Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Former Flint Resident David Westin Announces Departure from ABC News

Former Flintoid David Weston makes a funny joke about Sam Donaldson's "hair."

Flint Expatriate David Westin resigned as president of ABC News earlier this month.
"Westin didn't plan on a career in television news. He spent his childhood in Flint, Mich., the son of a tool-and-die maker at AC Spark Plug," wrote David McKay Wilson in a Michigan Today profile of Westin. "At night his father, Lawrence, earned his bachelor's degree at the University of Michigan's Flint campus, which eventually landed him a job in management at Ford's plastics plant in Saline. The Westins then moved to Ann Arbor, where David attended Pioneer High.

"In the summer of 1970—between high school and his freshman year at the University of Michigan—David Westin worked at the Saline Ford plant. He impressed his boss, who urged him to become a plant foreman, which paid $20,000 a year—a princely sum back then. Westin was tempted, but opted instead for college. He began on the Ann Arbor campus as a music major, studying oboe. He lived at home and worked part-time selling shoes to pay his way."

Flint Portraits: Romain Johnston

An earlier post on Frank Price prompted a reminder from a reader about another Central High grad from the same era who made it big in the entertainment industry — Romain Johnston. Price and Johnston were friends at Central and active in the high school theater scene.

Here is Johnston's entry from the Art Directors Guild Hall of Fame :

A legend in the Variety Show or Musical genre, Johnston won three Emmys® and was nominated an additional ten times. Johnston got his start in art direction with the television series Number Please (1961) and went on to win his Emmys for work on The Mac Davis Show (1974), The Sentry Collection Presents Ben Vereen: His Roots (1978) and Pryor’s Place (1984). In 1978, Johnston received three of the five Emmy nominations for Art Direction of a Variety or Musical Program. He has also worked on iconic series Barbara Mandrell and the Mandrell Sisters, The Flip Wilson Show and The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour.

Flint, Dayne Walling and The New York Times

Michael Cooper of The New York Times has a piece on mayoral recalls that mentions the unsuccessful effort to oust Dayne Walling in Flint:

This year the new mayor, Dayne Walling — an energetic former Rhodes scholar — found himself fighting yet another recall campaign after he laid off police officers and firefighters to try to make ends meet in a city with an unemployment rate of more than 25 percent.

“Having to make public-safety layoffs is something that I’d hoped to never have to do,” said Mr. Walling, 36, who noted that he had resorted to layoffs only after the police and fire unions failed to agree to the concessions he had sought, and after he cut his own salary, auctioned off the mayor’s car and started paying his own cellphone bills.

When the latest recall was derailed in court this month, the mayor posted the news on his blog: “Flint’s recall fever has broken.”

As we've discussed, Flint is not being ignored by the Times. Here are links to some of the recent coverage of the city:

The fallout from population loss in Michigan, Florida, and California.

G.M. sells off its old buildings, including those in Flint.

Thieves prey on the abandoned factories of Flint.

The Carriage Town neighborhood anchors downtown revitalization, with slide show.

Dan Kildee and shrinking cities.

As Medicaid payments shrink, patients are abandoned in Flint.

Amid the ruin, seeing a garden of hope in Flint.

And, of course, there's coverage of the serial killer, via The Flint Journal and AP.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Flint Postcards: Baseball at Athletic Park

Thanks again to Tom Pohrt, who is digging deep into his Flint archives.

Update: According to The Picture History of Flint, Athletic Park was located "near downtown" and opened in 1907 and was demolished in 1955. (Just guessing here but there's a good chance it was replaced by a parking lot. Ha ha.) A photo in the picture history clearly shows residential houses visible along the third-base line.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

David Harris Explores the Merrill Hood in Flint

David Harris of The Flint Journal wrote an excellent article on Sunday about what's come to be known as the "Merrill Hood" — the area along Pasadena Avenue between Dupont and Clio that he labels "Flint's most dangerous neighborhood."
 
"It’s where a pizza delivery man was shot and killed in a robbery earlier this year. And where children as young as 10 see all the violence as no big deal, because, well, it happens so often they’re immune to it." Harris writes. "Here, even the neighborhood church locks its doors during the day when people are inside."

It's a story that profiles the people dealing with crime in one Flint's blighted areas rather than simply relying on labels, stereotypes and statistics. I'll echo one of the comments on mlive: it's one of the best things I've seen in the Journal in a long time.
 
