Tag Archives: Unpacking The Sunrise to Canton Road Trip For Research

The 4th Annual Sunrise to Canton Road Trip for Research

Hey kidz. The Not Now Silly Newsroom is on the move again and will be (almost) live-blogging the entire experience as I go. Just like the last 3 times.

This trip to Canton Township, Michigan, will be by way of Morgantown, West Virginia, to reacquaint myself with the roots of Don Knotts; Toronto, where I have much family and many friends; Detroit, to check up on my family there and see how they’re taking care of Pops; and then Elyria, Ohio; Columbus, Ohio; and Centerville, a real nice place to raise your kids up.

But, we all know it’s really Canton Township, Michigan that has captured my heart. Oh, sure, people make fun of it because it’s only a township. But, it has a population of 90,173. That doesn’t seem like much, but that makes it the second largest township in all of Michigan. And, the 11th largest community in the state.




As the WikiWackyWoo is only too happy to reveal:

As of the census[1] of 2010, there were 90,173 people, 32,771 households, and 24,231 families residing in the township. The population density was 2,121.5 per square mile (819.0/km²). There were 34,829 housing units at an average density of 789.8 per square mile (304.9/km²). The racial makeup of the township was 72.2% White, 10.2% African American, 0.2% Native American, 14.1% Asian (8.0% Indian, 2.2% Chinese, 0.7% Filipino), 0.0% Pacific Islander, 0.7% from other races, and 1.91% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 3.1% of the population. 

Which explains a lot. For history buffs, the Wiki also reveals:

The Township of Canton was created by act of the Michigan Territorial Legislature on March 7, 1834 out of a southern portion of Plymouth Township. It was named in honor of the port and provincial capital known historically as Canton, Imperial China, which in 1918 was renamed Guangzhou (Chinese: 廣州; pinyin: Guǎngzhōu) — now the capital and largest city of Guangdong province, People’s Republic of China.


Those damn Commies!

Meanwhile, watch for my updates from the road starting on the 21st.

Packing Up The Newsroom ► Unpacking The Writer

My old house to the Viola Liuzzo Playground is just over 1/2 mile

The 3rd Annual Sunrise to Canton Road Trip for Research begins early tomorrow morning and the excitement is building.

Yesterday I told someone that driving is my “happy place.” There’s nothing I like better than to get behind the wheel, crank up the tunes, and cruise. I have many hours of that ahead of me over the next few weeks and am looking forward to it.

Excitement is also building — I hope — among those folk who signed up for a visit during this year’s road trip. Several of them are repeat customers, so I must be doing something right. A few of them are brand new to the Aunty Em Experience. I’m looking forward to seeing them all.

Among my stops are Centerville, Columbus, Elyria, Akron, and Columbus, all in Ohio. I’ll be retracing my steps in West Virginia, the subject of last year’s A Tribute to Don Knotts ► Morgantown’s Favourite Son. The last 2 stops will be to visit people in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and Oviedo, Florida. The latter is someone I’ve known in Cyberville for decades, yet we’ve never had the chance to meet.

During this year’s Sunrise to Canton Road Trip for Research I’ve also scheduled several stops for Racial Research™ along the route. I’ll be visiting the Harriet Tubman Museum in Macon, GA; the Old Slave Mart Museum in Charleston, South Carolina, with a stop to pay respects at Mother Emanuel Church; and the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit. Through sheer synchronicity the Wright Museum is holding CALL of The DRUM: An International Drum Summit on the weekend I’ll be there. I’m taking my claves.

As well I plan to stop off for a night in St. Augustine. I’ve been there once and found it incredibly beautiful. It’s the oldest, continually inhabited city in this country. Ponce de Leon was tramping around there and I can’t wait to see it again.

There’s been no word from J$ on whether he wants to help me write The Johnny Dollar Wars ► The Final Chapter? There’s still another 10 days for him to decide whether he has the cajones to confront the man he relentlessly cyber-bullied for more than 3 years. Regardless of whether he participates, the final chapter will be written.

However, one part of this trip only got added to my itinerary yesterday, and it’s an interesting story. Have a seat. Relax.

