Discuss Detroit Archives - July 2008 Spraying of Elm Trees in the '50s Previous Next
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Grumpyoldlady
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Username: Grumpyoldlady

Post Number: 140
Registered: 06-2005
Posted on Friday, June 13, 2008 - 8:31 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

I'm sure any of you who grew up or lived in Detroit in the 1950's remember how the city used to spray the elm trees that at that time formed beautiful arches over our streets. It was a futile effort to combat Dutch Elm Disease. You could hear the spray canon blocks away. They would come through ahead of the sprayer and warn everyone over a loudspeaker that they would be spraying at such and such a time and to close windows and stay inside. Of course most of us kids were outside watching them spray what was probably...no..most certainly, a chemical that would down the line be harmful to our health. The canon shot what I remember to be about an 18" wide blast of pesticide. I've read someplace in recent years that there are lawsuits and possibly class action suits regarding the long term harmful results of this spraying. Anyone know?
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Kathinozarks
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Username: Kathinozarks

Post Number: 1284
Registered: 11-2006
Posted on Friday, June 13, 2008 - 8:35 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

If so, I'm in! One of the highlights of my youth, following those spray trucks. Yikes!
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Blueidone
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Username: Blueidone

Post Number: 252
Registered: 03-2007
Posted on Friday, June 13, 2008 - 8:46 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

I remember the spraying of the tree in Huntington Woods during the 50's. We had three huge elm trees on our property. If there were harmful effects, they didn't hit my family of 2 adults and five children...we are all still here and relatively healthy.
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9936sussex
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Username: 9936sussex

Post Number: 137
Registered: 10-2007
Posted on Friday, June 13, 2008 - 8:47 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

I remember being really afraid of those spray trucks. Probably reminded me of some horror movie I saw at the matinees. I remember a lot of dead birds in the following days. It used to upset my mom a lot. She used to always get us inside the house with the windows shut.
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Gazhekwe
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Username: Gazhekwe

Post Number: 2229
Registered: 08-2007
Posted on Friday, June 13, 2008 - 9:17 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

They were still spraying in the mid-60s when we moved here.
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East_detroit
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Username: East_detroit

Post Number: 1787
Registered: 11-2003
Posted on Friday, June 13, 2008 - 9:38 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Lawsuits from people professing to be too stupid to heed the loudspeaker warning?
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Grumpyoldlady
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Username: Grumpyoldlady

Post Number: 142
Registered: 06-2005
Posted on Friday, June 13, 2008 - 11:07 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

I guess the danger was NOT just while the spraying was going on. The stuff got on the grass, cars, outdoor toys, etc, and when people came into contact with it it was absorbed through the skin. I don't remember more than that about the suits. The stuff was probably DDT.
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Malcovemagnesia
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Username: Malcovemagnesia

Post Number: 82
Registered: 12-2005
Posted on Saturday, June 14, 2008 - 1:03 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

are there still elms in Detroit & suburbs or are they all extinct now?
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Reddog289
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Username: Reddog289

Post Number: 355
Registered: 08-2007
Posted on Saturday, June 14, 2008 - 2:58 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

We had elms die in Garden City too, i hear of the stories where they sprayed DDT everywhere.
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Oladub
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Username: Oladub

Post Number: 313
Registered: 08-2006
Posted on Saturday, June 14, 2008 - 9:02 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

It was great fun watching the spraying through the window. The sprayer guy operated something like an anti-aircraft set up. His seat would pivot around with the sprayer and he could pivot the sprayer up or down.

The spray had such velocity that it bent back branches. Maybe there was a fan built into the sprayer.

After the sprayer, we were allowed outside. The spray dripped off the elm trees upon us. It smelled ok. We played on the grass under the trees as if a storm had ended.

I've wondered since then, what the health effects were on the guys who sat there and sprayed everyday. At the time, there was no strong awareness of how bad pesticides were to health. Maybe in a couple of decades we will find out what we are doing now that is the equivalent. Maybe all the chip board sheathed houses will have to be condemned for venting poisons.
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Jrvass
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Username: Jrvass

Post Number: 746
Registered: 01-2007
Posted on Saturday, June 14, 2008 - 12:01 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Bah. My brother whizzed coins with pure mercury. They'd (EPA) close our house for contamination today. I used to play with it in my bare hands.

