Friday, May 30, 2008

Flint Artifacts: Pennant

Please don't give Flint auto dealers any ideas

A Missouri used car dealership has an innovative promotion, offering buyers either a $250 gas card or a $250 check toward the purchase of a gun, according to a story in The New York Times.

So what do most customers choose? Come on, this is America.

Mark Muller, the owner, said everyone “except one guy from Canada and one old guy" picked the gun.

Real estate hotspots...Buffalo?

Great Lakes Guy, an excellent blog that tracks "the ideas and trends moving America's Rust Belt from the Industrial Era to the Digital Age, or not," has a surprising post that shows there are some signs of life for Rust Belt cities after de-industrialization:

Despite the housing crisis, job losses, factory closings, and fear of change, the greater Great Lakes region is the place to buy real estate these days. The Mega Midwest is home to five of the top 10 fastest growing markets in the United States, according to Money Magazine. Here's the list:

1. McAllen, TX
2. Rochester, NY
3. Birmingham, AL
4. Syracuse, NY
5. Buffalo/Niagara, NY
6. New Orleans, LA
7. Scranton, PA
8. Grand Rapids, MI
9. Baton Rouge, LA
10. El
Paso, TX.

Swimming Devil's Lake for $50

This is just depressing. Bryn Mickle of The Flint Journal reports:

"A $50 bet turned tragic Wednesday afternoon when Reginald Johnson of Flint tried to prove he could swim across Flint Park Lake.

"Johnson, 45, was watching a dog fetch a stick from the lake when he bet a group of men on the shore that he could swim across, witnesses said.

"With the attempt being taped by a video camera, Johnson apparently stripped down to his underwear about 4:50 p.m. and jumped into the lake near Stewart and Fleming roads commonly known as "Devil's Lake."

"But onlooker Yahel Collins, 26, said Johnson made it only about halfway across before he began flailing and yelling for help.

"'I told him not to do it,' said Collins."

"The man with the dog threw the stick toward the victim in hope that the dog would chase after it, but Collins said the victim dipped under the water and scared the dog off when he popped up again.

"Another onlooker tried to swim out to Johnson, but Collins said that man made it only a short distance before he had to turn back to shore.

"The victim sank a second time and never surfaced, said Collins.

"'Then he just sank down,' said Catherine Naranjo, a nearby resident who was fishing at the lake and watched the episode unfold.'

"The incident angered some at the scene, including one unidentified man who blamed the bettors for egging the man on.

"'They shouldn't have done (it),' the man shouted. 'You can't swim across Devil's Lake.'"

"The men taping the attempt apparently left the scene before police arrived.

"The Genesee County Sheriff's Department dive team and Flint firefighters searched the lake's murky waters for more than four hours Wednesday. Just as searchers were about to call off the search about 9:50 p.m. Wednesday, a diver found Johnson's body in the middle of the lake.

"A man who identified himself as the victim's brother said the family would decline comment.

"Police said Johnson lived in a neighborhood near the lake on Canniff Street."

ABC 12 video coverage is available here.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Kewpee burgers

Kewpee's Racine, Wisconsin.

The Tiles revealed

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The Tiles, now painted white, is in the center of the map just off River Valley Drive. McLaren Hospital is to the east.

Gerry Godin solves the mystery of The Tiles:

"This was where you went to prove your bravery in the '60s.

"My friends and I were not that stupid; if you fell off while crossing you would either kill yourself or be maimed for life.

This was the main sewer line for the city of Flint running all the way to the waste treatment plant located off Beecher Road. There is now a subdivision located next to the Black pipe, but this was all field in the '60s. I've recently seen a picture of it but can't remember where. We always heard the legend about the kid who crossed it on a bike but that would have been impossible due to the large joints which protruded outward. I walked out about twenty feet on it before turning back, so I guess I was a little ignorant.

"As far as exploring the city sewers, that was easy — just find the outlet and crawl in and follow it until you had enough. I got chewed out for this because a neighbor kid broke out in hives because he had claustrophobia. I even set up a camp in one junction line near Flushing road. When we found this spot it looked like a homeless person (called bums then) had left their dirty magazines behind. The woman who just died in that trailer fire off Pasedena in Flint who was wheelchair bound was one of our group. Her name was Judy VanHouten. We used her "Give A Show Projector" to light our way and also show an occasional slide show.

