Sarah Swart left Flint in 1982. She returned with her husband, Victor, this summer for a reunion of the Flint Academy classes of 1979 through 1988. She sent me notes and photos from her trip, including details of her visit to Hidden Park. I managed to lose the rest of the travelogue somewhere on my computer until today. So here are some more details of Sarah’s trip home.
"I used to live on Milbourne Avenue in the Summerfield Elementary neighborhood. My mother heard that our old house is now boarded up. I wanted to investigate, but I’d been told by a few people, including one at the dinner-dance the night before, that the area is now “rough” and I should be careful: Lock your doors, and don’t stop.
"Victor and I had breakfast kitty-corner from the Genesee Valley. That’s where I had my first job at B. Dalton Bookseller 29 years ago.
"All along Miller Road I was struck by how much has changed—and a few things that are still the same: Kmart, and the building that housed Moy Kong. The restaurant is out of business, but I still remember Moy Kong’s [Left] delicious cubes of pressed duck. After we turned left on Ballenger Highway, I saw Clyde Burtrum Furs, apparently open. It has no significance other than that it tickled an ancient memory — print advertising? Radio? In any case, I was glad that it’s still around. I got shots of McLaren Hospital and King Arthur’s Pasties.
"We turned right onto Flushing — noticing the absence of Paddy McGee’s and Sorrento’s (the latter of which we will see later, out on Pierson Road) and continued east to Chevrolet Avenue. In moments we were driving past the boarded-up Longfellow Middle School, where I spent some miserable time back in the day.
"I was in a history class there once and had a near-breakdown, standing up and screaming at all my classmates that I didn’t know what they were doing there if they were going to make it impossible for teachers to teach or anyone to learn. Whew.
"A left on Mackin and a right on Milbourne, and I am walking home from school again, nine-years old.
"Milbourne is still a lovely street, with trees arching overhead and nice houses, each well-designed and well-proportioned. Some are less well-maintained than others, but I get no sense of danger. Grant you, this perspective could be foolish, and it is about nine in the morning. I point out where the Haases used to live on Clement Street, and where the little girl who pulled out her own eyelashes would stay sometimes with her dad near Begole.
"Turning onto Copeman from Chevrolet, the first two houses on the left were boarded up, one on the inside [Left]. A few other homes were empty or seriously bedraggled. I tried without success to identify the house of a girl named Dawn, who used to play The Carpenters Greatest Hits over and over.
"Then we were at my old house. Although the porch roof was sad, with greenery growing from its sloped eaves, it was still the same house, somewhat funereal in atmosphere (always was) but also attractive in a quiet, stately way."