The Graveraet High School Lyceum Series 1928-1945

By: Frank Richardson

On November 13, 1870, Louis Graveraet Kaufman was born in Marquette, Michigan- one of twelve children. He attended school in Marquette and graduated at 17 years of age. Mr. Kaufman entered the banking world and became enormously successful. He was considered the father of branch banking and was instrumental along with others in helping reorganize General Motors. Mr. Kaufman and a small group of investors funded the building of the Empire State Building in New York City.

In 1916 Mr. Kaufman reimbursed the Marquette Board of Education $26,000 which the board had paid for land on which to build a new high school. The board named the high school “Graveraet” in honor of Mr. Kaufman’s mother, Juliet Graveraet Kaufman and the auditorium was named the L.G. Kaufman Auditorium. However, World War I intervened and construction was not begun until 1925 and the cornerstone was put in place in 1926. It was thought that the class of 1927 would be the first graduating class. The building was not completed until 1928 and that class was the first graduating class from Graveraet. Mr. Kaufman invited the classes of 1927, 1928, and 1929 to a gala graduation party at the Kaufman Granot Loma Lodge near Birch on the Big Bay Road just north of Marquette.

In 1927 Mr. Kaufman established an endowment fund of $100,000.00 “to bring to the children and people of Marquette some of the finer things in the world of education, travel, and art…” Mr. Kaufman was the first person in the United States to endow a high school and Graveraet High School was the first high school in the country to be endowed.

Willard M. Whitman, a Harvard graduate was hired in 1920 as Superintendent of the Marquette Area Public Schools. He held that port until 1954 when he retired and was succeeded by Henry Bothwell. Mr. Whitman was very much interested in the arts, especially dramatics, and when the Kaufman Auditorium was built at Graveraet, it was a state-of-the-art facility. Mr. Whitman would occasionally demonstrate the wonderful acoustics by standing on the stage and give a stage whisper that could be heard in the second balcony of the auditorium. Various artists who appeared at Kaufman Auditorium would praise these acoustics.

There are two accounts of the Steinway concert grand piano and how it got to the auditorium. According to one account, George Gershwin, one of America’s great composers and musicians was a friend of Mr. Kaufman and was a visitor a few times at Granot Loma Lodge. Mr. Kaufman asked him to select a piano for Granot Loma. The other version was that Gershwin was asked to pick out two pianos, one for Granot Loma and one for Kaufman Auditorium. In any event, there is a Gershwin Piano (Steinway Concert Grand) currently on the Kaufman Auditorium stage.

Kaufman Auditorium seated about 900 when it was built. Some years later the two front rows of seats were removed to make room for the enlarging of the stage. Also at this time, the side window curtains were removed and the acoustic integrity suffered somewhat.

The Lyceum programs were free to any Graveraet High student who signed up for the yearly programs. The seats left over were available to the public for a very nominal price. A brochure sent out by the Superintendent’s Office in 1942 listed a series of six programs for that year for the price of $4.00 and was, as the brochure stated, “payable in two installments.” That was $4.00 for the whole year!

There were four to six programs scheduled each year beginning in 1928. The first program in 1928 was the Copper Country Choral Club on January 20th, and it finished with the popular radio commentator Lowell Thomas on the subject “With Lawrence in Arabia.”

Getting to Marquette for the artists on these programs was not easy. There was no commercial air service until 1948 when the Copper Country Airlines began regular passenger service. There were no interstate highways, many gravel roads and no Mackinaw Bridge. You came to Marquette by train, bus, or automobile.

The opportunity to hear top-quality musicians, lecturers, writers, and other artists was well appreciated by the students and townspeople who attended the Lyceum programs. It was the custom in those days to “dress up” for the programs. The ushers were senior high school girls who were members of the Graveraet honor society Fidelis Club. There were two girls to an isle and one each for the upstairs balcony- ten in all. Their uniforms were white satin blouses with maroon skirts and jumpers. The ushers for the school year 1938-1939 were: Joyce Syren Jepson, Patricia Johns Erlich, Martha Siekkinen, Dorothy Knuth, Dorothy Marks Lutey, Mary Jane Lantto Hartman, Leona Vadnais Kuzma, Mary Coon Walters, Esther Michelson Olander, Shirley Johnson Moore, Marion Longyear Sonderegger.

