Tuesday, May 6, 2008

The Sports Bar

Flint expatriate Bill Dakota remembers the late, great Sports Bar on his wikizine called Living in Flint:

"When I was old enough, I used to bar hop. There were plenty of bars in Flint, something for everybody. I liked the Sports Bar the best. It was located in Brush Alley, near the Capitol theater. It was a very clean cocktail lounge, that featured entertainment in the backroom. It was relatively small and always crowded. It was owned by Bob Kerner (now deceased) and his bartender was Red Dickerson. Red was always showing off gadgets to the customers. His wife, Dorothy, was a dance instructor and when the twist craze started she taught us how to do it. Both her and Red are now deceased. I miss them both. I was in touch with Dorothy and spoke with her a week or so before she passed away. She was still friendly after all of these years. I miss her, even though the years and miles had separated us.

"Many young male students from the General Motors Institute also liked the bar and even though many were still under twenty one, they were allowed to be served. I think this was some sort of agreement with General Motors through the city officials. General Motors could do whatever they wanted to do...including moving away."


  1. Later became the Sports Coupe. Yes? Moved to N. Dort Hwy?

    What about other downtown bars of yore? Rusty Nail, Hats, Billys, Carriage Town Inn, Hot Rock/Metropolis, Copa, uhhh that strip club where Mega is, and the legendary Reese Jones Bar.

  2. I never went there, but I drove by a bar called Augie's Garden Glow near Buick City on my way to school every day. Always thought that was a great name.

    My older brother used to hang at the King's Armor, I think near Ballenger and Flushing.

    Now I need some more info on the Reese Jones Bar.

  3. Reese Jones (on Water St. I think) was described to me as the worst dive bar in Flint by one person, while another said it was a 1950/60s version of The Torch- a mixed crowd: artistes, people of different races, different sexual orientations, beatniks, druggies, hopheads, freaks, writers...

  4. Howzabout the bar on the corner of Pasadena and Lawndale? Was it The Wayside? Civic Park Lounge on Dupont. Leo's Red Ribbon on Fenton Rd. Al and Donna's on Lewis St. (Black Label on tap!) Aquarius Lounge on Davison. Jeez, too many to mention.

    Say, just where was El Matador anyway?

  5. Civic Park Lounge! And wasn't there a bar in the little shopping strip where Balkan Bakery still resides on Dayton a long time ago? It would have been next to Ski Haus or Ray Stiltz reality.

    Can you imagine how long ago a ski shop could survive in Flint. God, I feel old.

  6. Bill Dakota's blog is fascinating. A "secret history" of Flint you'll never read about in the Urinal. Just what is the story behind Poodle's Bar anyway? Inquiring minds must know. Check it out Flintoids.

  7. The El Mat was downtown, but I don't remember exactly where. I don't think I could drive yet when I went there. There were a lot of UMF theater dept. kids there, and great music.

    Being from the East side, I remember many nights eating pickled bologna and drinking bad pitcher beer at Poor Jakes on Dort Hwy. Not far from the former Pumpernicks (best bagels ever),The Blossom Shop, Martireli's, and Ye Olde Custard Shoppe. Those are all long gone. Although Poor Jake's might still be there. I'm not sure.

  8. HEELLLOOOO!!!???? What about EMBERS on South Dort? How could that cultural mecca be left off the list?

  9. Yes, the bar on the corner of Pasadena and Lawndale was definitely the Wayside. My dad told me that once on leave from the Air Force he went there with his dad and his brother, who was also just back from Germany. This was right after WWII. They were still in uniform and the bar insisted on giving them free drinks. Anyone know what the Ambassador was before it became the Ambassador? It's still over on Chevrolet at Flushing Rd.

  10. It seems that there are a lot of people from the North side rekindling memories of watering holes of old.
    Being a West-Sider I remember the likes of the Whisper, West Side, and Vechels.
    Not to mention the hot-spots of the late 70s and early 80s ...as someone mentioned Embers, The Light, Lamplighter, Interlude ( where i paid the electric bill on many occassions)....and who could forget the Million Dollar MIKATM..25 for 1 mixed drinks....but I have to admit my first "bar" experience was at the Tender Trap at a somewhat very young age...which we won't go into. It was hard to be thirsty in Flint.

  11. You're right, slick, there was definitely no shortage of watering holes in Flint. I used to know some people over on the West Side and remember some of the places you mention - but what about Vechels? Where was that?

  12. Vechels was on Court St. by the tracks near Glenwood Cemetery. Anybody ever patronize the Happy Hour down in “the hole”?

    Interesting that Slick considers Civic Park the north side. 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 eastside 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.

