Thursday, May 7, 2015

Dorothy Millette Bern Photos Discovered on Ebay? Not Quite!!

Dorothy Virginia Millett Hill-- Not Dorothy Millette Bern!
Recently there were two photos that were posted for sale on Ebay, listed simply as "Vintage 1929 MGM Film Director Paul Bern Wife DOROTHY MILLETTE Portrait Photo"--

As I have learned in my years of researching history that just because someone says so, doesn't necessarily mean it is. This is one of those times, and I will explain how I know it for certain.

Wedding Photo of Dorothy Millett Hill, 1929
You see, if you take a look at the photos, the listing had a view of the front and back of each photograph. Both state in pencil that the woman in the photograph is Dorothy Millett (not Millette). Then on a piece of tape on top of her scribbled name, the name Mrs. L.W. Hill, Jr., is typed as well. The photo bears a copyright stamp from the studio, "The Wright Studio," of St. Paul, Minnesota (1929). At some point the photos must have been acquired by the "Rogers Photo Archive" as there is a sticker placed on the back of each photograph bearing a serial number for their collection.

Again, both photographs have a sticker on the back with the name Mrs. L.W. Hill, Jr. This was of great importance in reference during my research as it made my search fairly easy.

Records in Minnesota indicate that Louis Warren Hill, Jr., married Dorothy Millett on November 26, 1929.

Back of Photo: Mrs. L.W. Hill, Jr.--
In fact, the Auburn Citizen dated on the Tuesday, November 26th reads:

"Louis W. Hill Weds. -—Hastings, Minn., Nov. 26)— Guardian Angels Church, built originally 79 years ago with the aid of Sioux Indians, was the scene for the wedding today of Louis W. Hill, Jr., of St. Paul, and Miss Dorothy Virginia Millett, of Hastings. Hill is the son of Mr. and Mrs. Louis Hill, of St. Paul, and a grandson of the late James J. Hill, founder of the Great Northern Railway. He has been learning the railroad business working in various departments of the road. Miss Millett is the daughter of a pioneer Minnesota family."--- 

Dorothy Virginia Millett was born on December 26, 1908, in Hastings, Minnesota. By the time the Census was taken in 1920, Dorothy was listed as being 12 years old, and living with her then widowed mother, Elizabeth and her siblings, Lucille, James and Harriet. The same woman in the photograph, Dorothy Millett Hill, is found on the 1930 and 1940 Census records residing with her husband, Louis W. Hill, Jr.
Wright Studio, St. Paul, Minnesota 1929

Louis W. Hill, Jr., happens to be the son of Louis Hill and Maude Van Courtlandt Taylor. Louis Sr., was a prominent and savvy businessman in St. Paul, and President of the Great Northern Railway Company. His family papers are available at the Minnesota Historical Society.

You see, this proves that the photograph that was sold on Ebay is NOT the same Dorothy Millette that was married to Paul Bern. Not only are their ages off by many years, but their last name is misspelled and the woman in the photograph lived well on into her older years, whereas Dorothy Millette Bern died in September of 1932 and is buried at East Lawn Cemetery in Sacramento. Also, here is a link to another photo of Dorothy Millett Hill, which is on the Corbis website, where it details that Dorothy was a model and the soon to be wife of Louis W. Hill. (See additional photo here:

One point that I would like to mention though, is that all of these photographs bear a striking resemblance to a certain photograph found on page 18 of E.J. Fleming's book about Paul Bern's life and death. This leads me to wonder where he obtained his "alleged" photo of Dorothy?

The photograph that has been going around for ages, which you can see below, is the real Dorothy Millette Bern. As you can tell the facial structure of the woman in the photo below is very different from the photos above as well as the photo E.J. Fleming claims in his book is Dorothy in her younger years. You cannot change the structure of one's face, nose or where it is positioned on the face, not back then anyway.  I will go more in depth on Fleming's photograph and his theory of who he believed Dorothy was in his book, in another blog soon.
Dorothy Millette Bern (Common-law Wife of Paul Bern)

In conclusion, please always fact check before believing everything you see in books, online or even in conversations. Yes, we are human and we make mistakes at times, but the objective of providing historical information is to provide the most accurate information one can based on thorough research. Perhaps there are more photographs of the real Dorothy Millette somewhere out there in someone's attic, a basket of old photographs in an antique shop or an old thrift store. Perhaps they are not marked with a name or information and will continue to elude us, or maybe one day one will pop up out of the blue. For now, it doesn't appear to be happening quite yet.

Copyright- 2015- J'aime Rubio

Thank you to Laurie McCarron for emailing me the links to the photos!

Ebay Photos & (Copyright of Wright Studio, St. Paul, Minnesota, 1929)
U.S. Census Records, Birth and Marriage Records, Minnesota.
Louis Hill Papers, Minnesota Historical Society
Auburn Citizen, November 26, 1929 )

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

First Female Bandleaders

I have been finding more and more posts online that make the claim that Ina Ray Hutton was the first female bandleader in history to lead an all-girl or all-male band, and that she was the first to record with those said bands. This is not correct. Although Ina Ray Hutton was one of the earlier female bandleaders, she definitely was not the first in history. And let me remind you, although there were records of all-female orchestras in the past, they were also a novelty and not quite as popular nor as many in number as their counterpart, the all-male bands.

The oldest record I could find so far was that of Babe Egan and her Hollywood Red Heads in 1924, although again that doesn't mean she was the first either, just the first I could find. In history there are plenty of records of all-girl bands or all-female ensembles.  The Los Angeles Women's Philharmonic was established in 1893, and records show that all-female bands were performing from the late 1800s well into the turn of the century. As far as an orchestra led by a female, to my knowledge the first I could find was Babe Egan in 1924. Then, there was also Jean Rankin and her Bluebelles, which was an all-girl band way back in 1929. The Ingenues were also an all-girl band that traveled the vaudeville circuit during the 1920s. Then there was Peggy Gilbert and her all-girl band that I can date back to the early 1930s.

