Earlier this year, I was featured on WDET for my story chronicling the life and happy times of Detroit druggist Louis Stone. You can listen to it here. Ever since I researched his story in 2013 there has been speculation that the property was sold to developers for housing. Back in 2008, it was for sale – here’s the RFP with a bargain basement price of $300,000.
Here’s the scoop “unofficial / official” – Louis Stone Playground property is under contract to DTE for use as a substation to power the neighborhood. Power is a good thing but so is legacy and history. This is gonna sound so melodramatic.. Louis Stone brought so much fun, happiness and good times to Detroit kids and parents .. the drugstore is long gone and if the playground is bulldozed; his legacy will be completely gone. So play at this playground now.. and enjoy the uninterrupted Midtown electricity later. Perhaps DTE can name the substation after Louis Stone. It’s a little premature but I am moving this park to the gone file. xo – ag
FILLING PRESCRIPTIONS FOR HAPPINESS
For 20+ years, druggist Leiba Stepansky [Louis Stone] had the biggest heart in Detroit. Stone grew up the son of a prosperous shoe manufacturer; yet the poverty he witnessed in his native Russia made him acutely aware of the grim injustice of going without.
He left Russia when he was barred from medical school because he was a Jew. At 18 years old, Louis landed in Boston alone and learned English. He attended college and earned a degree as a pharmacist.
In 1925, he launched his career by moving to Detroit, taking a druggist job on East Jefferson in the “Little Bohemia” neighborhood. Soon, he opened his own drug store at Mount Elliot and Theodore Streets, then moved to his home base of Third Street at Stimson Avenue near Detroit’s Masonic Temple. His motto: “A happy child is a good child.”
BEAUTY FROM TRAGEDY
Halloween night 1928, a young mother came into the pharmacy asking for something to calm her nerves. Her son was struck and killed by car he didn’t see due to his mask. This event was the game changer in Stone’s life. It propelled him to create his famous Halloween street parties as a safe alternative to trick-or-treating. The parties started with a handful of kids and erupted into entertainment events – including treats, tricks, bands, clowns –servicing 5000+ children on Halloween evening. The festive environment helped to decrease juvenile delinquency in the city and raise the spirits of kids and parents alike.
Over the years, Stone also hosted events for needy children – trips to the beach; circus and baseball games. Stone knew that kids “just needed to blow off steam sometimes”. Regardless, each party ended in the same manner with the children all shouting a customary “OK Louie” in unison to signify the finale of the event.
HONORED AND LOVED
Stone received awards and honors from civic organizations, elected officials, religious institutions, as well as the State of Michigan legislature for his generosity, child advocacy, and creative problem solving. The Detroit Teacher’s Association planned to honor Stone with the first ever Distinguished Service Award. Stone penned a thank you letter saying he would accept the award in person, and mailed the letter on the day he died, January 3, 1953. Stone left no survivors.
A memorial service was held for the public outside Louis Stone Drugs complete with a Naval Salute, tributes, and flowers. Over 3,000 children attended. When the ceremony ended the children shouted their customary yell and they climbed aboard busses that whisked them away to the Shrine Circus.
On April 9, 1953 the Detroit City Council passed ordinance 728-E designating the Louis Stone Memorial Pool at Forest and Fourth Street to honor his unique contribution to Detroit. The pool has been closed for many years. The small, tidy park serves as a stopping point for many walking through Midtown and is in good condition. In spring 2013, news reports indicated this property has been sold for redevelopment. When the pool and park are gone, I hope the City of Detroit can find a way to remember Louis Stone… a generous man who created family amongst neighbors and friends.
Louie sure knew how to throw a great party.
Andrea Gallucci. Copyright 2013. All rights reserved.