Thursday, May 31, 2012

Flint for the Weekend

Headed to Flint today for some reporting related to my book project with the University of California Press. I'll be posting with my phone, so please excuse any misspellings, design disasters and various other miscues that will probably ensue.

Anything exciting happening this weekend I should know about?

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Flint Artifacts: 1986 Michigan License Plate

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Gardens of Illinois Avenue

Here's a great idea to help the East Side, but it needs your vote to secure funding. And today's the last day to vote.

So vote here.

Now that we've got that taken care of, here's a description of the project from the Peace Mob Gardens Facebook page.
We have adopted a city block where every home has been burnt down, and would like to develop it into an orchard. The perimeter of the 4 acre parcel will be surrounded with a living fence of Grape Vines. Inside will be planted with various fruit trees that will be trained into giant Peace signs. 
Funds will be used to level the land, purchase supplies for forms for the "Peace Trees", living fence, and pathways. Remaining funds will purchase as many fruit trees, and supplies to grow vines as possible. If there is extra we will build raspberry, strawberry, and other fruit beds.

This project would be as a continuation of a project that already consists of a Community Garden currently feeding people and helping to build community in a long neglected portion of Flint Michigan's east side. In addition to providing food and a sense of community our community garden and related projects are also used to help demonstrate sustainable methods of urban living and teach science and environmental awareness to inner city youth.
Flint's problems can seem overwhelming, but small projects like this one can make a difference. No, this won't transform Flint's economy, but it's a start toward something better.

Monday, May 28, 2012

General Motors Parking Lot

During a five block walk to a friend's house in San Francisco's Bernal Heights neighborhood I spotted a surprisingly wide variety of vintage G.M. cars  

Dream Cars: Chevy Impala

Another General Motors gem on the streets of San Francisco.

Dream Cars: Chevrolet Monte Carlo

Spotted on the streets of San Francisco.

Flint Expatriates Battle Tropical Storm

My mom is riding out out Tropical Storm Beryl in Florida with her dog, Robby, and her cat, Prince III. Having grown up in Flint, she is unfazed by a little bad weather. Hang in there, Ma.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Mapping the Landscape of Underwater Mortgages

Think the United States is turning the corner on the housing crisis? This negative equity map from Zillow might change your mind. Just plug in a zip code to see the percentage of homeowners underwater on their mortgage in that area. In my old Civic Park neighborhood — the 48504 zip code —it's 65 percent, placing it in the worst 5 percent nationwide.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Mobile Homeless

Car culture has many forms in San Francisco. The so-called "mobile homeless" have had a prominent spot on city streets for years. I spotted all these vehicle/domiciles during a short walk in the Outer Mission area. The duct-taped Mercury (above and below) is usually parked in the same spot, which is good because there's only a small section of the front windshield that isn't taped over for privacy. Not exactly street legal, but local law enforcement is highly selective in how they enforce the rules and regulations of the road. The campers and vans roam around the neighborhood, avoiding parking violations and noisy neighbors.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Dream Cars

Now's my chance to own a hearse, er, Caprice wagon with faux woodgrain trim. Spotted this beauty outside the city dump on Tunnel Avenue in San Francisco, complete with a for sale sign in the back window. 

Monday, May 21, 2012

Dogs, Booze, Miss Pacman, and an Eclipse

It appears that conditions were not ideal for viewing the eclipse on Sunday in Michigan, but San Francisco lucked out with a fog-free day. It was still windy as hell on the top of Bernal Hill where I gathered with the other locals, who, as usual, arrived with dogs and various libations. (If you expand the photos with the sun immediately above and below, you can see a tiny reflection of the eclipse off the camera lens. It's just below the guy's forearm in the shot below, and in the lower right in the shot above. It looks like Miss Pacman.)

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Flint Photos: Riverbank Park Construction

Special thanks to Deb Knudsen for the photos.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Elm Park and Floral Park

Does anyone know the boundaries of the Elm Park and Floral Park subdivisions in Flint to the southeast of downtown? I believe big sections of both neighborhoods are taken up with highways at this point. A map would be a big help. Thanks for any assistance.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Remembering and Reviving Riverbank Park

Riverbank Park in downtown Flint shortly after it opened in 1979.

UPDATE: Thanks for all the feedback on this post asking for recollections of Riverbank Park. Now you can do even more to help revive this downtown landmark. Cade Surface writes:

I was wondering if you might give a shout out to the “Riverbank Park Revival” project entry for the “Let’s Save Michigan” placemaking contest. “Let’s Save Michigan” is an organization dedicated to economic development in the state based on the creation and reservation of vibrant communities, transit, and public spaces. This contest was created so communities could take an underused or overlooked public space and help it become an important public place. Riverbank Park was submitted and accepted as a prime candidate, but now it is up to a public vote to decide who moves on to the final round of judging. If you’d be so kind, I think your readers could add to our momentum. All they have to do is follow this link and enter their email address to vote. They can also vote once per day! 

Here's the original post:

Cade Surface, a recent UM-Flint graduate and current Carriage Town homeowner, is conducting research on Riverbank Park for the Flint River Corridor Alliance to assist with several projects related to programming and maintenance work at the park.

The park was designed by esteemed landscape architect Lawrence Halprin, although many debate how much work he actually did on it. I've had very mixed feelings about the park over the years, but it has really grown on me lately. The reduction of the water level through downtown has left many features dry and unused. It would be great to see the park up and running at full capacity again.

