TRANSCRIPT OF PODCAST ESSAY AND INTERVIEWS
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Hello, you are listening to Radio Free Flint. Thank you for joining us. I'm Arthur Busch, your host.
Today's topic is what is a Flintstone? Why do people refer to themselves as Flintstones? Where does it come from?
All this and more in our episode today.
The first person I talked to is Cindy Johns of Carriage Town Ministries.
Cindy is a lifelong resident, and I asked her if she was a Flintstone, and if she was, what does it mean?
You know there's a lot of people in Flint that that refer to themselves that.
I assumed it just meant you were from Flint, but that's all I know.
No, I asked you a question, are you a Flintstone?
Uhm, so what's the term mean? Is it just moved here from Flint?
It derived from this group of boys that played young men that played at Michigan State University in 2001, the national championship, and the national media started this narrative about them and their town as being tough, brilliant, hardworking, and they were well.
There's that's where the term started. Now the town has taken that as an identity, something you're the only one I've asked out of about 115 people who didn't say they were a Flintstone convoluted wolf.
Oh, I just didn't know the term.
OK, so let me ask it again. Are you a Flintstone?
I would say yes. I would say yes.
I'm cut from that same resilient, hardworking stock of Flint
Is that how you would describe the city, or would you use another word?
Uhm, in addition to that, I would probably grit. Flint has struggled, but it's home.
It is turning around. Is being successful innovative? I see innovation coming in downtown Flint, so Flint will be prosperous again.
The next person I talked to was Genesee County Circuit Judge Duncan Beagle.
Duncan Beagle discussed what a Flintstone was and where it might have started from and, surprisingly, even talks about helping these young Flint basketball players at the very start of their careers.
Duncan Beagle gave his opinion about a Flintstone and discussed whether he is a Flintstone.
Duncan, you've helped many kids and mentored many kids along the way, especially athletes.
Some of the more memorable ones for our entire community.
We have all our favorites, and we had, you know, some great moments watching the high school athletics, but we had a crew in 2000 that played. Well, I think it's one of the greatest coaches in the history of the college game. Tom Izzo and we had four young men that went down to Michigan State.
And played for his own those people.
00:02:42 Judge Duncan Beagle
You know, it's funny I when I was practicing law, I sponsored some youth date.
00:02:47 Judge Duncan Beagle
We called him the legal beagles.
00:02:48 Judge Duncan Beagle
We had a Beagle dog in the front of their shirts, but one of the sponsored teams just happened to have an 11-year-old kid by the teen cleaves and one of his friends by the name of Robert Smith, who ended up in the national.
00:02:59 Judge Duncan Beagle
Football, and because of that, I got to know those folks there was Robert's brother Antonio.
00:03:04 Judge Duncan Beagle
Smith, there was Charlie Bell, and Morris Peterson, whose father was in education, and I think one of the best memories I have is not only following those guys all that year.
00:03:14 Judge Duncan Beagle
Tremendous pride that gave the community, but at.
00:03:17 Judge Duncan Beagle
00:03:18 Judge Duncan Beagle
The moment I got two guys, we went down to Indianapolis with the national championship game, not knowing whether we would get any.
00:03:25 Judge Duncan Beagle
Tickets or not, we were able to get tickets.
00:03:27 Judge Duncan Beagle
We went to the game, and I couldn't sleep.
00:03:30 Judge Duncan Beagle
The next morning, I went down to the hotel lobby where somebody had given the first person I ran into was Tom Izzo, about 6:00 o'clock in the morning, because he was going to do all the morning talk show that I had a chance to talk to him for about 10 minutes, and.
00:03:43 Judge Duncan Beagle
00:03:43 Judge Duncan Beagle
Of those great memories where Flint was just being highlighted, you were very proud of those four young men from Flint, MI.
Those guys became known as The Flintstones.
Where did that come from?
People called themselves Flintoids, I remember.
And Flintstones, I don't know, I don't.
Remember it before then, do you?
00:04:04 Judge Duncan Beagle
I it may have come from the cartoon character, and I can still remember somebody around town that sketched The Flintstones and incorporated our four basketball players.
00:04:15 Judge Duncan Beagle
Into it, I don't know if that's exactly where it came from, but as you well know, there are stories that go around the community, but what a great nickname.
00:04:22 Judge Duncan Beagle
People still talk about that when they talk about the history of basketball, especially college basketball, I'll go back to 2000. Those four young men from Flint, MI.
Those guys represented something to the people of Michigan.
And especially the Flint.
00:04:38 Judge Duncan Beagle
You know, the interesting thing was four high schools in the community at that time.
