Monday, December 30, 2013

Will Ferrell Heard of Flint

Charles Thomas, Jr. on the Real Flint


Charles Thomas, Jr., a Notre Dame graduate who was born and raised in Flint, reflects on media coverage of his hometown for Deadline Detroit:

When I read articles or hear one-sided renditions that portray us as second-class citizens who are deserving of such atrocities, a certain level of moral outrage and righteous indignation accompany my feelings. I do not like it one bit.

Flint residents are a hopeful people. In the face of insurmountable odds, we prevail. At the very least, we try.
Yes, it is undeniable that there are undesirables who cause problems, but I would submit that they would even do better if provided positive opportunities, alternatives and resources. No one, regardless of what they say, wants to be perceived as second-class citizens or inferior beings of lower status and significance. Everyone wants to be appreciated, loved, encouraged and have the opportunity to add value. Some people just do not know how.

I can offer a litany of people from Flint who are successful in their chosen endeavors and do what they can to make a difference in their small corner of the world. These individuals range from teachers, coaches, professors, businesspersons, authors, entrepreneurs, public sector employees, doctors and the list goes on.

Read the rest here.

JFK Heard of Flint

Gerald Ford Heard of Flint

Richard Nixon Heard of Flint

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Implosion Party


While this may look like the aftermath of the infamous New Year's Eve parties at the Capitol Theater in the eighties, it's actually an eerie post Genesee Towers implosion photo from Glen Fairweather.

Never heard of the raucous Capitol Parties? Go here.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Friday, December 27, 2013

The Past, Present and Future of Flint



I want to comment on a recent article about Flint that was posted today on the PolicyMic website. Obviously, I didn’t write it. The author interviewed me for 45 minutes about Flint. I told her about my book — Teardown: Memoir of a Vanishing City — and my experiences growing up in Flint. As I always do, I emphasized that despite its well-documented problems, there are positive, hopeful things happening in the city where four generations of my family lived.  I pointed out that there are a lot of talented people working very hard to make it a better place. I suggested she talk to people like Michael Freeman and Perry Compton, who restored their home in Carriage Town, and Pastor Sherman McCathern of Joy Tabernacle Church, who is doing great things in Civic Park. I feel they represent the real essence of the city.

I also gave permission to use any photos I took from the Flint Expatriates website, but I didn’t choose the photos. Of course, I had no control whatsoever over the finished article, the angle, the content, or the headline. That’s a choice that’s left to the reporters and editors who interview me. But in this particular case, I wish the author would have devoted less space to all the negative statistics and old news about Flint’s decline, and more to the inspiring residents of my hometown who are using innovative approaches to improve the city.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Merry Christmas from Flint Expatriates


As Flint Expatriates embarks on its annual holiday break, Flintoid Tom Pohrt supplies some Christmas memories from Sears in Flint, circa 1960:

As I recall I was just notified that I was on the "naughty list" for that year. Even under a whithering look I was always quick on my feet. I countered, questioning whether Santa was up on his union dues. Got your number Mr. P2 14207.... and I'm 'checkin' it twice. It was a tense moment in negotiations when this picture was taken. That was a bummer as the Sears catalogue toy section was the BEST! Can't recall the outcome.

My brothers on the other hand always fared better than I as evident in their classic mid 50's Santa photo.

Check out the sadistic Santa on another photo card holder from Sears. Bah humbug! Wow man, the artist they hired that year to illustrate this must have had a rough one. Those reindeer look absolutely terrified under Santa's whip. CHILL SANTA CHILL !





Genesee Towers, R.I.P.

The demise of Genesee Towers on December 22, 2013. (Image by Shawn Chittle)

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Genesee Towers: Dead Building Walking

Okay, this is totally irrational and based on no real evidence. I’m sure the implosion crew knows what its doing. So why do I have this nagging, crazy worry that somehow Genesee Towers will manage to take the Mott Foundation Building down with it? GT is arguably Flint’s ugliest building, and it can’t be easy residing across an alley from what many consider the Vehicle City’s loveliest structure. How would you like to be a poorly maintained, watered-down example of the International Style hulking next to the soaring, Art Deco splendor of the most important building in Flint? There has to be some pent up resentment there.

I don’t want to get into a discussion of class warfare, but GT has always had money problems.  And let’s be blunt, the Mott Foundation building is loaded! We like to pretend money can’t buy you happiness, but come on. The years of constantly being reminded of how the 1% lives can’t be easy. It’s a little like driving a Chevy Aveo when your neighbor cruises around in a Park Avenue. (Sorry, for the dated reference, but I’m unaware of what passes for a luxury car in the Buick line these days.)

Then there’s the whole plural name thing. It’s Genesee Towers, with an “s”. See, it’s supposed to be two buildings stacked on top of each other. Yes, the lower-level parking deck counts as a separate building. Constantly correcting people has to get old after a while. And trying to laugh it off with “The building so nice they named it twice!” doesn’t help. Just not funny. The Mott Foundation Building doesn’t have to deal with that sort of thing. It’s above it all. It’s just one building and that’s more than enough. When you’re old money, you just don’t have to prove yourself.

Desperate buildings do desperate things. Is it so far fetched to think that the spirits animating Genesee Towers might be staring at their next-door neighbor and whispering, “If I'm going down, I'm taking you with me”?

