Saturday, January 31, 2009

Shocking Crime News!

I'm sure we can all guess that Flint's still near the top when it comes to crime, but just to make it official here's the 2008 Congressional Quarterly Press list of the most crime-ridden cities. I'm left wondering if crime doesn't follow me when I move. Not only are Flint and Detroit in the top ten, but so are Oakland and Richmond, which are just across the bay from me.
  1. New Orleans
  2. Camden, NJ
  3. Detroit
  4. St. Louis
  5. Oakland
  6. Flint
  7. Gary, Ind.
  8. Birmingham, Ala.
  9. Richmond, Calif.
  10. North Charleston, SC

Flint Postcards: Smith Building (Later the Sill Building)

Friday, January 30, 2009

Flint Artifacts: Chevy Tape Measure

A seventies-era employee premium from the Chevrolet press metal plant on Van Slyke Road.

Low Voltage

"The bad news just keeps on coming for General Motors and Flint, Michigan. It was reported late last night that construction contracts for the new $370 million engine plant that was going up in Flint have been canceled. GM actually stopped work on the project in early December. The plant was to produce the new 1.4-liter four cylinder engine for the 2011 Chevy Cruze and Volt. GM spokeswoman Sharon Basel told AutoblogGreen that the intention all along had been for engines for the early production runs of the Cruze and Volt to be supplied from a European facility that already builds variants of GM's so-called "Family 0" powertrains. The Flint plant would not have been ready for start of production of Cruze next spring."

Winter in America

Marvin Shur's home in Bay City. (Photo courtesy of CNN)

Two michigan stories that make you wonder what the future holds for the United States...

Susan Candiotti of CNN reports:

Marvin Schur's neighbors found the World War II veteran's frozen body in his Bay City bedroom on January 17, four days after a device that regulates how much power he uses -- installed because of failure to pay -- shut off his power. A medical examiner said the temperature was 32 degrees in his house when Schur's body was found.

Utility officials said Schur owed at least $700, but Schur's nephew, William Wallworth, said his uncle told him he was worth at least a half-million dollars, and authorities say Schur had cash clipped to his utility bills on his kitchen table.

Wallworth said someone should have looked at Schur's payment history and made direct contact to see whether something was wrong.

"This wasn't about someone who didn't have the money to pay his bills," Wallworth said of his uncle, a widower known to his nieces and nephews as "Uncle Mutts."

And Charlie LeDuff of The Detroit News writes:

This city has not always been a gentle place, but a series of events over the past few, frigid days causes one to wonder how cold the collective heart has grown.

It starts with a phone call made by a man who said his friend found a dead body in the elevator shaft of an abandoned building on the city's west side.

"He's encased in ice, except his legs, which are sticking out like Popsicle sticks," the caller phoned to tell this reporter.

"Why didn't your friend call the police?"

"He was trespassing and didn't want to get in trouble," the caller replied. As it happens, the caller's friend is an urban explorer who gets thrills rummaging through and photographing the ruins of Detroit. It turns out that this explorer last week was playing hockey with a group of other explorers on the frozen waters that had collected in the basement of the building. None of the men called the police, the explorer said. They, in fact, continued their hockey game.

Before calling the police, this reporter went to check on the tip, skeptical of a hoax. Sure enough, in the well of the cargo elevator, two feet jutted out above the ice. Closer inspection revealed that the rest of the body was encased in 2-3 feet of ice, the body prostrate, suspended into the ice like a porpoising walrus.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Flint Artifacts: Culturally Insensitive Centennial Plate

Halo Burger Put Out to Pasture

UM-Flint replaced Halo Burger on the third floor of the University Center with the ridiculously named Stacks Deli and Grill 155. (Did the chair of the Math Department come up with those names?)

The students are not pleased.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

A Quest to End All Quests

At long last, some crazy mixed-up dreamers named Emily, Jason and Andy have begun a noble quest. It's a journey that will require strength, skill, stamina and, perhaps, a concealed firearm or two. (Not having a job would also come in handy.) Their goal? To visit every bar in Flint and write about it on their blog, which is appropriately titled Every Bar in Flint.

Ahh, to be young again.

Here is their manifesto:

"We are going to drink a beer in every bar in Flint, Michigan. We are going to take a piss in every dirty bathroom, eat every overcooked hamburger, generously over-tip every waitress that calls us 'hun', burn our mouths on every 35 cent hot wing, and tip back a few with every kind of person we have in this fair city. Flint isn't so big that it can't be done, but it is big enough that this will be an epic journey and we hope you'll read along as we drink our way to adventure!"

Brash words. Even haughty. Can they do it? Well, judging from Andy's photo, they may be peaking a bit too soon. Remember, this is a marathon, not a sprint. Pace yourselves, young booze hounds. Pace yourselves.

Flint Artifacts: Flint Golf Club Ashtray

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Recall Fast Approacheth

A little info on the effort to recall Mayor Don Williamson:
"The recall is scheduled Tuesday, February 24th – only a few weeks away. The recall organizer, Flint Michigan United, has been working hard to ensure the success of this campaign. We are at a critical stage – a crossroads where the outcome is dependant on raising funds. We are within striking distance. Over 17,000 people signed the recall petition, far more than voted for Williamson in the 2007 election. We need your help.

"Please consider joining us this Friday, January 30th for a fundraiser to support the recall campaign against Flint Mayor Don Williamson. The fundraiser will be held at the home of Dr. Bobby Mukkamala, 12467 Margaret Drive, Fenton from 5:30 to 8:00 p.m. Requested donation - $50.

