Monday, April 29, 2013

Free City Public Art Festival at Chevy in the Hole

Chevy in the Hole is the place to be this weekend...

"The Flint Public Art Project will temporarily reclaim Chevy-in-the-Hole, a mile-long stretch along the Flint River once occupied by a series of now-razed Chevrolet plants for Free City, a large-scale, open-air art festival taking place Friday, May 3 through Sunday, May 5, 2013. With this year’s theme—“Reclaim | Transform” —Free City will demonstrate that a critical mass of temporary activities can turn abandoned industrial properties into active public spaces, and will highlight the ongoing transformation of Flint. More than 40 artists from Flint, southeast Michigan, and the Great Lakes region will be joined by dozens of artists from across the country and Europe."

Saturday, April 27, 2013

The Chevy Chevette Lives in San Francisco

Full venting to feed that powerful Engine!

How often to you get the chance to behold a near-mint Chevy Chevette basking in the California sun? This dent- and rust-free example of G.M.'s pathetic inspired approach to small cars was spotted on Mission Street near Cesar Chavez.

Ah, such sleek lines!

Rear bumper? Standard! No expense was spared.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Citizens Bank Mascot Out of Work

Is this little guy out of a job now that Citizens Bank has been sold to FirstMerit? At least he appears to have his interview suit on.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Flint Artifacts: Winners, Losers and Shuffleboard Gamblers

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Flint Photos: Dance Marathon Contestants, July 1934

A press photo of Alice Holmes of Sioux City, Iowa and Mario Alessandro of Argentina dated July 10, 1934.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Flint Postcards: Kearsley Park

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Flint Photos: Buckingham's Department Store Fire

 Firefighters respond to a fire at Buckingham's Department Store in downtown Flint in the 1940s.

A Prayer for Michigan

An invocation delivered at the Michigan House of Representatives by The Rev. Bill Freeman, minister at All Spirits Church in Holland.
Spirit of Love, known by many names: God and Goddess, Yahweh and Allah, Dios and Divine, Nature and Nothing.

May we be grateful for the cities and towns of Michigan: From Detroit to Decatur, from Lansing to Ludington, from Grand Rapids to Grand Blanc, from Holland to Howell, from Muskegon to Munising, from Flint to Farmington Hills, from Benton Harbor to Harbor Springs.

May we be grateful for the beauty of Michigan and may it always be preserved and protected: From the Southern border to the Northern expanse, from the West Coast to the East, from Sleeping Bear Dunes to Boyne Mountain, from cherry trees to blueberry bushes.

May we be grateful for the sports teams of Michigan and may they always exhibit good sportsmanship: From the Tigers to the Lions, from the Pistons to the Red Wings, from the Spartans to the Wolverines.

And may we be grateful for all the people of Michigan: Young and old, male and female, workers and retirees, police officers and firefighters, artists and artisans, those with various abilities and capabilities, native-born and immigrants, believers and doubters, married and single, straight and gay, people of color and those of us who wish we were.

Some of us may come here today having faith in freedom and democracy. Some of us may come here today having faith in truth and goodness. Some of us may come here today having faith in liberty and justice for all. We pray that our faith is fortified in this magnificent place, today and every day. 

Perhaps it’s providential rather than coincidental that our state is shaped like a hand. May it act as a divine reminder to us all, especially our elected leaders, to lend a hand to those in need, particularly the most vulnerable among us: The children, the elderly, and the poor. May we always treat the Have-Nots with at least as much dignity and respect as we treat the Have-Lots.

Now and forevermore. Let it be. Blessed be. So be it. And: Amen.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Flint Artifacts: Wayne Johnson's Buffet Matchbook

Was there a time in Flint's glory years when caterers boasted complicated facial hair and offered up their own airports?

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Kildee Seeks Funds for Demolitions

U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee, who was instrumental in creating land banks in Michigan, has introduced legislation that would free up $1 billion in federal funds to demolish abandoned property in Michigan and several other states. Todd Spangler of The Detroit Free Press reports:
Kildee's legislation, which he plans to introduce today, would give the 18 states and Washington, D.C., that were promised funding under a foreclosure mitigation program the ability to spend up to 25% of that money on demolitions. Under the original interpretation of the program, which dates to 2010, the $7.6 billion in funding could not be used for razing buildings.
The legislation, which Kildee is sponsoring along with Republican Rep. Mike Turner of Dayton, Ohio, wouldn't change any of the existing allocations or spend more, it would only give states the flexibility to move up to 25% of their total awards into demolitions if they chose. The original program was intended to target programs that helped homeowners pay back taxes, make mortgage payments, or otherwise avoid foreclosures.
Kildee and his approach to "shrinking cities" like Flint and Detroit is profiled extensively in Teardown: Memoir of a Vanishing City by Gordon Young. The book is forthcoming from the University of California Press in June.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Flint Postcards: 1955 Gold-Plated Chevrolet Bel Air Sport Coupe

Flint Photos: Gold-Plated 1955 Chevy

G.M. celebrated its 50 millionth car in true style. James M. Miller of The Flint Journal wrote:
The gold-colored 1955 Chevy two-door hardtop was built on Nov. 23 at the Van Slyke Road assembly plant.More than 600 pieces of trim, fasteners and other parts were plated with 24-karat gold.

