Blog: Joe Zainea

A peek at the playbills of the Majestic Theater and the Magic Stick live music venues shows that every day is a different act. How does Joe Zainea, longtime owner of The Majestic entertainment empire, keep things fresh from week to week? Follow on for his tales of revival and survival.

Post 6: The 1967 Rebellion

My father, brothers, and I have been operating the Garden Bowl on Woodward since 1946.  My sons, Dave and Chef Joe, now operate the same place along with other parts of the Majestic Theatre Center.

I was at Tiger Stadium on that Sunday, in July 1967, when the riot broke out.  I could see smoke in various directions from my seat in the upper deck.  At the end of the game the announcer told us to leave the stadium in an orderly fashion and to avoid certain streets, like Grand River, etc. 

I returned to the Garden Bowl after the game as our group was made up of our customers.  We had just recently renovated the Garden Recreation (later named the Garden Bowl) in 1966, hoping to hold onto our customers which were running to the suburbs.  It didn't help, they ran anyway.  Our new clientele at that point was made up of Asian Americans, from the Cass Corridor, and African Americans.  Our manager was Chinese American.  When I returned to the Garden after the game, the place was packed with many Chinese, as they all closed their restaurants for the day because of the riots.  There were some African Americans too.  The next day, I was driving to work with my father, and saw quite a view from the rise of the I-94 freeway over 1-75.  There were burning buildings in every direction, mostly toward the northwest. It was scary and awesome and sits vividly in my memory.  My brother George arrived and we tried to figure out what to do.  The few leagues we had cancelled for the mean time.  The mayor announced a curfew of all business after 8 p.m., later in the same day he announced a 24-hour curfew. 

My brother and I decided to call the Salvation Army to see if they would be interested in using our bowling center as a place to give a break to the Police, Firemen, and National Guard.  The 101 st and 82nd Airborne soldiers were called in a few days later.  I told the Salvation Army they didn't have to pay us anything for bowling, and that we were doing this as a favor to those groups.  They called me back and said that that was a great idea.  I had an "A" shaped sign made that read  "Welcome all Police, Firemen and Soldiers  This is your recreation center?Free bowling"  and placed it on the roof of my car parked in front of our business.  The Salvation Army told me to serve food and keep track of the bill and that they would reimburse us later, after everything settled down. 

The place was packed again and again with police, judges, prosecutors, firemen, and later soldiers.  They sat in the restaurant/bar area and talked and played cards.  They purchased all sorts of unique sandwiches, like E&B Hot Dogs, Altas Sausages,  Budburgers, CC stew, and many other named eats.  Of course, these were not necessarily sandwiches, but they ordered it anyway.  Remember, there was a curfew on all alcoholic beverages and of course we wouldn't serve drinks (like Hell).  If a judge ordered an E&B Hot Dog, who was I to disagree with him.  We ran out of beer and liquor and my brother George rented a truck and droved to Toledo accompanied by one of Detroit's Finest to buy more beverages.  After being restocked, we continued serving twenty four hours a day to this group.  Needless to say, our buildings were well protected. 

I also remember, when the 101 st and 82nd airborne bowled in our center, our parking lot across the street had a tank protecting the tripod rifles of the soldiers.  I have a picture of my then six-year-old son, David, sitting on the lap of a soldier holding his rifle.  We have it hanging in our Majestic Café.

 By the way, in about two months I got a huge check from the Salvation Army for all "those" sandwiches we sold.  Another good point was that all of our help was able to work right through the riot.

I remember looking out the front door of our bowling center and watching thugs break the windows of a men's clothing store and clear out every item in it and then it was set on fire.  Owners of neighboring businesses called us from their suburban homes to find out how things were going.  They should have come down and protected their businesses too.  What trying times they were. 

But, a year later, in 1968, the Tigers won the World Series and all of metro Detroit celebrated together as if nothing had happened the year before. Woodward was packed with white and blacks cheering on the Tigers and Detroit; wondrous years, indeed.

I like to refer to the situation as a rebellion, rather than a riot.  Blacks were not treated well in the forties, fifties, and early sixties, and even to this day.  They rebelled.  Granted the riots did more damage to their own properties than suburbanites but it did awaken all of society to the need to improve their station in life.  Today, much of that racism has been replaced with elitism.  I equate the both of them equally wrong.  Whenever a person, regardless of his or her race, feels he or she is better than another, for whatever reason, that person is indeed just as guilty as if they discriminated based on race.   Where you live, the size of your house, the brand of car you drive, the education level you have achieved, or any other rationale a person uses to think of him self as better than someone else, is merely showing inadequacy.  A person's real worth is measured by the content of his intellect, heart and soul, and his relationship with others.