The official name of the complex was Chevrolet Flint Manufacturing. It was where the original General Motors was born. It was the cradle of upward mobility, both individually and generationally. I believe it was Buick and AC Spark Plug people, along with the jealous academics who hated the people who worked there in the auto industry because they made so much money with little education, who came up with the hateful name, "Chevy In The Hole". In better days, the Buick and AC Spark Plug people called it "Happy Valley". Up until about 1970, it was the most profitable complex in the whole corporation. It also irritates me greatly that even Google Maps has it labelled "Chevy In The Hole", considering the fact that the grandfather of Lawrence Page, cofounder of Google, worked there.I worked there for short periods in the summer, and I met some of the finest people there I have ever known. Were there bad people there? Of course, because there are bad people everywhere. But I still remember fondly how helpful many of these people were to my family, and what good friends they were.I resent the name "Chevy In The Hole" with a passion.
I worked at Chevy, one summer, for 4 weeks. I had an Ann Arbor Air Fare charter flight to Europe for 2 months. I had 2 month Eurail pass, but I had no spending money. I got out of school on Friday. I started at Chevrolet, grinding pistons on a lathe, on Monday. I worked 2 weeks and gave 2 weeks notice. I quit 4 weeks to the day and left for Europe the net day with $1,000 in my pocket, back in July, 1967.
My Grandfather and I both worked at this location. I was there in 1973-1974 and he was there during the sit down strike in 1937. I never worked in factory 2 but did work in 4, 5, 6 and 9. Believe me when I say: This was, "Chevy In The Hole" in more ways than one, "emphasis on the hole". It was called the hole because of the valley it was in, but those that worked there had a little bit different meaning for "the hole". I much preferred working at Buick.
I worked two summers in Buick Stationery Department, thanks to my grandfather having been Comptroller of Buick. I then got a job for one semester at factory 5, making pinion gears for transmissions. That, too, was a great job. I worked for 4 weeks making pistons at Chevrolet, one of the worst jobs I ever had, but it paid well.
I once delivered the internal mail to the Chevrolet Flint Manufacturing complex, from an office in the basement of the Main Office on Bluff St. I saw every plant in the complex, and often there were several offices in each plant that were separate deliveries. It is rare to get such an overview. At that time, in the early 1970s, there were two divisions, the Chevrolet Motor Division and the Chevrolet Pressed Metal Division. The address was 300 N. Chevrolet Ave.Here is a summary of the plants and divisions as I remember.Plant 1-Main Office-Bluff St.Plant 2-Motor and Pressed MetalPlant 2A-Pressed Metal (Hasselbring and Chevrolet)Plant 3-Bluff St.Plant 4-Motor DivisionPlant 5-MotorPlant 6-Pressed MetalPlant 7-Metallurgical, Engine Testing, Safety StorePlant 8-Pressed MetalPlant 9-MotorPlant 10-Pressed Metal (behind Atwood Stadium)Plant 13-Aprrentice School (behind the power plant)Plant 38-Die and Engineering Center (still stands at Glenwood and Stevenson St.)There were others, but I can't remember the numbers. They had their own power plant in between Plant 2 an Plant 4.2 and 2A were connected by an overpass. 4 and 5 were connected by an underpass.
You forgot Plant 25 Yard, and Plant 38 Die Bdlg. east of Plant 9, and Plant 35 I also started delivering the internal mail from the Main Office to the out-plants mentioned above. One of best jobs I had there. Our motto was: thru wind, rain, sleet and hail, we must deliver the ------- mail ! I then enrolled in GMI (now Kettering University) and studied Industial Management for several years. As time past by, I held many clerical jobs and other positions with various responsibilities and retired as a Manufacturing General Supervisor. I worked with hundreds of great people, hourly and salary throughout the years. One as a example: (Guy Briggs)who started at Chevrolet Manufacturing and moved up throughout the Chevrolet Divisions, named the first Manager of the Saturn Plant and retired as a Vice-President of General Motors Corporation, which proved one can start out at the bottom of the ladder and move to the top of that same ladder. I will always remember all the friends I had at "Chevy in the hole" !
Hi Anonymous and anyone else out there that worked at one of these plants in 1971....I know it has been a while since this post but I am hoping you might be able to help me. I am looking for a Robert Sutherland that was in Niles, Michigan in 1971, he worked in some capacity at the Flint plant, might be in his mid to late 60's now. Any info would be greatly appreciated !!! Thank youL. Russell
Thanks for all of this information. I believe that my Mom worked there during the war and until my sister was born in 1953. Back then my Mom was told that you either work or you have kids. They didn't have maternity leave and rules like they do now. So she became a stay at home Mom.
