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.


Morning Star, February 19, 2012, pg. 12

I'm happy to announce that the October, 1935 16 mm. half hour film of the classrooms in the Albion Public Schools has been placed on the www.youtube.com website. In the search engine, type in "Albion Michigan Public Schools 1935" and you'll see the elementary school portion, and then the high school portion. Click on either one to view them. The children in this film would have graduated from Washington Gardner High School in the years 1936 to around 1946. I've got many of them identified in the frame-by-frame print-outs I made several years ago.

Here's another interesting biography of a graduate of Albion High School. There are some feats in life that aren't accomplished by too many persons. There was one young man in Albion's history who accomplished such a feat which I have researched and am featuring this week. William Raymond Van Dolar (1871-1941) is the subject of this week's column. He was the son of William L. and Elizabeth (Cady) Van Dolar. The Van Dolars moved to Albion in the fall of 1877 from Rochester, NY to be with Elizabeth's mother Harriet Cady, newly widowed in 1875. The Van Dolar's and Mrs. Cady lived at 212 W. Center St. William L. is listed as a laborer in the 1885 city directory, and it is later known that he was also a grocer.

William R. entered our public school system as a small child in November, 1877, and throughout his twelve years as a student until his graduation in June of 1889, did not miss one single day of class, nor was he tardy! How many other Albion Public School students have accomplished that feat? The school board thereby recognized this young man with a special gold medal.

The board minutes of March 29, 1889 state, "Whereas, William R. Van Dolar, a member of the Class of 1889, has attended the Public Schools of Albion, Michigan since November 1877 without having been absent or tardy during the entire time, and has been good in departments and scholarship. Therefore, Resolved, that the Superintendent be authorized to procure at the expense of the Public Schools of Albion, Michigan for said William R. Van Dolar, a properly inscribed medal, the cost not to exceed $10.00."

As an adult, William R. became a machinist for the railroad, first working in Jackson, then transferring to Chicago, Milwaukee, and Muskegon. An alumni listing lists him as working for the Illinois Central Railroad in Chicago. In his later years he moved back to Jackson where he worked at the Sparton radio factory as a tool maker. An advertisement for the patent medicine "Tanlac" dated April, 1921 mentions William R. was living in Muskegon as a "well-known wholesaler and distributor of mail-order specialties." His wife was Rena (Hartung) Lambson (1872-1934), and the couple had one son, Harry William Van Dolar (1906-1941) who died a month before his father. Harry was a gear inspector at a factory in Jackson.

William R. Van Dolar died in Jackson in May, 1941, and was buried in the family plot located in Block 36 at Riverside Cemetery here in Albion. In corresponding with a distant relative, Chris Hankins of Port Ludlow, WA, he wrote that he knows of nothing of the fate of the gold medal that was awarded to William R. Van Dolar. We thank him however for the additional biographical information for this week's article.

There is no known photo of William, so from our Historical Notebook this week we present a 1900 photo of Albion High School, similar to what it would have looked like when William was in school in the late 1880s. The original 1872-built Central School in the center was demolished in 1906. A portion of the left wing is still standing in the back of the auditorium of the Washington Gardner High School structure.

Albion High School around 1900


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