Thursday, February 28, 2013

Flint Photos: Chevy in the Hole, 1979

Another dearly departed Flint landmark. Chevrolet Avenue looking southeast in March of 1979. Photo courtesy of Bryan P. Snyder.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

The Horror-Romance of Flint

I'm reading Stasiland: Stories from Behind the Berlin Wall by Anna Funder. This line reminded me of Flint. Not all of Flint, but a part of it, the part where my memories of the place meet the reality of present day.
I think about the feeling I've developed for the former German Democratic Republic. It is a country which no longer exists, but here I am on a train hurtling through it — its tumbledown houses and bewildered people. This feeling needs a sticklebrick word: I can only describe it as horror-romance. It's a dumb feeling, but I don't want to shake it.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Channeling Flint in Palm Springs

I went to Palm Springs for the first time last weekend. You might think it's difficult for a blogger about Flint to gin up a connection between the Vehicle City and a SoCal celebrity retreat/haven for well-off snowbirds, but it wasn't as hard as I thought. (Another Flintoid named Jeff Stork has already staked an impressive claim to Palm Springs car culture.) General Motors, especially Cadillac, still maintains an impressive foothold in this desert enclave.

What's more Flint than an abandoned shopping center? The Palm Springs Mall, a  testament to overbuilding during the boom years, is occupied only by a Kaplan College campus.

A Chevy in all its glory in the lobby of the convention center. The price? $44,000.

Retro car art is in abundant supply.

Did Palm Springs steal Flint's unofficial motto for downtown development?

More great car art that's way out of my price range.

This reminded me of buying Matchbox cars at the Kresge's on Saginaw Street.

Self portrait with a little help from Chevrolet.

Flint Photos: Saginaw and 2nd Streets, c. 2006

On the left is the former home of The Vogue clothing store. It later became the second location of The Copa nightclub before it was demolished. See a more recent view here. Thanks to Grumkin for another great photo.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Flint Photos: Kobacker Building Demolition in 1979

Paul and David Mata in downtown Flint near the Kobacker Building during its demolition in 1979. (Photo by Pedro Mata)

Monday, February 18, 2013

Teardown: Memoir of a Vanishing City by Gordon Young

Teardown: Memoir of a Vanishing City by Gordon Young will hit bookstores in June 2013. It's available now for pre-order. Go to for photos, excerpts, reviews, links to online stores like Barnes & Noble, and more.

At the height of the real estate bubble, Gordon Young and his girlfriend buy a tiny house in their dream city, San Francisco. They’re part of a larger influx of creative types moving to urban centers, drawn by the promise of fulfilling jobs, bars that offer a dizzying selection of artisanal bourbons, and the satisfaction that comes from thinking you’re in a place where important things are happening. But even as Young finds a home in a city sometimes described as 49 square miles surrounded on all sides by reality, a vital part of him still resides in industrial America in the town where he was raised: Flint, Michigan. It’s the birthplace of General Motors, “star” of the Michael Moore documentary Roger & Me, and a place that supplies the national media with never-ending fodder for “worst-of” lists.

Filled with nostalgia and compelled to help his struggling hometown, Young hatches a plan to buy a house in Flint. He embarks on a tragi-comic odyssey to rediscover the city that once supplied the country with shiny Buicks and boasted one of the highest per capita income levels in the world, but now endures a real unemployment rate pushing 40 percent. What he finds is a place of stark contrasts and dramatic stories, where an exotic dancer can afford a lavish mansion, and speculators snap up cheap houses on eBay by the dozen like jelly donuts. There are desolate blocks where only a single house is occupied, and survivors brandish shotguns and monitor police scanners. While the population plummets, the murder rate soars. Throw in an arson spree and a racially motivated serial killer and Young wonders if Flint can be saved.

And yet, he discovers glimmers of hope. He befriends a rag-tag collection of urban homesteaders and die-hard residents who refuse to give up on the city. Dave Starr, a well-armed shop rat who logged 14,647 days in a G.M. plant, battles cancer and economic decline as he joins forces with his neighbors to preserve a lone block surrounded by decay. Pastor Sherman McCathern negotiates with God in his heroic effort to transform an abandoned church and improve the lives of his congregation. Mayor Dayne Walling, a Rhodes Scholar in his thirties who spent his adult life grooming himself to run Flint, has the toughest job in politics — one that sometimes necessitates police protection for his family. And Dan Kildee, a local politician and urban planning visionary, grabs international attention — and trades jabs with Rush Limbaugh — by arguing that Flint and other troubled urban areas should manage decline instead of futilely trying to stop it.

Young’s insights, hard-hitting and often painfully funny, yield lessons for cities all over the world. He reminds us that communities are ultimately defined by people, not politics or economics. Teardown reveals that the residents of Flint are still fighting, in spite of overwhelming odds, to reinvent their city. In the end, Young learns that you can go home again. But the journey is likely to be far more agonizing and rewarding than you ever imagined.


