Sunday, January 16, 2011

Flint Photos: Bessie and Earl

A few readers have asked about Bessie, a legendary Flintoid known for her height and her wanderings around the city. Audrey "Bunny" Paris Karlosky provided this shot via the Flint Expatriates Facebook page.

She writes: "This is a photo that my dad took of Bessie and her 'friend' Earl about 1954. They were fixtures in the South End of Flint when I was growing up. Bessie was a big woman but I don't know if she was 7 ft tall. She was a regular at my dad's cleaners which was across from Fisher Body near Saginaw and Hemphill because he would give her unclaimed clothes to augment her wardrobe, especially during our cold winters."


  1. I am writing a book and would like to include information about Big Bessie and Earl. Does anyone know when she and Earl were born and when they passed away? Any personal info? you can send info to my FB page: Nikki Pruiett Haley

    1. I remember Bessie from when I was a little kid. At the time, she was living with someone on Swayze St. on the west side of Flint. I'd walk home for lunch from Zimmerman and see her walking to that house. She had long red hair and her dresses came about to or above her knees. She was kind of scary looking so I told my folks about her. My Dad then told of her being a legend in Flint. When he was young and with his buddies driving down a street, they saw her. On a dare, being silly kids, they stopped and picked her up. She got in the car and they only drove for a short time as she smelled so bad..kind of sad, right? Once my Dad and I were on the bus and she got on. It was cold as we were headed to downtown Flint for the Christmas parade. I clearly remember staring at her big feet as she had on huge open toed sandals. Her hair was long and stringy and she had some kind of short coat on. Her dress was short showing her long legs. I remember my Dad told me not to stare. Later in life, I remember flyers being put up that Bessie was going to sing at the Atwood Stadium. I thought that was awful as she clearly would be made fun of. That was the last time I heard about her. I often wonder what became of Bessie. I became a nurse and learned about many sad cases like Bessie coming through the E.R. at McLaren. It taught me to be kind and respect everyone which I try to still do today.

    2. Thanks for the memories. My mom, Pat Young, worked in the admitting office at McLaren, I think in the ER at one point. Did you ever cross paths?

    3. Hi, Nikki Pruiett Haley
      Did you write the book ? The one that you asked for information on Big Bessie and Earl ? Mom loves books about old Flint, MI. And, she asked me if I could find anything about Big Bessie, that's how I found this page. And, shocked mom and I both!! With only South Flint, Burton area and the nickname, "Big Bessie".WOW.!! I had my husband read it, just to reassure myself.


Thanks for commenting. I moderate comments, so it may take a while for your comment to appear. You might enjoy my book about Flint called "Teardown: Memoir of a Vanishing City," a Michigan Notable Book for 2014 and a finalist for the 33rd Annual Northern California Book Award for Creative NonFiction. Filmmaker Michael Moore described Teardown as "a brilliant chronicle of the Mad Maxization of a once-great American city." More information about Teardown is available at