Thursday, May 30, 2013

Flint Artifacts: Chevy Employee Badge

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Cadillac Style in San Francisco

Photo by Bhautik Joshi via

Friday, May 24, 2013

Flint Artifacts: Chevrolet and Fisher Body Employee Badges

Thanks to David Ladd, a 28 year veteran of GM and 10 different plants, for the Flint Artifacts.

Kiva and Flint Combine to Help Local Businesses

Looking for a way to help Flint businesses prosper? Consider a Kiva loan. Jeremy Allen of The Flint Journal describes how it works:
Kiva is the world’s first online lending platform which enables members of the community to act as a business' collective lender through the use of microloans. The microloans allow community members to make loans ranging from $25- $5,000 to business owners, with hopes that it leads to the building of vibrant communities.
Michigan Corps recently launched Kiva Flint to specifically target businesses in the Vehicle City. 
Three Flint small businesses are currently raising funds for their expansion and growth, and we would greatly appreciate your help in building a community around these businesses.

There are generally two things we are looking for from people:
1 -  Lend directly to one of these great Flint businesses.
2 -  Spread the word and share these pages widely. Online mediums are best (email, social media, etc), but anything helps!

Here are the borrower's respective links:

Turn Your Photos into Art to Help Flint

Here's your chance to help out Jerome Chou and the Flint Public Art Project:
This past March, Flint Public Art Project and the American Institute of Architects - Flint chapter announced the winner of the Flat Lot International Design Competition to build a temporary summer pavilion. The winning team, a London-based architecture firm called Two Islands, is now pulling together their team to build their proposal for a "floating house" covered in reflective material. We think the pavilion will be a beautiful and striking symbol of Flint's rebirth, as well as a destination for residents and visitors throughout the summer.

As part of the proposal, the team will install a series of light boxes that contain printed images (photos, company logos, illustrations, etc.) submitted from Flint residents and supporters around the world. They've started a Kickstarter campaign to help crowdsource images, spread the word, and cover the costs of producing the boxes using small donations from individuals and businesses.

Please join us in supporting the installation, and add your image to this collective monument to Flint. Just click on the Kickstarter link below, and thank you!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Flint Profiles: Don Richards

I was saddened to learn today that Flint Expatriate Don Richards died in February. I met Don through this blog, and he passed along many great stories about Flint. He graciously helped fill me in on the history of Civic Park and a host of other topics when I was researching and writing Teardown: Memoir of a Vanishing City. There were times when I was left wondering "Who the hell would know the answer to this?" And it was often Don who came up with the information, passing it along in phone conversations and long email exchanges. He extended a lot of kindness to me over the past few years. Even though we never actually met in person, I consider him a friend. He will be missed.

Here is a portion of Don's obituary, written by his daughter, Tara:
Don, the brother of five, was a 1966 graduate of Flint Northern High School. After high school, Don enlisted in the U.S. Army where he became an ammunition specialist, and was honorably discharged in 1969. In civilian life, he became a Registered Land Surveyor (a trade he learned while in the Army), working at several of the large firms in Genesee, Oakland, and Wayne counties; he also had a brief stint with owning his own surveying company
Throughout his life, he actively worked on projects of an historical nature. He enjoyed researching, and re-telling, history through Surveying. In particular, he loved to write about Genesee County, and was an accomplished writer on various blogs, local publications, and was working on a book.

Don was also a self-taught guitar player, with a vast appreciation for music, and enjoyed tuning out the rest of the world in favor of a great song and a nice buzz. He ran the Crim 10-mile road race for twelve consecutive years, and dabbled in ballroom dancing, where he met his future wife, Jan. 

An Interview with the Author of "Teardown: Memoir of a Vanishing City"

Scott Atkinson of The Flint Journal profiles Teardown: Memoir of a Shrinking City and interviews me in a story that came out today. He writes:
Readers are introduced to a variety of characters who show that Flint can't be defined by just one person or neighborhood. Early on, we meet a shirtless panhandler claiming it's his birthday before screaming obscenities. Throughout the book there several people trying to save their neighborhoods from blight and crime, others just wondering if it will ever stop.

