Friday, May 9, 2008

Civic Park and a ball of string

Please excuse my temporary obsession with the Civic Park neighborhood where I grew up, but reader GH has provided an excellent rundown of the small strip of stores on Dayton Place between Delmar Street and Forest Hill Avenue, just across the street from Civic Park School and east of Comers/Double D Market. This is where my
family bought countless loaves of Balkan bread, and I got my regular supply of Wacky Packages.

I also remember standing on the corner waiting for the bus one morning with my mom when a guy with long hair and a poncho staggered up to us and asked, "Excuse me, which way is north?" (Always best to start with the basics after a night of heavy drinking.) We both pointed toward Canada; my mom gave him two dollars; and he weaved away in the general direction of the Mackinaw Bridge.

Here is GH's recollection:

"As far as the stores go, there was a constant change of guard in that strip. However, going back to the start of my memory, on the east end, it was Comers Market (before they built the new place), then that spot turned into a storage warehouse for foam cushions and was also subdivided to create the Ski Haus to the west. The foam place died out and the Laundromat moved in. West of the Ski Haus was the barber shop, next was Rickman's drug store, still going west it was Max's Hardware sold to become Lewis Hardware, further west was Stiltz Realty, who took over after the gift shop closed, who took over from Mrs. Friend's small diner, after it closed.

"Going west from Stiltz, it was the Dry Cleaners and finally the Philips gas station on the end facing west. The bakery took over from the dry cleaners when they closed. The guy who ran the dry cleaners was a tough character. Three of my older brothers worked for him on & off.

"In thinking this over, I worked for every business listed above at one time or other with the exception of Stiltz Realty and the dry cleaners. The fellow at the gas station was very large and also created a very large ball of string. The potato chip boxes came tied with string. Over many years he patiently added this string to his ball. I believe it was at least 30" in diameter when his predecessor in the gas station finally set it to the curb. The last time I saw that ball of string, it was rolling down Delmar St in the middle of the night, headed for the small ball diamond at Haskell (pushed by me and a couple of my buddies)."


  1. Okay, so what was the name of the name of the candy store that also sold ice cream shakes?

    Does anyone recall the party store about one block N/E of Dayton and Brownell? It was a real whole in the wall. They had multiple dobermans in the back to keep the riff-raff out. I can't believe I had the guts to go in there as a little girl. I don't think I would have the courage to go now.

    Kathy Wallace
    2310 Bassett

  2. I vaguely remember this place. Was it sort of nestled in with all the houses? For some reason I never ventured in that direction, although we used to ride our bikes to the Fair store and that mall on Clio Road for a real adventure.

  3. The party store on Dartmouth and Kellar? It was still open 10 years ago and if I recall correctly had the best/worst mural of Malcolm X, MLK, and Mike Tyson on the Seneca side!?!
    Classic party store art only topped by the black Bart Simpson prolaiming "We Accept Food Stamps Dude" above the door of the old Lapeer Rd. Market.

    I've always been a fan of side street party stores. Cain's Party Store on Ohio, Avenue A Market, Brown Street Market, the aforementioned Dartmouth Market, the crazy old lawn care/beer store on Cornelia, and a particularly seedy one on York and North were personal favorites.

    At one time during the mid 90s the intersection of Chevrolet and Welch featured 3 party stores. Mounir's Drive-Thru and TWO in the Baskin-Robbins plaza across the street... man I loved thise store fronts. Bill's Shoe Shop on Stockdale was still open into the late 90s methinks.

    Does anybody remember the coney island in the plaza on the south side of Welch? RC Sports opened an outlet there as well.

  4. First of all, how does one put Mike Tyson in the same company as Malcolm X and MLK?

    Okay,my mistake...the store was 1 block north west of the Brownell/Dayton corner.
    Yes, it was sort of strangely located in a residential area. I wonder if Matt Groening approved the rights to use Bart in such a message.

    It wasn't until I moved to Chicago that I learned that the "party store" was not ubiquitous to every city (another correlation to Flint's downfall could easily be tied to their existence). My husband (from Oak Park, a dry village) is fascinated by the concept. When I told him about the drive through liquor store on Clio road (you know, the big yellow A-frame), he was blown that's a party store.

    Kathy Wallace

  5. Kathy -- tell your hubby that Oak Park has joined the ranks of civilized towns like Flint where you can get a gallon milk and beer at the same place. I moved to Oak Park from Flint 20 years ago, and was appalled at the lack of alcohol availability. Now, beer and wine are available in grocery stores. But the concept of a party store isn't likely to catch on. People here don't "party." They work and then anesthetize themselves.

  6. There has also been a party store on the NE corner of Fleming & Pasadena for years, across from what was a check-cashing & copy "center" on the NW corner there, next to which there was a Zenith shop on Pasadena. Even in the 70's the party shops there seemed fairly off limits to us. We went to Dave's Market and Kilbourn's Drugstore on the corner of Fleming and Caniff instead. Incidentally, there was a white house on the corner across from Dave's market that was reportedly a speakeasy during Prohibition.