Does anyone have an old map of the Chevrolet complex showing the buildings? Or an old aerial photograph? It seems to me that almost all the plants on Chevrolet had the longer dimension perpendicular to the street.Here's a few more buildings.Plant 21-Truck Garage-Storage and maintenance of vehicles used in the complex. Pool cars were parked there. Pool cars were used for commuting to other plants, the Tech Center in Warren, and picking up machine repair parts from vendors, mainly on urgent day trips to the Detroit area. Behind the Main Office.Personnel Building and Plant Hospital-Bluff St. behind the Main Office and next to Plant 3. The function of Plant 3 still eludes me, but it may have been used for storage, as the floors would no longer support heavy machinery, in my vague recollection.There was a conveyor overpass that carried parts from Plant 2 to Plant 4, which went over the river.Vague recollections of plant functions.Plant 2- First Floor Crankshafts, Camshafts, Heat Treat, Tool Room, main Machine Repair parts area. Second Floor Truck Grilles, Pressed Metal Engineering Offices.Plant 4-First Floor V-8 Engine Assembly. Second Floor. Motor Division Engineering Offices. Plant Stores. Labor Relations (Former State Lottery Commissioner and County Clerk Michael J. Carr's old position in Labor Relations was here).Plant 9-Valves. Long dimension faced Kearsley St.Plant 10. Short dimension and entrance faced Stevenson St.
If you visit the Kettering Archives (plan on HOURS) in Campus Center of Kettering University, you will find (probably) hundreds of pictures. I have one that was taken on the other side of our Academic Bldg and you can see the complex in its entirety.
Plant 3 was a parts plant when I started working there in 1971.
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Hi John, did you by chance know a Robert Sutherland at that time working there also....need to find him and not having much luck. I know he worked somewhere around these plants. lived in Niles and had a relationship with Jeanane Wilson.......any info would be helpful!!!Thank youL. Russell
Sorry I didn't see your question until tonite. I didn't know him-I was just there for the summer-Good luck-JOHN
Thanks for all the info. Does anyone have any online links or the name of any books or other sources that might discuss the origins of the names Happy Valley and/or Chevy in the Hole? I've gone through my reference books and, although many use the terms, no one discusses the names. Thanks.
Being located at the river at (nearly) its most-downstream extent with the city limits, the plant area was not just in a local valley, but the lowest place within the entire city. Maybe in earlier years people had more familiarity with map reading. A city topographic map's contour lines can be seen to radiate outward from the Happy Valley/Hasselbring-Farm/Mott Park section of the river, rising in all directions.
Here is my link showing the buildings. http://buickcity.blogspot.com/2011/11/happy-100th-birthday-chevrolet.html
Now that I think about it some more, Plant 3 was somehow connected with the General Motors Parts Division. They may have stockpiled replacement parts for future repairs there. And on further thought, the Main Office may have faced Chevrolet Ave., given the address 300 N. Chevrolet Ave., and the longer dimension faced Chevrolet, and the short side faced Bluff St. The Main Office had Purchasing and Data Processing, and they had a huge computer that took up a large room and had those huge magnetic tapes for storage like you see in old movies and TV shows. IBM used to own and lease all the computers, and they had a brand new office on Third Ave., near Skinner's Cleaners, across Chevrolet Ave. from GMI.
So was Happy Valley a name for the area before the Chevy plant? And if anyone has any sourcing for the name Happy Valley or Chevy in the Hole, please let me know. Thanks.
Like Gerry Godin has indicated, there was an intense rivalry between Buick and Chevrolet, and frankly, the people at Buick really looked down on the people at Chevrolet. But Chevrolet was the nuts and bolts, the guts and glue (and BTW Ricky Leach did work there summers hoisting engines to build body strength), of GM, the not so pretty side, but they got the job done. People like the late Ernie Vahala (who later worked for Buick) had a love for the 6 Cylinder Engine that helped GM bail itself out after the first big downturn caused by the so called "Energy Crisis" in the mid 1970s.The pecking order at GM among brands was Cadillac>Buick>Oldsmobile>Pontiac>Chevrolet, and believe me, the people let you know it.
