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Old 01-24-2014, 12:25 PM
 
27 posts, read 54,166 times
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I was born in Jackson Michigan and have lived here for most of my life. Jackson was founded in the winter of 1829, my family came to Jackson from Batavia, New York in the Spring of 1830. The first white (non-Indian) child born in Spring Arbor Township was a member of my family so we have been here pretty much since the beginning.

Jackson, Michigan is a county that is rich in history but some would say is also poor in culture. Jackson could have been the State Capital but in 1839 the residents chose to host the State Prison instead and Lansing became the State Capital. Almost immediately There was an influx of people who moved here to be closer to their family members who were incarcerated in the prison. Many of these people settled in the area currently occupied by the State Building, City Police Station, Consumers Energy building and across what is now East Michigan Avenue all the way to the original State Prison on Cooper Street inside the city limits. That area became known at the time as "The Rotten District" and was full of of saloons, opium dens and flop houses.

It seems like from that point on the city and county were under a cloud of oppression. We had the prison, a repository, where the worst elements of humanity were concentrated under horrible conditions. All of that concentrated evil and misery steeped and fermented, overflowing those castle like walls that can still be seen today and then spread throughout the city, block by block and eventually throughout the county.

An earlier post in another thread about Jackson, made reference to Jacksonians looking "gaunt." I think a more apt description would be "haggard." Even though the Prison was relocated outside of the city, further out on Cooper Street in the 1930's there has always seemed to be a residual aura of oppression, hopelessness and misery in Jackson that native Jacksonians, if they are honest with themselves are aware of.

This is not to say that we do not love Jackson; many of us do. We love the familiar streets and Jackson institutions like the Jackson style Coney Island hotdog that is the best in the world. The building where the Ritz Cracker was born can still be seen. It was originally called the "Jaxon" cracker. There was a Jaxon automobile as well. Ransom E. Olds built some of his first automobiles here before moving Oldsmobile (one more great institution that Jackson lost to Lansing).

With all of it's history and sublime charm, Jackson is and always has been a depressed area compared to the rest of the region. Even before the prison was built, when farming was the only industry, a farm in Jackson county was worth less than an identical farm in Hillsdale or other surrounding counties.

We Jacksonians try to be optimistic, think positive and put on a brave face for ourselves and others, proclaiming how great Jackson is and how much we love it all the while bracing ourselves as our cars bottom out and are destroyed by the bomb crater sized potholes that comprise the majority of our street surfaces, as we drive past empty building after empty building that used to be occupied by family owned businesses such as the beloved Jaxon Pizza Factory on Waterloo Street. When it closed last year, my daughter and I cried.

We try not to get discouraged when we observe car after car on any given street, at any time of day, pulled over and being ticketed by a police force that is so predatory that they are known locally as "wolf packs." The wolf pack's sole mission is not to protect and serve the beleaguered residents of Jackson, but to raise revenue for the city, county and state governments that at best are inept and at worst criminally corrupt.

Jobs are scarce and hard to get in Jackson. There are a few Japanese owned factories that are hiring and they pay okay but not as good as shops used to pay around here. There are some good people working in these places and there are others who are the scum of the earth. I've seen good people get jobs in these factories and get dragged down to the point that they are no longer "good" people. 12 hour days, 7 days a week, week after week, month after month, year after year can do that to you.

I started out by saying that I was born here and that my family has been here since the beginning. I'll end by saying that I have always loved Jackson and its history; my friend, the author William Baetz who owned The Lost Word Bookstore and founded The Lost Word Writers Group once told me that I had the largest private collection of books pertaining to the history of Jackson, Michigan that he was aware of and Bill would know because he was brilliant at finding rare, valuable and out of print books for his customers. When Bill passed away and The Lost Word closed, Jackson lost two great treasures. But, even with my love for and historical ties to Jackson, I feel compelled to leave.

Jackson's negative column has always been larger than its positive column but the disparity has grown too great even for me to ignore.
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Old 01-24-2014, 04:26 PM
 
Location: SE Michigan
6,191 posts, read 18,155,603 times
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A good friend of mine who is almost 60 was born and raised in the Jackson area. She owned a house between Jackson & Grass Lake but it was a Jackson zip code. I visited many many times and it's a pretty area but as far as Jackson city went I never thought there was any there, there. And the surrounding area seemed sort of...meh.