Through all the people, he offers these contrasting views of the city — the evidence of its decline as well as its hope for its future. The most telling example might be when a well-to-do couple hosts a fancy dinner party in their Carriage Town home and has to close their curtains to block the guests' view of their next-door neighbor holding a knife to a man's throat and screaming, "Don't you know I love you?"
Yes, I'm now blogging about myself being interviewed by someone else. Seems weird. Soon I'll be referring to myself in the third person. Since I've already gone this far, I might as well quote myself: 
FJ: One thing that stood out to me throughout the book was the way you balanced the different sides of Flint. You wrote about some of the humorous and charming aspect of Flint, but those always seemed counterbalanced by some of the very real problems here. Was that a conscious effort?
GY: Flint requires the ability to compartmentalize. You have to be able to evaluate the good and the bad and keep it all in perspective. I don't think it does anyone any good to sugarcoat what's happened to the city. It's in a socioeconomic freefall, and things could still get worse. At the same time, there are a lot of positive things happening in the city. And I met so many people who have not given up. They love Flint. They're still fighting to make it a better place. It's important to remember that the city is more than a collection of economic stats. It's a collection of people, and I wanted to tell a story about those people. Life in Flint can be sad and funny and heartbreaking and inspiring. I tried to capture all of that. It's the opposite of the kind of shoddy slideshow journalism that Forbes does when it produces those endless lists of America's most miserable cities and all of that. I think that's a complete waste of time. I don't think it's journalism. I don't think it's informing anybody of anything. So what I tried to do was provide something that was accurate yet heartfelt.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Flint Artifacts: 1985 Buick LeSabre

How many people left Flint in this car, never to return?

Our Increasingly Poor Suburbs

The Brookings Institution confirms that the suburbs are now experiencing conditions that Flint and other cities have been facing for decades:
"The poor have typically been concentrated in big cities and rural America. Increasing poverty in the New York metropolitan area’s historically affluent suburbs mirrored a national trend detailed in the analysis, “Confronting Suburban Poverty in America” by Elizabeth Kneebone, a fellow at the Metropolitan Policy Program, and Alan Berube, a deputy director of the program.

"The first decade of the 21st century was a tipping point, the authors wrote. Suburbia, they said, is now home to the 'fastest-growing poor population in the country.'"

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Flint Artifacts: Sharp Hardware 1950 Catalog

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Craig Ferguson, Flint, and Murders

Whoever's in charge of PR for Flint should be in crisis mode after an appearance last night on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson by two local nurses named Christy and Rachel who were vacationing in Los Angeles. Feguson brought the pair up on stage. After complimenting their wardrobes, Ferguson asked a simple question: "What goes on in Flint, Michigan?" Christy's response: "Murders."

The crowd seemed to love it, prompting Ferguson to dole out a mild rebuke: "Excuse me, I just have to talk to the audience...That's not funny. What the hell's wrong with you? Murders? Yeah!" 

You can see the episode here. It's at the very beginning of the show.

Last Christmas: Flint Sends Santa Packing

In Flint, even Santa Claus and his reindeer can lose their jobs. Scott Atkinson of The Flint Journal reports:
The jolly (plastic) old fellow got the ax from the city and will be up for auction along with four of his reindeer. (No word on where the other four, or Rudolph, have flown to.) Like all items up for bid in an online auction on for city property on Tuesday, Santa's starting price is $5.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Flint Photos: Still Life with JWilly and Teardown

How to Understand Flint Expatriates Stationed in San Francisco

This is just a joke. Sort of.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Flint Poems: Cheese Lines, Flint, Michigan by Danny Rendleman

Cheese Lines, Flint, Michigan

Gray lines of women at the North Flint Plaza

Waiting their due, surplus cheese and butter
We can't use, the lines that shuffle
Down the weed-split sidewalks,
Past the boarded-up display windows
Of the Fair, United Shirt, Nobil Shoes,
While at the curb monstrous green Buicks
Idle and rust.  The day is overcast,
Threatening drizzle, feinting autumn
And further calamity.  I drive by, this,
My old neighborhood, this shopping center
Our hangout, a pack of Luckies secreted
Behind a loose brick, our leather jackets
With The Royals on the back,
Our pointed Flagg Bros. shoes, and duck ass hair.
We the pioneers.  These the women we went
To school with who never moved away,
Whom we never spoke to, let alone dated,
Or whom we desired, but never let on.

