Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year from Flint Expatriates

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Flint Postcards: Offices of Gillespie & Van Wagoner, 122 E. Kearsley Street

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Flint Artifacts: Flint Committee Against War and Fascism Flyer

Thanks to Tom Pohrt for this artifact from the archives
of his grandfather, Charles Pohrt.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Ordos: If You Build It, Will They Come? Apparently Not

It took decades and complex global economic trends to create all the vacant property in Flint. China managed to pull it off all on their own and much more quickly in the Ordos district, a self-inflicted ghost town in Inner Mongolia complete with a bizarre museum and thousands of empty structures. Lucy Hornby and Langi Chiang of Reuters report:

Off the back of a thriving coal industry, the local government has been building a new city for one million people called Kangbashi. It sits virtually empty and property prices are falling.

Even in the old city of Dongsheng where people live and work, some 45 minutes drive away, a wave of investment has backfired. Cranes sit idle over unfinished skyscrapers and migrant workers are fleeing.

The swing in fortune -- residents and property agents say prices have dropped by up to a third -- is a severe example of what is happening in cities across China, including Shanghai and Beijing.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Ghosts of Flint in San Francisco

I saw this old Chevy with an industrial background today on Florida Street near 16th on my way to lunch. It reminded me of Flint.

Having grown up in Flint during the golden age of customized vans, I was duly impressed when I spotted this gem parked on the western slope of Bernal Heights this weekend.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

MSU Medical Research Coming to Flint

Flint gets one step closer to being a college town. Beata Mostafavi of The Flint Journal reports:
Michigan State University’s medical school is joining downtown Flint, announcing plans to open a community campus in the heart of the city.

MSU’s College of Human Medicine will develop public health programs, recruit and house top public health researchers and provide office and classroom space for staff, faculty and students in a yet-to-be determined downtown location, according to plans MSU was set to publicly unveil today.

The Charles Stewart Mott Foundation will fund an initial grant of $2.8 million for the project that college officials say will allow Flint to join East Lansing and Grand Rapids as pillars of the college’s statewide footprint and hopefully help grow more local doctors.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Flint Photos: Charles Pohrt and the Buick in the 1920s

Author, illustrator, and Flint Expatriate Tom Pohrt sent me these photos of his grandfather, Charles Pohrt, taken at the Buick, probably sometime in the 1920s. Charles was a tool and die maker.

The drop forge die sinking room at the Buick.

Charles, smoking a pipe, with two co-workers.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Flint Artifacts: Dort Motor Car Company

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Michael Brown Named Emergency Financial Manager in Flint

The state of Michigan has appointed an emergency financial manager in Flint, choosing former interim Mayor Michael Brown. Dawson Bell of The Detroit Free Press reports:
As emergency manager, Brown will assume most of the duties of elected Mayor Dayne Walling and City Council and control city operations and finances. But he will have broader powers, too, including the authority to end employee contracts.
That means the long-running standoff between the city and the Flint police and firefighters unions will finally reach a resolution, although it might not be a happy one, depending on which side your on.

Kristen Longley of The Flint Journal has more details on the move:
Brown said he'll be talking to department heads and public safety officials.

He also plans to appoint an advisory committee consisting of a city official, a representative of the business community, one Flint resident and "up to two persons with relevant professional skills" to assist him, he said.

Brown said he expects to take actions similar to those of the current emergency managers appointed in Benton Harbor, Pontiac and Ecorse.

"It's pretty clear if you read the law, there's guidelines for managers," he said. "I'm going to be no different."

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Flint Postcards: Chevy in the Hole

Behold the tranquil beauty of Chevy in the Hole.

Brain Drain in Michigan

A post about Richard Florida's observations on states with a high percentage of native-born residents sparked a discussion of brain drain in Michigan. As you might expect, the news is not good. Lauren Silverman, writing for a Michigan Radio project, reveals:

Michigan has 15 public universities that serve almost 300,000 students each year. But almost half of these students leave the state after they graduate. That means Michigan has the 8th worst migration rate in the nation. Even South Dakota, Alabama and Idaho do a better job keeping college graduates in their states.

There used to be a steady stream of college graduates flowing in and out of Michigan, but that flow has turned into a sputter that businesses fear will dry up altogether. In 2008, Michigan lost a total of 15,000 students with bachelor’s degrees to other states. And according to Michigan Future, an Ann Arbor based think tank, over half of the college graduates that left the state don’t ever plan to come back.

