This old letter from George P. Becker has so many Ypsilanti names in it as well as State and National people—Mike Rice, the Methodist Minister in Detroit, James Melton, tenor with the Metropolitan Opera, Gene Goldkett who owned the Greystone Ballroom in Detroit managed several dance bands and recorded for RCA. Lewis James was born in Dexter, Michigan and the family moved to Ypsilanti about 1905. He went on to become a member of “The Revilars”, retiring from singing in 1934 to become Musical Director of WGN, the radio station owned by the Chicago Tribune.
George Becker, son of Charles and Julia Becker, was born in the house at 601 West Forest Avenue. This is the house with a history that has fascinated a number of people. George reports that when his father bought the house he thought it ordinary and added the tower and made other changes to make it more attractive.June 22, 1973
I was born in Ypsilanti September 19, 1891. I was graduated from the Ypsilanti High School in 1910. I entered MSNC (now called EMU) and was graduated from there with a B.S. and what was called a “Life Certificate to Teach”. I took this to the U of M and entered there and was graduated in 1916 with an A.B. During my High School days in Ypsi, some of my classmates were as follows: Roy and George Parsons, Lenord DO'ooge, Barry & Percy Colvin, Joe Thompson, Leo Whitemire, Alfred Wortley, Mary & Walter James, Mary Lambie, Marie Goetz, Laura & Eva Proctor, and Anna Allen.
The High School male quartette was composed of Lenord DO'ooge, Roy Parsons, Lewis James and myself. This quartette traveled “very extensively!” We sang in Belleville, Milan, Saline, Manchester and Pontiac (incidentally, I sang the tenor role in the cantata called “The Rose Maiden” three years in succession. in the later town).
I sang all during my college days in the U of M Glee Club, but mostly in Detroit with the Gene Goldkett orchestra. Then at Temple Bethel for four years—and the Metropolitan Methodist Church with Mike Rice for another three years. Radio was just coming in and our church mixed quartette sang over WWJ several times, and I had a commercial program twice a week for one-half hour WJR for the Orie Bakery. The same day I was graduated from the U of M, I went to Kansas City and joined an older well-known male quartette which had a long list of engagements including the Red Path Chautauqua Circuit for that entire summer.
You mentioned in your letter about Lewis James, and I want to say that he was one of the finest chaps that I have ever known. He had a beautiful tenor voice, but he was plagued constantly with mental quirks and phobias. He was a friend of Jimmie Melton's-—and Lewis and Jimmie were in Chicago at a downtown club when I was at the Palmer House. I called Lewis and he came over and had dinner with me and spent the evening. The last time I saw him was in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, several years later. He was in good spirits, but terribly crippled with arthritis—in a wheel chair—and attended by Leah.
I was married in 1920 to Doris Crier of Standish, Michigan. She attended one year at MSNC. We lived in Detroit, and for 15 years I was with Whitehead and Kales Company. Then we moved back to Ypsi, and I bought out Mel Lewis in the Michigan Ladder Company. I retired when I was 65, and sold my stock to Art Misly's son, Bob.
If you come to Florida, be sure to call me and we can have dinner together. Joe Thompson, Jeff Silkworth and Carl Johnson live nearby.
My general health is pretty good, although I cannot remember names or where I park my car any more!
I have not been in Ypsi for over 4 years, so I am looking forward to being there possibly next year.
George P. Becker (signed)
P.S. While at the U of M, I studied vocal with William Howland of the School of Music there. As I recall, Lew James studied in Ypsi with Marshall Pease and coached a little with Fred Alexander.
I did a lot of solo and Male Q. for several Masonic Bodies including Detroit Commandary and Consistery. In Ypsi, 2 years Congregational and 2 years Methodist Churches.