It also presents a welcome contrast to the short Police blotter items the Journal seems so fond of running. Devoid of context, these little items do little to inform or educate readers. In an era of layoffs and budget cuts at newspapers, it would be great to see reporters like Harris freed up to do more in-depth work like his portrait of the Merrill Hood instead of chasing down crime snippets.

It's really worth reading the whole story
here.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Flint Portraits: Frank Price

Flint Expatriate Frank Price, the former Columbia Pictures and Universal TV chief, recently bought an ocean-view condo in Santa Monica for $3.1 million. At Columbia, he was involved in the creation of Kramer vs. Kramer, Tootsie, and Ghandi.

Before he made a name for himself in the entertainment world, Price stood out at Central High School, where he was editor of the school paper, president of the drama club, and president of the junior class. He worked as a copy boy at The Flint Journal, and eventually worked his way up to police and fire reporting. After a stint in the Navy, he worked summers at Chevy in the Hole to pay his way through Michigan State. He transferred to Columbia University, but he left early when to work for the CBS story department.

Lauren Beale of The Los Angeles Times reports:

The 3,165-square-foot third-floor unit shares no walls with neighbors. Features include terraces, marble floors, a built-in aquarium and two fireplaces. There are two bedrooms and three bathrooms. The complex, which has 24-hour security, a gym and a rooftop swimming pool and deck, was built in 1997.

My mom remembers Price from her days at Central. And you can get more of his story here.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

High School Enrollment in the Flint Area

Does anyone have any insight into the strange enrollment shifts at Flint high schools?

- Northern had 997 students in 2009. Now it's up to 1,507.
- Southwestern had 1500 students in 2008. Now it's dipped to just 658.
- Northwestern had 540 students in 2006. Now it's at 1,219.

We know that the overall trend is for fewer high school students in Flint as the population drops. And we know that when Central closed last year it had around 900 students, and those that didn't graduate had to go somewhere. But it appears that very few of them went to Southwestern. Was that intentional?

Then there's Powers, with just 598 students, and Beecher with only 400.

If the trends continue, Flint clearly has one public high school in its future. It would work now if the school district had the right facility.

Here's some background info on enrollment from a March 29, 2009 post:
It's difficult for many Flint Expatriates who haven't been back in a while to realize just how much the city has changed over the years. Some basic numbers from the Flint Community Schools Facilities Advisory Committee Report reveal that the school-age population has disappeared along with the G.M. jobs.

When G.M. employment peaked at approximately 80,000 jobs in 1968, Flint schools (K-12) had 46,557 students.

By the fall of 2008, there were just 14,056 students.

Enrollment is projected to dip to 10,432 students by the fall of 2013. That's a 78% decline since 1968. It means that there will only be about 2,500 high-school students in the entire district.

So why is the city agonizing over whether to close Central or Southwestern? With numbers this low and the budget problems that come with plummeting enrollment, shouldn't the city opt for a single high school for Flint?

The enrollment would still be small compared to the biggest high schools in the country, which tend to be more efficient and offer more classes and programs. Here's a list of the largest high schools by enrollment:

1. Belmont -- Los Angeles 5,299

1. Elizabeth -- Elizabeth, N.J. 5,299

3. Fremont -- Los Angeles 5,083

4. South Gate -- South Gate, Calif. 5,020

5. Roosevelt -- Los Angeles 4,940

6. Monroe -- North Hills, Calif. 4,881

7. Los Angeles -- Los Angeles 4,876

8. Bell -- Bell, Calif. 4,855

9. Garfield -- Los Angeles 4,844

10. Lynwood -- Lynwood, Calif. 4,818

11. Long Beach Polytechnic -- Long Beach, Calif. 4,779

12. Judson -- Converse, Tex. 4,778

13. Sachem -- Lake Ronkonkoma, N.Y. 4,718

14. Fort Hamilton -- Brooklyn, N.Y. 4,679

15. Felix Varela -- Miami 4,655

16. San Fernando -- San Fernando, Calif. 4,602

17. G. Holmes Braddock -- Miami 4,598

18. Huntington Park -- Huntington Park, Calif. 4,577

19. Marshall -- Los Angeles 4,550

20. Lane Technical -- Chicago 4,527

21. North Hollywood -- North Hollywood, Calif. 4,509

22. John F. Kennedy -- Bronx, N.Y. 4,422

23. Barbara Goleman -- Miami 4,417

24. Wilson -- Long Beach 4,383

25. Robinson Secondary -- Fairfax County 4,378

Rare '80s Video from Flint's Fabulous Copa



Just kidding.

