Detroit 48202: Conversations Along a Postal Route
DETROIT 48202: CONVERSATIONS ALONG A POSTAL ROUTE explores the rise, demise and contested resurgence of the "motor city" through a multi-generational choir of voices who reside in mail carrier Wendell Watkins’s work route. Blamed for the devastation - disinvestment to bankruptcy - but determined to survive, the community offers creative solutions to re-imagine a more inclusive and equitable city.
NATASHA DEL TORO: Coming up onAmerica ReFramed...
DEL TORO: Detroit mail carrier Wendell Watkins
has been working the same route for 30 years.
WATKINS: Half the houses that were there
ten years ago are gone.
Vacant, vacant, vacant, you got a lot,
you got a house, house, house, house, house,
The people here didn't create this disaster,
but they've had to survive it.
DEL TORO: The story of Detroit,
told by the people who live there.
MAN: My parents were sharecroppers from Georgia,
and they came to Detroit in 1941.
WOMAN: The whites didn't want colored to live out there,
back in those days. - Yeah.
DEL TORO: An intimate look at the city's past,
present, and future.
MAN: Neighborhoods are being cleared out.
Poor people are being removed,
and developers are going to be able to come in
and capitalize on it.
WATKINS: This doesn't look anything like
the Detroit I know.
This new Detroit, I don't know which way it's going to go.
DEL TORO: "Detroit 48202:
Conversations Along a Postal Route."
Next, onAmerica ReFramed.
Major funding forAmerica ReFramed
is provided by
the Corporation for Public Broadcasting
and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.
Additional funding is provided by the Wyncote Foundation,
the National Endowment for the Arts,
and the Reva and David Logan Foundation.
(engine rumbles, music continues)
WATKINS: Hey, what's up, man?
Hey, now, what's happening, Carl?
How you been?
All right. Good to see you.
No mail today, though.
Oh, yeah, good to see you again, man.
Hey, what's happening, man? You back?
When was the last time you saw a movie about a mailman?
Remember the opening scenes fromGoodfellas?
They beat the hell out of the mailman.
It wasThat's My Mama with Clifton Davis,
his best friend was a mailman.
He didn't have much of a part, either.
Wasn't there another? Oh, yeah,Il Postino!
But he wasn't like a regular mailman.
He was like a arty, European movie mailman.
My grandfather was a mailman, and I always thought it would be
a pretty cool gig 'cause you get paid pretty well.
You don't have a boss on you all the time.
You get to meet a lot of people.
It's kinda... you know, I always thought it was kinda cool
'cause, like I said, my grandfather did it.
I thought he was, like, the coolest guy in the world.
So when they had the opening, and I went,
passed the test, got 100, so I said that's cool.
(chuckles) I get to be a mailman.
All right! Just like Grandpa.
I started when I was 29 there.
So I started my route, I was almost 30.
And now I'm almost 56.
I'm doing a lot more walking than I ever have.
This part has been on my route for the whole 26 years
I've been out here.
This block... this block in particular,
this is my first permanent route I ever had.
You look a little like Eric Clapton.
You do. Nobody's ever said that to you?
Oh, that's interesting.
- Thank you. - Okay.
And so it's all about the people.
Hey, how you doing? - You all right?
- Yeah, I'm all right.
- Can I give you this one? - Absolutely!
- Thank you. - All right now.
From here on in, we're gonna see a lot of things that are
really changes-- big changes.
This block is pretty much the same,
but when we go over to Euclid, it's a major change.
If you hadn't been here for like 30 years,
you wouldn't even recognize it, really.
Within my one route, you have townhouses,
really nice apartments, really messed up apartments.
You have houses-- extremely big, nice houses.
You have three blocks in particular
that are well kept up and very spacious houses.
There's six or seven other blocks on my route.
Half the houses that were there ten years ago are gone.
This is a hell of a nice building.
You think of this drunken brick.
You don't hardly even see drunken brick nowadays.
The guy that owned it decided not to do anything to it.
So all the people that were there left.
This is a microcosm of what happens when you get
these gigantic corporations buy up places,
do absolutely nothing to them,
the people that wanna live there leave.
So then they just board it up and hold it for speculation.
This is typical.
This is, like, one of like maybe nine buildings
on my route that ended up like this.
Only this is the best one 'cause it's such a...
look at it.
It's a beautiful building. Golly.
Anyway. (keys rattle)
Vacant, vacant, vacant.
You got a lot.
You got a house, house, house, house, house,
house, vacant, lot.
How you doing?
But the people that are living here are cool.
They got nice houses. They keep them up.
They're trying to hang in there.
Been living here for 40 years, some of them.
They go out of their way to make the place look nice.
They've been working against crime, against all the things
that've been going on, and they stay.
And they've done a great job, sometimes against all odds,
and no perks for them.
(dog barking in the distance)
The devastation on my route is just part of what's happened
all over Detroit.
The corporations have disinvested,
the banks have caused a financial crisis,
and the state cut revenue to the city.
The people here, like the customers on my route,
didn't create this disaster, but they've had to survive it.
JULIA PUTNAM: I remember growing up
hearing all these stories about how great Detroit used to be.
PUTNAM: With the understanding
that it never would be great again,
that that's kinda how people talked about it,
and me wondering why that was true, what changed,
why weren't things being fixed up?
Why weren't places looking beautiful again?
And it was a question that plagues me.
I love the city, and I didn't want to have to move.
But I was being told that the way to be successful
was to move away. - Mm-hmm.
PUTNAM: My great-grandmother was the first to come to Detroit
from Hurtsboro, Alabama. - Okay. Hurtsboro?
- Hurtsboro. - Hurts!
- It's a really interesting name there.
- Gonna hurt down here. (laughter)
- I have to get outta here, it hurts.
So she was the oldest child.
And so my grandmother remembers her aunts and uncles
coming to stay with them while they got on their feet,
and they would move out of the house.
And so there was that legacy of the one person coming,
helping everybody else come and get situated.
WATKINS: That's the same thing that happened with my family.
PUTNAM: Yeah, I love that.
(beeps horn softly)
How are y'all doing? - Good to see you.
I know you was the central character,
but I didn't know you're about to interview me.
How'd you come to Detroit in the first place?
- Well, my home originally is in West Virginia,
in the coal mining section of West Virginia,
a little town called Welch.
It is not at all uncommon for people from West Virginia
to migrate here for work.
And especially if you didn't want to work in the coal mines.
The very first person in my family to come here
was a great-aunt, Mary Clark.
She came here as a domestic worker.
Used to have a term that they referred to that as
"working in private family."
That's what they used to call that.
And everybody came to Aunt Mary's house.
And when I decided one summer that I wanted to come here,
then I talked to Aunt Mary.
