Sunday, September 29, 2013

Remembering James Dean - A Trip Down Memory Lane At The Winslow Farm

James Byron Dean
Life Magazine, 1955 (Dennis Stock)
With the 58th anniversary of James Dean's death coming up, I am here to share with you a story. This story is a recollection of a man who many years ago experienced the dream of a lifetime, to visit the home of James Dean.  Not only did this person get to visit the home as a young man, but he also shared time visiting with Dean's family, resting inside Dean's home and exploring the Winslow Farm itself. The experience I am about to tell you is his and his alone, and the photographs of his visit have never been seen before. Therefore, I ask you with respect,  DO NOT to copy them in anyway because these are the property of my friend, Roland Boulware. The other photos I posted are the famous shots published in 1955 by LIFE Magazine, by photographer Dennis Stock.

This article is not to recycle the same old story that's been told over and over a million times. Nor is it some long biography of Dean's life from start to finish. No, instead this blog will be solely about my friend's experience at Dean's childhood home and cherished accounts shared by Dean's own family.

"It was June of 1984, as I recall," Roland started.
"We had been on our family road trip that we would take every Summer.  I was about fifteen at the time, and on this trip we were headed down to South Carolina to visit some family. As always, we like to enjoy our trips across country and so we stop along the way to see the sights. This time we wanted to stop in Fairmount, Indiana to visit the James Dean Museum. Unfortunately, when we got there the place was closed. There was a note on the door with a phone number written on it. We decided to walk over to the pharmacy in town to see if they had a payphone, so that my mother could call the number.  While inside the pharmacy, I just looked around, killing time. After getting no answer from the phone number she called, my mother got in line at the counter and waited her turn to ask the clerk about the Museum's hours of business. The woman standing in front of my mother, who was being helped by the clerk, kept looking over her right shoulder and smiling at me. I didn't quite get it at the time, but I just recall her continuing to look over and smile. Finally when she was finished, as she was walking out the door, again she looked over at me and smiled."

Winslow Farm (James Dean's Home)
As Roland recalled, his mother then reached the front of the line at the pharmacy and asked the clerk if they knew who to get in contact with to be able to get into the James Dean Museum. The clerk laughed and remarked, "The woman that just left out the door a second ago is married to Jimmy's cousin, Markie. You might want to go out there and catch her before she leaves."

Quickly they went outside and walked up to talk to the woman with shorter platinum blonde hair. She immediately took a liking to Roland's mother Patricia, and of course Roland. She stated that the way he was dressed, it reminded her of Jimmy and that was why she was looking at him.

Winslow Farm (James Dean's Home)
Then the most unexpected thing in the world happened, this nice lady invited their family over to their home.  "I'm going to take you to the farm. Now, this isn't a tourist attraction, its our home. We don't just let people come over here regularly." She went on to state that she took a liking to Roland's family and that she wanted to make the trip to Fairmount enjoyable, so she would bring them to the farm, then show them the cemetery and then to the Museum. The family was ecstatic as they jumped in their family station wagon and followed Mrs. Winslow up to the farm.

Dean playing with "Markie" (Life Mag. 1955, Dennis Stock)
 "I remember my dad pulling up into that driveway," Roland recalls."It was long and as we made that turn, I completely recognized it from the photos I had seen in books and magazines growing up. It was amazing. There I was, in James Dean's driveway! I remember going inside the farm house, and seeing all the mementos on shelves. This was not like a museum setting, but a lived-in, family home. The photos and decorations, the humble furniture and the absence of a television made it feel like I had just stepped into a time warp. It was like the 1950's all over again."

Spot look familiar? (Dennis Stock, Life Magazine, 1955)
 "I remember standing there in the living room area and recalling the photographs I had seen of James Dean playing on the floor with his cousin Marcus. There I was in the same room, of the same house, with my nephew Dusty."

Roland continued to remember sitting in a chair next to the window, just like this photo seen to the right. He said that the whole experience, being able to relax and visit with Dean's family, in their home was surreal and dream like for him at the age he was. His mother had a long lengthy conversation with Marcus' wife, while Marcus said a quick hello and went upstairs. Roland and his dad continued to take photos of the home and just take in the surroundings of where they were.

"My dad wasn't really all into James Dean, but my mother and I were. This stop in Fairmount was basically for my mother and I." As he continued to look at the photos on display, the lady came back in the room and told him, "Follow me, I have something to show you."

Roland sitting on a chair in James Dean's home
"We went out there and I followed her across the yard and to the back where the two barns were. We stopped at the smaller storage barn and she said, "Go ahead and slide it open (the doors), under the cardboard, you might find something that will interest you." So I went and pulled open the doors to the barn and pulled back the cardboard to reveal a slab of cement with the name Jimmy Dean carved in it, with his hand prints dried in the cement."

James Dean's 1949 Ford (given to him by his uncle for graduation)
Then Roland got one of the biggest thrills of all, he was allowed to go in the garage to view the 1949 four-door Ford Sedan that was James Dean's graduation present from his uncle Marcus in May of 1949.

