Tuesday, January 19, 2010

You Can Take Me Out Of Flint, But You Can't Take The Flint Out Of Me

Paul's Pipe Shop in Downtown Flint

You can take me out of Flint, but you can’t take the Flint out of me.

When I moved to the Port Huron area from Flint some twenty years ago – there were a lot of things that I missed about my old hometown – first and foremost – The Flint Journal. When you live in Flint, you can bitch and complain about the newspaper, it’s only when you move to another town and it’s not delivered to your doorstep daily that you realize just how much you miss it. Back then, the Flint Journal had substance and girth compared to the ultra light Gannett owned Port Huron Times Herald – a newspaper with sections as large as ten whole pages. There were occasions when I would drive this store in the city of Capac (about twenty-three miles away) that carried the Sunday Flint Journal and buy a copy to take home to read. I kind of felt like one of those people who make a big deal about buying the Sunday New York Times and then dedicate their whole day to doing the crossword puzzle and devouring every page and article in the paper – except I was doing it with a Flint Journal….imagine that.

When I moved to Port Huron – I didn’t know a lot of people and some nights my entertainment consisted of coming home from work and eating what I call “a Flint dinner” while watching television. I didn’t have HBO or Showtime – just basic cable – but occasionally my friend (the late Jack Hood from Rainbow Video) would send me a box of screener movies that he had received that I could watch while eating dinner. This dinner was not a healthy dinner by any stretch of the imagination – but it was filling – and it was pure Flint. I would go to the local store in Port Huron and grab a the biggest package of Koegel’s polish sausage that I could find – fry them in a pan on the stove and would then plate it with the perfect Flint companion food -- Paramount potato chips (which were still available at the time). Now that’s a dinner!

Here’s another thing that I took for granted in Flint that I couldn't get in Port Huron some twenty years ago – bagels! I’m not talking about those Lender-like bagels that you can find in the bakery section at Meijer – I’m talking about real bagels like you use to find at Pumpernik’s when they were in business. What I would have given for one of those huge crusty bagels from Pumpernik’s with my morning coffee. Twenty years later, there’s still no place in the Port Huron area where you can purchase real bagels – so anyone who’s reading this where you can purchase real bagels – enjoy them and whatever you do -- don’t take them for granted.

You can’t write about memories of Flint without mentioning the one other item other than cars that Flint is known for – the coney island hot dog. About three months after I moved to Port Huron, I decided that I would go to lunch at the downtown coney island and I got into a discussion about coneys with the cook behind the grill there. The discussion about Flint coneys compared to Detroit/Port Huron coneys is similar to the pizza debate that people of New York and Chicago have over their pies. This cook would have nothing to do with a Flint-style coney, and if I remember right, he made some disparaging remarks about Angelo’s in particular. All I can remember is thinking was how much of a bastard this guy was – how dare he insult the Flint style coney – especially after you have eaten one of his runny ass chili slop dogs. Don’t let anyone disparage the Flint coney dog – they’re definitely in a league of their own!

A lot has changed in twenty years. The Flint Journal has been downsized to a three-day a week newspaper – but even at that – it’s still a better read than the Port Huron Times Herald. I no longer have “Flint dinners” – although I am able to have coney nights with my family – thanks to those big delicious bricks of coney sauce that we purchase from Abbott’s Meats just about every time we visit the Flint area. Then, there are the bagels – and there’s not a whole hell of a lot we can do about that.

The Flint Journal, Pumpernik bagels, Koegel polish sausage, Paramount potato chips and Flint-style coney islands. Some of them have changed. Some are gone. Some remain. Along with those items – there are other things about Flint that I have pleasant memories of that have shaped me into the person that I am today…such as: having my picture taken in the four for a quarter photo booth at Kresge’s, ice skating with friends at Whaley Park, seeing the movies “A Hard Day’s Night” and “Woodstock” at the Palace, buying my first FM radio at Montgomery Wards, and even bumping into my old high school classmate Melvin McCree buying lottery tickets at Paul’s Pipe Shop.

I have pleasant memories of being a child and checking out “A Cat In The Hat” from the library at Potter school, eating fish n’ chip dinners from St. Leo the Great on Friday nights, enrolling in the summer radio workshop at WFBE, learning road safety at Safetyville and cooling off on a hot summer day in pool at Kearsley Park.

I enjoy where I’m living today and the life that I have in the Port Huron area, but I can’t deny the impact that living in Flint has had on me. Ask anyone who has left Flint for other cities and other towns and I’ll bet you a dime to a Dawn’s Donut they’ve got stories, too…because it’s like I said earlier….You can take someone out of Flint, but you can’t take the Flint out of someone who’s lived there.


Anonymous said...

Good to read your entry.

I went to St Leo's also but I moved from Flint to Lk Fenton in 1967 and from Fenton to Coldwater and moved...well--let's just say I have moved alot, and now I am about as far from Flint as one could be in the contiguous US.

My memories are very vivid and all warm and fuzzy. So I was kind of shocked to read they closed St. Leo's. It feels like the memories no longer have validity. But I guess as a Boomer, I will have to get used to that, the contraction of the demographic.

As unsettling as the disappearance of a major component to my memory bank is, I was very heartened when I took a mini-tour in November of the 'hood and saw it looking so good--for the most part.

And living out here in the Land of the Liberals, my cred goes waaaaay up when I say I am from Flint--Michael Moore (love him or hate him), thank you!

Anonymous said...

I just happened to stumble across your blog, and it brought back lots of memories, such as . . .

Bill Thomas' Halo Burgers, Angelo's Coney Islands (ooooh, gimme an armpit now) Dale's health food store downtown, Autoworld, the weatherball on top of Citizens Bank, WFBE when it broadcasted only educational programs (remember "Reading, Writing, and Radio"?), Hamady Supermarkets, the "Downtown Shopping Days" section in the Flint Journal, and oh, so many other things . . .

I live in Chicago now, and I love it, but there are some things about Flint that I just can't forget.

Anonymous said...

Oh yea, I am a Grand Blanc Gal who probably doesn't count but Flint was a big part of my life. Speaking of the Flint Journal, remember the weekly reader? I won a poem contest and thus a book from the Flint Library. Funny, my Aunt Bea wrote all those stories and poems and put all of us kids as the Arthur's. Bless her heart.
So when I visit Flint, which isn't often, I head straight to a Coney Island joint. Usually Venus on Fenton and Hill Rd. we affectionately called it the Venus Fly Trap. Best Puke burgers ever!
I live in AZ now and love it. BUT, I am who I am because I grew up near Flint.