And she said, "Sure. Come on up here."
WOMAN: ♪ I'm going to Detroit, get myself a good job.... ♪
MAN (dramatized): Dear Lizzie, I just went to see about work.
They needed men so bad, they asked me
to come to work the next day.
So you get the Browns to help you pack up,
and you come on up here.
I'm staying with some very nice people.
WOMAN (dramatized): Mr. R.S. Abbott,
editor of theChicago Defender,
Sir: I can hear so many people speaking of an excursion
to the North on the 15th of May for $3.
My husband is in the North already working,
and he wants us to come up in May.
So, please, answer...
MAN (dramatized): Dear sir,
We are in need of your help,
as we wanted to go to Detroit.
We go wherever you sends us until we get to Detroit.
There is nothing here for the colored man but a hard time,
which these Southern crackers gives us.
Mobile, Alabama, April 26, 1917.
SINGER: ♪ Stop these eatless days
♪ From starin' me in the face
WATKINS: A lot of people were moving up
from the South, where the primary thing was to get
the hell out of fill-in-the- blank Southern state.
(Blind Blake's "Detroit Bound Blues" continues)
MAN (dramatized): In view of the widespread discussion
of the causes back of the migration
of Negroes to the North,
it is timely to consider the lynching for the year just....
MAN (dramatized): Sheriff Rayburg of this city
arrested two innocent race men
who he claimed to be suspects of the shooting.
MAN (dramatized): Memphis, Tennessee:
The through trains passing via the city
on the way to the Northern communities
for more than four months have been crowded
with men, women, and children forming part
of another exodus to the North.
SINGER: ♪ When I start to makin' money
♪ She don't need to come around ♪
WATKINS: My grandfather was originally from
which is a very small town near McMinnville, Tennessee.
And my grandmother's from Viola, Tennessee,
which is a hoot and holler from McMinnville.
And then they ended up in Detroit,
and so the family moved to Detroit mid-'20s.
And my mother was their first offspring.
She was born on July 2, 1926, in their home,
east side of Detroit.
My mother tells the story like they regularly
had people coming up.
They would stay, room with them for a while
till they could get themselves together,
and then they would find a place and leave.
You got here right before I got here, right?
I moved in in October of '87.
- Okay, okay, okay - Okay. Yeah.
You were here first.
When I was growing up, it was mostly professional people,
They kept their lawns up.
We had dogs, yeah.
You know, it was back in the day when it was safe
to play on the street. - Mm-hmm.
MOORE: You know, there was a time when you could
get on the bus and go downtown
and shop for whatever you needed, you know,
come home with a bunch of bags.
My grandmother would dress us up to take us downtown.
WATKINS: This building does stand out, though, to me.
- You think so? - Absolutely, absolutely.
- There are really wonderful people in this building.
- Yeah, absolutely, no doubt about it.
- Everybody extends a hand to everybody else.
We're more like one big family,
and the manager of the building is our mama.
Most of these are pictures of people
that lived here and had children, got married,
and come to see Ms. Owens, and know Ms. Owens.
WATKINS: You were the first black manager around here too?
- I think I was. I think I was.
I remember as a little girl living on Superior...
- Okay. - Between Hastings and Rivard.
SINGER: ♪ Let me tell you about a place I know ♪
♪ It's where all the party people would go ♪
♪ Down on Hastings Street, the cats would meet ♪
♪ To hear good music...
WATKINS: Growing up, I always heard stories about
Paradise Valley and Black Bottom and all these neighborhoods
around Hastings Street, that most blacks coming up
from the South had moved to.
SINGER: ♪ John Lee Hooker and Lester too ♪
♪ And where they played...
GREGORY HICKS: Hastings Street has this rich, rich history.
It was a locus of several hundred businesses,
all located in the same area.
SINGER: ♪ Down on Hastings Street
♪ Down on Hastings Street ♪ On Hastings Street
And it was a thriving business community.
OWENS: Mm. Want me to tell you about Hastings?
WATKINS: Yeah, there you go.
Now, this is just sketches.
- Sure, that's what it's all about, that's good.
OWENS: I remember the first beer garden ever on Hastings.
Those Clydesdale... what was it?
WATKINS: Mm-hmm, horses. Yeah, Budweiser Clydes...
OWENS: Horses used to pull these great big wagons.
And beer, at that particular time, came in those great big,
what was it, barrels? WATKINS: Barrels, yeah, yeah.
There was the Willis Theater.
I saw vaudeville at the Willis show.
WATKINS: Do you remember any acts you saw there?
OWENS: What was that, Ma Rainey?
WATKINS: Oh, get outta here.
Christ, that's a long time.
OWENS: A long time ago!
WATKINS: That was the Blue Bird.
OWENS: The Blue Bird, uh-huh.
I would go there, like... 'cause I liked jazz.
WATKINS: Right, right.
SINGER: ♪ Oh, man, you never been to Detroit in your life. ♪
OWENS: I remember when Joe Louis, when he'd fight,
people would come out, honey, and they would just like
a parade and everything, you know?
SINGER: ♪ Crying what you've been off ♪
♪ Of Detroit three weeks
♪ You think that's a long, long time ♪
♪ If you ask someone in Detroit.... ♪
WATKINS: What was it like walking...
just like walking down the street in Hastings?
Was it just a busy street with lots of businesses?
OWENS: It was a busy street.
They had a department store.
There were funeral parlors.
There were grocery stores, furniture stores,
drug stores, jewelry stores.
WATKINS: The whole bit, huh?
OWENS: The whole nine yards. WATKINS: Yeah. Mm-hmm.
OWENS: Hastings Street was something else
back in those days.
And, you know, where the freeway is, I-75?
Well, that was part of Hastings Street, you know?
HICKS: When they leveled Black Bottom,
when they built expressways inside of our town,
these are very deliberate kinds of things.
You know, I mean, a road didn't just roll out.
You have planners who sit down and plan it.
If you think that that group of people is not worthy
of anything, then it's easy for you to make a decision
to run an expressway through their community and destroy it.
WATKINS: Paradise Valley was demolished in the late '50s
to make way for the Chrysler Freeway
and for middle-income housing in Lafayette Park.
1,900 families were forced to move.
Many of them went to the west side by 12th and Clairmount.
(train brakes squealing)
I went to get more history from two legends of labor organizing
in Detroit's black community.
(laughing) KRAMER: Wow.
BAKER: We'll just get you a seat.
We like the post office. We like mailmen.
- Yeah, we've been on y'all picket lines.
My name is General Gordon Baker Jr.,
and I'm homegrown.
I was born in Detroit.
My parents were sharecroppers from Georgia,
and they came to Detroit in 1941
chasing those good jobs at Ford Motor Company
who, at that time, was paying $5 a day.
