Through the Years - a
Photographic History of Center Line, Michigan
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Center Line Village/City Hall
Center Line Fire Dept.
Center Line Police Dept.
Center Line Depts. and Services
Unless noted otherwise, all
photos are from the collection of
Captions and text by Mike Grobbel
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The Center Line-Harper Streetcar
The Center Line-Harper Streetcar was a Detroit United Railway (DUR) electric interurban line that ran along tracks located on the east side of Van Dyke. The northern terminus of this line was at the turn-around loop on the southeast corner of Warren Blvd. The southern end of this DUR line was at the intersection of Van Dyke and Harper Avenues in Detroit. From there, the southbound traveler would transfer to the Harper Line of the Detroit Street Railways (DSR) which ended at Cadillac Square in downtown Detroit. The DUR began this streetcar service in 1901 and they charged the traveler two 5 cent zone fares to travel the complete length of the line. It was considered an interurban line and was operated using the two-man, single-truck cars equipped with interurban-style arc headlights that are shown in these two photos that were taken in about 1920. In 1922, this DUR line was acquired by the DSR, which continued the operation with more modern streetcar equipment. The line had a short stretch of double track at Nine Mile Road and was completly double-tracked south of Seven Mile Road. A Van Dyke widening project in 1932 caused the streetcar service north of Seven Mile Road to be replaced by a shuttle bus. During the widening, the line was double-tracked all the way to Eight Mile Road and upon completion of the project in 1934, Eight Mile Road became the northern terminus of this streetcar line.
This map from sometime prior to 1926 shows some of the Detroit Street Railways routes on the east side of Detroit and includes the Center Line-Harper streetcar line.
According to the book, "Detroit's Street Railways", by Jack Schramm and William Henning, this photo of the Center Line-Harper streetcar was taken at the railroad crossing on Harper Avenue, between Van Dyke Ave. and Mt. Elliott St. in Detroit. Note the train crew sitting on the front of the steam locomotive and the streetcar conductors attending to the front of their car. It appears that the conductors are lowering the "cow catcher" after crossing the railroad tracks and that the locomotive had to wait for the streetcar to clear the crossing.
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The Center Line Village Hall (early
(from the collection of Mike Grobbel)
Left: City Manager Paul
VanDenBranden (right) walks behind the old city hall (ca. 1958)
Middle: City Manager Paul VanDenBranden and staff:
Paulette Elwart Meares at rear, Dorothy Schneider Niazy at the desk in front and Joyce Schmitz next to Paul. (ca. 1958)
Right: Mayor Bert Hazen and Public Safety Commissioner Dennis R. Frazier (1957)
Alton "Oz" Grobbel
(ca. early 1970s)
|1976 City Council (left
Councilmen Joseph Mayernik, Alton C. Grobbel,
Mayor Peter J. Tranchida, Mayor Pro-Tem Robert W. Tarien,
Councilwoman Mary Ann Zielinski.
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above shows some of the Center Line Volunteer Fire
Department members with their 1926 American La France
Pumper (from the collection of Mike Grobbel). This photo
was taken probably during the winter of 1928-1929.
Seated: Nelson Zott (behind steering wheel), Chief George Theut.
Standing (left to right): Mark Kunath, Bert Grobbel, Andrew Wiegand, Harold Stilwell, Edward Grobbel.
|Above are members of the Center Line
Volunteer Fire Department, circa 1931, shown with their
1926 American La France Pumper (from the collection of
Seated in cab (left to right): Elmer Fleschig, Clem Grobbel.
Back row (left to right): Joe Wiegand, Norb Rinke, Tony Vohs, Ed Grobbel, Ed (Sach) Schoenherr, George Rinke, Paul Elwart, Nels Giff, Bert Grobbel.
Front row (left to right): Leo Grobbel, Nels Zott, Dave Smith, George Theut (Chief), Jake Schnider, Mark Kunath, Harold Stilwell, Leo Schnoblen.
History of the Center Line Fire Department, 1926-1969
The Center Line Fire Department was organized on May
21, 1926, a short time after Center Line was incorporated as a village.
