Wednesday, April 29, 2009
Central High School
Civic Park Elementary
Coolidge and Wilkins elementaries will close at the end of next year.
A friend just asked me to run down the list of every auto-related factory that has closed in Flint, along with approximate locations. I got a little nervous because I feel like that's a list I should be able to just rattle off, along with the roster of the '84 Tigers and every party store in town that wouldn't card you in the eighties, but I'm pretty sure I came up short:
Chevy in the Hole
A.C. Spark Plug
What am I missing here? Fisher Body had more than one plant, right? Fisher Body 1 was the site of the Sit-Down Strike, but how many other Fishers were there? Or was it all one big plant with different sections? And Delphi's Flint East Plant was just AC with a different name, right? And are there plants and factories that are closed and still standing, or has everything been torn down? Somebody help me out here. It's clear that you're expected to know this depressing list if you're from Flint.
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
"By the time it is finished, G.M. expects to have only 38,000 union workers and 34 factories left in the United States, compared with 395,000 workers in more than 150 plants at its peak employment in 1970," reports The New York Times.
Monday, April 27, 2009
For a lot of people my age, the boombox was as much a part of Flint life as Boone's Farm and Halo Burger. Since our family car didn't have a tape deck and our house didn't have a stereo unless my older brother was home from college, my boombox and the accompanying cassette tapes were pretty much my only source of music for a long time.
NPR — in their typically earnest way — had a nice eulogy for the ghetto blaster last week, complete with videos and some great interviews:
Back in the day, you could take your music with you and play it loud, even if people didn't want to hear it. Fifty decibels of power-packed bass blasted out on street corners from New York City to Topeka. Starting in the mid-'70s, boomboxes were available everywhere, and they weren't too expensive. Young inner-city kids lugged them around, and kids in the suburbs kept them in their cars.
They weren't just portable tape players with the speakers built in. You could record off the radio, and most had double cassette decks, so if you were walking down the street and you heard something you liked, you could go up to the kid and ask to dub a copy.
The only cassette-tape mementos I have left are decidedly uncool, but they do reflect the musical dichotomy that defined my listening habits for a chunk of high school: B-52's, Agent Orange, Tom Tom Club, Dead Kennedys, English Beat (or just The Beat if you were trying to be elitist and show you knew the band's real name in England). One of my most schizophrenic mixtapes — featuring Fear, Prince, The Vapors, Crass and ABC — was too worn to survive the scanner. My endless cassettes of WDZZ taped from the radio have disappeared.
As NPR points out, boomboxes have now passed into the realm of collectibles:
These days, you don't see or hear many boomboxes, except at Lyle Owerko's house. He collects them. He keeps most of them in storage, taped up in bubble wrap to, as he says, preserve the domestic bliss. His favorite is the GF9696.
"It's absolutely my most mint box," Owerko says. "It's incredibly shiny; it's 40 watts. The speaker grilles detach, which makes it look really mean."
Owerko's collection of 40 boxes includes Lasonics and Sanyos, JVCs and Crowns. He photographs them and blows the prints up to make the boxes look even bigger than they are in real life.
My last boombox interaction happened a few years back when I went to see the Flaming Lips Boombox Experiment with my niece at Bimbo's in San Francisco. It was a fitting orchestral farewell.
Thanks to Jim Holbel for pointing this story out via Facebook.
Sunday, April 26, 2009
Richard Carr has left a new comment on your post "Vikings on Ice":
"There was a guy who used to play for Northern. He had snake-skin Camelton brand skates and a ice rink in his garage over on Lester Ct. I think he was also an artist, and had a girlfriend named Angel. What was his name?"
(Photo courtesy of Dan Kildee via Facebook)
Saturday, April 25, 2009
Regarding how the process would work, my understanding of Dan Kildee's concept doesn't include any cash payments. Instead it would entail grant-funded refurbishment of Land Bank owned houses on "winner" streets, then offering those houses on an even-swap-no-cash-free-moving basis to occupied-home owners that are current on their taxes (including landlords, I think) on "loser" streets. I assume that the city then would use legal processes to "vacate" loser streets, then tear out their pavement and shut off the water mains.