In preparation for this year’s Sunrise to Canton Road Trip for Research I was looking on Google Maps for the name of a park in my old neighbourhood. If I remember correctly, this park once had a water tower, torn down in the late ’50s or the early ’60s. I have vague memories of playing on the girders after it was ripped down, but before they had been hauled away.

What I discovered on Google Maps came as a shock, mostly because it came as a total surprise. It’s the Viola Liuzzo Playground.

I had no idea this park was named after a Civil Rights Martyr from Detroit. I had no idea Viola Liuzzo came from my old neighbourhood. This is a woman whom I have read about so many times in so many books. I’ve watched documentaries in which she has appeared prominently. Tara Ochs plays her in the movie Selma.

Brownsville Herald – April 4, 1964

The house I grew up in was slightly over a half mile from the Viola Liuzzo Playground. [See map above] In 1964 I was 12 years old yet I knew nothing of any of this. Whyzzat? This is as local as it gets. Cross burnings in my neighbourhood? Really?

When I visit Detroit this time I am going to visit this park. It’s my plan to write about it and, more importantly, write about my ignorance of the fact that her funeral, with Martin Luthur King, Jr., attending, happened practically under my nose without me realizing it.

I have now been in contact with Mary Liuzzo, Viola’s daughre, who identified 19375 Marlowe Street as the house that Viola Liuzzo left behind to join the Freedom March in Selma, Alabama. She never returned, having been murdered as she was ferrying Freedom Riders to several locations. A week after her death a cross was burned on her lawn.

Hopefully, one of the other people I’ll be seeing on this trip is Pastor Ken Wilson. We grew up across the street from each other and recently reconnected losing track of each other 45 years ago. Ken has become a bit infamous over the last year. As Senior Pastor of the Vinelands Church in Ann Arbor, a church he founded in his living room 40 years ago, Wilson wrote what I believe is a very important book. “A Letter to My Congregation” argues for full inclusion and acceptance in the church of the LGBT communities. For his troubles, he was kicked to the curb by Vinelands Church — or he resigned in mutual agreement. However, that hasn’t stopped him.

It’s to Pastor Kenny that I’ve addressed all my Pastoral Letters. However, I’ve just learned there may be a scheduling problem and a reunion with Kenny may not be in the cards after all.

Curious, I’ve just asked Ken electronically. While he was aware that Viola Liuzzo was a Civil Rights Martyr, he was also unaware that she was from our own neighbourhood and was as ignorant as I was about the cross burning just a mile and a half from where we lived.

This is going to be the best Sunrise to
Canton Road Trip for Research

Announcing the 3rd Annual Sunrise to Canton Road Trip for Research!

Yes folks, it’s that time of year again, and YOU’RE ALL INVITED!!! *

Every summer, for the last 2, I’ve taken a 2 week road trip to Canton Township, Michigan and back. Ostensibly, I am headed to a huge family reunion, but I use this road trip for several purposes:

  • It provides me with an opportunity to recharge my batteries;
  • It gets me to places I’ve never seen before;
  • I am able to do some deeper research into several long-term writing projects;
  • And, most importantly, it allows me to meet up with friends, both old and new, along the road.

None of my dates are set in stone because my itinerary is totally dependent on YOU, my readers

I can, however, give you a rough outline. I will leave Florida on, or about, July 14th, to arrive at my most northerly point in the Sunrise to Canton Road Trip for Research on, or about, July 17th. My return leg will start on, or about, the 27th of July, so I can be back in the Not Now Silly Newsroom no later than July 30th.

The northern leg of the Sunrise to Canton Road Trip for Research will be — most probably — the western route shown above. My return trip will probably be the eastern route. However, even that is totally dependent on you. My route could change drastically as more people sign on.

HERE’S HOW YOU CAN GET INVOLVED: If you’d like to get the full Not Now Silly Experience™, send an email to AuntyEm1@gmail.com, with ROAD TRIP as the subject. Let me know where you live and the dates that are best for you within my window(s). As my itinerary fills up, and we get closer to the dates, I will check back with you on specific dates and approximate times to drop in for coffee, or meet you at Starbucks.

