Starr had a special way of inviting prominent performers in the arts to the Commonwealth campus. During intermissions he would go backstage to meet the performer of the evening.He would tell the person in all sincerity how much he had enjoyed certain numbers, but he also managed to slip in references to Albion and the boys. As his daughter Margaret recounts, “First he woulddrop the name of a recent visitor, next he would describe his or her performance in glowing terms, then he would comment on how much the visit meant to ‘his little lads,’ and finally he would await an offer.” With ever increasing success he achieved a series of visitations by the musical greats of his day.
One of his most illustrious guests was Dorothy Maynor, the famous soprano. In October 1946, George W. Stark, author of the popular “Town Talk” column in the Detroit News, described her meeting with Starr:
Floyd Starr, head of the Starr Commonwealth, home of problem children, attended the concert at Hill Auditorium, Ann Arbor, the other night when Dorothy Maynorsang there… At intermission, Mr. Starr along with some other workers from the Commonwealth, met Miss Maynor, who is always an alert and interested conversationalist,especially when the human problem involving children is concerned. The visitors from Albion were therefore delighted when the singer interrupted the second part of her program to announce a little change. Said Miss Maynor, ‘I amgoing to sing a song called ‘I am a Problem Child,’ and that it is in honor of a visitor here tonight who is the spiritual father of many problem children.’ Later, Miss Maynor said she hoped to stay in this part of Michigan long enough to visit Starr Commonwealth, where George Washington Carver was a guest for several days.”
Dorothy Maynor was better than her word. Her brief stopover at Gladsome Cottage later that October was but the first of several visits to the Commonwealth. Though it would be five years before she returned to the area to appear on the Albion Community Concert series, she also found time then to include “Uncle Floyd and the boys” in her busy schedule.
By then Starr had become fast friends with both Dorothy Maynor and her husband, Dr. Shelby Rooks, pastor of the St. James Presbyterian Church in New York City. To Starr’s delight they stayed with him oncampus some five days before Miss Maynor was to be the soloist at the gala celebration of the 250th anniversary of Detroit. On Sunday of that memorable week, Dr. Rooks and his wife took over both the morning and the vesper services in the newChapel-in-the-Woods.
That winter Dorothy Maynor sent Starr “a delicious fruit cake which she made for him from her favorite recipe.” In subsequent years they shared spots on various radio programs and maintained an extensive correspondence. Indeed, as late as 1968 Starr was still recalling “the week that you and your husband spent at Gladsome Cottage” and inquiring whether “by any chance could you and your husband come back to the Starr Commonwealth for a visit after my return from South America?”By that time Miss Maynor had her own charitable project, for which Starr promised that “the money from the next Fast Day shall be sent to you in order that it may be used for some poor children who need alittle bit of help.”
Source: Keith Fennimore. Faith Made Visible: The History of Floyd Starr and His School. Albion, Michigan: Starr Commonwealth. 1988.