Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.
Morning Star, January 29, 2012, pg. 4
These next two weeks we'll feature interesting biographies of a couple of graduates of Albion High School. Albion has had numerous theatric plays and theater groups for many years, both adult and youth. There are several persons who "made it big" in the theatrical world over the years who were from Albion. One of them was Fred L. Godding.
Fred L. Godding was an 1893 graduate of Albion High School. Born in 1872 in Onondaga in Ingham County, his father Levi (1833-1888) was a druggist and Civil War veteran. The family later moved to Eaton Rapids and Fred's brother Frank also became a druggist there. For some reason, Fred chose Albion High School instead of a school closer to home. Back then a student would board with a family while they attended the school of their choice in another city. Fred made his mark here in Albion as being on the very first football team Albion High School had, during the fall of 1891. His picture appears on page 106 (mislabeled as George Godding) in the top row last one on the right, in my book "A History of the Albion Public Schools."
After graduation Fred became a well know comedy actor in his day. He operated the Godding Comedy Company and also was a part of other troupes, traveling to theatres, opera houses and other venues across the United States from the late 1890s into the 1920s. They performed light operas (plays), songs, dances, skits, and other entertainment to their audiences. He was well known for his performance as Beppo the Bandit in "The Beggar Prince," conducted by the Beggar Prince Opera Company. The Daily Sun of Gainesville, Florida wrote in its February 7, 1906 issue page 3: "Fred Godding, comedian, is the cleverest in the profession. He has a good voice and is an original wit."
Another opera, "Olivette," was performed in Ocala, Florida in March, 1907. The local paper reported, "Fred Godding, the little comedian, will sing the Goo-Goo Man, accompanied by the Goo-Goo chorus and special lighting and electrical effects." Sounds like an early rock band.
The Marshall Statesman reported on August 28, 1903 that Fred was performing at the Opera House there with his company of actors.
He lived in New York for a time and operated an early movie theatre in Poughkeepsie. The Poughkeepsie (NY) Daily Eagle reported on April 19, 1909 that Fred's "moving picture arcade" suffered a fire, but all the attendees were able to escape. He also performed in Canada and Cuba.
Fred was able to perform with other notables of his era. In 1900 he is listed in cast of persons performing in Utica, NY with the "Marks Brothers Dramatic Company" in a melodrama entitled "Alone in London." His role in that play was as a humble professional. Oh, it's not who you think. This group spelled their name with a "k" and the brothers who spelled it with an "x" didn't come along until several years later.
Fred married actor Irene Bumstead, and their son Alan (1909-1993) performed with them as a child. Alan was a comedian actor at the age of 5 in 1915 impersonating Charlie Chaplin as part of the performance. Alan later became a Lieutenant Colonel in the Air Force during World War II.
Fred lived the last years of his life in Los Angeles, California, where he passed away on May 31, 1931. He was interred in Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale.
From our Historical Notebook this week we present a photograph of actor and comedian Fred L. Godding, courtesy of Barbara Sanchez of California who supplied this week's information. Fred was her father's uncle.
Actor and comedian Fred L. Godding
All text copyright, 2016 © all rights reserved Frank Passic