    Having said all of that I think the best thing about this blog, besides Gordon’s excellent daily deluge of posts, is that fact that most of the comments are from native Flintoids who remember the city AFTER the much ballyhooed glory days of the 1950/60s. Most of the Flint discussions elsewhere on the worldwide intranet are dominated by suburbanites, oldsters who reminisce about sock hops and drive-ins, new urbanists who envision a fantasy of "Flint as Ann Arbor", and the ever-present negative nancies. This is a great blog not only because it is Flint-centric but because the "contributors" have a great knowledge of local minutiae that only natives could possibly have. I’ve learned a lot in just a few months, and since I discovered Flint Expats my TV vegging has been limited to the NHL playoffs. That is a big improvement.

  13. I remember the 25-1 deal from the radio. How did they make that work financially. It's a dangerous concept in a place like Flint. I can imagine quite a few people taking them up on the offer.

    My guess is really watered-down well drinks and the belief that most people will only drink 2-5 of them, with a few all-stars who polish off 10-15.

  14. Blueskyjen: Hey, wasn't it always referred to as The Embers? That gives it a touch of class.

    And I'm shocked that the Ambassador was something else first. It seemed like it had been there forever. It was near Rubes, right? Near St. John Vianney.

  15. 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 Pasedena north...North End had a more intense rough feel...while the South End sounded cheesey 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 blacks or 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...i think.....and the West and South side are still about the same. So, in the case of the North Side.... after talking and writing mysself through this....regrettably I think race has some bearing, and I really wish that it didn't....but perception is often reality.

  16. The Embers was a classy joint. I remember it well. How about Good Times on Clio Rd.? Ben Hamper had a field day making fun of that place, saying that it was always full of losers and a fight broke out every night. Not totally inaccurate. I always thought it was funny for someone from Flint to tell me I'm a loser. I suppose I am. That's what I grew up with.

  17. Now I remember where Vechels was, thanks slick. There was some other total dive bar at the top of Chevrolet at the corner of Glenwood, too. Never dared enter it but I drove by it all the time.

    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)& 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 80's 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!!

  18. I'm a good friend of Bill Dakota. We go back to the 9th grade at Emerson jr. high School. Emerson was located near north saginaw, right behind the old northern high school. I grew up in the south end went to Mckinley elementary and jr. high school. My parents and I moved to the north end and lived in a very nice 3 bedroom apt. on north saginaw st. over the rainbow bar, across the st. from the gracelawn cemetery. that is where I met Bill Dakota..known then as Bill Kern.I beged my parents to move back to the south end so I could go TO Flint Central High School. We moved into a average house that was moved to Linsey blvd. Which was where the regele funeral home was build, on South Saginaw St. I got to go to Central where most of my friends were.
    Bill Dakota and I kept in touch, even when he moved to California. That is where he started his newspaper called the Hollywood Star. He mailed me the first issue.
    I went to most of the theaters all over Flint. The State,Strand,Garden,Rialto.Capital,Palace and the Regent theaters just downtown. The Michigan,Burton and the Lincoln on the south end.The Della Theater on welch blvd. the Roxy theater on the east side. The Richard theater near the old Buick. I was the only black theater in Flint. The Dixy and the Northerd theater on north Saginaw.
    If anyone can add a few theaters that I missed.

  19. Anonymous...You sound like you've been to more movies than my mom. She loved the Roxie. And I used to get my hair cut at Johnny's nearby, but the Roxie was only a memory by then.

  20. Anonymous: It was the Nortown Theater on North Saginaw Street. Yes, I remember the Dixie Theater too. Old-timer (G.B.) you forgot the Flint "Art" theater on Saginaw Street, and the Star and Gem theaters.
    I thank the Flint Expatriates for posting my blogs on their site. It is from my manuscript that was supposed to have been published December 2007, but the company went broke. Glad to see a few links are also connected.

  21. I remember going to a little bar downtown called Doobies? It had folk groups on the weekends.

  22. King's Armour had the BEST EVER hot corned beef on rye sandwich! I've tried many through the years, and nothing has even come close. Man, I could eat one of those right now!

  23. I remember Mr. Gibby's (but not where it was)! And Doobies, where I was frequently to be found, playing pinball. All this makes me think I drank a lot more than I recall ... What was the name of that bar on Second, across from the Capitol? We used to go there to watch football games and they often had live jazz bands. Way back, when I was little, there was what would be a gourmet shop around there, too - and a little tailor's shop in the alley where my dad got his suits altered. I'm losing my street orientation, after so long of not living there. I had to look up what street the Capitol was on.

    SusanK, you mean the Blossom SHOPPE! I used to laugh at that, as I was driving to the Eastland Mall (wasn't there a Hamady's there, too?). I think it was the first instance of someone using the double p and e that I'd ever seen.

    Hamady's sponsored our softball team. Grant died, didn't he?

    I lived in the East Village then, and worked at MCC!

  24. Remember Roscoe and J.T. at the Rusty Nail?
    Open mic poetry nights?
    "The El Matador" (That's what the sign said) was always packed on Thursday nights, 50 cent night. I think it's heyday was around the time David Bowie's Cat People came out - early middle 80's. You could order beer a case at a time and they would bring the whole box to the table and open all 24. It was the only way to have enough beer with a group of people,
    they were so busy. I also remember the dancing got a little freaky too...

