Why I picked Ferndale, or finding a new place

Why I Chose Ferndale, or How to Find a Rental


Let’s start with an early memory. I grew up in Detroit, in one of the three neighborhoods that nearly hug Ferndale’s southern boundary, 8-mile. My first attempts at adolescent independence have a foothold in Ferndale. It took two light changes to wheel my green Schwinn world across 8 mile, but once I did, I stretched my legs and pedaled fast’ to Sam’s Jams, the record store, to F&M the 80’s version of the Dollar Store, and Wendy’s–my first job.

If I didn’t have business on nine mile, I rode my bicycle down tree-lined streets. Cool, like my Detroit neighborhood, but with much less chance of being chased by dogs or knocked off by my bicycle. I liked it. I wondered if the children living on these quiet streets knew what they had, if they’d be friendly.

It never occurred to me to move out of Detroit until the convergence of three major life events. Most disturbing was when the banks of America decided that people didn’t like owning houses anymore and parts of Detroit became more like the wild, wild west. We had bars on the windows and yellow police tape on the end of our alley. The second thing that happened was that my parents were suddenly older, and I needed a place to live near Dad (6 ½ mile) and Mom. (11 mile) Finally, I just really looked at my life. I worked for the public schools, and I was no longer even sending my children to them. It was time to leave.

I was looking for a place that was geographically convenient to my family and work, schools with music, and a place where there was a trace of my own childhood-shady streets, sidewalks, and shops.

I looked for six months before it was time to move. I looked at Craigslist, Realtor, and drove down streets, looking for rentals. I wanted to picture the inside of homes, see where the neighborhoods were, look at shiny wooden floors, big porches, maybe a claw foot bathtub. Royal Oak, Grosse Pointe, and Ferndale were on my list. We were ready to move into a giant home in Grosse Pointe, close to a school, and “The Village” when we came upon the snag. The potential landlord asked us to wash, categorize and hang the screens, then inventory them within ten days and pay a cleaning fee. She did not want to rent the house, not really. And true blue Grosse Pointers regret the necessary influx of non Grosse Pointe lifers into their midst. I look enough like a Grosse Pointer on the outside to be a target for the rest of the world that hates Grosse Pointers, but any Grosse Pointer would identify me as an incursion and give me the snooty treatment without batting an eyelash. I’d been around people like that; a smile on their face, but full of polite rejection. I didn’t want my girls to have to deal with that, in a community I later learned was so rife with suicide it was the subject of a book called The Virgin Suicides.

So back to the happy house hunting. I’m actually writing this for a coworker of mine who is looking for a place to live. I am trying to convince all of my awesome coworkers to come live in Ferndale, kind of like when you meet kids at summer camp or see your cousins at family reunions and you invent a scenario where all of your friends move onto your block so you’ll have enough kids to have séances and baseball teams. Well, that’s what I am trying to do. Move to Ferndale already my awesome coworkers!

Anyway, trying to find the right place can be intimidating. I watched Craigslist. I looked at fewer homes in person than you would think, but I looked at many postings, pictures and mini maps. I learned to stay away from rental professionals and scam postings. I got a trusty realtor to send me possible rentals with my parameters. Remember Jim Schaffer sells houses. (And supports the Ferndale Golden Eagles Marching Band!)

People who are working for other people are not my preference. They are paid by investors to manage property and give it a small town feel. The truth is their bosses are wealthy investors who snap and drool over others’ misfortunes. The best scenario is to be rich and not care, and get whatever snazzy condo/house you want. Second best is to form a good verbal relationship with a small-time investor, someone who is low key and owns a few places, but is not too busy to come by and check for mice in the basement. Sometimes you get lucky when a couple has to move suddenly because they are suddenly rich with a new job offer in a faraway state without a fascist governor. They are so ecstatic about their good luck; they just want to rent their home to a nice person. (Remember, you ARE a nice person) I don’t like apartment complexes. Too anonymous, and too many pedophiles in the ones I can afford. I don’t want to do laundry or pick up my mail with other people. Duplexes are ok, but the best is spending enough time online investigating possibilities, go to a few showings once you narrow it down, then sit back and get ready to pounce. Something will come up. You’ll know what a good deal is by then, and what you like. Then, one day you’ll be on Craigslist, or driving around aimlessly looking for rental signs. It will be there. Whatever you are looking for. A house, a flat, an apartment with a big balcony in a place that feels a little like home, and a little like something new.

Make the call. :>



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4 Responses to Why I picked Ferndale, or finding a new place

  1. Thanks for writing about Ferndale, Lisa. You have stirred up my own memories of vintage Ferndale and its great stores. I loved F & M, and just this year I found something in my medicine cabinet with an F & M price sticker. I hated to throw it out, but I think it was past my expiration date, let alone its own.

    I loved getting dinner at Heather Hill on the east side of Woodward about one half mile north of Eight Mile. They had the best fish and chips I ever tasted outside of England. (Now I have to go to Sir Cedric’s in Windsor to get the best – their halibut is to die for.)

    I practically lived at Model Hobbies (where John King is now) a little south of Nine Mile on the east side of Woodward. Even if I didn’t plan on buying anything it was fun to just look at everything and dream.

    In 1969 a couple friends and I volunteered with the Woodward East project in Detroit. We plastered and painted, fixing up some of the huge mansions on Alfred and Edmond Streets which had been neglected and run down. There I met a girl from Royal Oak, and for our first date I took her to the Studio North Theater (now the Magic Bag Theater) on Woodward just north of Nine Mile. We saw the 1969 movie: if . . . . – a sort of all-muggle Harry Potter with guns instead of wands – pretty intense.

    Can’t leave out Sam’s Jams on the south side of Nine Mile west of Woodward. That was the place to look for records you couldn’t find anywhere else.

    Fond memories.

  2. lisasinnett says:

    Hey, thanks for reading! I’m glad you have fond memories of my new adopted hometown!

  3. Ashley says:


    As my search for a place to live continues on, I decided to read the final version of your advice. I have been searching on line for quite sometime and so now I am going to start driving around to places and see how I feel while driving through the streets of different towns. I have made a pro/con list of several places and towns so now the real work begins now that all of the basic research is done!

    I still think Ferndale should pay you for all of the advertisement you do for them!

    Thanks again, Lisa!

    — Ashley

  4. Arlene Betty Cooper Thatcher says:

    My family moved from Canada to Ferndale, Mi. in 1934, we lived on West Bennett Street…had so much fun playing cops and robbers in field across from our house..I was a tomboy…When it rained we would get our bathing suits on and run up and down the street…I and my two brothers would go to Usingers grocery store to buy penny candy and some times we had a nickle for a double dip ice cream cone…Life was good, never had much but we were happy and loved…Walked to State Fairs grounds every year in joyed that a lot.! …during the 1940’s there were Italian prisoners kept there..they seemed happy and would whistle at the girls walking by. i went to Taft school then to Ferndale High till 1949… Got job at Michigan Bell in Royal Oak….Still think about all the friends and fun we had.

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