A couple of years ago, after lay-offs and some serious and expensive health problems, she and her husband lost their home of almost 20 years.

They had a little money saved so they bought a house for cash in a decent part of Flint. No joke, they think that Flint is friendlier, more community-oriented and the area in general has more going on in terms of things to do, places to eat, three hospitals instead of one, outdoors events and open space, etc. Go figure!
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Old 01-25-2014, 02:18 AM
 
Location: Bliss Township, Michigan
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Thanks for sharing your story, interesting.
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Old 01-25-2014, 04:41 AM
 
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Such a heartfelt sorry full of raw emotion. Thank you for sharing. You are such compassionate soul.
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Old 01-25-2014, 04:59 AM
 
Location: Cape Coma Florida
1,369 posts, read 2,273,412 times
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I was also born in Jackson, but it's not something I'm proud of.

Quote:
there has always seemed to be a residual aura of oppression, hopelessness and misery in Jackson that native Jacksonians, if they are honest with themselves are aware of.
Oh yes! We were well aware of it while I was living there, on the lips of most were the words "This F***ing town!" Much of what you say about it rings very true with me. At one time it was one of the most corrupt cities in the US, and it's never been a big town. I will never set foot in Jackson again, too many bad memories for me there, such a miserable place Jackson is. My sister observed that the main products of Jackson were divorce, alcoholism, bad backs, and depression.

Quote:
Jackson's negative column has always been larger than its positive column but the disparity has grown too great even for me to ignore.
I feel ya there! I had to get out of there, it just brings you down and sucks you into an emotional black hole, as though it were the geographic focus of despair in America. I live with a man who was also born there, we both live in Florida now, and never would either of us go back to Jackson.

Last edited by amylewis; 01-25-2014 at 05:24 AM..
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Old 01-25-2014, 10:12 AM
 
Location: West Michigan
3,119 posts, read 6,601,946 times
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This is one of the most interesting posts I've read on here. Thanks for sharing. That being said, I have a weird fondness for Jackson in my mind, even though I have spent very little time there. When I was a kid I would ride down to the livestock auction in Napoleon with my dad sometimes. Normally we would bypass downtown via 94 and 127, but sometimes if I asked he would take m50 through downtown. Even at that young age I enjoyed that ride through downtown Jackson. In high school I went back a few times for football games at Jackson High. Always thought it was the coolest HS stadium I had ever seen. Now that I am an adult I've been meaning to go back to downtown Jackson and experience it as an adult. I can't speak to living there like others have, but I do think it is an interesting area to visit.
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Old 01-25-2014, 03:31 PM
 
27 posts, read 54,166 times
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Thank you all for the kind words and affirmations. There are things that I have loved about Jackson, mostly working class eateries like the Coney Island joints that used to be all over the place. Many are gone now, like The Jaxon Pizza Factory; that had the best year round Coney Islands since Chritoff's Coney Island closed a few years ago. I say "year round" coney islands, because in the summer time there is a guy on Detroit Street who sells them from a hot dog cart in front of his house right on the street. His name is Tommy and "Tommy dogs" are the best coney Islands ever. Todoroff's Coney Island is gone now as is the New York Lunch that had good authentic coneys. The only coney joints left now are Jaxon Coney Island, The Virgina Lunch (a few doors down from Jaxon Coney Island) and Andy's Pizza. The way that I understand it, the Christoffs and Todoroffs were related and they opened up the first Coney restaurant together. This was years before Flint, Detroit or anywhere else had this style of coney island hot dog. The families were from Macedonia, not Greece (they get mad if you call them Greek) and eventually the partnership ended resulting in a second competing restaurant, then as sons came along, they worked in the restaurants, learned the recipe, got mad and left so we ended up with more coney restaurants. When a Jacksonian moves away and returns to Jackson for a visit, the first thing that they usually do before even seeing their families is to stop off for coney islands or get a dozen to go so they can share them with their families that they haven't seen in a long time. When I leave, I'll miss the coneys (but I do have the recipe for the sauce, so maybe I'll see if non-Jacksonians can develop a taste for them ). I thought of moving to Kalkaska but this winter has been very rough on me. I lived in the mountains of Virginia for awhile in the late 80's and early 90's but the mountain that I lived in is a sub division now and it would break my heart to see it. I have friends in Kentucky and that is a possibility but lately it is as if I am being beckoned by Arizona. Perhaps I'll heed that call.

