What was it like to grow up in the city that was the birthplace of General Motors? In the 1940s, '50s and '60s, it was pretty good.
Flint, Mich., was seldom called a garden spot — not since the carriage days, when it was noted for fine houses built by lumber-and-carriage families on tree-shaded streets. But everyone knew it was a place to make money.
After tens of thousands of workers poured into the Vehicle City in the first half of the 20th century as the automobile business boomed, a more frequent description of Flint was "gritty."
That wasn't entirely accurate either. After the UAW won recognition in the 1936-37 sit-down strike, workers began to prosper. And so, for several decades in the mid-20th century, Flint had the highest per-capita income in the country. Flint auto workers could buy nice houses, second cars and vacation cottages.
As late as 1978, about 78,000 people worked in Flint-area GM plants. They all made good money. The local GM payroll topped $2 billion.
The city was politically powerful, too, and had influential residents. Harlow Curtice, GM CEO from 1953 to 1958, always lived in Flint, drove Flint-built Buicks and promoted the city.
Among other powerful Flint men were Charles Stewart Mott, the city's great philanthropist, three-time mayor and a GM board member for 60 years until his death at 97 in 1973. And Art Summerfield, a Chevrolet dealer who became Republican national chairman and then U.S. postmaster general in the Eisenhower administration.