He used to spray a chemical called "soil sterilizer" for Mistele Coal & Oil around railroad yards. It killed plants for 7+ years.
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Karl_jr
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Username: Karl_jr

Post Number: 298
Registered: 06-2007
Posted on Saturday, June 14, 2008 - 2:03 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

yes we chased the trucks and cooled of in the mist! also smacked mercury with a hammer just for fun! the science lab had a open beaker of it when I was in grade school, boy how it would run when it was spilled! there ain't nuttin' wrong wit me youse sees.
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Gistok
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Username: Gistok

Post Number: 7003
Registered: 08-2004
Posted on Saturday, June 14, 2008 - 2:08 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

I too remember playing with Mercury as a kid.... and I hhhhhhaaaaaaaaavvvvveeeeee no side effects....
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Scs_scooter
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Username: Scs_scooter

Post Number: 83
Registered: 07-2006
Posted on Saturday, June 14, 2008 - 2:26 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Oh my gosh...we were just talking about chasing the little mercury balls around the tile floor in the basement!! I do remember them spraying the trees. I was fascinated by how far it shot. My Dad was always concerned for the finish on his car...WHILE US KIDS WERE PLAYING IN THE RUNOFF!!
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Saintme
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Username: Saintme

Post Number: 145
Registered: 08-2006
Posted on Saturday, June 14, 2008 - 3:55 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

God I wish I could spend just one day in Detroit in The 40s or 50s. I love Detroit now, for better for worse, but your stories make me jealous, even if they are stories about spraying pesticides on trees. Anyone born here after the 70s really hasn't a clue what we missed out on.
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Reddog289
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Username: Reddog289

Post Number: 360
Registered: 08-2007
Posted on Sunday, June 15, 2008 - 3:28 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

i got to play with mercury.didn,t they spray for the emerald ash borer a couple years ago? i remember they planes flying over my folks house.
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Rjk
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Username: Rjk

Post Number: 1129
Registered: 11-2003
Posted on Sunday, June 15, 2008 - 5:48 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

http://greensleeves.typepad.co m/berkshires/images/2007/05/18 /us_foreswt_service_ded_before _after.jpg
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Lombaowski
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Username: Lombaowski

Post Number: 95
Registered: 11-2004
Posted on Sunday, June 15, 2008 - 8:32 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Wow that picture really says it all. I'm in the group that missed the elms.
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Harsensis
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Username: Harsensis

Post Number: 358
Registered: 07-2005
Posted on Sunday, June 15, 2008 - 11:33 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

I grew up in the 70's and we use to have the elm sprayers in Grosse Pointe. I use to always go inside for a while and watch them from a distance. We also use to play with mercury when a thermometer would break on the bathroom floor. My dad was a science teacher, so we use to have a jar of mercury at home. I wonder if it is still around somewhere?
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Crystal
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Username: Crystal

Post Number: 208
Registered: 05-2007
Posted on Monday, June 16, 2008 - 12:07 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

My Dad built a barometer when we were kids in the 1960's. The barometer is still around, as well as the original jar with most of the mercury still in it.

The specific gravity of mercury is about 13. To heft a jar of even a few fluid ounces is amazing; it is *very* heavy!
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Wkl
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Username: Wkl

Post Number: 129
Registered: 11-2003
Posted on Monday, June 16, 2008 - 9:21 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Once they stopped the spaying, Dutch Elm started to claim the trees. I believe they planted the particular species of elm because they grew quickly and canopy they had looked great. Problem was when Dutch Elm reaches the area, it takes everything out.

Every year our block (E. Outer Dr & Warren) would lose a couple of elms. The tree in front of our house was one of the last to go in the mid 70s.

I now live just outside Sacramento CA, and Dutch Elm arrived here just a couple of years ago. Although elms arn't the primary city shade tree, there are still quite a few which are slowly being killed. I guess the mix of trees has slowed the spread somewhat, but Dutch Elm marches on.
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Malcovemagnesia
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Username: Malcovemagnesia

Post Number: 86
Registered: 12-2005
Posted on Monday, June 16, 2008 - 10:47 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

If all the elm trees in Detroit are dead & gone, would the disease have moved away from the Detroit Metro region as well? In other words, could elm trees be replanted on Detroit streets where they could eventually have pleasant canopies again?
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Jrvass
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Username: Jrvass

Post Number: 757
Registered: 01-2007
Posted on Monday, June 16, 2008 - 11:47 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

I think they've developed a resistant elm. I think it was Lake Superior State U. that did it.

Now we have Emerald Ash Borer. Thanks to Chinese packing crates.
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1st_sgt
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Username: 1st_sgt

Post Number: 167
Registered: 11-2006
Posted on Monday, June 16, 2008 - 12:05 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

I remember in the 60's WWII bombers were spraying the trees so low you could see the people inside.
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Birwood
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Username: Birwood

Post Number: 106
Registered: 10-2007
Posted on Monday, June 16, 2008 - 12:34 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

In the Wyoming & Schoolcraft area in the late 50's, late spring, aerial spraying was used. I was at St.Brigid School and it almost seemed like the aircraft flew so low they were buzzing the school...it kinda pissed off some of the nuns cause cause we'd sit there and listen and watch for the planes rather than paying attention
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River_rat
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Username: River_rat

Post Number: 351
Registered: 02-2006
Posted on Monday, June 16, 2008 - 7:41 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

I worked for the Wayne County Road Commission as a summer worker in the late 50's and early 60's and we sprayed and cut down hundreds of dying elm trees, sprayed them with some oil and then hauled them miles through other elm areas to an area where we burned them. I expect we spread the disease all over by hauling those trees around. The elms were spectacular and the temperature under them was really cool even on the hottest days.