"The farthest we ever got going up the sewer lines was about a half mile because straddling the flowing water and being bent over was rough even for a kid. In some locations near the Eldorado Vista subdivision, you could actually see into people's basements. Can you imagine looking into you drain in your basement and see someone looking back? Some city friends said there was a larger entrance near the Chevy plant that you could even ride your bike into but I never seen it.

"We used to get there by going west beyond the church across from McLaren hospital but it can now be reached through the subdivision off of Beecher Road."

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Paying the paperboy

With all of Flint's problems, it's good to know the mayor — who happens to be an ex-con — is busy having a 61-year-old "paperboy" unjustly arrested when he doesn't like The Flint Journal's coverage. This time the mayor's goof cost the city $150,000.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Vernor's couture

With a mascot like this, it's amazing Vernor's never supplanted Coke as America's favorite pop.

Flint Portraits: Cass Curran

Cass Curran, a civil engineer for the city over more than four decades and the founder of the Flint Speedskating Club, has died at 76. My thoughts go out to the Curran family.

Here's the
obituary — with an online guestbook — from The Flint Journal:

Delvin "Cass" - Of Flint, age 76, passed peacefully into God's hands Saturday, May 24, 2008. Funeral services will be Friday, May 30, 11:00 a.m. at Holy Redeemer Catholic Church, 1227 E. Bristol Rd., Flint with Father Timothy McDonald officiating. Contributions may be made to the Alzheimer's Association and Powers Catholic Educational Fund. Visitation will be Wednesday 1:00 to 8:00 p.m. and Thursday 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. at Brown Funeral Home, 1480 E. Hill Rd., Grand Blanc, MI. A Rosary Service will be prayed 7:00 p.m. Thursday. Cass was born in Detroit, MI, December 27, 1931. He graduated from All Saints and began working as a civil engineer for the City of Flint for 41 years. He attended Holy Redeemer Catholic Church, was a member of the Flint Optimist Club, Dom Polski Lodge, NRA, Flint Parks and Recreation, Treasurer of the Michigan Speedskating Association, Founder and coach of the Flint Speedskating Club. His memory will be cherished by his survivors; loving companion Mary Ellen Isaac, children; Tamara (David) Hiney, Michele (Mike) Kutchey, Cass Michael (Sheila) Curran, Bethany (Daniel) Meek, Timothy Curran, Shawn Smith, Erin (James) May, Chrysa (Patrick) Cronley, Paishann (Joe) Curtis, Eric (Jeanmarie) Curran, and Cavan Curran. 33 grandchildren, 7 great-grandchildren, siblings; Kaye Joseph Curran, Al (Estela) Perry and Mary Irving; Aunt Christine Newcombe; mother of his children, Paige Curran, and many friends. Preceded in death by parents; Rowland and Leona Perry, nephew, Joseph Rowland Curran. Special thanks to Genesys Hospice Staff.

Drive-by economics

The New York Times tells us how the housing meltdown is "sideswiping" the auto industry and hurting Michigan:

"Auto lenders and banks, closing their wallets, have prevented hundreds of thousands of consumers from obtaining the financing for a car. Home equity loans, which had been used in at least one of every nine deals, when lenders were more generous, are no longer a source of easy money for many prospective buyers. And used-car prices have fallen nearly 6 percent as repossessed cars and gas-guzzling trucks and S.U.V.’s flood auction lots."

Monday, May 26, 2008

The Tiles?

A reader and former winner of The Sacred Carp Chalice has a question:

"Does anyone remember the 'Tiles'? These huge drain pipes you could walk on/in. My memory is fuzzy, but I do remember it scared the shit out of me for some reason. I went once or twice. I think you could walk to them from Mott Park, although it seemed like a long walk."

Anyone have more information on Flint's subterranean pathways? I do remember a big drain pipe you could walk into near the stairs at Kearsley Park. Very frightening.

Melvin Nappier, R.I.P.

