Thursday, November 12, 2009

East Side Memories

What has become of one of those “showplace homes” on the east side during the 60s-80s. (Photo courtesy Google Earth)

I lived a good half of my life on the east side of Flint, Michigan – residing mostly in the working class Franklin/Dort Hwy/Leith Street area and not the more affluent East Village part of the east side.

The neighborhood that I lived in was definitely what you would call “working class” – where people had dreams about buying that cottage up north with all of the overtime money they were making at one of the General Motors plants in town. My neighborhood was a good neighborhood – where neighbors talked to one another and wouldn't think twice of coming to your aid in time of need. I can’t tell you how many times one of our neighbors mowed our lawn and never charged us – but it was many. And my Mom wouldn’t think twice about making an extra pumpkin or cherry pie for one of our neighbor’s Thanksgiving table.

Like any good neighborhood – there were characters like Mr. Marcel (not his real name) – an old man of Indian heritage who would come home at night and sit on the front porch in his boxer shorts. If was a hot enough summer night – Mr. Marcel would end up sleeping on the front porch. If Mr. Marcel was late coming home – the odds were pretty good that he was sampling the beverages on tap at the old Cozy Corner bar.

Then there was the German woman with two children that was getting a divorce from her husband who people loved to tease because of her thick German accent.

And when it comes to characters – you can’t forget about me – the first hippie in the neighborhood. Yup, I was the kid with hair that went down to the middle of my back who wore white bib overalls (that I tie-dyed with three different colors) and played Cheap Trick’s “Surrender” on his record player loud enough for the entire block to hear it. Needless to say – my hair, clothes and the music that came blaring out of my record player speakers made a statement and it’s a pretty safe bet that I was the talk of a few dinner conversations in that east side neighborhood in the 60s through the 80s.

The east side of Flint – there was no place like it. You could sleep at night with your doors wide open and actually feel safe. Neighbors would not only lend a helping hand – they would watch out for you and keep you informed of anybody who stopped by your house or even asked about you. It’s not like that any more and probably never will be again.

I feel sad when I drive though the east side of Flint today – homes that people once took pride in and were the showplaces of the neighborhoods are now either boarded up or are over run by weeds and garbage. People that lived in my old neighborhood felt safe – now they live in constant fear that their house might be burglarized or that a drive-by shooting could happen at any time.

If there’s one thing that I can point to that illustrates just how much things have changed on Flint’s east side – it was when I was driving by St. Mary’s Church on a Saturday about a year ago or so. I don’t know if there was a wedding going on at the church or if they were holding Saturday services – it’s what I saw happening in the parking lot at the church that surprised me. While people were inside the church worshipping – hired rent-a-cops were in the parking lot of the church watching over the cars. I couldn’t help but mumble to myself, “That’s just not right…that’s just not right.” Has it come down to the church having to hire people to protect the parishioner’s vehicles while they’re receiving the Lord’s word? It looks that way at St. Mary’s and I wouldn’t be surprised if there are other churches in the Flint area that have to do the same thing.

Things will never be the same on Flint's east side -- but at least we have the memories.

1 comment:

Cooley's Dictum said...

"You can't go home again" and memories are all that remain. True and correct, I've learned the hard way. And yet, it doesn't ease the pain when a sojourn takes one through the neighborhood(s) of one's youth. Sad. Sad for our past. Sad for the future.