Ghosts of Flint’s Bar Scene…

I was playing in a trivia game Tuesday night at a bar in Burton, MI called BJ’s, which is a bar where one of my aunts (who died in 2014) worked for a short time in the ’70s. She was one of two aunts I had who worked as “barmaids” (older term for female bar servers which is politically incorrect now) in the 1970s.

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My flirty Aunt Anita and I, circa 1975. She worked at BJ’s Bar in the 1970s – her “tough as nails, take no prisoners” personality probably served her very, very well in this job!

I wanted to find out more about another bar where another of my aunts worked in the 1970s.  My Aunt Marilyn (who died in 2011 or 2012) worked at the The Viking Lounge, and I wanted to find out if any of the BJ’s customers remembered that bar. It was located on Davison Road. Sadly, I don’t have any photos of Aunt Marilyn to share here (she was very, very photo shy).

I reverted back to my “journo” days fairly quickly after entering BJ’s Bar, and started to go into “investigation” mode. First order of business? Find the right “source” for my story!

It didn’t take long – a very talkative “gentleman” with a mullet proved to be a very wise owl about the past bar scenes in Flint and Burton, MI!

Here’s a snippet of our conversation:

Him:

What was the name of the bar where your aunt worked?

Me:

The Viking. It was on Davison Road.

Him:

Was it “downtown,” or on the “East side?”

Me: (I did not really know what he meant by “downtown”), but I knew it was on the East side…

The East Side.

Then we both started rattling off businesses/places that were nearby, and bam…we connected! He said that the Viking Lounge is now called Tim and Paula’s. So… that’s good, right? The building in which Aunt Marilyn worked serving drinks still exists – that is more than can be said for a good number of other Flint buildings, which have succumbed to fire in past years (arson is, not surprisingly, kind of a big problem in Flint according to this article on M Live).

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Homedale School as it appeared in 1940. It was located at the corner of Davison Road and Olive Street. It was burned down and demolished in 2010 (someone was charged with the arson).

One of the iconic buildings in the area that burned recently was Homedale School, which was right across the street from an apartment where Aunt Marilyn and her four kids lived. I am fairly certain that the building in which they lived is now…gone too. At the time, there was a saw shop business on the lower level, and they lived in an apartment upstairs. It wasn’t the nicest living space in the world, but it had a large living/dining room, and enough bedrooms so that her kids weren’t all bunking together (and my cousin “Mickey” had her own room away from her three brothers).

Sadly a Flint “landmark” called Angelos, which was also located on Davison Road, is now closed (they have another location off U.S. 23 near Fenton which is still open 24 hours). This was a place locally famous for its burgers and coney dogs, and I (think) this building is now used for Angelo’s headquarters. Read more about that story here. Some of my relatives who moved away from this area still made a point to stop in at Angelo’s whenever they came back into town (I’m sure my cousin James is really sad about Angelo’s being closed)!

This whole experience made me feel strangely “connected” to my dead relatives, and I felt kind of like I had come “home!” I’ll have to admit it’s actually kind of sad going back and seeing some of the places in Flint that have either become utterly run down – or don’t even exist anymore. People like to joke about the bad water in Flint (which to me is NO joke please, please please stop poisoning these folks, they have it bad enough as it is), and joke about the crime, corruption, squalor, etc. – but it’s still a city that a good number of my family called home – and STILL call “home.” Sigh… just don’t get me started on the vast asphalt blankness that used to be Buick City (where my dad worked)!

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