Monday, August 31, 2009

Memories Of Jack's Trading Post

There is one blog that I read on a daily basis and that I have bookmarked on my browser and that’s Gordon Young’s Flint Expatriates – a blog dedicated to the long lost residents of Flint, Michigan. Gordon never fails to amaze me in his blog’s discussions of “all things Flint” and how that days entry can unleash a endless stream of memories of my old home town.

One of the more recent discussions on the Flint Expatriates blog was about party stores and convenience stores which got me to thinking about “The Trading Post” -- the party store of my youth during the 60s and 70s on Flint’s east side. Located on the corner of Franklin and Utah – just a stone’s throw from Whaley Park – The Trading Post was unique in that they had a huge cement Indian in front of the store – which probably was tied into the theme of the store being a “trading post” – but for us kids – it was a great place to go to spend that quarter or dollar that was burning a hole in our pocket.

My earliest recollection is of “The Trading Post” being divided into two sections. On the north side of the store – they had a limited selection of canned goods, bread and groceries, a freezer with TV dinners and pot pies – and I can even remember a deli-style meat counter – although I can’t remember ever purchasing any meat at the store -- I remember most of the business being done on the other side.

The south side of the building was your basic party store with the packaged liquor, beer, pop, ice cream, candy and chips – but it wasn’t a self-serve operation like the party stores of today – back then -- the people at The Trading Post served you. If you wanted a 12 ounce or 16 ounce bottle of Coke, a M&S Red Pop or a 6 pack of Gobel, Black Label or Stroh’s beer – you went up to the counter and told the person working there and they grabbed your beverage of choice for you from a wall cooler with several wooden doors.

In the front of the store – they had an cooler with ice cream near the front of the store and not just any ice cream – Sealtest – and growing up as a kid – Sealtest made the best ice cream sandwiches.

The Trading Post also had this big rack filled with all the varieties and sizes of Paramount and New Era Potato Chips. Back then – I think a pound bag of Paramount Potato Chips was something like 99 cents and I can also remember that quarter at the Trading Post would get you a big 16-ounce ice cold bottle of Coke and a small bag of Paramount Potato Chips; and if you were real quick and could finished off that bottle Coke real quick – you could turn the bottle in for a two cent deposit for gum or candy.

Being a kid – The Trading Post was the place to get your “candy fix” – they had all the candy bars and bubble gum a kid could ever want and it was also the place for comic books. The Trading Post wasn’t like O’Connor’s Drug Store or the Cook’s Drug Store that offered all of the newest comic books – the Trading Post sold the “outdated” comics with parts of the cover torn off and sold in packages of something like five for a quarter. The good comic/magazine packages had a Mad Magazine or an issue of Cracked at the discount price and I would always go through the store’s collection of comics to see if they had any Bob Hope or Jerry Lewis comics – but usually had to settle for an Archie and Jughead comic.

The building still stands today, but I don’t know who owns it – when I was a kid – the guy that owned it was named Jack and all of the kids referred to the store as “Jack’s Trading Post”. I don’t even think that the store is called “The Trading Post” today and there’s another thing missing from the store when you drive by it – the cement Indian who greeted many customers in its day.

Isn’t it amazing how something as simple as a party store like Jack’s Trading Post can open up a floodgate filled with childhood memories?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Say It Isn’t So, Vince

If the Fox News Channel hasn’t done enough to dumb down America – if Vince McMahon gets his wish you can look to see America dumb down a little further.

Brace yourself for this piece of news – Vince McMahon would like to create a 24-hour wrestling channel and he hopes that he can get it up and running within the next twenty-four months.

McMahon sees the channel as a companion to the WWE much like the NFL Channel is a companion to the NFL, the Tennis Channel to the sport of tennis, and the Major League Baseball network to the game of baseball. I’m sure he’ll use the channel to promote WWE events on cable networks such as USA and he’ll use the WWE cable network to promote all of the pay-per-view events scheduled throughout the year. It’ll be twenty-four hours of nothing but wrestling and it’ll be a basic channel – which means that everybody that subscribes to a cable or satellite service will pay for this channel because it’s part of a basic package. It’s news like this that I yearn for the good ole days of just five or so channels of free television programming delivered via a rooftop television antenna. You might not have a lot of programming choices – but at least you’re not paying for programming that you don’t watch and don’t need.