Melvin Nappier in 2002. Photo by Jane Hale/The Flint Journal

Melvin Nappier, a rapper, entrepreneur and former write-in candidate for mayor, was murdered on May 15th. Bryn Mickle of The Flint Journal reports:

"Nappier was just a few blocks from his home last Thursday afternoon when he was gunned down.

"Witnesses told police they saw Nappier and another man get into a fistfight on a front stoop of a house on Woodhall Drive before Nappier took off running.

"Nappier made it to a grassy area near Lakeforest and Berger drives where he was shot several times, including in the head."

For a map of Flint homicides, go to the Flint Murder Map.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Flint Murder Map

I'm attempting to track and map each murder throughout the year at Flint Expatriates Community Walk , an online mapping service. There is also a link available in the right-hand column of the blog. Click on the map tabs for more information about each murder.

I have five murders so far, but there are probably more, so feel free to update me with more information. And thanks to the reader who alerted me that my earlier numbers were low.

(The often unfortunate ads included with the pop-up window for each murder are the cost of doing business; the mapping service is only "free" if you include the ads. I don't make any money off them. I wonder if the advertisers realize they're sharing space with homicide victims in Flint.)

CommunityWalk Map - Flint Homicides 2008

Flint Artifacts: 1972 Fisher Body Service Manual

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Village of Wolves Revealed

And now, at long last, actual photos of Flint's Village of Wolves, courtesy of Jar With Most. Sorry, no zombies or dead dogs in these. You'll have to use your imagination. (For the backstory on this intriguing "neighborhood," go here.)

And here's some more insight into what just might be Flint's most mysterious locale:

Smurfs, Inc:
"VOW was like a little slice of "Deliverance" set in depressing late 80s Flint. There really wasn't (isn't?) much for kids to do and if you weren't into drinking, drugging, fighting, or gangbanging, exploration was the next best option. VOW was always good for a an hour or so of amusement on a boring Saturday night, and of course half of the fun was the anticipation of what might happen.

"There were some halfway decent structures back there- a brick ranch, a few decent wood frame houses, and a pole barn. Last time I cruised through it looked like some of the homes had actually been remodelled."

Jim of L-Town:
"During my years as a Flint Journal police reporter I was actually in this neighborhood twice on bodies that were found dumped there.
Never heard of the VOW designation before, but come to think of it, it fits."

Friday, May 23, 2008

Richard's Riviera

It's hard not to notice a mint-condition, 1963 silvery-blue Buick Riviera lounging on the street on a sunny day in San Francisco, especially when it's surrounded by drab, aerodynamic sedans and bulky SUVs. The contrast between one of Flint's finest cars with today's boring automotive offerings is stark.

I happened to have my camera, so I thought I'd take a few pictures. Megan and Richard quickly emerged from their house, no doubt wondering if I was sizing up the Riviera to steal it. (My decidedly less cool 1990 Toyota Camry was stolen from this very street — twice! — when I lived nearby.) But unlike a similar encounter in Flint, violence did not ensue. Megan showed admirably polite interest as I tried to explain why I liked to take pictures of Flint cars — "I have this blog about my hometown and..."

And Richard was happy to give me the car's history. He bought the Riviera about ten years ago from its original owners, who were friends of his grandparents in Sebastopol, California, for $7,000. Richard clearly has an instinct for cool cars in his genes; he explained that his grandmother drove a 350 El Camino. "She told me she loved it when teenagers in sports cars would pull up beside her," he told me. "She'd pretend not to notice them, then give it the gas, and look back and laugh at them."

Here's a little background on the 1963 Riviera via Wikipedia:

"The Riviera was introduced on October 4, 1962 as a 1963 model, with a base price of $4,333, although typical delivered prices with options ran upwards of $5,000. Production was deliberately limited to 40,000 or less to increase demand.

"With the same power as the larger Buicks and less weight, the Riviera had sparkling all-around performance: Motor Trend magazine found it capable of running 0-60 mph in 8 seconds or less, the standing quarter mile in about 16 seconds, and an observed top speed of 115 mph, although 125 mph was feasible with a longer run."

