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ACR Appliances - the story of a corner
Milton Albershardt was born to parents August and Elgie Albershardt in August of 1907. August was a Veterinary Doctor in Fountain Square. He and Elgie lived in a large, three-story house with spindle-work at 1906 Prospect Street. August's veterinary office was at 1108 Prospect Street, right across the street from the Fountain Square fountain. During his high school years at Arsenal Technical High School, 1923-1926, Milton was building radios in the waiting room of his dad's office.

August and Elgie Albershardt in front of their Fountain Square home (on the right side of the photo) at 1906 Prospect Street, probably taken around the turn of the century.

Image courtesy of the Don Albershardt collection

These were very early days for radio. Vacuum tubes and loudspeakers were just being developed at the time. Crystal radios were available for tinkerers. They used a rock crystal embedded in a base, and a "cat whisker" wire on a twistable lever to touch the face of the crystal and find a radio station. Around 1924, the Atwater Kent company was making the first wooden box radio sets.

Milton was a straight-A student at Arsenal Technical High School, and was friends with Dale Chastain. "[Dad and Dale] were both in electric shop class at Tech and in those days everybody was building crystal sets and one-tube radios and trying to pull in Philadelphia or maybe Cincinnati stations at that time," recalls Don Albershardt, Milton's son.

Milton graduated from Tech in 1926 and was accepted to Purdue University. That summer Milton's plans changed as family circumstances required him to stay home to start working. Milton and his friend Dale decided to open a store to sell and repair the new radios that were becoming all the rage. They picked 652 E. 52nd Street. They called it AC Radio Electric Shop, for their last names - Albershardt and Chastain.

Some 1928 Atwater Kent radios are seen in the window of the new shop. Radios in this era were operated on batteries, as most home were not yet wired with electricity. The radio catalog listed the required batteries for one model - One 2-volt "A" batteries (an acid-filled, car battery type), three 45-volt "B" batteries, and one 7 1/2-volt "C" battery.

AC Radio Electric Shop at 652 E. 52nd Street in 1928. Atwater Kent radios in the window.

Image courtesy of the Don Albershardt collection

The small radio sales and repair shop was in the retail center on the northwest corner of 52nd and College Avenue. This L-shaped, two-story, red brick building had been built around 1923. (According to the Polk city directories, there were no listings for any addresses at this corner before 1923.) As is still true today, this building had retail on the ground floors facing 52nd Street and College Avenue, and apartments above. Just a few years before that, the Texaco station and the Clark building are built on the NE corner of 52nd and College. Also, of historic note, the building on the SW corner is built and Piggly Wiggly Grocery opens there, where the Red Key Tavern is today.

It wasn't long until the C in AC Radio, left. Don Albershardt explained, "My dad bought Dale out in a few years. Dale was more interested in cars...race cars. There was a race car driver known as Norm Houser who drove for Dale. Dale built a lot of Norm's race cars. And he had a garage at 42nd and College. Right across from the Uptown Theater. There was a gap between the buildings that you could drive through and there was a garage back in there. That was Dale's garage."

After Dale left, Milton kept the original store name - AC Radio.

Milton can be seen in the below photo toiling in the radio service lab in 1927 with an assistant. The shelves are stocked with batteries, vacuum tubes, and spools of wire. There was a growing business of repairing the new-fangled radio sets and rebuilding the multiple batteries it took to keep them running.

Image courtesy of the Don Albershardt collection

Around this time, Perdue C. Clark builds a two-story brick building at 5207 College Avenue (the Clark Building), just to the north of the Texaco Station that was built on the corner around 1925 (Habig's today). Occupants of the Clark building are Doc Keever and also Perdue's notions store. The Clark building will soon become part of this story.

Milton is now dating Frances Keaton. The 1930 Shortridge yearbook said of the senior, "Frances is one of our finest athletes and is on several teams. Her favorite subject is physics III. Imagine! Greatly interested in radios." Clearly a reference to her boyfriend Milton. After graduation they were married. They lived above the shop in the Wil-Jo-Hen apartments (named for Wilhelmina, Joseph, and Henry Knue).

Don recalls, "My mom used to talk about how he'd come home at night and his clothes were all eaten with battery acid. He used to rebuild batteries. He would take them apart, take the lead and melt it and pour into a plastic grid of some kind. His fingers were pitted and his clothes had holes in them from sulfuric acid."

The staff of AC Radio in 1928. Milton is behind the counter. The employee on the right was probably obliterated by battery acid splashing onto the photo. The door next to Milton leads to the service lab in the other photo.