Flint at Rest

A grave marker in the Mountain View Cemetery in Oakland, Calif.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Flint To the Music of Arcade Fire


Here's a strange way to interact with dear old Flint via an experimental video by the band Arcade Fire. It apparently works best with the Google Chrome browser, but I watched it in Firefox and it appeared to work, although maybe I was watching a scrambled version. Still interesting, regardless. All you need is the address of your old house in Flint.It's quite intriguing and seems like it's designed with Flint in mind. Give it a try here.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Searching for "Animal"

Can anyone help me get in touch with a guy who went to a Flint high school in the sixties. His nickname was "Animal" and he was missing a front tooth, possibly from football. He went to Ft. Lauderdale sometime in the mid to late sixties on spring break. It's a long story but I'd appreciate it if you can help. Thanks.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Flint Artifacts: Fred Elliott's Fine Shoes


Thanks to Grumkin for this fine artifact.

Flint, Please Meet Tonapah


Guy, a Flint Expatriate, reflects on the fate of his hometown:

This is a bit tangential — which is pretty normal for my contributions — but whenever I think of Flint and its decline I think of something which happened to me about 25 years ago. When I was a kid my Mom worked as a bookkeeper at a family-owned shoe store downtown. When the owner finally "packed it in", for good, her told her she could have anything she found in an upstairs warehouse. She brought home a box full of periodicals and newspapers that were from the late 19th century and which were in pristine condition; it was really a treasure-trove of historical documents. I was a nerdy kid and loved pouring over the material.

One item was a newspaper from Tonapah, Nevada circa 1867, or something like that. It had a huge headline that read, "Tonapah Population Hits 200,000" with a picture, looking down on the bustling city, taken from an adjacent mountainside. The tone of the accompanying article was that, thanks to the mining industry, Tonapah's future looked so bright that — to paraphrase — everybody had better be wearin' "shades" (well, some 19th century version of that idea, anyway). Life was good, in Tonapah, to say the least.

Then, in 1986 I was a musician working in Las Vegas. The band I was with landed a gig in Reno so we made the long drive north; the planets had aligned and I finally would get to see Tonapah, Nevada with my own eyes. It was so incredibly odd because I had gazed at the picture on the front of that newspaper so many times.

As we drove through Tonapah in 1986 the population was down to only a few thousand people (as I recall) and, mostly, it was a collection of abandoned and collapsing buildings whose windows were missing and whose doors simply banged in the wind. And the homes and stores which did remain occupied were run-down, dirty, and the entire town had a depressing and repellent quality. We got some gas and I was anxious to just get of Tonapah.

I was profoundly impacted by the degree to which the once thriving city had simply expired. Back in 1986 I wondered about the families in that community. What had it been like to watch that city die? Now I know; my old hometown has gone precisely the same way. That Flint might ever rebound in a meaningful way is improbable on the order of the Biblical resurrection of Lazarus — it's not gonna happen. It's over, folks.

In the same way that time has forgotten about Tonapah, Nevada, so will it be with Flint, Michigan.

The Fate of Flint's Empty G.M. Factories

G.M. and Flint had a lot of good years together, but the breakup was brutal. And like many once-passionate relationships, this one is ending in the worst possible way...at least for Flint. Bill Vlasic and Nick Bunkley of The New York Times report:

When American taxpayers bailed out General Motors, the company was split, with the best assets going to the reorganized automaker of the same name. This new General Motors is selling cars, making money and preparing a public stock offering.

The least valuable assets, including the run-down factories in Flint, were left in the shell of the old G.M., now named the Motors Liquidation Company.

This company has filed a bankruptcy reorganization plan that lays out how it will clean up and sell off the dozens of unwanted pieces of what was once the world’s largest automaker.

But the process is slow, and while plant closings have already cost jobs and tax revenue in many communities, the empty factories themselves are now becoming a burden.

“When General Motors closed shop in Flint, they just turned the lights off,” said Chris Swanson, a captain with the Genesee County Sheriff’s Department, which has made nearly two dozen arrests this year at the Flint North complex on charges of theft, assault with intent to murder and others.

