It ended the ’70s looted, burned, and humiliated.
Unemployment numbers hit the double digits. Gangs moved into neighborhoods. Kids dropped out of school. An oil embargo in ’73 revealed the chinks in the Big 3’s armor.
All in all, over 300,000 people fled Detroit during the decade, like rats from a sinking ship.
But Detroit was still the nation’s 6th largest city. There was roughly twice as many jobs in the city as there are now. The good neighborhoods – or, at least, decent neighborhoods – outweighed the bad.
Amid all the chaos, there was still reason for hope. Old folks swept the sidewalks in the morning. The steel and glass Renaissance Center went up in ’77, its centerpiece hotel the tallest building in the state. Block clubs across the city bought identical lampposts from a brochure packaged with the electric bill, plopping ’em dead center in each and every front yard on the street.
Yes, that’s right. I said lampposts.
It was a brilliant scheme by the electric company. Safety, the brochure touted, was light. We all know the bad guys come out at night when you’re asleep. Why not give them a reason to think twice before busting out a window?
The fact that the light bulb inside would tack a few extra bucks on your electric bill couldn’t hurt either, right?
Strangely enough, people bought into it. The most popular mode – by far – was a white plastic globe affixed atop a black metal pole. Sure, it was ugly, but it did the job.
When it was really dark out, it almost looked quaint, like you were in a plastic reproduction of an old-timey village.
Even today you’ll still some of those vintage ’70s lampposts out and about in random corners of the city. Of course, its long since been surpassed by iron “security doors” in popularity, pictured above behind the lamppost.
Guess the lampposts didn’t bother the bad guys too much.