Wherever the Road Leads

The American Dream

Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust

The Clint Eastwood movie, “Gran Torino” was about a retired Eastern European (Polish, Hungarian, Czech) man, Walt Kowalski, who had immigrated to the United States (Detroit) after the Second World War, taken a job (for life) with the Ford Motor Company, or “Ford’s” if you are from Detroit. He worked hard with his hands, married, bought a house, raised a family and was now retired.

He took pride in his house that he had lived in for fifty-plus years – my mother used to call them ‘war-time’ houses, built in the fifties, a story and a half, two bedrooms upstairs, a living room, dining room and bathroom off the kitchen downstairs – but his neighborhood had changed. As did his own, the children of the white Europeans had taken their college educations and moved away, and the parents were dying off. Those who moved into the neighborhood were all Asian, and Clint, a Korean veteran, was none too pleased with their presence. The movie is about his relationship with the Asian teenager who lives next door and the transition in both characters.

I know those story-and-a-half neighborhoods well. I grew up in them. The only difference between my parents and Clint’s character, is we came from “western” Europe. During my two-years-of-hell living in Chicago, I bought into one of those neighborhoods. The area was known as “The Mexican Ghetto”. I liked it there. The Mexicans bought a run-down home and fixed it up, the neighborhood was improving.

Years ago I worked with the son of an eastern European immigrant in Hamilton, Ontario. Hamilton is the Pittsburgh of the north, a steel-making town. His father had worked all his Canadian life at either Stelco – The Steel Company of Canada – or Dofasco – Dominion Foundries and Steel.

He would joke of his father and that ilk… “Bin dis conntree tventy-six yearss, speck it like two. Vorrk-it me stim plank tventy-two yearss, retire, catch-it me gold vatch.”

Translation: I’ve been in this country for twenty-six years and speak (English) like I’ve been here only two (years). I worked at the “stim plank”… either the steel mill itself or the steam plant at the steel mill, was never sure… for twenty-two years then I retired, receiving a gold watch from the company.

That work ethic disappeared a long time ago from Detroit, but the neighborhoods remain. I came across a pictorial, a graphic display of what happens when the Europeans leave.

Celestine between Hazelridge and MacCray, 2008, 2009, 2011, 2013.


Hickory between Manning and Pinewood, 2008, 2009, 2011, 2013.


Mayfield between Celestine and MacCray, 2008, 2009, 2011, 2013.


Irvington between Remington and Winchester, 2009, 2011, 2013.


Glenwood between Hayes and Brock, 2008, 2009, 2011, 2013.

A Mayor in jail? Incompetent leadership? Corrupt politicians? Failed Democrat entitlements? Excessive taxes? A bankrupt city?

All of the above?

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