When Michigan83 wrote about enjoying the drive through the city of Jackson when he was a kid, it brought back memories for me. We moved out of the city to Vandercook Lake which is the first little town/school district just south of the city and I always enjoyed it when my Dad would drive us through downtown, especially when I got to ride in the back of the pickup truck (this was the 70s so kids still rode in the backs of pickup trucks).

Michigan83, I encourage you to return for a visit and stop in at the Virginia Lunch for some Coneys or if it is in the spring, summer or early fall, late morning to mid afternoon, go see Tommy on Detroit street and get some great Coneys. Be careful of the pot holes, they are everywhere and be extra careful of the wolf packs and their speed traps on I-94 between West Avenue and the exit for 127 south. Also be careful of speed traps anywhere in the city and Blackman Township but especially East Michigan Ave where it meets Ganson Street, especially if you are merging onto Ganson. E. Michigan is 35 mph and Ganson is 25 mph and the notoriously corrupt Blackman Township cops like to hide in the parking lot of yet another business that has closed and radar drivers on East Michigan at 35 mph and then after they make the turn onto Ganson they pull them over and write them up for 10 over even though the radar reading was taken on East Michigan and not on Ganson.
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Old 01-26-2014, 05:24 AM
 
Location: West Michigan
3,119 posts, read 6,601,946 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brennus MacBean View Post

Michigan83, I encourage you to return for a visit and stop in at the Virginia Lunch for some Coneys or if it is in the spring, summer or early fall, late morning to mid afternoon, go see Tommy on Detroit street and get some great Coneys. Be careful of the pot holes, they are everywhere and be extra careful of the wolf packs and their speed traps on I-94 between West Avenue and the exit for 127 south. Also be careful of speed traps anywhere in the city and Blackman Township but especially East Michigan Ave where it meets Ganson Street, especially if you are merging onto Ganson. E. Michigan is 35 mph and Ganson is 25 mph and the notoriously corrupt Blackman Township cops like to hide in the parking lot of yet another business that has closed and radar drivers on East Michigan at 35 mph and then after they make the turn onto Ganson they pull them over and write them up for 10 over even though the radar reading was taken on East Michigan and not on Ganson.
Thanks for the tip! Now that I know where to go I will probably make this trip happen before the winter is over. I live less than an hour from there so I should be able to make it happen.
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Old 01-26-2014, 06:35 AM
 
Location: Cape Coma Florida
1,369 posts, read 2,273,412 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by michigan83 View Post
This is one of the most interesting posts I've read on here. Thanks for sharing. That being said, I have a weird fondness for Jackson in my mind, even though I have spent very little time there.
Having any fondness at all for Jackson requires that you have spent very little time there! My two youngest brothers still live there, leading lives of seething desperation and despair. The best thing that could be done with Jackson is for it to be bulldozed and paved over. If it were turned into a lake it would become a sewer. That's just the nature of the place.

It's a rotten, wretched, miserable, and deeply corrupt place that sucks all the joy and hope out of life. It is the swollen and infected appendix of America, a cancerous growth on the nation, a yawning chasm of malignance and despair. If we ever get nuked I hope to God they hit Jackson first.

Last edited by amylewis; 01-26-2014 at 06:51 AM..
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Old 01-26-2014, 07:02 AM
 
Location: West Michigan
3,119 posts, read 6,601,946 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by amylewis View Post
Having any fondness at all for Jackson requires that you have spent very little time there! My two youngest brothers still live there, leading lives of seething desperation and despair. The best thing that could be done with Jackson is for it to be bulldozed and paved over. If it were turned into a lake it would become a sewer. That's just the nature of the place.

It's a rotten, wretched, miserable, and deeply corrupt place that sucks all the joy and hope out of life. It is the swollen and infected appendix of America, a cancerous growth on the nation, a yawning chasm of malignance and despair. If we ever get nuked I hope to God they hit Jackson first.
LOL. Your hyperbole is over the top, yet entertaining.
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