Sunday, December 30, 2012

Flint Artifacts: WWII A.C. Spark Plug Permit To Be Absent

Shawn Chittle explains this Flint Artifact: "My grandfather's WWII draft notice/excused from employment from Flint AC spark plug. He never retuned to AC after the war, instead forming Chittle's Restaurant and Bar Supply at 1812 Beach St. until 1983. He still owns the building there."

Friday, December 21, 2012

Merry Christmas Courtesy of The French Connection

Just noticed the pair of shiny Buick Electras in this chase scene — featuring Gene Hackman as a very unsavory Santa — from The French Connection.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Flint Artifacts: O'Toole's Restaurant

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Teardown Website

The website for Teardown: Memoir of a Vanishing City by Gordon Young is now up and running. It features photos, excerpts, online pre-order information, and other details about the book, which will be available in stores in June.

Check it out here.

Flint Artifacts: The Track on Clio Road

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Home Decor Courtesy of A.C. Spark Plug

Tom Torri worked at A.C. from 1960 until 1987 in an engineering test lab, systems and programming, and product development. He then transferred to Delco Electronics in Kokomo, Indiana, and worked in advanced product engineering — where he helped develop the first LCD displays on the control panelsand eventually in product reliability. Tom retired in 2000, but he still has plenty of A.C. memorabilia around the house. The A.C. lamp was a give-away to employees. The A.C. decanter came with Jim Beam and employees had to buy them.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Flint Artifacts: Flint Pennant

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Jet Packs, Turbine Cars, and Steve Lehto

If you've ever thought it would be cool to fly over Flint in a jet pack, you definitely want to check out Steve Lehto's latest book, The Great American Jet Pack. You may remember Steve from his work as a DJ and talkshow host in the '80s and '90s at WTRX, WWCK, and WFDF.

So just how did he come up with the book idea? Steve explains:  
I wrote a book on the Chrysler Turbine car and doing that research, I found out that Sam Williams had been instrumental in both the engine in the turbine car and the engine in the jet belt. I mentioned this in the book and my publisher asked me if I thought I could write a book on the history of jet pack technology. It sounded like a cool idea and a great excuse to study a fun topic. And, it turns out, there WAS a whole book of material out there. I interviewed guys who flew the old rocket belts – the ones which could only fly for 21 seconds and I also spoke to the one and only guy who EVER flew the jet belt (the one with the mini-turbine engine in it). It was a lot of fun to research.

Flint Profiles: John Auchter

If you love politics and cartoons, often with a Michigan angle, check out Auchtoon! It features the work of Powers High School grad John Auchter, who draws for the MLive Media Group. It also has cartoons he has drawn for the Grand Rapids Press, the Grand Rapids Business Journal, and the Grand Rapids Family magazine.

John writes: 
My cartoons have been stuck on refrigerators, office cubicles, and bulletin boards — the highest award a cartoonist can hope for. I have drawn comics for various newspapers, magazines, companies, and websites. My editorial cartoons have appeared in the “Best Editorial Cartoons of the Year” compilations by Pelican Publishing Company Inc. I am a member of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists.

Born in Pennsylvania, raised in South Carolina and Michigan, I started drawing comics when I was eight-years-old. I’m married now (to my high-school sweetheart), have three beautiful children, two needy cats, and work as a technical communications specialist for Johnson Controls, Inc. , but can still be found more often than not hunched over my drawing table.

Everybody can draw. I am living proof of this. Through practice and a willingness to take chances, I have taken a seed of meager artistic talent and grown it into a flourishing hibiscus of meager artistic talent.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Flint Photos: David Dunbar Buick Statue Installation in Downtown Flint

(Photos courtesy of Kevin Kirbitz via Buick Factory History and Hemmings Daily.)

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Flint Photos: W. 1st Avenue in Carriage Town

Flint Artifacts: Buick Magazine April 1939

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Ed Asner and the 99 Percent

Flint isn't mentioned, but the Vehicle City plays a starring role in this animated fairy tale narrated by Ed Asner.

Flint Photos: Buick, July 1984

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Ben Hamper Reading at Barnes & Noble in Flint Township

That looks like a pen, not a rivet gun. (Photo courtesy of Sean Work/Mlive)

Legendary Flint writer Ben Hamper will be signing copies of Rivethead: Tales From the Assembly Line at the the Barnes & Noble store at the Genesee Valley mall on December 13 at 5 p.m. Go here for a recent interview with Hamper.

Michael Moore, Capitalism, and Tax Incentives

How much money did Michael Moore get in tax incentives from the State of Michigan to make Capitalism: A Love Story?

$841,145.27, according to Louise Story of The New York Times:
Hollywood may make movies about the evils of capitalism, but it rarely works without incentives, which are paid for by taxpayers. Nationwide, about $1.5 billion in tax breaks is awarded to the film industry each year, according to a state-by-state survey by The New York Times.
Within two months, 24 movies had signed up to film in Michigan — up from two the entire year before. The productions estimated that they would spend $195 million filming there, and in return they would be refunded about $70 million in cash.
Before long, residents were rushing out on their lunch breaks to catch a glimpse of celebrities like Drew Barrymore, who was filming her movie “Whip It” in Ann Arbor, and Clint Eastwood, who was shooting “Gran Torino” in the Detroit area. Even Michael Moore, who was filming a movie about corporate welfare called “Capitalism: A Love Story,” sought and received incentives.

Christmas in Flint

Monday, December 10, 2012

Imagine Flint

Flint is creating its first master plan since 1960. You can be a part of the process by checking out Imagine Flint.

Buicks in the Golden State

This just might be the alternate logo for Flint Expatriates. It's a Buick Apollo that lives a few blocks from my house in San Francisco.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Bowling for Dollars in San Francisco.

San Francisco doesn't have bowling alleys like dear old Flint. It has bowling clubs. The cost? $55/hour for a single lane after 8pm. A little different than Nightingale Lanes, where I learned to bowl.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Flint Photos: Welch Blvd. Pharmacy, 1971 and 2009

 Welch Blvd. Pharmacy, a popular destination for neighborhood kids, at its original location near the corner of N. Chevrolet Avenue, sometime in the early seventies.

The storefront in 2009 when it was serving as a satellite campaign office for candidate and soon-to-be mayor Dayne Walling.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Cody Elementary, R.I.P.

Cody Elementary on Fenton Road during demolition. (Photo by Lauren Justice/Mlive)

Blake Thorne of Mlive reports: "In May, the building was the location of three fires in one week. The building has been closed for about ten years. There are no plans yet for the property after demolition...."

San Francisco Time Warp

One of the great things about San Francisco, especially if you're a Gen X'er, is the ability to go back to scenes from your childhood on a regular basis. It's not 2012 at this particular spot in Bernal Heights. It's the mid-seventies.

Provided you embrace the spirit of a few of the bumper stickers and not the specifics.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Escape from (writing about) Flint

I won't miss staring at this computer or the City of Flint map of abandoned structures.

I recently moved out of the tiny office I was renting on Treat Street in San Francisco, a sure sign that my work on Teardown: Memoir of a Vanishing City is nearly complete. The editing process is almost finished, and the book will be published by the University of California Press in April 2013. It's been a long process that really started in the fall of 2007 when I launched the Flint Expatriates blog. I feel like I know Flint better now than I ever did when I was growing up off Dayton Avenue in Civic Park.

 Five years of Flint research looking for a new home somewhere in my 700 sq. ft. house.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Trying to Buy G.M.'s Friendship

The New York Times has a story today illustrating one of life's lessons that Flint learned long ago...just because a city is nice to a corporation like G.M. doesn't mean G.M. is going to return the favor.

Louise Story reports:
In the end, the money that towns across America gave General Motors did not matter.

When the automaker released a list of factories it was closing during bankruptcy three years ago, communities that had considered themselves G.M.’s business partners were among the targets.

For years, mayors and governors anxious about local jobs had agreed to G.M.’s demands for cash rewards, free buildings, worker training and lucrative tax breaks. As late as 2007, the company was telling local officials that these sorts of incentives would “further G.M.’s strong relationship” with them and be a “win/win situation,” according to town council notes from one Michigan community.

Yet at least 50 properties on the 2009 liquidation list were in towns and states that had awarded incentives, adding up to billions in taxpayer dollars, according to data compiled by The New York Times.

The Space Vehicle City

Extraterrestrials take note: Flint is not necessarily a friendly environment. Ron "Space Cowboy" Fonger of The Flint Journal reports:
Just weeks after a man told police he spotted an unidentified flying object above the Rave theaters in Flint Township, three more sightings — one each in the Flint, Flushing and Grand Blanc areas — have been made to the Mutual UFO Network.

This month alone, 13 online reports from the county have been made to MUFON, ranging from randomly flashing, multi-colored lights to to a large, glowing object to a bright orange light hovering above tree tops.

