Monday, December 03, 2012

The Flint That I Remember....

Flint.  You can kick…you can beat it….and you can even call it names….but there’s always going to be a place in my heart for the city where I was born.  A lot has changed in the old town – but there’s plenty to remember.

The Flint that I remember was when you sat  in the stands at Whaley Park to enjoy one of the many teams that played in summer softball league and then meeting everyone at Lugi’s for pizza and beer.

The Flint that I remember was to Whiting for a Flint Symphony Orchestra concert and hearing the music of Beethoven come to life on the stage.
The Flint that I remember was sitting under the stars for the 4th of July fireworks at Kearsley Park or getting into the holiday spirit and lifting your voice in song at the Citizens Bank Christmas Carol Sing-Along.

The Flint that I remember was having to wait for Thanksgiving dinner until everyone got home from the Northern/Central game at Atwood Stadium.

The Flint that I remember was receiving a gift box that the Flint Old Newsboys on  Christmas Day when I was a kid and appreciating how much the Old Newsboys  helped Santa to make my Christmas bright.

The Flint that I remember was grabbing a couple of coneys and a side fries with gravy at Angelo’s, a  doughnut from Supreme or Dawn’s Donuts, a pasty from King Arthur’s, a fish n’ chips dinner from 3rd Avenue Fish n’ Chips and a burger and crème ale at Bill Thomas Halo Burger.

The Flint that I remember was driving downtown to Herrlich’s Drug Store on a Saturday Night/Sunday morning at around 1 to pick a copy of the Detroit Free Press or picking up the latest magazine and paperback books at Readmore.

The Flint that I remember was going to church on Sunday’s at Sacred Heart and then going to the Balkan Bakery to pick up loaves of fresh bread to enjoy with my parents homemade chicken dinners.

The Flint that I remember was being able to go to the main branch of the Flint Public Library and being entertained by looking at back copies of the Flint Journal on microfilm or asking the librarian on the second floor for a set of those clunky black headphones so you could listen to a comedy album by Nichols and May or Allan Sherman..

The Flint that I remember was the Flint Institute of Art’s summer Art Fair or a laser light show at the Planetarium.

The Flint that I remember was seeing and hearing Flint’s rock n’ roll finest come to life in the practice rooms in the Bronson-Fisher building long before they ever took to the stage.

The Flint that I remember was taking a driver’s education class at Flint Northwestern and getting that blue driver’s permit at the completion of the course.

The Flint that I remember had people like Rich Fisher and Roseanne Serra doing the news and weather on Channel 12 news.

The Flint that I remember was getting all of the latest Tiger baseball news and interviews with the players by listening to Pete Sark’s Tiger baseball reports on WFDF.

The Flint that I remember was signing up for the Citizens Bank Christmas club at Lewis Elementary School and making sure that I had my quarter every week to give to my teacher to put in my account.

The Flint that I remember was being excited about having enough money saved up ($49) to purchase by first FM stereo (table top) radio at Montgomery Ward.

The Flint that I remember was going to donkey basketball games at Lowell Jr. High and ice cream socials at Potter Elementary.

The Flint that I remember had Al Kessel throwing the grocery specials of the week to someone off screen in his television commercials.

The Flint that I remember had a guy name Zip doing sports on Channel 5 newscasts.

The Flint that I remember was going with a school group to the Shrine Circus at the IMA Auditorium every January.

The Flint that I remember was going to Uncle Bob’s Diner for a piece of pie and ice cream or a Slim Jim at Big Boy after a movie at the Capital Theater

The Flint that I remember had the local owner of the Ponderosa Steak House always being surrounded by kids in his television commercials.

The Flint that I remember had people like Diana Ross and The Supremes making a personal appearance at Maa’s in Downtown Flint before their concert at the IMA or Terry Knight and the Pack performing a concert at the Fair store in the South Flint Plaza.

The Flint that I remember was shopping for a television or an appliance at Greenley’s, a mattress for your bed at Pearless and or living room and dining room furniture from one of the many companies owned by Ron Ralston.

Names like “Blain”, “Knickerblocker”, “Al Bennett”, “Superior”, “Vern Parsell” and “Al Serra” were the name plates on the cars in the Flint that I remember….

