Sunday, August 31, 2008

sunday drive: buick heritage center

The last dispatch from my hometown of Flint, Michigan.

Located at the edge of the College and Cultural Center which we visited last week,
The Buick Heritage Center is the last vestige of the Buick Motor Division in the town that saw her grow and prosper. It's the ephemera closet- the Show Cars, the plaques, the scale models, and thankfully much historical documentation. All has been left behind in Flint.

Along with her heart.

Ladies and Gentlemen, revisit the glory that was "The Buick" at the Heritae Center:

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

no way, no how, no mc cain

Magnificent. Why I love Hillary- poised, articulate, and spot on. So compelling.I can't say anything better so I will leave it to her.

Keep going. Keep going. Keep GOING.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

root beer

Mother didn't get to choose the color of her 1971 Cadillac, and wasn't totally crazy about the period triple light green color scheme. She was more of a nautical gal at heart, those Bill Blass Blues suited her much better.

So when it was time for the new 1974, she took the helm. She chose a deep hue called Diplomat Blue matched with a white top and snow white leather trim. I went with her to pick it up at Superior Cadillac on Dort Highway. She wore a matching blue and white outfit to accentuate her purchase.

On the way home, we stopped for a celebratory root beer at the A & W hot dog stand in Grand Blanc, that still had car hop service in the 1970's. She pulled up in the majestic chariot, touched the power window button and began her order. Except that she had lowered the rear window by mistake. She turned beet red. To my adolescent brain, it was hilarious. For decades to come, I could make her laugh by putting down a rear window and saying. "I'd like a root beer, please".

I noticed on this visit home that the old hot dog stand has reopened. It's under a different name, but still serves hot dogs and frosty cold mugs of root beer. It even has car hops on the weekends.

I piled my Dad and stepmother into the old 1975 Buick Electra, the one I left with Dad for safekeeping about ten years ago. We went down to for lunch yesterday. We dined on the picnic tables instead of inside the car but the experience was very much as I remember it.

I got back into the car first. I rolled down the left rear window and said "I'd like a root beer, please".

flint expatriates

Well, the Sunday Drive to the College and Cultural Center in my hometown of Flint has taken an interesting turn- received an email from another Flint native directing me to a cool blog called Flint Expatriates, full of pictures old and new, and more ephemera than you could shake an IMA Little League Bat at. So if you know who Slim Chiply is, and can recite the Weather Ball poem, you'll be in like Flint.

The site is written by Bay Area Journalist Gordon Young, and is chock full of memories for the ex-pats such as myself, but also the very interesting story of a rust belt industrial town in the post-industrialist era and its struggle for not only survival, but for identity.

And in the meantime, check out this great 1964 photo of Gordon and his siblings along with their proud grandparents and a brand new 1964 Electra in front of the Flint Institute of Arts. I showed you the building on Sunday in its modified state, here it is pristine original:

Sunday, August 24, 2008

sunday drive: flint college and cultural center

My little hometown of Flint, MI is famous for many things- the hometown of Buick, the Beecher Tornado, the All American City award of 1954, and most recently, being named the third fastest dying city in America. Less recalled today is that was also the birthplace of General Motors.

In 1958, as part of the Golden Jubilee Celebration, which was a year long commemoration of GM's 50th Anniversary, the College and Cultural Center opened. GM millionaire philanthropist C. S. Mott donated 30 acres of lush acreage adjacent to his elgant Applewood estate for the center, and construction of an adjacent college campus.

The plaza itself, dedicated to GM founder Billy Durant, and the first buildings were completed when the center was dedicated in 1958, with the balance following by the mid-sixties. The architecture was sleek mid century modern, with severely plain brick walls and generous aluminum cased windows and detailing. The buildings were closely related to each other architecurally. Most utilized courtyards and had stone screens to conceal mechanical needs. Even the lettering was consistent- aluminum in the identical font helped tie the structures together. And there were several- The Bower Theater and the Longway Planetarium opened first, followed closely by the Flint Institute of Arts, the main Flint Public Library Branch and my favorite, the Alfred P. Sloan Panorama of Transportation. The Whiting Auditorium and the Flint Instutute of Music followed closely thereafter, in comtemporary sixies fashion.

Here is the cultural center of my childhood. Many school trips, weekend trips with my parents, theatrical events, and car shows. To this day it remains the site of the national Buick shows when they return home. And what a setting it is. Virtually untouched until 2003, it has recently suffered a well meaning modernization at the Flint Institute of Arts which, while somewhat in the spirit of the original, diminished and disturbed the continuity of the original design.

But most are untouched. The sixty foot domed Planetarium is delightfully intact, as is the Bower theater with fabulous canopy and a most amazing ornamental design on its upper wall surface. The Sloan has become less automotive over the years (no idea why) and more ephemera inspired, but at least the structure is intact. The most recent addition, the Buick Heritage Center, we will be visiting soon.

Ladies and Gentlemen, a trip of 1930 miles and way, way back to my childhood, please enjoy the Flint College and Cultural Center: