Monday, March 2, 2009

Flint Photos: 1947 Flood


  1. in between the floods, and tornadoes, ya think God was trying to tell us something? Knew it was bad, but didn't have a clue it was this horrible. Almost seems anti-climatic to see Flint go down with something as demure as a worldwide Depression. What the body count on this disaster? and where was little Eric Prince when we needed him and, uh, the company formerly known as blackwater?

    1. Flint had flooded before...after all, it's built astraddle a river with a wide flood plain that drains a large area, and (pre-Army-Corps-of-Engineers) was heavily silt-laden and incapable of a dramatic increase in volume flow rate.

      Naturally, heavy warm rainfall upstream causing a quick Spring melt with the ground still partly frozen and the watertable already full is going to cause a surge.

      And the pics are misleading. The flooded area downtown only extended about two blocks either way from the river. Just west of downtown at Grand Traverse, it only flooded southward to the base of the hill, a few hundred feet. Of course, the junkyard and rail tracks there by the old grain elevator were flooded out, as was the lumberyard on the north bank...and there was considerable disruption through the Chevy in the Hole area.

      It really wasn't very destructive, though. As far as I know, no bridges or buildings collapsed within Flint.

    2. As to Erik Prince, his bios say he grew up in Holland. Does he have an eastern Michigan connection?

  2. These are some remarkable, dramatic photos. The "three men in a tub" appear to be some of Flint's finest. I notice four islands where they could have possibly sought refuge:
    Flint Coney Island
    National Coney Island
    US Coney Island No.2
    Duly’s Coney Island (next to Playland).
    Chances are they would have had soggy buns.

  3. I also like the Stroh's sign and the McDonald Dairy ads.

  4. Wow. I don't think I've ever heard about these floods. These are absolutely amazing pictures.

  5. I'm curious. Does McDonald Dairy still exist? My Aunt worked there for 30 years. It is the only milk I can remember drinking while growing up in Flint. When I was 5 years old (1952) it was still delivered on Patterson St. twice a week by a horse and boxed-in wagon!!! Boy I loved petting that horse. I was bummed out when the Milkman switched to a truck the following year. End of an era in Flint.

  6. I'm just old enough to have visited the little malt shop/ice cream parlor in the actual dairy with my mom. It was a little strange because it seemed like a strange place even then, with almost no foot traffic. Even as a little kid I wondered how the malt shop stayed open.

    I'm guessing the dairy is long gone, but you never know.

  7. Hello, BJ,

    I, too, recall the horse-drawn milk wagon--only Sealtest made our milk deliveries. That would be around back of the house at 2314 Ohio Street into the "milk chute." That hole in the wall came in handy when the doors were locked, too. I fell through that chute into the house on more than one occasion.

    And McDonalds? Country Fresh acquired McDonald's Dairy in 1986. Before that, the "quality-checked," McDonald's ice cream shop was the place to go on the eastside for an icecream cone on a hot summer evening.

    And hey, jbing50, don't stop now, you're on a roll! :^)

  8. JBing50- I used our 'milk chute' the same way, many times, crawling into the 'boot chute' from there. I was kinda saddened when it was removed from the old place. But, this day and age, it's just begging for trouble. my Dad's place was broken into friday nite as it was. Thankfully, Dad wasn't home at the time, and the thief didn't get all the way into the house. Do you s'ppose that after all the natural disasters that have hit our home town, that Conie Islands are some kind of beacon or signal from the Deity? it appears that all of the "islands" were cafes of that ilk. and not only did they have soggy buns, but their wieners were wrinkled, too. I'm pretty sure that GY's sister cities in California would welcome some of that water...they are suffering through a horrible drought again, and billions of dollars are lost, from the agricultural sector alone. I forget how many thousands, possibly millions. will be unemployed by this disaster. I read someplace that some Californios want the state divided into 2 states.

  9. Our Milkman drove for Pure Seal Dairy. Sometimes on a hot summer day we could talk one of the Milkmen out of a small chocolate milk or orange juice. There was one, I think maybe from Macdonald Dairy, who claimed he pitched a year in the pros. He could throw a awesome knuckle ball that would float with no spin then burn your hand when you caught it.

    Anyone from the Vehicle City has to appreciate those cool standup milk trucks. They were made by Divco Trucks. Check out this web site to see a few of the oldtimers.

  10. What fantastic pictures! I'm sure my dad would have a lot of stories to tell about the flood if he were still around, rest his soul.