"If you are unable to attend, please consider making a donation. Checks can be made out to “Flint Michigan United” and mailed to 818 Ann Arbor St., Flint, MI 48502.

"Call 810.244.0889 for information."

And how is the mayor responding to the recall effort? Well, he's still trying to stop it, or at least one of his aides is, according to a story by Joe Lawlor in The Flint Journal:
Mayoral aide Sally Haywood has filed a complaint with the Michigan Secretary of State against a group seeking to recall Mayor Don Williamson.

In the complaint filed Jan. 16, Haywood claims that the Committee for a Better Flint violated campaign finance laws and Internal Revenue Service laws. Williamson faces a recall election on Feb. 24.

The Committee for a Better Flint was set up as a 501-c(4) non-profit. Haywood claims the group raised money improperly.

Alex Harris, one of the CBF leaders, said he's not worried. He said he consulted with an IRS official before forming the group.

The committee is no longer active, as the pro-recall group Flint Michigan United is active in the recall campaign. Harris is not part of Flint Michigan United.

Haywood said the mayor did not ask her to file the complaint.

Monday, January 26, 2009

The Ultimate List of Bars, Lounges, and Taverns

Damn, I mention the Mikatam and the comment section turns into a bar free for all. Even my mom joined in by hearkening back to a place called The Yellow Jacket. I'm all for bars, but I feel the need to impose some order. And I love lists. So how about we try to come up with a compendium of Flint bars, past and present. I'll pull the bars out of the comment section and add to the list below.

UPDATE: Okay, I couldn't keep up, so you'll need to check the comments for even more bars, lounges, and taverns not mentioned in the list below.
  1. Ad-Lib Lounge
  2. Al and Donna's
  3. Aladdin
  4. Ali Baba's
  5. Ambassador
  6. Andy's
  7. Aquarius Lounge
  8. Argonaut
  9. Arlene's
  10. Art's (Lewis Street?)
  11. Autumn
  12. Back Room (The Loft)
  13. Bailiwick
  14. Bar Bucks Bar
  15. Beaver Trap
  16. Bernie’s Lounge
  17. Bill’s Still (Begat LL-T Show Bar)
  18. Billy's Pub
  19. Blarney’s (Saginaw Street)
  20. Body Shop
  21. Brass Rail
  22. Caboose
  23. Camaro
  24. Camaro Lounge/Beaver Trap/Trap Door/50 Grand
  25. Churchills
  26. Civic Park Lounge
  27. Cloud Nine
  28. Club Reggae
  29. Clubhouse
  30. College Inn
  31. Contos/Triangle
  32. Copa (Hot Rock)
  33. Corner Bar
  34. Crankin' Rankin
  35. Déjà vu (No Alcohol)
  36. Deno's
  37. Dominic's (at the Galaxy Center)
  38. Doobie's
  39. Duffys
  40. Dugout
  41. El Matador
  42. El Rancho
  43. El Toro
  44. Embers
  45. Farm
  46. Fenton Road Tavern
  47. Fifty Grand
  48. Firehouse
  49. Golden Leaf (Technically a private club, but still a bar)
  50. Good Times
  51. Good Times
  52. Happy Hour Lounge
  53. Hat’s Pub
  54. Hob Knob Lounge (Center Road)
  55. Hot Rock (Formerly The Copa)
  56. Interlude
  57. Ivanhoe
  58. Ivor's Place
  59. Jack Gilbert's Wayside Inn
  60. Jake the Snake's
  61. Jesters
  62. Jimmy Lum's Aloha Lounge
  63. Jim's Garage (burned and re-built)
  64. Jolly Olive
  65. Julie’s
  66. Junk Yard Bar
  67. Kelush's
  68. Kimberly's
  69. King's Armor
  70. Lace
  71. Lafferty's (begat Point After begat Bikini Bar begat Neighbors)
  72. Lamplighter ( Tramplighter )
  73. Light
  74. Little Ceasar's Pizza Bar in South Flint Plaza
  75. LL-T Show Bar (Formerly Bill’s Still)
  76. Loft (aka Back Room)
  77. Lone Pine
  78. Lounge at Bishop Airport before remodel
  79. Luge
  80. Mark's Lounge
  81. Merry Inn
  82. Metropolis
  83. Mikatam
  84. Mr. Gibby's
  85. Mr.G's
  86. Nathan J's Cocktails
  87. New Deville
  88. Northgate Bar (N. Saginaw near Beecher)
  89. Oddysey
  90. Old Frank’s (Diviest dive that ever dove.)
  91. Old Franklin
  92. Pachyderm
  93. Paddy McGee's
  94. Palace Gardens
  95. Pappy's (or some such name. Was it a private club? It was in the building where Putnam's TV used to be on Flushing and Stevenson. The former Soar And Dippity Kite Shop?)
  96. Patio
  97. Payne's
  98. Payne's (The name says it all.)
  99. Peppermill
  100. Peppermint
  101. Peter's Pub
  102. Pink Garter (really a restaurant, but a Clio Road institution near O’Toole’s)
  103. Point
  104. Point After
  105. Raincheck
  106. Ray's
  107. Red Ribbon
  108. Reese Jones
  109. Remington's
  110. RP's
  111. Rusty Nail
  112. Sherman's Lounge
  113. Shorthorn
  114. Skips
  115. Snotty's
  116. Sports Bar
  117. Sports Coupe (Former Sports Bar of Brush Alley moved to Dort Hwy)
  118. Sunset Lounge (on Franklin appeared to be closed for years but was actually open)
  119. Teddy Bear (now " Zoo")
  120. Tender Trap
  121. The Bank
  122. Thrift City
  123. Thunderbird or Fleetwood (just off Dort on Lippincott)
  124. Timoothy's
  125. Titty City
  126. Torch
  127. Track
  128. Trapper Joe's
  129. Treasure Chest
  130. Tropicana
  131. University Club (Private Club)
  132. Vasco's
  133. Vasco's (Teasers)
  134. Vechells,
  135. Viking Lounge
  136. Villa Capri
  137. Wagon Wheel
  138. West Side
  139. What's Next?
  140. Whisper
  141. White Horse
  142. Wild Bill’s
  143. Yellow Jacket

The Big Sleep

After 85 years, Peerless Mattress calls it quits in Flint.

