Albion Historical Notebook



Coming up on Saturday, September 17 is Albion’s annual Festival of the Forks. Downtown Albion will be filled with people, vendors, and activities.

Coming up on Saturday, September 17 is Albion’s annual Festival of the Forks. Downtown Albion will be filled with people, vendors, and activities. Drop on by to my Albion history booth in front of the former Huntington Bank, formerly the First Merit Bank, formerly Citizen’s Bank, formerly City Bank and Trust Company, and formerly the Commercial & Savings Bank. Actually, the old time-temperature sign outside has just received its latest covering with a new and bright Albion College (which owns the building now) sign welcoming everyone here. Anyway, please drop by and see my selection of Albion history and numismatic items. I’ll have Albion High School yearbooks, Albion city directories, and of course, some of my Albion history books, too.

With the recent opening of Rae’s Diner by Rae and Vonda Chilus at 113 E. Michigan Avenue in Albion on Saturday, August 13, we are reminded of the over three-quarters century operation of a restaurant at this site under various ownerships. In recent years it has been known as the Little Red Lunch Box, operated by Susan Smith beginning in 1996 until it closed in 2021. For many years however, it was known by its original name, The Pagoda.

The Pagoda was opened in 1927 on the site of the former Lewis W. Pryor Junkyard office. It was started by Arthur V. Ford (1891-1952), personnel director at the Gale Manufacturing Company during the 1940s, and past-president of the Leisure Hour Club. Politically, Mr. Ford was secretary of the Bull Moose Party in Colorado from 1912 to 1914, and a Republican precinct chairman in Albion in 1940. He served as Albion’s Civilian chief during World War II.

The Pagoda was located on the busy U.S. 12 highway through Albion, which saw a tremendous amount of traffic in the years before I-94 opened in 1960. It developed a reputation in the Midwest as a popular eating stop between Detroit and Chicago, “especially during times of heavy travel by World War I veterans to and from state and national conclaves,” stated Ford’s obituary. During such times Ford placed a sign on top of the Pagoda welcoming veterans of the U.S. Air Corps 87th Aero Squadron of which he served as a pilot and training instructor in 1917 and 1918.

In 1941, the Pagoda was sold to D. Richard McAuliffe, nearby Chevrolet car dealer at 119 E. Michigan Ave. During the 1960s, the Albion Jaycees would print a “spoof” Albion Evening Recorder newspaper as a fundraiser at Christmastime. One year, the main headline read, “Pagoda and Schulers to Merge.” I don’t think so.

The new owners Rae and Vonda Chilus are now continuing the restaurant legacy here, and welcome new customers to try out their menu selection, especially their breakfasts. From our Historical Notebook this week we present a photograph of the Pagoda Sandwich Shoppe as it appeared in the 1940s when this photo was taken. How many of our readers have ever eaten at the Pagoda?