Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Photographic Evidence of The Infamous Tiles

Tom Wirt tempts fate on The Tiles

Would you ride your bike across this thing?

Long-time readers may remember an earlier discussion of The Tiles, the elevated sewer pipes just off River Valley Drive near McLaren Hospital. There was some back and forth about where The Tiles were located, or if they even existed, before Gerry Godin provided the details on the place where kids went to prove they were men:
"This was where you went to prove your bravery in the '60s.

"My friends and I were not that stupid; if you fell off while crossing you would either kill yourself or be maimed for life.

“This was the main sewer line for the city of Flint running all the way to the waste treatment plant located off Beecher Road. There is now a subdivision located next to the black pipe, but this was all field in the '60s. We always heard the legend about the kid who crossed it on a bike but that would have been impossible due to the large joints which protruded outward. I walked out about twenty feet on it before turning back, so I guess I was a little ignorant.”
Now Tom Wirt (a.k.a. Jar With Most) has provided these stunning 1974 photos — including one with Tom strolling nonchalantly across the ravine — proving that we weren't imagining The Tiles after all.

But this conclusive visual evidence does raise another intriguing question: Is there anything in Flint that Tom Wirt hasn't photographed?


  1. The photo caption "Would you ride your bike acrosss....." really hit home. Yes I would, sort of. In the late 50's it was a true test of bravery to not only walk across, but drag you bike along with you. Both my best friend and I answered the call on more than one occasion. Yes, it was a long way down to the ground.

  2. Heck yes!! I too did my time on the tiles...also heard the tales of riding one's bike across the pipes. Totally stupid and totally believable. The other side of the river is known as Cycle Hills afterall. Dudes probably motocrossed across the son of a gun whilst performing various permutations of extreme sport wheelies.

    The photo is deceptive. The distance from the pipes to the bed of the gully is at least 500 feet. One wrong step and poor Jar woulda been broken into a million pieces.

    If memory serves there is a GMI frat house thereabouts. At a school with 75% of the student body checking in as male ya gotta believe more than a few of those schmucks musta fell off of the tiles after your run-of-the-mill all-night drunken sausage party bro-down. Somebody should check for bones.

  3. Lucky for us Tom and his camera seem to turn up everywhere, don't they? Seeing a picture of him walking along those tiles makes my hands sweat... Why would anyone do that?!

  4. Good grief! It's a wonder our parents survived our childhood and puberty.

    (Not even close to 500 feet, Wurtside, but after the first twenty or thirty or so, the rest is just free fall to the same end.)

  5. I was with Tom when those photos were taken (probably even pushed the button on the ones of him). As I recall, we spent a lot of pretty scary time crawling (walking, actually, you could stand most of the time) THROUGH those things for what seemed like miles. Don't think I'd be able to do that again these days.

  6. I'm sorry Cooley, but you are wrong. A fall from the top o' the Tiles is probably closer to 700 or 800 feet. This thing is HUGE. Oh, and no need to squint- the topography of this region rivals that of the mighty Irish Hills!! Some of the peaks found in Cycle Hills tower over 5000 ft. How the mighty Flint carved it's way through this terrain is a question only the finest geomorphologist could hope to answer.

  7. Great photos! What memories. I grew up just up Beecher Road from "Black Pipe," as we called it. I walked across those many times but never rode my bike. I was also a paper boy for the Journal in River Valley, River Hill, River Hollow, and Wroxton. The gully below, maybe more like 50 feet, was the storm drain ditch which emptied out closer to Beecher Road. That is the one you could stand up and walk through. You just better pray there was no sudden rain storm!

    1. I lived in Wroxton (later River Valley Manor) I have a million stories involving the tiles and the creek below. The drainage tile farther up the creek. I went up that thing as far as I could go. I remember when the larger black tile was put in. Couldn’t wait to get my feet on that thing. Crossed them a thousand times.

  8. I walked across with friends and hiked through the drain pipes with all the creepy crawleys in them not to mention germs. So dumb.

  9. To find terrain close by that was 500 feet higher than that area, you would have to go to Holly, Clarkston, or south of Fenton. Even then, its a slow upward grade on average. You must be living in the Flint portrayed in "The Fitzpatricks", an early acting gig for Helen Hunt, which depicted nearby mountains. Nevertheless, you could easily be seriously injured or die falling off that. I'm glad I never lived close enough to that for people to call me names for not walking across. I think current regulations would require that those tiles be fenced off, which in the current milieu of regulations seems very sane, top of the Bell Curve of regulations.

  10. The "hiking through" referred to several times in this thread had to have been done in **storm** drains, which are accessible and open to the outside at many locations.

    Because of the oxygen-reactive, hydrocarbon-gas-generating decomposition reactions of the contents of **sanitary** drains like Black Tile, they generally don't contain a breathable atmosphere. And, as a matter of codes and engineered design, there's no kid-sized way in without construction equipment.

    Storm drain access points--open pipe exits, curb sewer grates, etc.--aren't connected to sanitary drains.

  11. When I first saw the place it was only"black tile" a huge iron pipe that was raised to cross a ravine. It was maybe 25-30 feet off the ground at the most, which was the middle of the thing. The picture shows two, which was after my time there....late 60's. Also, it was heavily wooded, which added to the mystique. We walked across it as a given, and did witness a knuckle head take his bike across it-but it was a small bike and he had his feet dragging,and came to a stop at the collar in the middle,lifting himself over it. I really wasn't a "ride" I guess."White tile" referred to a very large storm drain that we hung around, and yes in.Distance inside the thing
    was measured in "manholes", actual distance-who knows, probably over a quarter mile,maybe more. It was a forbidden place,where you smoked your parents' cigs,hung out with bad girls, and occaisionally saw the crap beat out of someone,including youself. None of the development along beecher road had been built at that time.


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