Shelby resident shares memories of working at Michigan Central Station during WWII

Angela Spalla, 103, featured in grand opening exhibit

By: Kara Szymanski | Shelby-Utica News | Published June 27, 2024

  Angela Spalla, 103, worked at Michigan Central Station in the 1940s. Spalla holds her identification card from when she worked at Michigan Central Station.

Angela Spalla, 103, worked at Michigan Central Station in the 1940s. Spalla holds her identification card from when she worked at Michigan Central Station.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes


SHELBY TOWNSHIP — As Michigan Central Station celebrated its reopening after many years and an extensive renovation project, a longtime resident of Shelby Township shared her memories of when she worked at the Michigan Central Station in the 1940s.

Angela Spalla and her daughter, Liana Spalla, of West Bloomfield, reminisce about when Angela worked at Michigan Central Station and how much it has changed since then. Angela has lived in the same house in Shelby Township since 1958 and is now 103 years old.

She worked at Michigan Central Station from 1943 to 1946 before she got married to her fiancé, Frederick Spalla, who was a Marine sergeant stationed in the Philippines during World War II and who was honorably discharged prior to the end of the war because he suffered a disease from an insect bite. Angela worked as a clerk in payroll in the accounting department at Michigan Central Station. She still has her picture identification and free train pass. She said she loved her job at Michigan Central Station. With her own savings, Angela purchased the family’s first Bell telephone and the desk to set it on.

“She worked on the first floor and could see the arrivals off the train, and she had to use her math skills to calculate payroll accounts for the employees, but when she had some fraction problems, she would ask one of the guys close by to help her solve the problem. Soon before she left her job, she was being trained to use the calculator, which was a little difficult at first, but then she liked it,” Liana said.

Angela said she was glad she got to learn how to use the calculator for the future.

She said that especially during the war years, there were mostly women, young and old, some younger men but more older men — middle aged — who worked at the station. Many military personnel arrived at the station, including Angela’s fiancé.

She said her fiancé would arrive at the station when he was on a furlough to come home to Detroit, and there were many servicemen arriving at the station. Angela said she got to see a couple of movie stars while working there and thought it was really cool. She met a few celebrities in person and asked for their autographs.

“While working, I would see celebrities coming and going on the trains,” Angela said.

Liana said that when the employees heard a celebrity was coming into the station, they would run down to the tracks to see the celebrity.

“She remembers seeing Loretta Young, to whom she told was beautiful, and Loretta Young thanked her. Bob Hope signed his autograph and was very nice. Victor Mature got off the train but wouldn’t sign his autograph or even look at her — he just walked away. She remembers one time she and a group of her co-workers were asked if they wanted to take the train somewhere — they wanted to go somewhere to have lunch, so they went to Indiana,” she said.

Angela also helped one of her five sisters to secure a job at the station in a different department.

Angela said that after quite a while, the building was abandoned and just sat there. The station closed in 1988.

“It just sat there for years until Ford bought it out and made it into the most beautiful building you’d want to see, and the inside is absolutely gorgeous. They put in these beautiful chandeliers and architecture work that is just gorgeous. You really have to see it,” she said.

Angela has become a celebrity in her own right since the Michigan Central Station’s reopening.

She was featured in the grand opening exhibit at Michigan Central Station, and multiple local television networks have interviewed her.

While Angela was by her photo at the grand opening, she said, people were saying, “That’s her,” and asking for her autograph. She said she really enjoyed that after all these years.