Kirk Gibson,All American from MSU, Detroit Tiger, Los Angeles Dodgers, KC Athletics, Pittsburgh Pirates and currently Mgr of the Arizona Diamondbacks also worked at Chevrolet Flint Manufacturing during the summer months in Plant #5 (cylinder Case plant)between semesters at MSU.
Kirk worked for my dad who was a foreman in plant 5 for many years.
I worked closely with Ernie Vahala. He used to ask me to check over his written word since his hand writing was not very good. He was a great guy and very smart.
Penmanship was not Mr. Vahala's forte. I have a recommendation letter to prove it. I used to get bad grades in penmanship and it brought down my Grade School GPA until they went to S/U. I think it's an Engineering thing. That's why rulers and French curves were invented.
Growing up in Flint, I remember my next door neighbour, Mr Bruce, who walked the mile and a half or so to work at Chevy in the hole. We could hear the plant whistle signalling shift change. I recall once seeing him on our black and white TV, standing tall in a white shirt and bowtie and singing ing the Chevrolet Choir. I worked in plant 2A and briefly in plant 6 between 1977 and 79. 2A high bay had stamping presses in the 800 to 1200 ton range and produced radiator assemblies, not the radiators themselves but the portion of the front of the car that held the radiator, headlights, etc. We also produced bumpers and bumper reinforcements, mufflers, exhaust pipes, and if I remember correctly some driveshaft tubing for buses. The second floor was mostly storage, as the building was too old to support much machinery. The polishing and buffing lines were being phased out as the trend was away from chromed bumpers. The floors were wood block and covered with tar. There was a lot of history in that plant. I remember being loaned out to run a single stage forming die which made reducers for the exhasut. A two inch or so piece of pipe swaged down to inch and a half of so. The date on the bottom die plate was 1932. It was a loud, oily, nasty place to work. Absenteeism ran 20 to 30 percent and labor/management relations were antagonistic at best.When I was bumped to plant 6 for my final month and a half of employment at the hole it produced mostly plastics. G-van engine covers coming out of the press at 165 degrees, wearing white plastic suits with the sleeves and ankles taped to keep the fibreglass out as you trimmed the mould flashing from around the engine cover with a hook knife. I also worked on Monte Carlo front ends, but on the other side of the press moulds. Loading in raw SMC (sheet moulding compound) from gons. Sticky balls of fibreglass putty reeking of ketones and who knows what else. Plant 6 was hot, smelly, nasty place. 35 years later, it's all gone. No shop traffic. The heart of the city stopped.
Hey, Hi, I was there too. My name is mark and I started at plant 4 in 1978 working for Tim Kennedy on the engine assy line hanging exhaust manifolds and wound up in 79 working in 6 on the header panel presses and also at the van hood machines. I recall the smell so vividly.My dad was a foreman all over the place for years. Wendell Thulen. Thanks for the memories. Mark Thulen
"Happy Valley" was a name given to Chevrolet in the 1970s by the itinerant General Motors employees and GMI students who would spend time there over the years for short periods of time. It was at a time when it was the most profitable plant. They spent money like the government does today, with the philosophy that if they didn't spend it, their next year appropriations would decrease, and to guarantee an increase in appropriations for the next year. Overtime was the rule and not the exception.Not all Chevy (or GM) employees spent their money on alcohol, recreational drugs, and adult entertainment. Many put their kids through college, bought bigger houses, the latest gadgets, and generally stimulated the local economy and elsewhere. Some started their own businesses. Many local businessmen and professionals greatly prospered as a result.It was a happy time. Hence, Happy Valley.
The history of Genesee county by W.O. Wood in 1916 had this to say for the area at that time. What the Buick Motor Company and other plants have meant to the north end of the city, the Chevrolet Company has meant to the western section. The fourth ward, originally known as "The Pinery," a rather less improved section of Flint than the other wards, in 1916 became crowded with thousands of workmen who sought residences in the near vicinity of the great manufacturing plant. The expansion of the city by platting has resulted in the erection of homes as far as three miles beyond the city limits, where a real estate concern platted twenty acres into one-acre and half-acre plats, and sold them all within a few days.
I would have to narrow the search for the origin's of the phrase: "Chevy In The Hole" from when Fisher #2 moved from Chevrolet Avenue to Van Slyke rd. in 1947. I would have to think that the workers just said they worked at Chevy until the other plant was built. All I know is when I worked there it was the dirtiest place I had ever seen. And the way workers were treated there was almost like before the union was even allowed to represent you. I could not get out of there fast enough. The story's I've written down in my unpublished memoirs would curl most other auto workers hair. If I find any other information, I'll let you know Gordy. As always, I love a good research mystery.
