Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.
Morning Star, April 29, 2001, pg. 10
The reconstruction of the bridge over I-94 and the widening of N. Eaton St. to five lanes is scheduled to begin this summer. N. Eaton St. was named after John Eaton, who was the U.S. Secretary of War under President Andrew Jackson. It used be called "Duck Lake Road" until the 1950s when the county standardized road names and renamed it 28 Mile Road. New businesses started to spring up, most notably Felpausch Foods (November 23, 1954). By the end of the decade the street was widened in anticipation of the new U.S. 12 by-pass which opened as Interstate-94 on July 1, 1960. The 1960s saw a burgeoning of businesses along the new I-94 business loop, and the area was eventually annexed into the City of Albion.
As I promised, this year we will remember some of the businesses along our to-be-repaired business loop or along old U.S. 12. With cars going faster along the super highway and bypassing cities, people who got hungry wanted a quick meal to eat which they could take in their autos. The "fast food" concept was born across the country, which was evolved from the "drive-in" concept of the 1940s and 1950s. Here in Albion we had several Drive-Ins where the girl hop would put your burgers and drinks on a tray that slipped on to the driver’s window, such as at the Starlite Drive-In (later A & W) next to Felpausch, the present site of Fresh N Fast. You’d sit there in your car and eat, instead of going inside.
In the mid-1960s however, a new concept came to Albion: the fast food restaurant where you could grab your already-made burger and eat it in the car while you were driving to your destination. The Satellite Drive Inn Restaurant opened at 12883 N. Eaton St., and first appears in the 1965 Albion City Directory. This place offered "fast" hamburgers, the quality of which I remember was somewhat similar to a "Hot and Now" burger today. It was owned by Harold Harshbarger of Williamston, who owned several restaurants in the Lansing area. Manger of the Satellite until 1971 was Roy Wise of Lansing.
The Satellite offered the fast burger-fries-drink concept to our community, and became quite a popular place. Burgers were only 15¢, which brought in throngs of persons. A large sign with a huge "15¢" on top could be seen by travelers exiting I-94. One time service was a little too fast, however. After standing in line and watching people receive their order around 1969, this writer observed a friend of mine in line ahead of me examine his meal as he walked back to his car. The bun was there, the mustard, the catsup, the onion, and the two pickles. It was all there, all right--all except the meat. Whoops! Every time I think about the Satellite I automatically remember that incident. What do you expect for 15¢?
The Satellite had a "character" all its own. The early 1960s were the days of the U.S. Mercury space program which thrust our first astronauts into space. The Satellite had a plastic-looking red and white decor with a large satellite star perched high on a pole in front. There was a large model Mercury space capsule in front of the place! This included a window in the space capsule you could look inside of and view a plate with a hamburger, fries and drink. Kids especially liked this, and families came just to see the capsule up close.
In 1971 Betty Harris (1934-1994) became manager of the Satellite, and an addition was built to accommodate inside seating. In the meantime however, Burger Chef came to Albion on E. Michigan Avenue (in the building which housed Little Caesar’s Pizza that unfortunately closed a few weeks ago), and of course McDonalds right off the highway. These two well established national-chain fast food restaurants significantly affected business at the Satellite, and burgers were no longer 15¢, either. The Satellite Drive-Inn closed in 1976. The building was eventually demolished and today’s Pizza Hut was built on the site. The Mercury space capsule was taken to the Albion Senior High School grounds. Does it still exist today?
From our Historical Notebook we present a rare photograph of the Satellite Drive-Inn (does anyone else have a photo of it?) which I accidentally discovered in my Albion High School Class of 1971 yearbook (we’re having our 30th anniversary class reunion on July 28) on page 149. In this internet version also pictured is a street view looking south from Bemer St. showing the 15¢ Satellite sign. How many readers remember the Satellite Drive-Inn?
Satellite Drive-Inn 15 Cents
All text copyright, 2013 © all rights reserved Frank Passic