Leslie McKeever


Leslie McKeever


Leslie McKeever's father was a fireman in Detroit from 1946 to 1976. McKeever remembers him working during the week of July 23, 1967 and the family's eventual move to the suburbs despite the requirement for firemen to live within the city limits.


Detroit Historical Society




Detroit Historical Society, Detroit, MI






Written Story


I have been reading the various articles about the Detroit Riots and wanted to add the perspective of a young child during that time.

July - 1967. I was 5 years old and my mother was pregnant at that time. We lived on Fairmount Street and my father was a Detroit Firefighter from 1946 - 1976. Reginald A. LeBlanc. I recall there was tension in the house and hushed conversations between my parents. He was then gone, heading to the fire house (not sure what one) but I know he served behind the Fox Theatre, Engine 31, but I don't recall more than that. We were sitting on the front porch in the evening and large vehicles were coming down the street, warning us to stay off the street and go inside our homes.

I recall going with my mother to drop off a bag of clean clothes for my father, but we could only go so far and had to drop them off at a check point (I think was manned by the National Guard). I remember seeing the barricade in the street and we were directed to turn around and head back home after we dropped off items for him.

My mother tried to keep things as normal as possible for both of us. The stress likely took it's toll on her body and she delivered my sister two months early, on August 13, 1967. My sister had to remain in the hospital for several weeks and I remember the tension as both parents went to visit her. I was usually taken to a relatives house because I was not allowed into her room because of my age, I guess.

I entered kindergarten that fall at McGregor Elementary, and have fond memories of walking to and from school. I did not understand why I had to leave my friends for 1st grade and was sent to St. Jude's which seemed to be a much longer walk and I was often driven or picked up from school. On the last day of school of first grade I arrived home to find a large trailer packed with the contents of our home (kitty included) and we moved to the country (rural Sanilac County) where my parents remained until they passed away. I was not warned that we were moving but just told as I got home from school - no time to say good bye to anyone. I felt very sad and isolated moving to a farm area, on a dirt road, after having had many friends to play with in the city.

I remember my dad talking about getting shot at (he and other firemen) as they were tying to put out the various fires from the riot. After that I remember him telling stories of being cursed at and threatened when he would drive on either 8 Mile or Kelly because of not driving fast enough. Those were his triggers for our eventual white flight from Detroit.

We continued to visit the city because many of our relatives lived there and were told stories of the grand old neighborhoods. I remember visiting Hudsons, Sanders, Cunningham drugs and Eastland Mall before it was enclosed.

Many police and firefighter's families left the city for rural St. Clair and Sanilac counties and not just the surrounding suburbs of Detroit. All of our father's made the commute into Detroit with the constant fear of their lack of residency being discovered. Some had efficiency apartments and others did not. I have other memories of my dad riding our snowmobile to the main road, where our car was parked, on days (very early mornings) when snow was predicted. Being in rural farm country the dirt roads did not get consistently plowed and he could not take the chance of getting snowed in and his lack of residency discovered.

I realize this email story might be disjointed but I just wanted to share this.

Original Format


Submitter's Name

Leslie McKeever

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“Leslie McKeever,” Detroit Historical Society Oral History Archive, accessed October 1, 2023, http://oralhistory.detroithistorical.org/items/show/597.

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