Saturday, November 26, 2011

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.

25 comments:

  1. Anonymous, this really shouldn't be anonymous. A great piece of writing. Thanks for taking the time to send it in. I remember that drinking fountain well. We used to play a game where we'd fill our mouths with water and then sit on the wooden stumps while one person tried to make us laugh and spit out the water. And my first illicit beer was with Mark Rudolph in Hidden Park. I went out to dinner with my mom and Grandmother later that night and fell asleep in the backseat of the car.

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  2. Nice.. exactly as I remember it...

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  3. Good post "Anonymous." Bowling, basketball and swimming at Haskell, and just hanging out in the park. Great memories.

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  4. Haskell Community Center brings back a lot of memories. I swam there several times, played basketball in the gym and out back, baseball in the field, played on the swings and slide, and rode on the always fun but death defying merry-go-round.

    I happened to be in the Flint area over Thanksgiving and drove down Copeman to see my old house. It is still there and being well taken care of, actually the whole block seems to be in decent shape. Once I turned onto Forest Hill, things changed. Forest Hill shows a lot of neglect, nowhere near as bad as other parts of town, but sad nonetheless. The house a friend of mine lived in on Forest Hill is still standing, but painted entirely bright blue, looking like a $29.99 Earl Scheib paint job. Haskell looked pretty much like it always has, Trinity United Methodist Church has closed and another group is using the facility. The building shows signs of lack of maintenance. The closer I got to Dayton and Civic Park Elementary, the more dilapidated the remaining houses looked.

    Seeing photos is one thing, but driving past a boarded up Civic Park Elementary is truly sad. The old school survived the great fire but not the Flint economy. I had an idea what to expect heading up Clio road, and about the only original businesses still around are McDonalds and Dawn Donuts. The old funeral home at W. Stewart and Clio is still there and I remember spending a lot of time behind there riding dirt bikes in the fields. Continuing north on Clio was not very exciting.

    Although this part of town is nowhere close to the worst, the only hope I can see for someone growing up there today, is to escape. In the past, jobs were plentiful and Flint was a good place for growing up. Now it looks like it is time to turn out the lights. Except for the few remaining GM plants, Kettering, U of M-Flint, the hospitals and some city jobs, Flint would be gone.

    I think this was my last drive through. It is best to remember some things the way they were.

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  5. I played baseball all summer for many years at Basset Park. The park was full of kids from 7:30 am until into the evening. Mr. Tom Smith ran the program. He always wore a African safari hat to keep the sun off his head.

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  6. Hi What years are you speaking of?

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  7. I also remember great summer days at Bassett Park and Haskell. Bill Adams was umpire, yelling "Hurry up boys, it's gonna rain". Biking north to Selby School to play another game, and cooling off with a cone of root beer at A&W. Playing football with my classmates from Civic Park in front of the tennis courts at Bassett. Buying two cent bread sticks at the Balkin Bakery after my Patrol Boy shift at Humbolt and Rankin. We also loved the hot chocolate served by the Homeroom Mothers in the community room at Civic Park. Off to class led by Mrs. Schoolfield, Mr. Grindstaff, and teachers, Allen, Major, Mcguire,and Mrs. Krill with that slide and jungle gym in the room. The old gym in the basement of the school, that seeemed to have a permanant echo when we were loud. Cub Scout meetings at Haskell, with our yearly Pinewood Derby, ice cream socials, and the cakewalk. Great times.

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  8. OMG this brought back memories! I grew up on the corner of Humboldt and Parkhurst (turns in to Bassett Pl). I was bused to Holmes, didn't have a choice, but so mad as I wanted to go to Longfellow. I remember walking home from Haskell after swimming lessons in the winter and my hair would be frozen when I got home! We also rode our bikes all through the woods, ice skated at the little pond they would make on the Bassett Place side of the park (there used to be a shed there you could get warm in that burned down), playing tennis at the courts near Dayton and Bassett Pl, the Civic Park fire, getting chocolate covered peanut butter balls at Balkan Bakery, getting .25 for allowance and getting boston baked beans or lemonheads at the dime store next to Balkan Bakery (there was also a place there that sold winter stuff I think), seeing a lady get her purse snatched at Double D (which stood for Dewayne and Dell). I remember walking to Northern, taking the bus to Genesee Valley, skating at Rollerworld (Rollerworld, Rollerworld, disco skating is family fun at Rollerworld!), video games at Playland (til the gangs took that place over), trick-or-treating at Cossroads Village, or seeing the play at Christmas time, riding the train at Huckleberry Railroad swimming at Bluebell Beach. I was a cashier at Double D, and also worked at Baskin Robbins on Welch Blvd (next to the dry cleaners) and at Anna's Kitcen at Windmill Place. Why they built Waterstreet Pavilion less than a mile away from Windmill I'll never know. I graduated from U of M-Flint, watched Autoworld come and go. My mom moved out of the Civic Park neighborhood when they found a dead person in the woods at Haskell Park. I left in 1989, moved to Grand Rapids, now live in Muskegon. SO many good and bad memories of Flint, there's nothing like being a Flintstone!

