All-Metal Products Company (Wyandotte Toys)

All-Metal Products Company

Photo courtesy antiquehelper.com

All Metal Products Company, popularly known as Wyandotte Toys, was founded in 1920.  They produced inexpensive pressed metal toys under the Wyandotte brand name.  Specializing initially in pop guns, water pistols, and air rifles, All-Metal was the largest manufacturer of toy guns in the US for several decades in the 20th century.

The company's initial slogan was "Every Boy Wants A Pop Gun," backed by their #1 national ranking as top producer of toy guns.  Its more well-known moniker was "Wyandotte Toys are Good and Safe."

All-Metal diversified its offerings and was producing lithographed novelty toys by 1936. 

With the banning of metal for general production in effect during World War II, All-Metal changed to producing toys made of wood and die-cut cardboard; popular during that time was their "Build Your Own" playsets.  Continuing their move away from their initial metal production, Wyandotte Toys began producing die cast and plastic toys by 1948.

Located at the corner of 12th and Sycamore for many years, the company moved their headquarters to Ohio in the early 1950s to help cut company overhead (production in Ohio was assumed to be cheaper); but other problems caused the company to shutter in 1956 (the company ceased in 1957) and its assets acquired by Louis Marx and Company. 

Read Wallace Hayden's 2008 News-Herald article
 

Ecorse, Fort George, Holiday, Jolly Roger, Michigan Drive-ins

Ecorse, Fort George, Holiday, Jolly Roger, Michigan Drive-ins
The drive-in era began in earnest in 1932 with the brainchild of Richard M. Hollingshead, Jr., and Downriver certainly enjoyed its share of facilities.  The Ecorse (1951-1989), Fort George (1950-1990), Holiday (1956-1986), Jolly Roger (1954-1990) and Michigan (1948-1984) were the places to be in the days before the modern multi-plex.  The Ecorse was famed for being destroyed during the Derecho (Green Storm) of July 16, 1980, but was rebuilt.

Heritage Park and the Junior League World Series - Taylor

Heritage Park is one of Downriver's most appreciated parks.  Located in the virtual center of the city of Taylor, Heritage Park's evolution has slowly taken time; over the past four decades, the Park has become a favorite for picnickers as well as those seeking a leisurely stroll "away from it all."

The annual Taylor Fourth Of July fireworks are still held here, attracting thousands to this old-time country setting.
Heritage Park Website

The tournament started in 1981, and was originally created for 13 year old players competing in Little League's Senior League division (which at the time included 13-15 year olds). In 1999, Little league spun a separate Junior League division off from the Senior League division, which included 13 and 14 year old players.  The ten regional champions are divided into two pools (USA and International). The two best teams from each pool advance to the semi-finals, to determine the US champion and the International champion. The semi-final winners play for the championship. All matches are double elimination games.

Wyandotte's Independence Day Parade


The Bi-Centennial Parade of 1976 at Eureka and Biddle.

This coming July 4th will mark Wyandotte's 82nd version of the annual Independence Day parade which is one of Michigan's longest-running, as well as one of its largest.  Known for showcasing a vast variety of musical groups from Michigan as well as Canada, numerous politicians have also walked Biddle, from former Michigan Governor James Blanchard, to future President George H.W. Bush.
 

Southgate Heritage Days Parade (Memorial Day weekend)


The photo to the left shows the first version of Southgate's Heritage Days Parade in 1959, the city's first full year after incorporation.  Shown here is the intersection of Eureka and Trenton Roads.

Since then, the festivities have expanded and is a Memorial Weekend staple, ranking alongside the numerous other parades.
 

Lincoln Park Bandshell and Christmas Fantasyland

Christmas Fantasyland
Formally known as the Kennedy Memorial Park Band Shell, it was built in the 1950s as one of Downriver's most acoustically correct venues.  Through most of the 2000s it had been inactive for musical uses; Lincoln Park would end up advertising the bandshell on Patronicity, a site closely resembling GoFundMe.  Its hoped-for $10,000 goal was reached within an unprecedented three days. Renovations were completed in the summer of 2015.
Many Christmas display traditions may have been created by the former J.L. Hudson company at its flagship downtown Detroit store, but Downriver would come up with a gem of its own: the Lincoln Park Christmas Fantasyland, which recently celebrated its 50th anniversary of operation at the Kennedy Memorial Park Recreation Center. 

The unidentified photo dates from the 1960s.
 

Wyandotte's trio of Downtown Theaters: Majestic, Rialto, Wyandotte


The Majestic, 1940s

The Rialto (downtown), 1940s

Wyandotte Main & Annex, 1964-65.
Most of the review information below was written by Joe Vogel in 2009 for the website cinematreasures.org

Majestic Theater review: February 1916

Was there a purpose for multi-screens?

"The new Majestic theater in Wyandotte, owned by the Caille & Guthard Interests of Detroit, was formally opened on Thursday evening, January 20, to immense crowds, hundreds going from Detroit to see the new house. In the first ten days booking the following companies have been considered: Paramount, Metro, Big Four, Equitable, World, Pathe, Triangle and Blue Bird...