The Flint that I remember was filled with community pride every summer for events like the Canusa games and the running of the Bob Crim 10k road race.

The Flint that I remember as a kid was getting excited whenever when we heard the clanging sounds of the bells signaling that “the ice cream boy” was nearby and how we were always warned not to touch the hot ice when grabbing our ice cream novelties from his cart.

The Flint that I remember was going downtown to the barber college to get one of those “high priced” twenty-five cent hair cuts.

Going to a grocery store in the Flint that I remember was having such places to shop as A& P,  Mansour’s, Feke and Yott, Hickory Meat Block, Thompson’s, and everybody’s favorite “Hamady’s”.

So, every time that I hear about drive-by shooting, another house that someone set on fire or all of the budget cuts seem to take place every other day in Flint today – I look back at the Flint that I remember and I hope that some day soon – it can reclaim some of things that made the city great.  

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

When It Comes To Radio Broadcasters -- They Just Don't Make Them Like Al Tyrell Anymore

  I have worked with some incredible broadcasting legends during the twenty-five plus years that I toiled in the business.  Some of the names you would recognize from their work on air and then there were the others that worked behind the scenes who were just as important as those on the air that people turned on their radios to listen to. One of those “behind the scenes” people who made an impression on me is a salesman in Port Huron by the name of Al Tyrell.  A big bear of a man, Al Tyrell was an old school kind of salesman who didn’t have to convince you to advertise on his radio station by carrying in a bunch of rating books with numbers that you could twist and turn to say anything you want.  Nope, when Al Tyrell came into your business – he convinced you to buy advertising on his station because it worked and he made sure that it did.

  The main reason that the radio advertising that Al Tyrell sold worked so well was because of Al Tyrell.  Before Al stepped in front of a microphone, with that “voice from God” that he has, he would sit at his desk and personally write the commercial for his client. He didn’t use a computer or have a secretary transcribe his words – he wrote it in long hand with a pencil on yellow legal pad.

  And when it comes to writing commercials – Al didn’t have to follow some stylebook on how to write radio commercials or attend some advertising seminar where the “ones who know pass on the knowledge to those who don’t” – Al just knew what it took to make an effective radio commercial and he did it.  He knew it in his gut what to say and said it.  Plus, Al had an amazing gift for knowing how to deliver the message his advertisers wanted you to hear without a lot of fluff and minus the bullshit.  Once written – the advertisers’ message was delivered not by some screaming insincere announcer or a pimply-faced kid just out of broadcast school, but by a caring voice you could trust – Al Tyrell.

  When it came to selling radio advertising in Port Huron – there aren’t too many people who could come close to Al Tyrell in terms of sales.  There were no big or small accounts to Al Tyrell, because he treated all of his clients alike – whether it was some big agency account that bought in thousands of dollars a week or that one client that advertised for a week or two once a year.  

  I would venture a guess that Al would probably be pounding the streets selling radio advertising today, but radio changed and it’s almost like people like Al were pushed out…not because they didn’t produce – it’s they didn’t do it “the company way”. 

  Salespeople like Al Tyrell don’t come around every day.  They don’t yearn to climb the corporate ladder at some radio station – they just want to do their job – which is to sell.  Management knows that someone like Al Tyrell is going to write a lot of orders and bring a lot of money into the station – but there’s something about management that wants someone like Al to be just like everyone else – where not only do they expect you to sell – but they have you busy writing reports and projections that are nothing more than just paper for some department head to push around to justify their existence.  I think it’s safe to say that near the end of Al’s career as a radio salesperson, he was more than a little frustrated with all of the paperwork that he had to do – paperwork that took time away from him doing the job of selling and paperwork that he knew didn’t add any more money to his monthly sales figures. 

   It’s been a little more than seven years or since Al retired from selling radio in Port Huron, Michigan.  Oh, he dabbles in the industry here and there – writing and recording commercials for a few of his clients that he has served over the years – but for the most part – he’s enjoying the good life with a fishing rod on some lake with his grandson.  I’m sure he’s shared a few fish stories with his grandson – not about the ones that got away – but stories about how many fish they’re going to reel in today.