Bryn Mickle of The Flint Journal reports:

"The company was founded in 1924 by two brothers in Flint, who five years later sold half of the company to Charlie Pemberton.

"Pemberton brought his nephew, James, into the company in 1952.

"In its early years, Peerless focused mainly on making and selling mattresses. It eventually expanded to include furniture -- a result of a growing need for household furnishings as the area's population expanded with the automotive boom.

"The store was a fixture of downtown Flint for decades before it was gutted by fire in 1995, two years after it opened a store in Lansing.

"The 1995 fire was blamed on a mentally ill woman and destroyed about $500,000 worth of furniture.

"Company officials opted against rebuilding in Flint and instead built a second facility in Flint Township."

The Joy of Cinquecento

An Italian-American friend of mine who shall remain nameless saw the earlier post on the new and improved Fiat 500, which could be sold in America thanks to the Italian automaker's merger with Chrysler, and just had to fill us in on one of the more popular uses of the original 500.
"The Cinquecento is a tiny car but it has long been the Volkswagen of Italy. If you had a car it was most likely that you had a Cinquecento from the '50s until relatively recently. Since Italy has always been in an economic and social straight jacket, that's meant that a Cinquecento was the only living space that many young people had. Ergo, the only place they could have sex outside of their parent's houses. And that meant that someone once produced a brilliant manual on all the sexual positions possible within a Cinquecento.

I saw these when I was in Italy and the amazing thing was that they were entirely practical and had only the smallest prurient value. It was an old beat up manual that my Italian cousins had. At first I thought it was just something one of them had but then someone from an entirely different branch of the family had the same samizdat book and other people told me that they or their parents had them as well."
A prudish Italian judge officially banned car sex in 1999, prompting Riccardo Schicchi, manager of Italian porn start La Cicciolina, to attack the verdict: "Making love in cars has its own history and dignity," he declared.

No word on whether the manual was reissued along with the updated Fiat 500.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Flint Artifacts: Vern Parsell Nameplate

UPDATE: John said...

Do you know those little confectionery chocolate drops with tiny white candies embedded on the top? They're called "nonpareils." But in my family, they are called Vern Parsells.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

500 Reasons to Like the Fiat/Chrysler Merger

There were a few titters from readers (and from me) after the announcement that Fiat was merging with Chrysler, prompting Flint Expat Jim Holbel to point out that Chrysler has just deftly solved its small car problem:
"Fiat will face some brand challenges, but if we hit $4-5/gallon gas, many Americans will be interested in products like the Fiat 500. At $1.60/gallon it looks like bad biz, but this might look like sheer genius in about 2-3 years."
Or even sooner. When gas prices begin their inevitable climb, the 500 (that's pronounced "chin-kwe-chen-to" if you really want to get with the program) will look very appealing. In fact, it looks pretty amazing right now.

The interior of the Fiat 500. (Both photos courtesy of Fiat)

of Tribune Newspapers writes:
"The deal could have obvious upsides for Chrysler, which has a lineup sorely lacking in small cars and a very limited international presence."
And Chrysler's infrastructure offers Fiat an economical way to get back in the U.S. Market.
"After decades selling in the U.S., Fiat abandoned the market in 1984. At the time the brand had a reputation of being unreliable. In the past 25 years, however, Fiat has built upon its strengths in other markets, making it, for example, the largest carmaker by volume in Brazil." Bensinger writes. "Last year the company introduced the Fiat 500, a two-door hatchback designed to compete with BMW's Mini. An instant hit, the 500 won the 2008 European car of the year award, and U.S. fans have been salivating at the thought of driving one."
So Chrysler has made what looks like a good move. Now let's see what G.M. does.

Friday, January 23, 2009

The Mikatam

I have to confess I have never been to the Mikatam and don't even know where it was located. Was it way out on Clio Road, or was that The Embers? I remember hearing about it, but know next to nothing about the place. It apparently had some sort of 32 for 1 drink special, which seems hard to organize. And readers keep referencing it. So what's the story with this place? What was it like? Who went there? Where the hell was it? And what's with the goofy name? Were the owners a couple named Mike and Tammy or something?

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Is the Academy of Flint Interested?

My source tells me that Academy of Flint, a charter school on Coldwater Road, is in the running to purchase the current Powers location on Carpenter Road. Again, this is shameless rumor mongering, although with some insider knowledge.

Academy of Flint had a rezoning bid fall through in October that would have allowed the school to relocate, so they are interested in moving.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Holy Redeemer and Holy Rosary Schools to Close...Powers Finds a New Home?

Holy Redeemer School and, possibly, the future Powers Catholic High School? (Photo by Stuart Bauer/The Flint Journal)

Holy Redeemer and Holy Rosary Catholic schools will both close at the end of the academic year.

Linda Angelo of The Flint Journal reports:

Dwindling enrollment and finances, demographic shifts and the overall economy in the Flint area has had a devastating impact on Catholic schools.

