Thursday, May 15, 2008
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.
redgirl: 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.