Prescott Fountain–Hunderups

I’ve embarked on a line of research that involves trying to understand the businesses that have served Alamedans over the years, with a focus on the smaller shops that existed around the perimeter of the neighborhood. Here’s one that will bring back some memories for those who knew it, and will intrigue those of us who didn’t.

Prescott Fountain, 1955


This view is looking northeast from the corner of NE 29th and Prescott. Photo courtesy of Tom Robinson, Historic Photo Archive. Below is the same place, 54 years later.


Food King Market, 2009


We live not too far from Food King and drop in from time to time, almost always in the evening after other stores are closed, to get a gallon of milk for the morning. When I found this 1955 picture, I stopped in to see if the owners knew anything about the building, but they don’t, so I turned to others I know (thank you Steve Goodman and John Hamnett) who do.

The building was built in 1922, so there are a couple of generations who shopped here before this early picture was taken, and about which we don’t know much (yet). But here’s the lowdown on this place from the vantage point of the mid- to late-1950s.

I’ll let Steve Goodman tell this story from here:

First, this is actually four businesses. The left door (about one-quarter of the total building), was the Prescott Fountain. But no one called it that. From the late 50’s until it closed (sometime in the mid to late 60’s), it was know as Hunderups, for its owner (we kids pronounced it “Hun-drups”).

It was not what you might envision.  Likely in earlier days it was a modern, clean, well respected establishment, but that’s NOT how we knew it. Adults would never go in there.  It was a dingy hang-out for kids. Emphasis on dingy. It was dark (seemed like only about  two lights lit the whole place), dirty (old Mr. Hunderup, who resembled Charley Weaver, let the store go into disrepair and never cleaned it). The product on the shelves was all old and never sold. Items you’d expect in a old drug store, hot water bottles, etc.

But it did have an old fashioned counter and stools where grade school and high school kids (boys — never a girl) would gather.  He’d have candy behind the counter, but we hardly ever bought it, as fresher was available next door.

The attraction was the iced Cokes in a bottle. I don’t remember, probably a nickel or dime each.  He’d keep them in a “too cold” refrigerator, and kids would go there to socialize in an “adult free” zone, and drink the Cokes from the bottle with a straw. Sometimes Mr. Hunderup would have to break thru the ice with his ice-pick so we could get the straw in.

Rumor has it that someone once saw a rat running thru the store.  Maybe yes, maybe no – but in this dark, dirty establishment it wouldn’t surprise anyone.

My mother went in Hunderup’s once (once) looking for some item, and I think she disallowed me from going in there again — or couldn’t figure out why we’d want to.

I got the feeling that before it was the run-down place we knew, Mr. Hunderup might have owned it when it was nice and new(er), but just let it get run-down.  Looking back, he loved seeing us and chatting with us while we kept him in business.

Mr. Hunderup passed away in the late 60’s. They cleaned it all out (and we joked about how much they probably had to fumigate the place), and it soon became part of the store next door.”

Steve explains that the second door from the left was a thriving, clean, well-lit family owned neighborhood grocery called Hume’s Foods…you can see it on the awning in the photo. It sold in 1963 to the Brandel family (which later owned Alameda Foods at 24th and Fremont).

Steve remembers…

It was unlike the convenience stores of current.  They had a large produce section on the east side of the store. In the back was a large butcher case, well stocked and staffed by a real butcher. While this wasn’t a “supermarket,” it’s where many in the neighborhood did their weekly shopping; always busy. And it had several adults working there – back when they could support a family with that type of job.  No turnover, but the same people.  Mr. and Mrs. Brandel would always be in.  I can remember their faces like it was yesterday.  They kept ledgers behind the counter where some customers ran a tab.”

On the east end of the building, down beyond Brandel’s, was a beauty shop and a barber shop, complete with the twirling red and white barber pole and a row of hair dryers against the wall.

What do you know about this place? Care to share a memory about another neighborhood business?

Post Script| March 28, 2009: Thanks to the helpful memory of blog reader Steve Turner, we know that the proprieter was named August Herman Hunderup. I’ve done a little genealogy on Mr. Hunderup and learned that he was born in 1891 in Minnesota. In the 1920 census, he’s living with his parents on SE 87th Avenue and is listed as a “minister” at a Catholic Church. Death records show he passed away on September 3, 1970. I’d love to hear from any family members, or others, who have a memory of Mr. H and his quirky, memorable shop.

4 responses

  1. This is a great piece. How differently we lived in our cities, only a few decades ago. Kids hanging out in the neighborhood, a butcher and produce a block away, no big parking lots. Amazing. How much we’ve lost in 40 short years, in my view. Thanks for this – our neighborhoods used to be about a lot more than just where we slept.

  2. In the late 1940’s, I remember taking empyty quart soda water (Canada Dry Water) bottels back to Hume’s, for the five cents per bottle depost. If I had six bottles, I could get a 1/2 pint of vanila ice cream.

    Also, remember well the barber shop at the end of the building. Always wondered why the barber had a seperate room for when he got tired (rest room).

  3. Hunderup’s was a great hangout for kids for the reasons you describe. The demise of Hunderup’s store began the day he decided to extend credit to the neighborhood kids. It was a poor business decision to say the least. We would arrive after school, pay maybe $0.50 cents towards our balance, and proceed to charge another $3.00 or so for frozen cokes, licorice, baseball cards, candy cigarettes, and smoothies.

  4. August Hunderup ran a fine establishment. It was the next best thing to a neighborhood tavern for kids. All of the free cokes you could drink either on the sly or charged to his Ledger. Kids used to go in there and drink soda pop and leave the empty bottles by the stools. I remember going in there one time and there were three empty coke bottles which August found. He thought he could fool the kids and so he removed the opener from the coke machine. You guessed it… the kids would bring their own openers from home and use them when he wasn’t looking. The poor guy couldn’t win and I think he was too old and tired to do much about it. He really did like the kids and their company however.
    His special drink was a graveyard which was a mixture of all soda flavors mixed together. It was a popular drink. He was always well stocked with smoothies, JuJuBees and licorice.
    It is hard to imagine that most of the kids in the immediate vicinity had the equivalent of VISA and MASTERCARD. Charging $1.50 of comics and candy was …. priceless. Profitless too for that matter.

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