Once Richard was outside inspecting the car, he noticed some tree sap on the hood. That meant he had to wash it. Immediately. At this point, some of the neighborhood kids had gathered, and they recognized Flint craftsmanship when they saw it. This Riviera was clearly a magnet. It was a nice moment. After all Flint has been through, there's some satisfaction in knowing that it's a city that once made something impressive, something that stands out and still draws a crowd.


Photo by John Adkisson/The Flint Journal

Crime has to be going down if these dorks from Powers Catholic could survive a bike trip through Flint wearing these ridiculous unitards.

Disclosure: Although I have never worn a unitard, I did go to Powers.

Flint Artifacts: 1924 Flint Motor Company Stock Certificate

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Sweet, blissful slumber

If you ever wanted to spend eternity near Flint, but were holding out for a really great deal, now's your chance, via ebay:

"Plots location is at Flint Memorial Park Cemetery, located at 9506 N. Dort Highway, Mt.Morris, Michigan. Section # 12, Lot # 155, Entitled "Garden of Eternal Rest". Plots # 5 & 7. My pictures show all 4 views from the plots, the gentlemen in the pictures are pointing to there exact location(there side by side). The park is quite beautiful, as you can see. This Cemetery is the Oldest & Largest one in Michigan. Plots here run from $1500.00 & Up, but I need to sell. Now you have the oppertunity to BUY ONE & GET ONE FREE!!!!! Yes, that means that you can buy both plots for $1500.00."

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Flint Artifacts: Drifter Motel Key

Village of the Wolves

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What the hell?

First, photographer awayfromkeyboard mentioned "a trip to find a fabled cult-driven neighborhood called Village of the Wolves" in Flint.

Next, an anonymous reader added:

"Village of Wolves was a a bizarre agricultural community of sorts on Groveland and West Boulevard Drive. Tucked between junk yards, Eastern European Cemeteries, and a mobile home park its residents did seem a bit zombie like. A very strange place indeed, the farms and graveyards were just a few of the draws. The dirt roads were used for dumping all manner of detritus, dead dogs and the occasional human included. Grave desecration, prostitute sex, makeshift shanty construction, and ditching stolen cars were also popular VOW activities.

"Today VOW is quite a bit different. The roads are paved, a barrier has been erected to prevent through traffic, the flooding problem has been fixed, the makeshift shelters are gone, and a number of the houses have been torn down. Part of the Flint River Bike Trail now courses through the portion of Riverside Park that abuts the neighborhood."

I’ve never heard of this place in Flint. There's nothing about it on the web. I demand more information.


"Wow! Talk about a weird place. I always knew it as VOTW and thought that my friends (known as the Jew Crue) had christened it that, so it was cool that someone else used that title. It was a weird place all right. For starters, it was a horseshoe street but both ends had a sign that said "Dead End." We had many adventures in that place, including propping dead dogs up in various disturbing poses and interacting with the people that lived there (if you could call them people or that living.)

"I always wondered about the lives of the people that lived there and was always amazed that there was so much trash along the road. Maybe the trashmen were afraid to go back there, but we never were. We were simply fascinated, and bored. It was definitely a place that defined Flint for me during the time I was growing up there.

"Actually at the time I knew it it was not a "neighborhood" in the classical sense like Mott Park or East Village. There were a collection of trailers, woods, and cemetery but no solidly built housing. You would of course drive in off of Dort but then park and roam. It was always this very mysterious place, in that no one knew why the things that were there were there (dead dogs included). The people that were there definitely had this "mutant" feel to them. I think that danger came from the mystery and never knowing if the residents would go Dawn of the Dead on you. As Smurfs Inc said, imagination definitely played a part, but there was a reality of a really messed up [place] that was just under the surface.

"If you are confused, all the better because I think that anyone who has ever experienced that area has walked out of there a little confused themselves."

Divided loyalties

Are you a bigger Pistons fan or a Red Wings fan?

On Saturday, Monday and Wednesday you'll have to decide because the first three games of the Stanley Cup finals will be played at the same time as Games 3, 4 and 5 of the NBA's Eastern Conference finals. Further proof the NHL is determined to drive itself out of business.

