Sergeant 1st Class Harold R. Cross Jr.  – Park 55

 “I just want to thank all of you and let all you fathers, mothers and wives know that this field is not dedicated to my son alone.  It is dedicated for all those who died for this country.”   — Harold Cross, Sr.  at his son’s playground dedication in 1953. 

80 Minutes Before the End

There were 8 yeas and 0 nay votes from the Detroit Common Council at the passing of a resolution proclaiming Harold Cross Jr. Day on August 7th, 1953.  There is always a last – the last to be picked for elementary kickball; the last time you see your beloved; the last kiss, the last donut.  Unfortunately, iterations of wartime stories are told far and wide with the insertion of similar details and different names. This story is different though; heroic and a heartbreaker. Continue reading “Sergeant 1st Class Harold R. Cross Jr.  – Park 55”

Henry James Tuttle – Park 29

HUMBLE BEGINNINGS

Location: Stout, Trojan, Fargo and Kentfield Streets

Henry J. Tuttle [1897-1959] was born on a farm near Plymouth, MI on January 29, 1897 to parents Minnie and Charles.  He graduated from Detroit’s Old Central High School in 1915 with distinguished skill as a Latinist.  Beyond this, Tuttle was a self-schooled individual.

Henry’s first job (1915) was an entry position at the Detroit City Gas company as a serviceman.  His wrench skills were great and within three years, he was promoted to supervisor of merchandise orders.  Deemed an accounting wizard, he received prestigious promotions in management in the 1930’s and 1940’s.  Detroit and the surrounding farms and forests were beginning to grow.  His professional rise coincided with a period of dramatic expansion in housing and increased natural gas demand and use.   Eventually, Detroit City Gas was renamed to Michigan Consolidated Gas Company. Today we know it as Consumers Energy.

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A lovely 4 acre wooded paradise within a northwest Detroit neighborhood.

BRINGING HEAT TO THE MASSES

In 1951, Tuttle was chosen by the Secretary of the Interior as an expert to forecast natural gas need and supply for the United States.   In 1952, he was elected president of Michigan Consolidated Gas Company – in full charge of the utility.  Under his watch, the utility began working with the Michigan Public Service Commission to install gas space heating units within homes and apartments to approximately 80,000 consumers across Michigan.

The installation of natural gas was a exciting prospect. [Tuttle is not pictured.] Clipping courtesy of the Ypsilanti Historical Society.
The installation of natural gas was a exciting prospect. [Tuttle is not pictured.] Clipping courtesy of the Ypsilanti Historical Society.
Tuttle was civic minded and worked as an active member on several advisory boards:  American Red Cross Detroit Chapter, the Detroit Zoological Society, Businessman’s Advisory Committee of Wayne State University, as well as the finance committee of the Boy Scouts.  He had membership in the Masons, Shriners, Detroit Athletic Club, the Detroit Golf Club, the Economic Club of Detroit, the Lansing Press Club, the Newcomen Society among others.

Henry Tuttle died on March 26, 1959 leaving his widow Marjorie and brother Irving.  He is buried in Grand Lawn Cemetery in Detroit.

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Tuttle Park was dedicated on September 1, 1959. The plaque is somewhat hard to read.

Tuttle Park is a piece of paradise within a stable residential neighborhood.  It’s a short distance from Henry Ford High School. At the end of the short sidewalk, the red flagpole base remembers his legacy.

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4 Acre Tuttle Park on the left side of map. The larger park is named for Willis Watts O’Hair – an early Detroit Parks and Recreation commissioner and civic minded woman.

William A. Comstock Memorial Playfield – Park 28

William A. Comstock – Michigan’s 33rd Governor

SEE THE CLIMB
William Alfred Comstock was born just shy of a full blown patriotic birthday on 7-2-1877; perhaps he was destined to be in politics.  He graduated from the University of Michigan in 1899 with a Liberal Arts degree, then returned to his hometown of Alpena where he worked and eventually entered local politics.  He was elected Alderman of Alpena from 1911-1912; Mayor of Alpena 1913-1914 – –  term length was short back in the day.

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William A. Comstock Photo credit: US National Archives

His political pursuits continued serving as a University of MI Regent from 1914-1916; as chairman of the Democratic State Committee from 1920-1924.  Comstock worked his way to the national level becoming a member of the National Democratic Party and a delegate, a post he held for six years.

THE FOURTH TIME IS THE CHARM

“I became a Democrat because it was a minority party and offered opportunity for genuine political activity..”

Comstock ran as a Democrat for Governor of the State of Michigan (and finally won on his 4thattempt).  He served during the years of 1933-1935; the first Democrat Governor of Michigan in 15 years.  Although Comstock had been wealthy, he was close to financial devestation at the time of his election.  He had made his fortune through inheritance, but also from an electric-railway he built to the lumbering camps in Alpena.  The Depression hit and it nearly ruined him.