Praise for Teardown

There must be a thousand good reasons to flee Flint. I can't assume there are many reasons to return. Gordon Young's Teardown supplies a few of these answers. A humorous, heartfelt and often haunting tale of a town not many could love. Fortunately for us, a few still do.
- Ben Hamper, author of Rivethead: Tales From the Assembly Line
Teardown is the tragic and somehow hilarious tale of one man's attempt to return to his hometown of Flint, Michigan. Gordon Young is a Flintoid at heart, and his candid observations about both the shrinking city and his own economic woes read heartbreakingly true.
- Novella Carpenter, author of Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer
Armed with an aluminum baseball bat and a truth-seeking pen, Gordon Young returns to the post-industrial wasteland of his hometown — Vehicle City, aka Flint, Michigan — in search of a derelict house to buy and restore. At least that's his cover story. Young's true mission is to reclaim his past in order to make sense of his present. If you're bewitched by the place where you grew up, you'll find comfort and a sense of home in the pages of Teardown.
- Jack Shafer, Reuters columnist and a former Michigander
Teardown is a funny and ultimately heartbreaking memoir. The travails of house hunting are skillfully interwoven with Gordon Young's attempt to reconcile life in his adopted city of San Francisco with his allegiance to Flint, Michigan, the troubled city of his childhood. The result is an all too contemporary American story of loyalty, loss, and finding your way home.
- Tom Pohrt, illustrator and author of Careless Rambles by John Clare, Having a Wonderful Time, and Coyote Goes Walking
Like so many other Flintites, I visit my hometown with a mix of sadness, repugnance, and anger. Flint is too easy to criticize, but I look back in gratitude for the values Flint instilled and the bonds I made that remain with me to this day. You can take the boy out of Flint, but you can't take Flint out of the boy.
- Howard Bragman, author of Where's My Fifteen Minutes?

Friday, February 15, 2013

Flint Photos: 1970 Riviera GS

1970 Buicks...too big to fit on a scanner.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Flint Photos: Riverbank Park in 1979

Riverbank Park in 1979, shortly after construction and before the sculpture in the background collapsed. Thanks to David Mata for the photo.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Flint Photos: Downtown, 1979

Sure glad they tore down all these great old buildings to make room for the wild success that was Water Street Pavilion and the Hyatt Regency. Thanks to David Mata for the photo.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Flint Photos: St. Michael's in the Fifties

Another great photo of Flint in the fifties by Mary Fisher.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Flint Artifacts: 1973 Midget Baseball Patch

Thanks to Dave Bontumasi for this Flint Artifact.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Yes, Flint Still Has Automotive Jobs that Can Move to Mexico

This is an unwelcome blast from the past...Flint losing automotive industry jobs to Mexico.

Shaun Byron of The Flint Journal reports:
It was announced Tuesday, Feb. 5, that Flint East, which has undergone multiple name and ownership changes in its history, will close November 2013.

Local UAW officials say they were told the work is being taken to Mexico following the end of an agreement that was already extended beyond its deadline.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

A Memorial for Flint Murder Victims

A video memorializing the 66 Flint residents who were murdered in 2012.
For more information visit the Flint Police Operations website here.