Given all the crime in the area, one might wonder why local law enforcement is bothering to protect the plants G.M. has left behind.


Saturday, September 11, 2010

Homedale Elementary School, R.I.P.

It appears the arson spree in Flint has finally claimed Homedale Elementary School. Kristen Longley of The Flint Journal reports:
An early morning fire has destroyed the former Homedale Elementary school, fire officials said. Flint firefighters were called to the vacant school at the corner of Davison Road and Iowa Avenue at about 3:30 a.m. today to find the building engulfed in fire with flames shooting through the roof, Flint Battalion Chief Theresa Root said. The second and third stories collapsed into the basement, she said. The building will be monitored 24/7 by a security team until it can be torn down because of a possibility more walls could collapse, she said.
Go here for video of the fire on ABC.

Here's a moving tribute to Homedale, where my mom attended grade school, that ran on Flint Expatriates on October 7, 2008.


Flint’s Homedale elementary as it appeared from the corner of Davison Road and Olive Avenue in 1940. The west playground (foreground) was used for gym classes that featured soccer, 25 yard dashes, occasional softball and kickball games and after school marble tourneys. Evenings and all summer long the playground was the site of highly competitive neighborhood softball games. The east playground (not shown) was reserved for the younger children who spent recesses playing jump-rope and tag. The east playground did have some small hills where, during the winters, boys learned to ski – without skis. Those hills also served as “bunny hills” in preparation for sledding at the Kearsley Park hill.

A Flint Expatriate Returns to Homedale School
By John Mennear

On the first Tuesday of September, 1940 my mom adjusted my brand new clothes, slicked my hair, and walked me to my first day of formal education – kindergarten at Flint’s Homedale School. Homedale was already an east-side institution. My own mom and dad had received their elementary educations there and now my older cousins were enrolled. But on that particular day, despite parental enthusiasm about my going to school (enthusiasm I was certain was faked for my benefit) I was not ready for academe. Oh sure, they had regaled me with how much fun it was going to be. I would meet new friends and learn to read. Nonetheless, it all seemed a terrible plot to be rid of me. Hadn’t I heard stories about a little fellow who had been put in an orphanage? What a dreadful existence he had endured! What was going to happen to me if I entered that big red brick building?

That first day was hard on mother too. With other apprehensive moms she watched through a classroom window in the hall as the little ruffians, most just as frightened as I, discovered the wealth of toys at our disposal. Oh, the joy! But wait just a second, hadn’t that little wooden boy with the long nose been duped into thinking Pleasure Island was a fun place too?

Eventually, although my vision was blurred by tears, I spied the most glorious apparatus any boy could hope to see. I had never before seen one and only later did I learn that it was called the jungle gym. Of course, to me it was a jungle Jim which made no sense but that first glimpse was all I needed to get the day and, therefore, my entire academic career, off on the right foot.

In June of 1947 I took my leave from Homedale to attend Lowell Jr. High then in later years, Flint Central. Going back to visit Homedale seldom crossed my mind and today I regret to say that it took me 55 years to actually do it. And I’m glad I finally did it before it was too late.

When I re-entered the old school in 2002, I was stunned to see the same shiny oaken floors I had first trod in 1940. Why, could it be true that I even smelled the aroma of the sweeping compound janitors had spread on the floor each day at the close of classes?

A Homedale hallway in 2002. Note the gleaming oak wood floors. What a magnificent job of caring for School Board property. The lockers had been added since 1940 but the ceiling lights appear to be the same ones that lit the way for the author during the 1940 school year.

In 1940 Homedale had a wonderful auditorium where the sixth graders put on their annual spring play and the entire school participated in the Christmas show. Yes friends, we dared to call it a Christmas show in those days.

Every Homedale kid took, for 2 or 3 years, a class called auditorium. There, each week, we were obliged to step on to that stage and recite a poem, sing a song or give a dramatic reading. Looking back at the experience I know it was one of the most valuable classes I ever took — and I was only 10 years old! Thank you Mrs. Peak.
 

The auditorium was still there in 2002, exactly where I had left it, but it was not nearly as large as I recalled. But still, had I been blindfolded and dropped into one of the seats, a single glimpse would have let me know exactly where I was.