Flint Artifacts: WTAC Big 600 1967 Playlist

Just click on the playlist for a larger view.

Special thanks to Rich Frost for passing along this Flint Artifact.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Raymond C. Blount, R.I.P.

Dana DeFever of The Flint Journal reports:

"Raymond C. Blount, 47, died Saturday from a gunshot wound.

"Flint police received a call about a shooting and responded at 6:45 a.m. Saturday to 3152 Woodrow. There police found Blount, who was transported to Hurley Medical Center and pronounced dead."

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Saturday, May 17, 2008

Ghost town

The original arches light up Saginaw Street in the early 20th century. Photo courtesy of the Flint Public Library.

Michigan Poetry

A Primer

By Bob Hicok

I remember Michigan fondly as the place I go
to be in Michigan. The right hand of America
waving from maps or the left
pressing into clay a mold to take home
from kindergarten to Mother. I lived in Michigan
forty-three years. The state bird
is a chained factory gate. The state flower
is Lake Superior, which sounds egotistical
though it is merely cold and deep as truth.
A Midwesterner can use the word “truth,”
can sincerely use the word “sincere.”
In truth the Midwest is not mid or west.
When I go back to Michigan I drive through Ohio.
There is off I-75 in Ohio a mosque, so life
goes corn corn corn mosque, I wave at Islam,
which we’re not getting along with
on account of the Towers as I pass.
Then Ohio goes corn corn corn
billboard, goodbye, Islam. You never forget
how to be from Michigan when you’re from Michigan.
It’s like riding a bike of ice and fly fishing.
The Upper Peninsula is a spare state
in case Michigan goes flat. I live now
in Virginia, which has no backup plan
but is named the same as my mother,
I live in my mother again, which is creepy
but so is what the skin under my chin is doing,
suddenly there’s a pouch like marsupials
are needed. The state joy is spring.
“Osiris, we beseech thee, rise and give us baseball”
is how we might sound were we Egyptian in April,
when February hasn’t ended. February
is thirteen months long in Michigan.
We are a people who by February
want to kill the sky for being so gray
and angry at us. “What did we do?”
is the state motto. There’s a day in May
when we’re all tumblers, gymnastics
is everywhere, and daffodils are asked
by young men to be their wives. When a man elopes
with a daffodil, you know where he’s from.
In this way I have given you a primer.
Let us all be from somewhere.
Let us tell each other everything we can.

Reprinted from the May 19 edition of The New Yorker.

Five and dime

The old O'Connor Drug Store/Ben Franklin Story/Goodwill location on Franklin Avenue in 2005

Some Flint memories from Rich Frost, Northern High School '72, now living in Avoca, Michigan:

I have some great memories of living on the east side in the '60s and '70s. The Franklin and Utah Street area where I lived was definitely working class, and there was a sense of community that you don't find in urban areas these days. You could sleep with the doors unlocked and your neighbors looked out for you. The neighbor across the street, for example, would mow our lawn on hot summer afternoons, and my mom would bake an extra cake or a pie for our neighbors to show her appreciation for all their help.

One of the great things about living on the east side was going to O'Connor's Drug Store and the Ben Franklin. I can close my eyes and still see the TV tube testing machine next to two pay phones to the right of the door as you walked in the front entrance of the drug store. (Yup, TVs once had tubes
and you needed a place to test the ones that went bad; O'Connor's was the place to go to test them.) If I walked through the front door and turned left, there was the counter that had the peanuts and cashews that they kept warm under a light bulb. I can't tell you how many times I purchased a ten cent bag of cashews from the O'Connor Drug store, usually on the same day that I purchased the next week's TV Guide at a bargain at just 12 cents an issue. I was surprised by an announcement one week that they were forced to do something that they didn't want to do — raise the price to a whopping 15 cents. Imagine a magazine feeling bad about having to tell their customers that they are raising the price of their magazine by three cents...that wouldn't happen today, would it?

If you had to pay your Michigan Bell telephone bill or your Consumer's Power bill, all you had to do was walk to the back of the store and the people at O'Connor's were happy to serve you. If you had to wait in line, you could always check out their great selection of paperback books and magazines that was near the bill-paying window.