So without further adieu, here is just some of the information I have gathered on these lovely ladies and their amazing all-girl (and some all-male) orchestras.

Babe Egan & Her Hollywood Redheads

Babe Egan & Her Hollywood Redheads

Babe Egan
Birth Name: Mary Florence Egan
Born: May 1, 1897
Died: February 7, 1966

Known to many as "Babe," Egan was not only one of the first female bandleaders but also a great violinist. She started her all-girl band the "Hollywood Redheads" in 1924 until around 1933. Babe and her Redheads toured not only the United States and Canada, but also all over Europe during the vaudeville days. It was said by many female musicians in later years, that Babe and her all-girl band inspired them to get into music as professionals. Other groups of the time period I found were Jean Rankin and her Bluebelles, as well as the Ingenues who toured during the vaudeville days as an all-girl band.
Peggy Gilbert

Peggy Gilbert & Her All-Girl Band

Peggy Gilbert
Birth Name: Margaret Fern Knechtges
Born: January 17, 1905
Died: February 12, 2007

Margaret was raised by her mother, an opera singer and father, an orchestra leader and violinist in Iowa. By the age of 7, she was touring with dance troupes and performing with her father's groups on the piano and the violin. By the time she graduated high school it was obvious that she had her heart set out to follow in her father's footsteps, becoming a bandleader. Known for her tremendous skill as a saxophone player, Peggy not only led but performed with her first all-girl band "The Melody Girls," and received rave reviews, even being broadcast nightly over a local radio station in Sioux City.  Peggy led a career that spanned 8 decades, not only as an advocate for female musicians, but as a sensational saxophone player and yes, bandleader.

Ina Ray Hutton & her Melodears

Ina Ray Hutton & Her Melodears

Ina Ray Hutton
Birth Name: Odessa Cowan
Born: March 13, 1916
Died: February 19, 1984

If you read my earlier article about Ina Ray Hutton's life, you will gain insight on her past and her entire career in music. Ina was a skilled dancer and performer at a young age, and she appeared in many shows before she turned 18. By 1934, she fronted the all-girl orchestra, set up by Irving Mills and Alex Hyde, known as "The Melodears."  Although she was called the "Bandleader," this was again just a front, a means of entertaining the crowd as her skimpy dresses, amazingly talented dancing and baton whirling was all part of the show. It wasn't until later on in her career, around the time she dropped the all-girl band and started her all-male orchestra, that she had become trained in music enough to feel confident in leading her band. Ina drew even greater success with her all-male orchestra, although later down the line when the opportunity arose to have her own television show, she seized the chance to revive the all-girl band, once again.

Rita Rio and her Rhythm Girls

Rita Rio  & her Rhythm Girls
Rita Rio (aka Donna Drake)
Born: November 15, 1914
Died: June 20, 1989
Birth name: Eunice Westmoreland
Birth place: Miami, Florida
Place of death: Los Angeles, California (at 74 years old)

During a time when Ina Ray Hutton and her Melodears were making the female bandleader and all-girl orchestra popular, she was not alone, there was also Rita Rio & her Rhythm Girls. In fact as you can see above there were other females who got the ball rolling first. Rita Rio (aka Donna Drake) was also a very popular name back then and she also had her all-girl orchestra from the 1930s into the 1940s. As with Ina Ray Hutton, she was the focal point of the outfit being shapely, energetic, & good looking, always keeping the attention on her and drawing in the crowds. She married American costume designer, William Travilla, in 1944. The couple remained married until her death in 1989.

Ella w/ Chick Webb's Band
Ella Fitzgerald & Chick Webb's Orchestra

Another of the females who led an all-male orchestra was Ella Fitzgerald, although the circumstances surrounding her sudden role did not come about happily.  You see, she was a singer for Chick Webb and his Orchestra for several years. She was very close to him and so when he passed away, Ella didn't think twice about taking over the band and keeping it going for Chick. Ella maintained her role as a singer but also "fronted" the orchestra as the bandleader, even recording many records with them from 1939-1942 when the group disbanded and she went solo.  Ella's method was not to prance around and dance like Ina Ray or even Rita Rio, instead she stood in front of the microphone and sang for the crowds. This worked for her, as she was always able to captivate her audience with her voice.

Bandleaders or "Fronting" the band? Which is it?

When it came to the subject of whether or not these women "fronted" their bands or actually led them, it was questionable. Many of the women such as Ina Ray Hutton, Rita Rio and even Ella Fitzgerald were not real bandleaders at the start. They waved their baton around, danced, put on a show or in Ella's case, sang her heart out. But no, they were not really conducting the band, it was all show.

Although as the years went by, Ina Ray Hutton studied music and wanted to be taken seriously as a band leader, she did later conduct her all-male orchestra, but it took her years to master it. The earlier women such as Babe Egan and Peggy Gilbert, without a doubt were conducting their bands and even performing with them as veteran musicians and managers. Thus the title to the first famous female bandleaders in history, I would say goes to Babe Egan and Peggy Gilbert!!

(Copyright-2014) - J. Rubio

Friday, April 25, 2014

Sisters, Secrets?- Ina Ray and June Hutton's Real History

In the past several years, a story has been brought to light. The story of Ina Ray Hutton's alleged family "secret," that she and her sister were actually black and "passing as white" during the 1930s and throughout their lifetimes.

