Friday, June 19, 2009

Flint Fireworks

My last night in Flint, and I get thunder, lightning and fireworks at the same time. As the street signs indicate, I took these on the corner of Grand Traverse and Water, just yards from the river and the birthplace of G.M., looking toward Atwood Stadium.
(Click to Enlarge)

Thanks to Stephen Rodrick for the copy editing.


  1. I hope you were not disappointed with your visit to the old home town. And maybe we can hook up in the future, "I truly enjoyed my time with you". Thanks for the lunch at Angelo's. Have a safe journey back to the "Golden State" Gordie.

  2. I walked past the Water & Grand Traverse intersection every week for years as I journeyed downtown from Atwood Stadium or Hurley Hospital. I lived in the neighborhood in the sixties and seventies. I owned and worked at the warehouse on the northeast corner of the intersection for about seven years til 1983.
    Fireworks were always fun to watch from our loading dock. There were more than a few July 5ths spent repairing or boarding up windows that did not survive the influx of downtown tourists and rowdy festivities. The old Shaefer Tobacco & Candy is still there. It has a ton of character and a lot of history. There are not a lot of other buildings that have survived.

  3. Craigkite: I'm curious. Is Shaefer Tobacco & Candy Co. still family owned? I'm stunned it is still there. I briefly worked for Dave and Henry back in 1968 through 1969. The n eighborhood was "tough" already back then. You are right about the ton of character and alot of history. In hindsight I would have made a fortune on EBay if I'd have bought all the suff they carried on payday. Who knew then that nostalgia would sell. No fireworks back then in downtown. When did start?

  4. I heard those battling sounds last night, too -- really enjoyed the idea that thunder & lightning were booming out along with the fireworks. It was great meeting you, Gordie -- Your continuing mischievous fascination and fondness for the old burg honor the place. Although as you pointed out last night complaining about Flint is what qualifies us as real homies, I think I like it better today.

  5. Fireworks in downtown seemed to go back to at least 1977. I really don't remember when they moved to downtown. They reflected off the water in the river real well and off the windows in the Hyatt/Character Inn.
    The Shaefer family sold the warehouse on the corner of Water and Grand Traverse to me in 1976. They had the warehouse behind the building for their Adway division at the same time. Neither company had been active for the previous few years, maybe as early as 1972. I am not sure who the current owners are. I sold the building in 1983. It had a massive flat roof that leaked like a sieve. I remember staying at the Hyatt Regency the first New Year's eve that it was open. I woke up at 6:00am to pouring rain and walked over to 434 W. Water and emptied the buckets I kept in the rafters to keep the water out of the basement fuse box.
    When we moved into the building, there were a lot of merchandising displays from Timex and other companies. There was a working walk-in humidor for cigars and a storm/bomb/burglar-proof vault for cartons of cigarettes. Four different floors connected with ramps facilitated material handling. It appears that the current owners have done some nice renovation work, it would make a great office/loft living building. It has about 10,000 square feet and stays about 62 degrees in the lower levels throughout the summer with no air conditioning.
    At the time that I owned it, the old Home Dairy was still standing on Grand Traverse, just north of Water St. Economy Floors had its warehousing in that old building. All four floors were connected with ramps to allow horses to go to the upper levels when they used to draw the milk wagons. On the southeast corner stood the old M & M Warehouse that was pretty much a bonded warehouse and housed Thomas Maytag's inventory (still a going business in Flint). The southwest corner had the Fingland-Scott warehouse that was renovated and used for a paint wholesaler for a few years. Flint Lumber was further south on Grand Traverse and burnt to the ground in the early eighties.
    Of course, down the street at Water and Mason stands the old Billy Durant office building that was the first home of General Motors. My first apartment was around the corner on Second Ave.
    The recent pictures of the East side bikers reminded me of the years that we spent in that neighborhood and downtown from 11:00 at night to 3:00am riding up and down the deserted streets and the Wards and Genesee Towers parking structures. It was not uncommon for ten of us to crowd into the elevator on the second floor of the Tower's parking structure (with our bikes) and ride it up to the ninth floor. From there it was a simple spiral descent coasting to the street level. If nothing else was open, we could always stop at Hurley's cafeteria for coffee at the end of the night.
    Downtown Flint was a strange adventure in the sixties and seventies, maybe being an adolescent made it that much more interesting. Watching the Flint Journal run its presses at midnight was just one of the many diversions that needed no money.

  6. craigkite, thanks for the reply. I remember the 4 floors of the warehouse with the wheeled deliverry ramps between floors like it was yesterday. The roof wasn't leaking yet back in 1968. The 62 degree temp in the basement was due to water from the river next to the walls. The cool basement floor was where the dozens upon dozens of cases of cigarette cartons were fed down the ramp each week from the tobacco company trucks at the loading dock for storage back before smoking became discouraged. Candy, gum, Timex watches, and transistor radios were kept on the ground floor. Of all the places I ever worked, the aromatic pipe tobaccos and chocolate bar aromas were fantastic. Drygoods and papergoods on the floors above the first. Many Mom and Pop grocery stores in Flint put in weekly orders that we constantly filled.

  7. I remember when Flint Lumber burned. We watched it from across the river. That was the first time I learned that windows shatter from heat.

  8. You covered a lot of ground but did you make it back to Bassett?

  9. It was great to spend some time with you, Gordie. I'm glad we were able to connect on our trips to the homeland.

    Thanks for the historical record of the city and for keeping the memories alive. I know I've said that before, but, I still appreciate your dedication to "the cause."

  10. I am confused...what fireworks are these? I just read that the Flint fireworks were cancelled because of lack of money on the Detroit News site...

    Great photos BTW!!
    I am sorry we did not get to meet..Did you make it to Balkan bakery, Bassett? I hope you got to see Dawn Donuts! that place is funny and scary! How about Angelo's??


  11. It's amusing that there was money for fireworks on June 19th (I think) to celebrate the opening of a new parking ramp, but there's no money for fireworks on July 4 to celebrate our national birthday.

    Flint has so many government and quasi-government elements that it seems the right hand doesn't know what the left hand is doing.

  12. I'm still trying to figure out why they were celebrating a new parking ramp.

  13. I've given up trying to understand Flint's obsession with parking. They've literally turned half of downtown into parking. I was invited to the parking lot dedication and went to the Torch instead.


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