I never heard the term Chevy In The Hole until the last few years. I remain confident that the origin of the term is from someone hostile to GM, industrialization, financial status, or just a competitor within or outside GM, hostile to Chevrolet.I agree there were filthy parts, filthy jobs, nasty people, etc., but hospitals are probably more unsanitary, and people outside Flint are a lot more nasty, contemptuous, and predatory from my experience.
Pick a plant in Flint and I had a relative working there from superintendent to sweeper. I worked in the Chevrolet complex in the "hole" in the sixties when they were moving the old dusty parts out of storage to Swartz Creek Chevy parts division (Otterbourn)? That facility had nine family members in it. My Grandfather retired from Chev.Manufacturing and was a sit down striker back in the thirties when the Governor sent in the troops. We had some very interesting conversations at family gatherings when the company side and union side would discuss issues, especially during contract time. Sometimes the ladies had to facilitate to keep things under control. I'm sure this was the case in a lot of other GM family homes in Flint when you had supervision and line workers tipping a few together at celebratory function. My Dad said that before there were unions a lot of foremen took baths in the Flint River in the "hole" back in the day...
There was a Cafeteria for workers in Plant 2A. The Tool Room Superintendent in Plant 2 warned me not to eat there, as he had recently gotten sick after eating there. After that advice, the cafeteria moniker that always stuck in my mind for it was "The Two Way Cafeteria".Many of the people ate their lunch at the bar an grill that was just north of there on Chevrolet Ave. I went there once with Sue Farner, Mark's sister, who worked in Plant 2. Casey Kasem's brother, who was also sometimes called Casey, was a supervisor in Plant 10 Pressed Metal. So there were definitely some "near celebrities" there.
Ah, the good old days, when commercial food services didn't actually have to offer safe food.I worked a summer as a student engineering intern at AC, and ate in their cafeteria just once. Which was enough to make me pretty sick.The place was run by a contract food service. I don't recall their name, or I'd be glad to gratuitously insult them here for that episode.
I believe it was the IMA that had the contract to run the cafeteria.
I can't resist commenting on this post any longer. The phrase "Chevy in the hole" touches the core of many of us ex-residents. I always considered it a place of pride. A place the Ruskies would probably bomb first. Somehow that made me feel more important (and a little scared). It was a place where more than a few of my extended family worked. Today I can better understand it was either a very good or very bad place, depending on one's particular circumstances. I have always known that it was often dirty, mean and crude. It also, put lots of bread on Flint tables, for many years. I sometimes think about what several of my aunts and uncles, along with the 1937 sit-down workers must have went thru to cause them to take the drastic and at the time, subsersive, actions they did. In my world of the 50's & 60's, I would have simply walked away if I was treated as badly as GM treated those workers. But they had a different need than my generation; avoiding the very real possibility of starvation. I take my hat off to all of those fatory workers who paved the way for me. It took guts to go into those factories every day, year after year. Thank's for allowing me to vent...a grateful AC Spark Plug alumni.
