Malcolm Bingay and Some (Alarmingly Great) Words on Detroit
Malcolm Bingay was born in 1884 in Ontario and shortly thereafter moved with his parents to Detroit. He would soon become a printer’s devil (industry slang for some kind of an intern in the old days, basically someone around the office that would mix ink for the printing presses and arrange type for printing) with the Detroit News. After climbing the ladder to managing editor he was fired and headed over to the Free Press offices where they hired him for the same position and gave him a column in the daily paper (called “Good morning”). From the 1920’s on through to the 40’s, Malcolm had a home at 1732 Longfellow in the current Boston Edison neighborhood. The guy had articles written about him in TIME magazine, he was kind of known for his cutting edge authentic and straight from the head discourse– some even called him a hothead. But he always told you exactly how he felt.
He wrote a book, copyrighted 1946, titled Detroit is My Own Hometown and opened it with some words that ring alarmingly true as we sit here today discussing a new future for Detroit. Ahem!:
No other American city has a more ancient or more glorious tradition or one more vibrant with drama. Our history refutes the thoughtless observer who looks upon Detroit as a creation of this day, as a mere machine shop, as shaped from heroic heritage, long before the honk of the motor horn was heard on any hill.” He continues ” The existence of all other American cities can easily be explained. Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore just had to be. The trade of the seas finds natural harbors. Chicago was inevitable. Chicago grew like a callus on the hand from the mere friction of westward travel. So did Buffalo, Cleveland, Toledo. But not Detroit. Here was a city more ancient than all the rest, far up in the peninsula, away from natural paths of trade. Yet the long bloody years of warfare was its prize because of its then strategic value. But the heart and soul of Detroit will not be found in the mere recitals of the endless wars that it waged around her. Detroit was a unique frontier city. Detroit had established culture before it was ever incorporated into a city. While other pioneer communities were, of necessity, uncouth, illiterate, ruthless, the seed of better things was planted within this soil before the matrix of our being became solidified.
Feels pretty good, doesn’t it?