  • 1/10/2012 – Kevin Berger (55) 2400 blk Kellar Dr. Passed the next day. 
  • 1/13/2012 – Shane Denise  Bartels (38) 1000 blk VanBuskirk 
  • 1/14/2012 – Dalaun Morgan (15) 3000 blk Seneca
  • 1/14/2012 – Aaron Lacour (19)  Driving on Grand Traverse 
  • 1/17/2012 – Sam Garner (28)  2300 blk Winona 
  • 1/18/2012 – Oscar Knuckles Jr. (25)  2900 blk Raskob,  *SOLVED* 
  • 1/18/2012 – Amyre Leigh Aikins (23)  2900 blk Raskob, *SOLVED*
  • 1/22/2012 – Shamika Johnson (18) 4200 blk Winona.  *SOLVED*
  •  1/24/2012 – Dustin Newton (32) 1000 blk Bradley.  *SOLVED*
  •  2/5/2012 –  Roosevelt Dent, (78)  300 blk E. Marengo
  •  2/6/2-12 –   Rickey Seales J (20) 2500 blk, S. Dort Hwy 
  •  2/25/2012 – Samuri Lowe (32)  3100 blk Clement. 
  •  2/27/2012 – Anthony Earl Allen (20) 6600 blk Orange Lane.
  •  3/4/2012 –  Ryan Stinson (42)  4200 blk Fleming Rd.
  •  4/82012 –  Michael Edwards(39) 1700 blk Neilson St. 
  •  4/8/2012 –  Latosha Fox (32)  1700 blk Neilson St. 
  •  4/14/2012 – Danielle Woods, (24) 1700 blk S Saginaw 
  • 4/16/2012 –  Kalien Stubbs (22)  3200 blk Buick St 
  • 4/18/2012 –  Darin Bass (44)  5100 blk Fleming Rd 
  • 4/23/2012 – Andrew Jones (44) Baltimore near Dupont
  • 4/29/2012 – Donald Bell, Jr. (18)  3500 block of Providence. 
  • 4/30/2012 – Michael Hoadley (43) – Richfield Rd. and Dort Hwy 
  • 5/3/2012 –   Denzel Webster (18) 2000 block of S. Averill. 
  • 5/6/2012 –  Matthew Angell (30) 1700 block of Montana.
  • 5/17/2012 – Harold Geary (47) Industrial and Dewey. 
  • 5/26/2012 – Patrick Doughty (40) 1700 block
  • 5/27/2012 -Tommy Vaughn (16) Adams Street,
  • 6/8/2012 –  Antonio Bell Jr (14) Mott Park  *SOLVED”
  • 6/21/2012 – Joyce Nelson (49) VanWagoner and Marvin, *SOLVED*
  • 6/23/2012 – Denzel Carroll (18)  5600 blk Hillcroft Drive,  *SOLVED*
  • 6/26/2012 – Sandra Pittman (23) 300 blk E Pulaski  *SOLVED*
  • 6/26/2012 – Marquis Meeks(21) 300 blk E Pulaski  *SOLVED*
  • 7/5/2012 – Phillip Johnson Jr. (20) 4000 blk Clio 
  • 7/15/2012 – Jordache ‘Jody’ Allen (34)  300 blk Odette 
  • 7/16/2012 – Clarence Stewart (24) 1700 blk W Court St. 
  • 7/18/2012 – Anthony Simpkins (21) 700 blk Tacken 
  • 7/18/2012 – Bobby Jackson (36)  700 blk Tacken 
  • 7/18/2012 – Erica Billinsley (21) 700 blk Tacken 
  • 7/22/2012 – Anthony A Allen Ivy Jr (20) Clio and Pasadena 
  • 7/22/2012 – Markese Parker (16) 7000 blk Pemberton/Yorkshire 
  • 8/5/2012 –  Patrick Boven (40)  800 blk W Dayton
  • 8/5/2012 –  Randy C Phillips (54)  800 blk W Dayton 
  • 8/7/2012 –  Nemya Roberts (28) 3600 blk Fleming Rd *SOLVED*
  • 8/13/2012 – Angela Vance (30) Minnesota at Missouri  *SOLVED*
  • 8/28/2012 – Denaris Lewis (22) 100 blk W Lorado, critical and passed in Sept 
  • 9/9/2012 – Timothy Smith (43)  Cook & Leith *SOLVED*
  • 9/12/2012 – Levi Brazzil (26) 3200 blk of Richfield Rd *SOLVED*
  • 9/14/2012 – Adrian Key Jr  on Philadelphia
  • 9/16/2012 – Roderick Garner (31) 1000 blk E York
  • 9/16/2012 – DeVincio Lewis (21)  Lawndale & Pasadena 
  • 9/16/2012 – Jalen Cox (16) – shot and then hit by vehicle trying to get help 
  • 9/17/2012 – Willie Kidd Jr (51)  3300 blk N Saginaw 
  • 9/26/2012 – Michael McNeal (20)  100 blk Wood Street
  • 9/29/2012 – Mack Parrish IV (27)  6900 blk Yorkshire Drive, died 10/1/2012
  • 10/2/2012 – Darrius Robinson (23)  200 blk Mary Street
  • 10/9/2012 – Michael D Veal (37)  200 blk Mary Street -*SOLVED*
  • 10/16/2012 – Deborah Coleman (50) 5600 blk Edwards 
  • 10/22/2012 -Jasper Simmons     3000 blk of N Saginaw 
  • 10/30/2012 – Iris Gardner (92) 3900 blk Race Street
  • 11/6/2012 – Issac Burton (21) 2600 blk Flushing Road
  • 11/11/2012 – Mauricia Christensen (21) 100 blk E Gracelawn
  • 11/13/2012 – Kenyatta Johnson (23) Warren near Chippewa
  • 12/9/2012-  Demarkus Barnett (22) Averill & Robert T 
  • 12/10/2012 – Vena Fant (45)  600 blk Flint Park
  • 12/12/2012 – Maurice Carter (38)  700 blk Carton Street

Flint Postcards: Elms Motor Lodge

The Elms Motor Lodge in the mid fifties.

UPDATE: The former Elms Motor Lodge went up in flames on February 2, 2012.

Here's the original post from July 5, 2008.

Jim of L-Town comments: It has been a long time since the Elms looked that good. Last time I was there, I was accompanying the Flint vice squad on a prostitution sting for a story in the Journal. The room the decoy was using was so dirty and smelly that no one wanted to sit anywhere for fear that something small would hop on your clothing and hitch a ride outside. I remember thinking about what kind of person would ever put their head on a pillow in such a deranged place. There is a hotel/motel across the street in the same area that rents rooms by the hour/day/week/month. It is actually worse.

Wagonmasters: The Movie

Finally, a film for all you station wagon fans.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Flint Photos: Rick Gerow in 1959

Flint Expatriate Rick Gerow in the front yard of his house in 1959, trying out his dad's pipe, probably purchased at Paul's Pipe Shop. That's Fisher Body, site of the Sit-Down Strike in the background. Thanks for the great photo, Rick.