Thus there would be minimal gain for speculators and minimal incentive to buy abandoned houses.
My perception is that an objective way of ranking blocks and neighborhoods would be used, i.e. maybe the percentage of occupied and code-compliant houses.
Also note that the most labor intensive city services (police, fire, trash) are delivered not by the neighborhood, but by the street. Significant savings could be achieved without touching the incendiary issue of whole-neighborhood "loser" status, by selecting individual streets to deactivate. If the city had 50% fewer miles of streets, roughly 50% the old-days number of patrol cops and trash teams could provide the same patrol/pickup frequency the city used to get. Street paving and buried-infrastructure maintenance is by mileage, too.
Yes, it's true that a physically smaller city would result in *more* cost savings...it could have fewer fire stations, which require proximity to the areas they serve. Other infrastructure costs would be reduced. More schools would be within walking distance of more of their students' homes.
Politics is the art of the achievable, though. If what's achievable is deactivating 2 out of 3 or 4 out of 5 streets, it would make sense to go for those savings rather than holding out for perfection.
There was talk in the 1960s of building a new Central High School at the corner of Center Road and Lippincott Boulevard where Walli Strasse Drive now runs through. But in the 1970s, the Board of Education decided to keep the existing Central High because it was structurally sound and at a better location.
Laura Lessnau at Energy Publisher reports:
“We have been grateful for the support of our viewers and donors, and the dedication of our staff, but unfortunately WFUM has not been able to sustain itself financially, like many other businesses in this tough economy,” says David Lampe, vice president for communications. “And over the last several years, the university has been under growing pressure to reduce costs wherever it can in order to maintain its core commitment to the quality and accessibility of a U-M education. Under these circumstances, we decided it was best to withdraw from the public television business.”
Friday, April 24, 2009
Thursday, April 23, 2009
When temporary Mayor Michael Brown told a Rotary Club luncheon last month that one solution to Flint's woes might be "shutting down quadrants of the city," it sounded more like wishful thinking than actual policy. In fact, a Brown spokesman claimed it was just an off-the-cuff remark.
But a front-page story in yesterday's New York Times indicates that the concept is gaining momentum. It's even got an environmentally pleasing name; it's a "greening strategy."
As you might have guessed, Genesee County Land Bank Chairman Dan Kildee, who also happens to be the county treasurer, is leading the charge.
“Decline in Flint is like gravity, a fact of life,” Kildee told David Streitfeld of The New York Times. “We need to control it instead of letting it control us.”
(Streitfeld's article builds on a good piece by The Flint Journal's Ron Fonger published a month earlier.)
One thing the Times story inexplicably failed to mention is that Youngstown, Ohio has already put a similar plan into action that would be an obvious model for Flint. I mentioned this in an earlier post about shrinking Flint, and Fonger zeroed in on it in his Journal article:
The Land Bank chairman said he's prepared to promote talk about shrinking Flint by helping to bring in an expert on the subject, like Youngstown, Ohio, Mayor Jay Williams.
In Youngstown, the city is demolishing homes but also monitoring neighborhoods that have largely been abandoned, and is offering up to $50,000 in grants for remaining homeowners to relocate, according to news reports.
Flint is in the process of updating its master plan for the first time since 1965, so now would be the time to map out a "greening strategy" and make it official city policy.
For a racially diverse — some would argue racially polarized — city like Flint, it’s bound to be a controversial process. Namely, which parts of Flint get eliminated? And what happens when the predominantly white power structure selects predominantly African American sections of town to turn into verdant pastures? I don’t think I’m going out on limb in predicting that the north end will go before Mott Park or East Court.
And do you offer out-of-state speculators who own abandoned property the same payment as an actual Flint resident living in a house slated for removal? There's no question this whole process would be very complicated.
Are you wondering what this might resemble if it’s handled badly? Look at the mess Flint has made trying to close schools in its shrinking, cash-poor educational system. Shrinking the entire city could make that fiasco seem like a model of cooperation and efficiency.
Don’t get me wrong. I think this is a good idea. Flint has become a poverty-stricken town trapped in the boundaries of a once-prosperous city. Providing services for 34-square miles just doesn't make sense. But it will take leadership in the mayor's office to pull this off, something that's been in short supply for a long time in Flint. (Given his temporary status, I'm not including Mike Brown in this negative assessment. His short stint as mayor has reminded us what a competent, rational leader looks like after the Don Williamson years.)
At least Kildee seems to know what he's up against:
"I am pretty well sold on this, but the challenge is to do this openly, with participation of the citizens," Kildee told the Journal. "Really, the question is whether the city is going to let this happen in the most destructive manner or the most constructive."
UPDATE: Kildee appears to be on the porch of a house on Sanford Place, a dead-end street off W. Third Ave. in Carriage Town. It's not on Google Street View, but here's a shot of the street from Third Ave.
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Tuesday, April 21, 2009
Michael Stechschulte, the current editor of The Michigan Times, UM-Flint's student newspaper, is apparently getting the cold shoulder from university administrators. He writes:
Two weeks ago today, the Blue Ribbon Athletic Commission received a report from a consulting group on the possibility of varsity athletics here on campus. Despite two weeks of trying, The Michigan Times has yet to get a copy of that report. We’d really love to know, as I’m sure you would, whether we can soon be cheering for our school, but I suppose that will have to wait for the chancellor’s big press release.Michael, you have my sympathies. Administrators often promote openness and dialogue, except when it comes to topics they'd just rather not discuss. Give the Student Press Law Center a call and find out which meetings you're legally entitled to attend. Don't give up the fight.
Other than being stonewalled trying get that report, we’ve been locked out of provost meetings, student judicial hearings, staff council meetings...you name it. If it’s of interest to students, it’s being blocked.
Monday, April 20, 2009
Two of my favorite items from the Scholastic Book Club, delivered straight to school in Flint after ordering from those flimsy paper forms in the seventies, were Dynamite magazine and Encyclopedia Brown books. I still have a single copy of Dynamite, which was published from 1974 - 1992, and it happens to have the late, great Mark "The Bird" Fidrych on the cover. It's filled with Dynamite classics like Bummers, Count Morbida's Monthly Puzzle Pages, and Good Vibrations — a letters column about your feelings by Paulina Kernberg, M.D. ("Dear Dr. Kernberg, I am really lonely. I haven't got a true friend in the world. Can you help me? I'm really sad. Signed, Lonely in Pennsylvania.")
For more Dynamite nostalgia head to Retro Crush for a collection of covers ranging from the Sweat Hogs to Shields & Yarnell. (See extremely creepy video below to catch the mimes in action.)
There was wild speculation about the true reason for the cancellation. Morrissey endured a fate worse than sex with Madonna while playing Coachella on Friday -- the smell of grilling meats from the concession stands drifted across the stage during his set. It prompted the middle-aged vegetarian to announce "I can smell burning flesh and I hope to God it's human." Apparently after discovering that human sacrifices are only enacted at Burning Man, Morrissey walked off the stage in mid-lyric during "Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others." Meat is murder, after all. "The smell of burning animals is making me sick. I just couldn't bear it," he explained when he returned to finish a lackluster show plagued by sound problems.
Hey, fair enough. A really bad smell that violates your personal and artistic integrity could render someone "Still Ill" the next day. (I, too, can skillfully weave Smiths song titles into my writing.) And Morrissey fans are a forgiving lot, as evidenced by their willingness to part with $85 to experience one of their hero's notoriously short concerts. (Disclosure: I've seen The Smiths/Morrissey ten times dating back to 1985, and I own every Smiths 12" ever released on Rough Trade.) But it's a bit hard to take when the man who put the "M" in Manchester showed up Saturday night at DNA Lounge to catch a show by Kristeen Young -- a former warm-up act who got the boot from his 2007 tour after she jokingly mentioned Morrissey and oral sex in the same sentence on stage.
For the full article go here.