Many programs were travelogues with slides and motion pictures, and in the 20’s and 30’s the pictures were black and white. Travel to vacation areas of the United States and foreign countries was difficult in those days and travelogues as short subjects were very popular. The Graveraet Lyceum courses throughout the years had many travel programs. In 1938, Bradford Washburn came to Marquette with his subject, “Mountain Climber and Lecturer.” He was a very young man at that time. An April issue of the Detroit Free Press of this year ran an article about Bradford Washburn who is now 90 years old and the founding director of the Museum of Science. He has spent the last 20 years measuring Mt. Everest. Captain Dennis Rooke appeared in 1930 with the subject of his solo flight from England to India. The daughter of the famous explorer Admiral Perry presented a lecture on Greenland. Osa Johnson of the famous African exploring team of Martin and Johnson were here in 1932. Don Blanding, who called himself a poet and a vagabond, spoke on “A voyage to Hawaii” in 1935 and there were many others.

One of the most interesting programs was presented by count Felix Von Luckner in 1929. Count Von Luckner sailed for the German Navy in World War I . He sank many tons of Allied Ships and their cargo, but never took a human life, “not even the ship’s cat.” He used a Norwegian flag to avoid the British Navy and their blockade. He remarked that the ocean swells never bothered him but the choppy waves on the Great Lakes made him queasy! The Count was a very popular lecturer in the United States in the 1930’s.

On a few occasions Mr. Whitman would talk to the students who attended the Lyceum course programs regarding their manners. He cautioned the students about getting out of their seats too quickly after the last number of a musical program. He remarked that the artist would probably have an encore and the noise of many people moving out of their seats too quickly was inappropriate behavior. When the English artist De Wolfe hopper was here with his troupe in 1935 they presented Gilbert and Sullivan’s H.M.S. Pinafore in the afternoon to all Graveraet students. Mr. Whitman said that if we applauded lustily Mr. Hopper might come out and give us his famous encore, “Casey At The Bat.” We applauded long and loud and of course Mr. Hopper came out and gave the encore. The evening featured Gilbert and Sullivan’s, “The Mikado”, and Mr. Hopper gave his famous encore again during intermission.

Amelia Earhart was featured twice on the Lyceum programs, in 1933 and in 1936. In 1936 she had just returned from her solo flight from Honolulu to Oakland, California, the first woman to do so. She was the first woman to fly across the United States in both directions. She and her navigator, Fred Noonan, lost their lives in her attempt to fly around the world in 1937. Her airplane vanished at sea near Howland Island in the Pacific Ocean. When she was in Marquette she stayed at the old Northland Hotel. The hotel, now the Landmark Inn, has a guest room in her honor.

Also appearing twice was Alec Templeton, a popular pianist and entertainer who was blind. He appeared in 1937 and 1940. His programs usually were in two parts- the first being devoted to the classics and his own compositions, and the second part to lighter musical fare- Somewhat reminiscent of Victor Borge. Local Historian Fred Rydholm happened to be in the auditorium in 1940 when Mr. Whitman brought Mr. Templeton there to try out the piano. Fred was a member of the high school dramatic club which flourished during Mr. Whitman’s tenure. Fred related that Mr. Templeton needed to be seated higher than the piano bench allowed and Mr. Whitman sent Fred to find a solution. Fred came back with some magazines that worked temporarily, but for his evening performance a suitable pillow was found. Mr. Templeton had a very popular number that he often played during the second half of his concerts. He played the 1920’s favorite, “Some of these Days,” as it would have been played by Johann Sebastian Bach, a Czerny exercise by popular pianists of the era, Shep fields, Eddy Duchin, the boogie woogie style of Bob Zurke, and lastly by Sergei Rachmaninoff. I have that record in my collection of old 78’s.

The Vienna Choir boys appeared in 1939. Today it is one of the oldest boy’s choirs existing in the world. The organization was founded in 1498 and at one time the great composer Joseph Haydn sang with them. They have given concerts under all of the great conductors of this century, including Leonard Bernstein, Herbert Von Karajan, Lorin Mazel, and Sir George Solti.

