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.

48 comments:

  1. It was still there when I moved to Flint in 1981...ahh, it was a nice thing to see lit up after dark. I could see it looking west from Kearsley Street just around the corner from my first Flint apartment on Avon Street. Occasionally we'd walk downtown to Hat's Pub, and I liked seeing it then, too, up ahead. I guess it's useless to bemoan the departure of these enjoyable landmarks.

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    1. Burton GeneseretMarch 1, 2013 at 6:04 PM

      You could see it from east of downtown? While it was about 50 feet up, wouldn't it have been blocked by the factories and buildings downtown. It was south of Kearsley St. and just north of the river about as low in elevation as you can get in Flint. Maybe you're thinking of Genesee Towers...

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    2. Jan Worth-NelsonMarch 3, 2013 at 7:51 PM

      Well, was there another Chevy bowtie I was seeing, then? I don't think I dreamed it...No, of course I'm not thinking of Genesee Towers, which is to the south and east.

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    3. Jan- I'm not trying to besmirch your memories, I'm just saying I have no idea how you saw the bowtie from the vantage point of Kearsley and Avon. As a 'toid who lived not far from Avon and Kearsley and one who whilst growing up on the westside drove under the sign countless times I'm trying to spatially figure it all out. Nothing personal, I'm just nerding out.

      First of all, if you could see from there you'd be looking at the side of the sign- it was perpendicular to Chevrolet Avenue.

      Second, line of site from Avon and Kearsley you'd be have to look over 1 1/2 miles through French Hall, Citizens Bank, all the buildings where Water Street Pavilion was built, Flint Lumber Co., a bunch of Chevy in the Hole Factories, and even though it was probably 50 feet high, it was at one of the lowest elevations in town.

      The only possible vantage point I can see is from the catwalk between Walker and the Post Office. That might have given you sufficient elevation, though still you'd see the sign from the side. I'm sure the glow was visible from afar.


      If you care, take a look at the ruler tool on Google Earth. The sign was on Chevrolet Ave. just north of the river.

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  2. One of the two Chevy neons, or a close facsimile...and I was told at one point it was an original...was mounted on a ground stand off to one side of the dealership in Fenton as of a few years ago. I don't know if it's still there--I think that dealership changed hands, and the sign might have been moved then or separately.

    I can't imagine that either of these was scrapped, or has since been lost. It must have been obvious all along that they had substantial collector/museum value, in addition to their value to the many dealerships.

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    1. Bernard Barney Mann-HallMarch 1, 2013 at 6:46 PM

      Of course, they tore down the Sill Building, the Kobacker Building, and the Milner Arcade also, to name a few. If those buildings had been in Ann Arbor, there would have at least been a great public outcry before they were demolished. It looks like the Kobacker Building had been sandblasted before the photographs taken here, and revealed a certain beauty that I had never seen in it before.

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  3. Of course, the fact that they're *somewhere* doesn't do much to ameliorate the sense of loss *here*.

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  4. current view... very depressing

    https://maps.google.com/maps?q=kettering+university&hl=en&ll=43.009135,-83.708997&spn=0.005774,0.025105&fb=1&gl=us&hq=kettering+university&hnear=kettering+university&cid=0,0,5522600078693461965&t=h&z=16&layer=c&cbll=43.00948,-83.709264&panoid=-WrTfuMzdeM35fTVXSLgDA&cbp=12,149.42,,0,9.23

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    1. meh, I dunno... sure the old image shows Flint during it's (waning) glory days and the current one shows what looks like desolate steppe if you squint, but think about it- Chevy in the Hole was a near century-long environmental disaster.

      The mighty Flint River was ranked as the 2nd most polluted in MI(after the Clinton) for years thanks to C.I.T.H., Buick City etc. The ground there is toxic. I can tell you as a Westsider the aroma of burning plastic was not infrequent... and the paved banks for God's sake. Add to that the amount of alcoholism fostered within yards of that unholy warren of factories- Happy Hour, F.A.C., Peter's Pub, Beaver Trap, Titty City, Camaro Lounge, Club Slide, Down The Tracks, Vechell's... I'm as guilty of romanticizing the dumpy parts of Flint as anybody else, but still, this area was Grade A dump. Having said that I think Kettering and company will make it look crappier still with miles of parking lots, cheap architecture, and bad landscaping.

      Look, Flint was bustling when C.I.T.H. was rocking, but try to look on the bright side- a remediated, cleaner natural environment isn't really depressing.

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    2. The paved banks were a relatively recent Corps of Engineers mod, to fix the potential for disruptive flooding within the city by speeding up the river's average flow velocity until it got to the less-economically-valuable golf course flood plain.