"We certainly wished we could keep it open," Holy Redeemer Deacon Rod Amon said. "It's always a sad day when things have to be closed for any reason. Teachers are displaced and people have to find a new place to send their kids for their education. It can be very traumatic."

The fate of Powers High may be related to this story. Flint Expats has already discussed Powers' fundraising difficulties that contributed to the school's decision to scuttle plans to relocate to Grand Blanc. Now a source with some insider knowledge on the Diocese of Lansing tells me rumors are swirling that Powers will abandon its location on Carpenter Road and move into Holy Redeemer. It would liberate Powers from the north end and move them south, which is more prosperous. And Powers already plays their home football games at Redeemer, so it's a familiar spot. Again, this is just an unconfirmed rumor, but it doesn't seem far fetched.

UPDATE: Amy , Powers Class of 1994, writes:

I just got the Powers newsletter in email yesterday which contains a letter from Tom Furnas that they are in negotiations to sell the Carpenter Rd spot (who wants to buy that??) and that there are rumors that some things will be compromised at the possible new locations. He addresses those rumors and the only thing I can think of is that Holy Redeemer doesn't have tennis courts? And I don't remember them having a huge/fabulous basketball court. My only memory of it though was going to Holy Redeemer dances so it was dark! :)

Here is his letter:

Dear Powers Catholic Parent;

I last wrote to you two months ago to share what I could about our efforts to bring about the relocation of our school. In that letter I mentioned that we had received a written off er for our property and were pursuing specific options for a new location.

We have now entered a period of concrete negotiations with the potential buyer to ensure that we receive a fair value for our property and to guarantee that the sale would go through in a time frame that would allow us a proper transition to our new home. There are, of course, a number of details to be worked out and we won’t consider the deal done until the legal agreements are signed. We are represented by real estate attorneys selected by the Diocese of Lansing.

While we are still looking at the possibilities surrounding three specific options, we have given ourselves a deadline and will present a proposal to Bishop Boyea this winter. Our bishop is engaged in this process and is supportive of our efforts. Again, we will share with you our plans at the earliest possible time.

Among the rumors floating around, perhaps the most disconcerting is that a relocated Powers Catholic will have to give up many of its programs. One of Powers’ great strengths is our commitment to both academic and extracurricular programs that serve students of varying abilities and interests. A staggering percent of our student body is involved in our extracurricular program. This richness, along with a dedicated and professional staff , will continue to be a hallmark of Powers Catholic. I believe I speak for the board and the faculty when I say that we would stay at our current campus before we would compromise our programs.

Catholic schools throughout Michigan are facing challenges because of the hard economic times in which we find ourselves. In terms of student enrollment, Powers remains the largest high school in the Diocese of Lansing and is in the top quartile of all Catholic high schools in the state. As a Class B high school, our enrollment is also in the top one-half of all schools in the state. Tough times do not last but Powers Catholic will.

Abide in faith, hope, and love.

Sincerely in Christ,
Thomas Furnas

Like Amy, I'm curious who would buy such a large block of land on Carpenter Road. And I'm a little concerned about the "Tough times do not last but Powers Catholic will" line. I mean I hope it's true, but wasn't that the semi-official Flint slogan in the eighties? We saw how well that turned out. It might have some bad karma associated with it.

Fiat To The Rescue?

Just how desperate is the American auto industry? Fiat may be taking over Chrysler.

Inauguration Day...Finally!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Flint Portraits: Justin Clanton

Justin Clanton, Self Portrait.

Anyone from Flint knows how easy it is for a city and its residents to get lost in the economic shuffle. Sure, we may take a certain pride in being from a place like Flint. After all, you earn some street cred coming from a town famous for its catastrophic fall from prosperity — when little kids could learn to drive at Safetyville and there was so much cash in the city coffers that free harp lessons were available to anyone who wanted them — to the unofficial capital of the Rust Belt, a strange netherworld where the locals sell rabbits for "pets or meat." But deep down, I think most of us are still wondering how the hell all this was allowed to happen. It's the same feeling the residents of New Orleans had in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Outsiders seem to forget there are actual people living in Flint with stories to tell. It's not just an abstract example of economic decline or some sort of urban planning cartoon. I think that's one of the reasons why I was instantly drawn to Justin Clanton's photos and writing. He has a series called "A Walk in the Park" that chronicles the people he meets in downtown Flint. Over beer and cigarettes, he manages to gets their stories. With this collection of photos, along with his other portraits of friends and family, this kid from Mt. Morris shows that Flint is still there. It's not exactly doing well, but it's alive and kicking.

Here's a brief interview with Justin with a few of his photos:

How did you get started taking photos?

I got into photography because I was pretty pumped on a skateboard photo I saw that a buddy of mine, Kevin Saari, had taken back when I was in the 11th grade. My father, Bruce (pictured at left with Kristy the dog) was excited that I was interested in photography. It had also been a great hobby of his, so he seemed eager to back me on my decision to start shooting photographs. He taught me the basics and pretty much anything you see in my photographs today. My father has been the best teacher I've ever had in the field of photography.

Do you have a grand vision for your work? An elaborate artistic manifesto?

As for my "approach" and "artistic vision," I don't think I really have one. I just go out and photograph people that interest me. (Whitney LaBarge, left.) I'm not a fan of shooting trees, flowers, clouds, and parking lots. I prefer the breathing subjects such as people, and well, just people. Had I stayed in college I probably could have answered this question better but well, I just do what I do.

How do you prepare yourself for a project like this?