In 1938 the Don Cossack Chorus sang at Graveraet for the Lyceum Series. Serge Jaroff, their leader, was a lieutenant in a bridge of Don Cossack Calvary. He fought against the Bolsheviks in the Russian Civil the Synodal Music Conservatory in Moscow. His chorus consisted of 24 singers, two of whom also performed the Bojaren Prisattka War of 1917. The White Russians lost and Serge was interned at Chilingir, Turkey. While in prison camp he formed the Don Cussack Chorus. Serge was a brilliant musician classically trained at (the famous Russian squat and kick dance). They marched on stage in their Cossack Uniforms, breeches with red stripes and blouses. In the chorus were a few singers who sang falsetto at the time- this along with the very deep Russian basses created some powerful vocal music. They sang mostly Russian folk songs and Russian Orthodox Church music. They sang all over the world and were featured in several Hollywood movies. Just before World War II began the chorus came to the United States where they all became residents and American Citizens. The chorus had a Great Jubilee Tour in 1970-71. They can still be heard on CD’s.

In 1939 Percy Grainger, the Australian concert pianist and composer, appeared on the Lyceum Program. Mr. Grainger was very popular in the United States and became an American citizen in 1918. His compositions “Molly on the Shore” and “Country Gardens” were two that he mentioned as pieces not being too serious as classical selections. However, they were very popular with his audiences- especially “Country Gardens”. He received much applause when he played this selection in Marquette.

Many other first-rate musicians appeared during these years- Misha Mischakoff, Concert Master of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra- the Argentine cellist, Ennio Bolognini- Soprano, Lucille Meusel- Doris Wittich, an excellent accompanist appeared several times- Ruggiero Ricci, violinist- The Saidenberg Concert Orchestra- The Welsh Imperial Singers- The Opera Comique of New York- Kayla Mitzel, violinist, and many others. Tito Schipa, the Great Metropolitan Opera Tenor, was scheduled to appear in 1942 but he had hurried back to Italy because he was an Italian citizen and World War II was just beginning. The popular singer Jessica Dragonette took his place.

Margaret Bourke –White, the noted photographer for Time and Life Magazine appeared in 1942. She was the first woman accredited war correspondent to go overseas in World War II. She survived a ship torpedoing and flew on a few combat bombing missions. The 1945 high school yearbook, The Tatler, had a full-page picture of President Franklin D. Roosevelt in his memory. He died in April 1945. The photo was taken by Margaret Bourke-White. In 1965 she was chosen as one of the top ten living American Women of the 20th century.

Drew Pearson, the controversial newspaper columnist, appeared on the Kaufman stage in 1941.

Due to travel restrictions in World War II, there were only two programs in 1943- Ed Stevens, correspondent for the Christian Science Monitor and Frederick Jagel, metropolitan Opera tenor.

I could find no record of programs in 1944. In 1945 there were four programs, concert artists, singer and lecturer Otto Schacht, Dayton Grafman, classical and popular pianist Jack Morrow, a New York newspaperman, and Russian-born Irana Khraboff. In 1947 Piero Pierotic, a baritone appeared at Graveraet in March and in April, F. Arnold Young. In 1949 there is a record of three student assemblies, Mr. and Mrs. Welsbaker, “Folklore Assembly,” Walter everman, “Colorful and Exciting Experiments,” and the Mormon Orchestra. In 1950 there were student assemblies. It would appear that the Lyceum programs that began in 1928 encompassing five or six yearly high quality programs had run its course. The Graveraet High School students and townspeople of Marquette were indeed fortunate to have heard and seen these wonderful programs.

Frank Richardson- April, 2001


 

Note: I attended Graveraet High School from 1934, graduating in 1938. In 1939 I returned to Graveraet for that school year as a post-graduate student.

Lyceum (2.) “An organization presenting public lectures, concerts, etc.” Webster’s New World Dictionary, 1984.

Thanks to the Peter White Library, the Marquette Senior high School library, and the Marquette County Historical Society. Also to Fred Rydholm, Marion Sonderegger, Shirley Moore, Martha Knuth, Bill Oswald (current principal of Graveraet Middle School), and others.