Historical Albion Michigan
By Frank Passic

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Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.

WHEN LILY PONS CAME TO ALBION

Morning Star, July 10, 2011, pg. 22

It’s good to see some dilapidated houses around town being demolished. A couple of historical notes: The house across the street from Austin School was originally the Charles F. Austin house, Albion’s first mayor and after whom Austin Avenue and Austin School were named. The old tavern with the big upper story porch on Austin Avenue was Dubina’s Tavern, a popular gathering place for the European immigrant community in the early 20th century.

I’ve learned that the city has applied for a grant to paint and shingle our Michigan Central Railroad depot, as well as making some updates such as new doors. This will assure the integrity of the restoration which was done in the 1980s.

The railroad was a prominent means of transportation prior to World War II. While looking through my photo archives, I came across a photo of one famous person who used our local depot when she came here in 1939. It was Lily Pons (1898-1976) famed soprano singer of the Metropolitan Opera of New York.

Lily came to Albion on Sunday, June 4, 1939, accompanied by her husband, noted conductor Andre Kostelanetz (1901-1980). He had come here to receive an honorary doctor of music degree from Albion College at the College’s commencement ceremony held on Monday morning, June 5 at the Washington Gardner High School auditorium.

Upon arriving here, the couple were taken to the Parker Inn where they spent the night. Kostelanetz rehearsed with the Albion College Band 45 minutes before the event, and conducted them in Tchaikovsky’s "March Slave” during the commencement. The "doctor of musichood” sash was placed on Kostelanetz by Albion College Dean of Women, Marian Gray. Kostelanetz’ wife Lily also sang at the ceremony, choosing the selection "Pamina’s Aria” from the second act of "The Magic Flute” by Mozart. She was accompanied on the piano by Dr. Rowland.

In an interesting situation, Kostelanetz had to be back in New York City that evening to conduct his live radio orchestra. Following his part in the commencement activities, Kostelanetz quickly left the high school auditorium at 11:08 am. He received a Michigan State Police escort from Albion to the airport in Jackson, where he took off to New York and arrived at the radio studio with a half hour to spare.

From our Historical Notebook this week we present a photo of Lily Pons standing in front of our railroad depot. Notice the style of her hat. They don’t make’em like that anymore, do they? How many of our readers remember when Andre Kostelanetz and Lily Pons came to Albion in 1939?


Lily Pons at the Railroad Depot on June 5, 1939

Next: EMMONS CARRIAGE BARN OVER THE RIVER


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