Friday, October 14, 2011

Wreckless Driving, A Riot and a Female Candidate for Probate Court

If there was anything else that Robert D. Burston could have done to announce that he was a kleptomaniac I don't know what it would have been. I guess that he could have shot back at police and got himself killed during the fracas which occurred after his 80 and 100 MPH chases and also crashing into a fire hydrant. Most likely though he was just a foolish kid racing around in a late 50s roadster trying to burn off some energy. Hell, maybe he thought he was James Dean. Everybody thought they were James Dean back in the late '50s, right? Ah- well, ship him off to Eloise for some medical attention followed by a night or two in the clink.


It's funny that every time you see an old newspaper, magazine advert or television commercial from the 1940s or '50s everybody is smiling, polite and well-manicured. And yet... stories such as these were just as prominent then as they are now.

A November 4, 1949 prep football game between Melvindale and River Rouge erupted into a fight on the field when one player jumped onto the back of an opponent as the game wound down in the final minjutes. An estimated 3,500 of the 5,000 member crowd then joined the fray, with about a thousand of them becoming combatants, in which 3 people were knifed, 2 football players were knocked unconscious, a cop was slightly hurt and many of the brawlers were left bruised and battered. I guess that's a riot, right?

Although no racial motivation was suspected by the police the brawl began with a fight between a white and black player. Hostilities were present throughout the hotly contested game between the all-white home team and their mixed race counterparts from River Rouge. Both sides claimed that the other instigated the riot.

Violet Higgins, 34, Gerald Biskner, 19 were among the three knifed during the melee and Jack Lower, 23, was hospitalized for treatment of a back injury.

Branch Higgins, a colored man and the husband of the assailed, who was arrested and released on charges of felonious assault, said that his wife and he were accosted and pulled from their car by a mob of white youths about a block from the field where the game was played in Melvindale. Violet suffered a severe stab wound to her back and was treated at Wayne County General Hospital while her husband sustained a cut to his hand. The news reports don't mention where the other two seriously injured people were taken for treatment.


Although you can only see their blotted out silhouettes, appearing above are Lula Bachman, a candidate for probate judge, Frank Kelly, presumably the future long-serving Attorney General of Michigan and Zais Woodford Schroeder of the General Federation of Women's Clubs at a meeting-picnic on the ground of Eloise in honor of superintendent Dr. Gruber. Bachman was a nationally prominent female lawyer who felt that the probate courts were too one-dimensional with an all-male panel and didn't emphasize the needs of widows, orphans, juveniles and the mentally ill. I can find no mention of her as a probate judge so I'm assuming that her effort failed. Seeing as it was in 1950 that's not overly surprising.

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