Inglis House

Published In:
Ann Arbor Observer, September 1990,
September 1990

Author: Grace Shackman

The U-M's elegant retreat was built with a fortune based on factory fans

At one time or another early in this century, all six children of Detroit physician Richard Inglis lived in Ann Arbor. An interesting bunch, they included Agnes, the first curator of the U-M's Labadie collection of social protest literature; Frank, a Detroit pharmacist; David, a pioneer neurologist; Will, a Detroit businessman; and Kate, who owned a fruit and chicken farm that stretched all the way from Geddes Avenue to the Huron River.

But the sibling who left the most imposing legacy was James, a wealthy industrialist. He and his wife, Elizabeth, built Inglis House, an elegant English-style mansion that since 1951 has been owned by the U-M. The university uses it to house and entertain its many visiting dignitaries in suitable style. During her fourteen-year tenure, former facilities coordinator Sandra Simms amassed a collection of thank-you notes extending from former president Gerald Ford and his wife, Betty, to the exiled Tibetan religious leader the Dalai Lama. (An aide wrote to say that "His Holiness very much enjoyed His stay.")

The Inglises built the secluded mansion, which occupies an 8.5-acre plot at 2301 Highland Road, as a retirement home. Its formal, traditional style belies the mundane business that paid for it.

Photograph of Inglis house & front
yard

The Inglis’ stately home, designed by local architect Woody Woodburn to resemble a French Chateau, has hosted visitors ranging from Gerald and Betty Ford to the Dalai Lama.

James Inglis was ten when his father died. The family was left a legacy of $3,000 a year from real estate holdings, enough to live comfortably at that time, but James left school at age fourteen. According to family legend, it was because his mother wouldn't give him enough money to get his hair cut as often as he liked. Starting out as an office boy at $2.50 a week, Inglis advanced to become owner of American Blower Co., where he developed fans for cooling Detroit's burgeoning auto factories. The company was immensely successful and respected — so much so that during the Depression, the National Bank of Detroit asked Inglis to serve on its board to help raise public confidence in the institution.

In 1903, when he was thirty-nine, Inglis married Elizabeth Hughes, a Presbyterian minister's daughter fourteen years his junior. They moved to Ann Arbor about 1918, living originally on Baldwin Street.

They had become familiar with the town during frequent visits to Inglis's sister Kate, who had moved to the farm on Geddes with her husband, Frank Smith, in 1901. The Smiths' big white farmhouse still stands, looking much the same, at 2105 Geddes, near Concord. During the city's building boom in the 1920's, the Smiths started subdividing the farm into residential lots on what are now Highland, Concord, Lenawee, and Lafayette streets. James Inglis saved his sister the job of platting the bottom of her farm by buying the land that ran down to the river as a site for his dream home.

Architect Lilburn "Woody" Woodworth designed an English-style house of stones and irregular bricks, with a slate roof and elegant accoutrements. Though large (twelve rooms on four levels), it worked well as a family home. Inglis's niece, travel writer Carol Spicer (daughter of brother Will), remembers the house as the natural gathering place for the extended family. She recalls "lots of jokes and laughter in the house."

The gardens, designed by Elizabeth Inglis, were also quintessentially English, with a formal garden, a cutting garden, a meadow, an orchard, and wildflower areas. The grounds also included a tennis court and a three-hole golf course and even, at one time, peacocks. (They eventually had to be banished because of their noise.)

James Inglis died in 1950, leaving the house to his wife for her lifetime and then to the university. But Elizabeth Inglis did not wait that long. She gave the house to the U-M less than a year later when she moved to Kalamazoo to be with her daughter.

Elizabeth and James Inglis family seated in
front of Inglis House

Elizabeth and James Inglis (top center) with their children and grandchildren sit under the wisteria covered arches at the back of their house in 1945.

The new U-M president, Harlan Hatcher — like all incoming university presidents since — was given the choice of living in Inglis House or in the president's house on South University. In a 1982 seminar on the evolving role of the president's wife (published by the Bentley Library), Hatcher's wife, Anne, recalled thinking that "in many ways, it would have been nice, for the children particularly, to be in a neighborhood rather than in the middle of a campus with no little kids around to play with. But we really felt that it was important to maintain the central location."

Inglis House stood empty until 1964, when the university decided to use it as a guest home for important visitors and out-of-town regents. They refurbished it, filling it with a mixture of modern, traditional, and French Provincial furniture and hanging some original paintings by Courbet and Turner borrowed from the U-M art museum.