I'm not enrolled in any colleges right now. I'm not exactly sure on what I want to pursue in life, so I'm not too keen the idea of spending a load of money on classes that I may not even need. I did however do a few courses in photography at Mott Community College, which I feel was a complete waste of time and money. Although I don't live in Flint, I think I have a pretty good understanding about how things work downtown and in the “rougher” parts of town. Buddies of mine and I started taking the bus (MTA) downtown in the summer between 8th and 9th grade just to skateboard. Now we've grown up and drive down there, but it's a pretty much constant thing to do whenever the weather permits. Skateboarding, walking around, exploring, getting into a little trouble, etc.

How did you come up with the idea for "A Walk in the Park"?

I was just having an off day and bummed out, so I went downtown to the River Bank Park with my sister because she wanted to walk her dog. I saw Neal Peterson throughout the park sitting here and there but didn't give it much thought. When my sister left, I had a few beers in my backpack, so I offered him one and we just got to talking. A few moments later I asked if I could photograph him and he said sure. After that we continued to talk and exchange stories for a good two hours.

For about two months straight I had been working six days a week — pretty much non-stop — so I didn't get out to do much. After I got a break from working, I just had a bunch of money saved so I would just go downtown most everyday, even if I had to work. I'd get a couple beers or something and go to the park and just relax — enjoy the sun and the weather and the trees. If you're down there enough you start to recognize familiar faces and they start to recognize you.

It was a nice balance of an attitude of "I wonder if this person has a story to tell" and boredom. I would be the only one of my friends that really enjoyed just sitting on a park bench, so I didn't have anyone to talk to. A little bit of beer helped to loosen me up and to relax the nerves. Of course, there are always those uncomfortable times because you don't know this person or what they'll do, I mean, it's hard times right now. I met a guy that told me if I had done this (talking, listening, and photographing) two years ago he would have robbed me for any money I had, even if it were a dollar. So there's always that thought in the back of my mind, of what could happen. But then again, you only live once, and I don't think I'm really ready to give up my camera. My father tells me I have a strong judge of character, and I feel I know what some people would and wouldn't do.

Getting a photograph isn't always what I have set out to do when I talk to people. Sure it was the first one or two times, because it's what I went down there for. Then I met Michael (left) and when I left the first day to go skateboard around he thanked me and said "You know man, thank you. Thank you for just listening to me. Us homeless people, we don't have many friends, so we don't have many people to talk to." After that, my only intention was to go down there and help these people, even it wasn't giving them money or food, but just something as simple as listening to them talk and laughing with them. I've only got seven portraits for this series but I've probably talked to at least a dozen people. A few didn't want me to photograph them but I still stayed and talked, and I talked with them the next day. A few people I didn't even bother asking as I was just pleased enough to have the conversation and hear about New York bars and wild stories of how some people live. But even after I get the photo, it doesn't stop there. I was downtown a lot then and I'd see most these people on the daily basis and they'd talk and I'd listen. It didn't stop just because I got a photograph.

What does the future hold for Flint?

I don't know how to really describe the city to be honest. I love it, like I actually really enjoy Flint. There's always something going on and you can get away with pretty much anything considering the police have much, much larger things to worry about — murders, drugs, and crime. As for the general outlook and future of Flint, I don't see it doing well. My mother works for the Flint Schools and every year I hear about more job cuts they're having to make because kids just aren't going to school. If the kids aren't in school, the state doesn't give the district money; schools have to close leaving people without jobs, and without jobs, people go to the streets. Once you're in the streets, I can see that it's hard to get back on your feet. Worried? I don't know if that's really the word I'd choose to describe it, but that's just because I'm not the type of guy who worries about things. I just let things roll out and happen how they happen.

A Walk in the Park

September 2008
Flint Michigan
Neal Paterson

This is Neal Peterson. I saw Neal while walking downtown w/ my sister and walking her dog; He was sitting on a ledge and I later learned he was charging his phone on a public outlet because it had just recently died. He lives off Colorado Ave. on the east side of Flint where he so desperately wants to move out from. When I asked him where he's been in life he said he's responded w/ San Francisco, Florida, Atlanta, and Flint. He said he always ends up back in Flint and doesn't know why.

When I gave him a beer he was more than pumped and started to roll a cigarette. I ended up giving him my lighter because he was using matches and frankly, I don't even smoke.

We had got to talking and I found out he was thirty years old, he has one sister that is thirty-four years old and one that is forty years old and lost his mother in 2004 to Lupus. He told me "insurance is very important and that there are so many people w/out it." Neal told me his mother lived thirty-one years longer than doctors had expected her to.

When I had asked Neal what he'd do if he won the lottery or just got four million dollars he had said he'd buy a large building, renovate it and open it up to the homeless or anyone that wants to come through; "You know, feed the homeless and help people out in hard times." I then asked him where he'd do this at and he responded w/ "Right here man. Flint. The government spends millions of dollars a month on war to help these other people and yet they can't even help the people on their own land." I wish I could have helped this man out more than I could at the moment.

I ended up giving him my last beer, then leaving just to return w/ a forty of PBR for Neal as well as for myself and we continued to talk. He said his grandpa drank PBR religiously (I couldn't blame him). Neal asked me how Kalamazoo was because he had the offer to live there w/ a buddy and a job lined up. I told him it was like a Miller Road area (nice houses, nice neighborhood, etc) and told me that is what two other people had said and that sounded nice. Much nicer than the east side of Flint. I didn't disagree.

When we took this photograph he had the beer behind his back saying "Wait, you don't want the beer in the shot I know." and I replied w/ "No, it's cool. It's how we're living" and he put on a little smile.

