Friday, February 27, 2009

Flint Artifacts: Flint Central vs. Battle Creek 1950 Football Program

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Michael Brown: Mayor of Flint (Temporarily)

With all the excitement of The Don quitting and then demanding back pay, I forgot to mention that Flint has a new mayor — Michael Brown.

High Sticking

A Flint Generals hockey player sues the team over a worker's comp claim.

UM-Flint Gets Physical?

First dorms, now sports at UM-Flint?

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

John Daniels

John Daniels, a 1984 Powers graduate, died Wednesday. He was in his first year as the freshman basketball coach at Powers. He attended St. Mary's Mt. Morris and Donovan North before going to Powers, where he was All-State in baseball and All-Big Nine Conference in football and basketball.

A more extensive article on John in The Flint Journal is available here.

The visitation will be at the Miles-Martin Funeral Home in Mt. Morris. The schedule is as follows:

Thursday from 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

Friday from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. A rosary will be held at 6:00 p.m. on the same day.

The Mass will be on Saturday morning at 11:00 a.m. at St. Mary's Mt. Morris.

Here a some of the comments from readers about John:

steph said...

A very sad day again for the class of 84 he will be missed. So sorry for his family the loss i'm sure is great. It is so shocking time is short live each day as if it was your last.

God Bless,

Stephanie Hoffman
class of 84

bustdup said...

Too Young, too young. Condolences to His Loved Ones.Delete

Anonymous said...

As a fellow 1984 Powers High graduate, I can't agree with you more Stephanie. It proves that none of us, regardless of status, are immune to the final outcome of life, whatever time frame that may be.

May John's soul and the souls of all the faithful departed through the mercy of God rest in peace, amen.

God bless us all.

Anonymous said...

John Daniels was a Powers legend. I remember watching his Powers team in the state basketball tourney in 84.
I feel terrible for his family.

redgirl said...

This is very, very sad and shocking news. My deepest condolences to the entire family and all of his many friends.

Maureen Stewart
Class of 83

Anonymous said...

Thanks for putting this on your blog. John was such an awesome person. He was the best when he was around kids. I just met John in the last year. He was dating my sister, and had met all of my family, and I was the last one he hadn't met. My sister called me to come over and have cocktails and meet John. That day I had my hair colored. So, not knowing John (although I had great reviews from my family of him) I decided to go over to with this hideous blond Hannah Montana like wig on. I came into the house and gave him a hug and introduced myself. The look on his face was priceless! I'm sure he thought who the hell is this person? (Ok, skank might come to mind). My sister walked around the corner and I asked her if I looked to blond and she was cracking up. Poor John, he was so sweet to "be really glad to meet me" and when I took of the wig, we were all laughing so hard. Over the next several months I got to enjoy so many laughs with John. I was at the funeral home tonight, and there were so many people there, and many did not want to leave. He will be buried with his beloved Power's basketball coach shirt on. He lived and died Powers. God bless him and all the love he shared with so many people. We are all looking up to heaven and knowing it just became even a better place. Love you John, and I will truly miss you. And if I ever really decide to dye my hair blonde, please tap on my shoulder and knock some sense into me.Delete

Anonymous said...

John was my hero growing up. He was like a big brother to many of us who were a few years younger. I remember the summer going into the ninth grade and he helped both me and Tim McCollum "bulk up" for freshman football. (I think he was dating Kelly McCollum at the time). He had the sweetest jump shot from the corner ever. What a loss. RIP John.

Rob Gilbreath
Class of 1987

geewhy said...

You always knew the name of the other team’s best player in the old Flint Catholic school leagues. So I knew John Daniels’ name long before I actually met him.

John’s death is a sad reminder that none of us have as much time as we think we do. For me, it has also triggered memories of playing sports in the seventies.

When I was in sixth grade at St. Mary’s Flint, we installed a special defense to deal with John when we played St. Mary’s Mt. Morris. Our coach, Kenny West, taught us the box-and-one. It’s basically a 2-2 zone with one player covering John man-to-man. It was the only time we ever used it. There were no other players in the league who warranted it.

The fact I remember this stuff says something about the role sports played in the Catholic school system. By the time most of us made it to Powers, we not only knew the kids at our grade school, but we knew a lot of the students at the other schools as well. High School is not an easy time, but it helped knowing so many kids in advance.