      As to environmental disastrousness: I don't mean to come across as a troglodyte or anything, but I'd rather have 10,000 good jobs back even if it meant a somewhat dirty river. Cleaning up the environment by means of elimination of industry and jobs is, for all but the most committed greenies, a Pyrrhic victory.

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    3. Eldridge LongfellowMarch 1, 2013 at 7:49 PM

      I agree on every point presented. It was bad on so many levels. It served its purpose. It became irrelevant. Its gone. They stuck a fork in it. Good riddance to it and all associated with it. If you find yourself romanticizing this place, you really need to get out more.

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    4. I always "romanticize" jobs, however grimy they are. Nothing makes up for the absence of good jobs.

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  5. This overpass went from Plant 2 to Plant 2A. The Neon Chevrolet Logo Sign was iconic.

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  6. Walked thru the "tunnel" many times as a GMI student and later as an employee. I think it was a holdover from when bodies were shipped over to be dropped on the chassis when they used to assemble cars in plant 2 before the complex became a parts plant complex.The Chevy sign was a landmark,always lit up,comforting symbol of Flint's industrial might. Who would of thought where it would end up.

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  7. Bernard Barney Mann-HallMarch 1, 2013 at 6:50 PM

    Governor Snyder today announced that he was committed to rebuilding Detroit. It would be much easier to rebuild Flint. Why not start there?

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  8. The neon signs are still in place at Vic Canever Chevrolet in Fenton.

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  9. Also worth noting that a lot of people who worked at Chevy in the Hole did it so their kids wouldn't have to. Not saying it wasn't great to have those jobs, but the notion that all the workers loved their work is a little far fetched. It was a means to an end for many, not a dream job.

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  10. I notice that a lot of people that post here are Flint centric. If they had only lived a just a couple counties away, they would realize that problems are not limited to Flint. There are nasty jobs and nasty people everywhere. I had a job one summer in ANN ARBOR in a Research Lab where I synthesized BIOCHEMICALS, where a byproduct was CYANIDE GAS. I wore a GAS MASK, but that's nasty. I have also encountered nasty corporate people, classmates, and coworkers throughout Michigan, not just Flint. By extension, these problems extend to the rest of the world. Wouldn't you really rather work with CYANIDE, rather than have a BUICK?

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    1. Ugh, Flint is way more polluted than Ann Arbor and less so than Chernobyl. This is Flint Expatriates, not Ann Arbore Expatriates or Bhopal Expatriates.

      If my only choice is cyanide or a Buick, well that doesn't make any sense. I will say this though, cyanide poisoning is probably preferable to owning an '80 Skylark.

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  11. My dad worked at Chevy in the Hole for a time where he served on an inplant fire brigade when needed.This was way back. He said that more than once the river would catch on fire,and they would fight it from the buildings on both sides. As a kid I remember hanging out on the Mott Park golf course bridge and watching plumes of some witches brew belching up from the muck and floating away in a rainbow hued plume.Up until the mid 60's,this was Flint's public water source. As far as the paved part of the river,I would leave it alone. God knows what is trapped beneath that cement.

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  12. > Up until the mid 60's,this was Flint's public water source.

    And it still is the ready backup source, if the DWSD pipeline from Oakland County fails somehow.

    But the intake is upstream of Flint. The river historically has been free of detectable industrial contamination at that point...it drains a large part of the base of the Thumb area, topographically south of the Cass River watershed, and that area has always been mostly farmed and forested, with no major polluting industries, mines and so forth.

    So, discussion of industrial contaminants in downstream reaches is not particularly relevant to Flint water supply issues.

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  13. Like the famed Cuyahoga River in Cleveland catching on fire, it was NOT THE RIVER, but oil on top of the river, that caught fire. The plumes you saw were oil or petroleum products of oil. The rainbow effect is from different wavelengths of light reflecting and interfering with itself through a thin layer of oil on top of the river. In case you don't remember, oil floats on water. While not an ideal situation, there are probably hundreds of pollutants that are more dangerous. You really need to get out of town more and see the world. I suspect that someone, probably a photojournalist, set the Cuyahoga River on fire for effect. Rivers, even polluted ones, do not spontaneously combust. They have to be ignited.

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  14. Sure, it was a photojournalist who lit the Cuyahoga alight. Yup, that's the ticket.

    You really need to get out more and see the world, there are still places where polluted water bodies catch fire. Sounds like a blast.

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    1. You ARE correct,there are hundreds of pollutants that are more dangerous than petroleum,and I'm sure that they are also in the sediments of the Flint River. As far as drinking the water, nothing is more toxic than the metal plating that took place at Ternsted,and was discharged eventually into the river USTREAM of the water intake I believe. As far as farming (the modern kind) not leading to water pollution .....are you serious?

