From Jeff Munroe
I’ve been reading Gordon Young’s Teardown, his memoir about growing up in, escaping from, and returning to Flint, Michigan. Flint is Detroit without the charm of the professional sports teams - 70,000 jobs at General Motors plants have disappeared and the public school system enrollment has gone from a peak of over 46,000 students to around 14,000. Flint’s problems are a complicated stew of economics, race, crime and apathy. Like Gordon Young, I too am from Flint, and have my own Flint stories to tell.
My church, First Presbyterian, still stands downtown on Saginaw Street, across from Kewpies (technically Halo Burger), where I would get in line as a twelve-year-old to order a burger and Vernor’s amid the lost souls of the city who sat inside on cold winter days waiting for the cops to kick them out. In the summer we’d go a half-block further from Halo Burger to the A&W where they’d hook your tray to your car window, guaranteeing the obscenities coming from the guys across the street in the county jail would stream in your open windows.
In the summer of 1978 all the male members of my family worked for General Motors. My most vivid memories of that time include being there when a woman’s thumb was cut off by a metal press and watching a guy sleep on a pallet of cardboard every night. I guarantee the guy sleeping was making more money than me. And furthermore in the twisted irony of the place department: I remember our quality control inspector would yell needed corrections I couldn’t hear because of my ear plugs and the noise the presses made. Plus he was an immigrant with a very heavy accent, so what I could hear I couldn’t understand. What killed GM? Stuff like that, a million times over.