My dad, at the time, was working as a domestic
back down in Augusta, Georgia, making $6 a week.
So to come to a job making $5 a day was almost, what,
tripled his income.
After my dad got here and went to work in the factories,
he sent and got my mom.
And I was born about five months after she got here.
So I was native-born.
KRAMER: Well, I'm Marian Kramer, and I didn't come to Detroit
until 1964 after the Civil Rights Movement, really.
I came from the streets of Louisiana--
Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
And I came up here at that particular time
to get married to my first husband
because we couldn't get married in Louisiana
because he's white.
And, you know, quite naturally, I'm black, right?
BAKER: I came into the city when it was booming,
when it was the auto capital that we once knew it to be.
The old-timers that I ran with told me
that once World War II broke out,
after December of 1941, the whole city changed.
That there was not a new car built from 1941 to 1945.
Every factory turned to war production.
At the Ford Rouge Plant, we made PT boats.
Detroit became a city that was live; it never slept.
That all the plants ran three shifts all the time
for war production.
SINGER: ♪ Everybody flying but a Negro like me ♪
♪ Uncle Sam says your place is on the ground ♪
♪ When I fly my airplane, don't want no Negro 'round ♪
♪ Got my long government letter... ♪
THOMAS SUGRUE: Because there were so many jobs
and a shortage of workers,
during the Second World War, many auto companies
or defense manufacturers opened jobs to African Americans
for the first time.
SINGER: ♪ ...for black and white
♪ Aw, but when trouble starts
♪ We'll all be in that same big fight ♪
THOMAS: Some of that opening came with a fight.
Civil rights organizations put pressure on the auto companies
to open up these unionized, well-paying jobs
with good benefits to African Americans.
BAKER: Streetcars ran 24 hours a day.
Movie theaters and restaurants downtown had to stay open
all the time 'cause you always had shifts changing.
So it just became one sea of humanity
working in the armaments industry making productions
and armaments for the war.
So it became a real live city.
SUGRUE: The city became a magnet for African Americans,
refugees from the South.
And as African Americans began to move into the city,
they found themselves confined in densely packed neighborhoods,
mostly with older and run-down housing stock.
(bus engine puttering)
OWENS: My father was working for... he was a bus driver.
OWENS: We moved out to Sojourner Truth Project.
We were the first, I never will forget.
We moved in there on like a Friday, a Saturday,
and it was in the afternoon.
And it was a whole lot of soldiers out there.
SUGRUE: The Sojourner Truth homes were opened
on the city's east side in 1942.
They were built in a predominantly white section
of the east side but slated to be open to African Americans.
WATKINS: Right here. OWENS: Here!
The moving van. Uh-huh.
WATKINS: Moving in, yeah. OWENS: Mm-hmm.
WATKINS: That might be Ms. Owens peering
out the door right there. OWENS: I'm just thinking!
MOORE: That was the War on Poverty program, wasn't it?
- Primarily, this case is for homes for Negro workers.
She was in the first group.
OWENS: We were the first group that ever moved in.
MOORE: They moved in with a police escort?
WATKINS: Yeah. OWENS: Oh, yes, ma'am,
we had a police escort. MOORE: You did too?
WATKINS: That's the National Guard right there.
OWENS: And they moved us in.
The whites didn't want colored to live out there
back in those days.
WATKINS: This is kind of interesting.
This is their newsletter that came out.
I like this one: "We condemn the Ku Klux Klan
"and other Nazi-minded persons and groups
"for their resort to force and violence
in excluding Negroes from their legal homes."
Giant mass march to mayor.
"Polish group gives support."
These were coming out every day--
marches, petition drives, dances.
I love this.
"Welcome to the Sojourner Truth Dance."
And then, finally, after all this trying and struggling,
they were able to get in.
And so that Ms. Owens could walk to school and not get a rock
thrown at her head or anything like that and not even know why.
That's kinda interesting when you think about it.
OWENS: After we moved in, I think we were there for about
two or three days, and some more people moved in, you know.
We moved in there. - Yeah.
JUNE MANNING THOMAS: The boundary of the black ghetto
was actually a frontline battle around the edges
where a few brave black families
would venture into a white neighborhood,
and then the neighborhoods varied
in their resistance to that intrusion.
SUGRUE: Perhaps most important in creating, maintaining,
and perpetuating racial segregation
was the role of federal housing policy.
It became possible for tens of millions of Americans
to buy their own homes for the first time.
And Detroit, which was already a city of homeowners,
saw its rates of home ownership skyrocket.
THOMAS: So, under FHA, with just $500 down,
you could essentially buy a house.
That was revolutionary in the world.
In no place else were mortgages existent.
All those programs came with a big catch.
THOMAS: You had to meet certain criteria,
and one of them was that there could be no change
in the racial makeup of a neighborhood.
SUGRUE: The presence of any African Americans
in a neighborhood meant that a neighborhood was colored red
on the maps that were used by banks,
created by the Homeowners Loan Corporation
to determine whether or not a neighborhood was safe
The neighborhoods that were home to African Americans were given
the letter rating of D, the lowest rating possible.
And it meant it was very difficult to get
a federally backed mortgage in that neighborhood.
(children playing, dog barking)
THOMAS: A subdivision, white subdivision owner
wanted to build housing in the city of Detroit.
He was told that you had to separate that
from what was a historic community called 8 Mile Wyoming.
"In that particular area, you have to separate
"your white subdivision
"from this particular black neighborhood
or else we won't approve the loan."
SUGRUE: So the developer constructed a foot-thick,
six-foot-high cement wall that runs for a half a mile
between 8 Mile Road and Pembroke, north and south.
WATKINS: This is the wall that used to demarcate
where they're gonna have the white neighborhood
from the black neighborhood.
One side black, the other side white.
Just as simple as that, with the redlining at its most literal.
"We're gonna throw this wall right down here,"
and they meant a real wall.
You see yourself in it so you become part of the picture.
It's very well done.
And look at the "fair housing."
It's not just that it's here but that that happened,
A whole lot of people from the South came up here,
black and white, with the same old attitude.
In the North. The North.
Detroit's always been Up South. Everybody kinda knows this.
They brought a lot of their traditions straight up here.
Separate but not equal.
BAKER: This whole auto industry was boom and bust for us.
In 1966, Chrysler Corporation had 29 plants
in the city of Detroit.
They employed 66,000 people.
They were the largest employer in the city of Detroit.
SINGER: ♪ Goin' to Detroit, Michigan ♪
♪ Sorry I can't take you
♪ Yeah! I'm goin' to Detroit, Michigan.... ♪
BAKER: GM had about ten plants.
Ford had the giant Rouge complex.