Read all the previous years’ entries in the
Sunrise to Canton Road Trip for Research

There’s one bit of excitement already scheduled. I will be getting together with Pastor Ken Wilson, author of “A Letter to my Congregation; An evangelical pastor’s path to embracing people who are gay, lesbian, and transgendered into the company of Jesus.” Kenny is my oldest friend in the world. We met when  we were 5 years old, but lost touch soon after I moved to Canada in the early ’70s. We reconnected last November when I learned about his book and started my series of Pastoral Letters, addressed to him. We’re going to visit the old neighhbourhood together.

Last year’s visit produced While Detroit Crumbled, Gilchrist Street Hung On. I can’t wait to see what a visit with Pastor Kenny will produce.

This year’s Sunrise to Canton Road Trip For Research is dedicated to Jim Bloor. 

Sadly things got confused during last last year’s Sunrise to Canton Road Trip For Research and my trip to finally meet Jim had to be cancelled. We thought, quite naturally, that there was always next year, or that we’d meet up if he had to come down and inspect his Broward properties.

That will never be.

*  Provided you’re somewhere along my route during my travel dates

Unpacking the Sunrise to Canton Road Trip for Research

Panorama of the 8 Mile Wall, behind the houses on Birwood in Dcetroit, Michigan

The 2nd Annual Sunrise to Canton Road Trip for Research was full of surprises. Surprises are the delight of a loosely planned 3,000 mile drive. All told I figure I drove some 65 hours, with a week in the Canton Township, Michigan, area in the middle. Sunrise to Canton Township alone is about 24 hours of straight driving. Most of my various hosts gave me a driving tour of their town, with me driving, adding another 12 hours to the overall trip.

What I learned on this trip, but really should have learned last year: There is no adequate and reliable way to update Not Now Silly from my Windows Phone. Next year I’m going to make sure I have a laptop, making updates much easier. As it is I only managed to post a three “A Note From The Road” posts. Either I had trouble with connectivity or I was surrounded by people, which wasn’t conducive to spending time posting. Here are the very few I managed to post:

A Note From The Road #1
A Note From The Road #2
A Note From The Road #3

A former nightclub in Steubenville, Ohio, once owned by The Mob.
Dean Martin had no choice but to perform here early in his career.

Aside from all my research in Canton Township, Michigan, I have enough other material to power several future Not Now Silly posts. These include, but are not limited to, the 8 Mile Wall; Morgantown‘s favourite son, Don Knotts; Ruin Porn, Gilchrist Street, and Coffee Jr. High School; Medical Marijuana in Michigan; highway driving in ‘Merka; and other sundry writings as I get to them.

Driving 3,000+ miles in ‘Merka is always an interesting and eye-opening experience. One thing I learned last year, but which was reinforced this year, is that every family has family drama. I heard of several this year, all unprompted, just like last year.

I took more than 1,200 pictures on the 2nd Annual Sunrise to Canton Road Trip for Research and not all of them in Canton Township, Michigan. I have already posted several photo albums on my facebookery:

The saddest part of the 2nd Annual Sunrise to Canton Road Trip for Research was to see my old neighbourhood. Every year when I visit I notice the Detroit blight has grown since the previous year. In recent years it has crept into my old neighbourhood, nibbling around the edges. Now it has infected dozens and dozens of houses in just the square mile bounded by 7 Mile, 8 Mile and Greenfield and Southfield on the east and west. This includes Coffey Jr. High School, where I went along with all my sibs. Coffey has been closed and the scrappers have already trashed the building.

I joined the rank of scrappers when I stole a number of architectural glass blocks and distributed them among my sisters as mementos of their youth. My experiences in my old neighbourhood will be a Not Now Silly Newsroom Investigative Report. Coming soon.

BONUS: I left Sunrise with 2 books: the one I was reading and the one I would read next. I returned with 13 more than I left with because so many people gave me books on my travels. My friends really have me pegged and know what I like.

Finally, I would like to thank all my hosts.The joy of these road trips is being able to meet friends and readers along the road. Without these stops, it would be a long and boring drive. Without these stops I wouldn’t see towns and cities I normally would drive right past. Without these stops I wouldn’t get personally guided tours. A huge thanks to each and every one of you. I hope to see you on the 3rd Annual Sunrise to Canton Road Trip for Research, already in the planning stages.

Here’s the latest look at the little house I used to live in:

Here’s the latest listen to The Little House I Used To Live In: