Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Even the Abandoned Bars Aren't Safe

The oddly agrarian style of the Bottom Street Bar, abandoned but still standing. (Photo by Thomas Wirt)


Another fire, another unexpected vista. (Photo by Gordon Young)


I had another one of those now-familiar disorienting moments when I drove by the site of Chevy in the Hole earlier this month and discovered that the Bottom Street Bar was gone, along with the nearby bank, both victims of arson. (This used to be the Sundown Lounge, perhaps The Sundowner. Hard to remember.)

You can now stand on the edge of the rubble and see Hurley Hospital across the vast, empty plain bisected by the river.

I never stepped foot in the place, but it holds a prominent spot in my memory of Flint. If you happened to be driving on Chevrolet during a shift change when the traffic backed up, you could come to a stop directly in front of the bar door, which was often propped open during the summer. This was a big thrill for me as a kid. I loved mystery books and I imagined that it was the kind of dark, smokey place where somebody could get murdered. (Perhaps somebody did over the years.) This is how I discovered that it was acceptable to drink at 7 a.m. in Flint.

Me: What are they doing in there?

Mom: Drinking.

Me: In the morning?

Mom: They just got out of work. It's night time for them.







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17 comments:

  1. After posting this, I'm now wondering if the door wasn't on the side, and you had to look back from the car to see into the bar. The memory may be failing me in my old age. Anyway, same concept applies...a mysterious place for a little kid.

    Anybody know came up with the external decoration? Seems like a little too much effort for a factory bar. I mean it was right across the street; does it really matter what it looks like to get customers?

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  2. There was another abandoned building close to the corner there that burned back in 1997. I remember driving down there to see from where the smoke was coming. I sat there and watched it burn, mostly out of sadness for the loss. I left Flint the next year.

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  3. That is one large ass fire for an empty bar. Were they selling drinks made of gasoline?

    i hate that billy Joel song.

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  4. Um, I'm not able to kill the audio on the youtube videos. I would have chosen that "burn down the disco" song by The Smiths.

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  5. that would have been worse.

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  6. That's too bad... And I remember seeing pictures of that bank building from the Sit Down Strike with the National Guard standing in front of it.... A shame...

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  7. We saw the smoke from this from Flushing-the corner building that burned years earlier was a Citizens Bank back in the 70's.

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  8. how about "fire" by the Ohio Players?

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  9. An elegant solution, Shaun. I like it.

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  10. Is this close to what used to be "Lafferty's Titty City," another fine drinking establishment?

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  11. That's the impression you get, is that it is the same place, Jan. Looks like the same two story row of stores with a facade. However, there is a through street in good shape behind it, that I don't know what that is. Kearsley St. dead ended at Plant 4. It picks up for a few blocks twice further west, though.

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  12. If Kearsley swerves to Glenwood on that side of the building, that could be it. What cross street went by that, was it Thayer? I remember Hazelton had Hazelton School which was torn down years ago, and it ended at Glenwood by a large parking lot. I remember waiting to go into my summer clerical job and seeing kids, who looked like good kids, not punks, playing and crawling in a window at the school, in the early 1970s. That was Hazelton, so my guess is Thayer.

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  13. Gordy, I remember the back-ups at shift change there in the hollow. One of the factories near the bottom kept their doors open in the summer as well and you could get a peek inside while driving by. It was dark and rather hellish looking, at least in my imagination. I remember being stuck once in slow traffic, waving to a friends dad who happened to be doing security guard duty near one entrance. He'd gotten bumped over from Buick City for the day. Driving by there now it's hard to believe it all existed.

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  14. Tom, the Chevy plants weren't that depressing inside, at least when things were going well in the 1950s-1970s anyway. You had the ranks of GMI students who became executives, executives on their way to the top, fathers and mothers of numerous professionals in law, medicine, and engineering, and brothers and sisters of celebrities, all walking there. The glass ceilings were breakable, at least in later years of prosperity. The grandfather of the founder of Google worked there. There was, in summary, upward mobility, something that must have threatened what some call "the ruling class". Besides the loss of entry level societal positions, there now seems a huge resistance to the concept of upward mobility, one that seems more like the Historical Feudal and Caste societies of Europe and Asia than the hopeful America we used to have.

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  15. Anon, Yes, my father was part of the 'upward mobility' you talk about. He put in 30 yrs at AC, including his 3 yrs military during the 2nd WW. He started out blue collar and ended up with a white collar job (head of insurance at AC), and this with basically a high school education (one year in Flint Junior College). One had a shot at the middle class in those days.

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  16. that bar was just south of chevrolet plant 5 on the west side of chevrolet avenue. The door opened on the side, i went through that door many times. It was across Chevrolet ave from plant 4. engine blocks made in plant 5 went under chevrolet ave to plant 4 to be completed. Lafferty's was on the street just north of Plant 4 and at the end of that street near plant 6 and 9, on the east side of the complex, just east of the union hall. The happy hour bar was at the north end of the complex between the factories and the parking lot and across from GMI. couldnt get to the parking lot without going into the bar, at least i couldnt. the bank was on the corner, then the bar, then the parking lot. I dont remember much about the late 60's and the 70's, but i remember my bars!!! this information is guaranteed to be accurate.

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  17. Damn js, you are now the official Flint Expats expert on Chevy bars. Thanks for the info.

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