The Homedale auditorium in 2002. During an earlier era Homedale students were entertained by Sergeant Wilburn Lagree, the “Singing Cop” and his accordion playing side-kick Don. Flint’s Attic Players, a group of amateur adult actors also used the auditorium as their home stage.

Homedale’s gymnasium was a special place for the east side kids. During World War II, when both moms and dads worked at the Buick, Chevy or AC, we were allowed to enter the gym before school opened so we could play dodge-ball. The daily games in that well-warmed gymnasium assured that every boy would begin the school day with sweat-moistened shirts and sweaters. Gosh, we must have been a smelly gang by the end of the day. Unfortunately, during my visit the gym was no longer in use and it had been locked for years.

Tommy Ing was the all time best player who ever blistered my hide in a game of dodge ball. Tommy was a 5th or 6th grader and we adoring younger kids were terrified when he had the ball. Mrs. Schwartz ran the gym and in retrospect it’s too bad I never thought to thank her for letting us come to school early so Tommy could raise those glorious red welts on our skin by hitting us with that dodge-ball.

In 1940 the only student restrooms were in the basement. Each class, at its appointed time would line up — boys in one line, girls in another — twist imaginary keys to lock our lips for “quiet’s sake,” and proceed to the basement. During my 2002 visit I watched another generation of boys and girls, in their own lines, walking quietly through the halls, on their way to the rest rooms in the basement. I wonder if they will remember those walks when they are seventy years old.

Homedale boys lined up and waiting to return to their classroom after their visit to the restroom. Except for the fact that these boys wore sneakers, the scene was a near perfect throw-back to what went on a half century earlier.

In 2004 I returned for yet another visit and although it was the middle of the school year, the parking lot was empty and the doors were locked. In fact, the old place looked dreadfully forlorn. The building was deserted, windows were covered, the grass needed cutting.

The east side of Homedale School. Evidence of a parking lot that took over the east playground. Covered windows that used to look into the gymnasium where Tommy Ing reined as dodge-ball champion.

I roamed the grounds and came upon one last memento of a time gone by. Mrs. Coates had been Principal of Homedale when my own mom and dad were students there and she continued doing her job when I passed through. There still exists a small plaque laid on the Davison Road side grounds of the school in her honor.

Paint spattered and overgrown with weeds, the stone and plaque honoring the service of Mrs. Coates, Principal of Homedale School.

When I returned to my North Carolina home I searched the internet to find the status of Homedale. Because of declining enrollment this east-side institution has been closed. The building looks (to my untrained and nostalgic eye) pretty sound. I wonder if anyone will take it over and give it a second incarnation.

As an avid viewer of HGTV shows like Homes Across America, If Walls Could Talk, and Restoring America, I can only hope that one day I’ll see my old school converted to condos, or apartments, or even a fabulous one family home (as I had fantasized about back during the 1940s). Mr. Restoration man, if you are out there please hurry – time is fleeting.

One last view of Homedale School from Davison Road. What a fabulous place it was. Here’s hoping it can rise again to a new incarnation.

The Value of Vacant Lots in Flint and San Francisco

I wanted to update this July 27 post on the value of vacant lots in San Francisco because I have some convenient photographic evidence of how construction crews do their work in such close confines. It wasn't hard to find; there are two projects blocking the sidewalks of Cortland Avenue, just a couple blocks from my house, in the Bernal Heights neighborhood. One happens to be right next to a legendary local bar called Wild Side West.

The house next to the bar is basically just a floating shell now. It's cheaper to keep some portion of the exterior intact because then it's considered a remodel rather than a new structure when it comes to permits.


A block down the street an entirely new house is going up in the narrow space between two buildings.


The girders are going up today.


Not exactly a tranquil time for the neighbors as the new house takes shape.



Here's the original post:


Despite almost 15 years in San Francisco, the real estate market here continues to confound me. While Flint struggles to mow its ever growing supply of vacant lots, San Francisco continues to sell its increasingly rare empty spaces. For insane prices. The 25 X 70 vacant lot pictured above at 842 Moultrie in Bernal Heights is yours for just $399,000. I'm assuming the basketball hoop is not included.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Michigan School for the Deaf Superintendent David Sanderson Announces Possible Collaboration with Powers Catholic



Flint Photos: The Elms of W. Paterson Street


A great shot of the long-gone Elm trees on W. Paterson St. in the early seventies after an ice storm. Photo by Tom Pohrt.