The problem I have with these sudden "allegations" or rumors isn't the fact that there maybe some hidden ancestry in the Hutton family bloodlines, it is the fact that the person or persons claiming to have "discovered" this story, claim that Ina Ray was hiding it from the world and as they say,  "passing as white" to make it in the entertainment world.

To me, that seems to be very presumptuous, being that Ina Ray and June are no longer alive for them to make that statement as a fact and also the fact their family was never made privy to this information by Ina Ray or June prior to this "coming out" article posted on a certain website a few years ago.

Of course these articles that you can basically find all over the internet now (mostly all lazily copied and pasted from one site to the next), go completely over the top with ideas and opinions also going on and on that this secret explains why Ina had certain physical features or characteristics, all the way down to the fact she could dance or that she was musically inclined as a reasoning that it was all because of her "black" ancestry, as if she hadn't had any African-American blood in her that she would be less talented?  Again, that comes off a bit racist to me if you really think about it.

Some of the things on these sites are quoted basically saying that Ina Ray was playing the part of a white person, getting one over on them. Even going so far as to make mention of her physical traits as being "black."

And what about the article online literally titled "Regarding the Perceived Whiteness of  Singer Ina Ray Hutton",  where the writer literally has the caption "Ina Ray Hutton—not exactly who everyone thought she was," under a photo of a young Ina Ray. 

I have news for everyone, there are a lot of women out there who can "cut a rug" that are not black. Also, there are many beautiful ladies out there with curves, big foreheads, wide faces and plump lips that are not black.  I have a wide face, full lips, a big forehead, and guess what....I can dance, too. What exactly does that prove?  A lot of people have these same characteristics and belong to a wide variety of ethnic backgrounds.

Ina Ray Hutton was a beautiful, blue-eyed, petite and very thin lady, but she did not have a big shape on top or in the rear as many are making her out to have. Yes, she had a nice frame, but compared to Marilyn Monroe or a Pin-up Dolls Betty Grable or Betty Brosmer, she really wasn't what you would call "stacked" in front or behind.

The point is, there are plenty of women in the world that fit into all those physical characteristics and none of which necessarily mean that you are of "African-American" descent. Are we to suddenly attribute every person with any talent or certain physical characteristic as being from one set race or culture? That would be a very narrow minded assumption. There are plenty of people from all races and all cultures who are beautiful, curvy, intelligent and talented. 

After reading some of these articles that seem to be more interested in slamming Ina Ray Hutton for being some sort of  "poser," instead of honoring her legacy and life, I decided that it was time that if people are going to dive into her "ancestry," why not do it COMPLETELY, from all angles not just picking and choosing one side. That way the reader will get a full scope at Ina's ancestry, not just a narrow minded viewpoint.

And so that is where I come into the picture. I am a truth seeker, and if people make claims, I like to see evidence to support these claims, not just go by what they say they found or what they think. This should not have ever been about race, but it instead it should be about accuracy and respecting those who are no longer here to speak for themselves (Ina Ray and June Hutton).

So for the last few years, a friend of mine and myself have both been researching June and Ina Ray Hutton's lives to give you a proper and more educated (or informed) look at these two lovely ladies...and to remind you of their talents and legacy, and definitely not basing things on color although I feel it is only right that you get a full scope of her "background", not just the history that other sites want you to believe.

You will find in this blog post, that I show you the facts backed up by evidence that you can go back and verify on your own. I will also include many more bits of information that have never been published online (to my knowledge) which is very important in order for you to form your own opinion about this entire subject.

First things first... in order for us to go back into their ancestry, I must first give you a rundown on who these two lovely ladies were....then I will take you back farther and farther into the past to see what we can find about the Hutton sisters.

Ina Ray or Odessa Cowan?

Ina Ray Hutton was actually born, Odessa Cowan on March 13, 1916, to her parents Marvel Svea (meaning "Swede") Williams and Odie Daniel Cowan. Odie Cowan and Marvel had married on October 15, 1915 in Indiana, while Marvel was four months pregnant with Odessa, having conceived her sometime in mid-June.  Perhaps this was a rushed marriage, given the fact she was already pregnant and at the time it was frowned upon to have a child out of wedlock.

On Her Way To Stardom

By 1918, Marvel and her husband Odie, along with their daughter Odessa, lived at 440 E. 40th Street located north of the Hyde Park area where Odessa and June would later go to High School.  At the same time in 1918, Marvel's mother, Minnie Williams McFall, and her husband, (Marvel's step-father) Bailey McFall were living at 1728 Fulton Street near Lake Street about 7 miles to the north of  Marvel and Odie.

I could not find any more records showing how long Marvel and Odie were together, and by the 1920 and 1930 Census, it shows Marvel, Odessa and June living with the McFall's.  It is unknown as to when Odie and Marvel's marriage ended as I also did not find a divorce decree, however that doesn't mean there isn't one on file. By 1942, Odie was living at 4634 Drexel Blvd, and there is no listing of a wife being with him.

While growing up in Chicago, Odessa followed in her mother's footsteps. At some point the McFall's moved south to the Ward 3 District of Chicago, which was south of 39th Street and just north 49th street (with western borders along State and Princeton, while eastern border went all the way up to the Lake Michigan line). Perhaps they moved to the area in order to secure a spot for Odessa and June at the better schools.

Ned Wayburn
Marvel was a pianist and played professionally in Chicago ballrooms and clubs as "Marvel Ray." Odessa was taught some piano by her mother, however Marvel chose to teach her to dance and sing instead. Odessa went to study dance under Hazel Thompson-Davis, a renowned dance instructor and choreographer in Chicago.  I have found many newspapers showing that Hazel was not only in Chicago teaching tap and stage dancing at the Coleridge-Taylor Music School when it opened in 1913, but she also assisted dance icon and legendary instructor Ned Wayburn in his studios later in Chicago and in New York as well in the 1920s around the time Odessa would have been learning her dancing skills.