Image courtesy of the Don Albershardt collection

In 1932, Milton and Frances celebrate the birth of their son Don (the source of the stories in this series of articles). A year later Milton and Frances travel to Cleveland, Ohio, to complete the purchase of the Clark Building. This c. 1927 building (now home to Edward Jones), had been Edward Clark Dry Goods. The Albershardts buy it for $5000 and move the radio shop across the street into the larger space. Upstairs at 5207 were the offices of Dr. Charles Keever and dentist Paul Oldham.

Don recalls the heating plant for the building, "See these stripes in the concrete [in the photo above]? That's hollow. There's a basement, a boiler and a huge 2000 gallon oil tank. I remember as a little kid going down there looking at those monsters. The boiler... I thought it was like a steam a locomotive down there. It was huge. It had the big round door in the front that opened and tubes in there. That was all underneath that sidewalk. That was designed so they could take those slabs up if they ever had to replace it and one day we did!"

By 1934 the AC Radio Electric Shop opens at 5207 N. College Avenue. Across College, on the corner, is now Brady's Drug Store, which becomes Huff's Cut Rate Drugs around 1935. Dr Keever and Paul Oldham, DDS., relocated across the street at 5210 College and Milton converts the second floor of the AC Radio building into apartments. Milton, Frances, and Don occupy the two front ones on the College side.

AC Radio's new home at 5207 N. College Avenue, across the street to the east from the first shop. Next door to the south is the Texaco service station (now Habig).

Image courtesy of the Don Albershardt collection

The larger shop allows for the sale of other electric items, like washing machines and refrigerators. Vacuums and mixers can also be seen in the store window in the 1934 photo above. Don shared a story about those early refrigerators, "This was known as the monitor top...GE. Those refrigerators are prior to the discovery of freon. They used sulfur dioxide as a refrigerant. Refrigeration men had to wear gas masks. If there was a leak, It'd run you out of the house. It was a poisonous gas, but it was a good refrigerant. The downside was if it ever sprung a leak ...and I was with my dad one time when one was being carried out of a house. They all wore gas masks, and me, I go in there thinking, Oh, I'm the owner's son...well, I got trapped and hanging out a window just to get my breath. At any rate, I'm very familiar with what it smells like!"

A G.E. Monitor Top refrigerator, and vacuums, on display at the AC Radio shop.

Image courtesy of the Don Albershardt collection

Milton started a new service at AC Radio - buying on time. Customers could come to the store weekly to make payments. If the customer wasn't able to get to the store, Milton would send an employee to the customer's workplace on payday to collect the payment.

Don Albershardt recalls, "It was a big deal, weekly payments, people didn't have $59.95, they didn't have $99, [for a new appliance]. The deal was, ok, where do you work? What day do you get paid? Can you afford $2.30 a week? We will be here, on Friday, or your payday, to collect that money."

This service both improved sales and generated interest income for the shop. It also produced someone who will become important to this story, employee Kenneth Poisel. Kenny was hired to work in collections at the West Washington store (the second AC Radio location). Milton's original notes show Kenny was making $30 a week. We will hear more about him soon. In 1936, AC Radio opens a third store. It is at 36 Virginia Avenue, inside the Pembroke Arcade.

Don recalls his childhood barber at 648 E. 52nd Street, "George Gladdis was the barber. Cut my hair many a time...when I had hair...and then, Paul Taylor. Paul cut hair for our kids, too."

In 1937, the Red Key Tavern opens, after a series of restaurants were at the 5170 address. This same year the Piggly Wiggly Store, which moved in 1932 half a block north on College to 5212, becomes Bernice's Restaurant.

An early promotional item (1936) from AC Radio. A free movie ticket to Zaring's Egyptian Theatre located at 27th and Central.

Image courtesy of the Don Albershardt collection

Milton Albershardt in 1934 at AC Radio's new home at 5207 N. College Avenue.

Image courtesy of the Don Albershardt collection

It is the mid-1930s and Milton Albershardt is now running his much larger appliance store at 5207 N. College Avenue. The new space allows for many new electric products - waffle makers, heaters, refrigerators, irons, vacuum cleaners and more. Remember Kenneth Poisel, hired in the last installment at the West Washington store? Ken is brought to the College store to work with Milton.

Floor and table model radios on display at AC Radio in 1934.

Image courtesy of the Don Albershardt collection

In 1937, just three years after opening the expanded appliance store on College, Milton realizes that his medical condition will no longer allow him to run the shop. Don recalls the event, even though he was only four years old, "One January, dad came upstairs, we lived in the apartment above the store. He went to bed and never got up. He was in bed for about 6 months. He actually died at home, upstairs. He died in June, two months short of his 30th birthday."

Milton had Pneumonia as a child, which led to Rheumatic Fever. This resulted in enlarged heart valve. While Milton was home in bed for months, Ken Poisel becomes store manager. Ken reports to Milton every night about AC Radio.

Milton dies June 15, 1937. Penicillin was discovered in 1939, Don says would have saved his dad.

