Monday, October 06, 2014

Boblo boat Columbia shipped out of Detroit

SS Columbia 1967
Photo courtesy of Wayne State University

The SS Columbia, one of the beloved but battered Boblo boats, has left Detroit for what is likely the last time.

Shortly after 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, September 16th, the steamer left her longtime home in Ecorse, yanked away by tugs to Toledo. It is there that the nonprofit Columbia Project will lift the ship out of water, move it into drydock and get her shipshape again. Or at least shipshape enough to make the trek to New York state by next August. 

The Columbia Project has spent years working on a plan to return the boat to service in the Hudson River Valley — and will spend some $10 million to $20 million to do it.



WANTED: Detroit home movies, images and artifacts from the '50s-'80s


I’m a the lead producer working on a new Detroit Public Television production called Detroit Remember When: Detroit’s Iconic Brands.

We’re looking for home movies, images and artifacts that show names and products of Detroit’s past, especially during the baby boomer years - the late 50s through the mid 1980s… Sanders, Vernors, Strohs, Buddy’s, Little Caesar’s, Velvet Peanut Butter - the list goes on and on. 

There might be some brands you might be partial to that we’re forgetting!

Being this is television, we’re looking for the images that will bring back our collective memories.

And, we’re interested in hearing some interesting stories you might have about Detroit and the products you remember that were ‘our brands.' 

The program will air early next year, but we will be wrapping up production in the next two months, so we’d really like to hear from anyone with stories to tell and hopefully have some pictures to go with it.


Bill Kubota
Producer, KDN Films for Detroit Public Television

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DETROIT'S OWN: Flamethrowers

by Ron Bergman
Bruce Stratton and I met while at junior high school in 1956.  Bruce had recently moved into Royal Oak from Detroit and, maybe this was fate, his new house came with an old Stella acoustic guitar. Bruce quickly learned some basic cords and riffs. I borrowed the guitar for a short time, loved playing it and decided to get my own guitar, a Fender MusicMaster.

We learned to play many of the instrumental songs of the day and initially played as a duo for friends. Then we teamed up with Fritz Lyons on drums and started playing at parties, school dances and local teen clubs.

We started writing our own songs to enhance our song list. Several of them were well received by friends, so we decided to publish and record.

The Detroit record scene was booming at that time, with Motown as the leader and about a dozen of smaller studios attempting to compete. We auditioned at Clix Records, in Troy, Michigan, and signed a record contract on August 27, 1960.

Our first record included "The Knights Caper" (the high school teams were the Kimball Knights) and "Suzette" (named after three girls named Susan who lived on the same street as Bruce) and was released on October 17, 1960.  The record sold fairly well locally, but were not distributed beyond the local area; however, Suzette and The Knights Caper received a three (out of four) star pick in Billboard magazine.

The highlight of our career was a performance at the first teen dance at Detroit’s Cobo Hall with WQTE-AM radio's Tom Clay. Also on the bill was Johnny & the Hurricanes and Jack Scott. WQTE referred to it as the battle of the bands, Detroit's Flamethrowers against Toledo's Johnny & the Hurricanes. WQTE had played "Suzette" multiple times prior to the Cobo Hall dance and WJBK featured it on their "Project X" where they introduced new music. The songs received airplay on WXYZ radio when we were appearing at free dances with DJ Don Zee (his tag line was “2 E’s if you please”). It was also played on WEXL during the "Our School Roundup" show.

Fritz was primarily a marching band drummer and did not have a full rock band drum set, so Bruce and Ron began looking for a rock band drummer. They not only located a drummer, Lowery Day, but also a bass guitar player, Paul Hinderer. These additions gave the group a fuller, more intense sound.

With this new sound, we decided to return to the recording studio. The second record featured "Intensity" and "Wippy Wow" and was recorded at Clix records on November 26, 1960. Clix records was primarily a country music label and the Flamethrowers rock and roll didn't sell well with the dealers that normally marketed Clix. As a result, Clix decided not to market the second record.

We decided to create our own label, Bel-Mar, and found a local company to press a small number of copies. The record was released on February 20, 1961 and sold only through local dealers.

The Flamethrowers disbanded when Bruce and Ron graduated from Royal Oak's Kimball High School in June 1961. 
UPDATE: Bruce's goal was to start a career in broadcasting. He completed his military service in the US Army and then went on to a very successful career in radio, including stints on Detroit Radio WEXL, WQRS, WOAK. He returned to the recording studio in 1987 and had a big hit on Sun Records with "Haunted House" and "Shake Em Up and Let Em Roll."  Bruce retired from the broadcast business and is now living in Corpus Christi, Texas.

After graduating from college, Ron had a long career as an electrical and firmware development engineer for computer peripheral equipment. Recently retired and living in Maui, Hawaii, he now has some free time to play guitar and is attempting to re-learn all the old songs. 



Motown's distinctive "M" logo became iconic decades ago, seen by millions around the globe on record sleeves, film credits, TV specials and Broadway.

The Detroiter who created it, former Motown art director Bernie Yeszin, died Tuesday, July 8, in Culver City, Calif. He was 73.


Bernie Yeszin Discography

Detroit Matchbook Cover Memories

Click photo to enlarge


Going through my Cub Scout Scrapbook, Pack 11, Royal Oak (1961-ish), I had to collect something and since everybody in the family smoked, I went for matchbook covers. I've scanned one page of some of the better ones and attached the file in case you want to include them in a Newsletter. 

Keep up the good work!

Dave Morey
Dondery HS, 1969


Motown 25: Yesterday Today Forever
 (3 DVD Set)
Available from Amazon


The Great Detroit:
It Was - It Is - It Will Be


I'm a film maker based in Detroit and have produced a documentary that examines our city from a positive perspective, "The Great Detroit: It Was - It Is - It Will Be.

My film includes 55 interviews and covers a little of everything, from how and why the city was founded, to why it became a manufacturing powerhouse, to Henry Ford's first plant, to the migration of people from the South to work in the plants, to the history of Motown and Techno to the plans for a brighter future. The film will entertain, enlighten and inspire.

It's available on Amazon for $10 plus shipping and handing.

Thank you.

Anthony Brogdon

WXYZ Music Guide for October 24, 1966