Reilly and Emilia Holbel outside Balkan Bakery. Look closely and you can see the bakery's high-tech security system. (Just click on photo for a larger image.)
Jim Holbel, a Flint Expatriate now living in Atlanta and the former member of Dissonance, recently visited the old hometown with his family and paid a visit to one of Flint's amazing survivors — Balkan Bakery on Dayton Place across from Civic Park School.
Here is Jim's report from the field:
Our kids think Flint is kinda neat, mostly because it seems like a small town to them compared to Atlanta.
We conducted an informal test to determine if the taste for chili dogs is learned or genetic. (I know... Coneys, but that’s not what they are called in ATL.) My son, Reilly, ate a chili dog at Atlanta's legendary Varsity before leaving. During the visit we took him to Angelos. (Have they poured even a penny into that place since 1980?) It was as close to a 'side-by-side' comparison test as one can get. Reilly voted the Angelos Koegel Coney superior, scientifically proving that hot dog appreciation is genetically inherited. I'm thinking I can get a grant for that one.
The visit to Balkan Bakery was just a whim during our drive through. I'm telling you that place is EXACTLY the same inside — same paneling, same display case, same news clippings taped to the wall. Barbara has been there for 38 years. She has pretty good recall of all the old business in that strip, their demise and replacement. I didn't take notes, but if ever you need a bar bet settled she could help.
We drove by all my old schools (Civic Park, Walker, Whittier, Central, Northern, GMI), which bored the kids to tears.
We stopped by Hidden Park, and it appeared to be completely overgrown. It looked abandoned. I didn't go in, mostly because there was a fair amount of people hangin’ on the street corners and I wasn't real comfy leaving my wife, Dayna, and kids in the car, nor bringing them with me, so off we went.
The kids highlight was stopping by the D&R market on Mackin and Chevrolet — the other end of 'strip mall' from the old Ruggero's — where our friends Steve and Rick have been working forever. Steve let the kids pick out any treats they wanted 'on him' and they got some candy and Faygos. I must admit they have never seen plexi-glass walls in a store before, so there were some questions in that area.
Beyond that my wife and I mostly played 'look what got torn down' as we drove around.
Oh…I think weeds are some kind of protected species in Flint. What else could explain the fervor with which they are preserved?
Emilia and Reilly meet Barbara at Balkan Bakery. The bread is fresh; the wall decorations were there in the eighties.
Emilia and Reilly hang out in front of the weed and concrete savanna that was once Comber's and, later, Double D Market. The garage in the background to the left, now being reclaimed by the urban forest, was once a staging area for pelting cars with snowballs. Delmar Street is directly behind them, and the houses in the background are on Humbolt Street.