It took horticulturist Chuck Jenkins five years to restore the gardens to their former glory after fourteen years of neglect. He says he "got a good sense for the major elements" by looking at pictures and talking to Walter Stampflei, the Inglis's gardener, who still lived in the gatehouse; he also corresponded through a third party with Elizabeth Inglis, who lived until 1974.

Inglis House can accommodate forty people at a formal dinner and more for a reception or meeting. The Inglis family's unusual combination living room/dining room now serves well as a big dining room. Guests easily make do without a living room by beginning their evenings in the paneled downstairs library with hors d'oeuvre and cocktails. Carol Spicer, speaking of the house's present use, says, "If my aunt and uncle came back, they would be pleased."

Lane Hall

Published In:
Ann Arbor Observer, December 2000,
December 2000

Author: Grace Shackman

From the YMCA to women's studies

If the walls of Lane Hall could talk, they might recall discussions on ethical, religious, and international topics, and distinguished visitors such as Bertrand Russell, Reinhold Niebuhr, and the Dalai Lama. The elegantly understated Georgian Colonial Revival building on the south-west corner of State and Washington has been an intellectual center for student discussions since it was built. From 1917 to 1956 all varieties of religious topics were examined; from 1964 to 1997 it changed to an international focus. In October, after a major expansion and renovation, it was rededicated as the new home for women's studies at the U-M.

Lane Hall was built in 1916-1917 by the U-M YMCA. Within a few years it came under the control of the university's Student Christian Association, which included the campus branches of both the YMCA and the YWCA. In addition to organizing traditional religious activities, SCA published a student handbook, ran a rooming service, and helped students get jobs.

Funded in part by a $60,000 gift from John D. Rockefeller, Lane Hall was named after Victor H. Lane, a law professor and former judge who was active in SCA. When it opened in 1917, students could read books on religion in the library, listen to music in the music room, meet with student pastors in individual offices, or attend functions, either in the 450-seat auditorium upstairs or the social room in the basement.

Photograph of Lane Hall when it was still
the Y.M.C.A.

Post card view of Lane Hall when it was still the Y.M.C.A.

SCA cooperated with area churches and also provided meeting places for groups that didn't have a home church, such as Chinese Christians and Baha'is. But Lane Hall is most remembered for its own nondenominational programs, which were open to all students on campus. Some, like Bible study, had an obvious religious connection, but the programs also included the Fresh Air Camp (which enlisted U-M students to serve as big brothers to neglected boys), extensive services for foreign students, and eating clubs.

Lane Hall became one of the most intellectually stimulating places on campus. "While the university was, much more than now, organized in tightly bounded disciplines and departments, our program was working with the connections between them, and particularly the ethical implications of those interconnections," recalls C. Grey Austin, who was assistant coordinator of religious affairs in the 1950s. "Religion was similarly organized in clearly defined institutions, and we were working, again, with that fascinating area in which they touch one another."

With the coming of the Great Depression, many students struggled financially. In 1932, looking for a way to save money, a local activist named Sher Quraishi (later an advocate for post-partition Pakistan) organized the Wolverine Eating Club in the basement of Lane Hall. The club's cook, Anna Panzner, recalled in a 1983 interview that they fed about 250 people three meals a day. She was assisted with the cooking by John Ragland, who later became the only black lawyer in town. About forty students helped with the prep and cleanup in exchange for free meals, while the rest paid $2.50 a week.

Lane Hall itself had trouble keeping going during the depression, often limping along without adequate staffing. Finally, in 1936, SCA gave Lane Hall to the university. The group didn't stipulate the use of the building but said they hoped it might "serve the purpose for which it was originally intended, that is, a center of religious study and activities for all students in the university." The university agreed and, while changing the name to Student Religious Association, kept and expanded the SCA programming.

The official head of Lane Hall would be a minister hired by the university, but the work was done by Edna Alber," recalls Jerry Rees, who worked there in the 1950s. "Alber ran Lane Hall like a drill sergeant," agrees Lew Towler, who was active in Lane Hall activities. "You'd try to stay on her good side."

The first university-hired director of Lane Hall was Kenneth Morgan. The high point of his tenure was a series of lectures on "The Existence and Nature of God" given by Bertrand Russell, Fulton Sheen, and Reinhold Niebuhr.

Morgan left during World War II and was replaced by Frank Littell. "He was a dynamic man who you either liked or didn't," recalls Jo Glass, who was active at Lane Hall after the war. "He made changes and left." After Littell, DeWitt C. Baldwin, who had been Lane Hall's assistant director, took over. Called "Uncle Cy" by many, he was an idealistic former missionary who also led the Lisle Fellowship, a summer program to encourage international understanding.

