Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.
Morning Star, July 20, 2003, pg. 19
We continue with our theme of Albion in the 1950s. Everyone in town is familiar with long-time downtown merchant Gar Dickerson and Dickerson Music at 201 N. Superior St. and Dorothy Dickerson who operates Books & More bookstore a few doors away at 119 N. Superior St. Did you know however that the Dickerson name has been around in downtown Albion since the 1930s? Gar’s father John Bion Dickerson came to Albion in 1933 to manage the Miller-Jones Shoe store at 221 S. Superior St. Born and raised on the family farm in Diamondale in 1904, John had previously been working in Lansing.
He managed the shoe store for a few years, and eventually decided to go into the dry cleaning business. Albion once had several dry cleaning establishments in town at the same time. People relied more upon professional cleaners in those days, before permanent press pants and shirts became available in the 1960s. John opened the Band Box Cleaners around 1938 at 117 N. Superior St. After being at this location for a few years, Dickerson purchased the building next door (119) around 1942, which had formerly been the Paul Hawes Drug Store. John literally knocked a hole in the wall between the two buildings in order to slide the bulky, heavy presses and equipment north next door to the new location.
The second floor had been used for various purposes, including cigar making where old tobacco and molds were found intact. John remodeled the rooms into offices, and discovered a room that had no doors--it was only accessible from the skylight above. At this time Albion was booming, and office space was at a premium. Many Albion physicians and professionals “got their start” in second stories above downtown Albion.
By the 1950s the name was changed to Dickerson’s Cleaners. John’s son Gar began repairing musical equipment in 1951, and this is where Dickerson’s Music got its start--in the back of his father’s dry cleaning business! Gar was drafted into the army where he served from 1952 to 1954. During that time John sold the business (not the building) to Richard and Stanley Hood. When Gar returned from the service, he went back to repairing musical instruments in the back of the building. In late 1955 he moved to 102 N. Superior St. for about six months, and then in 1956 to 115 N. Superior St. in the front of Paul Sauter’s piano tuning business. There he remained for a few years before moving to his present location in 1960. Regarding the cleaners, Richard Hood became sole owner, and William Holmes was hired as manager. Holmes eventually purchased the business and ran in briefly before it was closed in 1962.
John Dickerson is now retired, and at age 99 is enjoying life traveling between Florida in the winters and Diamondale in the summers. He is quite alert, still drives, and occasionally visits Albion. From our Historical Notebook this week we present Dickerson’s Cleaners as it appeared in the early 1950s, the present site of “Books & More.” A sign placed in the left window states, “Gar Dickerson Musical Instrument Service Rear of Building.” The window of the business on the right states, “Morning Printing, Smith-Corona Typewriters.” On the far left above the steps to the second floor is a list of professionals who had their offices there: “Dr. P. J. Hill, Dr. J. F. Hill Optometrists; Dr. D. E. Landon, Dentist; Hollywood Beauty Shop; and Merchant’s Ass’n Credit Bureau of Albion.” Above that is a sign which states, “Dickerson Building. Offices Up Stairs.” How many of our readers remember Dickerson’s Cleaners?
Next: ALBION BEVERAGE COMPANY
All text copyright, 2014 © all rights reserved Frank Passic