As soon as the car was finished, factory whistles around the city blared in celebration. The car was loaded onto a float and taken downtown for a huge parade that included 72 new vehicles and a series of GM milestone vehicles. 
Anyone know what happened to the car?

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Nabokov, Butterflies, and a Buick

The novelist James Salter writing about Vladimir Nabokov in, of all publications, People Magazine in 1975:
Though his first novel written in English, The Real Life of Sebastian Knight, in 1941, went almost unnoticed, and his next, Bend Sinister, made minor ripples, the stunning Speak, Memory, an autobiography of his lost youth, attracted respectful attention. It was during the last part of 10 years at Cornell that he cruised the American West during the summers in a 1952 Buick, looking for butterflies, his wife driving and Nabokov beside her making notes as they journeyed through Wyoming, Utah, Arizona, the motels, the drugstores, the small towns. The result was Lolita, which at first was rejected everywhere, like many classics, and had to be published by the Olympia Press in Paris (Nabokov later quarreled with and abandoned his publisher, Maurice Girodias). A tremendous success and later a film directed by Stanley Kubrick, the book made the writer famous. Nabokov coquettishly demurs. "I am not a famous writer," he says, "Lolita was a famous little girl. You know what it is to be a famous writer in Montreux? An American woman comes up on the street and cries out, 'Mr. Malamud! I'd know you anywhere.' "

Friday, April 12, 2013

Flint Photos: Flint Sit-Down Strike, January 12, 1937

Surveying the damage the day after the Battle of Running Bulls. Note the woman in the fur coat crossing the street.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Nothin' But Blue Skies

Chicago journalist and Lansing native Edward McClelland has a new book that chronicles the "story of how the country's industrial heartland grew, boomed, bottomed, and hopes to be reborn."

Nothin' But Blue Skies covers various cities in the Great Lakes Region, including Flint, which gets two separate chapters. I just finished an advance copy, and McClelland provides an insightful and sympathetic take on the people and places that make up the Rust Belt. In particular, he captures the agonizing contradictions of trying to run a shrinking city.
"The emergency manager law was written to rescue cities from corrupt or incompetent mayors," McClelland writes. "[Dayne] Walling, a cross between a Webelo and a West Wing policy wonk, was not corrupt. Nor was he incompetent. It would have been impossible to balance the budget of a city that's lost half its people and over 90 percent of its middle-class jobs without making it look even more like the set of Escape from Flint. If a city is too poor to afford democracy, it's not a city anymore." 
 Nothin' But Blue Skies is a must read for anyone trying to understand the forces aligned against cities like Flint. Thankfully, it also presents compelling, heart-felt portraits of the people fighting to save the city.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Flint Photos: U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee in Afghanistan

The Rarest of Rarities...A GM Job in Flint, Michigan

Birdwatchers long to catch sight of the Scaly-sided Merganser. Baseball card collectors lust after a mint-condition Honus Wagner. And serious record collectors pine away for the 1962 single version of Elvis's Good Luck Charm. But for Michigan job hunters, nothing is more elusive than a G.M. job in Flint.
Stockkeeper-PUR0002149: Responsible for maintaining essential records and inventory of parts and materials. Prepare parts orders, follow the status of orders and maintain follow-up with supervision. Work involves a number of different clerical operations with decisions made based on established practices and procedures. Supervisors are available to handle unusual situations.
Apply here.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Butchery and the Art of Innovative Teaching

Flint Expatriate Kara Tambellini (seated third from left in front of the pig's feet) and her students learn the art of butchery from Camas Davis (standing with guest of honor). Photo by Holly Andres for The New York Times Magazine.

When I was in high school in the eighties, the most exotic classes at Powers were choir and European History. Things are a little different in Portland at the Oregon Episcopal School. Flint expatriate Kara Tambellini, formerly of Stone Street and Brookside Drive, just finished teaching a week-long class in butchery with the help of butcher Camas Davis that caught the attention of The New York Times Magazine. Marnie Hanel reports:
Butchery is a new course being offered by the Oregon Episcopal School, an independent preparatory academy that prides itself on “inquiry-based learning.” Each year, the week before spring break, called Winterim, is reserved for experimental education projects. Some students go dog-sledding in Minnesota. Others play Dungeons & Dragons or opt for an intensive course in the art of hat-making. Recently, an English teacher at the school, Kara Tambellini, read an article about the Portland Meat Collective and proposed a course on butchery.
No word yet on whether any of the students plan to relocate to Flint for a job at Abbott's Meats.  