Although social action was important, religion as the study of the Bible was not ignored. For instance, Littell led a seminar for grad students on aspects of religion in the Old and New Testament. Participant Marilyn Mason, now a U-M music prof and the university organist, compares the seminar to a jam session, saying, "They were very open minded."

Other Lane Hall activities were just plain fun. Jerry Rees enjoyed folk dancing on Tuesday evenings in the basement social hall. Jo Glass has happy memories of the Friday afternoon teas held in the library. "You'd go to religious teas and meet people you met on Sunday, or go to international teas and meet people from other countries," she says, "but you'd go to Lane Hall and meet a mixture of everybody--all kinds of people wandered in."

Doris Reed Ramon was head of international activities at Lane Hall. She remembers that in addition to providing room for international students to meet, the building had a Muslim prayer room and space for Indian students to cook meals together. After World War II, with the campus full of returning servicemen struggling to make it on the GI Bill, a new eating co-op was organized, called the Barnaby Club. Member Russell Fuller, later pastor of Memorial Christian Church, recalls that the group hired a cook but did all the other work themselves, coming early to peel potatoes or set the table, or staying afterward to clean up.

The Lane Hall programming came to an end in 1956, when the religious office was moved to the Student Activities Building. The niche that Lane Hall held had gradually eroded as more churches established campus centers and the university founded an academic program in religious studies. Also, according to Grey Austin, there were more questions about the role of religion in a secular school. "The growing consensus was that the study of religions was okay but that experience with religion was better left to the religious organizations that ringed the campus."

In the 1960s, centers for area studies began moving into Lane Hall--Japanese studies, Chinese studies, Middle and North African studies, and South Asian and Southeast Asian studies, all of which were rising in importance during the Cold War. Many townsfolk, as well as students, remember attending stimulating brown-bag lunches on various international topics, as well as enjoying the Japanese pool garden in the lobby. During this time visitors ranged from president Gerald Ford and governor James Blanchard (who was delighted with the help the center gave him in developing trade with China) to foreign leaders such as the Dalai Lama and Bashir Gemayel, who became president of Lebanon, and famous writers such as Joseph Brodsky and Czeslaw Milosz.

One of the people who passed through Lane Hall during this period was Hugo Lane, great-grandson of Victor Lane. In response to an e-mail query, Lane recalled that he had an office in Lane Hall when he worked as a graduate assistant for the East European Survey, a project of the Center for Russian and East European Studies. "Needless to say, I took great pleasure in that coincidence. . . . On those occasions when my parents visited Ann Arbor, a stop at the hall was obligatory."

The centers for area studies eventually joined the U-M International Center in the new School of Social Work building across the Diag. After they left, Lane Hall became a temporary headquarters for the School of Natural Resources and Environment while its building was renovated. Then Lane Hall was vacated for its own extensive addition and renovation.

Today, the new and improved Lane Hall is home to the U-M's Women's Studies Program and the Institute for Research on Women and Gender. "It's wonderful space to the occupants, very affirming," says institute director Abby Stewart. "It feels good to be here."

When Football Players danced the Can-Can

Published In:
Ann Arbor Observer, May 2004,
May 2004

Author: Grace Shackman

The Michigan Union Opera’s Cross-Gender Fun

In 1949 U-M junior Jimmie Lobaugh landed a starring role in the Michigan Union Opera. He dressed up as a pregnant woman and belted out a showstopper entitled “I Want a Pickle.”

The show was Froggy Bottom, a parody of the efforts of World War II veterans and their families to cope with the red tape of the GI Bill. “It was dreadful, horrible,” Lobaugh laughs, “but we had a heck of a lot of fun.”

A U-M tradition from 1908 to 1955, the Michigan Union Opera was created to raise funds for the Michigan Union building. Since the Michigan Student Union was then an all-male club, men made up the entire cast, playing both male and female roles.

Photograph of two female university
students helping two male university students into dresses and hats in preparation for a Michigan
Union Opera Show

Since the Michigan Union was an all-male club, men played all the roles-both male and female.

The cross-dressing was always a source of much hilarity, especially among the friends of the “actresses.” But some spectators were taken in. “After the shows, guys would wait outside to get dates with the ‘girls,’” recalls Jim Graf, who as a child saw many of the pre–World War II shows, because his dad built the scenery. “It was that good, their costumes and makeup.”