Ned Wayburn's schools were considered the country's leading dance studios. Fred Astaire and Adele (his sister) studied at the Ned Wayburn studio in New York. You see, anyone who was anyone wanted to study with theses experienced and revered dance instructors.  Mrs. Thompson-Davis was literally quoted as one of the "better teachers of dancing in New York."  I found countless newspapers showing her many students as winners of several competitions.

One of the articles constantly mentioned online that mentions Odessa being a student of Hazel Thompson-Davis, was not from a 1923 news clipping as many sites claim, but was an article mentioned in 1924. The caption under the mentioned photo in the newspaper was pertaining to a fundraiser benefit special showing of "In Bamville" at the Illinois Theater, in which Odessa and her fellow dancing peers were performing a "added feature" for the show. The special matinee showing was raising funds towards the widows and children of the fireman who died in the April 18, 1924 fire at Curran Hall in Chicago, which was a headline making disaster.

Mrs. Thompson-Davis had been a protégé of African-American performer Aida Overton Walker, the famous Vaudeville choreographer and leading lady for the Williams & Walker Company. She had her connections to people in the business. Being that Mrs. Thompson-Davis was also affiliated with Ned Wayburn didn't surprise me that Odessa was soon discovered. You see, Ned Wayburn, long before becoming the top notch name for dancing schools and performing arts in the country, had been a stage man for Ziegfeld in his early years as well. I believe that had a lot to do with why Marvel brought her daughter to Mrs. Thompson-Davis for her tap and stage dancing lessons, because she knew that it would send her on her way to stardom.

Getting Discovered

While perfecting her dancing skills, Odessa was also excelling in her studies at school. In fact, Odessa, who by that time was using the stage name "Ina Ray", was so intelligent that while in middle school she was advanced to high school at Hyde Park High, skipping the 8th grade all together. At the time that Odessa was attending High School there, the community of Hyde Park, was still an exclusively white area. In fact, it wasn't until the late 1940s (around 1948) that the neighborhood, community and its schools became more diverse after a Supreme Court ruling banned the "racially restrictive covenants" that had been in place before, and at one point had even been supported by the University of Chicago. In earlier times, after it hosted the 1893 World's Columbia Exposition, Hyde Park was even considered a resort area for visiting tourists and at an earlier point in time there had been many hotels there until the start of the Great Depression, when those businesses were forced to close.

During her younger years on stage performing, Odessa was scooped up first by Gus Edwards who brought her to star in his revue "Future Stars Troupe" at the Palace Theater. She later performed in  Lew Leslie's "Clowns in Clover" and sang the song "Full of the Devil."  On Broadway, she performed in George White's revues: "Melody", "Never Had An Education," "Scandals", and then onto The Ziegfeld Follies all by the time she was 18 years old.

While performing in The Ziegfeld Follies, Ina Ray dazzled Irving Mills, the man who discovered the likes of Benny Goodman, Jack Teagarden, Duke Ellington and Cab Calloway. Along with Alex Hyde, Mills convinced Ina Ray to come work for them in a new venture they had in mind, an all-girl orchestra.

"How did I get started as a bandleader? Believe me, I didn't want to do it. I was doing alright on my own as a singer and dancer. When the William Morris Agency asked me to do this I wondered why I should take on more headaches...but I did it and I loved it, because I love music!"--(Ina Ray was quoted in an interview published in the Pittsburgh Press, Sept. 30, 1959)

Filling a Need

Ina Ray Hutton & her Melodears
Hyde and Mills knew that in order to get this particular band into the entertainment world and make them into full blown stars, they first needed a gimmick. They needed someone at the head of the band with a great personality, talent and sexy appeal. At the time they chose Ina, she was using the name Ina Ray. It wasn't until she jumped on board with Hyde and Mills in their all-girl band venture that she added the name Hutton, adopted by heiress to the Woolworth fortune, Barbara Hutton who made all the headlines back then.

They then molded Ina into the sexy "Blonde Bombshell of Rhythm" that later would be her signature.
She was coached carefully because at that point in time, although she was a great dancer and performer,  she was not a musician let alone a bandleader. She played the piano only partially, but her personality and entertainment value was what they wanted, so that is what they played on. It was quoted that the girl band members never followed her waving arms. At that point in time, she was an "artificial" bandleader, meaning it was all "show."  In many articles including this one, it stated that Ina's "personality has much if not more to do with her success than any other single factor."- Schenectady Gazzette (3/11/1937). Even Jeannie Pool's book, "Peggy Gilbert and her All-Girl Band" mentions Ina's role back then, "her movements are in tempo, but she is definitely not conducting the band. Rather, she "fronted" her band, being neither music director or bandleader."

She was able to pull the crowds in with her spunk and charisma, which made her band "The Melodears" start to really pick up success.  Variety printed, "A near Cab Calloway in mannerisms, a near Jean Harlow physically", and as an after thought, "an excellent hoofer." She went from being a $50 a week dancer, to making $3,500 a week with her band.  After some time though, Ina started studying music because she knew she couldn't carry on the charade forever, it took her years but eventually she gained the confidence to feel that she knew what she was doing now as far as conducting the band as a real "bandleader."

Ina Ray Hutton as well as "Rita Rio" and her all-girl orchestra, were really the only two female "bandleaders" for all-girl orchestras to make it big at the time although they were not the first of their kind. In fact, the first female band leaders I could find were Babe Egan, Jean Rankin and Peggy Gilbert.