Now, if you couldn't find what you were looking for at O'Connor's, there was always the Ben Franklin store next door. Naturally, the bins of candy were the first stop for any kid — chocolate covered peanuts and raisins, orange jells, those pink spearmint discs, jawbreakers, red and black licorice. Everything had to be weighed and priced before you took it to the counter to get rung up. Imagine being a kid and going to the Ben Franklin store and coming home with a twenty-five cent bag of chocolate covered peanuts. Those were the days.

And if it wasn't candy you were after, there was that great section in the back with toys! One side was filled with the "guy stuff" like balls and model airplane and car kits, and the other side had all of the "girl stuff" like dolls, doll accessories and toy dishes.

Another unique thing about Ben Franklin was that it was the only place where they sold the hits of the day by no-name, sound-alike artists that nobody ever heard from. The company was called "Hit Records" and they sold 45 rpm's with a black label. Each record was a two-sided hit and the sound-alike artists did the best job that they could to sound like the original. At just 39 cents a record, it was a bargain.

Little Missouri

A 1938-40 photograph of 1209 Parkwood in Flint's "Little Missouri" neighborhood by Edwin Locke of the U.S. Film Service. Courtesy of The Making of Modern Michigan.

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Flint Artifacts: Laser Hits

Special thanks to Kathryn (Hendrickson) Murchie for this Flint Artifact

Friday, May 16, 2008

Johnny Tough at the Capitol

The first, last and only time I ever saw a movie at the Capitol Theater was sometime in the mid-seventies when my mom and I saw
Johnny Tough! together. The tagline: "He's bad...he's black...he's beautiful...He'll steal your heart!" It was summer; downtown was empty; and there were only a handful of people in attendance. I remember the theater manager actually standing in the lobby wringing his hands and sweating. He knew he'd be out of a job soon.

Johnny Tough! was a wildly ambitious low-budget attempt to make a blaxploitation version Francois Truffaut’s masterpiece The 400 Blows. It didn't quite work, but you have to admire first-time director Horace Jackson's lofty aspirations.

My mom's attempt to help me experience the Capitol of her youth, where she often spent entire Saturdays and watched hundreds of films, was probably even more ambitious...and impossible to achieve.

Film stills courtesy of Moon in the Gutter, a very addictive film blog.

The trials of being rich

Think you've got it tough in Flint? Maybe your job disappeared and your neighborhood's turned into a crime incubator. And the Tigers, despite that big payroll, are in last place. Or perhaps you just miss those carefree days when you danced to the Thompson Twins at the Copa (or, perhaps, Glen Miller at the IMA). Well, things could be worse. My friend Novella Carpenter recently profiled a guy in sunny California who's got some real problems of his own. But when you're done reading, ask yourself what you'd do if you were in his shoes:

"In December of last year, a man we'll call Joel found himself skidding through a rough patch in life. He and his wife were remodeling their lovely Craftsman-style home in a tony neighborhood in Oakland when he suddenly started to feel guilty. Again. Guilty about having too much money. As a member of a wealthy family, it's something he has struggled with all of his 42 years.

"Joel told me about his troubles on the first day of spring while we sat in his backyard. A passionfruit vine snaked up the fence and his tow-headed son monitored the flames in the barbecue pit. A wooden play structure lurked in the corner, mostly forgotten now that the kids were older.

"'I started to ask myself: Aren't you getting a little too comfortable?' Joel narrowed his blue eyes. 'Do we really need to do this work on this house?' he said, gesturing at the backside of their home. 'I would spit out — in front of the kids — I hate this life!' Joel said, grimacing at the memory.

"'It was not good,' said his wife, a pretty, small-boned woman with sandy blond hair.

"He had struggled with his identity often over the years, but things had been fine for awhile. Why the latest outbreak of guilt? Joel thinks it might be linked to a mid-life crisis but he can't be sure. All he knows is he found himself struggling to find his 'authentic self.'

"Although many of us would be overjoyed to have his problem — too much money — Joel battles with complicated feelings about it. 'None of my material needs went unmet, and I've carried a lot of anxiety and dread around that,' he explained.

Care to read more about Joel's lamentable plight?