At Powers, I actually got to play freshman and J.V. basketball with John. More accurately, he played (very well) and I sat. But he didn’t fit the stereotype of the star athlete. He was a funny guy, and he didn’t carry himself like he was better than anyone because of his athletic skills. I’m sorry he’s gone, and I feel for his family and friends.

Now, like much of Flint, Powers seems to be struggling. Most of the Catholic grade schools have closed, and I fear that little world within a world that played out in St. Mary’s tiny gym or on football fields around the city has disappeared along with them.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

One Piece at a Time

Buy American...Even If It's Made in Canada

Now for something from the I'm-not-quite-sure-what-the-point-is category...

The Detroit News, which is on the verge of going out of business, reports that many Obama administration officials are just like most other Americans — they prefer foreign to domestic when it comes to cars.

Of course, figuring out what counts as an "American" car these days ain't easy. As UM-Flint's Mark J. Perry points out, several American cars, including the Buick Lacrosse and the Chevy Impala, are made by UAW workers in Canada. "What about the 2008 Honda Pilot and Honda Civics," he asks, "built in the U.S. with higher domestic content (70%) than the 2008 Dodge Ram (68%) and the Michigan-built Ford Mustang (65%)?" And don't forget about the cars that sound foreign, like the Mitsubishi Galant and the Toyota Corolla, that are often made by UAW workers in the U.S.

It's all a little confusing. Unless, like me, you've got a 1990 Camry that's paid off and a San Francisco-sized mortgage. I'm not paralyzed by choice. I'm broke.

UPDATE: An insider at one of the Big Three points out that there's a big difference between "Made in America" and "Assembled in America."

The distinction that is being made about what is "Made in America" is a subtle one. More accurate for many foreign nameplates with factories here is "Assembled in America". A significant part of the cost of a vehicle is in the assembly process (i.e. the factory workers who make $40-60K per year and use that money to buy things in their communities). An equally significant piece of the cost structure are the support functions that also help build middle class neighborhoods in Flint and Detroit. These are the engineering, purchasing, finance, and IT functions just to name a few. Thousands of these folks work for the auto companies and these jobs go away when volume drops just like the factory jobs. One of the differences between a foreign company and an American company is that these jobs - thousands of them - are here in the US - not in Japan, or China, or Korea. Some of these companies may have a design center here and there but the vast bulk of their support groups are in their home country. So saying that a Japanese car assembled at a factory here in the US is just as American as a Chevy or Ford assembled in the US is not correct. The dollars traded within our communities by employees and families of the Detroit Three far exceed those traded by factory workers of foreign nameplates.

Think about this for a minute. One day, when the volume and demand return for auto purchases again, every car company in the world will be making money. When profits are made, people get raises and maybe even bonuses. The support employees right up to the mid level managers may get a modest bonus in a good year - say $3 - 6K. They may use that money to build a new deck, put on a roof, replace the windows on their house, take a vacation - you name it - the point is they put that money back into the economy. The big guys with the bigger paychecks put more back into the economy and often donate more as well. Nearly 100% of the cultural centers in Flint and Detroit are due to the generosity from the folks who helped create great wealth from the auto industry.

So when Toyota makes money, where does that wealth go? Right back to Japan.

Where a car is assembled is not the only measure of what constitutes "Made in America" and I would argue that the wealth and support of the US economy by a foreign car assembled in the US is dwarfed by an American car company assembling a car anywhere in north America. Think about that next time you want to justify your support of the US economy by purchasing a Honda assembled in Ohio.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Flint Artifacts: Helmac Lint Roller

Expatriate Shawn Chittle provided this rare artifact — a Flint-made Helmac lint roller used to promote Michael Moore's Roger & Me.

Shawn writes: "Most were confiscated by Canadian customs when the marketing staff tried to take them to Toronto, where the film premiered more than 20 years ago on Saturday, Sept 9 at 9 p.m. Only a few of those lint rollers ever saw the light of day. In 2000 the company relocated to Georgia, and shortly after changed its name.

A Match Made in Flint

Randy Gearhart reflects on the romance of Flint...

I sometimes wonder how different my life would be today if I would have taken that job at Fisher Body Plant #2.