As far as rumors of ethnicity, Rita Rio (aka Donna Drake) could not avoid her share either. Rita's was another one of those misidentified stories, being that she was marketed through her studio as being born in Mexico and of  Mexican heritage when in fact, her real name was Eunice Westmoreland, born in Miami, Florida. Her parents were both Caucasian, and were from Arkansas and Alabama. 

Ina Goes For The Boys

Eventually, Ina felt that an all-male orchestra was better and more lucrative than the girls, so she dropped her original band and started an new band comprised of only male band members, which were revered as superior in talent.  "Although an all girl band was easier to look at, the all male band is easier to listen to."--Ina's own words quoted in and article published in The Evening Independent, March 27, 1944.

Numerous articles and reviews in magazines and newspapers at the time always mentioned that given the choice between the all-girl band and the all-male, they would choose the latter. Of course it was entertaining to watch these lovely ladies play, and many of them were talented, however it was the all-male orchestra's that seemed to be easier on the ears and it showed. Even Ina herself admitted that!
She also decided to drop all the sexy, lacy get-ups and the blonde hair, for more appropriate attire and her darker chestnut tresses. You see, she was finally in control and wanted to be taken seriously, not as a sex kitten parading around a band. No, she wanted to be recognized as "Ina Ray Hutton, Bandleader."

She went on to continue performing with her all-male band, but later on in the 1950s after being approached about having her very own television program, "The Ina Ray Hutton Show", she jumped at the chance which revived her original act that made her famous, bringing back an all-girl band. The show first aired only in California, with the theme, "No Men Allowed" on KTLA Paramount Network and later airing nationwide via NBC-TV. It allowed the women audience to feel there was a show on television giving them some importance, while the men always enjoyed a show with pretty ladies. It seemed to be a win-win for everyone watching. It lasted from 1951-1955, and having a brief stint on national television in 1956.

When talking on the subject of her show, Ina was quoted saying, "It's hard to find girl musicians. But when they're good, they're terrific. There are no in betweens either somehow- either very good or awful. It's especially hard to find brass- trumpets, trombones,-because these instruments take a lot of stamina and a strong lip."- (Times Daily, July 5, 1956)

The Crash That Almost Ended A Career

On New Years Eve '52, Ina Ray had just flown to Los Angeles from San Diego when while leaving, she collided her car with that of  Henry Biggs' vehicle near the Los Angeles International Airport. Unfortunately, the passenger in Biggs' vehicle, Betty Blackman died from her injuries. Ina was given a sobriety test which she passed, after having admitted that she had two glasses of champagne before returning to Los Angeles. During a Coroner's Inquest, the nine person jury exonerated Ina Ray for the accident, although it was a close call. Five of the jurors stated that they felt she was "probably criminally responsible" for Blackman's death, although the other four felt she was innocent.
In the end all charges were dismissed and Ina was able to get back to her career in show business.

Besides her Big Band career and her own television show, Ina appeared in a few films:
  •  "The Big Broadcast of 1936" (1935)
  •  "Ever Since Venus" (1944)
Film Shorts:
  •  "Feminine Rhythm" (1935)
  •  "Accent on Girls" (1936)
  • "Swing, Hutton, Swing" (1937)
  • "Thrills of Music: Ina Ray Hutton and Orchestra" (1950)
  • Ina Ray also appeared in a movie short with the Yacht Club Boys.

In 1961, when asked who she would pick to portray her in a movie about her life and career, Ina Ray Hutton said she would want Doris Day to play her. In later years, Ina was interviewed about the past, and she reminisced of the days of  "Benny Goodman, Harry James, Woody Herman, The Dorsey's and Glenn Miller." She went on to state, "I don't know what happened to music after that, but I think it got lost in between be-bop and rock'n'roll."-- She went on to state that those types of music were her pet peeves, and she even remarked, "You can print that, too."

In Ina's personal life, she had married four times. First to Louis Parisotto (who was a former member of her all-male orchestra), Randolph Everett Brooks (Band Leader), Michael Anter (a Salon Operator) and finally known Businessman, Jack Curtis. It seems that Ina was unlucky in love, having been married several times. Sadly, Ina Ray never had any children and died fairly young at the age of 67, from complications of diabetes on February 19, 1984. She is buried at Ivy Lawn Memorial Park, in Ventura, California.

 Five O'Clock Whistle- Ina Ray Hutton with her All-Male Orchestra (1940)


Ina Ray Hutton & Her Melodears ~ "Truckin'" (1936)

June Hutton (

June Hutton

Well, so far you have learned about Ina Ray, but what about her baby sister June? Personally, she was my favorite of the two Hutton sisters, and I will tell you why....her voice. She had the most beautiful voice that could literally soothe you into dreams. If you go online, there are a lot of websites devoted to articles about Ina Ray but not too many about her very talented sister. So let this be the first, because I have a lot of stuff to say about this talented lady.

June Marvel Cowan (birth certificate is misspelled Cowen), was born August 11, 1919 to Marvel Svea Williams and Odie Daniel Cowan in Bloomington, Illinois. June was the youngest of the two sisters.

I have heard and read that June and Ina were half-sisters. I even believed it for awhile myself, but it is interesting because according to the birth certificates, they both have the same mother and father. So until someone can show me proof in a document showing they had different fathers then we will have to go based on the record that they had the same parents. June grew up in the same household as her older sister Ina. She also attended Hyde Park High School in Chicago, as did Ina. While attending high school, June worked in the dress department at Marshall Fields department store. Upon graduation, June decided to quit her job and attempt her singing career.

via Long Ago & Far Away
The 1940 Census has June living in Manhattan
as a "Single, White, Female" who was occupied as a "Singer" in the "Theater".  She performed on the "Astor Roof" and had a brief part on Max Baer's "Hi'ya Gentlemen."  She joined the Winston Trio, the Quintones and then a four month stint with the Sande Williams Band. She eventually became the female vocalist for the Stardusters, who played for Charlie Spivak and his Orchestra. The group was comprised of June, Glen Gaylon, Curt Purnell and Dick Wylder.  One of my favorites of June's recordings of this time period is the song "At Last", which by the way was written and recorded long before the Etta James' version! (If you haven't heard it, I suggest you do, it's great!) They also appeared as themselves in the film, "Pin-up Girl" starring Betty Grable in 1943.