For information on purchasing Justin Clanton's work, go to his Flickr page here. You can also email him for more information: justin(dot)clanton(at)gmail(dot)com.
"A Walk in The Park" series prints are $40, with half going back to the subject themselves. Justin writes: "I've got phone numbers for some people, and addresses (mostly to their parents' home, as they themselves don't have an address) for others. If I have neither, I try my damnedest to look for them downtown and around the vicinity to get them their money to help them out. Other prints go for various amounts depending on if they're mounted, size, and all the other variabilities"

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Winter Wonderland

For any expatriates missing Michigan over the holidays, this might help end your longing...Flint broke a 95-year-old record early Wednesday morning when the temperature plummeted to a frigid 19 below zero. The previous record? Minus 10, set in 1914, according to the National Weather Service.

On the road with Flint bounty hunters

Flintoids, especially when they happen to be bounty hunters, often do things a little differently than people in places like Phoenix.

Linda Angelo of The Flint Journal reports:
A bounty hunter from Flint allegedly shot a man he was trying to apprehend during an apparent struggle outside a Phoenix apartment.

The bounty hunter, along with two others, drove to Arizona to find Henry Smart, who is wanted on an outstanding felony warrant in a 2007 armed robbery in Flint.

Police say two of the bounty hunters forced their way into the front of the apartment. Smart attempted to escape through a window but was met by the third bounty hunter.

Detective Cindy Scott of the Phoenix Police Department said a struggle ensued and the man inadvertently shot Smart, who was unarmed, in the chest.

But Shirley Smart, Henry's mother, said she believes the shooting was intentional and questions the tactics used by the bounty hunters from Phillip's Bail Bonds Service on South Saginaw Street in Flint.

"They went to his home without being escorted by police and kicked in the door," said Smart, a Flint resident. "You have to have a search warrant."

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Flint Postcards: Biplane Flies Downtown c. 1910

Sammy Davis Says "Hello Detroit"

Detroit's been taking a lot of crap lately, but it's good to know Sammy will never abandon Motown. Thanks to Grumkin for reminding me of this gem.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Flint Artifacts: Gem Theatre Tickets

Coming Home for the Detroit Auto Show

As the Detroit Auto Show swings into action, Lawrence Ulrich has an interesting profile of the city many journalists love to hate. He writes:

My late blue-collar father and retired white-collar uncle worked for Budd, a parts supplier that was absorbed by a German steel company. My brother, Kurt, is a millwright at Chrysler, though he’s been idle since Easter and has had two tours of Iraq as an Army reservist.

As a teenager in the ’80s, I lasted a year in a union-free shop, a nasty corrugated bunker where accidents and callous managers taught me why unions came to exist. Now I’m back for an annual auto-show pilgrimage, which also allows a catch-up with friends, family and the city that I love — sort of. Detroit and its eponymous industry are both like the relative who’s in and out of rehab: you’re never sure whether he needs a hug or a smack upside the head.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Vernor's Target Practice

Just because the country's in the worst economic tailspin since the Great Depression doesn't mean we can't enjoy life's simple pleasures. Use these two energetic Michiganders as a guide. With nothing more than a BB gun, a shaken bottle of Vernor's, and their own fervent imaginations, they apparently had the greatest experience of their lives. Let us all strive to be as open to life's wonders as these two inspired gents.

Made in Michigan

G.M. will make Volt batteries in Michigan, but the automaker isn't saying exactly where.

Lindsay Brooke of The New York Times reports:
G.M.’s announcement comes three weeks after Michigan’s legislature approved tax incentives worth up to $335 million aimed at attracting advanced-battery manufacturers to the state. The credits will be apportioned depending on production volume and other factors. Gov. Jennifer M. Granholm is expected to sign the legislation.

“This is very important, and it’s beyond symbolic,” said Brett Smith, speaking of the plant’s significance. Mr. Smith, assistant director for manufacturing, engineering and technology at the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Mich., explained that it is critical for the Detroit Three automakers to create an infrastructure in the United States for volume production of batteries for electric, plug-in electric and hybrid vehicles.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Flint Artifacts: Citizens Bank Glass

Is that you Smurfs?

Does Wurstside = Smurfs, Inc?

Just ignore this if it makes no sense to you.

Banning Plastic Bags Might Not Help the Environment

Genesee County is considering a ban on plastic bags. It sounds like an obvious way to help the environment, right? That's what San Francisco thought when it enacted a bag ban. But it turns out all the ban does is encourage people to use paper bags, which turns out to be worse for the environment.

Joe Eskenazi told the counter-intuitive tale in a recent issue of SF Weekly. He writes:
Still, a number of cities and even nations have weighed the scientific evidence and concluded that a San Francisco–style ban simply shunts shoppers to paper bags and is markedly worse for the environment than the status quo. "Paper bags have a greater environmental impact than plastic bags, and therefore you would not create a policy that banned plastic and forced everyone to use paper only," said Dick Lilly, the manager of the waste prevention program for Seattle Public Utilities. After much analysis, that city spurned the San Francisco model in favor of a fee on all bags, meant to spur shoppers to bring their own.
Genesee County officials should read the article before they act. There's no denying that plastic bags are about as evil as plastic water bottles, but a ban might actually make things worse. The real solution is getting people to embrace BYOB — Bring your own bag.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Flint Portraits: Bill Stolpin

Artist Bill Stolpin discusses his career and the story behind his evocative prints of Flint landmarks...