   I think it was the late Steve Allen who said that when you have to describe what makes a joke funny – the joke is no longer funny.  The same thing can be said about advertising -- once you try to analyze what makes a radio commercial great and try to do it over and over again – the next commercial might not be as good.  It’s people like Al Tyrell who knew just by instinct what made a great commercial and he delivered it time after time to a list of clients who wish that he was still doing it today.  But radio as an advertising medium has changed.  Today – it’s just facts and figures, reports and projections and the human element to the business is gone…and Al Tyrell – he’s gone too.  He’s out fishing and enjoying life while radio tries to figure if they’ll ever see the likes of someone like Al Tyrell again.    

Sunday, August 26, 2012

You Gotta Blame Somebody


   A couple of weeks ago, I had to drive into town to get some blood work done at my doctor’s office and on my way there I seen one of the saddest things in real long time.  In the dirt, on the right-hand side of the road, there was a fairly nice size Winnie The Pooh stuffed animal laying on its back with its legs in the air.  I thought that somewhere in the area a little child has lost their Pooh doll and that child would probably be crying their eyes out if they could see how Pooh ended up on the busy back road in the state of Michigan.

   Before I could get the sad thought of Pooh out of my head – there was another sight that proved even harder to shake out of my consciousness.  On this same road, no more than 300 or so feet away, my eyes gravitated to what looked like road kill right on the center double yellow line.  Much like Pooh – laying on its back with its feet in the air – but with tire marks across its stomach was none other than a stuffed Tigger doll that was about the same size as Pooh.

   How could a child’s Winnie the Pooh and Tigger doll come to meet the fate that it did?  Did someone put these dolls on the side of the road for the trash collector to pick up?  It’s a possibility, but I didn’t notice any garbage bins out on the side of the road, but you can’t rule it out. 

   When I shared this story with someone else they reasoned that some family was probably moving into a new home and they had all of their belongings in the back of a pick-up truck or a trailer and these dolls fell out of one of the boxes.  This scenario is as good as any – but I still don’t think that was how they ended up in the road – nope, my story is a little more sinister.  You see, much like the family dog that he put in a box and strapped in on the top of their car -- Mitt Romney is responsible for Winnie the Pooh and Tigger’s sad demise on some back road in Michigan

   How do I know it’s Mitt?  It certainly isn’t Barack Obama.  Obama has young kids of his own and he wouldn’t do something like that to such loveable creatures as Tigger and Pooh.  Obama would make sure that any cuts, scrapes or bruises that they might have gotten from being on the side of the road would be covered in his health care plan and he would support any group that advocated that they be allowed to marry each other.  You know I’m right – if it wasn’t Mitt Romney – who was it?

How Sweet It Was: "Grandma's Medicine"

   “Don’t touch these – they’re Grandma’s medicine” was the warning us kids got about Grandma’s little bottle of saccharine pills that were always on my grandparent’s table when we’d visit them in Cheboygan, Michigan

   “Grandma’s got sugar and she needs these to put in her coffee,” they’d tell us. 

   It didn’t make any sense to me – if she has “sugar” – why does she need those little pills?

   “Because they’re her medicine,” like that explanation meant anything to a young and inquisitive mind.

   Well, I’m older now and I have “sugar”, but unlike Grandma, I don’t have that little bottle of saccharine pills on my table, I’ve got a jar filled with those pink packets.  Oh, I could have the yellow or the blue packets, but I’m an old die-hard who enjoys saccharine, what I don’t like are those damn pink packets.  If you have to put the contents of those pink packets in a steaming beverage – you’ve got to fumble around which end you’re going to tear it open – do you go on the “marked” end or the unmarked end?  And sometimes all of the contents of the packet doesn’t empty out because the steam of the beverage – I want a bottle filled with those little white pills that we once knew as Grandma’s medicine. 

   I’m surprised that diabetics in this country aren’t demanding artificial sweeteners in a delivery form such as my “grandma’s medicine” – i.e. “saccharine tablets”.  A little bottle of saccharine tablets are a lot more convenient than those pink, blue or yellow packets and they would be easier to use whether you’re making a cup of coffee for yourself or a picture of sugar-free sweet tea.  And if these tablets were available today – we would be able to pass on that “don’t touch Grandpa’s medicine” warning to a whole new generation of grandchildren.  It’s only a thought.