The oil we sprayed the trees with was undoubtedly toxic; it was meant to kill the bugs that harbored and spread the fungus that killed the trees.

I am another kid that loved to play with mercury. I bought bunches of it at (if I remember correctly) Harshaw Chemical which was around Fullerton and Myers ??? Also we could buy metal dusts there that made for great homemade fireworks.

I sure hope I can think of someone or some company to sue for all the fun I had working summers for the road commission and handling mercury as a kid. I am trying to think of how I have been scarred or better yet, psychologically damaged by those chemicals
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Jiminnm
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Username: Jiminnm

Post Number: 1695
Registered: 02-2005
Posted on Monday, June 16, 2008 - 10:27 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

I have vague recollections of elm spraying, as we lost quite a few on Waltham.

I expect the spraying may have done less harm to me than the potential dangers of radium treatments to remove my adenoids (circa 1955-57).
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Redwingz
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Username: Redwingz

Post Number: 13
Registered: 09-2007
Posted on Tuesday, June 17, 2008 - 1:12 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

We stood out there in the street to see the spraying of the trees. Remember when their attack on Dutch Elm was to "whitewash" the tree trunks? I do. Hard to believe they continued to spray while we stood on the sidewalk and watched. Don't forget, they used to come down the other side of the street, too. WTF? How else are they going to get both sides?
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Redwingz
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Username: Redwingz

Post Number: 14
Registered: 09-2007
Posted on Tuesday, June 17, 2008 - 1:14 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

On Waltham? We lost quite a few on Runyon as well. You were within shouting distance of me.
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Jiminnm
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Username: Jiminnm

Post Number: 1696
Registered: 02-2005
Posted on Tuesday, June 17, 2008 - 12:48 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

East side of Waltham, second house south of Manning. The house is still there, likely because it is brick, although it is on a foreclosure list that I saw.

The west side of Hoover was a foreign land to me as a kid. I did, however, visit the RR tracks and small marshes just off Hoover near the fire station (against my parents' warnings not to).
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Keystone
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Username: Keystone

Post Number: 277
Registered: 10-2003
Posted on Tuesday, June 17, 2008 - 1:09 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

There are hybrid elms that have been available for some time. The problem with a hybrid is that they are not always healthy, and can be maintenance headaches.

In the past 2 years, a true American Elm stand in Princeton, NJ was found to be resistant to Dutch Elm Disease, and has been propogated to commercial nurseries. If you do a google search for ' Princeton Elm ' you should find it. I heard they were for sale at Home Depot last year in limited quantities.
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Ditman
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Username: Ditman

Post Number: 51
Registered: 05-2007
Posted on Tuesday, June 17, 2008 - 1:20 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Like most of you I grew up in Detroit in the 50's & also remember the spraying trucks. Our block on Ward Av also was a beautiful tree-lined street. A few years ago I came back for s visit & went to the old neigborhood. It's so stark now without any trees I feel sorry for the kids growing up there now. Dad would roll over in his grave if he saw what the street (& our house) looked like now. I'm glad we still have some family pics that show Ward with the trees. Remember when you had to cover the family car in the driveway from the spray if you couldnt get it in the garage.
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Lorax
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Username: Lorax

Post Number: 4
Registered: 06-2008
Posted on Sunday, June 22, 2008 - 7:38 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Growing up in Grosse Pointe in the 60's & 70's, the Dutch elm disease killed all three of our trees and hundreds more that shaded the streets like canopies. Spray trucks, and later, hose injections at the base of the trees pumped chemicals in from a portable tank. The 200+ year old elm in the center of St. Paul's Cemetery covered the whole graveyard and was a fighter, but eventually died as well.
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Hornwrecker
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Username: Hornwrecker

Post Number: 2029
Registered: 04-2005
Posted on Sunday, June 22, 2008 - 8:40 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)



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Soomka1
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Username: Soomka1

Post Number: 102
Registered: 02-2007
Posted on Monday, June 23, 2008 - 12:50 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

The only thing better than the beautiful canopy in the summer was getting to rake the leaves to the curb and burn them. As a kid I totally lost my enthusiasm for raking when they banned burning. Between the leaves out front and our wire basket trash incinerator in the alley, I was always ready to take on the chores that ended with a nice fire.
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9936sussex
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Username: 9936sussex

Post Number: 142
Registered: 10-2007
Posted on Monday, June 23, 2008 - 12:57 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

There is something about burning leaves that always remind me of fall and living in Detroit. It's a smell I miss (and yes, I know it was probably really unhealthy) but I do miss that smokey haze on an October evening.
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Pgn421
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Username: Pgn421

Post Number: 645
Registered: 02-2005
Posted on Monday, June 23, 2008 - 12:57 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

I agree with you Soomka! Bishop and Mack, when i was growing up. I can still hear the sound of the sprayer!

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