The year was 1969. I was home for the summer after my first year of classes at Michigan State. Although they weren’t doing much hiring at the time, I was able to get my foot in the door at the plant with the help of some of my dad’s co-workers. A job was mine if I wanted it. During orientation, however, I began to have second thoughts. When we took a break for lunch, I told GM, “thanks for the opportunity,” but I felt I needed to look for employment elsewhere.

I heard that A.M. Davison might be hiring, so I headed downtown to check things out. Well, they were—and they hired me. My job was selling suits, shirts, and ties on the second floor of the upscale men’s clothing store. Little did I realize, however, that I had not only found myself a summer job, but I was about to find a wife, also.

Most of the time, I brought my lunch to work with me. But on the days I wasn’t brown-bagging, I would walk across the street to eat at the Carriage Room at Smith-Bridgman’s Department Store. The Carriage Room was located on the mezzanine—sandwiched between the store’s first and second floors. The place had an atmosphere all its own. It had a low ceiling and was lighter and brighter toward the front—where the windows stretched from the street upward—but got progressively darker toward the back of the long, narrow room. The place was almost always filled with people and noise—lots of noise. The conversation, the clatter of plates, ringing of glasses, and the chink of silverware was non-stop. Lunchtime at the Carriage Room was a study in controlled chaos. Move ‘em in, serve ‘em up, and move ‘em out—somebody was likely waiting for your seat.

The Carriage Room counter is where I met “that girl,” Debra Reburn. Debbi was a student at Ainsworth High School and was working as a waitress over summer break. Call it fate, fortune, or “the hand of the Lord”—whatever it was, our Carriage Room encounter changed the course of two lives forever. We were married June 24, 1972, at Bethany United Presbyterian Church—the eastside church I attended while growing up.

This year will mark the 37th anniversary of the Gearhart/Reburn union. We have four wonderful children—three boys and a girl—five granddaughters, and, appearing soon, our first grandson, Kyle Christopher.

In celebration of our 25th wedding anniversary, my sister, Nancy, gave us the silver heart you see above. Those little store labels were carefully clipped from my late Uncle Ben’s ties. Today, they serve as a reminder of where our love and life together began—in the heart of a city called, “ Flint .”

(Oh, in case you wondered, I’m really, really glad I didn’t take that job at Fisher #2.)

Manufacturing in the Motor City

They're young. They've got geek chic. They make cool things. And they live in Detroit. It's City Bird.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Millionaire Former Mayor Asks for Back Pay

It seemed so simple. The Don resigns to avoid getting thrown out of office in a recall election. End of story, right? You just had to know it wouldn't be that easy.

Joe Lawlor of The Flint Journal reports:

"Former Mayor Don Williamson worked for $1 per year for the entire time he was in office. Now that he has resigned, he wants about $500,000 in back pay, in addition to the $115,000 he already received in retirement money.

"When asked by The Flint Journal whether critics would view him as being hypocritical, the former mayor said he didn't care.

"'I don't give a (expletive) what they think,' said Williamson, who resigned effective Feb. 15."

Friday, February 20, 2009

Saab Story

Saab, a subsidiary of G.M., declares bankruptcy. (Photo Courtesy of

This is Jim Rockford

There were a few readers who just weren't satisfied with the footage of Burt Reynolds in his Trans Am to commemorate the possible demise of the Pontiac brand. They wanted something more West Coast and less Southern. So this might be more appealing to some Flint Expats — James Garner in his Firebird from The Rockford Files.

Sorry I couldn't come up with any footage of that reverse spin out Rockford always used to turn around.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Beaver Flees Canada?

It appears the Detroit River beaver we've come to love may have swam over from the Canadian side of Lake St. Clair where beavers are known to hang out, according to John Hartig, the Detroit River refuge manager for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

"Why this beaver made the journey to the Detroit Edison intake canal is a mystery," writes John Gallagher in The Detroit Free Press. "It may have faced danger at its earlier site or simply gone in search of food. There are poplar trees at the Edison site, which happen to be a favorite source of bark for beavers."

Wait a minute. This beaver faced something so dangerous in Canada that he moved to Detroit? Man, there must been some craziness going on at the beaver lodge for this guy to give up free healthcare and the lower drinking age, eh?