My grandfather worked at Fisher 2,and my parents, always called it Chevy in the hole. I went to night school at Chevy V8 on Van Slyke rd. and it was a clean factory. I worked at the old Chevy plant in Bay City (Powertrain now)and it was a very clean factory. Otterburn, another clean plant. Cadillac near Detroit, very impressive. Buick was clean, but after the early 80's when they got rid of most of the sanitation workers, they just added that on the other workers as part of their job description. But I have yet to get into any detail concerning Chevy in the hole. Concerning the cafeteria in factory #4, it was very clean and had good food, but you had no time as a regular line worker to get there, and back to your job on time, so it was basically useless. You could still see the high water marks around the plant from the Flint river flooding, and the flood control "was" in place when I was there in 1973-1974 so they definitely did not care about painting anything. I remember the wood block floors on the mezzanines that ran parallel east and west, which had signs that stated "warning" 175 pound limit per square ft. I only weighed 160 at that time so I was safe. If I needed to see my shop committee man I found him over in plant #5 cutting bearing caps, and the same with my committee man who worked in #4. Chevy always went by their local contract and the union reps worked just like everyone else. Some days you could not even see a union rep, because know-body could relieve them from their job. Now back to factory #5. No matter how hard you tried to stay clean while walking into that plant, let alone working there, you always came out filthy. The other plants "east" of #4 that I worked overtime in, were just nasty with the oil in the air and on your skin. And as far as being a name dropper (Sue Farner) I knew her and her brothers Rick, Eric and Mark just by being a guitar player in the Flint area. But just so you know, Mark would not even talk to his sister Sue (near celebrity? NOT!) But back to the point, "Chevrolet". The supervisors were the worst I ever seen anywhere during my 3o years at G.M. I tried to be nice and give them two weeks notice when I was leaving, to go back to Buick, and my reward was being pulled off of (immediately) the 6 line and being placed on the 8 line hanging heads. The worst job I ever had. They gave me a guy with one arm and a hook to break me in. I took it for two days and threw a head into the line, bringing it to an abrupt stop and threw my safety glasses down and never looked back. I have many horror stories from my short 9 months there if anyone needs more. One sad thing, was an ex friend who recently passed away, he told me that I should stay at Chevy. I asked him why? His reply was all you had to do was become friends with your supervisor and do whatever he said and you would be just fine. "In other words" be a suck ass. I lost a lot of respect for him after that. You did not even have gloves available to you, even when you worked with sheet metal. All you got were two shop towels at the start of your shift and two after lunch. Try that sometime, I did! Whenever there became a problem on the moving line, like a breakdown or lack of parts, "where ever the stoppage was" they would start pulling engines and stacking them, until the problem was fixed, and then speed the "downstream" part up (after the problem was solved) so the stacked engines could be fed back in, with no loss of production. Try and work twice as fast on an assembly line sometime! No seats of any kind were allowed in the factory, "not even for the foremen", they just stood at a tall desk. I would take my 20 minute lunch out on the flood control wall because it was close. "Again" no time to reach the cafeteria or tables to eat at like a human. I better stop now because my blood pressure is rising just thinking back to that place.
Back in the early 1960s, at the height of the Cold War, there was a study done that said that Chevrolet Flint Manufacturing was the third most strategically important industrial facility IN THE UNITED STATES, so the previous Anonymous poster's comments are accurate. I was frightened for many years after hearing that. To this day, I am angry at the enemies of America who would destroy such a place, and my friends who lived so close by.
I think I've seen that study, or another to the same effect. I'm pretty sure the analysis actually was that metro Flint as a whole--all the GM facilities, the supporting specialty businesses, and the high-skill worker population, plus the rail mainlines connecting Ontario to Chicago and the Tri Cities to Detroit--was the #3 (or whatever) strategic target. Individual factories weren't individual targets anymore in that era of megaton-class H-bombs and 20 mile circles of effectively total destruction. Not that that'd have made any difference, since the centroidal targeting point if I recall was 5000 feet right over Happy Valley (and a mile from where I grew up in Mott Park.)
You're right-Ground zero for a Russian nuke was located at Chevrolet and Bluff according to Michael Moore.
If I had wanted to be a name dropper, Gerry, I would have identified myself. There's no point to being a name dropper if no one knows who you are. My point was that people who worked there were not just anybody. I have read Mark's authorized autobiography and found no animosity in it toward Sue. Toward Don Brewer, yes, and with valid reasons. I'm not really a fan anyway, and Sue respected me for telling her that. They're from Flint, and that is what I find most interesting. That's what this blog is about.I see a definite class warfare facet to this discussion, and I don't know why that should be such a big issue. I was sometimes on salary, and I worked an hourly job and was required join the union. So I think the commenter who said he had relatives from sweepers to superintendents said it best about the conflicts that invariably come up about this. If you know the truth, you know that the hourly workers made more money than many salary workers, particularly hourly workers those who worked a lot of overtime, and skilled trades workers. Skilled trade workers who worked a lot of overtime definitely made more money than their supervisors, who were "exempt" from being paid for overtime.
Well anonymous, I would not get very close to Sue. "She was the one who told me that". I am a big fan of the Grand Funk sound still, and if Marks wife had never became his manager, they would probably still be touring today. I do understand Mark's point of having someone he can trust take care of his business, and I, like him, have also been hounded by the IRS, and it's not any fun at all. But making your old band mates deal only with your wife "could" make you (Brewer)less than amiable towards your old chums. Anyways I still think Chevy in the hole was a filthy place to work and would not want to return. "Boy this post sure got off track". As I recall Bobby Caldwell worked at Buick and Mike Moore too. But I don't get your point of, Your Quote: My point was that people who worked there were not just anybody. Is it just me, or does that make no sense at all?