Cade is asking the readers of Flint Expatriates to offer up any memories or thoughts on Riverbank Park, as well as any old photos or memorabilia. He'd like to document the history of the park as part of the efforts to help restore it. You can comment on this post or email me any digital photos or thoughts. I'll pass them along to Cade. Or you can send info directly to Cade at csurface(at)umflint(dot)edu.By the way, longtime readers might remember Cade as the guy who once gave me a tour of his frat house. He's a good guy. Let's try and help him out. (He bought a house in Flint, after all, so let's show him a little gratitude.

Early fundraising and promotional materials.

"Sponsor a piece of the park."

An early concert shortly after Riverbank Park opened with the short-lived Duane Hatchett sculpture visible in the background.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Flint Photos: Wood Street in the Early 1900s

Flint Artifacts: Buick Stop Leak

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Alan MacLeese, R.I.P.

Al MacLeese, a Flint journalist in an era when jobs and good times were plentiful, died recently in Maine. Known for his storytelling and his "MacLeese Unleashed" column, MacLeese received an eloquent sendoff from Roger Van Noord on MLive:
"After serving four years in the Navy during the Korean War, he began his newspaper career at the Miami Herald, followed by work at more than two-dozen other newspapers across the country, from San Francisco to Boston, some of them more than once as he was hired and fired -- or never showed up for work.
"As MacLeese once put it: Some of the papers 'I cannot recollect offhand, and who doubtless cannot recollect me, given the brevity of my loyal service.'
"He began work at The Journal in 1968 and stayed far longer than he had at any other paper. He told about being hired at the Journal earlier in the 1960s, then not ever showing up in the newsroom because he was off on a drinking spree. Despite that disappearance, the Journal hired him again, perhaps a testament to his abilities as a copy editor.
"He served as the Journal’s copy desk chief and also as columnist, 'MacLeese Unleashed.' He told stories, and wrote frankly about his experiences and his demons, with wit and a highly personal style."
Go here to read the rest. It's worth it.

Sentimental Journey

The stage of the Capitol Theater in better days.

A reflection on Flint from Pat McFarlane Young, born at Hurley Hospital on November 2, 1930. It was originally posted on November 7, 2007, and it's one of my favorites on Flint Expatriates.
A stranger traveling through Flint today would, in all probability, view it as a rather dreary, gray, nondescript city filled with abandoned factories, boarded up buildings, and streets in need of repair. It certainly doesn’t have the charm of San Francisco or the excitement of New York, but I still see Flint through the eyes of my youth.

I often have an acute attack of melancholy thinking of my school days at Central High. My thoughts drift to 1945 and the school grounds teeming with students on their lunch hour, sitting on the lawn or hanging around Lloyd’s Drug Store, hiding their cigarettes in cupped hands. If I hurried I could run downtown for a coke at Pinecrest, a tiny lunch counter in the Capitol Theater Building. It was a hangout for the so called “400,” a faction everyone wanted desperately to belong to. I felt that my presence there would somehow make me belong as if by osmosis — a theory soon disproved by the chosen few.

After school I studied in the old Public Library, standing like a fortress at Kearsley and Clifford Streets. It was full of enchanting nooks and crannies with mysterious, narrow stairways where I sat and hid for hours in the world of books. I’m sure the new library offers many more advantages, but never again will I be able to escape in such a belletristic atmosphere.

I grew up on the Eastside and recall the unexplained pride I felt when the 3:30 Buick factory whistle blew and the roughly dressed workers poured out of the General Motors labyrinth swinging their lunch pails. Some were headed for home and some for the corner bar, but all with the determined step of an army after a battle won. I somehow felt as if I were a part of this giant assembly line and the city it fed.

Saturday night was an exciting climax to the week. I sometimes spent the evening surrounded by rainbows of shimmering colored light bouncing off the ceiling and walls like ping pong balls as couples swayed gently to the music. A psychedelic happening? No, only Saturday night at the IMA during the big band era. The World War II melodies of “Moonlight Cocktail” and “Sentimental Journey” were perfect accompaniments for the mood of the times.

Nostalgia, I’m sure, is the opiate of old age. Memories over ten years old automatically become the “good ol’ days." We remember only the happy things and leave the shaded areas behind. And yet, faintly sifting through the sands of time, I seem to recall saying, "The day I’m eighteen, I’m leaving this town."

Flint Post: 1965 Buick Skylark Hardtop Coupe

Flint Photos: Sit-Down Strike Orchestra

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Flint: What's in a Name?

Will a name change help Flint Township's dismal economic outlook and bolster its reputation? Chuck Hughes, a former township treasurer who works for the Flint School District, thinks that freeing the township from the shackles of the word "Flint" will certainly help.

"I think the issues with Flint are Flint's issues, and they are made Flint Township's by simply having Flint in the name," he told Roberto Acosta of MLive. "We're at the mercy of Flint to fix their image."

A name change committee has been formed, and any change would have to be approved by the township committee and voters. 

Of course, there's a strong argument that Flint's economic vitality during the boom years is the only reason Flint Township even exists in its present form, but a sense of history doesn't seem to be part of this debate. (Hughes salary, by the way, comes from a city of Flint entity.)

Some of the possible names being floated include West Point and Bishop, a nod to the airport. (I'm surprised West Pointe, with that all-important silent 'e' wasn't suggested.) Do readers have any other ideas? How about Fair Weather Friend Township?

Flint Artifacts: Soap Box Derby Button

Friday, May 4, 2012

Flint Photos: Riding for the Tigers

Joyce Mason, a student at Flint Junior College, pledged to ride this ferris wheel in July of 1959 until the Detroit Tigers reached 1st place in the American League or the park shut down for Labor Day. Not sure how it all turned out. Anyone know?

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Flint Photos: Kiln at DeWaters Art Center...

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Flint Photos: Innovative Security Measures

You can still own a house with a white picket fence in Flint.