And then we had Packard, we had Hudson, Budd Wheel.
We had Kelsey Hayes.
SINGER: ♪ Get me a brand new job on the Cadillac assembly line ♪
BAKER: We had all these associated plants
that made parts for autos.
HEWITT: My first factory job here
was with the Ford Motor Company.
They had a factory out on Manchester
near Woodward in Highland Park.
It was, I think, their first major assembly plant.
I was working at Ford, and I got into an argument
with a mouthy young foreman who wasn't much older than me.
Really, I think I intimidated him to the point
where he thought I was gonna
thrash him, I'll say nicely. - (chuckles)
HEWITT: They fired me... WATKINS: Okay.
HEWITT: ...right there on the spot.
So as I was getting ready to leave the factory,
some of the other guys who were working just volunteered
and said, "Hey, I hear they're hiring out at DeSoto."
That's what people would do around this town then.
Folk didn't even know... you'd be in a market somewhere,
and they'd hear you say something
about looking for a job
and they'd tell you where they knew they were hiring.
So I left the Ford plant in Highland Park
and went directly to this DeSoto plant.
Went to the employment office, there was a line there.
The man out of the employment office walked down this line.
He would ask everybody where were they from.
And if you said Detroit, he would walk right on past you
and go to the next guy.
And because I was from West Virginia,
south of here... WATKINS: Right, right, right.
HEWITT: ...you know, he gave me a form.
I subsequently found out from my dad the reason for that
is that they thought that blacks from down South
were more pliable, easier to handle.
HEWITT: And blacks in the North were just the opposite.
They'd give you a lot of trouble
because they thought they were free or some such foolishness.
WATKINS: Tiger Shmiger.
I know what I was gonna ask you. - Yeah.
- There's a story you told me a long time ago,
and it was about you and a friend going to a roller rink
- No, it wasn't in Dearborn.
It was in Oakwood right off of Fort Street.
And they had this big sign,
you know, a neon sign,
"No Colored Allowed." - (laughs) Right, right.
- And the guy that took me, he was white, Frankie,
a high school buddy, and he said, "Man, come on."
And we went in, and there was never a problem.
And the next thing I know, I kept going.
I took some other friends, and then the sign was gone.
- Oh, all right. - You know...
So that was a change. - That's wild!
- Yeah. But for a long time, man...
- "No Colored Allowed" in neon lights.
- Blue. Blue. I'll never forget that.
Yeah, "No Colored Allowed," yeah.
- (laughs) But they didn't mean it.
- Yeah. Oh, they meant it. - (laughs)
- Hey man, in the area, you know,
that's what you noticed: the Fort Street Bridge
divided neighborhoods, you know.
Whites stayed on one side of the bridge;
blacks stayed on the other.
That's the same way in River Rouge.
Jefferson was the part that divided River Rouge
between blacks and whites, Ecorse, and everything.
I remember 8 Mile was the limit then.
SMITH: You didn't go past 8 Mile; you stayed over here.
- You didn't even think about it.
- 6 Mile, yeah.
Yeah, even thinking about it was, you know, just bad.
- What are you talking about? - Yeah.
WATKINS: My grandfather would talk about growing up
in the South, and he very rarely said a lot of things
about bad stuff.
And he grew up in Jim Crow South.
He was like a self-taught intellectual,
very, very interesting cat.
My grandmother used to like to garden a lot.
My grandfather used to garden a lot too.
Roses all over. Roses.
My grandmother was a big rose fanatic
and would win prizes and stuff.
What struck me about that neighborhood on 24th Street
was the houses were so clean.
Everything was so clean.
Everybody would sweep their sidewalks
and their porches, water it down.
I found out later it was a ghetto.
But it was really nice.
This is my old house, and believe it or not,
this is nothing. Nothing.
This a damn shame.
Boy, is this sad.
What the hell happened there?
Even like five years ago that was a decent-looking house.
Now look at it. Oh, my God.
(closes truck door)
Wow, you can look straight through
our house just like that.
Yeah, I remember the stairway was there.
I had that part right.
I remember the last time I came out of there.
That's a trip.
Last time I came out of that house was in 1968.
The extent of the destruction of Detroit,
it did happen gradually enough that I saw it happening.
But being in it at the time, I didn't see it as clearly
as a lot of people that were outside of it.
All right. Hi, Dawn. DAWN: Hey, Wendell.
WATKINS: How you doing? DAWN: Good to see ya.
Now, how long have I been your mailman?
- Oh, my gosh.
I moved in here to that basement apartment in '86.
That's when I started on this route was in January '86.
WATKINS: What do you see in the future for yourself
and this great city of Detroit, so to speak?
I didn't realize how much blight is a problem
until it got close enough that I saw it firsthand.
- You know, you hear about it across the city,
and now you see where we've had carjackings.
There's been about eight or ten of them
since September of last year. - Mm-hmm, mm-hmm.
- We got carjacked right here in the parking lot.
At first, in February when I was carjacked, I was afraid,
and I almost just decided to pack up and move.
And I thought, that's not solving the problem.
So I decided to keep fighting and keep making people aware.
We're going to be in trouble if we don't take the time.
WATKINS: All right, man.
I've had a good life I've lived in Detroit.
And I've had some bad things happen to me in Detroit too.
But I mean, overall, right now, being a older person,
I'm kinda sick of the bulletproof glass
and the paranoia, stuff like that.
I'm ready to leave.
But that's not to say that Detroit
is all bulletproof glass and paranoia.
That's just to say that I'm not...
I want to spend the last years of my life
in a place that's a little more relaxed and less crazy.
Where less craziness happens.
BAKER: Whenever you had a downturn in auto production,
everybody was thrown in the streets.
My greatest memories is '58, 1958,
right after the end of the Korean War,
the whole bottom fell out of the U.S. economy.
This was during the Eisenhower years.
My dad, who had been working in auto all this time,
his factory moved back to Kentucky, and he lost his job.
I had whole sections of my family
that were thrown in the street in 1958
and didn't go back to work until about 1962 or 1963.
So you're talking about a period of almost four to five years
in the street.
The Rouge broke up.
Ford built plants in Sterling and Livonia and other places.
So the concentration of auto plants that we had directly
in Detroit began to disperse.
SUGRUE: The big three auto companies
begin to decentralize production intensively.
They're looking to weaken the power of trade unions,
the United Automobile Workers in particular.
There are 90,000 workers in the River Rouge plant
during World War II.
By 1960, there are about 30,000 to 35,000 workers
in the Rouge plant.
So Detroit lost, between 1948 and 1963,
somewhere in the ballpark of 130,000 to 140,000
auto industry jobs.
THOMAS: Detroit was overly dependent
on the automobile industry, which was decentralizing.
