Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Flint Photos: Nancy Kovack and Batman

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Flint Artifacts: Walli's Matchbook

Thanks to Leon Baker for this artifact.

A eBay Buick with a Story

Some eBay items come with a great story, like this one for a 1970 Buick LeSabre Custom Convertible with just 14,000 miles:
This archival quality Buick was assembled in Flint, MI during the 5th week of May 1970 and completed in June. The car was sold new to Charles Swartz on December 23, 1970 at Sims Buick in Warren, OH. Unfortunately, Charles passed on 5 years ago. He left his son, George Swartz, the car. George subsequently brought the vehicle to southwestern, OH. According to George the car was purchased by his father to take his mother to the park, and being a smart attorney, take the mayor on parade. George reports that the car was garaged every day of its life and was only driven in the rain one time. He sold me the car in June. I didn't buy it to flip, but can't seem to sell my other Buick so here we are with the auction. The car has been garaged by its present owner too.
To sweeten the deal, the Buick comes with an 8-track tape player with a box of tapes.

Thanks to Flint Expatriate Peter Johnson for this one.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Flint From the Air

Despite the dirty window, you can still spot the familiar Civic Park horseshoe, Forest Park and downtown Flint. (Click to enlarge.)

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Country Living in the Grand Traverse Neighborhood

Flint Photos: The White House on Beecher Road

Friday, August 26, 2011

Driver's Training Revisited

I was driving by Southwestern High School yesterday and wondered what happened to the driver's training course where many of us learned to parallel park for the second time...after learning the first time at Safetyville. I had to jump a fence, which is surprisingly difficult when you're 45, in order to discover — shockingly — that it's now an overgrown lot and dumping ground for various oddities, like kid's toys and an old boat. Apparently, learning to drive has been privatized in Flint.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Flint Photos: Clouds at Dusk

Checker Cabs and Disappearing Schools on the East Side

Sometimes you just see weird things in Flint. Here's an old Checker Cab that's for sale parked on the grassy divider of Broadway Blvd. In the background you can see — or not see — the spot where Homedale School used to reside. That's the abandoned Brown's Funeral Home in the distance.

Flint Photos: Corner of Hamilton and Iowa on the East Side

Home Away From Home

With all the decay and destruction on the East Side, I always prepare myself for the worst whenever I drive by my grandparent's old house, where my mom was raised and I spent a lot of time, on Illinois Avenue. And I continue to be amazed when I see how good it still looks on each visit. The current owners are always nice to me when I knock on the door, and I'm hoping they never move. Having been back to Flint half a dozen times over the last three years, I'm past the point of getting upset when my memories collide with Flint's current reality, but it's still great to run across a house or building that means something to you and discover that it's still close to the way you remember it.

Visions of Suburbia

Flint Expatriates hasn't exactly been kind to proponents of suburban living over the years, so I thought it was time to devote at least one post to non-city life. I was driving down Hill Road in Grand Blanc the other day and was struck by how dated the early suburbs are looking, and how small many of the houses seem compared to more contemporary suburban McMansions. And by the care still devoted to the subdivision entry points.

Flint Self-Portrait

Back in Flint this week for research. It's nice to escape the fog, drizzle and 55 degree days of San Francisco in the summer. I'm having some computer issues, so I'll post as much as I can when I have the chance.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Back to the Bricks Keeps Growing

Crowds fill downtown Flint at night for Back to the Bricks. (Photo courtesy of Flint on Full.)

Despite some rough weather the final day, last weekend's Back to the Bricks car fest in Flint continued to break attendance records. Kristen Longley of The Flint Journal reports:
From its humble beginnings just six years ago, Back to the Bricks is now estimated to be 60 times as large as its inaugural event in 2005.

On the final day of the downtown Flint car show Saturday, organizers said the five-day Back to the Bricks extravaganza is estimated to have attracted more than 420,000 people — over 40 percent more than last year.

It's easy to say this now, but I've always thought a modest, well-run auto museum that expanded on the Sloan Museum's great car collection would have made sense for Flint. It certainly would not have "saved" the city, but it could have been something that would bring out of town visitors to Flint. Back to the Bricks demonstrates just how crazy people are about old cars, regardless of the economy. Then again, there's no shortage of auto museums across the country, so there would be a lot of competition.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Flint Artifacts: A.C. Spark Plug Employee Badge

Flint Photos: Saginaw Street 1895

Click to Enlarge

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Flint Quotes: Brawling From Tavern to Tavern

“The bearded lumberman with their coonskin caps, red sashes, and hobnailed boots brawled from tavern to tavern,” explains Carl Crow in a sometimes flamboyantly written history of Flint commissioned by General Motors in 1945. “Lumbering was rough business and lumberman were rough men. They worked hard, played hard, and usually drank quantities of hard liquor. There was a story throughout the logging camps that some of the lumberjacks would cheerfully eat pine chips or sawdust if generously moistened with whiskey.”

