Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Merlin's Retreat


When I was an altar boy at St. Mike's, my mom and I used to eat at Merlin's Retreat, an unexpectedly vegetarian restaurant at 5th and what is now MLK. I remember the "Happy Tuna Sandwich...happy because it's still in the sea!" No idea what was in the Happy Tuna. When I was older, I used to run into the couple that owned Merlin's at the Copa. The last time I ate there was with Sari Failer after having my wisdom tooth pulled by Dr. Sam Sorscher on Davison Road near Angelos. (My Grandma McFarlane was supposedly his first patient, and he was lovable but tough; no painkiller for fillings unless you asked.)

I hadn't thought about Merlin's in years until I saw these photos by Jar With Most. I have a lot of happy memories of this neighborhood. There used to be a candy store nearby called Sweet Marie's that the St. Mike's kids would run to before they caught the bus home. I bought Peanuts books at the nearby Readmore bookstore.

It wasn't the greatest neighborhood then, but seeing these photos shows me it must be a lot worse now. Even the telephone poles look like they're struggling to stay upright.

UPDATE: Aaron Stengel offers up more info on Merlin's Retreat. "It was a popular hangout for Flint music scenesters during 1981-1983. Many shows were held about a block away at 909 Detroit St. (MLK). The Touch Boutique (also about a block away) was a legendary head shop in the early/mid 1970s. It eventually became a home to members of Jesus Christ and the Superstars and Pincusion in the late 1980s."


10 comments:

  1. God almighty, you're posting stuff here I haven't thought of in years. The MLK/Detroit Street area is a shambles now plus it has been common knowledge St. Michael's is losing more parishoners to the suburban parishes. And as to old Doctor Sorscher, so help me, he pulled a tooth of mine with no painkillers either. His office was on the north side of Davison Rd., between Maplewood and Arlington Streets. Keep up the good work. This blog is worth reading...

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  2. Thanks for the comment. I still remember having a conversation in 8th grade with a kid about going to the dentist and getting fillings and he mentioned a strange and mysterious thing called novacaine. He explained to me what it was and I was astonished. A few other kids gathered around as I told them I'd had eight cavities filled with no painkiller. (I liked sweets.) Luckily, he did shoot me up to take out the wisdom tooth.

    Did he give you those little white ceramic animals to paint when you were done?

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  3. I can't remember any ceramic animals. All I remember is from that trip to Doc Sorscher was a dingy green office with venetian blinds and the dust-speckled sunlight showing through them. I can still remember looking around that room while in the dentist's chair at the cabinet with the dental instruments it held for so many other "victims"... Scared the hell out of me, and hurt so much when he pulled that tooth that my parents never took me back for a return visit.
    More eastside memories for sure.
    Fond ones? I doubt it...

    Thank you.

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  4. well heck. don't things look nice 'round here, all aligned and easy to navigate. I think i'll go look at some older posts with the link at the bottom.


    good on ya! looks spiffy.

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  5. Merlin's Retreat was a popular hangout for Flint music scenesters during 1981-1983. Many shows were held about a block away at 909 Detroit St (MLK). The Touch Boutique (also about a block away) was a legendary head shop in the early/mid 1970s. It eventually became a home to members of Jesus Christ and the Superstars and Pincusion in the late 1980s.

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  6. I remember Dr.Sorscher and his ceramic animals. His office always smelled like cloves. We used to go to a Dr. Kaplan, but he hurt us too much. Dr. Sorscher was a step up, believe it or not.

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  7. The Flint dentist (actually, orthodontist) that I remember as being perhaps a sadist is one whose downtown office moved out near the Genesee Valley in the late 80s. I didn't come to him until pretty late (age 15, maybe?). He put a spreader into my mouth that had to be cranked each night. The pain was incredible. He would smile when he cranked it. Ugh.

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  8. GY - I think this house is in a video I have (in the background). Detroit street used to be a beautiful tree-lined residential street before it turned business district in 1928. If I can convert and edit some of it, I'll let you know. Might take awhile though....

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  9. I loved Dr Sorcher -- I was terrified of needles, so my mom sent me to him for my first filling. I remember that he always wore bow ties and talked about being in the Peace Corps.

    As for the Touch Boutique, I remember hanging out there in 1988 or so, when the Jesus Christ Superstar guys lived there. They used to tell me that the house was a spot for bootlegging during prohibition.

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  10. I went to this restaurant several times! LOVEd their salad with grated up beets, summer squash, ect on top and the best dressing! Down about a block towards downtown on the same side of the road was a yoga studio that was amazing! This cool guy ran it! I went there in the early 80's and LOVEd it! Then we left Flint when the shops closed when I went back 'home' the place was a hell hole!

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