Full Transcript: Greg Kowalski on The Citizen
Greg: The Citizen was the greatest training ground in the world for a journalist it was absolutely amazing and I literally mean I think it’s better than the New York Times or anybody. Because the experience you got here was extremely varied and it was the baptism of fire because the politics of this town were insane and you learned very early on how to deal with all kinds of people including the craziest politicians. Funny thing is, is that Joe Sobota like the city director of Pontiac now, the City of Pontiac. Joe came after me in Hamtramck, he’s younger than me, but we still compare notes he’ll come in once in a while to the museum and I’ll say, you know you and I are exactly the same, we feel exactly the same that we had that baptism of fire. By doing what I did here and then what he did as part of the city government here before he became Pontiac city, not quite city manager, it’s like city director. The experiences we got here prepared us for anything, anything you can imagine. Including, you know in my case, have you ever seen a dead body? A murder victim? I have. And it’s not like you imagine. Believe me. It is not at all, in fact I will talk to kids in schools and will tell them violence in reality and violence in TV are two entirely different things and if you see it for real it’s not pretty. And it will have a real effect on you. I’ve been in burning buildings as they were burning standing next to the fire fighters taking pictures. Literally, when a wall was on fire right over there, when they tore down Dodge Main, I would go with the City engineer and we went through the plant as they were demolishing it when they were walking down one of the aisles, his name was Gene Berlin, and like around where that wall is, ten thousand pound steel ball came flying through it, smashing it to pieces. And I said Gene, I think we better go this way. And we turned around and walked out. Oh and the stories of that alone were incredible, we were driving in one of the old city cars and we got stuck in the mud on the plant. So Gene calls some of the wrecking crew guys they bring this gigantic front loader I swear it’s half the size of this building. Comes by, scoops up the back end of the car we were in, pushes us about thirty feet, and got us out of the mud. The incredible experiences you would get in meeting the different kinds of people because you’re meeting everybody from the lowest, street life criminals to social people, movie stars. I met George Peppard here one day. I don’t know if you remember him at all but George Peppard was a major movie star and TV star. He was star of the A Team and Breakfast at Tiffany’s, the movie. I met him, he was here one day,I met a number of people like that too. So you get the spectrum of everything. Once you go through that experience here— and in fact I will give you another little star. I was editor of the Birmingham Eccentric newspaper later in my career too. And there was a cop who was trying to give me a hard time, and I can’t remember, I’m trying to remember who it was and I don’t remember even what the— he was really trying to play hard ball with me and I said to him, look, back off, you don’t impress me, I said, I come from Hamtramck, the cops there will eat you alive, so I’m not scared of you in the slightest. And he backed off. But literally, that’s the kind of thing you learned here. And I literally learned from the cops here. Because in those days, and this was the early 70s, mid-70s and the cops were very tough, very, very tough. So you know you learned.