Capitol Records

UNT -Digital Library
When Jo Stafford of the vocal group The Pied Pipers (who sang for Tommy Dorsey & His Orchestra) quit the group and went on to become the first solo artist signed on the Capitol Records label in 1944, June was welcomed as her replacement. The Pied Pipers went on to record such hits as "Dream,"  "Mam'selle" and "My Happiness," all together 12 hit singles.  By 1950, June left the Pied Pipers going solo on Capitol Records backed by an orchestra led by Axel Stordahl. She recorded several albums, achieving three hit records, "Say You're Mine Again," "No Stone Unturned," and "For the First Time," although my favorite of June's that didn't become a hit, was "You're Getting To Be A Habit With Me."  (click on links to listen to videos)

In 1951, June married Axel Stordahl, a famous musical arranger for Tommy Dorsey. He also did a lot of work with Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Doris Day, Dinah Shore and Eddie Fisher. The couple had two children and stayed happily married to one another until the passing of Axel Stordahl in 1963. She later married her second husband, Kenneth Tobey in 1968 until their divorce in 1972. When June passed away in 1973, at the age of 52, she was buried beside her first husband at Forest Lawn Memorial Park, in Los Angeles (although the marker only shows her husband's name).

"Dream"- The Pied Pipers (w/June Hutton)

Back To The Family Tree-
Who Was Marvel Ray?

The Wrong Marvel
At one point a friend of mine had sent me a photo from an old magazine that literally had the name "Marvel Ray" on it, who was one of Mack Sennett's Bathing Beauties from 1915. Looking at the photo, I almost thought it could be the same Marvel Ray who was Ina and June's mother, but unfortunately that was a dead lead. The woman in the photo in the magazine was actually named Marvel Rea (sometimes spelled Rae) but was not in fact the same Marvel we were looking for. Her story is also one worth reading about...perhaps another time I may write her story.

Ina and June's mother's name was: Marvel Svea (meaning "Swede") Williams, although on Ina Ray Hutton's marriage certificate she listed her mother's name as Marvel Svea Pickett. That is another interesting twist as well, being that several newspapers during the late 1930s claim that Ina Ray and her mother Marvel stated that Ina's great grand uncle was General George Pickett, the Confederate General known for "Pickett's Charge" in the battle at Gettysburg. Now according to historical record, George Pickett had 7 brothers and sisters, but only one sister and one brother survived childhood to have children of their own. I have been trying to find a link to the Pickett name for Ina Ray and haven't got there yet, but I am still looking.

Minnie's Mysterious Past

The 1900 census shows that Minnie Williams (age 18) and Marvel Williams (only 2 years old) were boarding with a family, the Taylors in Chicago. Minnie stated that she was married and had been for 3 years, meaning that Williams was her married name and not her maiden name.  On that record it states that Minnie's father was from New Hampshire and her mother was from Virginia (the same place General Pickett was from).

It is not until later on that you see that Minnie is now married to Bailey McFall. It looks as though she wasn't with McFall until around 1909, but just as her previous Census records stated her parent's birthplace, the Census records while she was married to McFall show Minnie listing her father again, being from New Hampshire and her mother from Virginia.

Why did Marvel use the name Ray when she was a pianist? As of right now, I still haven't found that information. As I continue my search for Ina Ray and June's complete family genealogy, I will keep my blog updated with what I find. I will continue to keep searching for the Ray and Pickett family information.

When we dive into Minnie and her past, this is where all the "ethnic" questions come into play. But, as I will explain to you, there are several errors I have found in the Census records for this story, as well as other stories, so this will be proof that errors could have been made in the Census'.

1st Example: 1900 Census states Minnie and Marvel as (B)= "Black". However, they are boarding in a house whose family was also listed as  "Black", therefore it could have been assumed on the part of the Census taker that all in the household were African-American. Errors happened a lot in the Census records in history. Many times the Census takers would label the entire family based on the race of the Head of Household.

2nd Example: One of the little girls who were featured in the newspaper with Ina Ray when she was seven, actually had an Asian last name, however she and her entire family were listed as "Negro", not "Mulatto" as she should have been if she was in fact mixed. This goes to show you that depending on the Census takers discretion, they could list you any way they wanted and you wouldn't know it, because the Census records are not released for 70 years. Who knows how many other families were erroneously listed?

Ina Ray and June Hutton's Father

FACT:  Marvel married Odie Daniel Cowan, who is listed as "White" on his WWI Registration records as seen in the photo here: (click on photo to enlarge and see the arrows I added to point out the facts.) So no matter what ethnic background Marvel came from, Ina Ray and June's father was Caucasian, this we have proof of.

Cherokee Blood?

In an recorded interview, June Hutton's daughter claimed her grandmother Marvel stated to her that she was part Cherokee Indian, and that was why she had such black hair. Upon looking into old Census information, during the 1800s up until the mid 1900s it was unlawful to claim any Native American ancestry. In fact, it wasn't until the Civil Rights Act that many were able to make their ancestry official at all. I know this because one of my great grandmother's was full blooded Cherokee, and yet she was listed as white on her Census records, because back then it could have gone either way. It really depended on the person taking the Census and whether they chose to classify someone one way or the other when in fact, there wasn't a clear classification system to list every ethnicity or background back then.  I know from my genealogy records and photos that although my great grandma was listed as "White" she was Cherokee and you could see it clearly in her photos.