Gerry, I remember a story about the bad air surrounding Plant 5. I was fresh out of high school, and went to work the following Monday as a clerk in the Tool Room Office. One of my first duties was to write a letter to the Union Representative about what would be done about the chemical damage to paint on several cars that were parked outside the plant. Without admitting blame, GM agreed to fix the cars. I remember the General Foreman laughing and praising me for using the term "allegedly" as skillfully as a lawyer would in the letter. There was plenty of money then to fix the cars. I do remember another comment humorously offered in the discussion which was "We ain't fixin' no Fords". Fords were as frowned upon in the GM parking lot in those days as imports are today.
Plant 3 was apparently the Personnel Building before they built a brand new one behind it on Bluff St. It was not built for really heavy machinery, nor were the upper floors of many factories.Consider that the pressure on the floor from a person is their weight divided by the area of their shoes in contact with the floor, and a person walking in those weight restricted areas probably exceeded the loading limit shown on the sign. Obviously, total weight over a larger area is also a factor in why the floor didsn't collapse when you walked on it.
i remember that my dad worked in the personnel builing on bluff. i remember overlooking it just before they tore it down, while partying at the bank after hours bar on the corner on bluff and chevrolet. i believe the personnel building sat lower than bluff. that whole complex was unique with the river running through it and all the other features. regardless of how you feel about the place, i think we lost a treasure.
Just wanted to thank everyone for their comments. This was a huge help and really great reading.Gerry and Anonymous, I'm officially declaring a truce on this one! Thanks for the informative and entertaining comments. I appreciate you taking the time.
Seconded. I've lived near Chevy in the Hole since 2004 and have been mystified by the acres of concrete and what used to be here. Sadly, information on the area post-Sit Down Strike and now is sorely lacking on the Internet. The only Flint-area plant that has less of an Internet presence seems to be Ternstedt.
I know that this probably won't help much, but when I attended GMI 1984 - 86 (I flunked out my fourth semester, it was a low point for sure), we drove underneath the neon Chevy bowtie many times on our way to shopping to the southwest (we never went north from campus, as were told that area was "too dangerous" heh heh).Everybody on campus as I recall called that area "Happy Valley." I don't recall hearing the phrase "Chevy in the Hole" until many years later.Getting OT: I was a co-op student at Delco Electronics in Kokomo, IN, but I did talk to some other students who worked in Flint. I remember when one told me of their job assignment to destroy a prototype Buick (probably a Reatta prototype based upon the timeframe) - he had to cut up the hand-stitched leather interior, and use an axe to split open all of the body panels. It's really too bad that the lawyers were dictating things like this, even back then.
That overpass with the Chevrolet Neon Sign was the one that connected Plant 2 and Plant 2A. I think Hasselbring St. is still there, extended from the north side of where Plant 2A was, into the Kettering University Campus. The street was truncated as I recall for many years, and didn't go back to the old Hasselbring farm area.
I would like to start a campaign to purge the name "Chevy In The Hole" from all official references to the complex, including Google Maps. It was Chevrolet Flint Manufacturing, and it figured prominently in both the history of General Motors and the UAW, as well as the rise of the Middle Class in America. To show such contempt for it dishonors all the people who ever worked there. I can only think that the people who show so little respect somehow resent the rise of the Middle Class. Perhaps they are either Corporatists OR Communists for whom the Middle Class is/was and ideological embarassment, one that either decreased their bottom line or their precious Dialectic theory of how things ought to have been. Just as there is no such thing as "settled science", there is no such thing as settled history, and so called "historians" who came up with this ugly name, will soon have their "history" rewritten also.