  7. I was also completely unaware that the concept of "party store" was so unusual until I drove my Barcelona-born fiance to one. He thought it would be a place for wrapping paper and bows and that it would be filled with balloons and confetti. This particular one was in the Lapeer area and sold fishing tackle, as well, which led to further confusion. Pau's rather thick accent seemed to throw the friendly clerk, who then proceeded to up the vocal volume and talk more slowly while exaggerating the pointing just a bit, all in order to ensure we understood his directions :)

  8. Hiya. I still live in the Civic Park area, but closer to Northern High on Dayton Street. The neighborhood is getting pretty damned sad, lots of boarded up houses. There's a group of kids in the neighborhood that have been a severe annoyance busting out windows all around the area with thrown rocks. Gunshots at night are getting closer and closer. What a drag...this used to be a really lovely place to live, and now I really just want to get out.

  9. Albadore, at last, a current resident in Civic Park. Do you mind if I put you to work? I'd love to hear a more detailed account of what the neighborhood is like now, if you have time. I left in 1987, so I'm obviously a little out of the loop. We got robbed a few times before I left, but you could still play tennis in Bassett Park, walk around at night, and generally feel relatively safe. I used to ride bikes with friends in the woods near the park, and even ride our bikes up to the fair store on Clio Road, although you could run into some hassles with kids from other neighborhoods on that journey.

    So what's it like now. Would you walk around at night alone? Is Bassett Park safe? It looks like Double D has been torn down completely. Do kids still swim at Haskell Pool?

  10. Its gotten much worse. The park is probably OK in the daytime, but I wouldn't go walking there at night. I wouldn't feel entirely safe anywhere in the neighborhood after dark, to tell the truth. Some guy got beaten up by a gang of kids a couple of years ago, right across from my house. Its sad to see a neighborhood that used to be so nice go downhill. I've been broken into a couple of times, and have had to replace several windows due to the vandalism. I'm going to have to move, my old jangly nerves can't take it.

  11. Albadore, it sounds like a tough situation. Moving is never easy. If you feel like it, I'd love to hear your history in the neighborhood. How long have you been there?

  12. Rickman's was the drug store with the soda fountain, right?

    If so, I'd stop there almost every day on my walk from the old Northern to my house on Mallery Street. (Thinking about it now, that was quite the walk!)

    Anyway, my drink of choice was a vanilla phosphate. Yum! They made the best! I do believe her name was Linda...or was it Karen? No, by golly, it was Denise! Denise Fotenakes. And she knew how to make 'em--heavy on the vanilla!

    I hate to hear about what's happened to the neighborhood.

    Hey, Gordie, you probably biked the path I wore alongside Clio road in the 60s with my green and white Schwinn Tiger. I made numerous excursions to the Fair Store and parts north, too! As a matter of fact, I've still got that classic ride out in the garage--complete with the orange Flint Police bicycle license #17149.

    And, I chuckle--you're right--you did have to watch out for the locals in that part of town--kinda' like this boy from Flint living here in the Heart of Georgia. :^)

    Here's a phosphate recipe for y'all--I mean, you guys!

  13. Double D burned down a few years ago. It was harrowing to watch. Sad that there's nothing there anymore.

  14. I bumped into this blog today while searching for some Flint related stuff.

    Lotz of memories.. the ball of string at the Phillips station and Rickmans soda fountain. I remember Denise well.... as well as the cool 55 or 56 Thunderbird that Stiltz's son had.

    Who can forget eating those infra red sandwiches for lunch at Rickmans?

    I left in 1970, visited once in '75 and again during Winter 2008. I called Brownell on my cell phone for laughs and he told me to get the hell out of there... When I drove around my old paper route, I understood why. Many beautiful homes I remembered turned to shambles or gutted. I was depressed for about 3 days... stayed at the Marriot near Grand Blanc.

    I never got a chance to see if the old Kewpee's on Harrison or Saginaw Street was still there...

    Ron Sicotte

  15. I also grew up in the Civic park area from 1952 till 1970 when I went into the Marine Corps and finnaly to Atlanta area. It was a wonderful place to grow up. There was always something to do. If there wasn't you would go to the Haskell ball field and within a few min there were enough to have a ballgame. I will never forget Delmar st or that place. There will never be another place like that.

    Stephen E Brown
    2321 Delmar

  16. Stephen, was your father named Gordon? I seem to remember him on delmar.

  17. The Civic Park Library was where I got my first library card. I remember Miss Fran the librarian telling me I could only check out as many books as I could carry! That started a love affair with books that has never faded. I heard they closed that branch awhile ago and it made me a little sad.

  18. Valerie, I spent a lot of time in that library back in the days when I had time to read a book every day or two.

  19. Are you the Valerie from Parkfront St., Junior St. Cecelia, and G. Stuart Hodge's History of Art Class in 1974? If so, Hi.

  20. Does anyone remeber the East Town Bakery it was also called the East side bakery. They had the best banana cake and the frosting was the best! I was hoping to find out who owned this great place that closed over 20 years ago. I would love to have the recipe. The old KewPees on Saginaw St is now Halo Burger! I live on the West coast now and you cannot find an olive burger, coney island, or a party store anywhere. Those are some of the great things I still love about Flint!

  21. I just spent some time driving around the areas. No you can't swim at any of the parks. No I wouldn't walk around any of the areas in Flint proper after dark, even some of the so-called nicer neighborhoods. I wanted to see if there was any area where there wasn't at least one boarded up home. In the city, I never found one. Parts of Civic Park have a lot of them. It is not as bad as Saginaw St however, which is almost all torn down, businesses and houses. Just east of Civic Park closer to Dupont and Detroit, it looks more like farm country, one house or no house to a block. Driving through Flint is depressing.


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