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  9. As an 8 yr old my 3 brothers and one younger sister took swimming lessons at Haskell Park. I also enjoyed a few picnics at the park with my mom, brothers and sisters along with my aunt and cousins who resided on Kellar Ave. My family grew up on W.Stewart Ave. Went to Selby but spent some time at Civic Park library. Drove down W. Stewart the other day, Some of the houses were in good shape, others not so much. The house I grew up in is in very good shape.Still sad when you drive down Clio Rd. Many good memories of Burger King, Arby's The Track and who can forget the Rock Gas station with gas at 24 cents a gallon. Also the Palace pizzeria, The Farm and Dawn Donuts. My grandma's house is on W Dartmouth and I still get to the northwest side of town quite frequently but it is so sad to see what some of these neighborhoods have become. But tomorrow my fiance and I are going to go to the Balkan Bakery on Dayton St to get some Mother's Bread to go with our bean soup. Warm,fuzzy memories.

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  10. In the 60s, I believe Double D was Combers Market.
    There was also a drug store in the group of stores on Dayton across from the school(Civic Park Drugs?) and on the corner of Forest Hill and Dayton, I remember a five and dime store.
    I lived on Genesee St. and I would walk to the store for my ma and get groceries at either Saseen's, Buffa's (on Pasadena) or Comber's market. There was Sunset And Herrick's drug stores too on Pasadena.

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  11. Not Civic Park Drugs. It was called Ryckman's. I ate lunch at the counter when other kids went home at lunch time from Civic Park. They would cook hot dogs in a small oven and mix a lemon phosphate drink. LeMeuix's Drugs was on the corner of Dupont and Dayton across from the A&P. Anyone remember Howe's Garage near that intersection? Fish & chips from St Luke's or Community Presbyterian on Chevrolet and Dayton?

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    1. Ryckman's - right. I went to St. Luke's school and worked at the fish fry once in a while. Jack Gilbert's Bar had great fish and chips too.
      Bought my first guitar at Wright's music on Dupont near Hamilton.
      Anybody remember the hobby shop on Dupont across from A&P down from LeMeuix's, or Rex's bike shop on Pasadena near Lawndale?
      No place like home.

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    2. Neal - I think we may have gone to Civic Park at the same time. Did you start kindergarten in 60?

      I remember Howe's Garage. Bruce Howe was the only mechanic my dad would let work on our vehicles. I haven't seen him in a few years, as far as I know he is still around. His family has a summer home on the same lake "up north" where my parents go for the summer.

      In 10th grade, I used to stop at LeMeiux's on the way home from the old Northern HS to get a Vernor's. Got to go to the new Northern for 11 & 12.

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    3. Neil is correct. Mr Ryckman lived next door to my family on Winona St. Mr Houser, also a neighbor, had a plumbing shop in the same strip of stores. My uncle Leo was a part owner in LeMeuix's Drug store at Dayton/Dupont. Mr. Macmikan was the Pastor of Community Pres on Chevrolet/Dayton, lived on the other side of us on Winona St. Neil, did you live on Chevrolet near McClellen around the corner from my cousins? What a great site and a really small world.

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    4. hey joe my uncle Mike Olenlic was the other part owner of LeMeuix's drug store

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    5. When I attended Civic Park it was from 4th grade through 6th grade which was from the Fall of 1959 to Spring of 1962. I too remember eating lunch at the Ryckman’s drugstore across from the school. I would always order a Coke with cherry syrup in it, which made it a cherry Coke, and a couple of hot dogs that I put plenty of mustard on. My friends nicknamed me Mustard because of this! We usually only ate there once a week, the day the new comics came out. I remember the day when the January 1961 issue of Mad Magazine came out because the year, in very large type, could be read the same right side up as well as upside down! The cover also claimed that it was the first upside-down year since 1881 and the last upside-down year until 6009!
      I remember Mr. Grindstaff teaching us arithmetic and I remember the Detroit Tigers’ Roger Maris, coming to visit our Social Studies class. I also remember a female teacher, can’t think of her name, that used to always step into the boys bathroom to ‘watch’ us to make sure we weren’t making any messes, or whatever. I truly think she was perverted because every time the boys went to the bathroom she was there watching, pretty scary.
      Man I sure miss those days!
      Uncle Scroge

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    6. Roger Maris-a Tiger? First time I have ever heard that.

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    7. Oops, it wasn't Roger Maris, it was Steve Boris who talked a lot about being a real good friend of Roger Maris'. I was a little boy then, my memory fails me now and again.