One of the first issues the Village Council took under consideration
was fire protection for village residents and businesses. They quickly
purchased a 1926 American LaFrance Type-75 Triple Combination Pumper
(which was equipped with a 100 HP, six-cylinder engine and a rotary
gear water pump that was rated at 750 GPM) along with 3,600 feet of 2
1/2 inch hose. George Theut was appointed Fire Chief and he was put in
charge of 18 volunteer firemen. Their fire equipment was housed in
Chief Theut's garage at 152 Engleman Ave. until the new Municipal
Building on Ten Mile Road was completed in 1928. The new Municipal
Building's fire station was the first one in Macomb County to have a
hose drying tower and it also included a brass pole connecting the
garage and upstairs quarters.
Fire Chief Theut stressed proper training for his volunteer firemen. Meetings and training drills were frequently held for the men and they also attended the State Firemen's conventions and fire colleges where the latest fire fighting and life saving methods were taught. Late in 1927, Elmer Fleschig was appointed Assistant Fire Chief, working alternate 24 hour shifts with the Fire Chief.
Soon, the Warren Township Board's request to the Center Line Village Council for the extension of fire protection to the rest of the Township was approved. The Center Line Fire Department was paid for each call they answered in the Township, a practice that continued until Warren Township organized their own Fire Department in 1938.
Besides organizing the Fire Department, the Village Council also knew that they needed to build a municipal water system for drinking and fire protection. They authorized a water project late in 1927 that included two 122 foot deep wells and a 90 ft. tall, 100,000 gallon water tower located behind the Municipal Building at 10 Mile Rd. and Landau Ave. that was connected to 14 miles of water mains and 34 fire hydrants. In the meantime, the firemen could fight fires in one of two ways: (1) draw water with the fire engine's pump from a nearby water cistern or stream (these were few and very scattered) or (2) use the 35 gallon chemical tank that was mounted in the back of the pumper. Many times upon responding to an alarm the whole building was ablaze and nothing could be done but protect the surrounding buildings with chemicals. Once the village's water system became operational, the firemen's work became a lot less discouraging and fire losses were greatly reduced. By 1932, the village's water distribution system included 15 miles of 6" and 8" water mains and 75 fire hydrants. The village's average daily water consumption was 85,000 gallons, delivered at an average of 55 PSI.
In addition to Chief Theut and Assistant Chief Fleschig, the other members of the CLFD in 1932 included Captains Mark Kunath and Anthony Vohs and Firemen Paul Elwart, Nels Giff, Bert Grobbel, Clem Grobbel, Ed Grobbel, Leo Grobbel, Ed Kott, George Rinke, Norb Rinke, Leo Schnoblen, Harold Stilwell, Andrew Wiegand, Joseph Wiegand and Nels Zott.
The entire 36 square miles of Center Line and Warren Township were covered using the CLFD's single fire engine until the Center Line City Council authorized the purchase of a new Dodge General fire engine in 1937. This apparatus was designated Engine No. 2 and it included a 200 gallon booster tank and 500 GPM pump that was mounted on a 1 1/2 ton Dodge chassis.
On July 1, 1937, Asst. Fire Chief Fleschig was appointed to the position of Center Line's Chief of Police and his former position was not filled until April 1, 1943 when Norman Rottman was named Asst. Fire Chief. During that period, the Fire Chief and Police Chief alternated the 24 hour shifts at the Fire Station, after which it reverted to alternating shifts between the Fire Chief and his Assistant.
Fire Chief George Theut resigned his position on Oct. 21, 1943 and on Nov. 1st, Andrew Wiegand was named to replace him. In April of 1944, Asst. Fire Chief Norman Rottman resigned his position to return to the Highway Department and on June 26, 1944, Ivan McLeod was named to replace him. On Aug. 15, 1945, Asst. Fire Chief McLeod resigned his position due to ill health and on Sept. 11th, Ralph Reiterman was appointed to fill the vancancy.
On July 1, 1947, Fire Chief Wiegand took charge of the Highway Department in addition to his regular duties and Nelson Bruechert was appointed to the position of Assistant Fire Chief. Assitant Chiefs Reiterman and Bruechert immediately began working the alternating 24 hour shifts and continued doing so even after Feb. 2, 1948 when Andrew Wiegand resigned to take the Highway Department superintendent's position and Nelson Bruechert was named to replace him as Fire Chief.