Silverman quotes Britany Affolter-Caine, the manager of Intern in Michigan, on the severity of the problem: “If you look at the state and the number of students, age 22-29 with a bachelors degree or higher, no other state in the union lost more than Michigan, except for one, and that was Louisiana — that was just after Katrina!” she said.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Flint Artifacts: Teddy Bear Bar Matches

Something about the name of this bar just seems all wrong to me. Anyone out there willing to defend the honor of the Teddy Bear Bar?

Flint Postcards: Aerial View of McLaren Hospital

Staying Put in Michigan

Map by Zara Matheson of the Martin Prosperity Institute
using U.S. Census data.

Everyone and their brother seem to have moved out of Michigan, yet it has one of the largest percentages of native-born residents in the country. In The Atlantic, Richard Florida writes:
More than three quarters of the people in Louisiana (78.9 percent), Michigan (76.6 percent) and Ohio (75.1 percent) were born there, as opposed to just 24.3 percent of Nevadans, 35.2 percent of Floridians, 37.2 percent of the residents of Washington, D.C., and 37.7 percent of Arizonans. A high level of home-grown residents is also indicative of a lack of inflow of new people.

There is a distinctive “stuck belt” across the middle of the country running from Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Iowa, down through West Virginia and into the Sunbelt states of Kentucky, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. Mobility is largely a bi-coastal—plus Rocky Mountain state—phenomenon.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Powers Wins State Football Title

Flint Powers crushes Lansing Catholic Central to win the state football title. (Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Conley/The Detroit News.)

An Ode to Civic Park

An anonymous reader looks back on Haskell Community Center...
Growing up on Lawndale, near Patterson, I spent a lot of time there; both inside and out. I had three older siblings who would bring me either to Haskell or to “Hidden Park” so they could smoke (either cigarettes or what we now refer to as medicine). I remember when they were building the addition on the back of the community center and when the parking lot was expanded. Remember when the drive near the playground connected to the parking lot? Remember when they rebuilt the main sewer line and there were large construction sites on Forrest Hill, including one in front of Haskell? The Civic Park buses had to run down Lawndale instead of Forrest Hill because of the construction.

My neighborhood friends and I would ride our BMX bikes on the trails from the play ground to the Basset park drinking fountain. We would need that warm water fountain to prevent heat stroke, as our heads would be filled with “Dukes of Hazzard” and “CHiPs” episodes, so we would ride back and forth on the trails wearing ourselves out. This was just before they paved the Basset Park lot and closed half of the lot off. If they hadn’t put a chain across the access to the other half of the lot, the dirt mound they placed at the end at the paved portion would have made an excellent “hill jump” for us kids to take advantage of.

Many times, after heavy down pours, the low area at the trail head, near the Haskell lot, would flood severely. The water seemed like it would be several feet deep. On one such occasion, we attempted to convert one of the aluminum clad picnic tables into a raft. This didn’t work so well.

I miss the Tulips planted in front of the building; as I would occasionally steal one or two for my mom on my way home from Civic Park or Double D. The flowers made such a difference to the front of the building. It wasn’t until they stopped planting them that I noticed just how much of a difference they did make.

Whenever I wasn’t playing baseball at the Longfellow little league diamond or in the intersection of Lawndale and Patterson, we would be playing ball on the stretch of lawn in front of the Haskell playground. “Over the fence onto Greenway Ave” was a big deal and I only made it over a few times.

I too miss those odd swings with the pull handles and the damaged carousel that wobbled and squeaked as it rotated. Were the swings near Greenway modeled after a regular horse, or of the Nordic variety? I just remember a red horse head on the top beam across the swing. Remember the moon walk, face painting and rides on some sort of train that drove on the road?

I remember feeling really sad walking home from Haskell on the last day of 6th grade. We spent the whole school day there having a free day. It was a fairly cold day for June so we stayed inside. I just remember thinking that everything was going to change the next year. It wasn’t just because I had been given the choice between private school or Holmes middle, but because nearly all of my elementary school friends from Civic Park were moving out of Flint over the summer.

I think that is what I missed most of all; I missed all of my friends whom scattered in the wind with their families during the white flight of the mid 80’s. Some of us stayed behind; whether due to financial situations or stubborn family refusing to be chased off by the changing surroundings, but it just wasn’t the same place anymore. By the mid 90’s, my nephews were being warned to watch out for used needles on the playground or what color shirts and jackets they could wear.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Flint Photos: Howard Bragman on Sheffield Avenue

Flint Expatriate and public relations expert Howard Bragman was back in Flint last week and had a chance to visit his childhood home on Sheffield Avenue near McLaren Hospital. It has to be a great feeling when the old homestead is looking so good.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Flint Photos: Haskell Community Center Gym

Let's Travel Back in Time to Old Michigan

Flint Artifacts: Journey at the I.M.A.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Flint Artifacts: O-Jib-Wa Bitters

There's a nice history of the O-Jib-Wa Medicine Co. available here.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Powers Football

UPDATE: Powers beats Almont 27-10 to head to the state title game against Lansing Catholic Central, a team that beat them earlier this year 37-17.