00:04:42 Judge Duncan Beagle
As I recall, I think they attended 3 out of the four high schools, so the entire community from each of those schools took a lot of pride.
00:04:51 Judge Duncan Beagle
I recall that two of them had educators in their families.
00:04:55 Judge Duncan Beagle
Like Charlie Bell and Morris Peterson, Mateen Cleaves had a father and mother.
00:05:00 Judge Duncan Beagle
They were well known around town.
00:05:02 Judge Duncan Beagle
00:05:03 Judge Duncan Beagle
It was one of those things, I think.
00:05:04 Judge Duncan Beagle
We latched onto the other.
00:05:06 Judge Duncan Beagle
The thing you know when you think about playing.
00:05:08 Judge Duncan Beagle
Historically it was a work hard, play hard type community a lot of blue-collar people, and that's where those guys played the game.
00:05:14 Judge Duncan Beagle
You knew anything at all about it.
00:05:15 Judge Duncan Beagle
The teen cleaned the boy.
00:05:16 Judge Duncan Beagle
I'll tell you what he was, a born natural leader.
00:05:19 Judge Duncan Beagle
He didn't become successful in the NBA but in terms.
00:05:22 Judge Duncan Beagle
00:05:23 Judge Duncan Beagle
You wouldn't have found a better.
00:05:24 Judge Duncan Beagle
Once then, the team cleaves.
Yeah, well, he was the number one draft pick.
Toughness, the strength they represented, and the determination came to represent to Flint exactly what it means to be a Flintstone, not just on a basketball court but in life.
00:05:43 Judge Duncan Beagle
I'll tell you one other thing I'm talking to.
00:05:45 Judge Duncan Beagle
Some of the coaches and athletic directors.
00:05:47 Judge Duncan Beagle
We're going to try and create a Flintstone classic for the beginning of a high school basketball and see if there's any interest in one of the reasons for it is to keep that.
00:05:56 Judge Duncan Beagle
00:05:57 Judge Duncan Beagle
So a lot of young people.
00:05:58 Judge Duncan Beagle
Realize what these gentlemen.
00:06:00 Judge Duncan Beagle
I've also experienced doing this podcast and talking to as many people as I have that there are people now that refer to themselves as Flintstone.
00:06:09 Judge Duncan Beagle
00:06:13 Judge Duncan Beagle
00:06:13 Judge Duncan Beagle
What does it mean to be a Flintstone in a person in a bigger sense?
What is it that a Flintstone means?
Let me start out by asking, are you a Flintstone?
00:06:25 Judge Duncan Beagle
I think it's a pride in your community.
00:06:27 Judge Duncan Beagle
Hard work because every one of those guys worked at a trade, and they all became successful.
00:06:33 Judge Duncan Beagle
But I think it was their style of play.
00:06:35 Judge Duncan Beagle
They were dedicated to their family and community and represented a community they just knew how to.
00:06:41 Judge Duncan Beagle
If you remember the Pistons, I think they had that image with Ben Wallace Lambir, and some of those guys about that bring your lunch bucket, and it's time to go to work, and I think all of them came from working families and.
00:06:52 Judge Duncan Beagle
I think a lot of. People in Flint, you know, certainly recognized.
I agree with Duncan Beagle that the Flintstones. Original Flintstones were the young men from Flint who joined the Michigan State University basketball.
In the late 1990s, in 2000, their Michigan State University team won the NCA National Championship for men's basketball.
These Spartan basketball players had Flint tattooed on their upper arms with a basketball above it as they became known. Several of the MSU Flintstones attended the same. Elementary school in Flint
Judge Beagle, uh, reference they played AAU basketball together.
Flintstone basketball players believed their brand of basketball embodied the values of their hometown Flint values and their minds were hard work, toughness, resilience, and determination.
Basketball coach Tom Izzo at Michigan State is quoted in national publications about the quote UN quote culture, The Flintstones brought to the locker room in East Lansing is alights the toughness that the kids from Flint brought to his basketball teams.
These young men were champions, the Flintstones were winners.
It had been a long time in Flint since it was a winner in much of anything except high school sports. The other Flintstones not on the basketball team drew from the Basketball Flintstones.
The notion that they could be winning in their own walks of life.
That is what Flintstones do. The other Flintstones believe that Flint was once a great city where winners were born. The former residents want to return Flint to its former glory. In essence, they want to go back home to that place in time and their memories of a golden age, seemingly in the view of many Flint expatriates.
The Flint of old in their heads still exists.
My next guest is Jeffrey Valley, a Gospel Grammy winner, Flint.
He shares with us what it means to him.
Jeffrey Valley, let me ask you one last question.
Yeah, what does that mean to you?
What does it mean to be a Flintstone?
00:09:00 Jeffrey LeValley
It's a resilient substance. When you talk about a Flint. you can start a fire with Flint.
It's hard stuff, just with a heart. It can stand up and gets on its own and flat to me.
With all that Flint has been through with the loss of General Motors and the water crisis, we're still standing. We've been through a lot, but we're still here; no, I was not born here.
I was born in Milwaukee but spent most of my life in the city.
And I love, I repeat, love this city.
I think it's a wonderful place to live.
00:09:43 Jeffrey LeValley
It's a wonderful place to raise a family.
00:09:46 Jeffrey LeValley
It's a wonderful place to make friends.
00:09:48 Jeffrey LeValley
It's a wonderful place to become involved in the arts and do whatever you want.
00:09:55 Jeffrey LeValley
00:09:56 Jeffrey LeValley
00:09:58 Jeffrey LeValley
What seems to have followed over 20 years after the Michigan State University Spartan basketball team won the national championship is a regional identity tied to Flint's real or imagined blue-collar culture. By the end of 2021, I had interviewed well over 125 people for the Radio Free Flint podcast the audience for this podcast includes many people who have long since moved away from the Flint area while talking with many expatriates, I sensed an unusual affinity with their Homeland in the Flint area.
Their responses were baffling, even as someone who spent nearly all my life in Flint.
I expected to hear the anger, bitterness, and self-pity the town experienced over the last five decades when asking the guests if they were Flintstones. 99.5% answered yes.
It mattered not if they were young, old, wealthy, poor Republicans, or Democrats.
One gentleman raised in South Texas even said he was a Texas Flintstone.
The Flintstone identity was enthusiastic and close to Universal.
They believe that the Flintstones of today are optimistic and highly confident about the future of Flint.
The residents have endured many economic downturns. Flint's history shows. The city will survive.
This common identity takes on a life of its own because of the people. I interviewed former or current residents who are resilient and have what it takes to survive.
Flintstones also believe they can fix the troubled town's problems by themselves if necessary.
The only question is, are these Flintstones helping to fix the town that exists in their heads?
Or the one that everybody can see today shows Flint.
Expatriates developed an extraordinarily strong self-concept associated with so-called Flint values.
The values of the former and current Flint residents centered around loyalty, hard work, toughness, and resilience these Flintstones.
Believed their values were part of the fabric of Flint.
During the interviews, they often said they developed their Flintstone character because they are from.
The best analogy perhaps comes from the world of athletics, something for which Flint is well known nationally.
Vacation with Flint appears to be akin to that of sports fans.
Many sports fans stay profoundly true to their teams at times wildly so, even though they live far away in towns and cities across the nation, The Flintstones proudly display Flintstone T-shirts and hats, and some even go as far.
As to put tattoos with Flint blazoned on their bodies.
It all seems so complicated to understand.
People so strongly identified with a declining Rust Belt city they left behind when ago.
What is followed in all these years, despite all of the problems that Flint has experienced through its many economic downturns, is a history that shows the Flintstones have affirmed.
They can fix the problems troubling Flint themselves.
My next guest is Rico Phillips, a former Flint Fire department fireman who works for the Ontario hockey, and he shares his views about what is allowed.
Of people in the Flint area necessarily in the boundary with a lot of plant area, they identify as Flintstone.
Do you identify as a Flintstone?
I identify as a Flintstone.
In the acceptance speech of my award in Las Vegas, I said Adaway flinch from translating Flintstones to My Flintstones, and all kinds of words came up.
I the reason I say Flintstones like when I think of a Flintstone, it's harder.
It's resilient, it stands the test of time, and I think when I think of not just folks that I've worked alongside, but the mentality of a lot of the people here like you're gonna keep kicking at it.
Anybody from the flat nose?
Crap about our city if we want, but if you say one bad word about fun and we're ready to go down with you.
Because that's that Flintstone mentality.
According to The Flintstones, part of the Flint character is marked primarily by its resilience.
There have been several books written that explore the culture of the American Rust Belt communities.
She's like, eulogies are usually backward-looking allergies sentimentally look back at people and places as if they were dead or dying.
Let me assure you that the Flintstone see Flint is very much alive.
The podcast interviews I conducted reveal a distinct culture in Flint that has as its.
Baseline values, extraordinary resilience, and commitment to purpose.
Flintstones has a history of overcoming hard times and challenges when it looks like all is lost more.
Certainly, they're not giving up anytime soon and reclaiming their place as significant contributors to the American economy, culture, and national life.
What is it in Flint, MI air that gives people the audacity to hope?
What is it that makes Flintstones so confident their town will not meet the fate of so many others?
