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Working in Detroit or why Ernie Harwell loves Michigan

Detroit is a working town. From the Thumb-area farms to the famous Highland Park assembly lines to the Ann Arbor research corridor, we Michiganders define ourselves by our work.

Take John Cannon for example. The 20-year-old Detroiter is a houseman at Greektown Casino, responsible for “everything the public sees” there. He vacuums the halls, puts fresh towels out, stocks the closets with supplies.

Cannon got the job in part because of the training he received through Goodwill Industries of Greater Detroit. Previously, Cannon worked at White Castle, known for its “slider” hamburgers. Nice gig, Cannon said, but he had bigger goals.

“I like coming to work every day,” Cannon said of his houseman job. “I like the fact that I don't know what's in store for me. It's an adventure.”

Some people may wonder why working people stay in Detroit. Unemployment tops 15 percent. The state is in a budget crisis. Job creation is slow to come, and many families are skipping haircuts and the like to limp through.

My friend Darcy, a former civil engineer and stay-at-home mom in Harper Woods, stays because “the people are quite nice here.” And her husband has a job – something that has become bragging point of life in the D.

Freelance photographer John F. Martin agrees. “I like (most of) the people, my business is doing well and I have hope that this once-great city will return to prosperity. No way I could leave – it would be like kicking a dog who just got run over by a truck.”

Longtime Detroit Tigers commentator Ernie Harwell recently said farewell to his fans after announcing his incurable cancer. In the ballpark that was his home for nearly half a century, he told the crowd: “I deeply appreciate the people of Michigan. I love their grit. I love the way they face life.”

So even if the rest of the world sees our region as a failure, we know better. We know hard work will keep it going. And it will turn around. Just keep watching.

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  • 1

    Nice post by Karen. What makes Detroit great are the folks that stay for all the right reasons despite the constant doom and gloom. The "I like coming to work every day" attitude of John Cannon is very-"Detroit," and that's what keeps us going.

    Kurt Kosmowski

  • 3

    As a former Detroiter who spent 22 years in the Metro-area, I still describe myself as having a working-class upbringing. I think it is because of the attitude described in this article. I am proud to say my relatives worked the line at Ford as new immigrants to this country.

  • 4

    “I like the fact that I don't know what's in store for me. It's an adventure.”

    It's nice that you found a houseman who exemplifies such positivity...but your blog entry is a stretch. This is not the overall attitude of Southeast Michigan...or specifically, the industry of janitorial services. This is a subjective journalist trying to make a point...and finding the appropriate people who will back up her argument.

    This type of banter is what ruins u. It's great to occasionally showcase this region via inspiring stories...but to define us by these stories is not authentic or true to the emotions that reside within each of us as Detroiters.

    And for the record, hard work does not sustain life or "keep it going". Detroit's current economic and employment woes did not happen because of a lack of hard work. We as a region never focused on the things that truly mattered in life...and because we kept our heads down, "worked hard", wrote quaint blogs about how great metro-Detroit is...and most importantly, never admitted our failures publicly and honestly...well, we got caught up in our blindness and brought this upon ourselves.

  • 5

    For those of you who were unable to attend Mitch Albom's book release (Have a Little Faith) event at the Fox, here is a great video of Mitch's interview with Ernie Harwell. I swear, that voice is one-of-a-kind. If we were playing "Name That Tune" I think most of us could name Ernie Harwell's voice in one note!

    Harwell fans, you'll love this!


  • 6

    [...] since we all loved Ernie Harwell, I want all my fellow LionsDetroit fans to check out detroit.blogs.time and tell me what you think about[...]

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