Frontier Days, 1965-1966
In the early 1960s, Albion wassearching for an annual festival to bring the community together. The theme tried in1965 and 1966 was a three-day festival entitled “Frontier Days.” Held in the spring, itfeatured an “old West” theme, with cowboys, horses, covered wagons and oxen,lassoes, etc. You get the picture. Included was a talent show, displays, a “jail” formerchants who didnt dress as cowboys, a queens court, and other activities. FrontierDays was planned to provide a spirit of celebration and unity, and of course to bring in ashopping bonanza to downtown merchants.
The “grand finale” which took place during the 1966 event was an auction held on May21 at 8 p.m. in the vacant lot on W. Center St. across from the Albion Evening Recorder.During the months of March and April, citizens would receive “Frontier Money” whenthey shopped at participating local businesses, equivalent to the nearest dollar amountthey spent at the store. For example, if you purchased $7 in groceries at the A & P on S.Eaton St., you would receive $7 in Frontier Money.
The money measured 108 x 68 mm., and was printed with green ink on white paper.Various denominations were issued. Many people were able to accumulate anywherefrom $100 to $300 worth of this money as a result of their routine spending in Albion,and anticipated being able to purchase something with it at the auction.They were to experience an unpleasant surprise. One of this authors vivid memories asa 13-year old youth in Albion is this auction, as he had approximately $400 of FrontierMoney, having collected it from various sources over the preceding months. We all hadvisions of being able to buy something nice, there being numerous items which were tobe auctioned off, such as shirts, socks, radios, shoes, and other items. The “top prizes”were a color television set and a bicycle built for two.
When the auction started at 8 p.m. people were anxiously awaiting the chance toparticipate. Unfortunately, most people didnt get a chance to bid in the auction. Whathappened was the bidding was astronomically high. The auctioneer started the biddinghigh, too, for example, a pair of socks would sell for $2,000, a radio for $7,000, etc. Themajority of common folk only had from $100 to $400. Complaints soon arose from thecrowd. This writer vividly remembers numerous men and women yelling, “How come youdont let the rest of us buy something?” Another memory is of one man on the east sideof the crowd excitedly yelling, “Ill give $7,000! Ill bid $8,000!,” and on he went. Where did he get all that Frontier Money? Another memory is of one chain-smoking woman inthe crowd who smoked cigarette after cigarette the entire time. She wouldnt move andpolluted the air all around her, even though numerous persons asked her to stop.In reality, the only ones who could afford to bid on anything were people who hadpurchased a new car from a local dealer, or a house from a local Realtor, both probablyfinanced by a loan from a local bank, and received thousands of equivalent dollars ofFrontier Money. The common people who shopped at the A & P or at J.C. Penneys sawtheir chances dashed, and ended up throwing their Frontier Money on the street. Itturned out that the color TV set went for $20,000, as did the bicycle built for two.Outrageous!
The majority of persons at that auction went away grumbling, and with it went FrontierDays on a sour note. In reality, the Frontier Days theme just didnt fit our community.Sane heads fortunately got together and decided to center a festival theme aroundAlbions ethnic diversity. In 1966 the first Festival of the Forks was held, and the rest ishistory. If you miss Frontier Days, you can always visit Charlotte.This week we illustrate a Frontier Days $10 note, which is the only one I saved from thetime [NOTE: I am looking for other denominations for my Albion history collection].