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

So long, Pontiac

Not that it means a lot to Flint in terms of jobs, but it appears the Buick brand has survived the downsizing at G.M. Saturn and Pontiac weren't so lucky, if that's the right term in this situation.

Micheline Maynard of
The New York Times reports:

G.M. said Tuesday that it would phase out its Saturn brand by 2012. It does not plan to develop any more new vehicles for Saturn, which began 19 years ago as an effort to attract owners of small Japanese cars.

G.M. also said it was considering its options for the Pontiac division. The Pontiac name, part of the car business since 1932, could remain on some models, but may no longer be a separate division. G.M. said Pontiac would be a “focused brand” with fewer models.

The disclosures by G.M., contained in a viability plan submitted to the government, means that G.M. plans to cut its brands in half, to four: Chevrolet, Cadillac, Buick and GMC.

In loving memory of the Pontiac Trans Am...

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Critters Return to Detroit

Photo courtesy of Detroit Edison.

Jobs may be disappearing and the population plummeting, but at least beavers are returning to Detroit.

CBC News reports:

For the first time in perhaps a century, a beaver has been discovered living in Michigan's Detroit River.

Workers at Detroit Edison's Conners Creek power plant on Detroit's east riverfront caught images of the animal in November, using motion-sensitive cameras, the Detroit Free Press reported Monday.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services authorities say it's been between 75 and 100 years since a beaver was last seen in the river.

"It's part of that larger story of ecological recovery," John Hartig, the Detroit River refuge manager for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, told the paper.

Collared by the Economy

After years of blue-collar job cuts, the economic crisis is exacting a toll on white-collar workers, especially in Michigan.

Bill Vlasic and Nick Bunkley of The New York Times report:

"G.M., Ford and Chrysler have eliminated a total of 120,000 manufacturing jobs in the last three years. And now the cuts are drastically thinning the ranks of white-collar professionals, turning the once-bustling office towers of the companies into half-empty monuments to better days.

"G.M. delivered another blow last week when it said it would reduce its global salaried work force by 14 percent, or 10,000 workers this year. In the Detroit area, that could mean an additional 3,000 workers will be out of a job by May 1. G.M.’s next round of white-collar cuts will not include buyouts. Chrysler has not said whether it plans more cuts.

"The Detroit area housing market, already deeply depressed, has plummeted since the buyouts. In January, the foreclosure rate increased 102 percent from the same month a year earlier in Oakland County, Mich., home to a huge number of G.M. and Chrysler employees.

"The state’s unemployment rate was 10.6 percent in December and continues to climb. Job fairs routinely create mob scenes, drawing thousands of out-of-work employees of the Big Three and their suppliers."

A.C. Model Shop Memories

Blogger LarryPrune said...

My father and grandfather both retired from A.C. Spark Plug. My grandfather was an experimental metal model maker in the model shop. They were making coasters and Frisbees in the injection molding machines, and cutting bottle openers from a block of aircraft aluminum on some type of CNC machine. I have a spark plug keychain, as well as various plastic coasters, and a bottle opener made in the model shop during the 75th anniversary open house. I was in elementary school at the time. I recently drove by, and the engineering/model shop is the only building left between Averill and Dort.

Monday, February 16, 2009

A Test of Wills

G.M. and the U.A.W. struggle to reach some kind of agreement that will cut costs.

Please send Powers some money!

Are you a Powers High School graduate looking for a way to help out your old school and Flint at the same time? Well, there are two things you can do.

1. Go to the Powers website and update your contact information. This will get you on the mailing list and, of course, make it easier for the school to kindly ask you for a donation.

2. You could actually donate money to the school. There are several options, but one of the easiest is donating to the Annual Appeal. Just drop a check in the mail. Address it to Powers High School, G-2040 W. Carpenter Road, Flint, MI, 48505.

If this sounds like a great idea to you, please stop reading and go write that check!

If you are saying "Young has lost his mind if he thinks I'm giving any more money to that (pick your favorite Flint expletive and insert here) school," then please read on...

