Monday, March 26, 2012

An Unexpected Surprise

So if you have read this blog all along you might remember this...

...which led to this...

Who doesn't love a happy reunion? Although I think the owner thought I was more than a little nuts.

So with that in mind you might have some idea how tickled I was at the events that transpired last week. I love a good story with a happy ending.

Last Sunday my parents found a message on their answering machine. It was from a gentleman in California who said he had found a photo of my grandfather, Gordon Westcott (nee Myrthus Hickman). He had tracked us down and wanted to send us the photo.

My parents asked me to call him back and find out what he was talking about and if this was legitimate. Sadly there have been people in the past who have tried to do something in relation to my dad's father that seemed altruistic at first but then they turned around and were trying to make a profit from the experience. They know I'm just cynical enough to ask the right questions to find out if someone is the real deal or not (I guess it comes from experience dealing with used car salesmen, real estate agents, and as a telephone collection agent dealing with deadbeat customers).

I called the number back, optimistic but cautious at the same time. Mr. S from Thousand Oaks, CA turned out to be a pleasant, friendly, and engaging gentleman. He related to me how he came into possession of the photo and how he found my father's phone number.

A few years ago the library at UCLA was being renovated and they were throwing out some of the outdated or unnecessary detritus that had accumulated over the years. Mr. S had rescued a filing cabinet from the trash heap and gave it a second life. He was moving it recently when he found something in the bottom of the cabinet, underneath the lowest drawer. It turned out to be an 8x10 glossy photo of my grandfather. On the back it had studio information and Gordon's signature.

What was really interesting about this find is that the photo should have never been in that cabinet in the first place. The cabinet contained film industry related materials and was labeled WI - Z, and my grandfather's stage last name began with We.

Mr S. was intrigued and decided to do some research and find out who the fellow in the photograph was and if possible send it to someone who would appreciate it. He looked him up on IMDB and saw that he had passed away some 77 years previously but that his bio had 2 children listed. He first tried to find Myrthus' alleged daughter, Helen Westcott. It turns out that she had passed away 14 years ago and didn't have any children.

Next Mr. S searched for my father. He found a link between my father and his father on a website devoted to dad's mother's side of the family, The Cardons. He then tracked down my parents' phone number from there and left the message.

Mr. S told me that he thought it was an interesting photo and that he felt like sending the photo to us was simply the right thing to do. He also related a previous experience where he had received a photo of a gentleman from WWII at his PO Box and had tried to track him down but unfortunately the man in the photo had passed away. He kindly offered to mail the photo to my father on his own dime, asking nothing in return. I gave him the address for our family business to ensure someone was there to receive it.

It truly was an unexpected but heartwarming surprise.

Later last week the photo arrived. It was packaged with impeccable care and came to us in pristine condition. To my father's delight it was a studio publicity shot that he had never seen before. He has proudly showed everyone the photo and repeated many time the story of how it came to him. On Sunday my oldest sister's family and my youngest sister's family and myself gathered at our parents' home for our weekly visit. My mom and dad retrieved dad's collection of photos and items from his father, and we had a little mini family history night. Many of my younger nieces and nephews don't know much about their sub-lebrity great-grandfather.

Here is a photo of my sister's youngest son trying on one of Gordon's hats. It is a straw boater from London England, size 6 7/8.

Looking through the news clippings and photos I was struck by the fact that I am now almost one year older than my grandfather was at the time of his death. He died a few days before his 32 birthday. I don't know why but that seems very strange to me. Looking at the photos he seems so much older and more mature than I feel, but in fact he was younger. It really made me wonder what he would have been like if he had lived, if we had a chance to get to know him, and if he had truly been our grandpa and not just an interesting character in our family tree. I kind of wish he would have had the chance to see what a wonderful man my father turned out to be.

Sunday, March 18, 2012


Annie, our beagle, is smart...but she's dumb smart. That is to say that she is smart when she wants something and really dumb when we want something from her.

For example: when we have milkbones or any kind of treat, or I'm holding the leash in my hand, she sweetly does (almost) everything we ask her to and is a perfect angel. But when we have no treat and no leash we're pretty much dead to her.

Here, let me illustrate.

Me: (In a firm command voice) "Annie, come! Annie, COME! Annie COME HERE!...please?"
Annie: "Uh-uh, don't wanna, not gonna."

Me: (whispering very quietly) "Annie want to go outside?"
Annie: "Outside? I love outside! Why didn't you say so in the first place?!? Let's go!"

Her faithful obedience is conditional on our ability to purchase dog log training treats and taking her outside to chase bugs around.

What's next for this blog

I've been thinking about what to do with this space. I need to archive what I have here, somehow, but I don't know where to begin so it is all staying here for the time being.

Since I have the site set up and the address is relatively easy to use I will make occasional posts from time to time, but not on a daily or even weekly basis like before. The event lists are going away altogether, I simply don't have the time or energy to do them anymore. I will leave the event links page up and you can browse through my collection of sources to find events around the valley if you want.