As a native of Flint and raised down on Third Ave across from the Hamaday Store "Chevy In The Hole" has many, many memories. I use to play down by the river behind Atwood Stadium and not only could we hear the plant but also smell it. As kids we didnot know just really what the place was except that our fathers would walk home from there or take the bus down Third Ave. Little did I realize that in later years I also would work there.After serving in the Air Force and attending College I returned to Flint and interviewd in all the GM Plants in the area and the first job acceptance was down in the hole.I started in April 1964 as a College Graduate in Traning for one year. That year those of us in the program went through every department in the complex, both PM and Motor Divisions. It was quite an experience. I became a Forman in Plant 4 on days in A-1 laying the cranks and bearing caps, etc when the cases came under Chevrolet Ave through the tunnel from Plant 3 ? Six months from then I was sent to the Cylinder Head Dept for three years and also the Flywheel Dept. It was then I had the chance to go to Purchasing in the Main Office to train as a Buyer.Those that I worked with were for the most part just plain great people. Yes, it was dirty and times could be tough but everyone applied themsleves and helped thier co-workers and we made it till the end of the shift. It was not an easy place to make a living. Many of the people I ran across were old neighbors or fathers of kids that I grew up with in Flint. A lot of them were civic and church leaders when they went home at night. No one really wanted to be there but it sure put a lot of us through schools and food on the table. I look back on it now and really feel lucky that I could have shared my live with those men and women. They were the real Flint and all it stood for over the years. I will never forget it and always be greatful for it now that I have turned 75 years old.
god bless you
Fred, A very accurate and well written piece. I also worked at Chev-Flint Mfg from 1966 to 1975. I came from a small town in Pennsylvania, began as a GMI co-op student and experienced many of the same things you mentioned. I was eventually sponsored by the Plant 4 Quality Dept. It was quite an education and experience; I learned things that stayed with me through my entire career, it help make me the person I am today. When ever I get back to Flint I always drive around the plant site, it brings back so many memories. Unfortunately Chev Flint Mfg came to an end like so many manufacturing facilities in this country. Plants like this helped to build this great country.
No !!! You don't understand the meaning. It is not demeaning nor does it dishonor those of us that worked there. It was a place of hard honest work that allowed people to raise their families to a higher level of living then most of the rest of the world. It played a key part in winning World War ll and keeping our country free. To change it's history would dishonor all those who were there. I wear it as a symbol of pride.
Fred, thanks for the comments. I think you really capture the spirit and reality of Flint.
Chevy in the hole,Fisher 1, Chevy truck ,Buick, V-8 engine,..........They were all hell holes. Anyone who says the people who worked there(hourly or salary)were over paid,never set foot into any of them. Even in the 70's I saw kids walking like an old man before they were 20. The most insidious thing about all of them was the toxic stuff you came into contact with day after day, year after year.One day at break time as I sat by my job,two people pulled up on a cart,and one picked up a piece of the adhesive "putty" I worked with with laboratory tongs and dropped it into a glass jar with a baled lid. No explanation,no talking at all. The next week that stuff was gone,replaced with some other stuff,meantime we had all carried it around in our bare hands (to make it more pliable) for years.I could go on and on.It was what it was.
The name Happy Valley comes from the Happy Hour bar where many a line worker and a few GMI students drank their lunch.
Fred, the conveyor you referred to came from Plant 2 if it is the one I am thinking of. It went over the river behind the power plant and near the Apprentice School.A General Foreman told us that when he was a GMI student, he had once travelled through the conveyor overpass on a very rainy night to get from Plant 2 to Plant 4 without going outside. "A Rainy Night In Flint Town".
The overhead conveyor carried crankshafts from plant 2. The conveyor under Chevrolet Avenue carried engine blocks from plant 5 to plant 4. There was also a walk way so that you could go between the buildings with out having to go through the guard stations/ cross the street.
Back in 1968 when I was still a pup I worked the line helping to build '69 Bel Air's and spending a few over time weeks in the truck plant with gas tank brackets. It "lifted" me out of the kitchen help job at Elby's (Big Boy)of Flint. Eye opening is all I can say. I saw guys lose their paychecks at lunch time card games. I saw guys putting their kids thru college as well. Every time I see a '69 Chevy I wonder if I worked on that one. It's all gone now even Elby's.
On Van Slyke, right?
Still a Big Boy in Grand Blanc, though. Not too far away.
Big Boy has actually closed a lot of their restaurants, and not just in Flint. Big Boy is now owned by Robert Liggett, Jr., a Utica native with an interesting Flint connection. Bob was known as Bob Layne on Detroit's WJBK Radio 15, also once home to two Flint area natives who were both known as "Jack The Bellboy" on the station, Terry Knapp/Knight and Ed McKenzie. Metrocom bought WGMZ around 1968, and moved their studios to E. Court St. and Stevens St., and called their building the "FMBassy". Bob Liggett was VP of Programming for Metrocom, and chose the music and other programming played on WGMZ. The station is now WCRZ, having moved to Bristol Rd. when the station was sold again in late 1970. Bob now owns radio stations in Port Huron in addition to Big Boy Restaurants.