It was overly dependent on automobiles,
which meant too many highways,
which meant there wasn't a commuter population.
So you layer on top of that this endemic history
of racial conflict and racial estrangement,
and you have the recipe for a disaster.
SINGER: ♪ 1960 what? 1960 who? ♪
♪ 1960 what? 1960 who? ♪
♪ 19, hey! The Motor City is burning ♪
BAKER: I always used to say that the Detroit rebellion,
just like all the rest of the rebellions
that went across the country in the '60s,
well, they had the same cause.
The black community, for the most part, angry and exploding
about the police department and the way it's been treating us.
SINGER: ♪ Shot him down, y'all
SUGRUE: If you look at the records of
the leading civil rights organization
in the city, the NAACP, you'll find
folder after folder of depressing letters
written to that organization by African Americans
that had been harassed by the police.
MAN (dramatized): The white officer tried to hit me
with a blackjack.
Then he came back with his elbow,
hitting me in the right eye.
The colored officer tried to push my head down to the ground.
The officers were using profanity....
MAN (dramatized): I said, "You have no business going through
my car and searching me!"
He said, "Are you trying to tell me how to do my job?
You're one of those smart guys because you're teaching school."
WOMAN (dramatized): The officers drove away,
and when they had gotten further away from the neighborhood,
one officer took a razor
and put it to Robert's neck and asked him,
"How do you like the feel of this razor?"
I don't I don't want anybody saying that we was
all unemployed, that's why the rebellion started.
We was working overtime.
Couldn't hardly keep up.
And we was working 12 hours, seven days
inside these factories.
We was working.
We were working from 5:00 in the evening
till 3:00 in the morning.
All the bars closed at 2:00.
On the weekend nights,
you had to have a drink from someplace.
HEWITT: Up on the northwest corner
of 12th and Clairmount,
upstairs there was what we used to,
in this town, call a blind pig,
which is an illegal drinking establishment.
It'd been operating up there for years.
BAKER: All you needed was a bathtub, a hot water heater
to make some moonshine and home brew,
some fried chicken, and a record player,
and you had an after-hours joint.
You had a blind pig.
It was a Saturday night.
We had a overflow crowd of 100-some people,
and the police decided they was gonna raid it.
I happened to have gotten out there
the early of the morning of July 23,
and people have come out and have seen all these cops
arresting these people around there.
Police department weren't known for treating the folks
real well up there.
They took a load of people, came back.
They made about three or four trips,
which was unusual for them.
BAKER: And by the time they got the second busload
back down there, people had started
gathering on 12th Street
and started bricking them and throwing bottles at them,
and a rebellion had broke out.
SINGER: ♪ Some folks say we gonna fight ♪
♪ 'Cause this here thing just ain't right ♪
♪ Ain't right
♪ 1960 what? 1960 who? ♪
♪ 1960 what? 1960 who?
♪ 19-- hey! The Motor City ♪
♪ Is burning, y'all
(sirens blare, music continues)
WATKINS: That must've been something, man,
to see all this stuff going on. HEWITT: Mm-hmm.
I was there when it was a kid got shot,
but that was say, later on,
when they brought the troops in and all that.
WATKINS: So, do you remember anything?
MOORE: Yeah. Yeah. WATKINS: What do you remember?
MOORE: I remember the National Guard coming in,
I remember seeing men in uniforms with these big guns.
'Cause I was only six, and I remember
my grandmother yelling at me.
I went out on the front porch to play, and when she
realized I was outside, it scared her so badly
she yelled at me.
And then years later, I realized
it was because she was scared
I was gonna get shot. WATKINS: Mm-hmm.
("1960 What?" continues playing)
KRAMER: We stayed up all night
and watched each other backs
and began to make sure that our community
was safe at that time.
In all these areas,
everything that had oppressed the community,
Those stores that they had,
business that they had respect for,
owned by a white couple who lived in the community,
they wrote "Soul Brother and Sister" on it.
(gunshots ring out)
BAKER: These National Guard and State Troopers
shot up the city.
They had 17,000 troops in the city,
counting the National Guard, state troopers,
and the 101st and 82nd Airborne.
The National Guard had fired
152,000 rounds of ammunition.
The 101st and 82nd Airborne had fired 220 shots.
The National Guard that had the west side
where most of the killing took place
was just littered with bullets.
When the rebellion was over, we had so many
empty 50-caliber machine gun shells
laying around the city
that we picked them all up and put a rawhide string on it
and would use them for necklaces,
you know, as a replica of the rebellion.
SINGER: ♪ That ain't right
♪ That ain't right
Over 7,000 people was arrested in the Detroit rebellion.
When I got to Ionia State Penitentiary for 15 days
for violation of curfew, my cellblock looked like
the assembly line, it had so many people.
When I got back to work,
the line could not run at full speed
'cause they had too many people still arrested.
But the fundamental thing that we learned
out of the rebellion was that when they imposed curfew,
if you got sick, you couldn't go to the hospital.
If you got hungry, you couldn't get no food.
But if you had a badge from Chrysler, Ford,
or General Motors, you'd get through the police line,
the army line, the state trooper line,
and all the rest of the police forces
to take your butt to work.
The analysis we made of that was the only place that black people
had any value in this society was at the point of production.
So coming out of the rebellion, that's why we turned
all our work towards organizing inside these factories.
'Cause that's where we had strength,
and that seemed to be the only place they needed us.
So within a year's time, after the end of the rebellion,
DRUM was born.
DRUM was called the Dodge Revolutionary Union Movement.
Once we organized at the Dodge main plant,
we called the first DRUM strike.
MAN: Freedom, justice, equality!
CROWD (chanting): UAW means "U Ain't White!"
MAN: UAW means "U Ain't White!"
BAKER: Chrysler Corporation,
they didn't know how to deal with this thing.
Because now we got black workers just striking.
We didn't necessarily ask white workers
to come out with us.
Some did, but we wanted to prove to blacks alone
that they had enough strength
to close this place down by theyself.
WATKINS: We grew up with probably
the best time in the world.
It's not just because we were young,
although that has a lot to do with it.
But, you gotta think about the time that we grew up--
there was much more going on.
I mean just the whole atmosphere of freedom and tolerance
and fighting and civil rights, revolution.
When my big brother started reading Marxism
and talking to people
in the Black Panther Party, me and my little brother
started reading that stuff, too.
And the part that made sense, I kept.
Then when I got to high school, I ran into
the Progressive Labor Party, and I said, "That makes sense."
So I kept that.
And when I felt it was no longer what I wanted,
I kept what I needed and went on from there.
I met Audrey in 1977.
I went out to San Francisco to visit a couple of friends.
