood.
The Homes in Detroit are becoming a place to bring new young couples into neighborhoods. But the city infrastructure and schools are lagging behind.
My nephew bought one of the older historical homes in Detroit. He lives with two Great Danes and lives behind an 10 foot wooden fence.
More needs to be done to rebuild the community.
Located on the Detroit River, across from Canada.
Early settlers traveled the waters of Lake Huron to smaller lakes.
The French traders gave way to the English then Americans.
Except for the native Indians, all called this land their new home.
Many ethnic groups migrated to this city for the factory jobs and the hope for a better life.
Settling in neighborhoods, they stayed , like bees in their hive.
Racial violence fueled by unemployment compelled a generation to move.
Some tried to stay and help rebuild the city.
Many more wanted to destroy the Motor City.
Arson is quick, but rebuilding the trust of a people will take generations.
Don’t forget the Motor City.
firstname.lastname@example.org copyright 10/31/2022