During his tenure, the State of Michigan was also suffering financially.  Under his watch, Michigan’s first sales tax law was authorized; an eight day bank holiday was enacted to give legislators time to solve Michigan’s fiscal problems; as well, a trust commission was established.  On the controversial side, Comstock pardoned a former mayor of Hamtramck who was imprisoned for bribery.  His later political life included terms on the Detroit Common Council and the Michigan Civil Service Commission.  He was active in fraternal organizations – Zeta Psi, the Elks, the Eagles and the Freemasons.  In 1949, Comstock died from a stroke while vacationing in his hometown of Alpena where his legacy began.  His son William A. Comstock III joined his father in eternal rest in 2008.

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Just South of 8 Mile.

 

Comstock Playground is a huge and well-kept playfield located just south of Eight Mile bordered by M-10 [The Lodge Freeway], Trojan and Hubbell Streets. For True TV fans.. it’s located behind the pawn shop featured in Hard Core Pawn.  It surrounds the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy whose sign often reads “Life doesn’t get better by chance, it gets better by change.” 

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Comstock Playfield is a clean and well kept. A great place to practice any sport.
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The non-meandering part of the walking path. Tennis courts in background..hard to see in this photo.

It’s hard to say where the school property ends and the park begins; however features include:  a meandering walking path; updated playground equipment, tennis courts, baseball diamond with backstop and extensive fields for practice of any sport.  It’s actually a perfect place for kite flying.  Back in 1955, the City of Detroit Parks and Recreation Department constructed a water reservoir underneath 10 tennis courts to enable the use of sprinklers during a water shortage.  It’s hard to say if the huge tank is still there or if anyone in Detroit city government actually remembers that is exists.

William S. Knudsen – Park 21

FEB 2015 UPDATE ON KNUDSEN PLAYGROUND :  

Over the past few months, many local sources are reporting that Knudsen playground is getting an upgrade due to a dedicated resident and the 8 Mile Boulevard Association.  We are a still a city of folks with the can-do / getter’ done mentality.  Speaking with staff in the GSO – Parks and Rec Dept., the funds are coming partly from Tom’s of Maine [love their toothpaste] coupled with mostly city funds.  Passing by the playground recently updates have already begun –  the ground has been cleared, new fencing is installed.  Look here for new photos in the spring.   Read more about Knudsen’s story and Detroit’s role in WWII production in this awesome op/ed piece.

BORN SIGNIUS WILHELM POUL KNUDSEN

The story of William S. Knudsen is one of immigrant hopes and realized dreams.
William (say it like vill-yum) immigrated to the United States from his native Denmark in February 1900. He landed work in shipyards and factories, noting the dichotomy of happy faces and violence within. Fist fights aplenty. “I was more or less forced to become a boxer..”

GENIUS OF PRODUCTION

Mastering the concepts of production in factories, he improved upon them and caught the attention of Henry Ford; he became a prominent Ford Motor employee. He switched gears to Chevrolet in 1922 and morphed it into a powerhouse by eliminating bad design and encouraging the brand to out produce its competitor. He rose quickly through ranks and became the President of General Motors. He was knighted by homeland in 1930 and appeared on the cover of Time Magazine in 1940. With all this personal success [and the generous salaries that come with], he still had to win over skeptics and overcome challenges. Historians indicate through it all, he never lost his optimism.

I OWE THIS COUNTRY EVERYTHING

Knudsen felt a debt to America for his immigrant success. He answered President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s call to assist the U.S. Military in WWII. Knudsen left his prestigious position as President of General Motors. He led the military with his expertise in equipment production and logistics. His efforts streamlined and increased weapon availability which helped the Allied Forces win the war. For his service, he was assigned the rank of Lt. General and earned the Distinguished Service Cross.

Read: A letter of ‘thanks’ from Harry Truman
Knudsen retired from the Army in June 1945. He passed away in 1948.
He raised three daughters; a son became his legacy at General Motors during the 1960’s.

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Sad little park for a man who changed the world.. Hey General Motors and Ford Motor.. can’t we do better?

REMEMBERING KNUDSEN

The small park honoring Knudsen is located on Omira Street at the gateway of Detroit – 8 Mile and the I-75 service drive.

The park is unmarked; lacking any signage or dedication. The swings and basketball court are older, yet still used by local kids in the good weather.

This is both an interesting and odd location for a memorial park honoring a man who made an enormous world impact in both Detroit and in Europe. Knudsen used to his knowledge, not his might to help bring down Hitler. I realized that just maybe this is the perfect place to honor him. Perhaps the noisy rush of traffic; the rev of engines; the rumble passing semis; the smell of exhaust; the screeching of brakes may all whisper his name from the expressway below.

Learn more about William and his son, Semon Knudsen at the Detroit Public Library – Skillman Branch where their personal papers are archived.