And one of my friends, we were at
a Progressive Labor Party picket line
and he introduced me to his sister.
We hit it off right away,
and next thing you know, I'm moving here
and we got married.
We were the center of our world in terms of socially.
Everybody would come over to Audrey and Wendell's house,
Wendell and Audrey's house.
Audrey met all my friends, and everybody liked Audrey.
Audrey's cool as hell, and she's very, very outgoing.
And we had two crazy kids.
My daughter Kai was born
at St. Luke's Hospital in San Francisco,
and my son William was born in Detroit, Michigan,
at Henry Ford Hospital right after midnight.
I had a ball raising the children in Detroit.
The street we lived on, there were absolutely
hundreds of people that lived there.
Each side of the block had at least 40 houses on it,
and most of them were two-family flats.
And almost all of them had children,
so there's lots of children all the time.
For the most part, got along very well
with different people
And, yeah, that was just a good time.
A high school picture of William with the bad haircut.
And that's Kai.
That's when they were in the ninth grade or tenth grade
or something like that.
One of my all-time favorite pictures of Kai--
I just had it in here, what happened to it?
Oh, here it is.
I love this picture of Kai.
That's her daughter.
That was taken the day after she was born.
And Wendell when he was a middle-aged man.
I remember through the '70s and especially through the '80s,
I remember it wasn't all that easy to get a gig.
I remember being unemployed in stretches.
BAKER: It bottomed out in '79
when Dodge Main collapsed
and Chrysler almost went under.
Some of the people at Chrysler
were laid off for almost eight years,
from the layoff in '79,
didn't come back till almost '85, '86.
So that layoffs was extensive.
That's the first time we saw the real introduction
of robots into the shops.
SMITH: They created all this robotics and automation.
They took jobs away before they had any idea of
what to do with the people that did the jobs.
You know, those were our throwaways.
BAKER: In the old body shops,
Dodge Main had 10,000 employees in it.
Six softball teams organized out of the body shop alone.
Now you go into an auto shop and look at the body shop,
you're lucky if you got 20 people
in the whole body shop.
All the rest is robots, far as you can see,
spot-welding that car.
All you see in terms of a plant that's working full-fledge
is perhaps 2,500 or 3,000 people,
nothing like the 10,000 people
that we used to have.
THOMAS: That had repercussions for the neighborhood,
because a lot of the people
who worked in those plants lived nearby.
Eventually, so many people left that there was no tax base.
WATKINS: Me and Audrey broke up in '82,
and at that time,
we decided right off the bat
the children should be with both of us.
So, they lived with both of us equally growing up
until late '92.
Audrey decided to move back to California.
The children had to make a choice:
staying here and going to school, finishing here,
or going to San Francisco.
And being not stupid, they went to San Francisco.
Man, it was one of the saddest days,
probably the saddest day in my life.
Yeah, probably so, when they left, yeah.
I miss my kids and my grandkids, yep.
And primarily, it's really tough not seeing them all the time.
They're cool people, they're really nice.
And just for me and for them,
I miss them. Yeah.
I was looking for a place to stay in
for when my son
and my daughter-in-law got out of the army.
So I figured that we all could stay in one place.
I had the same job since 1985
until 2001 or 2002,
and good credit rating, no outstanding debts at all.
And I had to go through all kinds of stuff,
got turned down by I don't know
how many different loan companies
before I finally could get a loan
to buy this house for $105,000.
Between like 2003 and 2007 or so,
everything kinda went to hell.
And so, as a result,
the house is now worth $15,000 to $20,000 now.
CURT GUYETTE: The mortgage crisis
and the financial crisis started in 2007, 2008,
hit Detroit particularly hard because
minority communities were targeted for predatory loans.
Low initial rates
and then rates jumped up, and they knew that
people were not gonna be able to make their mortgage payments.
They were essentially stealing their houses.
Poor people got devastated, especially African Americans
because when they lose their homes,
they lose their wealth.
The last number I heard, they were planning on doing
60,000 tax foreclosures
in Detroit this year.
A vast majority of those homes are just going to be vacant.
People are gonna get evicted.
The consequences of what's going on is
neighborhoods are being cleared out.
And so, poor people are being removed,
and developers are gonna be able to come in
and capitalize on it.
(digital camera snapping photos)
BAKER: Detroit used to lead the nation
in single-home dwellings.
We had more single-home dwellings in this city
than any other city in the country.
We had workers that used to carry
pictures of their house in they wallet,
'cause they were so proud of the fact
that they own their own homes.
And now we got, what?
140 square miles of land in the city
where single homes used to be.
Detroit lost most of their tax base in terms of industry.
If the industry is gone, you could soak the people
that are left for property taxes as much as you want,
but it's not enough to make up for that.
(engine turns over)
But there's no way in hell you're gonna have
services without taxes.
And the fact of the matter is that the ultra-rich
don't pay hardly any taxes, relatively speaking.
What they pay on lunch tips could probably fund
the library system for most cities,
but they're not gonna pay it.
And they don't want to, so they just refuse to.
And unless people force them to, they're not going to.
THOMAS: I was in the back of a taxi cab in Dublin
when it came on the radio that Detroit had filed bankruptcy.
I was riding in the back of a taxi in Dublin.
It was huge news there, because European banks had
invested in the city of Detroit with municipal bonds.
Municipal bonds were considered to be
some of the safest bonds in the world.
NEWS ANCHOR: Detroit waving the white flag,
the city filing for bankruptcy.
AMY GOODMAN: And a Detroit judge has approved the city's effort
to restructure finances and shed around
$7 billion in debt under its bankruptcy filing.
WATKINS: The Detroit bankruptcy agreement of 2014
was called "the grand bargain."
It wasn't such a grand bargain for city retirees.
Michigan had one of the strongest in its constitution,
in terms of protecting the pensions of public employees.
The state lawyers said, "You know, if you can
"get into bankruptcy,
you can go after those pensions."
And that proved to be exactly the case.
One of the things that the pensioners got hammered on
were these annuities,
which were part of their retirement savings.
- I delivered this paper here to you
a little while ago, Lewis. - Mm-hmm.
There's bold black letters that says,
"If the plan is confirmed, your pension will be reduced."
They promised us a set amount of return.
When it under-performed,
they dipped into our pension fund
to put that money in our annuity savings fund,
and they shouldn't have.
And I agree, especially with sitting here looking at
a bill for nearly $50,000. - (chuckles)
WATKINS: Now, how much did yours end up being, Kim?
- Oh, mine is 60. - $60,000.
Everything I earned while I was there, I earned.
WATKINS: Absolutely. - And I think that anything
that's in my pension plan,
I earned, as well. WATKINS: Absolutely.