"I believe a great deal of the reason for the ever-growing number of reports is growing popularity of both UFOs and MUFON in general," said Robert Nolan, chief investigator with MUFON, who said he may visit the county this weekend to have a look around for himself.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Flint and the Generation Gap

Aaron M. Renn has a fascinating post on The Urbanophile blog about the way different generations view cities. You can see these generational divides played out in the comment section of Flint Expatriates and on Facebook. Baby Boomers tend to have very different opinions about the past, present and future of Flint than Gen-X'ers. The Millennials, who have only experienced the Vehicle City during its socioeconomic death spiral often seem bemused by all the old timers' talk of Flint's glory days. These contrasting viewpoints can lead to real conflict as residents and local leaders try to map out the path to a better Flint in the future.

Renn writes:
Gen-X and the Millennials have a much more optimistic and positive views of urban areas than baby boomers and previous generations. I think this results from the rupture that those earlier generations experienced when our urban cores declined. If you read a newspaper interview of someone in that age bracket, you always here the stories about the wonderful things they did in the city when they were younger. It was the land of good factory jobs, the downtown department store where their mothers took them in white gloves for tea, of the tidy neighborhoods, the long standing institutions and rituals – now all lost, virtually all of it. Unsurprisingly, this has turned a lot of people bitter. Many people saw everything they held dear in their communities destroyed, and they were powerless to stop it. These people are never going to be able to enter the Promised Land.

For people about my age or younger, it’s a very different story. None of us knew any of those things. Our experience is totally different. We’ve basically never known a city that wasn’t lost. Gen-X, which Jim Russell views as the heartland of Rust Belt Chic, is a generation defined by alienation, so the alienated urban core suits our temperament perfectly. The Millennials of course have a very different attitude towards cities.

I don’t see any signs of the older generations getting through the grieving process and moving on. This makes me think that for us to fully embrace a true urban policy, even in city government itself, it is going to take generational turnover. The baby boomers are already starting to age, but they’ll be with us a lot longer. Alas, they have historically been the most suburban generation, and not shy about imposing their values, so I suspect we’ll be dealing with that legacy for a while. Still, as time goes on, we’ll have more and more people seeing the city with fresh eyes, and only knowing it when there’s reason for hope and optimism. That by itself will be a building force for change and new directions over time, until the true changing of the guard arrives.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Flint Photos: St. Matthews Football Team 1969

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Jim Abbott Tells His "Imperfect" Story

 If you haven't already, check out Flint Expatriate and Central High grad Jim Abbott's excellent book, Imperfect: An Improbable Life. You don't have to love baseball to enjoy this book about Flint, fatherhood, and living a meaningful life. (Although the baseball sections are really great, as well.)
"The lives of many of the breadwinners in the cul-de-sacs and verdant streets near Burroughs Park would change in the 1980s, just as they would all over Flint, when General Motors began boarding up its manufacturing plants. For decades a man in Flint could chart his course from the playground to high school to an assembly line or management job at GM, the path their fathers and grandfathers had taken to middle-class stability. When the jobs disappeared, so too did Flint's hope, and the street corners that had been edgy in my father's youth became strictly off-limits in mine."

Friday, November 23, 2012

Lions Lose...Creatively!

If the purpose of instant replay, which destroys the rhythm of the games and drains all excitement out of the matchups, is to get the calls right, why would you ever negate automatic review because a coach throws the challenge flag? I guess the review isn't "automatic" after all. This one just may be more ridiculous than the tuck rule. How idiotic do NFL rules have to get before people stop watching?

Flint Artifacts: Genesee County American Cancer Society Bike-A-Thon

We could all use a little exercise today.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Color Coordinating in San Francisco

Think your truck is big and impressive? I bet it's not as big and impressive as this Chevrolet Apache I spotted parked in San Francisco's West Portal neighborhood today. And I bet your truck isn't color-coordinated with your house.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Flint Photos: Livin' Large

You may remember this Buick Century wagon from an earlier post in mid August. At one time, it seemed like half the families in Flint owned this impressive ride. Now it appears to be following me around the streets of San Francisco. Or I'm following it, and its two owners, who just might be living in the car.

Flint Expatriate Robert "Bobby" Stanzler, the man who created Made in Detroit, is having a holiday event at Detroit Mercantile, his emporium of all-things-Michigan located in Detroit's Eastern Market.
Metro Times and Detroit Mercantile invite you to attend the Merry Market on December 15th and 16th.

HOLIDAY SHOPPING featuring 20 Detroit and Michigan art, design, vintage, and antique vendors + Detroit Mercantile Company's assortment of new and vintage USA/MI-made items.

FESTIVE BEVERAGES will be available for purchase both days, including Cider, Nog, beer, and liquor libations.