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Garage Sale Memories of Flint

Today was the neighborhood-wide garage sale in Bernal Heights. I spotted this pristine Panasonic "Panapet" R-70, an exact replica of one I listened to in Flint in the seventies, for just $3. It's AM only, works great, and it has undeniable style. According to

Perhaps the most famous portable transistor radio from the 1970's, the Panapet was very popular, and came in a large variety of colors. They were quite a relief from the plain rectangular boxes other radios were housed in at the time.
I'm listening to Jon Miller call the Giants game as I type. Not quite as good as Ernie Harwell announcing a Tigers game, but you can't have everything.

Oh, the retro photo is courtesy of an iPhone app. Nothing like cutting edge technology allowing you to make vintage technology look even more vintage.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Philip Levine Named Poet Laureate

Philip Levine, "best known for his big-hearted, Whitmanesque poems about working-class Detroit," is going to be the the country's next poet laureate. Charles McGrath of The New York Times writes:
Mr. Levine grew up in Detroit, back when it was still a “vital city,” he said. His parents were emigrants from Russia, but for some reason they told him he was of Spanish ancestry ,and as a young man he became fascinated with Spanish anarchism and the Spanish Civil War, which still turn up in his poems. Mr. Levine’s father died when he was 5, leaving the family hard up, and before embracing poetry he held a succession of what he has called “stupid jobs.” He built transmissions for Cadillac, worked in the Chevrolet gear and axle factory, drove a truck for Railway Express. His early poems, often written in narrow, seven-syllable lines, were gritty, hard-nosed evocations of the lives of working people and their neighborhoods.
Here is one of Levine's classics with a theme Flint Expatriates can understand all too well...

An Abandoned Factory, Detroit

The gates are chained, the barbed-wire fencing stands,
An iron authority against the snow,
And this grey monument to common sense
Resists the weather. Fears of idle hands,
Of protest, men in league, and of the slow
Corrosion of their minds, still charge this fence.

Beyond, through broken windows one can see
Where the great presses paused between their strokes
And thus remain, in air suspended, caught
In the sure margin of eternity.
The cast-iron wheels have stopped; one counts the spokes
Which movement blurred, the struts inertia fought,

And estimates the loss of human power,

Experienced and slow, the loss of years,
The gradual decay of dignity.
Men lived within these foundries, hour by hour;
Nothing they forged outlived the rusted gears
Which might have served to grind their eulogy.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Poetry of Gypsy Jack

This comment just rolled in from a reader named January about the famous Roy "Gypsy Jack" Steffenson Jr., the Wild West rogue of the East Side. Is it just me or is this pure poetry? I hope it's for real, but I guess it doesn't really matter. It just might be the best comment ever on Flint Expatriates:
I 1st met Gypsey Jack in 1992, (I think). Although I had grown-up Dreaming about that Beautiful House's mysteries. My Friend, Florence Boven took mee there 2 meet the famous Gypsey. She had been friends w/Him 4 many years. Played w/Her band @ the House, & indulged in "Festivities" @ His bar also. (No 1 has mentioned Gypseys after hour bar located in the basement). I cried w/My Mom called Mee 2 inform Mee of Jack's passing. & 2 day as I read the memories I cry again. But not 4 sadness. 4 the Joy of the Memories.

But, Flo said: January, U want 2 meet
Gypsey Jack & go N2 His Home??? Well, We'll go. This afternoon after supper. But We must bring something of "Homage" w/Us 4 Him. Florance rummaged through some things & decided on a "Funky" wrieth you'd hang on your front door @ Christmas. We had recently saved it from a trash can. I thought that was a weierd way 2 meet some-1. You know, giving garbage 2 a person U have been intrigued w/4-ever. Hahaha.... But Flo Knew Her stuff.

That w/the Best Day N My life. Getting 2 meet
Gypsey Jack & being invited N2 His Home. I got the Ultimate Tour. That w/when He had His Black flat-bed truck, w/the red rim's & the smoke-stacks.

He sung Happy Birthday w/
Mee & My girlfriend Jennifer & My Daughter Aura. (She w/1yr.) @ "Ol Franks Bar on franklin ave. Gypsey just happened 2 B there. My step-father, Mike, says Gypsey used 2 ride His Harley down Lewis st. wearing Only His CowBoy Hat & Boots!!

4 All Those who Looted His place after He passed I hope it w/2 keep His Memory Alive. Because I know that B4 Any of Us were informed of His death His surviving family had already STOLEN anything the market considered valuable.

Wee Miss U
Gypsey Jack

But wee will Never 4

Friday, August 5, 2011

Flint Artifacts: Home of Punk Polka T-Shirt

Love to hear any stories about this artifact.

Flint Postcards: Hamilton Park

This one is interesting. Anyone know where Hamilton Park is or was?

Update: Never really realized this was a park, although I've passed it many times. In fact, you could see it from one of my classrooms at St. Mike's. Here's an updated view from Google Maps.

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Flint Photos: Saginaw Street c. 1909

Flint Photos: Saginaw Street c. 1928

Flint Postcards: Down By the River