There couldn’t have been any question, however, about the gender of the burly football players who were recruited to form chorus lines in female costumes relevant to the plot. Depending on the year, they might appear as geishas, Egyptian temple dancers, or can-can girls.

The MUO’s first show, 1908’s Michigenda, set the tone for ensuing productions. The plot concerned efforts to keep a rich donor, Mr. Moneyfeller, from finding out that his nephew wasn’t actually on the U-M faculty. The “real” professors—students impersonating well-known faculty members of the time—were hidden away in a tunnel, which eventually exploded from all the hot air. Meanwhile, the student characters were transported to the magic land of the title, a place where there were no professors and where Granger’s, a then-popular dance hall on Huron Street, was open six nights a week.

Michigenda opened at the Whitney Theater downtown, a location chosen to encourage attendance by local residents as well as academics. On opening night the enthusiastic audience stood in the aisles and refused to leave until the cast had taken five curtain calls. All five performances were sold out, with special trains of U-M alumni coming in from Detroit.

The next year’s show, Culture, was just as big a hit. The plot revolved around a ten-foot slide rule that could solve any problem. After the show, the slide rule was acquired by the engineering department, where for years afterward it was a fixture of the annual Engineers’ Ball.

The Michigan Union, the first such organization in the country, was formed in 1904. In 1907 the group purchased the State Street home of law pro¬fessor Thomas Cooley. The rest of the site of the present Union was purchased with the proceeds of the first two Michigan Union Operas.

The custom of using football players in the chorus originated with the fourth production, The Awakened Ramses. Two weeks before the show opened, the dean of students announced new eligibility rules that prevented half the cast from taking part. The production could have been doomed but for the timely intervention of football coach Fielding Yost, who convinced his players to fill in.

The players had recently concluded their season and showed up with “bruised shoulders, bandaged knees, and clumsy feet,” recalled Earl Moore, the show’s student conductor (later the U-M music school dean). But “there was no question of the dedication and zeal that these new ‘actors and dancers’ put forth in Whitney Theater to match the same qualities in their performances on Ferry Field.” The athletes caused such a sensation that from then on, no MUO performance was considered complete unless it included a chorus of football players dressed as women.

Planning for the MUO productions started with a campus wide competition for scripts. The director usually reshaped the material, and often cast members had ideas to make it funnier, so it would turn out to be a group effort.

Photograph of Jimmy Lobaugh in drag making
faces at an amused Governor G. Mennen Williams

Star Jimmie Lobaugh mugs with audience member Governor G. Mennen Williams.

The MUO became so popular that many more students tried out than there were roles available. The men who were cast came from all over the university. “You crossed paths with people you wouldn’t otherwise know—premed, athletes,” recalls Jack Felton, who appeared in several 1950s productions and wrote some of the music for one. “I wanted to do it for an extracurricular activity, to do something besides grind away at books,” recalls Jerry Gray, who danced in the chorus for 1953’s Up ’n’ Atom wearing a woman’s dancing outfit complete with a stuffed brassiere. Although Gray claims he wasn’t much of a social dancer, he had no trouble learning the steps, which he often practiced going home through the Law Quad.

The MUO went on the road for the first time in 1914, when both the Detroit and Chicago alumni associations offered to sponsor shows. That year’s opera, A Model Daughter, took place in Paris and so seemed well suited for export. There had been talk of touring before; questions about whether out-of-town audiences would catch the U-M humor, and if so whether it would paint an unflattering picture of the campus, had made the producers hesitate. But the first road trip was such a success that it became a yearly tradition.

Construction on the present Union building started in 1916, and subsequent operas helped pay off the bonds that financed it. But the tradition nearly faltered when the United States entered World War I the following year. By 1918 so many men were off fighting that Union manager Homer Heath asked, “Which shall it be: an opera with Michigan girls or no opera?” That was the only year in which women appeared in the MUO.

A turning point came with the arrival of Broadway director E. Mortimer Shuter in 1919. Unable to get into the army during World War I, Shuter was doing his bit for the war effort by directing USO shows when MUO general chairman F. C. Bell met him in Philadelphia and convinced him to come to Ann Arbor for a year.

The 1919 show, Come On, Dad, featured elaborate scenery, fancy costumes, and new dance styles. (Shuter’s good friend Roy Hoyer, a Broadway singer and dancer, helped coach the students.) Earl Moore praised Shuter’s “ability to create almost professional results with average amateur materials.” The show was such a triumph both in town and on the road that Shuter was persuaded to stay instead of returning to Broadway.