Morrissey photo courtesy of Christopher Victorio via sfweekly.com
Sunday, April 19, 2009
In October, I interviewed the manager of the venerable Golden Leaf Club, as well as talk to my mom and her good friend Adrienne Oliver about one of Michigan's oldest black-owned nightclubs. A few days ago I ran across some recent photos of the Golden Leaf, along with some dispiriting shots of nearby Clark School, on the Welcome to Beautiful Flint blog. Here are the photos, along with the original post.
I was at a wedding party for my friends Keith and Kim at the Potrero Neighborhood Center, known as The NABE, last weekend in San Francisco. I spotted a guy in a Red Wings jacket who turned out to be Albert Johnson, a NABE employee who was born at Hurley Hospital and went to Clark Elementary (left) in Flint. His parents, Jerry and Jimmie, still live on Providence Street.
We ended up talking about The Golden Leaf, one of Michigan's legendary black clubs. It’s still in business at 1522 Harrison Street, just across the school yard from Clark Elementary. It’s a membership-only club, just as it was when it opened in 1921.
“My dad liked to play cards there,” Albert remembered, before our conversation turned to how glad we both were that Matt Millen is finally out as the Lions GM.The Golden Leaf is a well-known Flint landmark in my family. One of my mom’s best friends from the old days in Flint is Adrienne (Wilson) Oliver, who is the mother of Notre Dame assistant coach Jappy Oliver (left). Although it wasn’t unheard of for a black girl and white girl to be such close friends at that time in Flint, it was rare. And it was even rarer for a white girl to visit The Golden Leaf. But Ardrienne took my mom, Pat (McFarlane) Young, on several occasions.
“We never looked at Pat as being white or black. Pat was just Pat,” Adrienne told me during a recent conversation. “She was with me and she was my friend, so nobody thought anything of her going to the Golden Leaf.”
Except, perhaps, the girls' parents. Sometimes a little subterfuge was needed.
“We did some of the craziest things,” Adrienne remembers. “Pat would say she was spending the night at my house, then we’d tell my parents we were both going to spend that night at another girl's house, then we’d sneak out.”
Adrienne and my mom both remember Central High, where they graduated in 1948, as having good racial relations. Blacks and whites interacted and formed friendships.
“I remember there being more economic prejudice than racial prejudice at Central,” my mom says. “Students seem to divide over their neighborhoods and how much money their parents had.”
Ardienne adds: “At Central, everybody was wonderful, but there was a lot of prejudice hidden in Flint. Nobody came right out and said it, but it was there.”
And there was prejudice built in to the structure of Flint life. When performers like Duke Ellington, Nat King Cole or Lionel Hampton came to the I.M.A., whites went to a separate early performance, while blacks were only allowed at a second midnight to 4 a.m. show.
“That was terrible,” Adrienne says. “It’s sick to even think about, especially when most of the performers were black.”
The Golden Leaf was a popular destination before the midnight dances at the I.M.A. “You know, it’s just a hole in the wall, but we thought it was the greatest joint in the world,” Adrienne remembers.
Today, the look of the Golden Leaf is relatively unchanged. It’s owned and managed by Lottie Reid, who told me on the phone that it’s still the same long, narrow brick building with a dirt basement, a bar, and several tables, much like it was when Adrienne and my mom went there, not to mention more famous visitors like Sammy Davis, Jr., Dinah Washington, and Malcolm X. The age of the members ranges from 21 to around 80.
But the neighborhood has changed, starting with the massive I-69 — I-475 interchange that obliterated much of the community that once surrounded The Golden Leaf . And like many Flint schools, Clark Elementary is boarded up.
“There’s really nothing around us now,” Lottie Reid said. “There’s nothing but us on this block.”
Saturday, April 18, 2009
With an abundance of vacant housing, the Flint area has been fertile ground for squatters seeking shelter in homes they don't own.
"It's (happening) a lot more out there than people want to know about," Mt. Morris Township Supervisor Paul Long told The Flint Journal's Shena Abercrombie last fall.
"And where are they going to go? The shelters are full. We don't see a whole bunch of people sleeping in the grates because they're finding these homes."
Agreed Dan Kildee, county treasurer and head of the Land Bank: "It's been a problem, and it's increasing because we're getting more structures in tax foreclosures than we've ever had before."
