Remember When …

This old truck was from Flint-based Koegel hot dogs. Photo courtesy of the Burton Area Historical Society

This old truck was from Flint-based Koegel hot dogs. Photo courtesy of the Burton Area Historical Society

Most of us have a hobby we do for fun, but not for a living. But back centuries ago, the way you made your living was all you had.

I raised my kids in Burton and taught them about how things used to be, by showing them our history and teaching them to never take for granted things people used to make by hand.

My family were farmers in Genesee County since the 1840s, then on to being General Motors workers and now they are in education and business.

Genesee County started later in pioneering than the east coast, but once we got started after the War of 1812, we settled it quick! People then had to catch their food and make their clothing, until they found a way to use plants to make handmade clothes, cut trees down to make a home and different things you could eat without dying.

Every day you rose with the sun and you had to find a way to get it done, no one made it for you. This went on for centuries. When America was first settled the pioneers made everything by hand and they learned some things from living in Europe which did help a lot, but they still had to make it themselves because there were few shops in America at that time.



As settlements were made across America, businesses would start, and the towns grew with them. But in the meantime, they still had to make or grow everything they needed, like a sewing bee or making soaps, clothes, food, toys, carriages, houses and furniture, they even bartered goods.

Skip forward 150 years to goods sold in a general store here all over Genesee County – from Beal’s Market, Ivanhoe’s, Ben Franklin’s, Roat Grocery and Burton Market to the larger stores of the Hamady Brother’s in 1911, and the Meijer Family.

General Motors started in Flint 1908 and with all that growth, businesses and people came from everywhere, all over America and Europe. The Automobile Industry changed a lot in our county for sure. Aren’t you glad that you don’t have to get up each morning and milk the cows before you can eat your breakfast? Or wash clothes in the river? Make all my own clothes or run outside in the middle of a blizzard to go the bathroom in an outhouse? For me I am glad for indoor plumbing, appliances and the sewing machine. When I need something, I enjoy being able to go to the store to buy it.

Homemade crafts and family traditions go back thousands of years. Was your family history in weaving rugs and sewing clothes, lace making, traditional jewelry, knitting, quilting, blacksmith, printing press, baking, butcher, oils, herbs and spices or even working with wood.

I challenge you to find your family’s old craft and make something, if you can, for fun, then during this time of new beginnings start a family tradition for your kids.

You can go online to check out Genesee County Parks and Recreation at Crossroads Village and Huckleberry Railroad with the Stanley schoolhouse, so most Genesee county kids should see the experience of being in the 1800s, wonderful asset we have.

Remember When is a weekly column in the Burton View featuring historical stories about the community from the Burton Area Historical Society. If you have some Burton history to share, email