My Encounter With The Duke

We have one of our favorite guest bloggers with us today. Linda Smith Snook writes a visual picture that will take you back in time.

It was March 1955, I turned 13 years old in January that year and was so excited that we were going to take a family vacation. However, I knew riding in the same car as my dad, mom, grandmother and 5 year old brother all the way to southern California and back was going to be a challenge.

This is really the only family vacation I remember, we lived on a small farm….had animals that needed to be cared for, so a day at the park or maybe an over night at the ocean was the most we ever did.

I was in the 7th grade and it was not Spring Break, so my mom talked with my teacher and it was decided that I would be excused from school as long as I wrote a page each day about our activities. Then turn the ‘diary’ in when we got home for a grade for the time I missed.

My dad’s father and step mom, plus his brother and step brother and their families all lived in California. It was very exciting as we headed out the first week of March…down Highway 99. I remember at every stop there was the ‘changing of the seats’ routine between my mom, grandma and myself. Quite frankly I was super annoyed with my brother by the time we passed thru Olympia (30 miles south of our home).

One day after we arrived at my uncle and aunt’s home, my dad’s step brother and his family came over and spent the day visiting. My dad’s step brother (Uncle Don) worked for the movie studios as a freelance photographer. He took those pictures you used to see as you walked up to the ticket booth of a theater, and he took continuity pictures so the actors ended up in the correct spot and in the correct clothes when they came back from a break in shooting their film.

Anyway, during that day of visiting he asked me if I’d like to go to work with him one day while we were there. I was thrilled and my folks agreed that it would be a fun adventure for me. But, I didn’t really have the appropriate clothes with me, so the next day they took me to the Robert Hall store in Hollywood. They got me new shoes, new skirt, blouse and a pink jacket. I felt like a movie star myself.

The appointed day came and Uncle Don came and picked me up. When we got to the movie studio he took me in with him and sat me over in the corner to watch the action. The entire morning they shot the same scene over and over again and I remember that they finally got the scene right, just at lunch time.
My uncle came over and said that he had talked to the two movie stars and they had agreed to pose for a picture with me. I followed him over to another area and there on a high stool sat this beautiful lady named Lauren Bacall. I had never heard of her before…..

She did sit while my uncle took the picture but then she got up and walked away. She didn’t say one word to me.

From there, I followed my uncle over to another spot to a group of people standing around talking and laughing. In the middle of that group stood this larger than life man who stepped forward as we approached. He looked over at my uncle and then at me and extended his hand…my uncle introduced me to John Wayne. I had heard of John Wayne and needless to say I was dumbstruck. Here I was, this 13 year old girl who lived on 10 acres and did farm chores meeting the one, the only John Wayne.

We (or should I say ‘he’) chatted with me and my uncle for awhile and then he asked me if I was hungry. I must have nodded yes, because before I knew it he was leading us to a big round table over in a corner and box lunches appeared for all. I remember there was an apple in my box lunch but that’s all I remember and I don’t even remember if I was able to eat much. I do remember he asked me about my school, where I lived, etc. He was especially interested in the fact that we lived on a small farm and had animals. He wanted to know who was milking our cow. His laugh was hearty and it helped me to relax a little.

Sadly after the lunch break it was time for me to go. My uncle had arranged for my grandfather to pick me up so I bid farewell and literally floated out of the building.

It was a day I will never forget. My 8 x 10 glossy, autographed photos hang proudly in my hall, along with family photos. I have treasured them all these years.

Oh and the movie they were shooting~ it was ‘Blood Alley.’ A very good movie and several years ago a friend gave me a DVD of the movie so I can watch it whenever I want.


9 responses to “My Encounter With The Duke

  1. Oh, man, Linda. You got to meet The Duke? That is awesome! That picture with him is so relaxed and cool looking. Isn’t it cool how one day, well, half a day, actually, can give you so many years of memories?

  2. You look like Halley Mills in those photo’s. I loved John Wayne and it was good to know he was so great off screen. I really enjoyed this story Linda. πŸ™‚

  3. How exciting! What fantastic memories, Really enjoyed reading your post, Linda.

  4. Loved reading your story and it sounds like you had so much fun. Lots of wonderful memories for you I’m sure.

  5. Thanks for sharing this great story. When I was 13, I was in love with Roy Rogers but I think John Wayne would have stolen my heart if I was in your shoes.

  6. How wonderful! And you look so much older than 13. I bet the girls back at school could hardly believe it when you told them. Photos to treasure for every. Thank you so much for such an interesting post.

  7. Oh, you lucky girl! I am positively GREEN with envy! My uncle worked at a studio in the special effects dept…but I never got to CA;I don’t know who he knew.WOW! I love the pictures…what treasures and treasured memories!

  8. How awesomely cool that must have been. What a wonderful experience. The pictures are so good. You look adorable. Too bad Ms. Bacall wasn’t very friendly but I think the Duke more than made up for that. What a great memory to have.

  9. Valerie J. Patterson

    This was a good read, Linda. I wouldn’t really expect anything less from John Wayne as I have always heard he was very down to earth and friendly. I have always been a fan of Lauren Bacall, and was dismayed to read she was so indifferent to you. Thanks for sharing such a precious memory with us here! πŸ˜›

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