Sunday, January 16, 2011

Vintage Flint Expatriates: The Bikers of Flint

This was originally posted on 6/15/2009. I just ran across it while updating the site and figured it was worth another round for anyone who missed it the first time. Here's the original post:

Monday was one of those beautiful Michigan days in the low seventies with no humidity and a light breeze blowing white Cotton Wood puffs through the air like summer snow flurries. For some reason, I drove over to the massive acreage of cement and weeds that was once Buick City at dusk. I was just about to take some photos when a crew of Eastside kids who live near Lewis and Delaware Streets rolled by on their bikes, apparently having the time of their lives. They were a much more inspiring sight than the ultimate symbol of deindustrialization in America. For someone who covered most of Flint on his bike, it brought back a lot of memories.


  1. just a great blog post, thanks!

  2. cool bikes and lots of smiling young faces - a very encouraging post...

  3. Bikes mean freedom for kids. It's good to see them enjoying it for a while

  4. what a cool post !!!

    i couldn't help but notice the diversity of the group, all ages,sexes, and races.

    what a great time as a kid, a taste of freedom without any responsibilities or obligations other than enjoying a great summer day.

  5. I like the irony of a pack of kids roaming the near-deserted streets of "Vehicle City" on bike. Very post-apocalyptic, very Mad Max.

  6. I'm curious... how'd you get them to stop?

  7. NO HELMETS??? Not one helmet in the whole crowd... Am I just an overly concerned parent?

    Unless Gordon had them removed to make for a better picture, in that case all is forgiven.


  8. i couldn't help but notice the diversity of the group, all ages,sexes, and races.

    For all of its problems, the east side is the most ethnically diverse part of the city.

  9. It was surprisingly easy. I just asked the last kid if they wanted their picture taken and she caught up with the rest. They circled right back around. And, no, they didn't have helmets. They were old school.

  10. Yes, the streets are empty but the faces of the bike kids are full of joy and hope. Rise up Flint and help them become the future of a great town. Pat McFarlane

  11. okay... note to self... tell son to not stop for stranger who asks if he wants his picture taken. :)

    no offense to you Gordie... :) this is about the parent inside me that was born when I had a child.

    ultimately I think this photo is very cool. and it makes me miss straight and flat empty roads, summer, and the banana seat bike we used to have.

  12. I know what you mean, grumkin, but I sense eastside kids who run in packs like this could take care of themselves.

  13. Wow, it makes me glad to see that even in Flint, some things never die. Isn't it almost birthright for a Flint kid to have a bike (even an ancient hand me down fat tired Schwwinn like that one kid has) to cruise around the neighborhood with your friends? .... Boy, does this bring back memories of the days of cruising around Lincoln Park and the surrounding neighborhood with a pack of kids on bikes.

    The cool kids had Banana seats, or choppers that their older brother put together, or bright orange/ pirate flags jutting proudly from whiplike fiberglass poles mounted on back wheel mounts. That obviously hasn't changed in decades. Unfortunate boys got sister's/Mom's/Grandma's hand me down rig (sans basket and handlebar streamers).

    Change the clothes and a couple of haircuts and this could have been a picture of me and my buddies cruising Pettibone Ave circa 1977......As long as we stayed on our side of Fenton and Atherton Roads and off the tracks next to Southwestern it was all good.....

    As for helmets, we're Flintoids, we don't need no stinking helmets...... And besides, I can't think of many things scarier than a multi-age gang of Flint kids on bikes rolling to a stop in front of you. You never know what they're packing, and when they stop, it's usually not for good things to happen. At least not in my old neighborhood.....

    Roll on Kids!!! Enjoy Yourselves!!!

  14. Darwin, I agree; change the hair styles and most of the pictures are timeless. Like others who have commented, I also frowned at the lack of helmets. Most of us have become cautious weenies. We have forgotten what it's like to "run free". I almost remember taking a header from my bike somewhere around Pierson & Clio Rds. The next thing I remembered was standing in front of Civic Park School and my buddy asking if I was OK. Maybe that explains things now that I think of it.

  15. Great pics and great post Gordie, thanks for sharing. Like others have said, it's wonderful to see kids doing what kids have done in Flint for generations. Most excellent indeed!

