Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.
Morning Star, February 12, 2006, pg. 12
This month our theme is “Biography.” We’ll feature a few selected persons from Albion’s not-too-distant past who made a positive difference in our community. We’d like to begin with a very familiar “west end” businessman, Moses Union (1893-1989). Mr. Union operated Union Cleaners and the Union Barber Shop from the early through the mid-20th century.
A native of Alabama, Moses was a 1927 graduate of the Detroit Barber College. He was one of Albion’s original African-Americans to operate a business downtown. His barbershop was located at 107 W. Porter St. in the early 1920s. He then moved his trade to his home at 1003 N. Albion St. and continued barbering throughout his long career. “Moe” also was schooled as a tailor, and his Union Dry Cleaners business was a natural extension of his talents, which he also operated out of his home for many years.
He moved both businesses to 608 Austin Avenue during World War II, in the former Pavluchik Variety store building. In 1951 the Russian Baptist Church at 614 Austin Avenue moved to its new location on N. Eaton St., and Moe purchased the building for his new Union Cleaners location where he continued until his retirement.
In addition to his professional skills, Moses was a talented musician. He was a member of Albion’s Goodwill Singers and a quartet he organized called the Melody Four. He was one of the original organizers of the Albion branch of the NAACP in January, 1918, and served as its first president.
From our Historical Notebook this week we present an August, 1955 photograph of (left) Moses Union next to his delivery wagon in front of his 614 Austin Avenue establishment. Standing on the right is his employee Curtis Womack, who is getting ready to make a delivery. Notice the small telephone sign and the Tomchak Tavern sign next door at 612 Austin Avenue. In the distance at 610 Austin is the J & R Variety store featuring a Sealtest Ice Cream sign out front.
Today, 614 Austin Avenue stands vacant, as does the rest of that row of once-prosperous businesses that served the immigrant and minority populations during the early 20th century. How many of our readers remember Moses Union, Union Cleaners, and Union Barber Shop?
Moses Union (left) and Curtis Womack (right) August, 1955
Next: GROVER CLEVELAND
All text copyright, 2020 © all rights reserved Frank Passic