I was born and raised in Flint. My dad took the family to Milwaukee in '48 to help set up the AC Spark Plug operation there. We moved back in '53 when I went to Garfield elementary, Emerson Junior High and old Northern High School, where I am currently a Distinguished Alumni with my picture on the wall at the new High School. We lived on Detroit street between Rankin and Taylor streets (across from the Salem Lutheran Church). I graduated from Northern in 1960, and went directly to GMI. Graduated with my BME in 1965. By the way, I earned my Eagle Scout rank while at GMI.

While I was in Junior High, I was making linoleum block Christmas cards. One card in particular had 7 blocks and about 15 colors. I realized, at that time, that I had a knack for printmaking, and have been making images ever since.

I used to draw pencil portraits of my classmates, and took some classes at the old Flint Institute of Arts when it was located behind the Bell Telephone building. My mother was a Cub Scout Denmother, and I was her Den Chief. As a result, I learned many arts and craft skills that my mother taught at her Scout meetings. I was an active member of the IPA (International Platform Association) and helped to arrange and hang their art show in Washington DC for years. One year international lithographer Emil Weddige (then a professor of art at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor) took me under his wing, convincing me to focus on my printmaking skills. It was under his guidance that my first lithograph "...and the Santa Maria" was completed. A print from that edition was subsequently acquired by the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum for their permanent collection of space art along with my screenprint entitled "One Giant Leap." I went back to school and earned an Associate of Fine arts degree from Mott Community college, and was working toward a BFA at Eastern Michigan University when I retired from GM in 1993.

The Flint images started as a project proposed by the late James Anthony. Jim was the fourth member of DAS Print Co. Jim (who died in 1999), Carole Brender, Stefan Davidek and I have been printing in my studio (in Holly) religiously once a week since 1980. Back in '83 he and Stefan suggested that we print a portfolio of four silkscreen prints of Flint. This was similar to a project that they had done back in the ‘60s with John Davies and Bob Knapman. Jim did the old library; Stefan did the Milner arcade; Carole did the Halo Burger on Saginaw St, and I did the Original Flint Coney Island on Saginaw St. The portfolio was an instant success. Individual prints from that portfolio have increased significantly in price and are exceedingly rare, while complete 4-print suites are nearly impossible to find today. As a group, DAS Print Co. produced several additional 4-print suites, while Carole and I continued to make individual Flint building prints. We all have positive memories of Flint in our younger days, and I personally wanted to share those memories with others.

I currently live in Holly, about 20 minutes South of Flint. I recently completed a long stretch on the Board of Trustees for the Greater Flint Arts Council. I am a member of Flint Artists Market (An association of professional artists in Flint) and was a member of the (cooperative) Left Bank Gallery until it finally died after fifty years. I currently teach printmaking at the Flint Institute of Arts.

My work shows up everywhere! Hurley and McLaren hospitals both have our work prominently displayed. A number of professionals (doctors, dentists, attorneys, banks etc) have been acquiring our work for years. The late Frank DeLorenzo (Don Francos Hair Styling) had/has an immense collection of our city prints. They show up in waiting rooms, and other popular public locations like the Sarvis Food Center.

People tell me that the prints act as an immediate icebreaker. Everyone has memories to recount after seeing them. Stefan, Carole and I regularly have our set-ups at the Flint Art Fair in June.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Flint Photos: Detroit Street

505 Detroit Street in 1982. Photo by Jar With Most.

Stroh's Is Spoken Here

Wow, this jingle may actually be worse than the Hyatt's. Umm, actually, after giving the Hyatt song another painful listen, this lame Stroh's song is a lot better.

40 Years of Fun!

After 40 years at Chrysler's Twinsburg Stamping Plant in Ohio, Bill Wetherholt has a few stories to tell. Now he's obviously not a Flintoid, but it's still worth reading his interview on

A brief sample...
Jessie: Can you tell me a little bit about your first experiences when you were hired at Chrysler?

Bill: Being afraid. (Laughing) When I first started working there, we really worked hard, but you didn’t think about working hard at that time. There were no filtration systems in the plant, there were no safety signs telling you to wear ear plugs and safety goggles. They didn’t have covers over the presses and the gears were exposed, I mean there were so many hazards that you worked around that you never thought about it.

Thanks to Kris Stableford for sending this my way.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Flint Style...Tank-Tops, Gold Chains and Rainbow Ice Cream

No comment.

Flint Artifacts: Mott Park Rocket

This is the best kind of Flint's still there. Special thanks to Grumkin, who took this shot on a recent visit to Flint.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Big Bad Wolf

The menacingly named Village of Wolves in Flint is weird enough, but what about an actual wolf of the large-ass variety allegedly shot near Flint?

Linda Godfrey on Absolute Michigan writes:

One consistently described feature of the Dog Man, an upright-walking canine many witnesses claim stalks the woods and roadsides of Michigan, is its size…usually six to seven feet tall on its hind legs. It stands to reason, then, that massive, wolfen creatures should be glimpsed or even bagged by hunters now and then. That is exactly what happened to a deer hunter named Eastman around noon on November 18, 1935, on the third day of deer hunting season. Eastman was hunting near Flint around Rhody Creek Trail, and despite good weather and a great layer of tracking snow, there were absolutely no deer to be seen.

Eastman soon found out why. He suddenly heard what sounded like “horses running,” and turned to see a massive timber wolf at a dead run. Eastman ended up shooting a wolf rather than a deer that day. He gutted it and dragged it into town to have it weighed and measured; it was 182 pounds even after gutting, and measured seven feet, 11 inches tall when measured hanging vertically. The creature stood 39 inches at the shoulder! It was considered such a magnificent specimen that the carcass was sent to the Carnegie Institute in Pittsburgh where it was mounted and displayed. The entire story of the great Flint Wolf was told in the Great Lakes Pilot, Vol. 3, No. 6, 2005.