What I am saying is that it is more than possible that Minnie and Marvel were actually Native American and White, as Marvel told her own granddaughter.  During that time period, being part White and part Native-American could have caused a lot of confusion. You see, the Census up until 1910 only allowed "White", "Black" or "Mulatto" on the list. I looked into the history of the Census and their profiling system and it also showed that it was up to the Census taker whether they chose to use "Mulatto" or "Black" at their own discretion. Other records I found stated that many Native Americans were labeled "Mulatto" or even "Black" because they were Non-White according to the Census' standards. It also said that if the parent was a minority, they would automatically list the child as the minority race, regardless of whether they were part Caucasian.

With that being said, if Minnie was half Native-American and half Caucasian, she could have been misidentified as "Black" or "Mulatto" on the Census. Marvel was listed as Mulatto on her Census' lists as an adult, meaning that she appeared to be at least part Caucasian. Even the 1910 Census records showed Minnie's husband Bailey McFall as being listed as "Mulatto" one time, and listed as "Negro" for the 1920 Census. Again, it was up to the Census' takers discretion.

The 1920 Census shows that Marvel had moved back with her mother and her step-father with the girls, Odessa (Ina) and June. They were living in his household in a mixed race neighborhood, with white, black and mulatto listed on the Census records. The entire household is listed as "Mulatto" at this time. Fast forward to the 1930 Census, where Marvel is again still living with her mother and step-father, and now the girls are 10 & 14 years old, they are living in a predominately black neighborhood at this moment in time, and the head of household was listed as "Negro" as was every single person on the Census, which leads me to believe the Census taker didn't actually ask everyone, or check every household, but instead made an assumption that everyone in the household was black. (Yes, these sorts of things happened, it was up to the Census recorders discretion, which led to a lot of errors on Census's in the past). 

Let's just stop here and analyze this. So if Minnie was part Native-American or African-American and Caucasian, and Marvel's father was more than likely Caucasian, given the fact that Marvel was also considered "Mulatto," then when Marvel met Odie (who was Caucasian) and they had Ina Ray and June, their children would have had light complexions because the percentage of African American or Native American would have been very low by that time, perhaps less than a 1/4 or even as low as 1/8.

One thing you must also remember, the term "Mulatto" didn't always mean half African-American, actually it was used back in time for a person who was mixed with anything besides Caucasian, more commonly half Caucasian/ half Native American or half Caucasian/ half African American. It also was used if a person was half Caucasian/ half Hispanic, or even at times half Caucasian/ half Asian, too. Basically, it meant half & half of anything. It didn't necessarily mean half  African American. The word comes from the Spanish or Portuguese word "mulato" or "mula" meaning mule, or hybrid. Basically anyone with a mixed ethnicity. Later on it became more of derogatory term for a person who was half Caucasian and half African-American.

What difference does it make anyways? White, Black, Native American? Ina Ray and June did not "pretend" they were white while secretly hiding their true selves, they were being themselves. So what if they might have had a small percentage of  African-American or Native American in them, they obviously identified with the Caucasian side of their bloodlines, and there is nothing wrong with that.

I have a friend that I grew up with, whose mother was Caucasian and her father was African-American, she married an African-American guy and their children are 3/4 African-American and 1/4 Caucasian, but they identify themselves as black. Would it be right for anyone later on down the line to make remarks about my friends kids and say they were "passing as black" although they were white? That is ludicrous. The same could be said for Ina Ray and June, they may have just identified more with their Caucasian genes rather than their other ethnic background.

My great-grandfather was 100% Armenian, my grandmother was 1/2, my mother 1/4 and I am 1/8.
I knew of my Armenian heritage, and I am proud of my various ancestry from all the branches of my family tree, but no one can say later on down the line that I was "Armenian" passing as "White", nor can they say that I was "White" passing as "Hispanic" due to the fact I lived in a Mexican-American household with my step-father and mother during my youth and more than likely the Census records for those years will show our "household" to be "Mexican" or "Hispanic."

I was who I was, I am who I am. I am a mix of many ethnicities and I am proud of them all, I do not let one take precedent over the other. I am Norwegian, Cherokee, German, French, Spanish, Irish, Armenian but I won't put one above the other, I am just me,  and that is who I want to be remembered as. My children are a mix of myself and their father's ancestry, and so they also have added Mexican heritage as well as added Spanish and German heritage, but they will not just claim to be solely "Mexican" just because their father identifies himself as that.

With Ina Ray and June Hutton, there were many people in their genetic line and we cannot ignore that.  Odie Daniel Cowan was either of Irish or Scottish ancestry, given the surname. Marvel may have had Swedish ancestry, given the middle name "Svea" which could have been a surname of a relative. If Marvel and Ina were correct about being closely related to General George Pickett, then they would have English bloodlines, too. The Pickett family of Virginia were of the "Old English" families, some of the first settlers in Virginia to come across from England.  

According to the forums, several posts of relatives who claimed to be cousins of Ina Ray and June via the Williams family line also claimed that side of the family were Caucasian, too.  The Williams' side of the family would have been Marvel's paternal ancestry. 

If you are going to point out their ancestry, why not point out ALL of their heritage?

Ina's Marriage Certificate to Randy Brooks
According to Marvel, they had Cherokee blood, as was told to June's daughter. Perhaps they did have some African-American in them, but we may never know the truth to that without DNA evidence or further proof beyond "Census" records. We cannot always take Census records as proof, given the high rate of error found regularly on Census records. And trust me, I am a historian and I am a genealogy fanatic, the Census records always have errors. 