  16. Wow, this brings back a lot of memories. Riding my bike, with baseball bat across the handlebars, glove over the handlebars and ball wedged in the frame, out of the berry patch, across Atherton Rd. to Lincoln Park to play midget baseball. I'm pretty sure that Marv Rettenmund umpired the games. There was another former Flintoid that pitched for the Tigers that also umpired. (Does anyone remember?). Those were great days. And the ice cream carts. Bomb pops for a quarter!

  17. Hey King,

    I remember Marv umping games too!And Ice Cream Boys with pushcarts full of bomb pops, drumsticks, and ice cream sandwiches cooled by dry ice. Their HQ was near the corner of Fenton and Pettibone so they were a constant presence at games at Lincoln Park.

    I was usually on the Koegel's Meats Little League Teams as Johnny Koegel was in my class at Neithercut. Needless to say the after game parties were well stocked with Viennas. I credit the demanding Flint little league schedule with wrecking my arm. I still can't throw the ball more than 5 or 6 times without pain.....

    Since you lived in the Berry Patch, are you a Neithercut alumni too?

  18. King of Flint, Here is Wikepedia's list of Flintoid Baseball Players.
    Jim Abbott was a pitcher but didn't play for the Tigers. He'd be too young to Umpire Little League in Flint. Wikepedia says Steve Boros was a thid-basemen for the tigers in 1957:

    Jim Abbott
    Scott Aldred
    Steve Boros
    Jeff Hamilton
    Rick Leach
    Joe Mays
    Ron Pruitt
    Bobby Reed
    Merv Rettenmund
    Herb Washington
    Mickey Weston

  19. Hey BJ, his name was Bob Reed:

    Although he wasn't born in Flint, he had some tie to the city.



    My brother and I both went to Neithercut from 69 to 74, then we (unfortunately) moved to Grand Blanc. In fact my brother was also friends with John Koegel. His name was John, too and he usually played catcher. It ticked me off as you guys always seemed to win everything. The crap teams that I was on were made up of all the outcasts - me included. In fact, one year we couldn't find a sponsor so Neithercut sponsored us. We lost every game. I played soccer for a year for Neithercut. We played at Atwood stadium, which I thought was real cool.

    I miss those days. I moved to Phoenix in 1981 and didn't think that I would ever come back. But in 2007 I bought a house right around the corner from Neithercut. I was planning on flipping it but the economy tanked. But I have to admit that I've enjoyed living there and seeing the old neighborhood. In fact, my best friend's dad still lives in the same house when we were growing up. I talked to him and (his son) Mike and I finally got together after more than 30 years. It was great.

    I would really like to see something good happen to Flint, and if I can be of some influence I will.

  20. Darwin,

    Do you remember Cuthbertson's Five and Dime on the corner of Waldman and Fenton? It was across the street from the old Hamady's (which is now Ace Hardware).

  21. I think I may still have a little-used Steve-Boros-model glove, stashed away in a box of childhood stuff.

  22. Hi again King,

    Cuthbertson's! man I haven't thought about that place in ages. I was helping my Mom move years ago and found stuff witgh Cuthbertson's tags still attached. I think I bought my first model plane in there. How about Boker's Pharmacy across Fenton from Hamady's? Or better yet, Mary's Sunshine Dairy?

    I was at Neithercut from 70-76. But, for K-2nd I was in the "Units" over in the neighborhood near the corner of Fenton and Hammerberg. Back in the time when Flint Schools had too many kids......

    I absolutely remember the outcast little league team. Too bad you left in 74. In 75 and 76, Koegel's disbanded as John went to Jr. High (we won alot because we had a great pitcher-Jeff Hamby who looked like Rollie Fingers and pitched like him too. The kid had a major league curve ball at 12.) and I became the Captain of the misfit team. I remember getting the list from the Principal and then going out to try to find sponsors. What agony that was. I did manage to secure Terry Allen Plumbing one year and Sweet's Standard the next. Both Fenton/Atherton fixtures back in the day. It was probably no coincidence that at the time we were having a lot of plumbing or car repairs done......I did draw the line when Mom tried to get me to ask Robin Sue Children's Wear to sponsor us. I just couldn't do that to the guys.... I think we probably won 1 or maybe 2 games each year, but we did have fun and those games we won were celebrated with epic Ice Cream Parties at the old Dairy Freeze across from Sherman's Lounge on Fenton Rd.

