Some things you may not have known about Detroit

detroit_skyline_sunny_900x675The people of Detroit eat more potato chips than any other city in the nation. This goes a long way in understanding why Better Made is celebrating its 85th year of making potato chips in Detroit.

Belle Isle is the largest island park in the United States, larger than New York’s Central Park.

William Patrick was the first African American elected to the the Detroit City Council, formerly known as the Detroit Common Council, in 1957. The corporate attorney had a long history of public service and was a strong advocate for social justice. Born in Washington, DC, Patrick moved to Detroit as a young boy.

When the subject is record companies and Detroit, the one that understandably comes to mind immediately is Motown. But during that legendary company’s years of operation, there were other (Black owned) record companies operating in Detroit, including Westbound, Invictus, Golden World, Revilot, D-Town, Ric-Tic and even before Motown, Fortune. All were successful.

The Michigan State Fair is the oldest state fair in the U.S., presented for the first time in 1879. (The fact that it is now in Novi is so inappropriate.)

Woodward Avenue was the first stretch of concrete road in the country.

In 1967, Detroit’s Jerry Blocker became the first Black person in the state of Michigan to anchor the news. He was hired by WWJ-TV Channel 4.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his iconic “I Have a Dream” speech at Detroit’s Cobo Hall on June 23, 1963, two months before he famously gave it on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC on Aug. 28.

Vernor’s is the oldest (surviving) ginger ale company in the United States, dating back to 1866. The founder was James Vernor, a Detroit pharmacist.

As a side note, actor Carl Weathers, best known as Apollo Creed in the “Rocky” movies, tasted Vernor’s during a Detroit visit and liked it so much that he began having it shipped to him in Los Angeles.

The Motown Historical Museum, located at 2648 W. Grand Blvd., site of Hitsville U.S.A., exists because Esther Gordy Edwards, sister of Berry Gordy and a former Motown vice president, never threw anything away.

Telephone numbers were introduced in Detroit, then issued in other cities.

Detroit is the city most closely associated with the electronic dance music known as techno, created by Juan Atkins, Kevin Saunderson and Derrick May in the mid-1980s. But it was actually developed in Belleville, a Detroit suburb.

Detroit is the only city in the United States where you can look south and see Canada.

As a teenager, Diana Ross used to bust tables in the basement cafeteria of Hudson’s department store, dreaming of fame. “I was always beautifully groomed,” she noted.

The Davison, the world’s first urban freeway, was built in Detroit in 1941-42.

Coleman Young, fiery yet charming mayor of Detroit from 1974 to 1994, said many interesting, often controversial things during his tenure. Many of them are unprintable — he believed there was an art to using cuss words — but few could take issue with him saying that people with pride and jobs do not commit crimes.

Detroit has seven sister cities: Chongqing, China; Dubai, United Arab Emirates; Kitwe, Zambia; Minsk, Belarus; Nassau, Bahamas; Toyota, Aichi Prefecture, Japan; and Turin, Italy.

Over 300 songs have been recorded throughout the years that are about Detroit or make reference to the city, including “Hello, Detroit” (written by Berry Gordy and sung by Sammy Davis, Jr.), “Dancing in the Street” (Martha & the Vandellas), “8 Mile” (Eminem), “Cadillac Assembly Line” (Albert King), “Detroit Rock City” (Kiss), “The Heart of Rock & Roll” (Huey Lewis & the News), “Detroit City (I Wanna Go Home)” (Bobby Bare) and “I Care About Detroit” (Smokey Robinson & the Miracles).

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