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    2. While Ternsted was a mile from the river, much of their waste was trucked over to a dump which is now largely UNDER Mott Lake. If I recall correctly cadmium and chromium were the main pollutants.

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  15. If you think water burns, you know very little about Chemistry. For one, flammable organic chemicals need to be in huge concentrations to burn, if they mix at all. Second, oil and petroleum products don't mix. The oil, etc. on the top burns. If a dissolved polar organic burns, only the organic part burns, not the water. Environmentalists and Journalists may go to great lengths to dispute this, but it is fact. If water burns, what are the combustion products????

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    1. This site is for expatriates of Flint. No one cares about your extensive knowledge of chemistry. I would also go out on a limb and say that no one here actually believes that water itself burns. It just appears to make you feel really good about yourself to make others feel intellectually inferior. If you aren't here for the intended purpose of this forum than who really is intellectually inferior? There is a forum for you somewhere, where you may actually find someone to stroke you and your ill-conceived ego. Good luck finding an outlet to validate yourself as a person, but I can guarantee you that place is NOT here. I think that I speak on behalf of the membership,that you would be better off being perpetually anonymous and insignificant somewhere else.

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    2. In fact, Tony, there are several engineers and other scientists and others technically educated who read this and post here. There are other literary and journalist types who read it who make uninformed statements and I try to correct them. Tony, you are just being a troll. I made the statements without anger and emotion, just to inform.

      I know that there are some people in Flint and elsewhere who post here who want to believe in falsehoods and believe that industrial pollution and worker treatment were worse here than anywhere else, but it's just not true. For instance, there are lakes in the former Soviet Union that have so much radioactive material dumped into them that if you stood by the edge you would die within hours from radiation. You probably blame the US because they ended World War II the way they did for the Soviet Union's dumping problem. Informed industrial redevelopment is the only thing that will save the Midwest, not just Michigan and not just Flint. Excessive environmental restrictions will doom the area to constant economic problems and only menial jobs that can't be outsourced.

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  16. Lets see......dump the stuff into the river....into Saginaw Bay......circulate it down to Port Huron......and into our water intake pipe....what's the difference. Really.

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  17. Damn, we are going to the mat over this burning river issue. I did some canoeing on the river near Flushing in 2010. Fun day. No fires.

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    1. No industry=Cleaner rivers


      When Flint was at it's apex, early 60s maybe, you probably wouldn't want to be funnin' around in a canoe in Flushing or Flint or Montrose. You can nowadays because we have hardly any industry and a fraction of the pollution we used to.

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  18. I forgot all those glamorous university and pharmaceutical research laboratory jobs in medical schools, pharmacy schools, and pharmaceutical labs in college towns where the main duties consist of cleaning you-know-what out of animal cages. I never did that myself but I knew a lot of people who did. Made it hard for them to find dates that would put up with the persistent smell, along with the hamster cage cedar chip odor.

    Waste from medical and pharmaceutical research and facilities has the potential to be more dangerous than auto plant effluent. You may not only have active bacteria and viruses, but intermediate biologically active chemicals and byproducts from organic synthesis. There was a notorious medical dump in Grand Rapids called the Butterworth Dump that had such hazardous waste products, as well as used hypodermic needles pointing out of the soil. And one thing that makes no sense at all-why aren't used condoms treated as hazardous medical waste if hypodermic syringes and blood test waste are treated as such now? A dirty reality, but one that needs to be exposed when Flint's past effluent is to be put in perspective.

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    1. Industrial WagerMarch 4, 2013 at 5:54 PM

      The name "Butterworth Dump" sounds simultaneously delicious and disgusting. Berlin & Farro in contrast looks like nothing but trouble.

      Check out photos 1-4 and 9.


      http://aliciapatterson.org/stories/nation-transition-faces-80s

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  19. If you expect people using condoms in cars and alleys to find appropriate disposal methods post-coitus you really are from Ann Arbore.


    Yea, medical waste can be nasty, but I have yet to have heard of an epidemic spreading from a biohazard waste site. Manufacturing waste on the other hand has time and time again proven to be a killer. It is a mater of degree. Factories dumped mass quantities of pollutants directly into the environment on a regular basis, medical waste is generally localized. Plenty of industrial pollutants have seeped into groundwater causing cancer and other diseases. I've never heard of Ebola contracted via soil.

    Next thing you're gonna tell me is that Ann Arbore has a higher murder rate than Flint.

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    1. There are many infections that are being spread in hospitals. Antibiotic resistant bacteria are becoming more and more prevalent. New ones are surfacing all the time, and the pharmaceutical industry literally can't keep up with them. These outbreaks are often hidden as long as possible for liability reasons. Carbapenem Resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE) are a class of bacteria which has been in the news in the last few days. Agenda driven news and offbeat medical groups blame consumers of antibiotics, and doctors for the outbreaks, when they should concentrate on infection prevention. I even saw a billboard in I-69 on the way to a seminar in East Lansing warning about abuse of antibiotics. Perhaps a warning to students on the way back to college trying to treat themselves for STDs?

