Sunday, November 17, 2013

John Auchter: A Cartoon, a desk, and the End of an Era

(Originally published in the Ann Arbor News, Bay City Times, Flint Journal, Grand Rapids Press, Jackson Citizen Patriot, Kalamazoo Gazette, Muskegon Chronicle, Saginaw News
November 10, 2013)

Cartoonist extraordinaire from the Flint area John Auchter weighs in on the demise of Delphi East. Here's some background on the cartoon from John's blog, Auchtoon!:
Growing up in Flint, there were many, many GM facilities scattered in and around town. But the four main complexes were Buick, Chevy in the Hole, Truck and Bus, and AC Spark Plug. Truck and Bus is the only one now still functioning (and actually doing quite well turning out Silverados). Most of what was AC Spark Plug has been gone for quite some time, but the last piece (which final name was Delphi Flint East) is no more. I thought it appropriate to draw a cartoon to mark the occasion. But I didn’t want to do the typical reminiscing of the good ol’ days or the lamenting of the loss thereof. No, the main reaction I had was to the folks not from Flint (or Detroit or Saginaw) who confidently chime in to tell us who was solely to blame: “It was the unions!” “It was General Motors!” “It was the lazy workers!” “It was the incompetent management.”
Yeah, sure. All that and more. But if you’re not from Flint, you have no real appreciation for the subtleties and complexities of how things turned out the way they have. And it’s more than a little annoying to have somebody tell you with great confidence how AC Spark Plug would be a humming beehive of activity if only they had been in charge. I don’t think so. There are historical reasons for why things turned out the way they did. There were some very bad decisions, but there were also some great successes, and we would be wise to learn from both.
So the two folks choking each other to death is more of a cautionary tale for those who have never been to Flint but think they know exactly what happened there. I purposely didn’t draw them as a blue collar guy with a lunch bucket and hard hat, and a rich guys with a top hat and monocle. That’s the past. Future problems are more likely to be caused by folks who appear relatively the same but are still playing the blame game.
Regardless of their content, all of John's cartoons have a Flint connection:
"The drawing table I use (and have used for nearly 30 years) was originally a drafting table from AC Spark Plug," John wrote in an email. "Joe Peltier was/is a friend of mine from Holy Redeemer and Powers days. His father (Hamilton) was an engineer at AC. When they purged the old wooden drafting tables in favor of the modern steel ones, Ham took one home and put it in his basement. I saw it at some point (and coveted it), and my father eventually made a deal with Ham to get it for me as a college graduation gift. (I think a bottle or two of booze was the barter.) It's pretty sweet."


  1. Oh lawdy! I have one of these. I just put it back together a few days ago. It's missing the straightedge and lower cabinet, but is otherwise in great shape. Makes a great layout table.

  2. I remember those drawing board in Plant Engineering and Industrial Engineering at Chevrolet Flint Manufacturing. I don't remember desks underneath. They started using the small screen monochrome monitors, no bigger than ten inches in diagonal, around 1980. The engineers hated them, and I don't blame them. Over the next few years, color monitors which were much larger, 17 inches or more, became prevalent. CAD CAM programs became much better, and actually improved things for engineers who had engineering minds but geek like motor coordination skills that made drawing hard for them. You had the same resistance in artists who didn't regard computer aided Art as Art. There is still something comforting about doing things the old fashioned way, and for now the boards help promote this.

  3. In regard to the editorial cartoon: What people buy determines which factories stay open. No one was to blame. A lot of good paying jobs were lost. We vote with our money in a far greater fashion than our political ballot. It was neither union or management that closed these factories. It is determined by the products that sell. People chose cheap products working out of tax free zones operating in the United States. They chose cheap products made my foreign labor that work for pennies per hour. Is it surprising the same countries buy our land out from under our feet while we buy their trinkets and baubles?


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