"The opening picture was ‘The Whirl of Life’ with Mr. and Mrs. Vernon Castle, which Caille & Guthard control for Michigan. George P. Wilbur is the manager of the New Majestic, having come from the Grand in Columbia, Ohio..."

Fast facts on the Rialto Theater

The Rialto's address was 2938 Biddle Avenue and had seating for 600.  It was taken over by the Associative Theaters chain in 1939.  By the 1950s it ended its original run, and was now operated as a religious theater by "Bible and Christian Books."  According to Boxoffice magazine, this venture was concluded sometime before its August 25, 1956 issue.
Information tabbed from a 1942 blurb from Boxoffice Magazine may provide a hint:

The theater was opened - with one screen - in 1938, with capacity of 1,500.  Not until the August 16, 1941 edition of Boxoffice was there a mention of a duplex screen in the works, as materials had been ordered from the National Theater (supply) Company.

A further Boxoffice publication, dated January 10, 1942, stated that the section known as the "Annex" opened New Years Day, 1942.  The original idea was to show a double-feature in the main section, with one feature and short subjects (Laurel & Hardy, Three Stooges, etc.) in the Annex.  However, this was not initially the way management worked out the arrangement.  They would show the exact same pictures on both screens, but at staggered times; this way, more people could see the same two features on any given day. 

The Wyandotte Theater (address: 102 Elm) would outlast - by far - the lifespans of the Majestic and Rialto.  It would briefly (and unfortunately) enter into the X-rated movie world in the mid-1970s, just as many theaters were doing.  Wyandotte shed that reputation quickly and the theater would be back doing first-run movies in the 1980s.

SUNDAY!  SUNDAY!  SUNDAY!  The charm of the Detroit Dragway (Brownstown)


Giving the "green light," 1959

The starting line takes off, 1959

The "Connie Kalitta" in 1971.
With perhaps the three most famous words ever uttered among Downriver sports enthusiasts, "Sunday! Sunday! Sunday!" would rock the area from the Detroit Dragway on Sibley Road from 1959 to 1998.  It was apparently very obvious that racing was huge in the area, as the Dragway hosted the U.S. Nationals in 1959 and 1960 - its first two years of operation!  Opened and operated by Gil Kohn and promoted by Ben Christ, the two men would dream up the "Sunday" advertising campaign which would last for decades.  It highest purse was $40,000 set at the 1978 Summer Nationals, but the crowds (averaging 30,000 on a good night) - and even the drivers - may have told you they were in it for the fun and action, as well as the money.  On summer nights when the wind blew gently from the south, the engines could be heard roaring as far north as Lincoln Park.  Between the Detroit Dragway and Flat Rock Speedway, racing enthusiasts' needs were very well met.

Crowds began to thin and conditions began to deteriorate in the 1980s.  By 1991, average turnout struggled to hit 500.  Tastes may have changed in the next generations, but management was sticking to their guns and planning a million-dollar overhaul of the course in 1994.  By that time, however, new residences had sprung up to the track's south and west, and the new residents did not agree with the Dragway's continued operation... in much the same way new residents disliked the noise from the Indian City Radio Control club site one mile north.  The track closed in 1998; on its site now are a series of logistics and warehouse companies making up the Brownstown Business Center.

Driving Ranges, Golf Courses and Miniature Golf Courses

 

Arnold Palmer Mini-Putt

The first local mini-putt was located at Eureka and Trenton Roads, on the site of present-day Seven-Eleven and AutoZone stores. It was the first initial attraction in the area other than Hance Airfield, which in the 1950s was in the process of closing. The mini-putt predated the construction of Southgate Shopping Center but would not postdate its completion by too long. It is thought its lifespan was less than ten years, as South Lanes bowling alley was operative in that space by the early 1960s.

Muddy Duck Mini-Putt and Driving Range

One of two modern-day facilities built by 1990 to compete with the multi-purpose Sportway Fun Center on Allen Road, Muddy Duck was on the site of the former Holiday Drive-In Theater on West Road, east of Telegraph. Though styled well and on a busy thorofare, it would last less than ten years before folding. The land now serves a most worthwhile purpose, housing Henry Ford Brownstown Clinic and Emergency Room.

Par-fection Mini-Putt and Driving Range

The second facility built to compete with the Sportway complex mentioned above, it would take up less land than Muddy Duck. As a result, its mini-putt course was more of a challenge, as it was constructed on a steeper surface in order to conserve space. Despite cramped quarters, Par-Fection was destined for success, having been built across from the famed Detroit Dragway on Sibley Road in the hopes of gaining their customer base. It would not last long beyond the Dragway's 1997 closure. Redevelopment of the land was slower here; the old mini-putt course was still semi-intact as late as 2010.

Southland Mini-Putt and Driving Range

Perhaps Downriver's best known mini-putt and driving range from its establishment in the late 1960s into the late 1980s. The business was operated by Cass and Stan Jawor, licensed PGA Tour instructors. The mini-putt was clearly retro-classic with a carnival theme, while many beginners' golf classes were held on its grounds along Reeck and Goddard Roads. Upon the Jawors' retirement, the complex would be mothballed in favor of the Maple Village Apartments.