In the end, when looking at Ina Ray and June Hutton's lives, you can see by the way they lived as adults it shows they obviously identified with their Caucasian heritage. They listed themselves as "White" or Caucasian their entire lives, and there is nothing wrong with that. Just as if they had identified themselves as "Black" or any other ethnicity it would have been okay, too.

The issue I have had with this story going around from the beginning isn't the fact they may have African-American bloodlines, it is the fact that people are literally slandering Ina Ray by making accusations that she was "not who everyone thought she was", that she was "passing" as white while secretly she was hiding that she was really black.

There is nothing whatsoever in these women's (Ina Ray or June) lives that points to them as "pretending" or "passing" as white, as if they were leading some sort of double lives, yet people continue to post articles stating such things as fact.

Ina Ray and June may have lived in a household as children where their step-grandfather was black, but we do not know if Marvel was Native American or African American because Marvel isn't here anymore to tell us. If she told her granddaughter she was Cherokee, why would she lie to her own granddaughter? Think about it. I think it is a dishonor to go against what Ina's own mother said about her background, because that is calling her a liar. Why would anyone want to call Ina Ray, June or their mother a liar? How are you showing any honor or respect to them by going against their own "word" and all these years later, based on Census records that could have very well been made in error, complete strangers who never knew them or their families, have gone and completely changed their history?

What About Other Rumored Celebrities?

Ina Ray and June Hutton were famous during a time when other famous singers who happened to be African-American were making it big. Billie Holiday was part Caucasian, does anyone ever mention that? Not usually. Cab Calloway, Duke Ellington, Ella Fitgerald, Sarah Vaughn, they were all African-American and made names for themselves, so why would Ina and June, if they identified as "black", not want to "come out" and be that?

Dinah Shore
Need I remind you of other famous people of the past that were being rumored or misidentified as being "African-American"?  Babe Ruth, Dinah Shore and Herb Jeffries, to name just a few.
Babe Ruth was born to German-American parents, there is no proof whatsoever that he had any African-American ancestry.

Dinah Shore was later proven to be of Russian Jewish lineage, while Herb Jeffries admitted that he was actually mostly Irish, Native American, Hispanic, and part African-American.

Herb Jeffries
During his career, Herb Jeffries played along with the fact that everyone believed him to be "black", at one point even using makeup to make his skin appear darker, (and obviously getting a perm to make his naturally straight hair wavy). He created his image this way in order to make it into the jazz scene, despite the fact he only had a small fraction of African-American blood in him. He was raised by an Irish mother, admitted that he didn't know his father, and only went on what he assumed from what his mother could tell him. Later in life he was quoted in a magazine article about why he listed his race as "White" when he applied for a marriage license to his girlfriend Tempest Storm. He claimed that he listed himself as "White" because he identified himself as Caucasian. Jet Magazine reported:

Herb Jeffries, (recent)
"... I'm not passing, I never have, I never will. For all these years I've been wavering about the color question on the blanks. Suddenly I decided to fill in the blank the way I look and feel..... Look at my blue eyes, look at my brown hair, look at my color. What color do you see? My mother was 100 per cent white, my father is Portuguese, Spanish, American Indian, and Negro. How in the hell can I identify myself as one race or another?"-- Herb Jeffries.

On the subject of Ina Ray and her alleged "secret life", the writer who started making all these claims is grasping at straws and honestly I feel it is a disgrace. Does no one have any respect for Ina and June? If they were really part African-American, as claimed, why did they not tell their own family? Why did they not come out over the years when more and more acceptance of mixed race ethnicity was mainstream?

Another question I must ask, if this were true, why are there newspaper accounts of Ina Ray and her mother Marvel attending dinners and benefits together and not one mention of the "race" factor in any tabloid or gossip column was ever published? There were many critics out there at the time that would have mentioned it, do you really think that if they were so ashamed of their heritage or hiding from it, that they would be seen in public with a bi-racial parent? If they were so afraid of the detrimental affect it could have on their careers, then why did Ina Ray attend events with her mother?

If they were, and chose to hide it, for whatever reasons that may be, that would have been their choice. No one gave anyone the right to go and "air out" their alleged family secrets after they were dead. If they were part Native-American then there was no hiding, especially since Marvel told her own granddaughter to begin with. To me, that makes a lot more sense. But regardless, that would have been Ina Ray and June's choice whether they wanted to make it known or not, if that was truly the case.

The problem we have here is that there is not enough information to state that they were "black" as a fact. Could they have been part black? Yes. Could they have been part Native American? Yes. It was one or the other, or maybe even both. But it doesn't really matter, that would have been only a fraction of their background. By these sites claiming that Ina Ray and June were "African-American" pretending to be "White," it is as if they are X'ing out the fact that their father was Caucasian, as if his genetics didn't matter or didn't exist. That is not right either.  Both parent's genes do matter when creating a child.

June and Ina Ray were beautiful, talented, amazing women, regardless of what their heritage was, and they should not be labeled by their race or races, but remembered for their talents!! Just because they may or may not have some black in them doesn't change anything. They were who they were. They lived their lives the way they felt comfortable and how it made them happy. They did not "pass as white" as if they were some sort of phoney or fake, pretending to be something they weren't. They were themselves and they shined like the stars they were!

In the end, these women should be remembered for their talents, their beauty, their accomplishments and the things they loved. They should not be labeled in one group or the other. They were who they wanted to be.  Out of respect for Ina and June, I really wish people would just let this "race" issue go and move on now. Let their memories live on for what they did, not rumors of who they might or might not have been.

Let them rest in peace.

(Copyright 2014)- J.Rubio for

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)