Later this week I will be posting the curious events of last night, after I see if what was promised comes to fruition. It isn't a big or crazy story, but interesting, something I want to write down and share and this is the only place I have to do it.

So I guess for now this blog space will return to what it was when I started it. Random thoughts and shares from me for my friends and family. No longer a place for local business highlights and happenings, sorry you'll have to go elsewhere for that.

Saturday, March 03, 2012

Unknown Logan Celebrity - Gordon Westcott

So I read this letter in the Herald Journal a few days ago...

You can read the original wikipedia article that he mentioned here...,_UT

But Logan has another long forgotten link to Hollywood. His stage name was Gordon Westcott, his real name was Myrthus Hickman.

He was born in southern Utah but was raised in Logan before leaving to seek his fame on the stage in New York and later on the screen in Hollywood.

Myrthus was the son of Josiah Hickman by his third wife Helen Hansen Hickman Benedict. Myrthus had 1 full brother and 16 half siblings through his father's first 2 marriages, and 4 half siblings through his mother's second marriage.



Before he was famous he was a student and track star and played football in Logan at BYC (aka BYA aka USU), where he met and married my grandmother. For whatever reasons, he left her just one month after my father was born (August 15th 1922 according to the divorce decree) and she had to raise him without a father, without any financial support from her husband, but with the full support of her family.  She later applied for  and was granted a divorce and sole custody of my father.

He has credits in at least 35 films, and appeared as an uncredited extra in a few more films over the course of his relatively short career. During his movie career he had contracts with Paramount, Warner Brothers and MGM and appeared in both silent and talking films.

My father only saw his father in person a couple times in his life. Most of what we know about him is from a handful of letters from him, some newspaper clippings, and the movies he was in.

Myrthus spent a lot of his youth around horses and was a skilled rider. He was chosen to be a member Walt Disney's studio polo team.

The cup in the photos above was sent to my father after Myrthus died. In case you can't read it, it says:

SEPT 1935

I looked up the other members of the team. Walter Wanger was a producer. Snowy Baker was an Australian olympian and hollywood actor (real name - Reginald Leslie Baker). Unfortunately I haven't found any information on Mr. Lionel Pedly.

It was in a polo match (actually playing for MGM against the Disney team at this point) that he was fatally injured, some sources say it was October 27th, some say October 28th.  According to his obituary in the Ogden Standard Examiner he was injured on Sunday October 27th.  He was hospitalized for a few days but never regained consciousness and died October 30th, 1935. He was cremated and his ashes were interred in the Columbarium of the Graces (N-11016) inside the Great Mausoleum at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Glendale, CA.

The last few times that I've been to Southern California I've tried to visit his grave. Unfortunately the building where his ashes are kept has been locked each time we've tried to see it. The photo below is my little sister and her daughter on our last visit to the cemetery (about 6 years ago), standing outside the Columbarium of the Graces.

PS - All the black and white photos in this post are ones that I have imaged from my father's own archives. None of them are labeled, dated, or have any photographer or studio information. If you know who took any of those photos I would love to give them proper credit. Also if you know what movies the 2 film stills came from please let me know so I can cite the correct films. All color photos taken by me.

Friday, March 02, 2012

Change Your Spots!

These sketches are by my friend Donna Owens, the creative genius behind Noona's Puppet-Stew. She is a puppeteer and all around artist who has hosted a puppet making worshops in Scotland and all over Great Britain, including workshops for the last 5 years of the famous Glastonbury festival in England.

I've known Donna for about 10 years now, although these days because of the distance we keep in touch mostly on Facebook. She has challenged herself to draw a little something every day and some of her "5 minutes doodles" (as she calls them) are really quite profound, probably more than she realizes or gives herself credit for.

Every day I look forward to new inspirational status updates and art on her facebook wall and she never disappoints. She always inspires me to find some way of expressing a little bit of creativity everyday (writing, drawing, cooking, whatever)...and it is very cathartic.

If you want to know more about Donna's puppet theatre you can check out her website here: or just click on the link in my "Other Sites Of Interest" section.

So challenge yourself. What could you create if you took 5 minutes out of each day to stop thinking about what you HAVE to do and focus on what you WANT to do? Sketch, fold, sculpt, cut, sew, knit, write, crochet, decorate, garden, bake...but whatever you do, do it with abandon. You don't have to show anyone, do it for yourself. Art is like anything else, the more you do it, the better you get at it. Don't let anyone take away your creativity and love of beautiful things, that even means yourself. Sometimes we are our own worst enemy.

All images were created by and belong to Donna Owens and may not be copied or used without her permission. Always give credit where credit is due.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Feathered Friends

A few more birds have returned to my feeder. Mostly juncos and a few house finches, but it is a start. Sunday I could hear lots of meadow larks, but I couldn't see them. That sound is always a sign that spring is just around the corner...if this snow will ever stop.

Here are a few of my frequent visitors grabbing some lunch on a gray day.