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Detroit Jans Boys | Detroit Warrendale Gang

Jan's boys: Joy Road and Evergreen, Detroit

I moved to the West side of Detroit from Highland Park in 1964 and started hanging around Jan's after befriending one of the guys that hung out there. We attended Cody High School at that time. I lived off West Warren in Warrendale east of Southfield freeway, but never ran with that crowd.

The Jan's crowd wouldn't be considered a gang today. It was more of a loose knit collection of people aged early teens to early 20's who partied together and sometimes fought against kids from other hangouts. At times we joined forces with the Warrendale crowd to fight other gangs. I recall hearing about the B.S. Boys who must have been a neighborhood gang around there in the 1950's. But never met any of them.

Early on it was a beer party scene. In the summer we got roaring drunk at what was called the "White House" at River Rouge Park across from Pierson Street close to West Warren Avenue. The cops pretty much left us alone as long as we didn't get to out of hand and stayed in one place. But when they did try and bust up the party, we would just run into the woods, and they learned not to follow us in. In the winter we would find a house to party at. These usually ended up in a fight of some degree.

At one point, many of us started driving old Cadillac's, those cars were fairly cheap rides back then. A couple of guys had early sixties muscle cars. No bikes around Jan's in the sixties that I can remember. But the west side had its share of bike clubs. And some of us knew and sometimes partied with them. These included such names as the Justice Riders, Road Agents, Scorpions, Penitrators, and many more. Detroit was a huge biker town.

Before 1967 it was mostly drinking and smoking weed. As time went by, things began to change, and not for the better. Drugs started pouring into the west side. First it was reds. A lot of bad car crashes resulted from that. Some people got badly hurt over those reds. Speed showed up, which just fueled the drinking. Most of us guys who were in school eventually dropped out. Girl friends starting getting pregnant. Guys started going to jail.

Then in the summer of 1967 the black Vietnam veteran (See Danny Thomas) was shot and killed during a party at the White House. That was one month before the Detroit riots broke out. Some say it was one of the causes. It was the end of partying in the park. The smart kids didn't come around after that.  What happened was inevitable.

Also, about that time heroin hit the neighborhood. Someone figured out that all those white kids would make a good market for smack. Now many of the Jan's boys were  junkies breaking into houses and pulling armed robberies. People were selling dope of all kinds. You couldn't trust anyone then. Some guys who didn't go to prison, went to Vietnam. Some didn't make it back alive. Some who did come back alive were strung out on heroin when they came home, committed crimes and then went to the joint.

By the early 70's what was left of the old crowd was hanging out at Al's bar which was next door to Jan's hamburger stand. We would lock Al up in the back room, lock the front door, and have party in that place. Fifty cent shots of Tequila, weed, hash, Mr. Natural, peyote, you name it, we did it. Most people not from there just wouldn't believe it. One night the place got shot up with people diving under tables for cover. I can't remember who was responsible for that. It was a miracle nobody got hurt that night.

I left town in the early seventies and never looked back so I don't know what happened after that. I can tell you this. Not every kid in Detroit chose this way to spend their youth. Those were the smart ones, the kids from families who gave a damn about where they were and what they did. A lot of the kids from Jan's came from broken homes. One parent or no parent. Others just fell in with the wrong crowd. Honoring greaser gangs? Why would anyone want to glorify this way of life? School drop outs, criminality, teenage pregnancy, prison sentences, violence, alcohol and drug addiction, and death. What a waste.

Danny Thomas

The incident mentioned above happened June 1967. The Detroit Free Press reported: Danny Thomas, a 27-year-old Black Vietnam veteran and Ford worker, was murdered by a gang of whites, who were heard yelling, "N_ggers keep out of Rouge Park."