I remember Bozo's Bop Top and I was an expert Hula Hooper but too afraid to enter the show's contest. On the way out the door they gave us a loaf of Wonder Bread.The Expo's that came to town every year and the Creepy Side Show's where we always wanted to see the baby in the glass jar. My Dad & Uncle would buy those expensive hats at Blackstone's. Thought one would make a good Christmas Gift but came right back out due to the costly price!Jazz bands at The River Front. Margaritas at Walli's on Pierson Rd for Saturday Night Happy Hour from 12p-2a. Hearing noise above our heads and looking up into the blue sky to see a slow-moving "Dirigible". Sheer Excitement!! The Beecher area flood of 1985 from the rain downpour during the night due to the backed up sewage drains. People being rescued by boat and my Uncle rescuing us with his F-150, the water even with the hood. The next day children were swimming in the streets. What Memories!!
I served an apprenticeship at Chevy in the hole 1965-1970. First, why all the bewilderment of why it was called Chevy in the hole? It was down in a low spot by the river---period! That complex provided good jobs for a lot of people over the years, some of whom could not have made that good a living anywhere else. To those who complain what a hellhole it was, you could have quit and gone elsewhere to work, it was not Russia. We could certainly use some places like that about now and I don't think you would find too many complaints. I'm sorry these plants are history. most likely never to return.
I agree with your comments, well stated. As a student, I worked at Chevrolet Flint from 1966 to 1975 and worked in many different departments. It was a time when there were few robots and manual labor did most of the work.; no different from other industries like mining, steel, textiles, railroads, etc. that employed millions in this country. These jobs allowed people at chance to own a home, raise a family, have medical coverage, put food on the table, and enjoy living a good life. Sure it was demanding and physical work, but with such rewards.
Hi...My name is Corey Lawson and I am doing research with the Heritage center forthe www.pilotcarregistry.com website. I am looking for anyone who can shed light on the F car ride and drives or pre-production history that took place at "chevy-in-the-hole" during the months of June, July and August of 1966. Because the authenticity of the research has to be documented, it will be necessary for us to be contacted at www.pilotcarregistry.com. Simply look at the site and contact us. Thanks
I saw one post about the Happy Hour Bar. That brings back memories from when I went to GMI. Does anyone have a picture of that bar?
I grew up in that neighborhood and it is not complicated. As you went down Chevrolet Ave South past 3rd Ave you went down a steep hill and under the Chevy sign over the river and up a steep hill. Hence Chevy in the hole. I agree this is the low point topographically but it was called chevy in the hole because of what I said. I hate how people over think analysis stuff. I worked at Pete's pub where many people drank there lunch. Lol and I've never heard any other explaination. Lived my whole life there.
I inherited a belt buckle from my grandfather. He worked at the Metal Fab. shop in Flint basically his entire life. I've tried to research the buckle, but haven't been able to find a single thing about it! Has a "bowtie" in the middle with "1954 Chevrolet 1979" inside the bowtie. It says "Metal Fabricating" along the top of the buckle, & "Flint Michigan" along the bottom. Anyone familiar with one?
I worked in plants 4-5 between 1976 and 1980. Here are some of my memories:- Plant 5 engine line - oil in the air, on the floor, on your clothes, in your nose. The wooden floor absorbed spills, but if they were too big a janitor would bring by a bucket of metal shavings throw it down, and shovel it up. - Calling in your order to the bar on the top of the hill for a hamburger before the 11:36am lunch break, rushing up to the bar to drink 2 boilermakers, back on the job by 12:06, then eating your burger on the line.- Stacking up hundreds of V-8 engine blocks because the next line was down (or they were defective) so the foreman from your line could still get his numbers for the shift.- Breaking thousands of new spark plugs with a hammer so they could be written off as scrap. They had paint on them. - Sharing jobs. 2 people would take half-hour turns doing 2 jobs so one of them could read, visit, eat, etc. As long as the jobs were done, most foremen would look the other way.- Boxes of bulk salt pills hung next to the time clock on hot days. - Tonk, a fast card game I never understood, but watched more than one man loose their paycheck playing on Friday.- People with college degrees on the line because the benefits were good for a family.- People who couldn't read or write working along side them.
Thanks for commenting. 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 www.teardownbook.com.