What is interesting is the fact that so many claim that this was a car he "borrowed" to go to Prom. When in fact, the car was bought brand new by his uncle as a gift to James Dean for graduation, so this theory of him "borrowing" it for Prom doesn't make any sense.  As you can see by the photo, the car's original paint was green. To my knowledge this is the only photo posted online, that actually shows the car in it's original state (before they repainted it red and put white-wall tires on it).
'49 Ford (James Dean's)

While on the farm, Roland wandered around alone, just trying to put himself in Dean's place for a moment. He wondered how it felt for Dean when he came here for the first time at the age of 9. How it felt to grow up there, to learn to live without his mother, and where he might have spent his free time there on the farm. He walked on the grass, or on the dirt or bricks, wondering if that was a spot at one point in time that Dean had walked. A spot under a tree or on the porch where Dean once had sat and daydreamed. The experience was ethereal and unbelievable for him at such a young and influential age. Especially, being that James Dean was Roland's idol at the time, one can only imagine how this visit impacted him.

Dusty with Mrs. Winslow
 Roland went on to recall being outside with Marcus' wife and his family, just having a good time out in the yard. Roland's nephew "Dusty" (Dustin) was allowed to get up on the little red tractor in the yard, while Mrs. Winslow stood behind him, in a caring and motherly way watching over him. They ran around the yard and played, all the while Roland, calmly strutted in his smooth, James Dean-like manner down the dusty driveway, wearing his blue jeans (rolled at the cuffs), his white t-shirt and red jacket just taking it all in.

Mrs. Winslow, Dusty and Roland
"I was looking for places I saw in the photos, I was looking for landmarks. I went back to the big barn to see if the old basketball hoop was there. I had seen James Dean shooting hoops with someone in a photo and wanted to see if it was still there." Unfortunately, with time and the elements at work, all that was left of that basketball hoop was the old framework, rusty and dilapidated, and a mere fragment of what once was.

After they had spent a significant time at the Winslow Farm, Mrs. Winslow decided it was time to show the family where Dean was buried. So they all followed her in their station wagon up to the cemetery, but not before giving the family a few mementos, including a red Honda motorcycle helmet that she gave Roland's little nephew Dusty.
Roland at the grave of James Dean

Upon reaching the cemetery and going up to Dean's final resting place, it was obvious that something was wrong. "His headstone is gone! This is a regular occurrence, unfortunately," Mrs. Winslow remarked upon seeing that his headstone was stolen. 

Standing there, above the grave of his idol, Roland paid his respects and took it all in. The surroundings, the sounds, everything.  He saw where other relatives of James Dean were buried, including his uncle Marcus Winslow, Sr. After his trip to the cemetery, Mrs. Winslow then took them out to the place they had intended on visiting from the very beginning, the James Dean Museum.

Paying his respects, vandals had stolen Dean's headstone
While at the museum he met Adeline Nall, Dean's Drama Teacher from Fairmount High School. She was introduced to Roland and his family by Mrs. Winslow. As Patricia (Roland's mother) continued talking to Mrs. Winslow, Roland and his father walked around with Adeline, while she spoke of her memories of Jim (as she called him) and the story of when he gave her a painting of an orchid. She said that Dean had asked to borrow an orchid that he had given her as a gift, and that he later returned with a painting of the orchid he made for her. He had told her that he took the flower back so he could paint it.  He then told her,"now you can keep it forever." She spoke with such admiration and affection for Dean, as she walked along showing Roland and his father the museum. She mentioned to Roland towards the end of the visit that he reminded her of a young Marlon Brando, and that Dean had idolized Brando when he was younger.
Fairmount High School

When the trip to the Museum was over, they said their goodbyes to the Winslows and Mrs. Nall. They took some more photos around town, including this one of the front of Fairmount High School, where Dean attended. As they drove away from the small, quiet town of Fairmount, Indiana the Boulware family was left with a wonderful memory. The memory of stepping into Dean's old life, if only for a day. They walked where he walked, sat where he sat, spoke with the family he cared for so much and even chit-chatted with his teacher. They experienced something that millions of people across the world only wish they could do. And yet, the Boulwares did it, they took a trip down memory lane at the Winslow Farm,  a trip they will never forget.
Life Magazine, 1955 (Dennis Stock)

(Copyright- J'aime Rubio, September 29th, 2013)

Thank you Roland Boulware for the wonderful interview, sharing your special memories and for allowing me to use your family photographs. 

(Photos are copyright protected and are the property of Roland Boulware)

All other photos are from Public Domain or  LIFE Magazine, 1955 (Dennis Stock)


  1. Well done, J'aime ! It was a great trip and a time that I will never forget.

    1. Thank you Roland, for allowing me the time to interview you and use your family photos. This story was very special to me, hearing you tell it. I could see the story through your eyes...and it was amazing!! HUGS

  2. Great story....and I loved the pix! :)

    1. Thank you William. I enjoyed writing it, and I love the photos too! :-) Please come visit again...


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