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”

Michael Herbert “Dad” Butler – Park 61

GRAND OLD MAN OF SPORTS

As far as I know, he’s the only man who gets his name listed in the telephone book as ‘Dad’.

 – George Stark, beloved Detroit News Columnist, 1948

Dad Butler’s incredible athletic ability set him ahead of the pack; a strong and homey nickname became his brand.  Butler simply didn’t want to be missed.  His response to Stark’s commentary:  “That’s to make it easy for the lads to find me.  They come from all over America, you know, and if they happened to be looking for me, I wouldn’t want them to miss the name, in all that fine print.” Continue reading “Michael Herbert “Dad” Butler – Park 61″

Maheras – Gentry Field  #60

TWO HALVES MAKE IT WHOLE

7.25.2015 Yesterday, WDET published a wonderful story regarding Bronson Gentry.  Below is the other half of the story on Peter Maheras.

On Peter Maheras..

All who knew him, loved him and enjoyed working with him because of his patience and perseverance in surmounting obstacles. We felt that we had lost a true and good friend, when we heard of his passing, but his memory consoles us in our loss. We believe that he was all that being a good American means.  We who knew Peter believe we are better off, by having known him and having the privilege of calling him, my friend, Peter Maheras. Sincerely,  Curtis Laing – Mantle Club Secretary, 1947 Continue reading “Maheras – Gentry Field  #60”

Willis Watts O’Hair aka Mrs. Walter R. O’Hair  – Park #42

 

 “Life is so fast paced today that good use of leisure time is essential to mental health”

– Willis Watts O’Hair

IT’S GOOD TO HAVE A WOMAN IN CHARGE

Alice, Viola, Minerva, Willis… They all had distinctive names; they were / are distinctive women.  In this post, we are working through the women honored with a park.. there are a few more after this one.. Lotta, Delores, Clara, Erma.. brilliant names. andreag 

In 1940, the Detroit Department of Parks and Boulevards merged with the Detroit Department of Parks and Recreation to reduce redundant efforts and financial waste.  A new commission was formed to oversee the new solo Department of Parks and Recreation. 

Mrs. Willis Watts O’Hair was appointed to this commission by Mayor Edward Jeffries; importantly, she was the first woman to become the president of a Detroit city commission.  Ultimately, she would serve four terms before her death in 1959.   

Willis Watts O'Hair Photo: 1945 Annual Report
Willis Watts O’Hair
Photo: 1945 Annual Report

Under her guidance, Detroit parks experienced enormous growth through improved services.  New offerings included:  supervised tot lots, installation of shuffleboard courts, 9 artificial ice rinks [her idea], an indoor / outdoor city pool, competitive sports leagues for teens; horticulture activities, arts and crafts for all ages and on.

O’Hair was a booster for free band and symphony concerts arranged by Parks and Rec.  Her pet project was the installation of a putting green and golf driving range on Belle Isle.  The driving range was popular and financially successful; the commission opened another in Rouge Park.  During her tenure, Detroit rose from 7th place for recreation honors to 1st place nationally. 

Mrs. O’Hair always maintained that recreation centers should be within walking distance of residential areas.  “The greatest need is in the congested areas,” she said in 1953, then adding, “There is no greater thrill for me than to see youngsters enjoying themselves.”

Prior to the commission appointment, O’Hair raised funds for the support of the March of Dimes and founded the Women’s Auxiliary of the Volunteers of America.  She enjoyed bridge and the theater.  In 1943, she received an honorary degree in Sociology from the Detroit Institute of Technology.  Willis Watts was married to attorney Walter O’Hair.  They had 3 children.  Her son John Dennis Watts O’Hair became the Wayne County Prosecutor. 

Willis often said, “You get back what you give out” and she lived these words assisting others throughout her life.  Overall, Willis Watts O’Hair was a hands-on Parks and Recreation Commissioner taking interest in boxing matches and other sporting events, as well as trying some of the programs out herself.  Above all, she was always a lady.  

Pretty spring day at O’Hair. Sorry about the garbage in this picture.. it’s long gone now. The neighborhood association is super tight and works hard to keep O’Hair and the surrounding area tidy.

 

A big park for a woman who positively impacted Detroit. Map via Google.
A big park for a woman who had a huge and positive impact on Detroiter’s with recreation. Map via Google.

 

Looking west toward the park and Pitcher Woods.
Looking west toward the park and Pitcher Woods.

O’Hair Park  located at Stahelin and Hessel Street is a staggering 78 acres which includes 20 acres of forest.  The land  was donated to the city by Joseph and Helen Holtzman in 1947.  Pitcher Woods honors Dr. Zina Pitcher, Mayor of Detroit 1840-1844.  Pitcher greatly influenced the State of Michigan to pass a law for the first free public school in Detroit and helped create the Medical Department at the University of Michigan.  The nearby Pitcher School is now closed.  The surrounding subdivision has a strong neighborhood association that works hard to keep this community safe and vibrant.

Detail on Pitcher Elementary School exterior.
Detail on Pitcher Elementary School exterior.

©Andrea Gallucci, 2014.  All rights reserved.  Thanks for reading.

Harry G. Salsinger – Park 16

Loved Sports, Writing, and Ty Cobb  

“In any all-time rating of players:  Tyrus Raymond Cobb stands alone.  He was the greatest of the greats, a fiery genius, and the game’s outstanding individualist.  Brilliant and unorthodox, he made baseball history for more than two decades.”    An excerpt from the “The Umpire” The Detroit News November 2, 1924

salsinger
Salsinger in late winter..

It can be said that Harry Salsinger had three loves – his wife Gladys, his son Harry Jr., and writing – and one great interest – Ty Cobb.  Harry George Salsinger was born on April 10, 1885 in Cincinnati, Ohio.  His love of sports morphed into a successful, lifelong career.  After a brief stint writing in Cincinnati, Harry moved to Detroit and landed the job of Sports Editor at the Detroit News; the year was 1909.   Salsinger immediately began covering Tiger baseball and did so for 49 years until his death on Thanksgiving Day – November 27, 1958.

Through his column he became nationally known as straight up writer and one of the world’s foremost authorities on the record breaking, infamous baseball player Ty Cobb.  In 1924, many national papers published his writing titled The Ty Cobb Story.  The player himself read the piece – “I read every word of it, “ Cobb said. “No man could have been fairer. Some of his comment hurt – but all of it was honest writing.  That’s what we always got from Sal.”

Salsinger was a charter member of the Baseball Writers Association of America.  He was posthumously honored with the J. G. Taylor Spink Award – the oldest media award given by the Baseball Hall of Fame which began assigning it in 1962.  Salsinger authored many books about baseball and is frequently mentioned in books written about the history of the sport.

The New Paul Robeson / Malcolm X Academy
The New Paul Robeson / Malcolm X Academy

The Detroit Parks and Recreation commission recommended the location of the H.G. Salsinger Memorial Playground [which included a baseball field] be at Linwood Avenue just south of Fenkell behind the former St. Francis Home for Boys Orphanage.  Seems like a perfect spot! The orphanage later changed into the remnants of  the former Paul Robeson / Malcolm X Academy.   Since a devastating fire, the Robeson Academy  moved about a mile north to the Hally School on Grove Street in Detroit and continues to serve the community.

The Salsinger Playfield remains on this somewhat lonely stretch of Linwood around the corner from Fenkell.  It is a large lot with practice area for football or soccer and features a baseball field with a newer backstop.

salsinger b
Salsinger baseball diamond
salsinger
Salsinger practice field

© Andrea Gallucci 2013. All Rights Reserved