But then again – maybe once the WWE channel is up and running – they can team up with Fox to cover health care town halls – WWE theatrics would only add a little more of the bizarre world to some of the things that we’re seeing going on at the town halls now. I mean, it’s only a matter of time before someone gets hurt at one of these town halls – with the WWE – the participants only experience f'aux pain and I think that’s the only kind of pain that some of these town hallers know about.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Reading and Drinking Milk Memories

McDonald’s Dairy. Reader’s Digest. I would have never thought of putting these two brand names together – but because of events that have recently taken place – I can now link them together.

Reader’s Digest
I was surprised to read that Reader’s Digest has filed for Chapter 11 and that the value of the company is going down with each and every passing day. I know that the newspaper and magazine business is going through some tough times with newspapers folding left and right and magazines just holding on to dear life, but I never thought to put the Digest in that group.

I am fifty-four years old and it’s hard to imagine someone in my age group who’s family at one time or another had subscribed to the Reader’s Digest or had read one or two Reader’s Digest books in their lifetime. And then there were special edition Reader’s Digest books about health, medicine, sewing, etc., although I never purchased one of those books – when I was gathering my Mother’s belongings after she died I must have packed up a library of them that my Mom had purchased during her lifetime.

I can remember composing a letter to the people at Reader’s Digest during one of my classes in the seventh grade at Lowell Jr. High in Flint, Michigan never thinking that they would respond to my letter, but they did. Not only did they thank me for my interest in their publication – they sent me a book that told whole story of how the Reader’s Digest came into being and all of different editions that they put out each and every month. It was pretty impressive reading for a seventh grade kid and I was just thrilled to death to receive a free book from them in the mail.

A lot of years have passed and I can’t remember the last time that I actually picked up a Reader’s Digest or even know of anyone who reads the magazine today – which is probably why they are in Chapter 11 bankruptcy. In this world of around the clock cable news and information and news at the tip of your fingers via the internet – Reader’s Digest has lost its place of meaning and importance and it would probably be a safe bet that we’ll soon be reading the obituary for the magazine – not in a newspaper or a magazine – but on the net.

McDonald’s Dairy
If you have ever lived in the Flint or Mid-Michigan area – McDonald’s Dairy is a name that you’re familiar with and it’s big red quality check logo on a half-gallon of McDonald’s milk, ice cream or sour cream was a welcome addition to your home. Although I never went there – McDonald’s use to operate a ice cream shop/parlor at their factory/bottling plant on Lewis Street on Flint’s east side.

As a kid growing up in Flint – you had a choice between McDonald’s milk and Dean’s Milk – and it seemed like everybody chose McDonald’s because it was a Flint product. The milk that they served us in every school cafeteria that I ever ate while going to school in Flint was made by McDonald’s and in our family – there was no other name but McDonald’s on the dairy products that we bought.

As the years have gone by – McDonald’s was purchased by Country Fresh Dairy and slowly the McDonald’s brand name and Quality Check logo disappeared from area grocery store’s dairy section. Little by little – Country Fresh ended production of products like ice cream that was made in Flint and shifted it to some of their other locations – which meant McDonald/Country Fresh dairy workers joined their auto working friends and neighbors on the unemployment line. So, it should come as no surprise that in August of 2009 – Country Fresh is closing the milk production plant in Flint. They’ll still be selling Country Fresh products, but they won’t be made in Flint. I can see the heads at Country Fresh thinking -- if GM can leave – so can we!

I think that when I go to the store tomorrow, I’ll pick up this month’s Reader’s Digest and see if they still have all of the old features in the magazine that I remember. And while I’m at it – I just might pick up a half gallon of McDonald’s milk that I can dip some chocolate chip cookies in as I read. Oh, I forgot – there is no more McDonald’s and it’s getting harder and harder to find a Reader’s Digest on the magazine racks at my local grocery store. Oh well….that’s life, right?