Here's the original post:

Powers Catholic's football team, after going 1-8 last year and starting this season 2-4, is one victory away from the state championship game.

Four-loss teams in football semifinals
*Farmington Hills Harrison, 1999 (won Division 3 title)
Frankfort, 2000, (lost in Division 8 semifinals)
Detroit Country Day (4-4), 2002 (lost in Division 5 semifinals)
Detroit dePorres, 2004 (lost in Division 7 final)
Montague, 2006 (lost in Division 6 semifinals)
Birmingham Brother Rice, 2009 (lost in Division 2 semifinals)
Warren DeLaSalle, 2009 (lost in Division 2 semifinals)
Muskegon Catholic Central, 2009 (lost in Division 8 semifinals)
Grosse Pointe South, 2010 (lost in Division 2 semifinals)
Fulton-Middleton, 2010 (lost in Division 8 semifinals)
Birmingham Brother Rice, 2011 (vs. Detroit King)
Flint Powers Catholic, 2011 (vs. Almont)
* Two losses were forfeits

Friday, November 18, 2011

Flint Photos: Chevrolet Engine Assembly Line in 1980

A wire photo of the Chevrolet engine assembly line dated July 8, 1980.

Flint Artifacts: Heart at the I.M.A. Ticket

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Ben Hamper's Soul Possession

If you haven't heard, you should really be listening to Ben Hamper's Soul Possession radio show out of Traverse City. Listen online here Fridays at 7:30 p.m. Michigan time.

Living the Dream

You may think it's all fun and games here at the Flint Expatriates headquarters in San Francisco. But just because there's no crime and the unemployment rate is relatively low doesn't mean there aren't drawbacks to living in the City by the Bay. Take men jogging in Speedo bathing suits, for example. I'm still recovering from this scene which took place just a few blocks from my house in Bernal Heights. My only consolation is that this guy appears to be whiter than I am, and I haven't had a tan since Jack Morris was throwing for the Tigers. The so-called Speedo Jogger is actually attracting less attention than the infamous Bikini Jogger who has been spotted in the neighborhood. Bernalwood, a blog that's similar to Flint Expats except the guys who publish it actually live in the place they're writing about, has been all over this story:

In the Pacific Northwest, they have Sasquatch. The Yeti is said to stalk the Himalayas. In Scotland, searchers seek the Loch Ness Monster. And of course, Ahab had his white whale. Here in Bernal Heights, we also have an elusive creature that is the object of much fascination and conjecture: The Bikini Jogger.

Necks are sore on the west and north slopes of Bernal Hill as residents do double-takes upon capturing a glimpse of the fit and fierce morning jogger as she works through her intense fitness regime.

The fact that she seems to eat the steep grades of Elsie and Stoneman for breakfast is impressive enough, but the truly remarkable (and much remarked upon) thing is that she does so in the better part of her birthday suit. Even on cold, cloudy days, this Wonder Woman look-alike is clad in nothing but a bikini and sneakers.

Why is it that no matter how long I live here, I still feel like I'm just visiting?

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Walling Wins But State Takeover Looms

Dayne Walling at the White Horse on election night. (Photo courtesy of Austin Anthony/The Flint Journal)

Dayne Walling is re-elected mayor as the city faces an emergency financial takeover by the state. It would make Flint the first city in Michigan to undergo a state takeover twice. Here's a list of the municipalities declared a financial emergency:

  • City of Hamtramck - December 2000
  • City of Highland Park - July 2001
  • City of Flint - July 2002
  • Village of Three Oaks - December 2008
  • City of Pontiac - March 2009
  • City of Ecorse - October 2009
  • City of Benton Harbor - April 2010

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Walling Leads Mayor's Race

Dayne Walling appears headed toward another term as mayor of Flint. The results from the county clerk at 11:15 p.m.

