Friday, August 22, 2008

Age of innoncence

A.C. Spark Plug decorated for the holidays. (Photo courtesy of Lori Wenzel)

Lori Wenzel looks back on the Flint she remembers:

I feel as nostalgic as you do about this city. I’m 49 years-old and went to Pierson Elementary and Zimmerman Junior High before graduating from Southwestern in 1976. I grew up on Lyndon Avenue off Harvard & Pierson Roads. I now live in Grand Blanc Township. The older I get, the sadder I feel about “what used to be.”

My mom worked at Federal's Department store. I still have my nametag from working at Monkey Wards when downtown was bustling and fun. I later worked at AC Spark Plug and just retired two years ago. Even that was sad. When I hired in, there were about 7,000 people there. When I retired, just 1,500.

There was a real innocence when I was growing up in Flint. We hitchhiked; rode our bikes to Flushing Park; weren't scared to walk to our friends’ houses after dark; went to Mary's Sunshine Food Stores for cigarettes that were 50 cents a pack; hung out at the fountain at Genesee Valley; drank M & S red pop with New Era potato chips; and went to concerts at the old IMA and at Richfield Park for their Super Sundays. I even have my ticket stub from my first concert at IMA. It was Deep Purple in 1972.

I went down to the Hot Dog Stand in Grand Blanc the other night for the Back To The Bricks Cruise. I was looking for someone with my first car — a 1969 Grand Prix. I found one parked along the route. The guy let me take pictures and sit in it. I was 16 when I got that car. It was a huge thrill!

I hung around with four other girls through junior and high school. After graduation, we all went our separate ways. Luckily, I reconnected with them a few years ago, and now we go on a trip every summer together. It's great how we all still get along when our lives are so different. We still talk about what we did in the good old days. We had lots of fun.

I'm thrilled that I grew up when and where I did, so I can remember when people were good and we weren't scared for our safety like it is now. I can't even visit my childhood home because it's a drive-by neighborhood now.


  1. You're making me cry, Lori. :^(

    But, thanks for the memories for sharing those memories, anyway. Good stuff! :^)


  2. I really relate to your story, Lori, and I think it's great that you have reconnected with some old friends. Did you happen to go to Pierson for kindergarten? My aunt was a kindergarten teacher there for years and years before transferring to Neithercut.

  3. Thanks for sharing, Lori. I didn't grow up in Flint, but it was our #1 destination for shopping. Sadly, we only had a few years of living there before things started to get bad.

  4. I came across this when I was looking for the name of an ice cream parlor that I couldn’t not remember, which was Harriman’s. I moved from the north side of Flint to the south side and on to Davison. I attended Brownell, Holmes and graduated from Powers. I am now living in Arizona. I enjoyed reading your story, not only do I remember all those places, my father was the assistant Principal at Zimmerman and Southwestern. If you remember him he will be 80 this year, and is in good health along with my mother. They became Floridians.

  5. I came across this when I was looking for the name of an ice cream parlor that I could not remember, which was Harriman’s. I moved from the north side of Flint to the south side and on to Davison. I attended Brownell, Holmes and graduated from Powers. I am now living in Arizona. I enjoyed reading your story, not only do I remember all those places, my father was the assistant Principal at Zimmerman and Southwestern. If you remember him he will be 80 this year, and is in good health along with my mother. They became Floridians.

  6. Cactusland, my brother, Matt Donaldson, also attended Zimmerman and graduated from Powers. Did you happen to know him?

  7. Geewhy, I don't remember his name, he might be younger. I graduated in 1977. I enjoyed reading all the memories of Flint, I can remember most of them. I lived off Pierson Rd and Clio till I was aroung 15. We hung out at the A&W, PX, The Fair and Arlens. I remember the tanker trunk that turned over on Clio and Pierson Road, burning the gas station down. That was huge, can't remember what year.

  8. Spring of '69 if I remember correctly.

  9. Hi Lori,

    i have been following the comments about Zimmerman and Southwestern, who is your dad ? i graduated from Southwestern in 79. i also attended zimmerman penitentiary and cummings

    Dave "Slick" McDonald

  10. My dad is Felix Beltrame. He was at Zimmerman, Holmes, back to Zimmerman and retired from Southwestern.

  11. cactusgirl,
    I was one of the denizens under Your Father's dominion. Always felt badly for having cussed Him when I broke my leg about a hunnert years ago. He and Mr. Cullen, Mr. Mack(human wall), Mr. Kinnard, and the Shwitalla's left big impression on me. How did Your Dad end up at Southwestern?! I do hope it was post-rioting era. my Best Regards to Him, though I doubt He remembers me. Do You know what became of Mr. Cullen? He was a Good Soul...

  12. That Christmas picture of AC's main office on Dort Highway was actually in the AC calender for 1967 or 1968. I hired in at AC on Industrial but was transfered over to the old 1702 in Spark Plugs on "The Highway" in November 1967, just in time to get the calander they were giving out to the employees. Years later I found another one at a rummage sale and bought it.