    Man, I wish I could have crossed paths with you King, you're an alright guy and you're doing something for the old hometown to boot. Way to go!!!!

  23. King of Flint, Bobby Reed is linked to Flint as a 1964graduate of Flint Southwestern Hihschool where he was a Senior Varsity Baseball star and a pitcher. I could send Gordon his 1964 Team yearbook picture if it is of interest to the Blog readers.

  24. BJ,

    That would be cool.



    I was in one of the units too. I was in second grade - Mrs. Gushen? Man she had it in for me. Then my dad wanted me to try Holy Redeemer for third grade, then back to Neithercut for 4-6th grade.

    I forgot about Bokor's. My brother dated Stacy Bokor when we lived in Grand Blanc.

    I remember the Dairy Queen and the Kentucky Fried Chicken on Fenton Rd. And the Kressge store at the South Flint Plaza. Loved to get their sundaes in the mini baseball helmets. My mom worked at the Fair Store there too. That was after she worked at the Holiday Inn on Bristol Rd. (Yes, the one Keith Moon drove his car into the pool).

    Remember Cook's Drugs? I think my mom worked there too. Or maybe that was the one in Grand Blanc. I used to go up to Cook's everyday and get a pack of baseball cards for a dime or a package of Wacky Packages. There was a gas station on the corner of Hammerberg and Atherton where the 7-11 is now. I think it was a Standard.

    Remember the Flint Police Cadets and the kids that used to be crossing guards with their AAA sashes?

    Man, those were a lot simpler and better times. Like my dad always used to say, "If I had only known then what I know now", I would have made it even more fun. It was a great time though. My friend Mike and I were always together. Most of the time getting a baseball game together or maybe playing football down by the creek off Blackberry and Greenbrook. It was a real bitch when the ball went into that nasty water.

    Thanks for helping me remember the good ole days Darwin.

  25. Hey Darwin,

    Did you ever have an art teacher at Neithercut named Mrs. Bankard? She was a huge influence on me and I will never forget her. There were a couple of gym teachers that I wouldn't mind forgetting though.

  26. Hi again King,

    WOW!!! Are you sure you're not my long lost brother? Let me run the checklist for you:

    1) Mrs Gushen-Check! I had her too. She hated me, but then again she hated evey kid. She was a real sadist. She once grabbed me by the hair, lifted me off my feet, and swung me around in a 360 degree circle for eating paste or some such minor infraction. She slapped my little brother repeatedly across the face and split his lip. Mom filed complaints about her for both incidents, but she went on terrorizing kids until she retired. How she ever became a teacher, I'll never know.....

    2) South Flint Plaza- Check! Kressge's oh yeah. Straight through the door, straight to the toy section. Mom would let us get 1small toy/month. Zebra pistols, Frisbees, Army Men, etc. were the usual haul. Think I got my first goldfish there too. The Fair-Hours of torture trying on dorky new clothes with Mom. KFC, DQ-check, check. My Grandparents lived near the corner of Fenton and Hill Rds, so we often would cruise down Fenton Rd from our neighborhood (1505 Vermilya and then 1505 Pettibone)and beg Mom to stop for dinner. How about the Burger King next to Big John's (both still there I believe)? When they discontinued the Yumbo, it actually brought my little brother to tears...... And let's not forget the special treat of going to the Top Hat Car Wash!!!

    3) Cooks. Check. So you're the kid who was getting all the good baseball cards and wacky packages!!!! I would save every dime I could to blow on cards with heavily dusted rock hard gum. I had basebll cards, horror movie cards, anything that Cook's would stock I had a collection of....Man, what a sucker I was! You're right, I remember the gas station too where the 7-11 is now.

    4)AAA Safety Guards-Check. I once proudly stood freezing my cahones off at the corner of Hammerberg and Crestbrook Lane for a year. Man, I loved that sash. I could be late to school and got to leave a little early everyday. And besides, chicks dig safety orange.....