ON-SITE food trucks will be on hand serving lunch and dinner fare for purchase.

A portion of proceeds will benefit a local charity.

FREE admission. Please join us! You're sure to find something for EVERYONE on your list!

Flint School District Debt

The Flint School District is officially facing a $4 million deficit. Sounds bad, but it's actually much worse than that. Blake Thorne of mlive reports that an audit recently revealed that the district is really $11 million in the red.
The budget for the Genesee Area Skill Center is, and has for years, concealed a larger deficit in the district's K-12 general fund, said several board members and Mike Frawley of Yeo & Yeo, the accounting firm which conducted the audit.

The GASC is a vocational program operated by the district but serving students throughout the county and operating as a separate school. 

However, Frawley said, the state considers the deficit to be $4 million and the GASC budget has been allowed to be included in the general fund for more than 30 years.

"We're lying to ourselves," said board member Vera Perry. "We have to stop lying to ourselves and face it head on."
Board member Isiah Oliver agreed, saying the district has to face the deeper structural problems of an $11 million shortfall.

"I'm bothered, not as much at the $11 million, but by the fact that I'm digging to get someone to say that's the reality," Oliver said. "If that's the case, let's just deal with it."

Monday, November 12, 2012

Darth Vader Versus Michael Moore

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Dan Kildee Wins

A Kildee will still be representing the Flint area in Congress. This time it's Dan instead of Dale.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Don Williamson Goes National

The national media is picking up the story of Don Williamson's humble statue, and it's not pretty.

Monday, November 5, 2012

If This Is True, Flint Is the Funniest Place in the World

Our Economy by Teresa Wozniak

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Calling Woody Woods

If Woody Woods of Touch Boutique fame is out there, shoot me an email. I have some old friends from Mexico who want to get in touch.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Happy Birthday, Big Mama!

It's time to wish Pat Young — our most loyal reader and contributor — a happy birthday. She was born at Hurley Hospital in 1930 and graduated from Flint Central in 1947. 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!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

2012 World Series: Just Walk Away

Many readers have mentioned that they would like an original painting to commemorate the 2012 World Series. Well, I may have found just the thing, courtesy of artists Michael Dumontier and Neil Farber.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

All Hail Don Williamson

Former Flint mayor Don Williamson has been a seemingly endless source of material for Flint Expatriates over the years. There were the random firings of competent city employees. The useless "crack down" on baggy pants. Don't forget the time he used city workers to mow his lawn. And the very expensive plan to help the local economy by installing a drag strip on a city street. Of course there was the pricey lawsuit that the city had to settle after the mayor had a paper carrier arrested at City Hall. Oh yeah, what about the cop who got canned for daring to talk to the local media. Let's not even mention all the money the city lost because of Williamson's creative approach to the Genesee Towers situation. For his swan song, the convicted felon asked the cash-strapped city for back pay when he resigned to avoid a recall election.

Given his service to the City of Flint, it's only fitting that Williamson be honored with a statue. After all, Flint's other great leaders like Billy Durant and C.S. Mott have their memorials. It seems Williamson agrees and has erected a golden effigy of himself surrounded by a pride of protective baby lions at his new palatial estate outside Flint.

A reader stumbled upon life-size icon on recent trip home and passed along this report: 
I get back to Flint a few times each year, visiting family. In fact, my wife and I were there last weekend visiting her dad in Lapeer. Travelling back towards Flint via Davison Rd, we ran across an interesting sight. First of all, I should say that my wife's fancy new Garmin GPS flashed a "point of interest" on the screen as we approached the little crossroads berg of Elba. It showed a large area to the north of Davison Rd called the "Patsy Lou refuge" (not really sure if it said refuge or estate or something else). Needless to say that got my attention. No more than 1/2 mile west of the Elba crossroads (near Potters Lake), we were more than a little surprised to see the main entrance to what is obviously Don and Patsy Lou's grand plantation. It is a work in progress, but leaves no doubt that it goes for quite a long way north of Davison Rd. Of course, this alone wouldn't cause me to think of Flint Expats; it was the life sized bronze stature of the Don himself that caused me to write this note.As you can no doubt tell, the Don was standing tall and portly, greeting visitors. Anyone reading Flint Expats for any length of time is surely aware of the special place Don Williamson has with the readership, so I couldn't pass up this opportunity to contribute to the cause.
Is it just me, or does The Don's statue resemble the tribute to another controversial, strong-willed leader?

  Kim Il Sung

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Lost Logos of the Detroit Tigers


The Detroit Tigers uniforms are considered classics, but who knew they had such questionable logos over the years?