Historical Albion Michigan
By Frank Passic

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Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.

THE KEY TO THE CITY

Morning Star, January 7, 2007, pg. 7

It didn’t open a particular door, but it got you in places. Did you know that Albion once had an official “key to the city?” This special object was once presented to visiting dignitaries and also on Mayoral Exchange Day during the 1960s. Albion’s “key” was the brainchild of the late Thomas T. Lloyd (1912-1978), executive vice-president of the Albion Malleable Iron Company. Tom had a small quantity of “keys” made at the Malleable in the early 1960s, in order to give this symbolic item a local touch whenever a presentation was made.

Albion’s “key to the city” measures approximately 10 inches long, and was cast in the traditional Malleable grey metal. It was not gold-spray painted, but consisted of the traditional Malleable grey color. This set Albion apart from other town’s keys, which were usually gold-colored. The handle contains the inscription “ALBION MICHIGAN” on one side, and “KEY TO THE CITY-GREETINGS” on the other. On the ring is found the “Circle-A” emblem of the Albion Malleable Iron Company.

How many of these keys were made and presented? Not too many, apparently. Even our own Mayor Wheaton doesn’t have one of these in his office, nor does the rest of City Hall. An authentic Albion key turned up for auction on E-Bay in March, 2003, from the estate of columnist Ann Landers. She had been presented with such a key upon her visit to Starr Commonwealth for Boys in the 1960s. Did anyone from Albion happen to purchase that key?

From our Historical Notebook we present a photograph of an Albion “key to the city” being presented to “the pancake queen” herself: Aunt Jemima. The date is January 25, 1964. On the left is Mayor Hugo A. Rieger presenting the key to Mrs. Jemima. Behind her is Thomas Cook of the Albion Jaycees. Notice the scale model of the Albion water tower in the back, and the clean paint job.

Aunt Jemima visited Albion on a few occasions in the early 1960s where she participated in our local benefit pancake breakfast at the Albion Armory. In fact, there’s a picture of her at the 1962 event on page 33 of my book “Growing Up in Albion.” (Oh, a correction in the list of participants. Change the name of Gerald Fouts to C. Vernon Fouts in your copy). The event was sponsored by the Albion Jaycees to raise money for the March of Dimes.

Special thanks to Ken and Kris Waito for supplying this week’s photo. How many of our readers remember Aunt Jemima visiting Albion and eating at the pancake breakfast at the Albion Armory? Since they’re all gone now, should Albion have some more “keys to the city” manufactured by a local firm?

POSTSCRIPT: [Published February 4, 2007]. We found out that the E-bay auction purchaser of the Albion “Key to the City” that was presented to the late Ann Landers, was Nidia Wolf. Nidia has graciously allowed us to photograph it for our Historical Notebook this week. It turns out that the Key is chrome plated, similar to the bottle openers the Malleable once made.


Aunt Jemima visits Albion on January 25, 1964, with Mayor Hugo A. Rieger and Thomas Cook


The Key to the City of Albion, front view


Key, reverse view

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