      Disposing of medical waste also presents problems. Could burning the waste spread spores? Could bacteria and viruses get into groundwater? I don't think those answers are completely known.

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  20. NO one thinks that the water itself ever burned, but the crap on the surface most certainly did. Point is,people for centuries treated rivers and other bodies of water as a place to get rid of things........all things. The Flint was just one of them. Industries locate themselves near water. The good news is that , given half a chance, they will eventually flush themselves out to a large extent.

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  21. Look up Dateline NBC on Wikipedia and read the section on "Sidesaddle Fuel Tank Controversy" if you think that Journalists are above igniting the Cuyahoga River or Flint River for that matter to support their cause. There are other possible ignition sources of oil or gasoline on top of a river, such as carelessly disposed cigarettes or lightning, but then why were they there so fast with cameras?

    The people who are anxious to further an agenda are quick to participate in such legendary hoaxes. Dateline NBC could have had a direct negative impact on jobs in Flint with such stories.

    The idea that we don't need factories all goes back to the mistaken belief that an economy can survive just by printing money, and that no hard, value added manufacturing industry is necessary. Pushing paper and moving money from one pocket to another can work with certain large cities but only temporarily with the whole country.

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    1. "why were they there so fast with cameras?"


      Because the RIVER WAS ON FIRE.

      "Informed industrial redevelopment is the only thing that will save the Midwest, not just Michigan and not just Flint."

      Talk about putting all of your radioactive eggs in one basket. No one thing will "save" the Midwest. Your singular theory is dumb.

      "Excessive environmental restrictions will doom the area to constant economic problems and only menial jobs that can't be outsourced."

      Great, I got some used condoms, dirty hypos, a half can of gasoline, quart of turpentine, and some corroded D cells I need to dispose of. If you don't mind, I'd like to bury them in your flower bed. After all, a booming economy requires toxic waste.

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    2. She had trusted many
      But been unfamiliar with
      Almost every plant but Plant 2
      Well maybe I'm just thinking that the rivers are all on fire
      Every time that you walk into the river
      Well there are magic flames all around you, if I do say so myself
      I have known this much less long than I've known Plant 2.

      "Rivers On Fire"
      Adapted by Bradley Miller From Stevie Nicks "Rooms On Fire"
      In honor of "NBC Dateline"
      And the flaming Cuyahoga River
      And the flaming Flint River

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  22. What was the name of the corner bar at the north end of the "hole" on the west side of the street? It was a hangout for GMI students, among others.

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    1. Sufficiently large discussion boards and threads eventually gravitate to one of a small number of eternally top-of-mind subjects. One of those is bars.

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    2. Now that this thread has moved away from chemistry (C- at Powers in 1982) and onto bars, I feel much more comfortable.

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    3. Remember, some time back, when I kidded you about wearing your ref's jersy to intercede when things started to get somewhat out of hand. Lets
      get out of here have a beer Gordo.

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    4. You're on, Unclebuck! Hope all is well with you in da UP, eh. Got enough snow?

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  23. I attended Whittier Junior High School and Central High School between 1962 and 1966. I recall crossing the pedestrian bridge over Gilkey Creek every day on the way to school. Every day, the Gilkey was a different color - some days green, some days blue, some days yellow.

    Seems that several miles upstream, Gilkey Creek flowed near the AC Spark Plug complex on Dort Highway. Most of the storm sewers from the AC went straight into the Gilkey - the creek was the color of the most recent chemical overflow from the AC.

    George E. Wright

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  24. The bar at the north end of the hole on the west side was the Happy Hour. It was mostly a GMI and pressed metal bar. Motor Division preferred the Camaro, the Factory or the Sundown. Laffertys always had a mixed crowd when it was open, but it was often shut down for a few days at a time for under age dancers.


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    1. Happy Hour was on the east side of Chevrolet Ave. Maybe the questioner is thinking of Betty Jane's from the 50s/60s. The moose head from that bar hangs now in Kettering's Campus Center basement lounge named, appropriately, B.J.'s.

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  25. My grandfather retired from here around this year. I remember as a child dropping family members off here for work. Some of my fondest memories. I loved Flint back then. What a great place to grow up with the industrial and artistic aspects of the city. But now, I wouldn't live there to save my soul. The crime rate has skyrocketed and when you have to pay attention to what color you are wearing on what side of town, well then it is time to go. I now live in the Daytona Beach area and have chosen to give my children a better opportunity by raising them here. TRC

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