12-29-2016 Early member of Marx Brothers act had Coloma and Hartford ties; researcher seeks local fa

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Early member of Marx Brothers act had Coloma and Hartford ties; researcher seeks local family history

By Karl Bayer

A former resident of Hartford and Coloma, Fred Klute, has been mentioned in a book released this fall, Four of the Three Musketeers: The Marx Brothers on Stage.

Before film made them international comedy legends, the Marx Brothers developed their comic skills on stage for twenty-five years. In Four of the Three Musketeers: The Marx Brothers on Stage (Cloth, $35.00, October 2016), Robert S. Bader offers the first comprehensive history of the foursome’s hardscrabble early years honing their act in front of live audiences.

FRED KLUTE, EARLY MEMBER OF MARX BROTHERS ACT… This is the only known photo of the Six Mascots. Pictured (from the left): Aunt Hannah Schickler (sister of Minnie Marx, the mother of the Marx Brothers), Fred Klute, Julius (Groucho Marx), Milton (Gummo) Marx, Minnie Marx (mother of the Marx Brothers), and Arthur (Harpo) Marx.


Fred Klute performed with them as part of a larger group called the Six Mascots in Vaudeville (see photo).

Researcher Robert Moulton contacted the Tri-City Record in 2015 seeking information on Klute without disclosing the Marx Brothers connection. He did find some information in the local papers, including Klute’s obituary in the Watervliet Record, January 1948. The obituary mentioned Klute owning the Coloma Tavern, and a surviving grandmother Mrs. Lena Klute of Hartford and a sister, Anna Sherman also of Hartford.

In 2015, Moulton wrote the Tri-City Record, “As part of a research project on vaudeville I am looking for information on Fred C. Klute. Mr. Klute was born in Chicago on October 20, 1892, died in Coloma, Michigan on January 4, 1942, and was buried in Chicago. His father was a saloonkeeper in Chicago, and in about 1937, Fred Klute moved to Coloma and became the saloonkeeper of the Coloma Tavern at the corner of US-12 and Church Street. I believe the US-12 is now the I-94. Mr. Klute’s wife was Laura Beyl who lived in Coloma till her death in the late 1950s.

“Mr. Klute entered vaudeville at least as early as 1910 and performed till the mid teens, his biggest success being a part of the act Bennett, Klute & King. He may also have performed under the name Hutchins. I would greatly appreciate hearing from anyone with information on Mr. Klute in this time period and/or has photographs of him.”

Recently Moulton again wrote the Record reporting some success. “All doubt was removed when I found his obituary in local papers that made a reference to participation in the act.”

Moulton is continuing his quest to find information after the completion of the book.  He wrote recently, “My interest here is to see if I can flesh out the story of Fred Klute for future editions of the book on the Marx Brothers. Or come upon any photos, reminiscences, or anything else that may have been saved by the family. For example, even finding out the full names of the other members of ‘Bennett, Klute, and King’ or ‘Bennett, Klute, and Pierce’ could help, because then I might be able to trace those families. Fred Klute is harder to trace as he appears to be an only child and had no children of his own.

“I’m hoping now to find a relative who may be able to give me better information.”

Moulton shared what he knows so far… Fred Klute was of interest because he is a previously unknown partner of the Marx Brothers during the earliest days of their vaudeville stage career.

Fred C. Klute was born on October 20, 1892 in Chicago, where his father was a saloonkeeper. In November 1909, the Marx family relocated from New York to the center of small-time vaudeville: Chicago. The Klute family lived nearby and when the new Marx Brothers act, the Six Mascots, debuted in December 1909 Fred Klute was a member. The act consisted of three Marx Brothers: Julius (Groucho), Arthur (Harpo), Milton (Gummo), their mother Minnie and her sister Hannah. Fred Klute was the sixth Mascot. Fred stayed with the act for one year during which time the Marx act transformed from a musical act with some comedy to a comedy centered act. This time period was among the most difficult for the developing act, when Groucho reminisced about these hard times in later years he would give Klute the pseudonym of Freddie Hutchins or Freddie Watson.

Klute left the act at the end of 1910. He can next be traced as part of the musical act `Bennett, Klute, and King` between 1912 and 1914. This later became Bennett, Klute, and Pierce. By late 1914 Klute seems to have left vaudeville and his 1917 draft card lists him as a painter in Chicago.

Klute had family in Michigan and in 1926; he bought the Pleasant View Poultry Farm, west of Hartford on Pinery Road. In 1937 Klute moved to Coloma and, like his father, became a saloonkeeper. He and his wife managed the Coloma Tavern, located within Van’s Service Station at the intersection of US-12 (Red Arrow Highway) and Church Street. The tavern suffered a major fire in December 1938, re-opening in December 1939. In December 1941, Klute contracted pneumonia, was taken to Mercy Hospital in Benton Harbor, and died there on January 4, 1942. He was buried in Chicago. His wife was Laura Beyl who lived in Coloma till her death in approximately 1957.

Robert Moulton can be contacted by mail at 153 Brunswick Ave., Toronto, ON, M5S 2M3; by phone at 416-929-9334; or email to robertjohnmoulton@gmail.com.

Pickleball group bids farewell to Father Joseph who returns to Africa

PICKLEBALL PRESENTATION… St. Joseph Parish in Watervliet and Paddletek, maker of pickleball paddles, present pickleball equipment to Father Joseph, of Lodwar , Kenya, to take back with him to teach the game to students in Africa. Pictured (from the left): Jim Hogue, USA Pickleball Association Ambassador; Father Joseph; May Adams, Parish Pastoral Council Member; and Father John Peter, St. Joseph Catholic Watervliet.


Pickleball players who play at St. Joseph Catholic Gym in Watervliet gave a send off to a visiting priest, Father Joseph on December 20, as he prepares to return to Lodwar, Kenya.  The St. Joseph Parish presented him with a pickleball net and balls to take back to Africa with him.  He also was presented with a set of paddles from Paddletek, a premier maker of pickleball paddles, located in Niles, Michigan.

Father Joseph has been a priest for 16 years.  He has been in Michigan on a six month sabbatical, splitting his time between St. Joseph Parish in Kalamazoo and St. Joseph Parish in Watervliet.  Father John Peter, in Watervliet, soon introduced him to the sport of pickleball.  Father Joseph, having been a soccer and table tennis player, took to it quickly and learned to love the game.  He intends to take the sport back with him and teach it to the students of the schools he helps to administer in the Diocese of Lodwar.

Pickleball, a combination of tennis, ping pong, and badminton, is the fastest growing sport in America, and it is starting to take a foothold internationally.  This will be the first known introduction of pickleball in Africa.

The purpose of a sabbatical is to reflect and have physical and spiritual renewal.  Pickleball became a big part of the physical outlet.  In addition to helping both parishes with normal priestly duties while here, Father Joseph also learned to sculpt, learned calligraphy, and started a blog, which you can follow at https://ekalimonj.wordpress.com.  These are all things that he hopes to take back and teach in Lodwar.

Father Joseph said that this sabbatical has been a life changing experience for him.  Having never seen snow before, Father Joseph said, “Experiencing the changing of the seasons for the first time has taught me the importance of being accepting of change and being able to adapt.”

PICKLEBALL PRIESTS… Fr. John Peter of St. Joseph Catholic Watervliet, and Fr. Joseph of the Diocese of Lodwar, Kenya, take on their opponents in pickleball action at St. Joseph Catholic Gym in Watervliet.


The Diocese of Lodwar operates four schools.  St. Augustine Primary School has 150 male students.  Queen of Peace Girls School is a residential primary school with 600 students.  St. Daniel Comboni is a residential secondary school for approximately 80 girls and this next year they will be starting St. James Minor Seminary, a secondary school for boys.  The girls are housed at the schools so that they can be protected and get education instead of being sold or given into an arranged marriage.  Students come from an eight mile radius of Lodwar, many walking this distance each day.  It costs about $300 per year to educate, feed, and house each student.  Parishioners of St. Joseph Watervliet have been sponsoring 18 students in Lodwar for the last 3 years.

St. Joseph Watervliet has been using their gym for pickleball for the last two years.  Anyone is welcome to come and play on Tuesdays and Thursdays, 7-9:00 p.m.  Extra paddles are available and beginners are welcome.   Father John Peter, an avid player, says, “It has been a great way to build community.  It is a wonderful way for the Parish to fellowship with our non-Catholic brothers and sisters and to get to know them better.”

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