2014-11-13 / Viewpoint

Disassembling America a little piece at a time

Gary Gould — Managing Editor

There was an old TV commercial that played around Flint back in the 1970s when I was a kid. I think there is still a variation on that commercial that’s played on the radio, but it was for the Applegate Chevrolet dealership.

It was a song and it went a little something like this: “That sure sounds like Flint to me! We love baseball, hotdogs, Applegate and Chevrolet!”

This column really has nothing to do with those things, but it’s more about what those things represent — it’s about America and the gradual deconstruction of everything this country has stood for.

The song has to do with what’s considered American — our national pastime, a favorite food and a popular brand of car. It could also very easily be about places like drive-in movie theaters, very American and also very much on the way out.

When I was a kid, going to the drivein theater every summer was just as American as all those things talked about in that song.

It was a place for friends to go hang out and have fun, for teenagers to have their first date and for families to go spend a night together taking in a movie.

Drive-ins were big back in the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s. They have hung on around Genesee County in the years since their heyday until now only the U.S. 23 drive-in remains.

This will be the first summer since I was born 40-some years ago that there may not be a drive-in open in Genesee County and I find it to be sad not only because I like going to the drive-in, but because it represents just one more piece of Americana that we’re losing.

I remember when I was a child going to the drive-in with my folks. My mom would pop a big bag of popcorn and we’d take our own drinks and candy, then we’d go out to the drive-in just before dark. Sometimes we enjoyed the movie from the comfort of the car, other times we endured the mosquitoes and sat out in lawn chairs to watch the screen.

As teenagers it was a place to go with your date or to hang out with groups of friends, often never really watching the movie, but instead using it as a gathering place to hang out and talk.

It’s sad that we’re losing our driveins. When you think about that song I mentioned, you have to really look at some of those things mentioned, and you realize how things have changed. Baseball has been rocked by scandals and has become so commercialized (Tiger Stadium is gone and now we have a stadium named after a financial institution) it lacks the luster it once held.

Applegate is still around. And while Chevrolet is clinging on to life, popular automobile brands like Pontiac have run out of gas (killing off the Pontiac name is another atrocity I could write a whole column about).

Thankfully we still have hot dogs (Koegel of course). Please don’t let them take away that aspect of American culture. When we run out of coney restaurants in Flint, we’ve passed the point of no return. ggould@mihomepaper.com

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