Now I know there may be a few things about Powers that make you reluctant to donate your hard-earned cash during a recession. I still harbor a few grudges myself. Let's see, there was the extremely unsympathetic math teacher who unsuccessfully tried to have me impeached as student body vice president, partly because the Dupont Street bus made me late for various meetings. That was sure a fun learning experience. And there was the vice-principal who once tried to humiliate me in front of a class because I hadn't worn socks that day. And there was the English teacher who almost failed me because I didn't take notes — my personal class notes, I should add — neatly enough. And the French teacher who...okay, I should stop now. You get the idea. I'm sure all you Catholic school veterans out there have your own lists.

My point is that I've set aside all of those petty grievances. In fact, I hardly ever even think about these indignities anymore. For the past 20 years or so, I've gladly sent off a small donation to Powers each year. (Well, to be totally accurate, my mom sent off the donation in my name for about 10 years. And then called repeatedly to remind me to send it myself for the next ten. And it's always been a very small donation.)

So while I'm hardly a good model for charitable giving, I know that I don't want Powers to be another Flint institution that just disappears like so many others. I don't want to be alarmist but like a lot of things in Flint Powers seems to be struggling.

Enrollment is hovering around 600, which is about half the size it was when I graduated. The fact that Powers didn't raise the money to relocate tells me that fundraising efforts are not going well. (For example, during last year's Annual Appeal, the class of 1984 had two donors out of 254 graduates. This might be payback for the school threatening to cancel our class trip because of our bad behavior but, again, let's not dwell on the negative.)

And remember, there were things we loved about Powers. Personally, I really liked spending almost an entire quarter in Felix Lehmkuhle's
class chasing butterflies behind the school with big nets. And it was great when the band would march through the hallways playing at full volume before pep rallies. And Goffe Gumbs and Tim McVey were two of the greatest coaches I ever had, partly because they could actually play soccer better than any one on the team.

So come on, cough up a few bucks for Powers. It's tax deductible.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Flint Southwestern Colts Unite

All you Southwestern grads should check out Southwestern Reunion. It's a social networking site that's a great way to get in touch with old friends, post photos and get info on the school, which is hosting a 40th reunion on June 13.

G.M. Back for More?

According to The Wall Street Journal, G.M. will be asking for more money, even if they decide on bankruptcy as the automaker faces a Tuesday deadline for a restructuring plan.

John D. Stoll and Sharon Terlep report:
General Motors Corp., nearing a federally imposed deadline to present a restructuring plan, will offer the government two costly alternatives: commit billions more in bailout money to fund the company's operations, or provide financial backing as part of a bankruptcy filing, said people familiar with GM's thinking.

The competing choices, which highlight GM's rapidly deteriorating operations, present a dilemma for Congress and the Obama administration. If they refuse to provide additional aid to GM on top of the $13.4 billion already committed they risk seeing an industrial icon fall into bankruptcy.

Flint Artifacts: CANUSA Games Medal

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Flint Artifacts: Hyatt Regency Matches

Friday, February 13, 2009

Flint Postcards: Downtown, Saginaw Street Looking South

Flint Artifacts: 1926 Flint "Sixty" Advertisement

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Flint Artifacts: A.C. Spark Plug Tie Pin

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Flint Postcards: City Hall

Suddenly, The Don is Lovable

According to The Flint Journal, Don Williamson has suddenly transformed himself from an incompetent mayor with a penchant for trampling civil liberties and getting the city embroiled in money losing lawsuits into a lovable curmudgeon. Who knew The Don was more of an iconoclast than an idiot?

puff piece begins:
Say goodbye to the combative, in-your-face, gruff mayor of Flint.

Don Williamson is leaving office and it's unlikely Flint will ever see another mayor like him.

He's abrupt.

He's controversial.

And he does things his way. During the past five years, Williamson has boasted a style that has brought strong opinions from the public. Simply put, people either love him or hate him.

There's no in between.

"He doesn't do the anticipated," said Joe Wilson, former Genesee County sheriff and Williamson's longtime friend. "There's nothing traditional with him including his background, education and associations. He's not the type to tell you what you want to hear and then talk behind your back. At least he tells you to your face."
Wow, I had the guy all wrong. He's a straight shooter. A maverick. You might even call him The Decider. Gosh, maybe we can convince him to come back and be mayor again.

Monday, February 9, 2009

The Don Williamson Hall of Fame

With the resignation of Mayor Don Williamson, let's take a look back at some of his major accomplishments over the past few years:

• The Don rewards success at Kearsley Park by canning Kay Kelly
and saying goodbye to a Ruth Mott Foundation grant.

• The Don gets city workers to mow his lawn.

• The Don uses city money to create a drag strip, despite the obvious liability issues that could cost Flint a bundle.

• The Don fires a cop who dares talk to the media. Then changes his mind.

• The Don gives the state and federal government economic advice.

• The Don arrests a paper boy for delivering bad news. Lawsuit follows.

Of course, this is just a partial list. For more good deeds by The Don, check out the Williamson Watch.

The Don is Done

It won't take a recall vote later this month to remove Flint Mayor Don Williamson from office. He just resigned.

The Flint Journal reports:

Mayor Don Williamson announced today that he is "retiring," finally putting to rest weeks of speculation.

In an 11:20 a.m. news conference, Williamson cited health reasons for leaving office. His resignation is effective midnight Sunday. He took no questions from the media, and read from a prepared statement.

"Last month, I celebrated my third sinus infection in 13 months and my eighth kidney stone since Nov. 1. My doctors have told me that I should think about relaxing my schedule and reducing the demands on my time," said Williamson.

Flint Portraits: David Petersen

Flint Expatriate David Petersen is the creator of Mouse Guard, a thought-provoking comic about mice with names like Midnight and Saxon who live in a beautifully illustrated world based on medieval Europe. The A.V. Club has a great interview with Peterson, whose work has garnered him two Eisner Awards, where he talks about Flint's influence on his art and how to write for both kids and adults:

AVC: You've spent a lot of the book drawing nature scenes. Did you grow up in the country?
DP: I grew up in Flint, Michigan, which everyone knows from the film Roger & Me, unfortunately. And even though it was a city, the area where I grew up had some really nice parks, actual wooded parks. Not just like a manicured park. But I grew up in a city, and I live three blocks north of the Detroit city line right now.
We vacationed all over the country, and my favorite vacations were always the ones where we just hung out in Michigan, just kind of explored our own state. So I did a lot of camping growing up, and that's where I think a lot of this comes from.

AVC: With your comics and your children's projects, you've tried to appeal to both kids and adults. What are some things you've learned about making that work, or things you've learned to avoid?
DP: It's a really hard tightrope to walk. One of my rules is, never talk down to kids. I think a perfect example is tyranny. You want to use "tyranny" in a book, you think like, "Uh-oh, tyranny's a big, funny-looking word." But the bottom line is, every kid knows what tyranny is. If they've been on a playground, they know what tyranny is. They've had the king of the playground be a tyrant to them. It's really just then an opportunity for them to learn that the funny word with the "y" has a meaning they already know. And if you don't talk down to them, and actually give them a chance to ask, "Hey, what's this mean?" instead of just spoon-feeding them stuff… I think it needs to really go beyond what they know, and are comfortable with, to kind of see what their limit points are. As long as you're not doing anything gratuitous, violence-wise, [and there's] no kind of sexual energy or anything, they're going to be okay with it. And most of the parents that come by, I show them the pages [of Mouse Guard] that have blood on them, they go, "Oh, heck, my 4-year-old can sit through Lord Of The Rings."

Citizens Bank in Transition

Is it time to abandon ship at Citizens Bank? Melissa Burden of The Flint Journal reports:

"John D. Schwab, executive vice president and chief credit officer, joined the company in November 2002 and oversaw the Flint-based bank holding company's credit approval and credit quality issues. He retires after 40 years in the banking business.

"Schwab's retirement follows the announcement late last month that Bill Hartman would retire as president and chief executive officer at the end of January and that Cathy Nash, who most recently headed regional banking for the company, was chosen to succeed Hartman."

The downward spiral of Citizens Republic Bancorp Inc. (CRBC) stock over the past three years.

Friday, February 6, 2009

AutoWorld: It Could Have Been Worse

Let's remember AutoWorld at its an artist's rendition before it actually opened.

Have you ever wondered if AutoWorld might have been something far more sinister than a harebrained redevelopment project?