In 1921 Shuter produced Top o’ th’ Mornin’, with pre-law major Thomas Dewey play¬ing the male lead. As Patrick O’Dare, an evil pretender to the Irish throne, the future New York governor and Republican presidential candidate stopped the show with a number called “A Paradise of Micks.” Reviewers raved about the “velvety texture” of Dewey’s baritone voice, and he toured eight cities when the show went on the road. But according to Dewey’s biographer, Richard Norton Smith, “usually on these train trips, he could be found alone, often in the last car, uncomfortable with the camaraderie and alcohol” shared by the rest of the cast.

Promotional photograph of Lionel Ames in
drag

Star Lionel Ames went on to a vaudeville career as a female impersonator.

Shuter reached his peak with 1923’s Cotton Stockings (Never Made a Man Look Twice). Lionel Ames, described by a reviewer as “a clever actor and mimic,” played the female lead so successfully that he later went on to a vaudeville career as a female impersonator. That year the MUO invaded Ivy League territory, playing in Philadelphia, New York, and Washington, and receiving rave reviews wherever it went. Several female characters “looked astonishingly real as pretty fixtures of feminine grace,” reported the Washington Times. “Others, chorines notably, were such virile masculines that all fashion’s fripperies and layers of cosmetics couldn’t disguise razored chins or stalwart underpinning.” The cast met President Coolidge in Washington and went on to New York, where they set the record at the Metropolitan Opera for the highest box office of an amateur production.

By then there were complaints that the MUO was straying too far from its roots, so Shuter chose Tickled to Death for the next production, with a plot that revolved around U-M archaeologists in China. The set contained a temple reputed to be a replica of an actual Chinese one, but the characterizations were evidently less authentic—a Chinese graduate student wrote a letter to the Michigan Daily complaining that the production was “a gross misrepresentation of Chinese.”

Although the shows originally made a lot of money, the productions were always financially risky because of the high costs of sets, rented costumes, and travel. On New Year’s Eve 1929, shortly after the stock market crash, the MUO suffered a major loss, playing to an empty theater in New York during a blizzard. The next year the opera suspended production.

In the mid-1930s the MUO was revived in a lower-budget form, with students doing more of the work. The plot of the 1934 show, With Banners Flying, had athletic director Fielding Yost taking over as university president, and featured scenes in the Michigan Daily, the Arb, student boardinghouses, and the Union. It was followed by Give Us Rhythm in 1935. But neither show was a big financial success, so the operas were suspended again.

The next revival, in 1939, went in the opposite direction, returning to the days of full-scale productions. Plans even called for Shuter to direct, but he died that November. His death delayed the premiere of Four out of Five (based on the gibe that four out of five girls were pretty, and the fifth went to the U-M) until February 1940. Football players, including Forest Evashevski and Bob Westfall, again formed a chorus, while Heisman Trophy winner Tom Harmon played a lead: as Jimmie Roosevelt, the president’s son, he helped a freshman become a Big Man on Campus by fixing him up with movie star Hedy La Tour. The MUO returned to its usual December dates later that year with Take a Number. It featured a date lottery, modeled on the draft lottery, which set up boy-girl meetings in the Arb. The last show in this series, Full House, opened four days after Pearl Harbor and was hardly noticed.

The MUO resumed in 1949 with Froggy Bottom (a takeoff on Foggy Bottom in Washington, D.C.), which dealt with the problems of veterans and their families on campus. “Congress didn’t understand academic requirements, universities couldn’t understand the red tape to make them work, and the GIs were caught in the confusion,” Jack Felton recalls.

Some of the lyrics for Froggy Bottom were actually written by a woman student, Ann Husselman (now Rusanoff). Edward Chudacoff, an MUO composer, had come up with a tune but had no words for it; Husselman suggested some, and he asked her to write more, which she did. Although she never came near the all-male set, one of the songs she wrote, “Till the Dawn,” was picked up by Fred Waring and played on his radio show.

Jimmie Lobaugh, the lead in Froggy Bottom, helped publicize the show by co-hosting a reception at the Women’s League with the “male” star of the Junior Girls’ Play. He recalls getting into wig, makeup, black dress, black hat, and black high heels, and riding from the Union to the League in a horse-drawn carriage. His counterpart was a short woman dressed as a farmer, wearing a hat with a big brim. The two stayed in character through the reception. When it was over Lobaugh went back downstairs, but to his dismay the horse and carriage were gone. His costume didn’t include a purse, so he had no money to call a cab. He describes the walk back in high heels as “no treat.”