Youthful Bliss



Flint Artifacts: The Country Squire Matchbook

Thanks to Toprat1 for the artifact.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Valley School Memories

Darwin writes: "Ironically, the 'looking up' picture of the building is taken from the exact spot where kids went to smoke various things. They were often targets of large paper or Styrofoam cups filled with water dropped from one of the top windows, which was the student lounge. Photo by Jar With Most (a.k.a. Tom Wirt).

Darwin reminds us that the now-demolished St. Matt's School was also home to the Valley School for many years...
I'm a Valley School alumni (Class of '82) and I spent a number of years at the old St. Matt's. I have many fond memories of my time spent in that building. At the time, Valley was going strong and that old building rang with life from top to bottom.

It makes me sad to see they tore down the place. I saw the pictures of the demolition and recognized the blue color of the walls of the classroom where I struggled through 3 years of French with Madame Heitman. It's like they tore down a piece of my childhood. I always felt that big old pile of bricks was more like my second home than just a school. From that school as a base, I explored the best remnants that late seventies/early eighties Downtown Flint had to offer. We'd sign ourselves out in the main office at the top of those long granite stairs and head out into the world.

We were regulars at Halo Burgers, and spent a lot of time at the Montgomery Ward's lunch counter too. I remember 99 cent Spaghetti Wednesdays and Fish and Chips Friday, Not to mention all the lunch and after school hours and quarters burned on the Asteroids machine at Perry Drugs or the Gorf machine at Doobies.

We hit the A&W, taunted the inmates at the jail, never got questioned at Hat's or the Torch. We never ripped off the blind attendant who ran the concession stand in the basement of the PO across the street. It just wasn't done, no matter how bad you wanted a Twinkie or a bottle of pop. We spent many an hour at the park up on Church Street playing softball or baseball and practicing soccer for our hopelessly outclassed small school sports teams. To train for a distance race, I once ran around the school building 100 times on that wonderful blacktop. When the Red Dragon Hobby Shop opened downtown to complement Bachman's Hobby Shop, I was in geekboy heaven.

I can still almost hear the creak of the old tongue and groove hardwood floors in some of the classrooms, and see the marble mosaic tiled floors worn smooth in the main hallways and on the stairs; the massively overstocked library; and the huge circular hand washing fountains in the boys room. If someone saved the front doors, you can scrape off the new paint and find the green layer of paint that I put on them so many years ago.

I never knew it as St. Matt's, only as Valley with its Led Zeppelin mural painted hallways, student decorated lockers, bright red carpeted rugrat dungeon, massive basement art suite with potter's wheels, kilns, and silk screening presses, the darkroom, and the ever popular 3rd story student lounge.

Well, at least the Gym is still standing and it's gleaming, ferociously waxed floor — home to many intense basketball and floor hockey games, as well as the karate tournament that paid for our graduation — and the dank, never quite clean locker rooms (with showers that no one ever used!) will live on to remind us of what once was.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Pale Rider Revealed

Tom Wirt provides photographic evidence that Flint is at least a one-horse town.

I have to admit I was always a little skeptical of my sister Marty's claim that she met some guy in downtown Flint once riding a horse and wearing a Mexican poncho. I thought it might be some sort of Clint Eastwood fantasy. She even had a name — John Kotarski.

Keep in mind that Marty claims she can't remember anything that happened to her before the 9th grade and, at 15, regularly drove the family car to get to her driver's training lessons, which seems slightly illegal, even in a car-loving town like Flint.

But Flint Expatriate readers have backed her up on this one. It seems the urban cowboy lived on Avon Street and even had a fictionalized children's story written about him in The Flint Journal. And, as I should have expected, Tom Wirt even has a photo of the horse nibbling grass in a Flint backyard. I find it hilarious that Tom lived next door to the horse, but never met John. I guess when you live in Flint and your neighbor has a horse and a poncho, you just assume he also has a rifle and it's wise not to ask too many questions.

So Marty...I apologize for doubting you, but I'm still not buying the story that you smashed up the family station wagon trying to avoid a squirrel in the Powers' parking lot.

And John Kotarski...we expect to hear from you soon.

Here are some more details from Macy Swain

"Oh, I knew John Kotarski well, and yes, he was a big East Village character. He did have a horse, boarded via a grandfather clause on Avon Street. In the early 80s I wrote a serial Christmas children's story for the Flint Journal featuring a fictionalized version of Kotarski -- I think I named him Cliff; when the story finished, on Christmas Eve, John and his horse Ali rode through downtown in the Christmas parade. One famous story about him was when he tried riding the horse into Doobie's and was forever after banned. He's now happily married to an Ann Arbor academic. I don't know if he still owns any places in Flint. Yes, he did gut a place on Second Street. Remember when the "sheet people" rolled through town? I had dinner with them in that place on Second Street -- some young lovelies were feeding a long-haired guru brown rice. Really, really strange. John put them up for a couple of weeks. He was a bit loud and overbearing but had a good heart and I was and am fond of him."

Marty's original question...
"Does anyone know anything about a guy named John Katarsky? He was kind of a hippie lawyer (supposedly) who left the profession. When I met him he had a roller skating rental kiosk in downtown Flint. When you rented skates from him he also offered you a glass of wine (whatever). He was quite eccentric and he rode around town on a horse and wore a Mexican poncho and a hemp woven hat. NO...I am not dropping acid! He's a real guy!"