Darryl E. Buchanan . . . . . . . 6,432 43.16
Dayne Walling . . . . . . . . . 8,383 56.25
WRITE-IN. . . . . . . . . . . 88 .59
Total . . . . . . . . . 14,903

Flint's Financial Emergency

Flint appears to be moving closer to an emergency financial manager. Kristin Longley of The Flint Journal reports:
State officials announced this evening that an eight-member review panel appointed by the governor is recommending that an emergency financial manager take over the city of Flint.

Flint Mayor Dayne Walling said the state's decision that a financial emergency exists in the city "shows how serious our financial challenges are in the City of Flint."

Monday, November 7, 2011

Recreating the Past

Flint Expatriates know you can't go home again, but you might consider recreating your old Flint house somewhere else. High Snobiety reports:
Australian born, New York based artist, KID ZOOM (Ian Strange) recently returned to Australia to build an ambitious, full-scale replica of his childhood home inside Cockatoo Island’s prestigious Turbine Hall in Sydney.

Flint Artifacts: Troy Cleaners Matchbook

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Stimulus Projects in Flint

A recent comment about stimulus projects in Flint got me wondering just how much Federal money flowed into the city in an effort to boost the economy. According to Stimulus Watch, the total is more than $28 million for everything from new carpets in the Job Corps office to Head Start funding. Go here to see the list of projects.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Chevrolet: Speeding Toward Bad Design

Chevrolet Truck 1941

Designer Christian Annyas charts the evolution of Chevrolet speedometer design with more than a dozen examples and, like me, thinks it's getting worse, not better.
It’s easy for a driver to get used to a needle that rises and passes numbers that are located on fixed positions. A quick glance is all it takes to see and understand the value it represents. With the most recent design it’s different. The value of the ‘stopwatch’ constantly changes while driving. Some characters of the typeface look very similar to others (for instance 0, 6 and 8), which makes it harder to figure out whether you’ll get a speeding ticket or not. Not an ideal situation.
At the risk of sounding like an old crank, although it's probably too late, I feel the same way about digital radio tuners. Maybe its time for Chevy to go retro with their instrument panels.

Chevrolet Sonic 2011

Friday, November 4, 2011

Happy Birthday from Flint Expatriates

It's time to wish Pat Young — our most loyal reader and contributor — a happy birthday. She was born at Hurley Hospital in 1930. She stays in great shape by restraining her highly trained attack dog, Rob Roy, and writing about old Flint, the Sill Building, and etiquette lessons. Happy birthday, Mom!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Flint Postcards: River View and Railroad Yards

Can someone out there help me figure out this postcard? Is that Carriage Town on the right and downtown on the left? Or is this the Saginaw Street bridge over the river?

Friday, October 28, 2011

Witherbee's Market Grand Opening...And Possible Closing

UPDATE: Witherbee's Market and Deli announced on their Facebook page today that they'll be closing soon. Here's the announcement:
It is with deep regret and tears in our eyes that we announce the closing of Witherbee's Market and Deli on November 5, 2011. Our sincere thanks to everyone who supported our efforts to bring fresh food to Flint's inner city. We have made lots of friends over the last year that we will dearly miss. Stop by during the next week as we put many things on sale to clear the store.
So it appears that Flint's experiment with a downtown grocery store is over. I know there was a very complicated financing package in place to get Witherbee's up and running, but it's hard for me to understand why it's preferable for the creditors to close the store down instead of simply lowering the rent. Isn't some rent better than no rent?

Here's the post that ran August 8, 2011:

UPDATE: This post originally ran on June 14, 2010. Now, a little over a year later, Witherbee's Market appears to be on its last legs. Kris Turner of The Flint Journal reports:

The downtown grocery store, which opened in June 2010, isn’t making enough money to cover its bills, said David White, one of the market’s co-owners. It's located at 601 Martin Luther King Ave.

“We probably should have closed two months ago, but we’ve been hanging on hoping something will change,” he said.

The 10,000 square-foot store needs to generate more than $1 million in sales a year to meet its needs, White said. It has done about half that and is struggling to get by, he added.

The store had 15 employees when it opened and is now down to seven. Its utility bills are $8,000 a month in the winter — an astronomical cost that’s almost impossible to keep up with, White said.

And then there’s the rent. At $10,000 a month, Witherbee’s can’t afford to stay in its space. The store got a $4,000 reprieve on its rent from February to September but it hasn’t been enough.

Here's the original post from June 14, 2010:

I took a break from transcribing interviews to attend the ribbon cutting ceremony at the new Witherbee's Market & Deli at 601 Martin Luther King Avenue this morning. In addition to a big crowd of locals, including Mayor Dayne Walling, a Japanese film crew was on hand to document the event, confirming that you never know what to expect in Flint.