Vinson's Mini-Putt and Driving Range

This was an older and smaller facility, built about the same time - and with the same style - as the Jawor's Southland Mini-Putt in Southgate. Never clearly identified by its proper name (roadside signs basically read "GOLF"), Vinson's was located along Telegraph Road on the land where the present-day State Police Post and ball diamond are located. The mini-putt was located closest to the roadside and was easy to play, being on one level. The facility is thought to have survived into the late 1980s, although construction on the State Police Post did not occur for several years after land was cleared.

Sultana Par 3 Golf Course (Brownstown)

Tall Oaks Golf Course (Romulus)

Sultana Golf Course, c.2000s
Having only recently closed, Sultana was likely our only Par 3 course open to the general public (not run by a city or township entity directly). In spite of its small looks, Sultana was well maintained and provided a challenging round of golf. Its future use is undetermined.

This 18-hole regulation course in Romulus was located on Wahrman Road north of Eureka, and was probably the most forested of Downriver's golf courses (with the possible exception of Woodside Meadows, located further south). The course was popular with locals & airport visitors.

The course - and Wahrman Road itself - would vanish by 2000-2001 as Wayne County purchased all lands nearby for the expansion of Detroit Metro Airport. The western-most runway now runs in the area of the former course.

Lange Water Park / Extreme Limits Paintball Park

Lange Water Park
To know this once-bustling park as anything other than one in its current shape would be unfair; however, such visual evidence to the contrary is not readily apparent. Much of its early history is shrouded in mystery, although it was billed as Lange Water Park from at least the late 1960s.

By the mid-1980s the land was considered abandoned with most of the carnival structures dismantled, although some out-buildings would remain and the original park layout remained the same. Small signs had been placed on either end of Lange Road (at Northline and Eureka) in an effort to draw people to the park.

By the early 1990s, it would morph into the Extreme Limits paintball park, utilizing most of the available acreage. Feedback found on various paintball review sites of the late 1990s lauded Extreme Limits for its great atmosphere, deceiving layout, and many natural obstacles which added to gameplayers' experience. The current status of the park and property are unknown, although signs on either end of Lange Road are still there.

We are searching for more clues from this mysterious timeline; please feel free to contact us with your thoughts and recollections!

Riverview Highlands Ski and Tubing Slope


Looking uphill toward the southwest, 1980s.

Downhill toward the northeast, 1980s.
Landfill operations began in Riverview at the site just east of the WJR tower, off Grange between Sibley and King Roads, in 1968.  The landfill itself, dubbed "Mount Trashmore", did not begin to take its current shape until 1971.  In a move that would make the city of Riverview nationally known for adaptive land use, it was decided to turn the northerly section of the landfill into a ski hill and, in the early years of the 1980s, did quite well.  The TV show "20/20" would air a piece in later years titled "The Town That Loves Garbage," and this landfill re-use was one of the main drawing cards.

General conditions would doom this as a ski hill, however.  The late 1980s to early 1990s were (for the most part) very mild winters, and the majority of snow on the hill had to be man-made.  The main criticism was of the trash underneath the surface warming it to the point that snow would melt.  The ever-increasing budget for this operation, combined with declines in attendance, led the city to drop the ski attraction and turn the hill into a sledding and tubing area, with the tubing area on the north side, closest to Sibley Road.  Although a good operation, it could not duplicate the charm of the original ski hill.

Since the early 2000s, the entire side of the hill facing Sibley Road now functions as a portion of one of the 9-hole golf courses Riverview Highlands has.  The quality of the snow on the hill is no longer a factor, as winter activities no longer take place.
 

Wonderland Amusement Park, Ecorse Township


Wonderland Park "float" at the Wyandotte Fourth of July Parade, 1947.

Overhead view, circa 1950s.

The closest photo we have to a ground-level shot; the roller coaster can clearly be seen to the upper right; circa 1950s.
This fixed carnival midway was located where Fort, Pennsylvania and Trenton Roads converge in Southgate. A very small competitor when compared with Bob-Lo Amusement Park, Wonderland nonetheless enjoyed a great advertising campaign (it had its own parade float as shown above), prime location and vast variety of attractions & rides for a park of its size. It undoubtedly drew upon Detroit's old Edgewater Park as a partial inspiration.

No ground-level photos exist of the overall complex; nor do definitive opening and closing dates. It may have pre-dated the opening of the Fort George Drive-In Theater by a couple of years (likely in the late 1940s). Aerial photos show these (by the early 1950s) as the only solid developments along Fort between Leroy and Pennsylvania Roads. Various sources have opined Wonderland lasted into the 1960s, some as late as 1966. Korvette and Shopper's Fair were immediate neighbors of the park by then, but they obviously did not help provide extra foot traffic for Wonderland. Ironically, the Korvette parking lot would hold an annual travelling carnival well into the 1980s. The Wonderland area was most likely cleared by either 1968 or 1969 to make way for the Stu Evans Lincoln-Mercury dealership.

As Wonderland was in existence for upwards of twenty years, we are searching for more clues from its mysterious timeline.  Feel free to contact us if you have more specific information or photos.