Beyond, Michigan, North America

Growing Up In Flint, MI

“I love Michigan. I live in Texas but Michigan is and always will be HOME.”

My Aunt Debbie grew up in Flint, Michigan and lived there until 1971. Then, she moved to Kalamazoo, Michigan where she went to college. She now lives in San Antonio.

I asked Debbie to reflect on her time spent in Flint, what it was like growing up there and places she remembers as being special.

In the 1960s

In the ’60s, Flint was known as Vehicle City and was home to General Motors, a car company that hired most of Debbie’s friends’ fathers. The company offered incredible benefits and great pay to hundreds of thousands.  At its peak in the 1970s, GM employed 80,000 of Flint’s 190,000 residents.

I asked my Aunt Debbie several questions about where she went out to eat, where she shopped, and if she frequented any bars in Flint. She explained that in the ’60s her family went out so seldom, it wasn’t like it is today — people didn’t eat at restaurants once a week. Debbie remembers occasionally go to Dunkin’ Donuts or A&W. Now, her top recommendation is a little pizza place called Sorrentos. Currently, top rated restaurants according to Flint residents are Redwood Steakhouse and Brewery and Krystal Jo’s Diner, locals swear it’s the best breakfast in town.

The top place to shop for clothes in Flint was Federal Department Store, a chain founded in Detroit in 1929. They filed for bankruptcy in 1972. Today, Genesee Valley Center is the largest mall in town and offers a wide variety of shops. Another fun place to shop is the Flint Farmers’ Market, open year around, offering fresh, locally grown goods as well as homemade arts and crafts.

As a high school student, Debbie didn’t frequent many bars in Flint. However, she enjoyed visiting Knollwood in Kalamazoo during her college days. Knollwood was a small bar that sold burgers and boiled eggs. Now, Daizy Dukes Sports Bar and Grill is a spot in Flint that locals frequent. They rave about the incredible food and excellent service. Plus, who doesn’t love a spot with pool tables, volleyball courts, dart boards, and a juke box?

Now

Since the 1960s, Flint’s population has dropped by nearly 50 percent. There are still building signs that pay homage to the once booming Vehicle City, but Flint is no longer what it used to be.

Regardless, Debbie visits home occasionally and has a trip planned this summer to visit the Upper Peninsula. There isn’t a “best season to visit Michigan” because all seasons are great, especially the fall when the colors change. You can expect a lot of snow in the winter.

Debbie recommends taking a trip to nearby Mackinac (pronounced Mackinaw) Island. There are no cars on the island, but you can rent a bike and get around the 6 mile island in an hour.

Debbie looks back on her time in Flint fondly. She enjoyed growing up in the area and is sad that the reputation has changed so drastically. She hopes that the town can return to its former glory, and once again be the place that so many loved to call home.

Read more of the blogs in my Growing Up In series by clicking one of the following links: Growing Up In Chicago, ILGrowing up in Chelmsford, MAGrowing Up In Boulder, COGrowing up in Westminster, CO, and Growing Up In Auberry, CA.

 

Thanks for reading,

Emma

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0 thoughts on “Growing Up In Flint, MI

    1. Me too! It is such a beautiful island. I remember going as a young girl and thinking that big hotel was incredible. My mom and I got Shirley Temples and pretended we were rich enough to stay there.

  1. While I appreciate the topic idea, I thought it would be portrayed in more of an interview format; since it wasn’t done that way, I figured we’d get quotes woven into the article at the very least, not just, “Oh, this food was good when they went out to eat (which wasn’t often). This was fun to do. This was a place to go. This is where people go now. It’s a lot of fun.” The audience gets no sense of your aunt’s time in Flint, at all, because this simply feels like you wrote a Yelp/Google report to fill a quota.

    Here are some of my unanswered questions:
    1. Why did you decide to write an article about your aunt living in the Flint area?
    2. Where did you aunt go to school, one of the schools in Flint proper or a suburb school?
    – What was school itself like? What subjects did she study, what extracurriculars did they offer?
    – Did she or any of her friends work during high school? Where? Was there a “best place” or “common place” where it seemed everyone worked at some point?
    3. What was her neighborhood like? What kinds of houses (large or small, “fancy” or factory-family housing, etc.)?
    – Was it full of out-of-state transplants, or were there generations of families living in the same few blocks (both were common in this area)?
    4. What sorts of fun things did your aunt actually do on a regular basis (since you mentioned they didn’t go out to eat very often but based most of the article on places to eat)?
    – What was a typical after-school day as a child? Summer holiday? Friday/Saturday night, as a teenager?
    – What’s her favorite memory from Flint as a child? As a teenager? What about her favorite place (outside of familial homes)?
    5. Why did she choose to go to college in Kalamazoo instead of Genesee Community College, Baker Business University, or Flint College/U of M-Flint?
    6. When she remembers Flint, what’s the first thing she thinks about?
    7. Has she been back since she moved away (you mentioned Sorrentos in Flushing, so I’m assuming so)? If so, how has it changed?
    – How does she feel about coming back?
    8. What does she think about the way the Flint area is portrayed in the media now?
    – Was the water issue jarring? A lot of transplants I’ve talked to mentioned hearing about Flint on the news and not being able to reconcile the images they were seeing and the words they were reading to the place they grew up and loved.
    – Has she heard anyone talk poorly about Flint in Texas? I’ve been in other states and heard people make “jokes” about Flint just needing to have a wall built or to be bombed, because it’s just “a waste”. Has she experienced that, or anything similar? If so, how did it make her feel?

    1. Hi Hannah,
      All great questions! You’re totally right, this could’ve been so much longer and way more detailed. It’s interesting… I have been working on this “hometown series” and interviewing people about the places they grew up for a few weeks now. Each post was meant to be focused around places the interviewee frequented when they lived there, and places that are popular there now. My aunt’s post was unique in that Flint is such a controversial town. I started to dig into the water crisis and the increased crime…but this post was meant to be light and happy, so I removed those remarks.
      As for all of the additional questions you provided about her childhood, those are excellent suggestions. As I move forward with this series I will look to your questions for inspiration to get a more detailed interview. I may even set it up in question and answer form to make it more reader friendly!
      Thank you for stopping by. I appreciate your kind criticism and the polite way in which you handled it.
      Emma

  2. I was born in Michigan (I currently live in CO) and much of my family, including my dad and a few of my siblings, still live there. I really enjoyed reading this. It gave me a sense of nostalgia.

    1. Thank you! I am so glad. I have family near Grand Rapids and love Michigan, especially in the summer! It really is such a beautiful place…sounds like you had the best of both worlds with Michigan and Colorado!

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