Reservations about the Term "Reservation"

Cooley's Dictum clears up some misconceptions about the so-called "Indian Reservations" in Flint:
By the Saginaw Treaty of 1819 a number of both "tribal" and "individual" reservations were created ranging in location from present day Bancroft, Flint, and Montrose to Saginaw, Vassar, and other points north.

The "reservation" at Flint was actually eleven individual "reserves" for the following individuals (in order per the treaty, and in order as appears on the survey map dated August 20th, 1821): Nowokeshik, Metawanene, Mokitchenoqua, Nondashemau, Petabonaqua, Messawakutt, Checbalk, Kitcheguqua, Sagosequa, Annoketoqua, and Tawcumegoqua. A section of land was reserved for each, a section being 640 acres in area. (I would have said "a square mile" but a "section" need not necessarily be "square".)

Now, were these individuals Indian? In the majority of cases, no, although that did not seem to be an impediment to litigators.

Let's deal with the only three reservees whose claims to the land were not contested in the courts. Nowokeshik was deemed to be Francis Edouard Campau -- mixed breed son of trader Barney Campau. Kitcheguqua was deemed to be Catherine Mene -- mixed breed daughter of trader John Baptiste Brillant dit Beaulieu. Petabonaqua was deemed to be Felicity Beaufait -- mixed breed daughter of Louis Beaufait.

The remaining eight reserves were contested and five of the claimants involved in the litigation were the white offspring of Flint's first resident, Jacob Smith. The Smith children eventually received patents to these lands but this was not until 1836 -- 18 years after the treaty and 16 years after the "survey" of the eleven sections.

Upon granting of the patents, the Smith children had a re-survey made of the five sections and four of these, Sections 3-6 were divided into farms by surveyor Hervey C. Parke. Now, this is not to say that the Smith children hadn't already sold off some of these lands. Typical for the day, when a land claim was contested on the frontier, and given the slow-moving court system of the day, land sales were made "subject to the claims of others" as the litigation made its way to conclusion. For example, John and Polly Todd had by then sold their inn and ferry service downtown and had moved downriver onto one of these farms. Thus, "Todd" appears as owner of 300 acres on both sides of the "River Road."

Now, all five of the Smith sections are north of the river. But the Smith children also eventually laid claim to a section on the south side and as this litigation proceeded, there were eventually three claimants for the name Mokitchenoqua -- one the supposed mixed-breed daughter of Smith, another the mixed breed daughter of fur trader Archibald Lyon, and the third, Marie Gouin, mixed breed daughter of another fur trader.

Eventually three full-blood Indians were involved in claims, two daughters and a niece of Chief Neome, who was granted a tribal reservation at Montrose -- Sagosequa, Annoketoqua, and Tawcumegoqua. The first two lost out to the Smith children -- the last, to one of the descendants of Louis Campau.

This is a rather rudimentary explanation and a much longer post would be necessary to detail all the complexities of getting title to the lands at Flint. But, imho, stating that Flint was originally "an Indian Reservation" is most definitely incorrect.

More Photos by Austin McLogan

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Thursday, September 9, 2010

Do You Recognize This Building?

Anyone know the exact location of this building? It's described as an "abandoned water treatment plant just outside the city," although that might not be accurate. Look familiar? A reader is trying to figure out what and where it is. Thanks.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Powers and Michigan School For the Deaf

A possible new building on the MSD campus if a development deal is approved. (Photo courtesy of The Flint Journal.)



Powers High School has tried mightily to relocate from its current Carpenter Road address without much success. Could a deal with the state, private investors and the Michigan School for the Deaf be the answer? Khalil Alhajal of The Flint Journal reports:
Lurvey White Ventures has been identified as the development company. The plan, which Sanderson said will be finalized by Sept. 17, would have to be passed by the state legislature before the sale would be completed and construction would begin. Under the proposal, the state would sell the property on Miller Road in Flint to the investors, who would build several new athletic fields, repair and expand parking, raze some buildings, restore the historic buildings and build two new schools to be leased or owned by Powers and the Michigan School for the Deaf.