Now John Leland of The New York Times is reporting that advocacy groups are coordinating organized squatting efforts in response to the foreclosure crisis.
Michael Stoops, executive director of the National Coalition for the Homeless, said about a dozen advocacy groups around the country were actively moving homeless people into vacant homes — some working in secret, others, like Take Back the Land, operating openly.All this seems like another reminder that the Great Recession is giving large swaths of the country a taste of what Flint has endured for decades.
In addition to squatting, some advocacy groups have organized civil disobedience actions in which borrowers or renters refuse to leave homes after foreclosure.The groups say that they have sometimes received support from neighbors and that beleaguered police departments have not aggressively gone after squatters.
Thursday, April 16, 2009
Welcome to Beautiful Flint employs a simple concept. Once a year, in a single post, the blog features random photos of Flint without tag lines or explanations. It's a fascinating exercise for expatriates. It brings back some memories and you're often left trying to figure out exactly where this or that building—or vacant lot—is located. And although it can be a little depressing, it's worth checking out. It's like a stealth yearbook for the city.
We've got retired race horses, cats, smelt, tigers, carp, birds, dogs and white stallions.
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
"Rereading this older post reminded me of a cute childhood memory about the and Dupont St. A&P. They had a great fresh fish counter in 1956 that puts our modern grocery stores to shame. This was before freezing everything was popular so every Saturday afternoon before closing they would reduce that week's leftover Great Lake smelt to 10 cents/pound. By today's cost even the fresh price must have been awesome but I don't remember it. They packaged them in amounts too large for immediate use so my mom allowed me to throw several to a few neighborhood cats along Dayton St. No one had inside cats in 1957, so it didn't take too many Saturday's until the cats caught on and brought all their friends. My mom and I usually led a parade of screaming cats down Dayton St. to our house every Saturday afternoon."
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
Monday, April 13, 2009
Anyone have any stories of Flintoids — perhaps after over-indulging — attempting to ride the White Horse Tavern's white horse? It seems like the kind of challenge that would be very enticing after a long night, or afternoon, at the bar. The base looks almost like it's constructed out of oversized Lincoln Logs for the very purpose of climbing. My guess is that reality would set in once you got to the shingled pedestal, but at that point you'd be so close to getting a handhold on the horse's hoof that you'd probably keep going.
If you have a story, it might be best to use nicknames to protect the identity, and the pride, of the climbers.
Sunday, April 12, 2009
"Such cash-per-crash ordinances tend to infuriate motorists, and they often generate bad press, but a lot of cities are finding them hard to resist," writes David Segal. "With the economy flailing and budgets strained, state and local governments are being creative about ways to raise money. And the go-to idea is to invent a fee — or simply raise one."Closer to home, a state-appointed task force is recommending a higher beer tax to fund Michigan's child-welfare system and raise money for abuse and neglect prevention programs. Go here for a state-by-state comparison of current excise taxes on beer.
Here's a rundown of Flint's current license and fee structure, which includes a $7 fee to operate a condom machine and a $176 fee to open a pool hall with up to four tables. It'll cost you $73 for each additional table.
UPDATE: Würstside Warlørd has left a new comment on your post "Beer Tax":
Only in Flint would operating a cost less than the numerous oppressive fees for teen dances. Heck, even a coney cart will cost you more.
With the cruel "Going Out Of Business" fee why isn't Flint swimming in cash? Should've upped it to at least $100.00.
Here are some good ones:
FIRING RANGE & SHOOTING GALLERY- 70.00
GOING OUT OF BUSINESS(30 days)- 50.00
CARTS/CONEY CART- 160.00 vehicle/ 80.00 cart
MECHANICAL DEVICE OPERATOR- 130.00
MUSIC MACHINE- 30.00
PARKING LOT 11-25 SPACES- 114.00
PARKING LOT 250-350 SPACES- 164.00
Saturday, April 11, 2009
Believe me, Ottawa, no one regrets our lack of foresight more than us. We recognize our mistakes. As I say, fixing them has been difficult, to say the least. May you never find yourself in our position.
