Wednesday, August 20, 2008

San Francisco Expatriate

Mary, a repatriated Flint Expatriate, writes about her return home:
I was raised on the Westside of Flint, and it saddens me that kids in that neighborhood aren't able to experience the idyllic childhood that I remember.

I moved to San Francisco in 1981 and returned to Flint in 1994. I work at Kettering now and feel fortunate to have a job. It's so tough for many people to find work.

When I first moved back, people questioned my sanity. San Francisco is an incredibly expensive city, and I lived there during a golden time of affordability. I used to live in the inner Richmond district, and I had my below-market-value apartment for 9 years. My landlady was the aunt of Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer. She went to Washington for his swearing in. It was a great neighborhood bordering the Presidio off of Lake Street. I really was lucky to live there for as long as I did.

Once I lost my cheap apartment to the landlord's granddaughter, I felt it was time to come home and help my aging parents. Things always happen for a reason. I had six years with them that I wouldn't have had if I'd stayed in SF. They passed away in 2001.

I met and married Michael, the love of my life, in 2000. I had always wondered what I'd be doing in the year 2000. I never guessed that I'd be getting married! It was the first (and only) marriage for both of us. I lost him all too soon. He died of a heart attack on February 1, 2007. He was only 51.

I hadn't thought about it, but I am a San Francisco expatriate now. As much as I love SF, I've always been a Midwestern girl at heart. I hope that I'll be able to see Flint reborn sometime in my lifetime. Hope springs eternal in me.


  1. Hey, Mary, remember going to the King's Armor right before you left?

    It's good to see someone on here that I acually know! (Other than my sister, that is.)

  2. Mary,
    It sounds like we may have been neighbors in SF. I moved out in 1980 and lived on 27th and Geary. Lake Street was my running route. To think there were two Flint natives living within a few block radius of each other.
    I applaud you for making a life for yourself in Flint. On a recent visit back to my old neighborhood, I longed to bring it back to the way it was.
    I'm sorry for the loss of your husband and wish you the very best. You have some Expatriate friends out here in the Bay Area if you ever decide to come back.
    Lori B.

  3. Yes, Gillian, I remember that night and many others at King's Armor. The most memorable was when U of M's basketball team was in the playoffs; and we and the usual cast of characters consumed way too many drinks, played pinball, and sang the Michigan fight song every time they scored. I think there's a RiteAid where the KA used to be.

  4. How did the King's Armor ever manage to go out of business? It seems like the kind of place that could survive in Flint.

    Just curious.

  5. Was that the pitchers of green beer night? I remember coming out of there and it was snowing like hell, but I don't remember the occasion. I had actually forgotten how much I played pinball in those days!

  6. OH MY GOD! That night with the Michigan game just came back to me with near crystal clarity. Weren't we on the verge of being thrown out for incredible loudness??

    Was it really red inside there?

  7. Lori,

    Are you still in S.F.? Thank you for your kind words. If someone laid a million bucks on me, I'd be able to have a pied-a-terre in S.F. and a place in Michigan. Maybe I'd need 2 million to make that financially viable. :)

    Take care.

  8. Gillian,

    Yes, it was the night of green beer and freezing rain. I don't remember if the place was red inside. I just remember Val and I kept breaking glasses. (We accidentally hit them with our elbows.) And we were threatened with ejection for our loudness. We were out of control women. lol

    Note to Gordie: I think RiteAid gave the landowners big bucks for the property where the KA was. I'm not sure if that's true, it's just a guess on my part. It disappeared while I lived in S.F. Maybe a West Sider can confirm this?

  9. The funny thing is, I don't even like basketball - or beer! I do believe it was St. Patrick's Day, though, so ... like you said, out of control women.

    Gee,I feel like I'm so repressed now.

  10. HI Mary,
    I now live in Petaluma. After many freezing summers living in the Richmond and on Twin Peaks, I couldn't stand it anymore and moved to Marin.
    When I had my first baby, we moved to Petaluma where we could actually buy a house (11 years ago).
    My dad was the owner of King Arthur's Pasties on Third Ave. back in the late sixties and seventies in Flint. He went to SF to set up a business for an interested party.
    When that person decided he wasn't interested anymore, my dad moved to SF. I moved out a year later in 1980. The pasty shop in SF was on Third and Townsend. It certainly wasn't the area that it is now. We were between Doggie Diner (with the dog head) and Happy Donuts - across from the RV Park.
    Moving to San Francisco really shook my world. But I too am just a midwestern girl at heart.
    Lori B.

  11. Lori,

    More details on our Flint-SF connection...I worked at SF Weekly, which was on Brannan near Third Street. I would sometimes have lunch at a restaurant that was between the Happy Donuts and the Doggie Diner, which had become a McDonald's by then. I'm sure this was probably the former location of your dad's pastie shop. This was in 1996-97.

    If you haven't been back recently, that area is completely changed. It's like a different city. It's filled with huge, drab, boxy condos and the traffic runs through there now like an expressway. It's development San, charmless and expensive! I do like the Giants ballpark, though.

  12. Gillian,
    You drank wine back then, and we were commiserating over our breakups with our boyfriends. Why do I remember this so clearly, when I have to document everything at work? I guess we only remember the important things. :)

    I just loved King Arthur's pasties on Third. That was a destination lunch spot when I was working at the Flint Public Library in the '70s.
    I can understand why you'd want to live outside the city when you're raising a family. Living in the fogbelt neighborhoods can be pretty brutal during the summer. I realized that when I was visiting S.F. a couple weeks ago. My friends couldn't remember a foggier summer, and they've lived there over 20 years!

  13. Mary,

    Nothing like a good breakup to bring 2 women together, huh? And why do I remember yours was called David, when I never even met him?!

  14. Ok, so what happened to King Arthur's Pasties? We need another one!

    1. We still have two in Genesee County: one on North Ballenger in Flint Township and another on Hill Road in Grand Blanc Township.


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