Revenge Motive: The 1998 U.A.W. Strike and the Future of Flint

Last week, I had an interesting discussion with a Flint Expatriate who still works in the automotive industry. We talked about the reasons G.M. abandoned Flint, covering the list of the usual rationales, including cheaper labor elsewhere, etc. But he also mentioned a motive I've never really heard before — revenge. Specifically, revenge for the 1998 strike that started at the Metal Fab Center and spread to Delphi East. Before it was over, the strike lasted 54 days, cost G.M. $3 billion in lost profits and $12 billion in sales. It closed 27 of G.M.'s 29 assembly plants and over 100 parts plants in the U.S., Mexico and Canada. While both sides made concessions to reach a settlement, he said, G.M. never forgave Flint, and the corporation abandoned any hope of maintaining a large presence in the city where it was created.

Has anyone else ever heard this theory before? I'm just wondering how prevalent this idea is in the Flint area. Is this something people believe or talk about? I was not really writing or reporting about Flint in 1998, but I was surprised that I'd never heard it before. Wondering if it's just one person's conjecture.


Monday, September 6, 2010

Flint Photos: Dort House Fire

The Dort House was located across from the Flint Public Library and the Flint Institute of Music. The morning after the fire in the early seventies, Tom Pohrt and John Mucha took the bus from Civic Park to take photos.

Friday, September 3, 2010

The Day Zorro Came to Flint by Tom Pohrt


Author, illustrator and Flint Expatriate Tom Pohrt remembers the day pulp writer Johnston McCulley's creation walked the streets of Vehicle City.


“SeƱor, WHO ARE YOU?”

“A friend of the people, EL ZORRO!”


1958: Unemployment in the U.S. was at 7% and a gallon of gas was 25 cents; Sputnik burned up re-entering earth’s atmosphere in early January and Nikita Khrushchev became Premier of the Soviet Union; Joao Gilberto introduced the cooled down samba sound of Bossa Nova in Rio while Fidel Castro’s revolutionary army was advancing on Havana; Ted Williams signed with the Red Sox; the right wing John Birch Society was founded; Vladimir Nabokov’s controversial novel “Lolita” is published in the U.S. and the first International House of Pancakes opened in Toluca Lake, California.


And Zorro came to Flint. It was a heady year.


In August of 1958, when I was five years old, Zorro did come to Flint, Michigan. Zorro, aka Don Diego de la Vega, was played by a second generation Italian-American actor named Guy Williams, whose Christian name was Armando Catalano. My brothers and I were glued to the TV each week to watch Zorro on The Wonderful World of Disney. El Zorro was a friend of the people and an enemy of injustice to three young boys brought up in post war Flint. He wore a black mask, cape and hat and wielded a wicked sword, each week whipping a capital Z across some Spanish villain’s pants or shirt. Zorro had an Errol Flynn mustache and matinee idol good looks. In short, Diego de la Vega was the essence of '50s cool. Google Williams’ screen test for the role he later played on Lost In Space. The guy knew how to light a cigarette.




The Zorro TV show was co-sponsored by AC Spark Plugs and this was the reason why he was visiting Flint. Our father held a white collar job at AC, giving us entree to the factory lot where Guy Williams and Henry Calvin appeared to tour the plant and sign autographs. Henry Calvin played the overweight Sergeant Demetrio Lopez Garcia, Zorro’s comic foil.



Here is a photograph of my brothers Karl and Dick getting Sergeant Garcia’s autograph. I’m standing there in short pants, my hand reaching up but with no paper or pencil for a signature. I remember that rather awkward moment. I recall that Henry Calvin shook my hand. I do remember I was a bit afraid of Guy Williams. He was tall at 6’3 and just too cool to approach. I came across these images while going through and organizing some family photographs. The photo of my brothers and I with Henry Calvin looks like it might have been a publicity shot for AC.





There is another small group of photos that my father took of Calvin and Williams signing autographs along with several of the AC beauty queens, from Flint and Milwaukee. I also came across another group of snap shots showing a parade held later in downtown Flint, celebrating GM’s Golden Milestone. They show a military parade with numerous floats, including one with Zorro and Sergeant Garcia in costume. They appear to be acting out their roles for the entertainment of the crowd.



Here's a clipping I found from an AC newsletter titled: WARM WELCOME LEAVES MARK ON ZORRO! Hard not to feel a certain innocence-lost looking back on these images, when in fact this took place during the heart of the Cold War era.