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Why Was A Boy Terrified of the Navin Field in Detroit?

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a disorder that develops in some people who have experienced a shocking or hazardous event. While it’s natural to feel afraid of something, reacting to something triggered by fear is trauma and often causes the body to make split-second changes to defend itself from danger. But have you ever heard the story of Titanic survivor Frankie Goldsmith?

Frankie Goldsmith was on the Titanic with his parents when it sank. His father died during the horrific event. He and his mother arrived in America and settled in Detroit next to the Navin Field. He never attended a game because of the cheering crowd. It reminded him of the cries of the people dying in the water.

The Goldsmiths After the Tradegy

On April 14, 1912, the RMS Titanic struck an iceberg and sank. Out of the estimated 2,224 people aboard the passenger ship, more than 1,500 of them passed in the icy waters. The tragic event was the worst peacetime maritime disaster in history.

A week after the sinking, the Detroit Tigers opened their new steel-and-concrete ballpark called the Navin Field. It was located in the Corktown neighborhood on the corner of Michigan and Trumbull Avenue. It was a fantastic venue for the city’s growing baseball team.

Ironically, the sinking of the Titanic and the opening of Navin Field would converge in the life of a young man who survived the disaster but never fully recovered from the horrific event.

Frankie Goldsmith was only nine years old when the Titanic sank. He was with his father, mother, family friend, and son. The party of five were all third-class passengers on the maiden voyage on the so-called greatest ship ever constructed that was virtually unsinkable.

The Goldsmiths were heading to Detroit. They had family who had recently migrated to the United States. Frankie Goldsmith Sr., Frankie’s father, was a skilled toolmaker. At the time, he carried a suitcase of custom-made tools and other trade items. The plan was for the Goldsmiths to stay with family until Frank Sr. found a job or opened his own tool shop. Needless to say, the American Dream lured them for an exciting future.

At the time of the sinking, Frankie and his mom were loaded onto a lifeboat that was only 60% full, with two crew members handling it. They were paddled away from the ship and could hear the frantic wailing of the people in the water.

The sound of people drowning is something I cannot describe to you and neither can anyone else. It is the most dreadful sound and then there is dreadful silence that follows it.

Frankie Goldsmith

(Source: Vintage Detroit)

Living Next to the Nevin Field

Emily and Frankie Goldsmith’s life was never the same. They were shattered at the loss of Frankie Sr., and they were alone in a foreign country. After spending a few weeks in New York, they were sent to Detroit, where they met their relatives.

The mother and son felt tremendous survivor’s guilt, and for a long time, Frankie refused to believe that his father died in the wreckage. He thought that his father was rescued by a passing ship and would come to see them any day. He had difficulty communicating with people and would often have nightmares about the tragic night.

They eventually moved to a small house on Trumbull Avenue, which was relatively close to Navin Field. The proximity proved to be quite traumatic to the young boy. This was especially so when the home crowd started roaring.

Navin Field was a scary place to me for a long time. Every time I heard the collected voices of the crowd cheering I was reminded of the screams from the people who were in that water.

Frankie Goldsmith

When his mother remarried, she and her new husband relocated to Corktown, and Frankie decided to live with relatives instead of staying near the Navin Field. (Source: Vintage Detroit)

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