Archive for August, 2013

There is a pretty cool tire store on Detroit’s west side, and from what I understand it’s been in business since the early 1930s. The decades-old shop is housed in a one story repair/garage facility.  The old building has classic Art Deco features, such as the semi-curved corners and rich colors from the period that wrap around the building. I didn’t pay much attention to the place as I rode by until I saw a unique statue mounted on the roof.

Bldg w:Fisk Boy_6917

What caught my eye that day was a sculpture or statue of a young boy holding a candle in his left hand with an old tire held high in his right hand. He was perched on the edge of the one-story building, overlooking the parking lot. The boy was wearing what appeared to be one-piece sleeper pajamas and had an expression on his face that looked as if he was singing or yawning.  After a little research, I discovered the statue is from the Fisk Tire Company and it is called “The Fisk Tire Boy”.

Fisk Boy #1_6918

The Fisk Tire Boy

The Fisk Tire Boy was designed and rolled out to auto tire dealers in the 1920s as a brand advertising piece. Based on its immense popularity with the tire dealers (and the general public), the yawing boy became Fisk’s official trademark and was used in various advertising and promotional pieces. The tag line used for this little guy was called, “Time to Re-Tire”.

Fisk Boy #3_6910

The yawning boy works perfectly with the company’s advertising tag line “Time-to Re-Tire”

Interestingly, I spotted this vintage rooftop statue while on a bicycle ride. I later learned that the Fisk Tire Company originally produced rubber tires for bicycles in the late 1800s.

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Detroit’s Belle Isle Park is a big place. It spans about 950 acres, and it includes woodlands, canals, and small inland lakes and ponds. It is located in the middle of the Detroit River, one of the busiest waterways in the world. Canada is on the south side of the island and the city of Detroit is on the north. It is the largest island park of its kind in the U.S., and it was designed in the 1880s by Fredrick Law Olmstead, the same landscape architect that designed New York’s famous Central Park.

In addition to the winding streets and pathways that cut through the interior of the park, there is an outer ring road that circles the island. It is a 5-mile loop around the island starting and ending at the foot of the Belle Bridge that connects the island to Detroit’s mainland. It’s a beautiful, leisurely ride on a bicycle, especially in the early morning or late evening.

On the Northeast side of the island is a good-sized inland lake with beautiful blue water. Lining the shore of the lake are big, bushy Weeping Willow trees that stand around 70 feet tall. When I rode by there the other evening on a casual bike ride, the lake was still and calm, without a ripple to be seen.

Looking at the northeast end of the lake as I rounded a corner, I was immediately in awe of what I saw. The gently setting sun had highlighted the water’s deep blue color, and reflecting across the smooth surface was the vibrant green Weeping Willow trees. The reflections were a perfect crystal clear mirror image of what was growing on the banks of the lake. The reflections of the lake-lined trees were dreamlike in their beauty and surreal in their appearance. As the sun drifted lower, the effect slowly faded.

Here is a sampling of what I saw on that little lake on the island as I slowly pedaled by.

Belle Isle #5_7636

Belle Isle #3_7656

Belle Isle #6_7653

Belle Isle #4_7661

Belle Isle #2_7648

Belle Isle#1_7641

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There are no shortages of unusual signs in Detroit; they can be seen just about anywhere. They are mostly found on the heavily traveled commercial streets that begin downtown and run to the city limits. Some of the most interesting ones are crudely painted on the sides of buildings or on chunks of plywood or other materials found leaning against walls, utility poles and other supports.

The hand-painted versions are the best. The letters usually don’t match and they are squeezed together to fit the space they are painted on. They are usually hard to read because they are full of drippy letters from too much paint being applied. In some ways, that’s the beauty of them. Misspellings are also common. I’ve seen them on many signs, both professional and hand painted. Many of the spelling errors are made in the simplest of words.

Here’s the latest round of signs in this continuing series of Amusing Signs of Detroit.


Love the two color letters and the bug looking bike drawing

Love the two color letters and the bug-like bike

Muggin's is a church perhaps

Muggin’s is a church perhaps

Cool illustration and list

Cool illustration and list

As they say, "Dot the i's and cross the t's."

As they say, “Dot the i’s and cross the t’s.”

Business might get better if the sign wasn't upside down

Business might improve if the sign wasn’t upside down

Urban style, grass roots advertising

Urban style, grass roots advertising

The second line is a little tight on space

The second line is a little tight on space

This entry is the sixth of an occasional blog entry on the amusing signs of Detroit. To view the other’s in this series, click on the headlines below.

Amusing Signs of Detroit

Amusing Signs of Detroit – Part 2

Amusing Signs of Detroit – Part 3

Amusing Signs of Detroit – Part 4

Amusing Signs of Detroit – Part 5

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Grand River Avenue in Detroit is a major road that starts in the heart of downtown and runs northwest to the city limits, a distance of about 14 miles. It’s a wide road with at least three vehicle lanes in each direction. Like many of the city’s major streets and roads, it doesn’t carry the traffic volume it once did due to shifting populations to the suburbs and the movement of major businesses out of the city. The wideness of Grand River and the relatively light traffic makes for a good bicycle ride.

The other day I jumped on Grand River a couple of miles out of downtown and headed northwest out past Grand Lawn Cemetery to the Redford Township city limits. The road is similar to other major commercial streets in Detroit that I’ve ridden in the past. There are the usual; small mom and pop places with amateurish painted signs offering beauty supplies, hand car washes, automobile repair and parts. There are quite a few fast food chain restaurants, plenty of coney island eateries, and other small places to eat.

Plenty of barber shops and other small businesses along Grand River

There are plenty of barber shops and other small businesses along Grand River Avenue

Not sure what Malcolm X has to do with this place

Not sure what Malcolm X has to do with this place on Grand River

There are other businesses that look like they’ve been there many years and still have the original signs that date from the 1930’s through the 50’s. Gillis Realty Co. and the McNichols Riviera Motel, a place that hasn’t changed much since 1950’s, have good examples of vintage signs that I spotted on my bike ride along Grand River.

This sign looks to be from the 1930's.

This vintage sign looks to be from the 1930’s.

A classic 1950's sign

A classic 1950’s sign

Just off Grand River near Southfield Road are the Rosedale Park and Grandmont Rosedale Communities. They are some of the best in the city and are stuffed with English Tutor style homes, brick Colonials and well maintained bungalows. Just beyond these beautiful, well maintained neighborhoods is the Historic Redford Theater.  It was built on Lasher Road just off Grand River in 1928 and has been restored to its original Japanese motif.  It is fully operational and offers year round entertainment, mostly movies.

Wall painting incorporates the community spirit of the neighborhood

Wall painting communicates the community spirit of the neighborhood

One of many beautiful homes in Rosedale Park

One of many beautiful homes in Rosedale Park

Historic Redford Theater

Historic Redford Theater

A little further out is the Grand Lawn Cemetery that was founded in 1908. The large cemetery covers about 150 acres and the Rouge River flows through it.  Near the cemetery Grand River splits into a boulevard with a nice, well-maintained grassy median.  Just beyond the cemetery is Redford Township, a suburban community that was established in 1833. From there I swung around and headed toward downtown Detroit.

Grand Lawn is a large cemetery close to the city limits

Grand Lawn is close to the city limits

Grand River turns into a grassy Boulevard near Redford Township

Grand River splits into a grassy Boulevard near Redford Township

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