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Flint assemblage

A Flint photo collage from awayfromkeyboard:

"Made up of over 300 photos from Flint, Michigan while on a trip to find a fabled cult-driven neighborhood called the Village of the Wolves.

"I think the window in the tree in front of the junkyard house is my favorite part, as it was my first photoshop tree. The guardrail to the left of that was largely cloned and masked, as well as the stairs and waterfront directly underneath.

"Masking the junkyard parts in front of the house and stitching the initial panoram that appears in the center were probably the most time-consuming, and ate up the first day.

"One item isn't from flint: the small boat on the left is from a diorama in the ghost town of Fayette, Michigan.

"And, because you're going to do it anyway..."

Funraising update

I'd really like to thank the half-dozen readers who have generously donated or subscribed or whatever you want to call it to Flint Expatriates. Once again, I was a little shocked that anyone did it, and I certainly appreciate it.

Flint Artifacts: Live 105 Rock Card

Middle-class dreams

Even the youngsters were livin' large when the factories were booming in the fifties.

Whose side are you on?

So if someone asked you where you lived in Flint, what would you say?

There's been a great discussion in the comment section about Flint's geographical boundaries and neighborhood designations, which often have little to do with actual geography. While the Flint River does play a role, especially with older Flintoids, race, class and personal preference are just as important:

smurfs inc: I always considered everything north of the river and west of GT from DTM, Mott Park, New Northern, Longfellow, and up to Civic Park to be the west side too. In fact, a few businesses around Civic Park had "west side" in the name; West Side Upholstery for one. Where the north side began and the west side ended was a bit hazy. Pasadena Ave? McClellan? Stewart?

I still argue with a few Corunna Rd./Zimmerman west side pals. They claimed the west side stopped at the river and everything north of the golf course was thus "north side." My neck of the woods near Longfellow was always considered "west" by people in the neighborhood, but was "north" to Corunna/Miller Roaders. Hmmm.

Recently I was watching WJRT and they referred to the intersection of Chevrolet and Flushing as the "north side." WTF?!? I know it is north of the river, but that was never a defining factor to me. Similarly, I know some people consider the Johnson/Carpenter Rd. Elementary area east side while others say it is on the north side. It is interesting to note what peoples perception of the city is. Race seems to be a major factor in "north" and "east" designations. Geography — specifically the river — plays a role too. The cardinal directions? Not so much.

Slick: Well, in growing up at Corunna and Ballenger we considered the north side to start at about Welch and Ballenger...after all the "new" Northern was just down the street.

My folks always referred to it as the north end, which usually meant from Pasadena north. The north end had a more intense, rough feel, while the south end sounded cheesy in comparison to south side.

But today you have the Norf' Side which really starts at about Flushing and Ballenger.

Yes, I suppose you could argue that race has something to do with it, but there seems to be more African-Americans living on the east side and west side than say in the 70's. Some of the older people used the river as some sort of boundary reference. Even Mayor Woodrow Stanley used the river as a racial boundary reference for the citizens of Flint.

While the east side still seems to encompass the area it always did, and the west and south side are still about the same. So, in the case of the north side. — after talking and writing myself through this — regrettably I think race has some bearing, and I really wish that it didn't. But perception is often reality.

: I grew up around Fleming/Stewart and was always told that that was the northwest side. For us, the north side seemed to be the area between Detroit St. (as it was called then) and Saginaw St. on up toward the Mt. Morris line. I always thought of the area between Dupont & Saginaw St. as the north and not northwest side, too. So maybe everything north of the river is north with divisions within that for the northeast and northwest sides. The old Fair Store was clearly the northwest side, for example. Now I'm starting to confuse myself.

Anyway, I used to go over to the west side and my friends and I would go into Glenwood Cemetery, crawl through a hole in the fence and sit on the steps leading down into the river, drink our assorted beverages and wave at the train engineer as the train went through. There was also a clear perception among my west side friends that I was from another part of town, one that clearly had a reputation for being unsafe. Even in the early '80s they kept asking why my family hadn't moved yet. I, in turn, always felt a bit like a "foreigner" in their "territory." And I can assure you that at least some of those westsiders were far more into trouble-making then anyone on my street!

geewhy: The only side of town I ever referred to was the east side, and I considered Angelo's the epicenter. Then I'd use streets — "He lives off East Court" — or landmarks — "I live across from Bassett Park" or "I live near Haskell Community Center." For me, the north end was up by Powers High School, but I know my mom has a very different location for it.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

City of Flint carferry

Just like Flint jobs, Flint boats eventually leave and head for the South.