    I can also remember getting excited about the milkman coming to deliver bottles of milk through our milk chute, but I think by the time I was 3 or maybe 4 we were already getting it at the grocery store. We still have the milk chute, and in good weather it was definitely something we played around with when we were kids, but of course it is sealed up now for security reasons as well as to keep the heat in.

  11. Würstside WarlørdMarch 9, 2009 at 6:42 PM

    I figured it out. Flint's decline can be traced back to the coupling of coney islands and Stroh's. Apparently our forefathers were collectively saying "just let me lay here and die" as early as 1947.

  12. I grew up in the 50s on a shade tree street by Ballenger and Welch. Our neighborhood was about half lunch buckets and half suits. Sometimes in the summer when it was too hot to cook on a weekend, some of the neighbors would throw the kids in the car and go downtown for a coney. I can remember thinking those places were kind of cool and tough. There were always those kind of guys sitting at the counter with a toothpick or a butt who would call everybody “Mack”.

    Hey W.W., the first hint of decline I remember was the steel strike of 1959. No steel was manufactured for about four months. This obviously had a huge impact on the auto industry. I remember because that’s when GM/Buick started selling Opels as a stopgap measure. My dad bought an Opel in 1960. It was a little light blue station wagon. As a kid, I thought it was incredible that we had a foreign car, especially with my dad being such a dyed in the wool Buick man. I guess that’s the first time I realized things could stray from hunky dory in car town.

  13. Ah, yes, the Opel--"Baby Corvette," I believe it was called.

  14. The sign for the Brake Shop was from my father's business. It was on Water St. across from the furniture store. The water was up to the second floor. Everything was lost.

  15. I remember the floods well. My Dad took his boat down and rescued some people. I was 8 years old.

  16. The surface water didn't quite get to my Grandfather's store at First and Beach, but the Flint storm drain system didn't have backflow preventers and so their basement was flooded nearly to the ceiling. That's where a lot of stock was kept, so when it became obvious that the flood was coming, there was a lot of rushed work moving stuff up to the main and second floors before the water took out the freight elevator machinery, which was in a pit lower than the basement and flooded first. I wasn't around then, but my Dad says it was quite a mess to clean up.

    I think my Dad may have some 8mm film of the flood.

    Hall's Flats...the flood plain of the combined Swartz and Thread Creeks where they enter the Flint River...was flooded nearly to Fenton Road, and of course the flow into the river from Thread and Swartz Creeks was very high and fast. Fifteen years later when I was roaming around Flint with friends via bicycle, the Depression/WPA-era bridge that had crossed Swartz Creek to connect the two halves of Cedar Street was still there, broken in the middle and collapsed into the water, but crossable by an intrepid and slightly dumb teenager with no cares about wet feet.

    The river had flooded many springs through's slow-flowing and shallow with broad flood plains created by millions of years of such floods...but the 1947 flood plus the country's heightened civil-defense/national-production-assets awareness in that post-WWII and early-Cold-War period provided the initial impetus for what eventually became the Corps of Engineers river paving project, designed to raise the river slightly in addition to speeding the flow through downtown, so that it wouldn't spread onto its flood plain until it got to the Mott Park Golf Course and the river valley westward.

    I remember the original Mott Park Golf Course pontoon-type river bridges, which were taken out every winter and not put back until after the spring flood, and the year that they build the two permanent steel-cable-supported bridges. I'm not sure how old I was, but I recall walking out onto one of those new bridges with some of my buddies during flood season, with the mud-colored river maybe a foot below the bridge deck instead of the normal six or eight feet. Dumb. I'm not sure how we got to the bridge...maybe its approach ramp on the south side was only shallowly flooded? Sunset Drive is close by on that side, and most of the flood water spread out on the north side. If you're young enough, you can ride a bike through a foot of flood water with not too much trouble.

  17. Regarding McDonald Dairy...our neighbor three houses up the street worked there, and was the General Manager for at least a couple of decades, right up to his retirement at the time of sale to Country Fresh.

    By the time I was in high school, my Dad's store was at the corner of Robert T. Longway and Lewis Street (now Chavez Drive, the west-side service drive for I-475.) The two years I went to Central, I worked at the store after school, in addition to summers. It was common on a warm Saturday or summer weekday for me to walk half a block down the street to the McDonald Dairy retail shop. In addition to cones, sodas, sundaes, malts and shakes, they sold jumbo franks. Many times I had two hotdogs and a large vanilla shake for lunch.


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