Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Paul Spaniola of Paul's Pipe Shop Turns 100

Obviously not the best shot of Paul Spaniola, but this photo captures "old Flint" better than anything I've seen in a long time. It's the city as I remember it. Some things don't change in the Vehicle City. (Special thanks to Sammy Jo Hester of the Flint Journal, a great photojournalist, for the shot. See her other work here.)

The ultimate survivor, Paul Spaniola, is 100 years old. Paul and his family have managed to keep the venerable Paul's Pipe Shop in downtown Flint going, despite Flint's well-documented socio-economic swan dive. And as a Catholic school kid, I have to admire his cordial relationship with the local nuns, as evidenced by the photo above.

Speaking of Paul and nuns, the Flint Journal's Scott Atkinson relates this story in an excellent piece on Spaniola's birthday:
At the party at the pipe shop, his children recounted the story of when Spaniola was in the sixth grade at Catholic school and the nun told him he had to spend the rest of the day in a closet. There was one problem with her plan -- the closet had a window.

Spaniola jumped out the window and took off, making it back just in time to be let out by the nun, who, as the story goes, had no idea.

Now 100, Spaniola may stand as a living testament to those who want to break all the rules -- like staying in school and not smoking.


  1. happy birthday paul! i sent an email to the shop after reading this post to ask if paul's t-shirts exist and they responded in an hour! ( not yet but perhaps soon...)

  2. The "local nun" is his daughter.

  3. He passed away Tuesday 9/27/2013.


Thanks for commenting. I moderate comments, so it may take a while for your comment to appear. 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