In 1953, the City Council passed an ordinance creating the position of Public Safety Commissioner and they appointed Dennis R. Frazier to the position. With this change, the Fire Department went to an eight hour shift and they assumed the desk duties for the Police Department. At this time, Harold Lyerla was appointed to the position of Captain.
The CLFD acquired a new Chevrolet Station Wagon Ambulance in 1956 to provide ambulance service to city residents. During its first two years of operation the CLFD transported to the hospital an average of 104 persons. That same year, William Desmone was appointed Captain.
1957 was a busy year for the Fire Department. City Council purchased a new 1,000 GPM American LaFrance Triple Comb-Pumper with a 300 gallon booster tank, a 45 ft. ladder and 2,000 feet of new hose. Once the new pumper was put into service, the 1926 pumper was permanently taken out of service and sold. A 1956 1/2 ton Ford pick-up truck, equipped with a generator, was also purchased that year. The Metropolitan Club Spirit No. 54 purchased and donated a new resuscitator for the Ambulance. Appointments that year included Norman Smith to Sergeant and William Desmone to Fire Inspector.
Fire Department personnel in 1958 consisted of Dennis Frazier, Commissioner; Lieutenants Nelson Bruechert, Ralph Reiterman and Harold Lyerla; Sergeants Wiliam Desmone and Norman Smith; (16) Volunteer Firemen. Harold Lyerla was appointed to the position of Chief in 1959.
The original Municipal Building was remodeled in 1960 and as a result, the Fire Department was relocated in 1961 to a new addition at the west end of the building that provided a fully-equipped, four bay fire station. New equipment was later purchased, including a 1961 Cadillac Ambulance and a 1962 GMC Rescue Truck.
Fire Department personnel in 1963 consisted of Dennis Frazier, Commissioner; Chief Harold Lyerla; Lieutenants Nelson Bruechert; Sergeants Wiliam Desmone, Norman Smith, Vincent Grobbel, Richard Carney, Eugene Horetski; Volunteer Firemen Joe O'Lear, Harold Helberg, Art Anderson, Guy Swanson, James Mainero, Anthony Meduvsky, G. Sciotti, R. Widman, Richard Hickson and John Radtke.
By 1966 the Fire Department had six regular firemen and sixteen volunteers, with at least one fireman on duty the majority of the time. The regular firemen were Lt. Nelson Bruechert, Sgt. Norman Smith, Sgt. William Desmone, and Firemen Joseph O'Lear, James Mainero, and Guy Swanson. The volunteers were Sgt. Vince Grobbel, Sgt. Richard Carney, Sgt. Eugene Horetski and Firemen Art Anderson, Richard Hickson, Anthony Meduvsky, Ken Garlow, Paul Gagne, John Gurski, Art Kozlowski, Robert Remsing, Joe Thomas, Frank Rossio, Walter Schwigert and Fred Champine.
Three years later, the Fire Department had grown to ten regular firemen and sixteen volunteers, which provided for at least two fireman on duty the majority of the time. The regular firemen were Chief Norman Smith, Sgt. William Desmone, Sgt. Joseph O'Lear, Sgt. James Mainero and Firemen Guy Swanson, Art Anderson, Richard Hickson, Anthony Meduvsky, Ken Garlow and Art Kozlowski. The volunteers were Sgt. Vince Grobbel, Sgt. Frank Rossio, Sgt. Paul Gagne and Firemen Wesley Arnold, Jules Carbonneau, Lawrence Choike, Peter Fasse, Nels Gregersen, Bernard Lambert, John Mihelich, John Nawacki, Gene Schwartz, Walter Schwigert, John Sullivan, Gary Verhulst and Martin Walters.
Sources: 1949, 1958, 1963, 1966 and 1969 editions of the Center Line Metropolitan Club Spirit No. 54 Yearbook; "25th Anniversary of the City of Center Line Souvenir Remembrance", July 1961
City officials taking delivery of a new Fire Dept. Rescue vehicle (1970s).
Center Line Fire Dept. personnel
Center Line Goodfellows
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History of the Center Line Police Department, 1926-1969
The Center Line Police Department dates back to 1926 when the village was first incorporated. Michael Smith was appointed as the first chief of the department and John L. Ryan was appointed the first patrolman and walked a beat from 8 Mile Road to 11 Mile Road. At the end of 1926 Michael Smith resigned from the department and George L. Theut was appointed as Chief of the Police and Fire Department with headquarters in Chief Theut's garage where the fire equipment was housed. In 1927 Elmer G. Flechsig was appointed to serve as Assistant Fire Chief and Jacob F. Theut was appointed as a motorcycle officer to patrol traffic on Saturdays and Sundays.