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  12. Joe, yes I lived at 3012 N Chevrolet, but I grew up at Gartland's, Ratza's and the Neff's. I remember someone in your family won a red Chevrolet that I thought was so cool. It seems I also remember a neighbor of yours had a radio station in the basement of their yellow house. Is that right, Joe?

    And, yes, I did start kinderg. in 1960. Civic Park, to Emerson, to Northern (one year at the old school and two years at the new).

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  13. Joe,
    My sister graduated with Mary and Jane.
    I went to college with Jane's husband.

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  14. I was born in 1933, lived on forest hill across from haskell, then to gopeman in 1940 to 1956 with my parents. bought 2310 bossett place9 REMEMBER THE HIUSE ON THE CURVE PITH PILLARS ON THE PORCH. AND RAISED OUR FAMILY THERE .WONDERFUL MEMORIES. now it's been torn down! my family is really hurt!

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  15. Wow So COOOL! I grew up on Colby St. between Jackson & Dayton. My parents would shop at Combers Market. Mr. Comber was such a nice man. My brother and I would stop in with my dad (probably to settle up the account. 8 kids) and Mr. Comber would give us a banana or some other piece of fruit while taking with my dad in the produce section. My sister worked at Rickmans drug store. I remember the Balkin Bakery, mothers bread, nothing can replace that. Swim class at Haskel, walking to Haskel during class time at Civic Park escorted by the teacher (Mrs. Manley) and rolled up towel with swim trunks stuffed inside. Friday night at Haskel was family night, pot luck dinner, swimming, bowling, basketball, and other events around holidays. Civic Park was a wonderful school, Mr. Manley Principal, Mr. Grindstaff Math, Mrs. Cantley Science, Mr. Dobler Gym. Mr. Wildfong Custodian. Mrs Schofiled Home Rm. I also remember Mr. Cole who went on to the school brd. or admin. position. I only had him for a short time he was replaced with a young pretty red head, I wish I could remember her name. Boy Scouts in the basement of Civic Park on Wed nights. Mr. Tower troop leader. And I went to school with his daughter. Despite loosing my parents at a very young age, I couldn't have a better child hood growing up in that neighbor hood. The families in my neighbor hood with or without kids were part of your family. We all knew and looked out for each other. How things change, not necessarily for the good.

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  16. I started kindergarten at Civic Park in 1959. Lived on Walter Street near Bassett Park. On November 23, 1963 I was on my way to class when another student came running down the hall yelling in a deep southern accent, "Yippee, they killed Kennedy." We filed into Mr. Jorgenson's science class, which was in the basement level. He was very solemn. After we were seated and quiet he said, "I can't tell you what has happened today but I can tell you that you will remember this day for the rest of your lives." Then we were all excused and sent home. My parents were already home watching the television. They both had tears in their eyes even though they had supported Nixon in the election. My father was a decorated combat Marine from WWII. I had never seen him shed a tear. This had a huge effect on me. I share the other posters' memories of Cub Scouts, Balcan Bakery, swimming at Haskell and adventures in the forested section of Bassett park. I also remember shooting tops on the asphalt behind the school, climbing on the "magic carpet", and exploring the branch library. Civic Park was a great place to grow up.

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  17. I went to Civic park for Kindergarten through second grade, 1955-58. I remember Mrs. Bennett, Miss Low, and Mrs. Krill, my teachers there. Mrs. McCormick was the principal. My sister had Mr. Grindstaff for arithmetic. I lived at the corner of Hamilton Ave and Melborne St. As far as I know, the house is still there. I believe the name of the 5 and 10 cent store on Dayton across from Civic park was Ben Franklin's. My mom shopped at Comber's Market and the A&P on Dupont at Dayton. I remember the wonderful smell of the coffee beans as she would grind them in the machine at A&P they had and fill a bag. LeMieux's was across the street. I remember swimming and playing in the gym at Haskell. A wonderful but short time in my life.

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  18. I attended Civic Park in the 50s so my memories are a little different. Some of my teachers were Miss Kronlund for library, Mrs. Allen music and Mr. Thorn for gym. Across from the school was Ryckman drug store, Ben Franklin, a hardware store and a barber shop. There was a Phillips 66 station on the corner. Ben Franklin once had a contest for guessing how many jelly beans in a jar. I swam at Haskell and had a jewelry making class and there was a kiln to fire ceramics. Does anyone remember the Kookoo Carnival ?? Some of the old places in Flint....Top Hat Auto Wash on Clio Rd., Date and Skate on Bradley Ave, Schiapacasse's downtown by the bridge, and the Della theater. Sadly my old neighborhood of Hamiltion and Milbourne has declined to the point of drug houses and empty lots. It was a wonderful place to grow up and a big treat once a year was Flint Park. Memories I will always cherish.

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