days into working the most dangerous shifts of his policing
career, Richard's wife gave birth to their son.
want out of here, Elna told him. I don't want
to raise my kids like this.
six months, Richard quit the Detroit force and moved his
family across the river to Windsor.
the night the Detroit riot broke out, 21 year-old Phil Chauvin
was working as a waiter in the Garrison Lounge at downtown
Windsor's Seaway Hotel. The borders were clamped shut early
Sunday morning. The rooms at the hotel began to fill up
as American clientele found themselves trapped in Windsor,
unable to get home.
can we get some beer and whiskey?" someone asked the
thought fast. The liquor stores closed at 6 p.m. and they
didn't open on Sundays, but he knew how he could help them
guess this would be called 'bootlegging', he realized with
a chuckle. He had managed to set up a few of the Americans
with some whiskey. 'Fix 'em up, for a price!' Phil slipped
the money into his pocket.
across the border, traffic was backed up along Riverside
Drive as carloads of residents flocked to the riverfront
to watch the 'fireworks' over Detroit. Early Monday, July
24th, the Windsor Fire Department got a call from Detroit
for assistance; the W.F.D. responded immediately. When they
arrived in the riot district, it was like a scene out of
were instructed to tackle the worst blazes. For three days,
Windsor firefighters worked alongside their beleaguered
the death toll climbed. By the end of the week, the panic
in Detroit had claimed 44 lives and 7,331 arrests had been
Perry paced in his office. The 1967 Windsor Emancipation
Day festivities were scheduled for next week. He was in
charge and the pressure was on to cancel the event
the first time in its 35-year history. The situation across
the river was too serious, he told himself; too much of
a gamble to hold the 1967 celebration.
Thursday, July 27th, The Windsor Star broke the news. "We
called it off to be on the safe side and to protect all
citizens in Windsor," Walter was quoted.
tensions remained high, the rioting was finally quelled
by the end of the week. Relief projects for Detroit riot
refugees were quickly set up. Windsorites pulled together
as well. Tonnes of food and clothing were collected and
sent over to help their neighbours.
the border crossing reopened, the brave and the curious
wanted to see where the rioting had happened. Carole and
Manfred Behrens decided to take a Sunday drive across the
bridge to check out the damage.
like a war zone! said Carole. Whole city blocks were
completely destroyed. Her husband shook his head."
Stores, businesses, everything burned out, he said
in disbelief. "Why would they do this?"
Leah Behrens |Remember
Kathy Parrott in the back seat of her dads car? Three
years after the riot, she met a young Windsorite named Walter
Szwed, who was on a cross-border excursion with his friend.
They married and embarked on a life together in Canada.
I was born two years later. You could say I was a product
of the restored confidence in travel between our two cities.
Hearing the stories and memories from 35 years ago from family
and friends about Detroit's dark week, many questions go through
my mind. Could this happen again? Are the underlying issues
of the past being dealt with? Is there any plan in place in
case things go wrong in the future? Will Detroit ever fully
Leah Behrens is a freelance writer
based in Windsor.