You finally have a big influx of black people
in the city, as... good municipal jobs.
And just coincidentally,
this is also the first generation
to get completely screwed by a pension fund.
BASS: Yeah. - Now not only do you
not get your pension, but you owe us.
It's, like, the racism is just unbelievable.
Little did I know that my investment in my future
was going to be snatched back through the bankruptcy.
BAKER: It is phenomenal.
Each day it gets worse.
Look at Detroit!
The police station closes at 4:00 every day.
- The post office is open up longer
than the police station.
Most of the buses stop running at 10:00 every night.
In Highland Park, we ain't even got street lights no more,
up and down the cities and the street.
You know what I mean?
Gas costing four dollars a gallon.
What you gonna do?
You can't do nothing but stay in the house or walk.
If you are not needed to work,
then you become obsolete to them.
You don't need to have a post office.
You don't need healthcare.
You don't need an education.
But our battle is political.
It's no longer economic.
We got to battle the government and win it over to our side.
Just like the corporations done took it and make it serve them,
we gotta make this government serve us.
The worst anger I feel about this whole situation
about Detroit going down is the fact that...
it's the audacity of these guys that have just taken
all they could out of the city and then turning around
and even giving people the impression
that it's their fault.
The main thing I gotta do now is go down to the union
to find out exactly what the ramifications
of retiring next year are, 'cause I really don't know.
And, also, I need to talk to a realtor about the house.
I only have one life.
And I'll be damned if I live the rest of my life
way away from my kids.
That's not gonna happen, so I just have to figure out
the best way to do what I want,
what I have to do, what I'm gonna do, you know.
So, I have no intentions whatsoever
staying way away from them.
That's not gonna happen.
SPEAKER: We're about to worship and have a celebration
of General Baker's life.
This collective's heart is broken.
He was teaching us that we don't live in a bankrupt city.
We live in a city attacked by a bankrupt system.
He was teaching us that the bankrupt systems
do not mean the city is bankrupt,
because the city is full
of rich and talented people who are being
the real restorers of the city of Detroit.
BARACK OBAMA: Hello, Detroit!
I know they've got auto shows in Paris and Frankfurt and Tokyo,
but there's only one Motor City.
There's only one Detroit. (cheering)
And if you're looking for the world's best cars
and the workers who make those cars,
you need to be in Detroit, Michigan.
(cheers and applause)
That's why I'm here.
Today, factories are humming, business is booming,
the American auto industry is all the way back.
All the way back.
WATKINS: People talk about how Detroit has come back,
and it might look like that in this revamped downtown.
But that's only two square miles
out of 140 square miles of the city.
(car horn honking)
And in those two square miles, there are over 90 buildings
owned by one man, Dan Gilbert,
and his Bedrock real estate company.
The main thing I feel when I go downtown nowadays is that
this doesn't look anything like the Detroit I know.
And so this new Detroit,
I don't know which way it's gonna go.
A lot of people in Detroit,
a lot of black people in Detroit,
feel that this plan for Detroit that Dan Gilbert
and a lot of people have
doesn't include them
unless they got a lot of money.
GUYETTE: What we're seeing in the city is, you know,
Dan Gilbert, a billionaire, buying up property
like it's a garage sale,
paying pennies on the dollar
for all these downtown properties.
And he is being hailed as a hero
for helping revive the downtown.
You have the downtown district
where taxes get captured
and stay in the district,
don't make it out to the neighborhoods.
And then the neighborhoods
continue to die.
At a time when Detroit was going through bankruptcy,
this deal was put in place that would
provide more than $280 million
in public financing to help
a billionaire, the Ilitch family,
build a hockey arena.
They gave, I think, 39 city-owned parcels of land
that were valued at $3 million,
sold to the Ilitches for a dollar.
Billionaires are being given
public assets in order to do things that are
just going to enrich them further.
How does that make sense?
WATKINS: They keep on saying, "Bringing Detroit back."
It's very similar to the phrase
of "Taking America back" in a lot of ways.
This whole idea of what's back? Back to what?
There's thousands of people that never left Detroit,
a lot of them because they felt stranded here.
When they say "Come back, Detroit,"
they ain't talking to them.
So what does that mean for the new Detroit?
PUTNAM: I hear the whole who's a Detroiter,
who's not a Detroiter debates that go on.
And I hear suburbanites,
and there seems to be so much pain of, like,
you know, my grandmother had to move
because she was broken into.
And... as if, like, this city was taken away from us...
- Taken from them, yeah. - ...And we're gonna
take it back, you know? - Yes.
- And that's what midtown is about.
Midtown is about, like, "How can we create spaces and pockets
of this city for us to have back again?"
And that's, I feel so sad about that because I think, you know,
geez, there's a lotta room here, guys, and we can all share it.
I think that in Detroit,
which is still in crisis in so many ways,
it just makes all the sense in the world to use
the talents and energies of young people
as the solution.
A friend of mine
had gone to Brown specifically
to get a degree in urban education.
Gathered up a group of us, and he said,
"Let's just start a school, our own."
So we started formally planning about four years ago
the Boggs Educational Center.
We're excited to be in this neighborhood,
and we've already met some of the neighbors.
Like there's Julian, and he hangs out
with his buddies on the stoop there.
Ron has helped us find a lawnmower that we needed
to mow the fields.
His wife applied to pass out food at the school.
Our work is going to be making sure people feel included.
- There you go. - As opposed to us just,
"Get outta our way, we're doing this school," you know?
WATKINS: Yeah, right, right, right.
PUTNAM: I think you'd be really great
at doing, like, a community mapping,
or neighborhood mapping tour for the kids
or something to understand the streets.
That's one of the ways in which we really want
to be able to say to people, "This is your school, too."
WATKINS (chuckling): Hey, kids, hi. Howdy, y'all.
My name is Wendell, Wendell Watkins.
I'm a mail carrier around this area,
and I've been here for around 29 years
on this route, and I plan on retiring next year.
(cheering, Wendell laughs)
I understand you're gonna ask some questions first.
Approximately how many houses
have you seen come and go?
A lot of houses have been destroyed and apartments
been closed up, and a few have been built.
But for the most part, I seen like... go.
STUDENT: That means the windows sometime in abandoned houses,
that mean the windows get busted out.
- They do. Oh, I could show you
a couple of houses around here where-- like that one,
where all the windows are out.
Hold on a second. I got something for you.
Perfect. This is for you, Daniel.
Oh, look at this.
It's a bedroom, a living room, a dining...
a space for people with wheelchairs, exactly. Yep.
- Look, another bathroom with another toilet.
STUDENT: I wish I was old, I wanna live here.
PUTNAM: Furqan, I think you said that young people
need spaces like this? - Yes!
PUTNAM: That's a really interesting idea.
