Author and educator Peter Bourque grew up in Flint and lived in the Vehicle City from 1954-1971. He attended St. Agnes School, where he also served as an altar boy.
After leaving Flint, Peter eventually joined the Peace Corps. His experiences are recounted in the book Tarnished Ivory: Reflections on Peace Corps and Beyond:
As a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ivory Coast (1973-75) and a Peace Corps trainer in Mali (1986), Peter Bourque kept a personal journal and wrote over 55 letters back to the States. In them, he described the satisfactions and frustrations of living, working and traveling in West Africa as well as his reactions to the people he encountered-Ivorian, French, Malian and American. Decades later, he reflects and elaborates on these writings with current-day observations and candid essays about idealism, world poverty, the Peace Corps, the French, and losing his religion.He settled in Tuscon, where he is now a retired high school teacher and teaches English as a Second Language for Literacy Volunteers of Tucson. He reflected on life in Flint in a 2009 column for the Arizona Daily Star:
At family gatherings, talk among the men, to my disinterest, was invariably about "the shop," "the line" and "tool-and-die makers," a trade which I never understood. One brother-in-law, Art, had gotten a college degree and was white-collar at Buick. Another, Stan, worked for Oldsmobile in Lansing. My brother Jacques chose Ford in Detroit for his lifelong employment, but no one seemed to hold that against him.
Culturally, Flint was sophisticated for a factory town of its size and included the Cultural Center, a large community college named after local philanthropist Charles Stewart Mott (a former GM vice president) and a branch of the University of Michigan, which I attended.
In the '60s and '70s, the stability and continuity of GM families in Flint was remarkable. I went to the same Catholic school for 12 years, as did many of my classmates. College-bound juniors and seniors from the Catholic schools attended monthly presentations at General Motors Institute that covered a variety of topics.
Young adults who weren't going to college or who dropped out could easily get jobs on the assembly line that were well-paying and unionized with amazing benefits — those same benefits that contributed to GM becoming noncompetitive in the auto industry.
In my mind, working for GM was a trap that many 18- to 20-year-olds fell into. Nonskilled workers were lured by the security and financial incentives, which overshadowed what were often mind-numbingly tedious jobs "on the line." "Only 25 more years and I can retire," you too often heard them say.