Friday, April 5, 2013

Flint Photos: Saginaw Street in 1925

A parade of new Chevys rolls down Saginaw Street in 1925. For more photos like this one, visit Gerry Godin's All Things Buick blog.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Flint Portraits: John P. Ribner and the Legacy of the Bear

A reluctant hero with a tortured past, a willing mentor and a host of fearsome adversaries come together in the new novel, “Legacy of the Bear.” But what does this have to do with Flint, Michigan? Plenty!
“Legacy of the Bear” is the exciting and fast-paced novel written by Flint native John P. Ribner. Set during the Viking Age, the story chronicles Autar Magnusson’s quest to become a man and a warrior. Once labeled a coward by his father, Autar is nonetheless determined to risk his very life against a ferocious and legendary bear to prove himself worthy of becoming a renowned warrior. But will he inherit the legacy of the bear?
John’s lifelong love for all things Viking began in his hometown of Flint, when he was a student at Gillespie Elementary School. “I think I was in fourth or fifth grade when I found a book about Norse mythology in the school’s library, and I checked it out on a whim because I liked the artwork on the cover,” said John. “When I read it, I was immediately intrigued by the power, beauty and ultimate tragedy that is the legacy of the Norse gods. It changed my life.”
From there, John continued his interest in all things Viking while also being introduced to the world of fantasy fiction in his early teens. He got serious about writing in 2012, when he finished and published his novel. “At the heart of it, ‘Legacy of the Bear’ is a very human story that almost anyone can relate to,” he said. “It’s a coming-of-age tale in which a sensitive person searches for maturity and he finds it, but only after much emotional loss and difficulty. His father was a great warrior who died a hero’s death; but, Autar chooses not to follow in his footsteps. Life has a way of pushing him onto the path that will lead him to his destiny, though, and it’s not long before Autar is forced to confront his troubled relationship with his father – as well as his fears – by accepting the challenge to fight a bear with just a spear and an axe.”
John says that Autar’s journey parallels his own experiences growing up in Flint. “The process of creating this book has been a journey for me, as much as it was for Autar,” he said. “Writing it has definitely brought back some memories; but it’s also helped me place those memories in the greater context of my life. It’s been an experience, that’s for sure!”
“Legacy of the Bear” is available in e-book format for the Kindle and Nook Tablet, and a printed version is also available on John P. Ribner is easily accessible on Facebook and Twitter. John currently lives in Novi, MI with his wife and three children, where he is busy writing “Prophecy of the Bear”, the sequel to “Legacy of the Bear,” and “World So Dark”, a neo-noir crime thriller.

Tax Foreclosures Translate Into More Land Bank Holdings in Flint

An abandoned house on Humboldt Street in Flint's Civic Park neighborhood.

After the latest round of tax foreclosures, 14 percent of all parcels in Flint are now owned by the Genesee County Land Bank.

The land bank concept was made a reality in Michigan by Dan Kildee, now the Democratic U.S. congressman representing Flint. It was partly a response to Kildee's frustration with speculators treating Flint houses like disposable property and his desire to demolish derelict, abandoned housing, discussed in my profile of Kildee for Slate:
For many years, Kildee had no real way of making this vision—Utopian or not—a reality. As the treasurer of Genesee County, which includes Flint, he oversaw a tax foreclosure process that often took seven years to complete, and private speculators always had first dibs at public auctions. Kildee simply couldn't get his hands on very many abandoned houses. So he helped craft legislation in Michigan in the '90s that enabled public "land banks" to quickly gain control of delinquent property—and the revenue it often generates. Once it acquires a property, the land bank can sell it, rent it, or demolish it. It also collects interest penalties and principal from property owners behind on their taxes, rather than selling off the debt at a reduced rate to private investors, as many municipalities do. 
The flow of property to the land bank isn't likely to dry up anytime soon. Ron Fonger of The Flint Journal reports:
The number of properties in foreclosure is almost exactly the same as 2012, when the county took on another 2,772 parcels for failure to pay 2009 property taxes.

[County Treasurer Deb] Cherry said the large number of vacant properties in Flint will likely keep the number of foreclosures consistent for several more years.

"The good thing is, it at least has stabilized. At least the number did not go up, (but) we see the same pattern — it's maintaining," Cherry said.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Flint Considers Atwood Stadium Deal with Kettering University

John F. Kennedy campaigning in Flint at Atwood Stadium in 1960. (Photo from Scharchburg Archives)

Kettering University seems poised to acquire Atwood Stadium from the City of Flint. Roberto Acosta of The Flint Journal reports:
Kettering University has confirmed they are talking with the Atwood Stadium Authority about a potential purchase of the 84-year-old stadium.

"As part of Kettering University's ongoing commitment to the city of Flint and the University Corridor, Kettering officials have agreed to have preliminary discussions with the Atwood Stadium Authority about Atwood Stadium," reads a statement from the university.