Friday, December 20, 2013

A father, a Son, and a Grand Prix

Randy Gearhart with his Pontiac Grand Prix on the day he graduated from Northern in 1968. He used to cruise through the Clio Road Arby's and the A & W. "I guess that a good many of the miles on this car were 'Clio Road Crusin’ Miles,'" he says.


Randy Gearhart may live in Georgia now, but he is definitely a “Flint guy.” He lived at 2314 Ohio Street, a few blocks from the A.C., before moving to 2913 Mallery Street, just off Ballenger. He went to Washington Elementary and Longfellow before graduating from Northern in 1968. He was home from college in the summer of 1969 working at A.M. Davison’s when he met his future wife, Debbi Reburn, across the street in the Carriage Room at Smith B’s. She worked the counter where he often went for lunch or a Tall Texan, more commonly known as a chocolate soda.
 

Even his name sounds like Flint.
 

Randy has a story to tell about his father and growing up in The Vehicle City. It was originally posted on Flint Expatriates on August 14, 2008.

My dad, Robert Gearhart, was superintendent of labor relations at Fisher Body Plant #2. In late November, 1964, he told me that I could pick out our family’s next car. It would be replacing our 1962 Chevrolet Impala.

Wow! Really? I had just turned 14 a couple months earlier. What a responsibility. What an honor.

I started looking through our most recent issues of Look and Life to see the new season’s offerings. Turning the magazine pages, I suddenly stopped. There she was. I had to look no further. The Pontiac Grand Prix.



The original magazine advertisement that caught Randy's eye.

I told dad that this was the car I wanted us to get. We got in our Applegate Chevy and rode over to Superior Pontiac/Cadillac on Dort Highway. Dad put in the order. A few weeks later, we got “the call” that our new car was ready for pick up.
One week after we took delivery of our new Grand Prix, on a gray December day, my dad suffered a heart attack. He died in the hall outside his office at Fisher Body.

He was only 40.

He had purchased an insurance policy that would pay off the car in case of his death. That was a good thing. But, that shiny, new, paid-off Pontiac became so much more than just a car to me. It was a connection to a man who loved his family and a dad who trusted a pimply-faced kid to make one of the most important purchase decisions a family can make.

The older I get, the more that act of trust means to me.


Thanks, Dad.

Monday, December 16, 2013

James O'Dea on the Flint Label

 James O'Dea in Flint. (Photo courtesy of UM-Flint)

UM-Flint student James O'Dea, whose great grandfather was a Sit-Down striker, reflects on what loyalty to Flint really means in a compelling essay entitled "Hyphen Flint."
When I told my high school teachers my plan to revive Flint, the usual response was a grin and a chuckle—like how you’d respond to a little boy who promises to grow up to be an astronaut and a cowboy. But most of them at least seemed to admire my passion and optimism—the same lack of apathy that alienated me from so many of my peers. The good teachers were the one redeeming factor of a high school (and town) well known for being spoiled, snobbish and fake. In Grand Blanc, your GPA wasn’t as much an indicator of your future university as was the label on your clothes.
 Read the rest here. You'll be glad you did.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Flint Photos: Buick Car Carrier

 Remember these car carriers roaring around Flint? Dan Doser passed along this photo. His dad hauled new Buicks out of Flint from 1950-1985.

Flint Artifacts: Buick City Paint Team Patch

Working together...with a paint robot. Thanks to Shawn Chittle for the Flint Artifact.

Staying Put

It may be hard for Flint Expatriates and the other refugees from shrinking cities to believe, but Americans are moving less.

Annie Lowrey of The New York Times Magazine reports:
This is in part a result of the decline of manufacturing and the rise of the service economy. Heavy industries like steel making tend to cluster in certain parts of the country, whereas services like fast-food sales, pool cleaning and day care tend to blanket it. Even in the heyday of American steel making, a smelter operator’s job search was rather limited geographically. Today, a day care worker can look for a job anywhere — and she would probably be able to find one close to home. 

Jobs by the Numbers

"In 1955 General Motors employed nearly 600,000 people. Today, in a much larger economy, Google employs fewer than 50,000; eBay employs about 20,000 people in the United States; Facebook fewer than 6,000."
— Jeff Madrick, Harper's Magazine.

The Economics of Community Space

While Flint continues to transform its struggling downtown into a place where residents can gather in community spaces, tech companies in San Francisco are taking a different approach that's reminiscent of the bunker mentality that defined projects like the original Renaissance Center in Detroit.

Allison Arieff of The New York Times writes:
Tech companies are scrambling to move into cities — there are rumors that Google is going to move here, to San Francisco, from Mountain View. VISA and Akamai have ditched the suburbs to come here. Tech tenants now fill 22 percent of all occupied office space in San Francisco — and represented a whopping 61 percent of all office leasing in the city last year. But they might as well have stayed in their suburban corporate settings for all the interacting they do with the outside world. The oft-referred-to “serendipitous encounters” that supposedly drive the engine of innovation tend to happen only with others who work for the same company. Which is weird.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Signed Teardown Bookplates for the Holidays



UPDATE: I have five signed bookplates left. Get 'em while they last.

I have a limited number of bookplates that I'd be happy to sign and mail to you if you'd like to personalize your copy of Teardown: Memoir of a Vanishing City. The plates are 4 by 3 inches and can be affixed to the title page of the book. Or your car bumper if that's what you're into. It's a nice touch if you plan to give Teardown as a holiday gift. (Hint, hint.) Just email me (gyoung(at)flintexpats(dot)com) with your address, and I'll drop one in the mail for you. Thanks.