This predominantly Polish working-class community, an incorporated enclave within the city of Detroit, is going under.
A decision by the financially ailing Chrysler Corp. to close its gargantuan, obsolescent Dodge Main plant here is speeding the decline.
There is a sense of abandonment, a feeling of anger among many of Hamtramck's 25,000 residents and neither emotion is significantly relieved by efforts to save Chrysler with $1.5 billion in federal loan guarantees.
The Dodge Main plant has been the mainstay of this city's economy for 75 years. But, come next July, it will close no matter what the government does.
The plant is symbolic of much that has brought Chrysler to its present state. It is old and worm out, an oging white elephant geared to the production of cars for a less fuel-conscious age.
Its workers say they are not at fault, that since 1914, when the first produced what company of officials told them to, what market researchers said American wanted.
For a while, as many as 12,000 cars came off the assembly line here in a six-day workweek.
But Chrysler did not change fast enough, often enough or imaginatively enough to suit consumers, the workers say, and now they are stuck with a plant nobody wants and a "save Chrysler" proposal that will do them little good.
"You tell me what in the hell what $1.5 billion is going to do for Dodge Main," said Mary Farmer Kinney, a 38-year-old black who lost her job at the plant last month after 10 years there.
"They're still going to close our plant," she said. "Those of us with not much seniority are still going to be out of jobs."
Her comments were typical of those made by other workers.
She said the United Auto Workers union local "ain't doing much to help people with little seniority."
"I don't want the government's $1.5 billion and I don't want the government's Adc [A to Families with Dependent Children]. All I want is my damn job back," Kinney said, crying.
Art Harrison, a white in his 50s who has been at Dodge Main for 29 years, said he sympathizes with Kinney, but that he believes the federal aid is needed.
"I don't want to see Dodge Main close any more than Mary" does, Harrison said. "But without the bailout money, the whole damn company could go under. If that happened, nobody would be able to get any work because there would be no company to work for."
That is what officials at Dodge Main Local No. 3 are hammering home to their members.
"On this question of the bailout, you're going to have to separate the workers' feelings for Dodge Main from their feelings about the larger question -- the survival of the company," said Joseph Elliott, a union local official.
"Many of the people in the plant don't want the government to give Chrysler anything without a promise to keep Dodge Main open," he said.
"The morale is very low now. But without the prospect of that $1.5 billion, meaning thousands more layoffs all over the Detroit metropolitan area and across the United States, morale would be a hell of a lot lower."
If the company stays afloat, Dodge Main workers with seniority could be transferred to other Chrysler plants as jobs become avaiable, he said, adding, "But if you have 20 years [seniority] and no place to go it'll mean nothing. You can't eat and pay fuel bills with seniority."
Accordingly, and in the hope that the plant can somehow be kept going, the union has papered Hamtramck and Detroit with stickers that read: "Help Save Dodge Main Plant. Buy Chrysler-Made Cars."
"This city has built its whole economy on that one plant, said Greg Kowalski, editor of The Hamtramck Citizen. "As Dodge Main goes, so goes Hamtramck. We are going down -- way, way down."
The agony of decline is everywhere.
It is on the face and in the voice of Mayor William V. Kozerski, who was soundly defeated this month in his bid for a third two-year term. The closing of Dodge Main was a major factor in outcome.
The mayor said he had fought hard to keep the plant open, but in a post-election statement he said the voters believed he had not done enough.
"Chrysler did me in," he said.
The agony is in numbers.
Dodge Main used to be Chrysler's premier plant, employing 20,000 in 1959, the beginning of its last boom.
Last year, 8,000 people were employed at the plant, 2,600 are now.
Since May, when a new round of layoffs began and the company announced it would close the facility by next year, Hamtramck has lost nearly $2 million income taxes and other revenues generated by the plant.
Even with revenue increases in other areas, the city's total operating budget for fiscal 1980 is $8.2 million, down from nearly $9 million in fiscal 1979.
Inflation plus Dodge Main losses led to the layoffs of 63 city employes in September.
"We've been hurting so badly, we had to start cutting somewhere," Kozerski said.
Dodge Main Local No. 3, once among the UAW's largest, richest and most militant locals, has seen its annual dues income plummet from $1.25 million a year ago to $250,000 now.
There have been staff and service cuts, and more are coming, according to Elliott, the local's financial secretary.
"The effect on the local has been devastating because we operate strictly on dues. We're hurting. The city's hurting. Everybody touched by this thing is hurting," he said.
It was not always so. In the early 1960s, Chrysler introduced its popular Plymouth Valiant and Dodge Dart models and production lines at the Hamtramck plant worked overtime.
The boom was on.
Workers laid off in a "down period" 18 to 24 months earlier were called back.
But then came the introduction of the Dodge Aspens and Plymouth Volares. Chrysler workers said the cars had no sex appeal. For whatever reason, the public wasn't buying.
So Dodge Main fell on hard times again, this time permanently.
As often happens in times of economic distress, those hit hardest are those who can least withstand the blow.
Though Hamtramck's population is 10 percent nonwhite (it has a significant Arab population), the workforce at Dodge Main for the past decade has been about 65 percent nonwhite.
"We had a real melting pot at the plant, but that has changed pretty much," Elliott said. "The population at the plant [after recent layoffs] is now about 52 percent white, 48 percent nonwhite because of the seniority thing."
Dodge Main's most recent hires were Arabs, with a majority from North and South Yemen. They were among the first to go in the current difficulties.
"We must have had about 1,800 Arabs. But most of them are gone now," Elliott said.
Elliott sighed and blew cigar smoke from his mouth.
"It's really too bad," he said. "It's really too bad."