  25. My great grandfather is Bob Kerner. My grandpa had a deep love for sports. Namely baseball. He was an great golfer also. I also recall many stories of gambling and betting on sports. He lived a long life and is greatly missed.

    When he passed away i was given a silver barbers razor with "the sports bar, Bob Kerner" engraved onto it. I guess they gave these out as promo items. Sort of like plastic pens.

  26. Rob, it's great to hear from you. My mom loved the Spors Bar. Feel free to pass along any other thoughts, info or memories. You can email me at gordieyoung(at)sbcglobal(dot)net

  27. Whenever I visit Flint, it is a heartache not being able to go the the Sports Bar. I always wanted to build a bar like Sports, but it would never be the same.
    The bar near the Capitol was named the "Press Room," trying to get the Flint Journal workers there. It was owned or managed by Red Dickerson's brother who had no charisma and no following. He had also worked at Sports after Red left.
    The Flint downtown gay bars was The Golden Spike next to the bus station. It was previously named The Greyhound Lunch, and the College Inn, on Detroit Street around the corner by the Durant Hotel. Gay off and on (no pun intended). And mixed crowds at Sports, The State, across from Reese Jones, the Aerodome around the corner on Saginaw and the Motor Lounge at Water Street and Saginaw. Can't forget the Silver Rail around the corner. People today, don't know what they missed. Maybe with the college students now in the downtown area, Flint will create many more memories for "their" future generation. If you should go to any new bar and see an old, sad eyed, senior citizen sitting in one of them, it will probably be me-smile!
    I only visit Flint once or twice a year. See wikizines for Bill Dakota. Or, email me at kernnews@aol.com

  28. It's funny how the embers of nostalgia on this blog gets fanned and bursts into flame again. geewhy, yours dated, 6 May, 08, that I just came upon is an example. My father came to Flint along with a whole bunch from southern Indiana and they were all prosperous. Reese Jones was one of them. His bar was billed as "the longest bar in Flint" and was a show place back then. The Mayor and a lot of other dignitaries frequented that bar back in the thirties. Bill Dakota's recent comment hit home too. How we never stumbled over each other is a mystery to me. I used to play scrabble at the Sports when I came home from the service in the fifties. Played AA softball for Dean's bar on N. Saginaw near Burston Field house. We won the city playoffs that year. The Red Ribbon bar on Fenton Rd. was originally Gerty and Ed's bar. Played class A softball for them and that team went undefeated and won the state championship. At the same time (1955) the class B boys baseball team of which I was a member also won the state championship and went to Briggs Stadium for the regionals and was beaten by Altoona,Pa. in a double elimination tourney. Talk about a magical year in sports..... unclebuck

  29. Bob Kerner was also a big part of the flint BINGO business. I was told he owned 9 Bingo Parlors at one time in Flint. He was also close partners with Ben Agree. The "big Money Bingo" on Dort HWY, in the Agree Building is still in Operation.

    I am not sure if the family still owns that operation or not. I know my uncle was involved with Managing things. They also owned the Wendy's and Taco Bell on Dort.

    Now the new "Angalo's #2" and a taco place that never seems to have any business but has been open for several years. Ya know, across from Kmart.

    Bob came to America from Budapest Hungry during WWII. Aparently, in the nic of time, because he was Jewish.

    If you get a chance to hit the Sloan Musium, there is a book on Flint Jewish History. There is a picture of my Grandpa and Nana Kerner while on vacation in South Florida. Where he passed away.

    One story is that Grandpa played a lot of Black Jack and lost pretty hard one day. I guess he almost lost nearly everything including the house. That seemed to have been a reality check for him. He straightend out and bacame more successful than he was before.

    It is a good story of what a man can go through to learn lessons the hard way. The important part is to learn and rise above and beyond.

  30. My book is finally out. It has a lot of Flint stories Any bookstore can sell it. Just use the ISBN # 978-0-615-37758-2. Also on Amazon.com/books/ the gossip columnist. Title is THE GOSSIP COLUMNIST. - Bill Dakota

  31. The Ambassador Bar and Wimpy's on Chevrolet Ave. Are they still there?
    old Ross from Barth St. years ago :)

    1. Sorry Old Ross, but Wimpy's is long gone. The Ambassador had more staying power, but it also closed in the last year. While Mott Park is still holding up well, the area between Welch and Flushing road along Chevrolet Ave. is in rough shape. A lot of abandonment and blight but still some good folks hanging on.

  32. Can anyone tell me about a bar called El Matador from the 60s?


Thanks for commenting. You might enjoy my book about Flint called "Teardown: Memoir of a Vanishing City," a Michigan Notable Book for 2014 and a finalist for the 33rd Annual Northern California Book Award for Creative NonFiction. Filmmaker Michael Moore described Teardown as "a brilliant chronicle of the Mad Maxization of a once-great American city." More information about Teardown is available at www.teardownbook.com.