Here's the Wikipedia description of Flint's biggest boondoggle:
"AutoWorld's first area was located inside a big dome. The insides were designed to look like Flint long ago. The first display that one encountered was a small cabin. Inside was a mannequin. When one pressed a red button on the outside of the cabin it kicked on a film that projected onto the mannequin's face. The mannequin was supposed to be Jacob Smith, founder of Flint. It would welcome the visitor to AutoWorld and talk about the beginning of Flint. In the center of the dome was a Ferris wheel, and nearby was a carousel and other attractions."
And here's Charles Holland, a London Architect, describing another doomed artificial world:
"Westworld is set in a theme park called Delos which is divided into three historical zones: the Wild West, pre-Christian Rome and medieval Europe. Each zone is populated by robots who act as adversaries, sexual partners, drinking buddies or whatever else the human visitors require in order to have a good time. The guests — of whom there seem to be remarkably few — behave according to a crude, secondhand understanding of their chosen period, chasing after comely wenches in Medievalworld or starting barroom brawls in Westworld. Behind the scenes an army of technicians programme, monitor and repair the robots."
Eerily similar, no? Perhaps if AutoWorld had comely wenches and served booze, it would have lasted longer. But anyone who's seen Yul Brynner's performance in the movie Westworld knows that things could have gone much worse at AutoWorld. Maybe we should be thankful that the place closed down before the robots escaped and hit the streets of Flint.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Bearing Up in Flint

Here's the freakishly large stuffed bear — courtesy of Flint Journal photographer Bruce Edwards' flamboyant camera angle — in the lobby of the Character Inn c. 2005. Notice the smaller brown bear in the background, stage right. The big guy seems bemused, no doubt wondering how things came to this. One day you're minding your own business in the woods; a few months later you're trapped in Flint surrounded by red carpet and evangelical Christians in a room reminiscent of the L.L. Bean flagship store after a big sale. The dorm rats from UM-Flint would sure have fun with these props — how many shots of J├Ąger
before you jump in the stagnant wading pool with Yogi? — but something tells me they'll be long gone before the students move in. Too many liability issues. Too bad.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Signs of Life Downtown

Despite the economy, restaurants are coming to downtown along with the students.

Melissa Burden of The Flint Journal reports:
"Two new restaurants with 75 employees, managed and operated by longtime Genesee County restaurateur George Falaras, are coming to the Community Foundation Building on South Saginaw Street.

"WizeGuys Pizza Inc. and 501 Bar & Grill could be open within 90 days, said Falaras, 55, of Grand Blanc Township.

"That means downtown Flint is getting at least four new restaurants this spring. Full-service restaurant and bar Blackstone's Pub & Grill, 531 S. Saginaw St., should open by April, and Soyla's, a Mexican restaurant, is near opening in the new Wade Trim Building, 555 S. Saginaw St."

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Downtown Hyatt Becomes a Downtown Dorm

Sally York of The Flint Journal reports that the old Hyatt/Character Inn — an ill-fated redevelopment project rivaled only by Auto World — may finally be put to good use:
"The vacant Riverfront Character Inn is going to be turned into a giant home for Flint's growing number of college students.

"The nonprofit Uptown Reinvestment Corp. bought the 16-story former hotel Friday with plans to transform it into housing for local college students. A $20-million loan from the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation is funding the purchase and planned renovations.

Eventually, the building will become home to 550 students and be called Riverfront Residence Hall, said Tim Herman, president of Uptown. It also could include classrooms, a game room, Internet cafe and meeting space in what is being termed a student living and learning center. The exterior of the building also will be updated, as will the heating and air-conditioning systems."
That's right, downtown may once again be filled with inebriated youngsters just like the good ol' days. Not only is this good news for Flint, but it allows me to post one of my favorite Flint-related YouTube videos for the third time.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Isuzu Coming to Flint?

The Flint Journal and AP are reporting that G.M. and Isuzu are discussing the sale of G.M.'s Flint-based medium-duty commercial truck business.

Heavy Metal Drama

Do you sometimes find yourself longing for the days when America made something besides exotic financial derivatives? Well just sit back and enjoy this "capitalist realist" drama that shows what goes into making a Chevy. It was filmed in Flint just months before the U.A.W. won union recognition via the sit-down strike.

P.S. I should warn you that this is only the first part of this classic. It builds up to a tantalizing crescendo, then cuts you off. You can catch the rest on YouTube.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Flint Artifacts: Flint Generals Key Chain