Flint, a city as hard and abrupt as its

Quick-bitten name.  Home of Chevy-in-the-Hole,
Where men like my father got used to days
Etched thin and gritty as Mohawk vodka
And steel shavings in their aching hands
And little wretched patches of back-yards
Where they maybe played catch
With their kids before the noon whistle.
See how easily those women are forgotten?
Even in poems devoted to their bad luck.

Danny Rendleman

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

"Found Michigan" Finds Flint Mayor Dayne Walling

Dayne Walling at City Hall in Flint. (Photo by Emily Bingham/Found Michigan)

There's an indepth and compelling portrait of Flint Mayor Dayne Walling by Lou Blouin on Found Michigan, a site that focuses on longform journalism about the Great Lake State. It describes Walling's work to revive Flint, despite the imposition of an emergency financial manager and an array of daunting obstacles.
"In a cash-strapped city, that means Walling can only do a fraction of what he no doubt wants to do. Understanding that things move slowly in city government, lately he’s dedicated himself to making sure future city leaders have things a little better—he’s now leading the charge for a new master plan in Flint, which will guide the city’s redevelopment over the coming decades. It’ll be Flint’s first such vision in more than 50 years—since the plan in 1960, which optimistically projected nothing but explosive growth in the auto industry and corollary fortunes for Flint."

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Flint Artifacts: Flint Junior Fire Inspector Badge

Thanks to Toprat1 for this Flint Artifact, presented to him at Cook Elementary in 1956.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Flint Postcards: Buick Factory from the Mott Foundation Building

Thursday, May 2, 2013

The Magical Stranger by Stephen Rodrick

Longtime Flint Expats readers are already familiar with the amazing writing of Stephen Rodrick, my partner in crime at Powers Catholic High School. We had the improbable bond in Flint of having fathers who were Navy pilots. Steve wrote two of the greatest posts on the blog. L'Affair de Moofla chronicled the high school prank that went a long way toward consigning both of us to mediocre colleges. And William F. Buckley Comes to Flint recounts our night on the town with the conservative icon. (Thank God we weren't born 20 years later; we might have had to hang out with Rush Limbaugh.)

The Magical Stranger is Steve's first book. It will be released on May 14, and it's a powerful story of a son's efforts to come to terms with the loss of his father.
On November 28, 1979, Commander Peter Rodrick died when his plane crashed in the Indian Ocean. He was just thirty-six and had been the commanding officer of his squadron for 127 days. Eight thousand miles away on Whidbey Island, near Seattle, he left behind a wife who never recovered, two daughters, and a thirteen-year-old son who would grow up to be a writer—one who was drawn to write about his father, his family, and the devastating consequences of military service.

In The Magical Stranger, Rodrick explores the life and death of the man who indelibly shaped his life, even as he remained a mystery: brilliant but unknowable, sacred but absent—an apparition gone 200 days of the year for much of his young son’s life—a born leader who gave his son little direction. Through adolescence and into adulthood, Rodrick struggled to fully grasp the reality of his father’s death and its permanence. Peter’s picture and memory haunted the family home, but his name was rarely mentioned.

To better understand his father and his own experience growing up without him, Rodrick turned to today’s members of his father's former squadron, spending nearly two years with VAQ-135, “The World-Famous Black Ravens.” His travels take him around the world, from Okinawa and Hawaii to Bahrain and the Persian Gulf —but always back to Whidbey Island, the setting of his family’s own story. As he learns more about his father, he also uncovers the layers of these sailors’ lives: their brides and girlfriends, friendships, dreams, disappointments—and the consequences of their choices on those they leave behind.
For more information, visit

Flint Photos: Civic Park in 1919?

I'm having trouble identifying the exact location in Civic Park for this photo. Note the older, larger house in the center. It looks very unfamilar. Any ideas? Is this a mislabled photo from The Flint Journal?