Is this just part of unrealistic thinking in Flint?
In the past, it took the disappearance of entire auto factories for some of these hard workers could understand that the factories would be no more.
Does Flint, MI, have something embedded in its culture that?
There are the people, an extra gear of adaptability, The Flintstones have some magical ability to roll with the punches of their roller-coaster economy.
Failure is not an option for the people who call themselves Flintstones.
I will leave you to your own conclusions about the Flintstones.
The inferences I reached were based on the evidence and a more hopeful side to the people of America, feels the research and facts show.
A high probability of more sunrises and sunsets in Flint.
Despite all the grim news of vanishing General Motors and poisoned water, there is resilience in Flint, MI.
The toughness of the Flintstones is epic.
Like its name Flint, it has a strength of spirit that is part and parcel of the culture of the people in this working class.
As the heart stone is called is from which to spark a fire in the history of all we can see and imagine the devastating loss of manufacturing jobs has perhaps made no more profound impact on any city than it has inland Michigan. More than 80% of its modern-day high-paying General Motors jobs have vanished.
The region lives in good measure on its auto's handsome pensions and medical benefits, where that gravy train is rolled on without fail since Buick Chevy. Delay and General Motors were all found in Flint about 100 and five years ago.
The Flint area gets poorer one day at a time as these workers die, and their General Motors pensions and benefits aren't the money that once circulated with great velocity. He no longer feeds many of Flint's children.
It is a town whose child poverty rates rival some third-world countries. GM money no longer feathers the nests as it. Once did for the local auto repair facility. The Doctor, dentist, auto dealers, or any of hundreds of. As you look at Flint, it's cultural.
Some people describe it and describe themselves with a strong identity in the place. I mean, it's remarkable.
Next is John Daley, the transportation director for the city of Flint, a longtime public works administrator, and Genesee County was the head of the Genesee County Road Commission for his thoughts.
My wife is a Viking, yes.
Well, my question to you is, are you?
I'm a Flintstone by marriage and by choice.
If you're a Flintstone, what does that mean?
It means first that I put them especially concerned about the needs of the community and the residents there.
So, and then the second thing is that I recognize that there's kind of a gestalt. If you would, in the community, that makes it different. This community is different.
That doesn't mean it's easy, it just means it's different in some respects, it's significantly harder, and it's resilient. I mean, most communities today have been through what we've been through.
I think would have collapsed. There is an inner resilience in the residents of Flint that they want to see this community move forward, which will require leadership. It won't be easy. The path needs to be realistic, and it needs to be shared.
There was a Flint before it was the birthplace of General Motors, and there'll be a Flint. General Motors will always have a presence in Flint. The number and its impact will change just as the automobile industries change.
If we learn one lesson that has come out of the situation we've been in, I think is don't be. Too dependent on any one thing.
I want to take you to Sandra Branch, the Vice President of the Flint public art project for some common.
Flint is very resilient. It's in our name Flint.
You take 2 Flintstones, and we call ourselves Flintstones, and you hit them together. What do you get a spark, and I think that's what we're all about? We're about that spark.
That's in humanity that creativity succeeds. Above all, Art.
Like a surfer, we ride the wave, whether it crashes or what happens.
We get right back or run to the ocean, jump in again, and ride that next wave.
We're a city that can't be kept down.
You know we keep coming back can't kill foot we're resilient.
We have many people from many different places who have struggled and encountered all odds.
We had the migration from the South where people came here from sharecropping and made their fortunes in their families.
Prospered, we've had people that came here migrant workers to go to Traverse City and pick food, leave.
I settled back here because Flint has a lot to offer.
We look at our people that have come out of their industry auto industry and they started new businesses.
But they're all it's changing. We're no longer $1.00 town, I believe that we have to have hope we have to have the audacity to think beyond print.
Fiction and think like Clarissa Shields.
Beyond all odds from Flint when Flint was not doing well, she was proud to put on her vision board where she was from and what her goals were.
And as a community, we must do the same we have to.
Take our vision and put it on a board; we must live for it.
And we must make it happen.
I don't know about the government.
The government has a long way to go on a national and a local level.
I'm not putting my faith in government.
I put my faith in the people in the communities.
I put my faith in the citizens of Flint.
I put my faith in the fact that we are resilient, and Flintstones has the will to make it.
And I put our future in the hands of the parents and the children.
Grit that is coming had that dream of making this a place to be proud of.
I don't think we can look at the predictions from the prognosticators.
I don't think we should listen to the media.
I think that we should look at our hearts and our spirits and our souls and our history.
And make it that what we wanted.
You have done a magnificent job of explaining what it means to be a Flintstone.