    5) The creek behind Gerholz Realty that ran past Neithercut. Check. There was an infamous hill right above the creek there that caused some crazy kid on virtually a weekly basis to try and "Jump the Creek" on his bike. He'd start at the top of the hill, get pushed by as many 6th graders as could be mustered to hit a homemade ramp at the bottom of the hill to try and get over the creek. To my knowledge, many tried, but no one ever made it. But, the creek racked up quite an impressive toll of wrecked bikes, broken bones, and bruised egos.....But kids were still trying when I left Neithercut. I never jumped, only pushed.

  27. Hi again King,

    6) Mrs Bankard-Check. Tall, Red Hair, Deep Voice. Boots. She often wore black boots with heels if I recall correctly. Boy could she teach, And not just Art. She taught me that coloring outside the lines can be alright and that the flower doesn't have to always be red. I remember on Election Day in 1972 she had us all make Campaign Posters. I didn't need Walter Cronkite to tell me it was going to be a Nixon landslide......I think we even had a "Mock Trial" about Freedom of Expression one time in her class. Wow.

    I had Mrs Reed for 4th grade, Mrs. Collins (Cow Face Collins.....) and Mrs. Lewis for 6th. Remember what a big deal it was to "pass classes" and go to different rooms for different classes in 5th and 6th grade?

    I even rememeber the "Computer Room" with big reel to reel tape computers and the big dot matrix printers. We would go in there to take multiplication tests. Man, Neithercut was really on the cutting edge.....

    And the hated Gym Teacher....Mr. Manville.....Skinny little stick guy with the classic 70's Bert Reynolds moustache. Wouldn't let us play Cage Ball, roller skate in the Gym any more, or turn on the Jukebox that was in the ball closet. His Gym Units were inane and he took particular pleasure in making kids who were afraid of heights climb the rope to the top of the gym or laughing at the girls running for their lives at the end of a dodgeball game. We finally talked him into just letting us play "DuckPin" or "Prison Dodge" most of the time and we'd bring in '45s that he'd occasionally play for us over the Gym's sound system on Fridays. Nothing like dodgeballing to "Kung Fu Fighting" or "The Night Chicago Died"......

    We did get our revenge on "Donkey Basketball" night though. Remember when they used to do that? Teachers riding donkeys equals much fun for students. We paid the guy handling the donkeys $5 to give Mr. Manville the most unruly, ill tempered beast he had. Much fun insued......

    Last but not least, how about the "After School Movies?" they would show in the Auditorium? It was a HUGE deal to ask a girl to the movies, pay her way, hold her hand during the Showing of "Mike Fink and the Keelboats" or "Snoopy Come Home" and then walk her home......Man, how Beaver Cleaver was that stuff....

    Finally, I have to ask....You must have spent some time at the Lincoln Park Pool or Hockey Rink...or Tennis Courts.....

    I was in Flint a couple of months ago and went back to see nothing left of the pool but the light posts...They tore the poolhouse down, and even dug up and filled in the pool. The tennis courts/hockey rinks were just rusty collapsed fences and broken concrete. Sigh.......

    But, that High Dive was great wasn't it.......

    Thanks too for the memories King.

  28. Circle Drive Neighborhood- 89'-97' bike crew. Everyone met up at the party store or Farnumwood park. Baseball, kickball, basketball, wall ball. You name it, we had it.

    Cross Hemphill road, down the old railroad tracks, behind Farnumwood Church. Through the woods. You could get to Burton and cruze Judd road. Or just tear it up in the wooded area on the sand dunes.

    I never could figure out what the abandoned buildings were. More of a gang hang out then anything else really.

    Eventually they took the tracks out. But if you go back there today, they put up a lot of fencing. Which kid bike gangs of today have carved holes into.

    I had many, many bikes stolen. I guess it was my careless, carefree hope that my bike was mine and people had respect. Ya'right. Learned a lot roaming the streets on my bike in Flint.

    The boarders were Saginaw st, Hemphill rd, Dixe Hwy and Atherton Rd. Anything past that.. Was serious adventure..

    Made it to Grand Travers, through the rail road tracks. Also over to Center rd to Meijer and Bristol rd.. SCARY SCARY.. Never got caught.

  29. This takes me back to 2022 Barth St. with my old Schwinn Scrambler my dad bought for me back in 1982. Those were very good memories.

  30. My father grew up at 2323 Barth in the 50's!


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