Thursday, January 22, 2015

The Fire at the Helin Mansion AND Throwback Thursday

When I was a kid, I used to love to go fishing.  Myself and a friend would get up at 5am and ride our bikes a few miles to Lake St. Clair, hop a fence and sit there for hours listening to a transistor radio and getting nothing.


I didn't want to use an alarm clock (too loud) so I would tie a string to my finger and a bolt on the other end of the string.  I hung the bold outside my 2nd floor window and John would wake me up by pulling the string.  I haven't thought about that in years until just now.  It's weird, the stuff you remember.

Maybe we'd catch a perch or a carp... maybe a sheephead.  Vile.

Oh look, girl caught a fish.

When we were bored we would walk around the cement break-wall around the lake and look at the beautiful mansions of Windmill Pointe Road.  Some of these houses put Beverly Hills to shame.

One day we met a guy who introduced himself to us as Randy Helin.  He made fishing lures.  He took us to a work room/gardner's shed (remember, this was when you could still trust people) and showed us a few things he was working on.  He treated us like humans, not like kids.  It's a great memory.

I learned later on that Randy was the son of Charles Helin, of the Helin Fishing Tackle Company.

 Charles Helin 



I found the black and white photographs of the Helin mansion on the Detroit Yes forum.


March 18, 1978, the Helin Mansion was torched by an arsonist.




Richard Tucker, a veteran firefighter, was killed as a result of the horrific fire.


I've always been obsessed with the horrible and tragic.  My pal Geoff and I took a bike ride up to the mansion to watch it being destroyed.   The ruins were spectacular.

 I brought along my Super 8 movie camera (silent) and shot this video.  Forgive the terrible quality.



The next day when I was delivering The Detroit News on my paper route, I opened the paper and saw the photo of the ruins.  Then I noticed the person in the center of the picture.   That's me.
My pal Geoff is to the right.


 I ran home to show my parents, leaving my bike behind.  It got ripped off. 

Ahh, Detroit.  We had a lot of laughs.




Charles Helin died in 1979.

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