|Date(s):||March 1942 to 1942|
|Tag(s):||Paradise Valley Detroit, Hastings Street, Detroit, Black Bottom, Detroit|
|Course:||“Environmental History in Detroit,” University of Michigan|
Betty DeRamus is seen as a Detroit legend to some. Her parents moved to Detroit in the 40s when Betty was a baby. She lived in Detroit’s Black Bottom neighborhood as a child – her parents moved from the Black Bottom neighborhood when she was in high school. While growing up in Black Bottom Betty noticed the dilapidated housing; she said one house she lived in was desperately in need of a paint job but the house’s exterior looked as if it wouldn’t absorb paint. Despite conditions like this Betty says she felt that her family was rich. Both parents worked and by them having only one child they were able to maintain a nice home, they even bought Betty a piano. She also noted that the inside of her house was always spotless because her mother believed in keeping a clean home.
Additionally Betty talks about the sense of community in Black Bottom, she says it was a village. People knew you in Black Bottom and in many ways the Blacks “looked out for each other”. Betty talks about how there was some vice in Black Bottom (I.e. prostitution) but the community was not filled with overt violent crimes (i.e. break-ins and murders). She reflects on how her family seldom locked their doors and how people would sit on their porches late at night to enjoy the nightly breeze. She remembers sitting on the porch alone in the dark as a child and never hearing break-ins or assaults. The community was full of Black owned businesses which she enjoyed as a child, she recalls enjoying ice cream at Barthwells drug store and buying candy at the local confectionary. She also remembers how Hastings street was filled with fresh smells from restaurants and sounds of musical greats performing in local theaters.
“Feeling rich has nothing to do with how many dollars you have in a bank or in your pocket. It’s about having a sense of security. It’s about feeling cared for. It’s about growing up wrapped in love.” –Betty DeRamus.
This quote by Betty captures the feelings had by many living in Black Bottom. Their housing was not the greatest and many were poor but they had a sense of community. The people had created a way of life that made them feel rich. However this was disregarded and a community with a rich history and value was wiped away.