Local program provides glimpse into Detroit history

By: Nick Mordowanec | C&G Newspapers | Published March 1, 2018

CLINTON TOWNSHIP — Detroit has its supporters and its naysayers, its protectors and its detractors. Some people still don’t know half the story.

Paul Vachon, a local author and freelance writer, will give it to them at 7 p.m. March 7 at the main branch of the Clinton-Macomb Public Library, 40900 Romeo Plank Road in Clinton Township.

The program, “The Lost Restaurants of Detroit,” offers insight into how the food scene helped transform the downtown and the metro area into a hub of entertainment.

That includes patrons at the Caucus Club listening to an 18-year-old Barbara Streisand in 1962; bargoers at Cliff Bell’s celebrating the 1933 repeal of the Volstead Act; and the correlation between Bloomfield Hills’ Machus Red Fox and the 1975 disappearance of ex-Teamsters President Jimmy Hoffa.

But it’s not just about bars and restaurants. Telling stories about both famous and relatively known area facts is important because many people who have lived in Michigan for a long time are still unaware, Vachon said.

After working in retail for 20-some years and experiencing the impact of the 2008 recession, he had the impetus to reach out to communities to tell such stories.

“I grew up in Bloomfield Hills and always had a very passionate interest in the past of the area where I lived and grew up,” he said. “The local history is what generated most of the interest on my part.”

Vachon gained a vested interest through ordinary adventures, such as visiting the Detroit Institute of Arts or the Detroit Public Library, or appreciating the impressive architecture. He said there’s an opinion in the zeitgeist that Detroit is not a great place, but he tries to play contrarian and tout the possibilities — some of which have come to fruition over the past decade or so.

The city really saw its fulfilling potential, he noted, after World War II — though that fizzled in 1967 afther the riots.

“I always — maybe it’s because I like to root for the underdog — have been a proponent or a booster of the possibilities the city holds for its future, and the potential that’s there. … The systemic problems that were engendered because of those issues, and because of the population loss of the city and so forth — it created an underclass that we’re still dealing with today,” he said.

As regeneration has occurred and development continues, Vachon — who wrote a book called “Forgotten Detroit” — believes that the true spirit of the city will never be fully revived until its citizens appreciate their core principles.

In addition to a discussion about riots and wars, the program will mention the city’s history in relation to arts and crafts, such as Pewabic pottery.

At press time, openings were still available for the program. Registration is available at www.cmpl.org.