The City of Flint (see the majestic, if a little wide bottomed, ferry in the photo above) made her last trip out of Ludington at 2:30 a.m. on December 24, 1969, pulled by 2 tugs. She was built in 1929 in Manitowoc, WI by the Manitowoc Ship Building Corporation at a cost of $1,250,00 and had 40 staterooms and 5 parlors. She was powered by two steam turbines driving two General Electric 2,300 volt, 118 r.p.m. motors for a total h.p. of 7,200.

She was sold to Norfolk and Western Railway Company to be converted into a river ferry barge and renamed Roanoke. (See ugly, rusted-out river barge in the photo below.)

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Size does matter

Perhaps GM should bring this ad back to boost sales...

Monday, May 12, 2008

River's Edge

Lower the water level of the Flint River a few feet and there's no telling what you might find.

The gangs of Flint

There's no doubt you'd be terrified if you saw this gang of toughs coming for you on the mean streets of Flint in 1972.

From left to Right: Gordie Young, offering the same insolent look that caused him so much trouble with the nuns; Marcus Mahan, a Flint cop, last I heard; Charlotte "Becky" Mason, looking very stylish; and Todd, whose last name I can't remember, making the striped-shirt work for him. My dog, Hubie, is in front, most likely scanning the horizon for female dogs. All of us, excluding Hubie, attended Daniel O'Sullivan/St. Mike's at the time.

We're in the well-manicured backyard of my grandparent's house on Illinois Avenue, which is a reminder of how meticulous parts of Flint used to be. You can see a corner of Homedale Elementary in the background.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Field of weeds

Photo courtesy of Fabrizio Costantini for The New York Times

Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick may have perjured himself to hide an affair, but his biggest crime just might be what's happened to Tiger Stadium on his watch. Joe Lapointe of The New York Times reports:

"The stadium sits empty. Late last year, the city auctioned mementos like grandstand seats, a dugout urinal, Al Kaline’s locker and the fence in front of the right-center-field light tower, hit by a Reggie Jackson home run in the 1971 All-Star Game. Last month, the city tentatively awarded a partial demolition contract for the stadium, which opened in 1912 as Navin Field.

"An opposition group, the Old Tiger Stadium Conservancy, has until June 1 to raise $369,000 to try to save part of Tiger Stadium, even temporarily. The group includes Ernie Harwell, the retired Tigers radio broadcaster.

"If that goal is reached, Senator Carl Levin, a Michigan Democrat, said he would seek greater financing in the 2009 federal budget to preserve the oldest part of the structure around the infield and redevelop the playing field for amateur teams.

"'The field is sort of sacred ground,' Levin said in a telephone interview."

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Camo golf cart!

Not a deer hunter? So what...this little baby would help you save money on gas and keep a low profile in Flint's less desirable neighborhoods. Or you could use it to sneak in 18 holes at the members-only Flint Golf Club. They'd never even know you're there.

Firearms, dead deers, and camo jumpsuit not included.

Contact Plowman's Carts on Western Road in Flint to make the dream real.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Gone to the dogs

At least Rottweilers can enjoy the former site of Buick City. Carina, a Flint resident and blogger who writes Doggie musing and animalosities describes a dog walk at the most profound symbol of Flint's misfortune:

"Now there's weeds growing up between old bricks and concrete slab and 1960s industrial linoleum flooring. I trespass there with the dogs sometimes...these photos were from a grey early morning walk a few weeks ago.

"A very old part of the plant still stands - must date to the 1930s. Huge blackened brick buildings. I
so want to go explore...but I have seen footprints in the snow leading over there. So, I think there is probably crack dealing and prostitution and squatting and all manner of people I probably don't want to meet while I'm by myself."