I’ll be straight to the point here. Are there any real Americans left willing to step up to the scratch line to fight for the legacy that Joe Louis left this country for the benefit of all?
The humble Detroit Brewster Wheeler Recreation Center is the spot where Joe Louis made his boxing debut at age 17 not to mention the debuts many other unsung poor working class kids in the Detroit area. The building dates to 1929, finished as a beacon of hope in the year of the Great Stock Market crash that kicked off the Great Depression that in turn kicked over the common working class into the gutters of life like abandoned dogs.
Architecturally there is nothing particularly special about the building other than being an early example of a soundly designed recreational structure that would be duplicated in communities across the country. What is far more than special is that a share cropper’s son from Alabama got his first start in the larger life through this community based project and would go on to become the greatest ever heavyweight and role model American in this otherwise murderously miserable international era that culminated in the worst blood bath in history, World War II.
The building has fallen into shameful disrepair as the ravaged city of Detroit declared bankruptcy while the American auto industry continues to slump and lose market share. Check out this Google map of the nearby playground of the well to do, the island of Belle Isle Park where the nouveau rich kept their yachts. Note the plethora of the sunken outlines of abandoned yachts still tied to their slips in the harbor.
These are large seagoing vessels as befits their recreational traverses across the chain of Great Lakes, seas really of the purest fresh water in the world, all for naught when when the capitalist economy that birthed them as toys for the rich killed them in collapse.
There is no explanation for the derelict dilapidation of Detroit and this historic rec center other than American capitalism has failed miserably and fled the 83% black demographics, nor will they be returning to any extent that counts. As a reminder, before the advent of modern “western” development, these lands were a veritable Native American paradise of rich hunting and fishing grounds and fertile deep soils, all heavily timbered in some of the finest woodlands known to man with more fresh water than any other culture in the world could ever contemplate much less have abundant access to, yet look at it after modern development has finished choking the life out of it.
Derelict Photo Gallery here:
But for a few favorable circumstances regarding his sharecropper family and geography, Joe Louis could have easily been lost in the sausage grinder economy that defined the US of A then and now. Another American hero of the era, Audie Murphy was the physical antithesis of the black heavyweight champion. While sharing a sharecropper background in Texas, Murphy was incredibly slight and white, generously listed as 5-3, 110-115 lbs soaking weight, yet he was the most magnificent warrior on the battlefield the world has ever seen since Achilles. Unlike Joe who had a daddy in his life, Audie’s sharecropper daddy abandoned the large family when he was a small child, leaving Audie to drift around being kicked from one low rent job to the next in scrappy support of his family until he enlisted at the start of America’s entrance into WWII. Even so he was too young and too small for the minimum requirements and had to fight and fast talk his way into the army, but once there his deeds of heroism start to read like some kind of mythical cartoon character, far beyond those of a dozen heroes combined. World War II was won on the backs of poor rural depression era boys like Medal of Honor recipients Joe and Audie who had smarts that can’t be taught by books and abilities that could not be measured by schools, yet such heart they displayed for all to see in their unsurpassed deeds.
The distilled magnificence of Joe Louis here:
Both Joe and Audie have bronze statues erected in their honor as well as significant other naming memorials such as golf courses, hospitals, ect, but like the common man’s president, Andrew Jackson, the crude little shacks they were birthed in could never last more than a few years before rotting out and blowing over. Some of Murphy’s greatest battlefield moments have been preserved and memorialized in Europe, so surely Joe Louis is as deserving in his adopted city of Detroit after all he did for America in terribly trying times.
There are spacious open grounds surrounding the rec center that could include a hike and bike path around a park setting with a softball field and football/soccer field joined together for youth and public recreational activities as was intended. It’s a no brainer but for lack of funds and small minded, mean spirited civic planners and developers they have operating these days. The adjacent blocks have already been razed and in the process of being redeveloped, but for what purpose without a respect for the storied history of this area?
To be abandoned and sunk in harbor during the next economic collapse?
We’ll see soon enough if there are any true Americans willing to man up to rebuild what used to be their birthright, the storied stuff of legends in the making in their very own communities as the building can go no further without a complete overhaul.