Debra M. Dudek
Concord Michigan's Filling Station and Flying Machine
I was sorting through my emails earlier this week to finish up the last few tasks I needed to complete before the new year. One of the letters I found in my e-mail was a request for a photograph of the first filling station (gas station) in Concord, Michigan, which was owned by my great-grandparents Frank and Dorothy (nee Dietrich) Dudek. The forwarding e-mail address was no longer valid, so I'm wondering how long the requester had been sitting on it. As the request was probably made at the bequest of a Jackson County history buff, I scanned the one and only photograph my family has of the station in question.
The description written in pencil on the back of the photograph reads 'Our filling S. at Concord Mich - B10. Below that, my grandmother noted the following description in pen '1923 - sold 1927'.
The gas station was located on the corner of Concord's main street and M-60. When my dad was growing up in the 1950s and 1960s, the original wooden gas station built by Grandpa Dudek was long gone, and replaced by a concrete structure later named Smallie's gas station.
We know the Dudek family sold their filling station before July 1927. There are two major clues in the sale of the filling station. One is the photograph, the other is a Sandusky Ohio newspaper article dated July 28, 1927.
Grandpa Dudek's brother Albert Dudek (Uncle Burt) was relatively fresh from his training with the Army Air Corps and he wanted to buy a new Alexander Eaglerock Biplane. This plane, which was produced by the Alexander Aircraft Company out of Colorado, was a favorite among American barnstormers during the 1920s.
Barnstormers were pilots who flew throughout the country selling airplane rides and performing stunts in cutting edge equipment, and the Dudek siblings loved the idea of getting paid to fly and show off the advanced technology of the decade. The trio toured the midwest barnstorming from mid 1927 through the early 1930s. Uncle Burt flew the plane, Grandpa Dudek made the repairs, while Grandma Dudek and Uncle Burt's wife Aunt Kate sold tickets to the shows.
One of the best photographs of the Eaglerock biplane was taken around 1930 with Grandpa Dudek's nephew Earl Davis (pictured above). This is a unique view of the airplane, as it designates 'Dudek Flying Service' and gives a shoutout to the Alexander Eaglerock airplane company as well. For a brief period from 1928 to 1929, the Alexander Aircraft Company was the largest aircraft manufacturer in the world, and more aircraft were built in Colorado than anywhere else in the world. There are a few Eaglerock planes still in existence, you can check out a video of one in action on Youtube.
In a future entry, I will post the newspaper articles and photographs of the Dudek family barnstorming saga, which makes for a very exciting read.