In 1928 both departments moved into the new municipal building at 7550 Ten Mile Road and in 1929 Frank Tebo was appointed as a patrolman and the first patrol car (a Ford) was purchased. Frank Tebo later resigned and Clement Grobbel and Frank Phaneuf were appointed as patrolmen. Chief Theut then asked to be relieved of the duties of police chief and Clement Grobbel was appointed as Chief and Elmer Flechsig was transferred to patrol duty.
Later, after the village became a city in 1936, several changes were made in the personnel. Frank Phaneuf resigned. Clement Grobbel was transferred to the water department [on May 25, 1937] and on July 1, 1937, Elmer Flechsig was appointed as police chief. In 1937 Charles Miller and Bruce Drummond were appointed as regular officers. Also in 1937, the patrol car was radio-equipped, with radio station WRDR of Grosse Pointe furnishing the service. In 1938 another step was taken in modern equipment and a transmitter was installed in the patrol car, enabling two-way radio communication.
In November, 1940, Arnold Meisel, who was previously appointed as a relief officer, passed away and was the first member of the department to be lost in death. Ralph Reiterman was then appointed as a relief officer and served in that capacity until called to service in the US Army. At that time, James Morrow was appointed to serve as a relief officer along with George Simons who had previously been appointed.
On July 1, 1941, Eugene Warner was appointed as a regular officer, however on December 1, 1941 he became ill and passed away on Dec. 28, 1941, becoming the second officer of this department to be lost through death. Late in the year 1941 the radio service was changed from WRDR Grosse Pointe to the Macomb County network, giving the department a direct hookup with the Macomb County Sheriff's office and police departments in Mt. Clemens, New Haven, Roseville, St. Clair Shores, East Detroit and Warren Township.
During Officer Warner's illness, his duties were assumed by relief officer James Morrow and on January 1, 1942, he was appointed a regular officer to fill the vacancy caused by Warner's death. Leon Meredith was appointed as a regular officer on July 15, 1942. In September, 1943, James Morrow resigned from the department to serve in the Armed Forces and on October 15, 1943, Earl Kennedy was appointed to fill that vacancy. Kennedy later resigned in February, 1944. On May 3, 1944, Earl Parrish was appointed to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of Officer Kennedy. Ivan McLeod was appointed on June 28, 1944 as assistant to the Fire Chief and Desk Sergeant on the Police Department, serving in those capacities until his resignation in August 1945. Ralph Reiterman was appointed to fill that vacancy on September 10, 1945.
Center Line Police Officer Leon Meredith
(undated photo courtesy of Suzie (Meredith) Wheeler).
Bruce Drummond, by then one of the oldest members of the department, resigned his position on February 15, 1946 to take up a new life as a farmer and was replaced on February 19th by Zygmunt Joseph Masiak. On September 15, 1947, Leon Meredith resigned to take over the duties of another position and on the following day, Joseph Ritchie was appointed to replace him. On October 3, 1947, Officer Masiak resigned his position due to ill health and he was replaced by Robert Woods, who was appointed on October 21st.
During the post-war period, the City population grew rapidly and it was necessary to add several more positions and officers to the department. On July 12, 1949, Henry Hilliard Suitt was appointed to the department, Libero (Lee) Yozzo was appointed to the department on April 15, 1950 after the resignation of Officer Suitt and on June 15, 1950, Leon Meredith was re-appointed and Earl Parrish was promoted to Sergeant.
On May 1, 1953, Dennis R. Frazier was appointed Commissioner of Public Safety over the Police and Fire Departments and Police Chief Flechsig assumed the rank of Lieutenant.
