Partner Keith McCutcheon

Queer Places:
739 Jenifer St, Madison, WI 53703
Roselawn Memorial Park Monona, Dane County, Wisconsin, USA

Edward Joseph "Joe" Koberstein (1921 - September 23, 1981) was the son of Joseph Koberstein (1889–1967) and Nellie Colden (1890–1973). In 1941, with the publication of Two Pieces of Venetian Glass, Keith McCutcheon returned to the topic of gay love, for the book is dedicated to his life partner, Joe Koberstein, known as E. J. K. The Capital Times headlined an article about the book, “McCutcheon’s Poetry, Warm, Artistic.” No feminine pronouns were used in this material, which was full of romantic love. Herein McCutcheon spoke of love’s strength built to endure. In the poem “Our Secret,” he wrote, “I could shout it from the housetops, / But who’s the world to hear, / How terribly much I love you.” He described his love as “wild” and “mad.”

Though Madison police raided the Adams Street house on Madison’s west side in 1948 and broke up the homosexual “ring” centered there, they missed the east side’s gay circle, which revolved around the Jenifer Street home of Keith McCutcheon and his partner, Joe Koberstein. Ted Pierce, who was appointed messenger in the Executive Office by Governor Phil La Follette in the 1930s, referred to his gay group on Madison’s east side as a salon of the French order. In later writings, Pierce called it “a magic Group centered on the 700 block of Jenifer Street” that was “lively and highly witty.” Pierce used his connections from Jenifer Street to advocate for civil rights. The African American stage and screen actor Canada Lee, who was a Pierce correspondent, stayed with Pierce when he came to town in 1945.

One Madison couple with connections to the Jenifer Street scene, Bob Lockhart and Clarence Cameron, were introduced by a mutual friend in 1960 when Cameron worked in a funeral home and Lockhart was apprenticing in architecture in Spring Green. The two bonded quickly because, as Lockhart noted, “Part of the spontaneity was because you didn’t know when the police were going to come.” Neither man had figured out he was gay until his twenties; as Lockhart observed, “Goodness sakes, I should have had a little education about this.” Lockhart served in the military in postwar Germany, but Cameron, in an act of self-affirmation, wrote on his induction form, “I’m an active homosexual,” which prevented his military induction. The men recalled, “Even in liberal Madison, police at the time trapped gay men in restrooms and pressured them to confess the names of gay friends, who then often lost their jobs.” Lockhart quietly recalled fifty years later, “We were all closeted.”

My published books:

See my published books