SK2c Joseph Lloyd Pagel Park 78

SK2c Joseph Lloyd Pagel

DON’T BLINK, YOU’LL MISS IT

It’s Memorial Day 2016.  Reflection and BBQ’s.  I see a lot of memes asking to remember “this day isn’t about the BBQ”.  If you think about it, a lot of personal history gets discussed and shared over food, so maybe it does go hand-in-hand.  We’ve covered a lot of veteran’s stories thus far in this blog.  This post hits a few categories:

  1. Gone – a park that was decommissioned or no longer exists
  2. Survivor – someone who received a namesake park / playground while living

Back in the day, the Detroit Parks and Recreation Department had a somewhat staunch rule about naming parks.  Specifically they were named for those persons who had died;  persons who contributed significantly to the City of Detroit and/or highly decorated war veterans.  Exceptions were sometimes made.  There are only a handful of parks  where the person was living when they ‘received’ their honorary park.   Joseph Pagel falls into this category.  Lyle Maxton Skinner,  John Yaksich, Robert Simanek and Leroy Messmer were other veterans with this honor as well as a few non-veterans. Continue reading “SK2c Joseph Lloyd Pagel Park 78”

Sam Greene – Park #68

I’ve been sitting on this story for a long time.. On this gorgeously sunny Detroit day I stopped by Greene Playground to take a snap of the park.  I met Curtis Green [same name as the park] and his friend Baxter.  We chatted a while and they pointed me in another [the right] direction to my next destination. A lucky day; Baxter has an El Camino [luv the El Camino] and you don’t see many of those outside the southwest.  Yes, it was a lucky day indeed; time well spent.  It’s the small things..  PS This one is for you too Tim Bailey of the Detroit Mower Gang because I know this is your favorite pocket park to mow.  It is a sweet park. ag

Sam Greene - Ellis and Robson - sweet and updated pocket park
Sam Greene – Ellis and Robson – sweet and updated pocket park

 

NATIONALLY KNOWN AND LIKED

How many people can be described like this?  A southern gentleman with a battered fedora, a grin, a dry laugh and a cigar that he smoked down until the ash smudged his lips.  This was Sam Greene.

greene photo 1935
Sam Greene, Detroit News, 1935. “He writes so vividly about the games that you feel yourself a spectator.” 

Continue reading “Sam Greene – Park #68”

Owen Francis Hammerberg – Boatswain’s Mate 2nd Class – Park 26

THE PRIDE OF DAGGETT

Owen Hammerberg was born on May 31, 1920 in the small village of Daggett in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

Owen Hammerberg Photo: Courtesy ancestry.com
Owen Hammerberg
Photo: Courtesy ancestry.com

Prior to service, Owen lived with his father downstate in Flint and worked as a shop clerk.  In 1941, he enlisted with the Navy as a diver, serving on both the Battleship USS Idaho and Sub Chaser USS Advent.  He attended Deep Sea Diving School in Washington DC in 1944 and eventually was assigned to the Pacific Fleet Salvage Force in Pearl Harbor, in the territory of Hawaii.  These experiences would prepare him for an assignment where his  bravery and skill would excel and consequently call his life to an abrupt end. Continue reading “Owen Francis Hammerberg – Boatswain’s Mate 2nd Class – Park 26”

Owen Francis Patrick Hammerberg – Boatswain’s Mate 2nd Class – Park 26

THE PRIDE OF DAGGETT

Owen Hammerberg was born on May 31, 1920 in the small village of Daggett in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

Owen Hammerberg  Photo: Courtesy ancestry.com
Owen Hammerberg
Photo: Courtesy ancestry.com

Prior to service, Owen lived with his father downstate in Flint and worked as a shop clerk.  In 1941, he enlisted with the Navy as a diver, serving on both the Battleship USS Idaho and Sub Chaser USS Advent.  He attended Deep Sea Diving School in Washington DC in 1944 and eventually was assigned to the Pacific Fleet Salvage Force in Pearl Harbor, in the territory of Hawaii.  These experiences would prepare him for an assignment where his  bravery and skill would excel and consequently call his life to an abrupt end.

His naval citation reads:  “Hammerberg by his cool judgement, unfaltering professional skill, and consistent disregard of all danger in the face of tremendous odds, had contributed effectively to the saving of his two comrades… he gallantly gave his life in the service of his country.”

NO HESITATION, JUST INTENSE SELF SACRIFICE

On February 17, 1945 Owen Hammerberg rescued two fellow divers trapped under the hulk of a mud bound sunken ship in Pearl Harbor.  After several hours of working in 40 feet deep, black water, Owen freed the first trapped man.  Without rest, he next moved far under the buried ship, reaching a spot above the second trapped diver.

A heavy piece of steel dropped on upon him and pinned him crosswise over his friend.  Bearing all the weight from the steel, Owen protected him until he could be freed.  Hammerberg later perished in a hospital.

 

park
A freshly mowed Hammerberg Memorial Playground – Detroit, MI

His parents – Jonas Hammerberg and Elizabeth Moss accepted the posthumous Congressional Medal of Honor on his behalf.  On August 19, 1954, his mother christened a destroyer escort named the USS Hammerberg to perpetuate the memory of his heroics.  This ship stayed in service short of two decades and was decommissioned and sold for scrap in December 1973.  Owen continues to be honored with two memorials – a Detroit playground at West Chicago and Wyoming; a memorial in Veterans Park in Stephenson, MI erected by VFW Post 5966.

ship at sea
USS Hammerberg photo: public domain

Louis Stone Memorial Pool and Park – 10

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.”

stone 3

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.

NOSTALGIC WORDS  

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.

a picture of a document
Getting permission from Detroit City Council to have a dance party..1949

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.

He died a bachelor.  His friends are long gone.  When the park is turned into a DTE substation his legacy will completely disappear.
He died a bachelor. His friends are long gone. When the park is turned into a DTE substation his Detroit legacy will completely disappear.  Yeah, I put the rock on the stone.

Andrea Gallucci. Copyright 2013. All rights reserved.

Skinner Playfield – Park #4

WWII Survivor

 

Skinner Memorial Playfield
Skinner Memorial Playfield

Tucked behind and to the side of Denby High School is the Lyle Maxton Skinner Memorial Playfield.  Stocked with newer equipment, this playground is attractive and services the neighborhood off Duchess and Morang on Detroit’s eastside.

Lyle’s courage

Lyle grew up on the west side of Michigan.  Married to Jennie and living in Flint, he enlisted  in the US Navy on June 15, 1937.  During World War II he served aboard the Aircraft Carrier the USS Hornet.  As a Watertender First Class, Lyle worked in the ship’s engine room / boiler room.  October 26, 1942 marked the battle of the Santa Cruz Islands located in the Pacific Ocean north the Solomon Islands.  In this battle, the US military was playing a game of catch-up against numerically superior Japanese forces.  The Japanese were heavily bombing ships in the area.  During the attack, the USS Hornet was being violently shaken by bursting bombs and Skinner was ordered to abandon ship.  Instead, Lyle entered an oil-filled elevator pit and rescued a trapped shipmate who would have died otherwise.  The USS Hornet later sunk.

Lyle’s courage and heroism earned him the honor and award of the Navy Cross.  Unlike many war heroes, Lyle lived through this experience and was able to accept the medal personally.  He returned to the west side of Michigan and died in the small village of Leroy, Michigan in 1984.

Copyright 2013. © Andrea Gallucci  All rights reserved.