Rosemary Spatafora


Rosemary Spatafora


Rosemary Spatafora was a teenager in 1967 and remembers fires nearby and hearing gun shots at the local Domestic Linen Supply. Later she read an article from the perspective of business owners that changed her perspective of the snipers.


Detroit Historical Society




Detroit Historical Society, Detroit, MI








My family lived on 18th Street between Selden and Magnolia and I was 15 years old in 1967. Our local grocery store, the A&P on Myrtle (now Martin Luther King Blvd.), just a block away from us went up in flames and was never replaced. There was a building on the corner of our street that burned and I recall it smoldering for weeks after the riot ended. The fire department never came to put it out. All around us we could hear sniper fire and sirens blaring. We prayed a lot during that time.

Our dining room windows looked straight out towards the Domestic Linen Supply or “The Laundry” (as we called it). There were people with guns on the roof of the Laundry and we thought they were snipers. Every night during the riot we cowered on the floor terrified that someone would take a shot through our dining room windows and hit any one us. We stayed in our home for the first few days of the riot because we if we left someone might burn down our house. Finally my parents decided to leave because it was just too dangerous.

Now, fifty years later, I have learned a very different story about what went on at The Laundry during that time. In June, 2016, the Jewish News published a story about the riot through the eyes of business owners. ( One of the businesses featured in the story was the Domestic Linen Supply. The story was told by Bruce Colton, whose family founded Domestic Linen Supply in 1926. Mr. Colton shared that six months before the riot, his father bought a case of shotguns. When the riot started they picked some key employees, payed them what they called “war pay” (triple their normal wages), and set them up on the roof of the building with the shotguns to protect the property. “There were a lot of people who wanted to save the business so they would have a job,” Colton said. “You’d fire off a shotgun blast or two and people went someplace else.”

The Domestic Linen Supply plant remained unscathed but a storage building across the street burned (the building that smoldered for weeks). The Laundry still stands today offering employment to people who live and work in the city. The company, now called Domestic Uniform Rental, continues to grow and thrive with its headquarters in Farmington Hills. They own eight processing facilities and have customers in 14 states.

What the owners of The Laundry did to save their facility and what the people on the roof did to save their jobs kept a business in Detroit and kept many people employed. I just wish they knew that their actions also terrorized a family of six children and their parents.

There are always many sides to every story and many stories about the riot. Thank you for letting me share mine.

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Rosemary Spatafora

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“Rosemary Spatafora,” Detroit Historical Society Oral History Archive, accessed October 1, 2023,

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