Back in the day, streetcars ruled Detroit and then our ‘mass transit’ disappeared. With the advent of the short M-1 line now operating on Woodward, it seems fitting to learn about Fred who back in the day stood behind the idea of mass transit. ag
FRED W. CASTATOR
Described as a man of integrity, Fred’s record was stellar. In 1940 Councilman John Lodge told the media, “Fred Castator was probably the most honest man I ever knew. I disagreed with him often and sometimes violently, however he’s the only man for whom I ever made a campaign speech.”
Lodge respected Castator and believed he should be elected, however he didn’t believe he was a strong enough orator. Lodge knew his own political power and leveraged it as an investment for the greater good of Detroit.
A man of simple pleasures, Fred Castator (1882 – 1940) grew up as a farmer’s son in Carsonville, MI. He was proud to tell you his favorite beverages were pink lemonade and buttermilk; he never consumed coffee, tea or hard liquor. He lived in the Michigan thumb for his first two decades, moving to Detroit at 25.
In 1907, Castator found employment as a streetcar conductor with the Detroit United Railways. He was a card carrying union member and took an active interest in the Amalgamated Association of Street and Electric Motor Coach Employees of America. He believed in mass transit. As their business manager (1915 – 1917) he led the union to victory in several strikes; helped found the Detroit Labor News, and won streetcar workers their first pension system.
CIVIC LIFE AND FRED’S GIRLS
He was ushered into a lifetime of civil service in 1917 when appointed as the Deputy State Labor Commissioner of Michigan by Governor Albert Sleeper. A year later, he won an important election to serve on the Detroit Common [City] Council which continued for 18 years through re-election.
Castator ran on his homespun beliefs. He took special interest in the women’s division of the Detroit Police and was an advocate of increased presence of women officers. He was a staunch supporter for building a Detroit airport as a civic investment and catalyst to attract aviation companies/factories as an industry. Castator stood for increased recreation areas in the city.
Importantly, in 1927 he lobbied for Detroit to invest in a teacher’s college. “The Detroit girl who wants to become a teacher but who has not the money to go out of town to college should have an opportunity for training. Detroit children should have adequately trained teachers. That is one form of higher education which the City should undertake with a vengeance,” he remarked.
Castator was elected to the post of City Clerk in 1937 and held the position until his death in November 1940. News reports indicate he “worked himself to death” dying suddenly during a re-election bid in November 1940.
Formerly known as Playground No. 16, this park was renamed to honor Castator by Recreation Commissioner Clarence Brewer in May 1925. It was once a vibrant park with a softball diamond, horseshoe courts, fountain, fences, playground equipment, comfort station with furnace. Today it is adorned with a newer play structure, rusty backstop and the abandoned Blackwell Adult Education Center.
Learn more about the Amalgamated Association of Street and Electric Motor Coach Employees of America at the Walter Reuther Labor Library on the Wayne State campus. They house issues of their periodical The Motorman, Conductor and Motor Coach Operator.
Copyright 2015, Andrea Gallucci. Thanks for reading!