Lobaugh went on to play leading-woman parts for the next four years, alternating with roles in productions of the Gilbert and Sullivan Society, of which he was a founder. He played a Mae West character in the 1951 Go West, Madam and a former vaudeville star the next year in Never Too Late. “Gosh, I was beautiful,” he laughs.

Photograph of the 1914 all-female cast of
the Junior Girls' Play

Cast of the 1914 "Junior Girls’ Play".

Four years before male students began the Michigan Union Opera, female students were putting on the Junior Girls’ Play, with women cross-dressing to play men’s roles. For the first show, in 1904, dean of women Myra Jordan lent her husband’s clothes to the “male” characters.

Like the MUO, the JGP was written, composed, and directed by students. The story lines also were similar—takeoffs on campus events, satires of classic books, or fun in exotic locales. After the men produced their first show, Michigenda, the women responded with a parody called Michiguse. One of the male leads in the 1914 production (above) was played by future dean of women Alice Lloyd—better remembered today for giving her name to a postwar dormitory.

Originally most of the performances were open to women only. But in the 1920s the JGP took a page from the men’s book and opened the play to the general public as fund-raisers for the Michigan League building. After the building was completed in 1930, the JGP moved into its new Lydia Mendelssohn Theater.

The JGP not only predated the MUO, it outlived it as well—the last JGP show was in 1962.

Lobaugh’s parents would come by train from Bartlesville, Oklahoma, to attend the opening nights, sitting in the orchestra next to such dignitaries as then-governor G. Mennen Williams. Lobaugh once posed for a photo sitting on the governor’s lap. After graduation Lobaugh was asked to come to Broadway as a female impersonator, but he didn’t want to spend his life playing women, opting instead for a career as a high school music and drama teacher. Even there, though, he found his MUO experience valuable: “I could direct both males and females,” he says. “I could help the girls walk, talk, act, and behave in style.”

The postwar MUO stuck to the original formula but with up-to-date subjects such as the atomic bomb (Up ’n’ Atom), labor unions (Lace It Up, set in a lingerie factory), and radio giveaway shows (Never Too Late). Football players continued to form chorus lines in costumes appropriate for each play—in Go West, Madam they were can-can girls.

The postwar plays also toured, traveling by bus around Michigan and to nearby states. If not quite as glamorous as playing Manhattan, the experience was still memorable. “We had so much fun, it’s a wonder we had any voice left,” recalls Felton. Arriving and playing at important theaters was always awe inspiring. Lobaugh remembers performing in a theater in Buffalo where Mae West had appeared the week before.

At the parties after the out-of-town performances, alumni were often more interested in meeting the football players than the stars in the cast. Robert Segar, who played a male cheerleader in 1954’s Hail to Victor, recalls football players “taking an empty wine bottle to show the plays. The center would put it between his legs and toss it a few feet to the quarterback. The alumni loved it.”

In the 1950s the cross-dressing was still considered risqué by some. From the first there had been accusations of vulgarity, partly due to suggestive ad-libbing by cast members. “The humor was slightly naughty,” admits Jack Felton. And of course, the gay implications were also there. Lobaugh recalls that one of his leading men would bring a girlfriend to rehearsals. “He told me, ‘I don’t want anyone to get the idea you and I are a pair.’ I was so naive I hadn’t thought of it.”

In 1956, the year the Union finally opened to women (before that they could come in only through a side door and, with a few exceptions, had to be accompanied by a male), MUO was absorbed into MUSKET—“Michigan Union Show and Ko-eds Too”—ending almost half a century of same-sex casting.

But even though it ended almost half a century ago, the MUO is not forgotten. Besides raising money for the Union building, the shows created a treasury of U-M songs, the tours were great publicity for the university, and the productions provided a start for many show business careers. Among the long list of notables coming out of the MUO are Billy Mills, who was the bandleader for the Fibber McGee and Molly radio show; Jay Gorney (Gornetzky), who wrote the music of “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?”; and Valentine Davies, who wrote the story for the movie Miracle on Thirty-fourth Street.

At the Michigan Union centennial in January 2004, the Union acknowledged its debt by making the Michigan Union Opera the centerpiece of the celebration. The Union invited MUO alumni back, had present music students sing MUO songs, and rechristened a room the Union Opera Lounge. Located on the first floor across from the Anderson Room, the lounge is a treasury of MUO pictures and memorabilia.

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