Sunday, December 14, 2008

Remembering Flint and Elaine Daenzer

Lanny Hayes, far from Flint, after a recent hike in the Smoky Mountains

Flint Expatriate Lanny Hayes looks back on hometown and Christmas with his family.

Whenever I think of Flint, I think of Mom.

My grandparents moved to Flint from the farms around Bay City and Frankenmuth after the Great War. My Mom, Elaine Daenzer, was born in Flint in 1924 to Paul and Emma. They lived in a modest home on Clement Street around the corner from Longfellow Junior High [left].

My grandfather, a veteran who saw action in France, worked at Chevy in the Hole from 1923-50. Grandma worked for AC and Mom joined her there in 1945 and stayed for 20 years.

We lived in a little starter home on Winona Blvd before moving to 3201 Mackin Road in 1965. Dad worked for Buick, and Mom retired that year to spend more time with her little family.

Flint was in its glory. The economy was good and we lived the American dream. What a wonderful life it was. I went to St. Paul Lutheran School on Ballenger Highway. I think we saw every Disney movie ever made at the Capitol. There was the circus, ice capades, and swimming lessons at Central High pool. Friday night was shopping night with my grandparents. We lived from holiday to holiday because Mom loved them all and celebrated each one to the hilt. Christmas was the highlight and she went full bore. Thanks Mom.

She traveled all over the country and to Europe and thought Flint was the best place there ever was. She would have been broken hearted to see Flint become a punchline and a shell of its former self. Mom loved Flint. She was born there, lived her whole life there and died way too soon at the age of 45 after wasting away in McLaren hospital from cancer, leaving three devastated little children behind. Christmas is bittersweet now. I remember how much she loved it, and it hurts to think of all the ones we couldn’t share together.

I left for Florida in 1977 and haven't been back since. I don't know the Flint of boarded up houses; I only have the memories of how great it was to grow up there. After things started going bad and Flint was making national news for all the wrong reasons, I used to derisively tell people that Flint was a great place to be from...far from. Now 31 years have gone by and I would love to see the old town at least once more. Life is funny, like the weather ball it is always changing. I now live in East Tennessee after 28 years in Florida. However, one thing can’t change. I am from Flint, Michigan and will always be from Flint. I may be long gone but as long as I can remember Mom, Flint will be right next to her in my heart.


  1. very touching, poignant. Thanks for sharing. I remember when I moved to Glen Arbor from Flint, locals would ask where I was from and I'd tell them, it seemed like they moved away, if only slightly. our city's rep was tough even back then, it seems.

  2. Thanks for the memories, Lanny!

    It's sad that the Flint that "was" now only lives in the memories of those fortunate few who experienced that special time and place.

    Thanks, Gordie, for helping keep those precious memories alive here at Flint Expatriates!

    "The Future Lives in Flint!"

  3. Great post, Lanny; I agree with bustdup about the touching and poignant. And yes, bustdup, people do move away (and sometimes their noses wrinkle up).

    I prefer to think of the city my mom and I used to drive to from Clio, to shop. Not the one we moved to, where my brother was attacked in the very driveway of my parents' house.

    Remember that mezzanine at Smith Bridgman's? That was way cool for a kid. The only thing better was our annual Christmastime trip to Detroit - and shopping at Hudson's! I can still see all those Nancy Drew books, lined up on the shelves.

    It had to do with escalators. The one in Hudson's went up a whole floor ...

  4. those escalators at Smith B's scared the holy b'jesus outta me when I was a yonker! had nightmares 'cause my older sister told me they'd rise up and swallow me whole. that's probably why I bit thru her patent leather shoe one Easter Sunday in church. She chucked a scream out that's probably still bouncing around Comm. Pres.. man, did I get it when we got home...

  5. Weird, Gill, that you remember Nancy Drew books coming from Hudson's... I could have sworn they came from The Fair in the Northwest Shopping Center. Mom used to take me there about 3x a year, and I would leave with (as I recall) a new Nancy Drew and a Charms 'sucker' (they're called lollipops out here; people get confused when you call a candy by a rude name). Charms were different back then from how they are now - sort of flat and shovel-shaped, without a gum center.

  6. Thanks for bringing back a lot of memories.

  7. I remember getting my Nancy Drew books at the Genesee Valley Hudson's. We shopped at The Fair, but for some reason, I don't remember a book department there.

  8. Sarah, I don't think you were part of these expeditions ... you may not have been even born yet. We stopped going to downtown Detroit at some point - or we might have gone only once. I also remember going to Northland Mall.

  9. Lanny, is that Clingman's Dome You're on? been all thru those mountains down there. it's pretty close to heaven for me. I remember my Sister winning a set of Nancy drew books from the Journal-Aunt Judy's column??not sure about the Aunt Judy part though. still sputtering...

  10. bustdup, thanks for the nice comments about my story. The picture was taken this October at Cliff Top on top of Mount LeConte. Lanny

  11. Good Memories Lanny, always keep them in your heart! Kelli is looking for me!

  12. Don't com back to see it one more time. You'll die of a broken heart at every street corner. or you may get killed by a thug.

  13. I have to say that I disagree, RCROBART. There's no doubt that Flint has changed dramatically for the worse over the past 40 years. I think that's reflected on the blog. But I've spent a total of about two months in the city, spread out over four visits, and I feel like things are not as bad as they often seem. There are things happening downtown. You can walk around many neighborhoods without getting shot. Even in troubled neighborhoods like Civic Park, I've gone on walks with residents. You obviously have to be careful, but like any city if you pay attention, you can be safe.

    This is not some boosterish attempt to downplay Flint's problems. And if you've been away for a while, it can be a shock when you go back. But you can certainly go back.

  14. I also, have fond memories of flint.I attended Longfellow then Flint Northern..I graduated, in 1978. Life in flint was great.I also, have great memories i will never forget. That was such a big part of my life.I have gone back and i wished i hadn't..I like, to think of Flint as it was..That's the Flint i remember and want to remember..EMAIL ME


Thanks for commenting. I moderate comments, so it may take a while for your comment to appear. You might enjoy my book about Flint called "Teardown: Memoir of a Vanishing City," a Michigan Notable Book for 2014 and a finalist for the 33rd Annual Northern California Book Award for Creative NonFiction. Filmmaker Michael Moore described Teardown as "a brilliant chronicle of the Mad Maxization of a once-great American city." More information about Teardown is available at