Many years later, after Ken's death in 2002, Don's mother shared a story with him. Don recalls that day, "When my step-father passed away in '02, my mother told me some stories that she had never told me before. She says, you know your dad told me, when he knew he was dying, he said don't let that Kenny Poisel get away. He's a good man. She ended up marrying him. He kept the business going."

Ken Poisel's AC Radio notebook. The cover shows all of the AC Radio locations and phone numbers. Note the phone numbers are 4 digits with a two-letter exchange prefix. The Broad Ripple prefix at that time was CLifford.

Image courtesy of the Don Albershardt collection

Frances took Milton's advice. Ken and Frances were married on November 30, 1937.

World War II put restrictions on manufacturers, so many products were in short supply from 1939-1945, affecting the availability of appliances for AC Radio to sell.

In 1941, Doc Keever's was living at 5216 N. College Avenue, just to the north of Bernice's Restaurant and had his office above. He moved his house about three spots to the north - to 5226 N. College Avenue, according to Don. In the space vacated, he built a one-story yellow brick building to match the two-story Bernice's building.

Don remembers back to when he was about 8 years old, "5226, I think, is the address. We were living up stairs and watched the whole thing. The movers had the foundation ready and at midnight the power company took down the street car lines and then they pulled the house out onto College Avenue, north three houses, and then back onto the new foundation."

While looking at the above photo of 5207, Don recalls, "Ok, now we're starting a new era. In '46 you could start to get merchandise again, after the can see how the building's grown over with ivy. The sign there, now says Motorola Radio for Home and Car. There's that Texaco gas station. They had a sign out could get a car wash for a dollar.

AC Radio in the summer of 1946. Texaco (now Habig's) is on the corner to the south.

Image courtesy of the Don Albershardt collection

"Television was not in Indianapolis yet, Cincinnati and Chicago both had a station. WLW, Cincinnati was on Channel 4, WGN in Chicago was on Channel 4. You didn't have to switch the channel, you just turn a dial and a motor on the antenna rotates it southeast and you could get Cincinnati, and rotate it northwest and get Chicago. One would fade out, snow, and the other one would fade in. There was the antenna. Big four-stack...this was 40 feet on top of a two-story building.

"WFBM Channel 6 finally went on the air in Indianapolis, I think it was 1949, wasn't it? I'm not positive of that date, but they broadcast the race.

"We were selling television sets, we had 'em to sell, I don't know if we sold any, but we had then there in the store and we could demonstrate them."

It wouldn't be long before TV Sets would become the best seller as more stations went on the air in Indianapolis.

Don recalled a story his mother told him about the building across the street from AC Radio. In the 1930s, when Doc Keever was preparing to build the two-story yellow brick building at about 5212 N. College Avenue (currently the Aristocrat Pub), it was discovered that the corner building with Huff's Drug Store and the Wil-Jo-Hen Apartments above had been built one cement block width onto Keever's property. Mr. Knue had built that building in the early 1920s (according to the listings in the city directories). "Mom said she watched the men fistfight over the boundary from our second floor apartment across the street," recalls Don. The two men eventually worked it out and amended the deeds. That "concrete block width" rider was still on the books when Don sold that building to Rick Rising-Moore in the 1980s for the eventual Aristocrat Pub..

While this photo was taken to show off a new car, it also reveals a bit of history in the background ( so many old photos do. Please look through your old photo albums!). Knue's corner building is shown to the left - with Shepherd's Drugs, Covered Wagon Antiques, and College Package Liquor Store. Keever's yellow brick building is on the right - with Bernice's Restaurant, Doc Keever's office above, and not shown, but to the right of this photo is Demaree Cleaners.

Image courtesy of the Don Albershardt collection

Ken Poisel is now running AC Radio at 5207 N. College Avenue. Francis and Milton's boy, Don Albershardt, goes to Nora Grade School, then IPS School 70, then to John Strange, then back at Nora. Don goes to high school at Tech, where his dad attended..

In 1951, AC Radio participated in the Philco Old Refrigerator Derby. Customers registered their old refrigerators with the store and then the customer with the oldest one won a new Philco refrigerator. Based of the photos of AC Radio owner, Ken Poisel, and the winners, there was a tie for the oldest refrigerator in Indianapolis. One of the winners was Mrs. John Hook, Bud Hook's mother, the other winner was Mrs. Serepta Brendel. (John Hook started Hook's Drugs around 1900 and his son, Bud, took over in 1956.) Mrs. Hook won a brand new Philco Model 1018 refrigerator. It was funny, because she was considered to be one of the wealthiest women in the city, and yet she still had such an old refrigerator!.

Ken Poisel delivering the new Philco refrigerator to Mrs. John Hook at her residence at 6109 Spring Mill Road.