But if you do, I like to think that we'd have the decency not to mock you, thus adding to your burden.
Now, all that said, I realize this ad campaign is just that -- an ad campaign for a radio station. It doesn't speak for the people of Ottawa. It speaks merely to the hearts and judgment of the twits who wrote it.
To you people, I'd like to say this: Shame on you.
Believe it or not, human beings live here. Most of us have jobs, don't eat rabbits and don't shoot our neighbors, regardless of what you might have heard.
And the tourism agencies for Flint and Ottawa have teamed up to denounce the campaign:
Noel Buckley, President and CEO of Ottawa Tourism, said he was made aware of the campaign today and was disappointed by it. He is asking that the ad company stop using the photos taken from his agency’s Web site. He’s also contacted officials with the Newcap radio stations to convey his concerns with this campaign.
“Images of Ottawa can be downloaded by anyone from our Web site for promotional purposes,” says Mr. Buckley. “They are not intended to be used unfairly to portray other destinations and this is clearly an unfair comparison between Flint in 1989 and Ottawa today.”
Friday, April 10, 2009
I've always liked Canadians.
They're generally friendly, non-violent and mild-mannered. Sort of like Mormons, minus the religion thing. Sure, they have some goofy sports (curling, anyone?) and some lame television shows (anyone remember The Beachcombers on Channel 9 in Windsor?), but their biggest fault seemed to be that they were a little dull, which is just what you'd expect from a suburb of the U.S. masquerading as country. (Please note that I'm not including French Canadians in this description; those dudes are crazy!)
But little did I know how un-Canadian some folks in Ottawa could be. What kind of city creates an advertising campaign proclaiming "This Ain't Flint"? Actually, it's the work of Newcap Radio and Alphabet Creative. No one really expects much from a corporate radio chain and an ad agency, but this is really pathetic. It's not even original; the bulk of the material in their video is stolen from Roger & Me, minus the humor. Here's a line from the campaign that's guaranteed to infuriate: "You are not an unemployed autoworker. You control your own destiny. This ain't Flint!" (No idea what the creepy doll featured prominently is all about.)
Perhaps even worse, after tearing down Flint to make Ottawa feel good about itself, they try to pretend there was no harm intended, perhaps realizing that Flintoids, unlike most Canadians, are often well-armed and decidedly not mild-mannered:
"We are incredibly fortunate to be somewhat insulated from this madness, so let’s take the time to celebrate that, focus on the positives, and get this thing moving again.Sorry, apology not accepted. Perhaps you'd like to let the geniuses who created the campaign know how you feel. (I realize a controversy is probably exactly what they want, but it's still cathartic to get things off your chest.) Here's the email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
"We are not preaching ignorance. We are not naïve, and to the good people of Flint, Michigan – we bear no malice and offer condolences in these hard times.
"But let’s face it everybody – we live in Ottawa, and it’s pretty damn good. So let’s go with that."
UPDATE: MediaStyle has an online interview with Tony Lyons, the man responsible for the campaign. Tony's clearly clueless: "We don’t intend to offend anyone, and I don’t think the campaign could be seen to be in any way offensive, except maybe to doll enthusiasts."
ANOTHER UPDATE: There's an elaborate discussion of the campaign on Your Dirty Answer.
Thursday, April 9, 2009
Tuesday, April 7, 2009
America's allegedly clamoring for small cars, and G.M. comes up with a cross between a rickshaw, a compost bin, and a Segway. It's called a P.U.M.A. and it debuted in New York today. I'm not sure this type of thing will help the automaker survive in the short term, but something like this makes sense in urban areas...provided you avoid a collision with some of G.M.'s other products like the Cadillac Escalade. And I'm left wondering how this thing is better than another high-tech invention called a bicycle.
I know many of you have been wondering why Flint Expatriates doesn't have more posts about youth theatre in the early eighties. It's true; I have neglected this important topic. But I plan to make up for it right now. Grumkin sent me these photos and artifacts of Flint Youth Theatre a while back, and I've lost all the background info on them. Maybe she can help us out in the comment section. And if you recognize yourself in the photos, despite the subtle costumes and makeup, please chime in.