It may seem downright quaint now, but it wasn’t so long ago that letters were the usual way of communication. Or so it seems from reading Louise Lathrup’s correspondence.
Our archives contain personal letters to and from family, friends and business acquaintances. There is official business, such as with the city or her contractors, and letters to residents on many topics. But the most fun ones are those that are none of the above.
There are letters to stores, such as Hudson’s, and retailers, such as Sanders on mundane items that might have been conducted in person or over the phone. Perhaps she was too busy. Some are more fun, though.
For example, there’s one addressed to Sing Along with Mitch (for the younger among you, a television show from 1961-64 featuring conductor Mitch Miller) c/o NBC in the Penobscot Building:
“We enjoy your intelligent program.
Could you sing ‘Oh, dem golden slippers’ for us soon. “
Then there is the one to the owner of the Telenews Theater in Detroit, Fred Sweet:
“Dear Mr. Sweet;
Have you ever considered building a theatre out here in the suburbs?
I have always like the Telenews and would be interested in establishing one in Lathrup Village. If you are interested, will you phone me at the above number?”
Here’s one to Sam and Lester Gruber, owners of the London Chop House, a top dining destination in downtown Detroit.
Have you ever thought of establishing a suburban restaurant?
If so, exclusive Lathrup Village might be a good site for you. We already have a good start in developing our business section, as shown on the enclosed folder. A new government post office not shown therein will be built this summer.
There are no restaurants here, therefore no competition; we have a population of about 5,000 and growing rapidly, and of course, we are located in the very heart of Southfield Township. Lathrup homes are in the $30,000 to $70,000 range.
We are very much in need of a high-class restaurant (as one of your patrons I know what your restaurant is); most of our families go out to dinner frequently, and I would be interested in having the facility right here (so their money would be spent in Lathrup Village, — not in some other community.
We have available a full block at the corner of Southfield and 11 Mile Road, at $350 a foot, also other sites; you park, of course, right on the property.
Maybe you would like to drive out and look around? If so, please call me at the above number.”
These letters were all written in 1961, eight years after cityhood and very near the end of Louise’s decades-long struggle to pay off the massive debt she incurred in the 1920s to build her town. Clearly, she wasn’t shy in offering her opinion or in trying to bring business to the city.
There is no indication she ever received a reply to these three letters. (It was her practice to save her incoming and outgoing letters, even unflattering or difficult ones.)
However, in 1958 she did receive a swift reply from the Ford Motor Co to a suggestion she submitted –a tray to be built into cars for passengers’ convenience. It was an idea she thought should be patented. The reply read, in part:
“You no doubt understand that we receive many thousands of letters yearly suggesting that we incorporate some item or feature. …Though your suggestion has previously been brought to our attention, we wish to thank you for your interest in our products and for taking the time to write to us.”