Image courtesy of the Don Albershardt collection

Don went to Purdue and studied Electrical Engineering. He was drafted into the Army during the Korean War and served from 1953 through 1955. Don came home on a 10-day pass in 1954 and married Nancy. They lived at the house to the north of AC Radio at 5215 N. College Avenue (see photo above)..

Ken Poisel ran the store for years, with Don as Vice President & General Manager. Eventually for health reasons, Ken turned over the day-to-day operations of the store to Don. Ken and Frances had been spending many months out of the year in St. Petersburg for some time and built a home there. .

Don and Nancy lived at 5215 N. College Avenue (on left) and AC Radio was next door (right) at 5207.

Image courtesy of the Don Albershardt collection

Don realized that AC Radio had outgrown the 5207 N. College Avenue Carter Building. He tore down his home to the north at 5215 and built a new 60' x 100' building. AC Radio moved into the new building in April 1968..

The new building, at 5215 N. College Avenue, for ACRadio in November 1968. Notice that the sign now slides the Radio part up against the AC part. Soon the store will become ACR Appliances.

Image courtesy of the Don Albershardt collection

In 1968 AC Radio is moving out of the south half of the Clark Building at 5207 N. College Avenue to occupy the new building to the north. The north portion of 5207 was still College Package Liquors. Around 1960, Steck Plumbing, owner of the red brick building on the northwest corner at 52nd, was upgrading the building facade with aluminum accents and raising the rents. College Package Liquor decided to move across the street into 5207. Ken Poisel, owner of AC Radio, made room by squeezing the electronics shop into about 2/3rds of the south section to make room. In a few years the liquor store owner died and Ken bought the business. Don recalls those days, "That was a fiasco because that thing used to get held up. The number of times that thing would... it was like the OK Corral. The police would hide out in it! There was a balcony in the back, and they would hide out back there.

"There were bullet holes, even across the street in Bernice's Restaurant. We had employees that would have somebody holding a gun in your face. Anyway, we got rid of that thing. Some guy came along and made him [Ken] an offer he couldn't refuse."

Evans Cafeteria now where Bernice's was at 5212 N. College Avenue (now the Aristocrat).

Image courtesy of the Don Albershardt collection

The liquor store moves out and Barn Village Antiques comes in. Your editor also remembers the names Frank and Jan on the antique store. After that, Vi Walker Silver was in the 5209 building. She was followed by Susan Smith with City Dogs Grocery. Today, Edward Jones has an office there.

Barn Village Antiques in the old 5209 building, with ACR Appliances to the north.

Image courtesy of the Don Albershardt collection

Times are booming to the north at the new, large AC Radio appliance business. It becomes ACR Appliances as the modern world of appliance sales grows to include microwave ovens and color TVs. Don adds, "We kept adding different brands to our sign. We had a microwave expo over at the K of C Lodge on 71st in the 70s. We sold, I don't know, 500 microwaves in one weekend. We broke all the records. We had a microwave school, we had everything. Anyway, we sold the heck out of those things."

Don remembered when movie star Yul Brynner (King and I, Magnificent Seven, Westworld, and many more) was in town starring at the Hilton U. Brown Starlight Theatre (on the Butler University campus). "Oh! Yul Brynner bought a TV from us. Starlight Musicals...he was playing the King and I over there. He sent someone over to buy a TV for the dressing room, so we said we want to deliver it. Yul Brynner signed the check. I cashed it, but I made a copy! A little Sony, a 9-inch, he wanted it for the dressing room."

Image courtesy of the Don Albershardt collection

Image courtesy of the Don Albershardt collection

Over the years ACR Appliances expanded into Nora, Lebanon, and Columbus, Indiana. The College store was a major RCA Color TV retailer for decades. In latter years, VHS tape rentals were added. Eventually, the smaller, family-owned stores couldn't compete with the national chains that were coming to town. Some of the first were Highland, Fretter and Luskin. Don recalls that ACR was highly competitive with those chains in product and price, but the chains had huge advertising budgets. In the summer of 1991, ACR Appliances closed.

ACR Appliance Center its heyday at 5215 N. College Avenue.

Image courtesy of the Don Albershardt collection

The building lives on. It later became Box Office Video and is currently Delicia and La Mulita restaurants. The previous building is home to an Edward Jones office, next door to Habig in the old Texaco Station. The first AC Radio location across the street is now The Artistry Group. Bernice's Restaurant is now the Aristocrat. Huff's Drug is LUNA Music. The Wil-Jo-Hen Apartments are now the College Arms.

5215 N. College Avenue in 2019 - La Mulita and Delicia

Today, Don Albershardt is a long-time member of North Side Optimists and still meets friends for breakfast every week just like the old Knobby's days, but now at Just Judy's.