As the City continued to grow, so did the department:
May 18, 1953 - Donald DeMink, Cyril VanOverbeke and William Wilson were appointed
July 1, 1955 - LeRoy Tennant, Charles Brush, Jr. and Joseph Gosselin were appointed; Sgt. Parrish was promoted to Lieutenant
July 1, 1957 - Mark Grobbel and Thomas Stanisky were appointed
August 1, 1957 - Bernard Tomas was appointed
September 5, 1957 - Charles Brush was appointed; Officer Yozzo was promoted to Sergeant
December 4, 1957 - Officer Meredith was promoted to Sergeant
July 1, 1958 - Sgt. Charles Miller was promoted to Lieutenant
September 1, 1958 - Frank Thimm was appointed to the department
During the 1960's additional officers were appointed to the department, including Joseph Dombrowski, Gary Houghton, George Hughes, Ron Lapham, Basil Bourgeois, Art Curnow, Vern Hallman, L. Hebert and M. Thomas.
Sources: Center Line Metropolitan Club Spirit No. 54 Yearbooks from the years 1954, 1955, 1958, 1963, 1968 and 1969
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Other City Departments and Services
Center Line Post Office
POSTAL HISTORY OF CENTER LINE
The first post office to serve the
community of Center Line operated under the name "Centre Line" and it
opened on July 19, 1878. Hieronymous Englemann was the first postmaster
and he was succeeded by Sophia Buechel in 1885. The "Centre Line" post
office was closed on July 31, 1906.
Dr. T.P. Russell was instrumental in re-establishing a post office in Center Line in 1921. The new "Center Line" post office was located at 25117 Van Dyke in the Center Line Drug Store. The first postmaster was Carl Van Valkenberg, who remained in that capacity until 1928, when Martin Donahue became postmaster. Shortly after, the post office was moved to 25306 Van Dyke.
In 1934 Edward Kott became postmaster. He was assisted by one part-time clerk at a salary of $10 per week and the total post office receipts were $3,400. With the installation of Edward Kott as new postmaster, a new regime had begun. Business and business methods steadily improved and they went from a 3rd class post office in 1934 to a 2nd class in 1939 when the post office again moved to larger quarters at 25215 Van Dyke.
In 1941, house-to-house city delivery began, an expanson program increased the size of the building and the post office received its 1st class designation.
By 1946, receipts had increased to $75,000 and there were eleven employees in addition to Mr. Kott: Ralph Wagner (Asst. Postmaster), Norman Burlison, David Sck, Gertrude Hartsig, Louis Schimmel, Patrick Smith, John Horek, Anthony Horek, Caroline Kott, Joseph Eisenman and Thomas Grobbel.
Louis Schimmel took over as Postmaster in 1947 and Patrick Smith was made assistant postmaster. In 1949 the post office again moved to new quarters at 25748 Van Dyke. By 1954, the office employed ten carriers and seven clerks and sales had increased to $136,546 .
Sources: 1949 and 1954 Yearbooks published by the Metropolitan Club Spirit No. 54; other sources
This vacant building in the photo at left had been the Center Line Post Office at 25748 Van Dyke (southeast corner with Helen Ave.) from 1949 until 1961. This photo was taken in the spring of 1962, less than one year after the operations had moved to a new building (photo at right) located at 26056 Van Dyke at the southeast corner with Busch Ave. This photo of the new building was taken within 3 months after it opened in April 1961.
Center Line Recreation Department
The Center Line Recreation Center on Weingartz Avenue, just west of Van Dyke. The photo on the left was taken sometime in the late 1950s while the other one was taken in the spring of 1961. This building was built in 1941 and opened for business as the Center Line U.S.O. in Feb. 1942. In 1946, it was purchased by the City of Center Line to house it's Recreation Dept. and programs along with the City Library collection. On April 23, 1947, the building was destroyed by fire, leaving only the shell standing. With tremendous community support, it was re-built and re-opened in 1948. In May of 1969 it was demolished to make way for new commercial development, the Library and Recreation Dept. having already moved into new quarters on Weingartz and Lawrence Avenues, respectively.
Center Line Municipal employees (late 1960s)
Water Dept. Superintendent Ralph Hiller is shown at right in the photo on the left.
Thelma Hodson (far right, in right photo) is shown with fellow City Hall employees.
Ralph and Thelma were married on July 31, 1971 at St. Clement Church.
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Visit these pages for more information about
a) Wesley Arnold, who collected these old photos and has his own local history web site.
b) Mike Grobbel, who supplied the captions for these old photos and created these web pages
c) the History of the City of Center Line at the Center Line municipal web site
Read the comments, and leave some of your own, in Grobbel's Guestbook