Monday, July 13, 2009

Book excerpt- featuring Margie!

Just a snippit from Bob Fulmer's fantastic writing. Bob is one of Margie's dear friends and fellow Santa Barbara walker. You will see that he features our beloved Marjorie (AKA Anabel Shaw) in this part of a book project:

Walking with Tom is more intellectually stimulating than physically challenging. He doesn't walk quite as fast as he used to, but his mind hasn't slowed down at all. He reads Scientific American from cover to cover and points out the articles he thinks that I might understand. We swap books, usually agree on politics, and discuss his philanthropic interests in encouraging early reading opportunities for disadvantaged children in the United States and around the world.

The “Beach Walkers” group has become a community unto itself. Muriel collected e-mail address for about 40 some-time participants and circulates information about events like a pot luck holiday party at Linda and Pete’s townhouse or breakfast at Dotti’s clubhouse. At least once a month, Albie will bake cupcakes or brownies to celebrate recent birthdays after breakfast or someone will send out an invitation to stop by for ‘tea and crumpets’ or ‘beer and pretzels.’

Not long ago, Antonia invited everyone for “an evening of entertainment.” She and Raul live on a spacious lot with ten chickens and a variety of exotic fruit trees. They had cooked a ham and turkey for the main course. The rest of us were encouraged to “bring your spouse (if you have one) and one other covered dish.” Tonia had been mysterious about the plan for the evening, but after filling our plates and glasses, we sat down to watch a black and white movie from 1947. There were a few raised eyebrows at this choice for the entertainment until we recognized that Anabel Shaw, the stage name for the star of Killer at Large, was Marjorie Henshaw, one our walkers who had been on the cover of Life Magazine in 1940. Marjorie had turned down a couple of movie contracts until she could graduate from college, and discovered that, at 22, she didn’t have the same choices as had been available just three years earlier.

By Marjorie’s admission, her starring role was in a “B Movie” that took a whole week to film and for which she was paid the grand sum of $1000. Although more than 60 years had passed, Marjorie still had the “good bones” and vivacious personality that had attracted Hollywood talent scouts. In my opinion, the film slowed down when she wasn’t on screen, so I looked around the room and realized that most of these ordinary people had enjoyed extraordinary lives because they took responsibility for how those lives evolved.

Seated next to Marjorie was Mylene, the youngest member of the group, who in her 40s, became a retired Philadelphia litigator, and now studies and gives lessons on the harp and organ. Mylene lives simply, rents a small guest cottage in the upper Eastside and maintains only one vestige of her former demanding profession, a 2000 Porsche Boxster which she alternates with a ten-speed bike for local transportation.

Mike now spends much of his time volunteering for the Red Cross, and travels to problem spots around the country to help facilitate the organization’s fabled disaster response efforts. He attended 11 colleges before completing an undergraduate degree in business and an MBA that qualified him for a good career in the aerospace industry. Once, as I was about to leave for Peoria to facilitate a “Leadership Quest” program with high potential leaders at Caterpillar, Mike confided that he had worked for CAT when he was only 15 years old.

“I’m not saying that you didn’t work for CAT,” I challenged, “but I am pretty sure that they observed child labor laws even back in the dark ages when you were a teenager.”

“Oh, they wouldn’t have hired me if they had known my age,” he explained. “But my family needed a wage earner and I was the logical choice so I took a bus to Peoria. When the hiring agent questioned that I was 18 and told me to come back with proof, my uncle helped me modify my birth certificate, so I was suddenly three years older. I’m still grateful to Caterpillar because they paid me well, taught me good work habits and inspired me complete college no matter how long it took.”

“Did they encourage you to take classes at Bradley College?” I asked.

“Actually, I wasn’t even in high school yet, but during the orientation session, they introduced us to man who had been at the same inspection station for 35 years. The thought of standing in the same place and doing the same thing for more than twice the time I had been alive made me a believer in higher education.”

Mike went on to complete high school, and found a job was in the mail room of the CIA in Washington. After proving himself trustworthy, he was promoted to become a secure mail courier, and soon he picked up assignments throughout the Far East as a security assistant. I would have asked for more details about his adventures, but am still afraid he would have to kill me if I knew the whole the story.

Nan is the only person I know who is able to hear because of an cochlear transplant. She works for the deaf at the California Department to Rehabilitation, and coincidentally, before we joined the walkers, had purchased our East Beach townhouse.

Before I finished circling the room with my rumination, the movie ended, so we talked about Marjorie’s performance and what being a ‘star’ was like in the 1940s. When the conversation lagged a bit, I shifted the topic, “Tonia, that’s a very unusual statuette you have on the mantle. Can you tell us where you found it?”

“Oh, that,” she replied, “It’s one of my grandfather’s Oscars.”

“Don’t tell us, “I said, trying to gauge the correct timeframe, “Let me guess, your grandfather was Alfred Hitchcock.”

“No, but gramps did work with him on a couple of pictures.”

We finally learned that Tonia was the granddaughter of Frank Lloyd who was one of the founders of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and the first Scottish Academy Award winner. Lloyd received three Oscar nominations in 1929 for his work on a silent film, a part-talkie and one of the early all talkies. During his distinguished career, he worked with most of Hollywood’s legends and is probably best remembered for Mutiny on the Bounty, which he produced, scripted and directed.

As we prepared to leave, I looked around and realized that our little group included three Canadians, two folks from the British Isles, one person from Peru, one from Tennessee, and even one from Alabama. There were two former civil rights workers, one peace corps volunteer, and at least three republicans. I suspect that each of us is a little surprised when we look in the mirror and wonder who that aged stranger can be. Sally kiddingly comments, “When I was young, I was always interested in the latest, hip joints, and today, I still am. It’s just that the definition of ‘hip’ has changed for me.” Yes, hip replacements may account for the speed and mobility of some of the group. Tom may skew the average a bit, but the median age is probably getting close to 70.

Everyone is ordinary, and everyone is special, with a unique story of how they came to be who and where they are.

The walking group doesn’t impose many rules, but Tom and I have one inviolate requirement for our stroll. Each day, usually after we’ve reached the half-way point and turned around and started back toward the Grill, we look ahead and see friends who have a slightly faster pace as we all head toward a reward of coffee and conversation. To the left, we look over the red tile roofs of downtown and the Rivera to the purplish peaks of the Santa Ynez Mountains. To the right is the curving coast line of the Pacific dotted with palm trees. The weather is almost always perfect. We alternate the responsibility of picking the point to turn to the other and say sincerely, “Aren’t we lucky to live here.”

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