That's something to think about
with other abandoned buildings, right?
- I need a game room.
STUDENTS: Chugga chugga choo choo.
Chugga chugga choo choo.
Chugga chugga choo choo.
It's the headquarters of the NAACP,
National Association for Advancement of Colored People.
In Detroit, it's on my route, and as you might see,
there's a bunch of pictures up here.
And... I was wondering, do you recognize
any of these people up here?
Go ahead. Go ahead.
STUDENT: Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks.
That's all I know.
WATKINS: This is a newspaper ad from theDetroit News,
I believe, from the day that I was born.
WATKINS: In April 24, 1956. STUDENT: What?
WATKINS: Two rooms, partially furnished,
good transportation, shopping, white adults.
STUDENT: What do they mean?
WATKINS: That mean they only would rent it to white people.
Look at this, it's... "colored."
Colored. Colored. Only colored.
STUDENTS: Oh, wow. WATKINS: It's Detroit, Michigan!
It's not down south.
So that's the reason why
organizations like the NAACP were important,
because they got rid of this kinda nonsense.
People fought together and organized and worked hard
to make sure things like this wouldn't happen anymore.
All right. Here we go--
whoa! A mailbox!
(children talking, laughing)
PUTNAM: It occurred to me how much I had been
internalizing the way Detroit looked.
Somehow, it's the fault of stupid, poor black people.
And why can't we just get our act together?
So I thought "Oh, it's not-- it's not my fault."
It certainly is not my fault. WATKINS: Mm-hmm.
- But it's not a lot of people's fault.
It's not my family's fault; it's not my neighbor's fault.
It's like the fault of people who made decisions
decades before... WATKINS: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm.
- Bad decisions... WATKINS: Absolutely.
- ...that were self-serving, and that's part of the reason
why Detroit looks the way it looks.
And I thought, "Oh, to do these kinds of
histories is healing work."
It's not just history.
It's healing to tell children,
"This is not you." WATKINS: Mm-hmm.
All righty. Mm-hmm.
I'm not the most adventurous guy in the world.
And most of my friends are here,
But as I get older and more people started dying,
things started changing more.
My kids don't live in the city anymore;
they live in California.
I feel absolutely no reason to stay here, except inertia.
So I mean if I had my druthers,
like I if hit the lottery or something like that,
and I could get rid of my house--
which is another albatross-- if I could do all that stuff,
and I'm gonna retire next year,
the thing is I'm, I'm outta here.
That's a fact.
GUYETTE: Much of southeast Michigan,
home prices have recovered
pretty much to where they were before the crash.
But in the poor neighborhoods, that has not occurred.
The pricing of homes
has stayed pretty much flat.
Out of the whole country, six of the 15 zip codes
with the most homes under water are in Detroit.
I think the total is somewhere close to 50,000 homes
in just these six zip codes.
People can't sell them.
Either they walk away from them,
or they're trapped there.
WATKINS: Hey, Tina. What's happening?
- How are you? Great. - All right.
- Good to see you. - You, too. You, too.
- Okay. - All right.
Get this... TINA HAMILTON: I see you've
gotten some things taken care of here.
WATKINS: Everything has to be out of the house?
HAMILTON: No, it doesn't have to be out of the house.
We just want it to look presentable where we can show.
The repairs will drive the price down,
and it will bring more buyers.
And, basically, lower prices
is what brings the buyers. WATKINS: Mm-hmm.
HAMILTON: And we'll be selling your home on a short sale
based on the information that you've provided.
What exactly does a short sale mean,
and what do you think this house will go for?
HAMILTON: A short sale is when the seller
has a hardship and cannot pay
your normal payments anymore,
or the home is under water.
Meaning that the value of the property is...
- Either or, then? Okay.
- ...Way less than what it was worth when you purchased it.
So the bank will agree to take less than what
you owe on the property and forgive the difference
to the seller at the end.
So what it means for a new buyer is they get a home,
normally in move-in condition,
for pretty much foreclosed price values
on the markets. - Mm-hmm, mm-hmm.
HAMILTON: Okay, I know that it's
an overwhelming process for you,
and it usually is for lots of people.
But it really isn't as bad as you think.
- Mm-hmm. I understand. HAMILTON: And you've really
come a long ways... - I really, truly do.
HAMILTON: ...From the first time.
So we're getting there.
- I was so depressed. Oh!
HAMILTON: Yeah. You've done a awesome job.
- Thank you. HAMILTON: We're getting there,
and from here on out, it's gonna be smooth sailing.
And all I need you to do is to get your forms to me,
and I'll do the rest.
WATKINS: All right. All right. That sounds good. Yeah.
It's like one way or another,
I don't know if I'm gonna be able to sell the house
or short sell the house, or leave the house.
I'm gonna have to play it by ear and see what happens.
A lot of people on the route have been here
for many, many years, and some of the kids,
I'm the only mailman they've ever known.
Did you know your mailman's first name by any chance?
PAM: One of them. - Yeah, I knew
one of mine, too: E.C. Edwards.
Hey, now. - Hey.
WATKINS: Something I like about this gig, I remember...
There's these faces that I do, like this.
You've seen me do that before?
Mm-hmm. All these crazy faces.
You've seen them, right?
Well, this one, I used to always do
when I go up to elementary school on my route.
There's one little boy, whenever I go like this,
he'd go right back.
And I used to think that was so cool.
Years passed, right, and I was walking down
in the supermarket once.
And this, this man, walking with his two little kids,
he looked at me like this, he went...
Then he went....
I said, "Aw! Aw, man, that's funny."
I said, "Aw, man."
He said, "You don't recognize me!"
I said, "Oh! You're the little kid!"
We start hugging each other.
That's kinda nice, I like that kinda thing.
You know, the changes in myself and other people,
change in myself is reflected through other people.
You know, it's just nice.
I like that kind of stuff.
It's a good job for a sentimentalist.
That's cool as hell, man.
Goodbye tension, hello pension.
MOORE: I wanted to get you when you first saw it.
WATKINS (laughing): Hey!
MOORE: It's cool.
- That was sweet. That was so cool, man.
Thank you so much!
I'm gonna miss him.
30-some years knowing my friend.
Nothing like return.
WATKINS: What's up?
- Oh, what's up?
The most important thing I'm gonna miss
is the hugs and those big smiles
and the happy voice that you can hear him
all the way down the street,
and you know that he's coming.
I know, you have to go with family.
- Thank you, thanks, Dawn.
DEL TORO: Major funding forAmerica ReFramed
is provided by
the Corporation for Public Broadcasting
and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.
Additional funding was provided by the Wyncote Foundation,
the National Endowment for the Arts,
and the Reva and David Logan Foundation.