Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.
Morning Star, March 23, 2002, pg. 5
Just a quick reminder that my Albion history articles are on the internet at www.albionmich.com. If your Albion High School class is having a reunion this summer, why not make mention of this internet site in your invitation letters to classmates? There is a guestbook where messages can be posted for free, and your classmates will enjoy the articles and photographs. Also, make sure copies of my book “A History of the Albion Public Schools” are available at your reunion. Many out-of-town persons have not seen this book yet, and they make great “door prizes” at class reunions. Contact me for more information.
Spring began this past week, and there are two “first signs” of spring we’ve all become accustomed to. 1) Orange highway construction barrels, and 2) the reopening of the ice cream stores. Someone ought to invent an “orange road construction barrel sundae” with orange sherbet, “tar” chocolate syrup, “peanut road gravel” topping, and a flashing cherry on top.
Albion has always had entrepreneurs who have operated “treat” establishments through the years, located along busy highways. One popular thoroughfare was the U.S.-12 highway (Michigan Avenue/Austin Avenue) which carried traffic between Detroit and Chicago before I-94 opened in 1960. Numerous small gas stations, “mom and pop” groceries, roadside stands, drive-ins, and other establishments could be found along the route, including in the Albion area.
One such establishment was a root beer stand which operated just before World War II on Austin Avenue (U.S.-12). It was located at 315 Austin Avenue, presently the site of the east portion of Albion Motor Supply. This site eventually evolved into the Lantern Restaurant operated by Charles M. Peterson during World War II. During 1939 however, it was a simple garage sized building with a “flip up” front such as you would find at a campground. I have little information about this root beer stand, as it does not appear in the city directories of the era.
However, from our Historical Notebook this week courtesy of Ruth Dean, we present a photograph of the place. The photograph was taken on July 22, 1939. On the side of the building is painted “ROOT BEER 5˘,” with the words “ROOT BEER” also above the awing in front. Below the front counter is painted, “FOOT LONG HOT DOG,” and “BAR-B-QUE SANDWICH.” I noticed that there is a “scar” of an old sign under the roof peak, and a scar on the shingles in the back, making me think that this building was used as a business someplace else and moved to this location. How many of our readers remember this root beer stand?
The Lantern Restaurant first appears in the 1941 city directory, and later the Epicure Cafe in the early 1950s. The present building housing Albion Motor Supply was erected by Paul Raboken in 1953, and the restaurant on the east third of the building (315 Austin Ave.) became known as the Better Meals Restaurant.
This writer appreciates the discovery of old Albion photographs such as the one here. Why not check through your old family photographs and see if you have anything that might make a good story/picture for this Historical Notebook? Our readers will appreciate it.
Root Beer Stand, 1939
All text copyright, 2020 © all rights reserved Frank Passic