    It is so sad they are tearing down the Dort Highway plant right now, and most of it is gutted but the main office is still standing at the moment. There is an arial view on the internet of the razing in progress that was taken Aug 8th and I spent 20 minutes staring at it--remembering every square foot of the place.

    Who remembers the "Coal Mine" and Rota-Forg next to the 29 tool room? How about 1701 up front under the clock tower and the Kiln Area? How about 1702 (later 8202) and sitting at the glazers? The noise of the stock handler filling your hoppers with "wires and nails"? Then the ovens on the straight-lines that pressed the terminal down into the insulator--everything so cherry-red hot you could almost see through them?

    Does any old-timer remember when AC made model airplane spark plugs up until 1952 when they suspended production? You'll see those on ebay a lot too: cute little actual working spark plugs 1/2 inch long.

    Ah I could go on but this is too long already!

  13. The Fair and Arlen's - we went to those stores at least once a week! And the old Yankee's. And A&W. I remember when that tanker incident. I was either 3 or 4, so it was either '69 or '70, a sunny day in spring or maybe early summer; it was definitely not cold weather, that I remember, along with those plumes of smoke floating over the house. It's funny how many expats I've run into over the years who remember that. Incidentally, cactusland, my sister Brigid graduated from Powers in 1977, too.

  14. Hi Slick
    Mr Mack lives in the Carolina's. Mr Kinnard moved to Ohio to teach years ago, so dad's lost touch with him. Mr Cullen lives in Mesa, Arizona, and sadly Mr Schitalla has expired. After asking dad about this he, of course, wants to know who you are.....:-)

  15. Sorry Slick I was answering Bustdup

  16. Wow! Cactusgirl, I'm amazed. I would've thought Mr. Cullen had passed a long time ago, but then thinking on it further, all those wonderful people were probably my age right now back then. Another Hero to me was Dr. Tear, if that's the correct spelling. Drove a Model A Ford everyday to school. He'd get in when everyone else was snowbound,(damnit!). I was suspended for going to the "Stop the War" moratorium that year, and Dr. Tear was the only Teacher who asked me why I went, what I was trying to accomplish, made me stand up to relate it to the rest of the Orchestra, Thanked me and told me to sit again. he was a whole different planet than Southwestern's band conductor, mr. wentz. Gordon has my vitals if You're still interested Cacutsgirl, Thank You for the update!! Slainte!

  17. Hey Cactusgirl,

    i had a feeling that Mr. Beltrame is your dad. my mom and dad were friends with your mom and dad which made me tow the line for the most part.

    zimmerman had quite the cast of siegel with the glass eye, two married couples karwoskis and the (ex tigers pitcher) favorite willie j. barton...chuck and on and on

    Lori, when you talk to your dad tell him that my mom, kathleen mcdonald, just asked me the other day if i knew whatever happened to felix.

    I just spoke with my check out the connection....your mom worked with my parents at SS Kresge..first at detroit and pierson then at the northwest shopping center.

    wow, what a small world...i would hate to paint it

    Dave "Slick" McDonald

  18. OMG, Mrs. Siegel, I'd forgotten her. Slick, You have Miss Swift? whew! that class could not go by fast enough! Mr. Carpenter was my homeroom and shop teacher(go figure-a shop teacher named that). He was down in Mr. Beltame's office when I jumped from the class room down to the work table and broke my leg in 3 places.well...everybody else was doing it. why not? lucky I made it to old age, I know. But, you really don't consider mortality too often when you're young and invulnerable to kryptonite...

  19. I was also at the Deep Purple concert! There sure were some great shows at the IMA.

  20. Ah, yes, the shows...boat shows...the shrine circus...and, oh, I remember a quiet Sunday afternoon, March 24, 1968, with a little three-piece band named "The Jimi Hendrix Experience." Wow! I think I have discovered the reason for that slight hearing loss in my right ear! That was their last stop on a Michigan tour that also featured, "The Rationals," Frut of the Loom," and "The Soft Machine."

    (Yes, I was at the concert, but, no, I didn't really remember all that stuff. You can find most anything on the Internet, can't you?)

  21. Hey Cactusland,

    i do apoligize for getting confused, Lori was the original poster and I guess the whole L thing got me messed up on the names.

    sorry about that, hope to see you post again....back to the original thing that led you to flint expats...speaking of ice cream...what about Pattersons just down the street from zimmerman


  22. cactusland,

    Please contact me at gordieyoung (at) sbcglobal (dot) net

    I want to pass along the email of a former classmate who wants you to get in touch with you.



  23. Hey Slick I just talked to my parents they remember your parents well. They were all friends of the Vails, if you remember them. I asked her if I had ever met you, she said your mom wasn't married as of yet, but she remembers her getting married and then having a boy.....

  24. Hiya,

    Nice memories! Any chance to get a copy of your DEEP PURPLE ticket stub?? Check out my website & you will understand ;-)



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