My Great-Aunt Minnie,
my grandmother's sister. Her stage name
was Dixie Gardner during her
vaudeville days of the 1920s.
Minnie Bland Blankenship was anything but bland. Born in Alabama in the early 1900s, my grandmother's sister left the rural life in the 1920s for a show business life in New York City. In the mid 1960s she came to live with us for about a year and a half after my parents' divorce. My brother, sister and I were between the ages of 10 and 13. I loved hearing my great-aunt tell of her experiences and never tired of hearing them over and over. She never tired of telling them, either.
She traveled to South America to be in a film, Tropical Love, with the silent screen star Mae Murray. Mae was known as "The Girl with the Bee Stung Lips". While filming the movie, the actresses rode horseback and stayed in tents. One night my aunt placed part of her costume, a large hair bow, on top of an object in her tent. The silhouette outside the tent gave the appearance of one of the costumed actresses. The following morning a dagger was found thrust through the outside of the tent right under the silhouetted hair bow. (I could just picture this savage beast outside her tent that night)
I want to believe the above story is true but I have seen the above described scene before in an old movie. :~)
What sultry eyes you have Mae Murray!
My aunt said she saw a tipsy Mae Murray drink champagne
out of her slipper at a party.
(Loved this story, too!)
My aunt is third from the left. While filming this movie in South America,
she said she met a Prince Alfonso who wanted to marry her. She said
he threatend her and to take his own life if she would not agree to marry him. She "consented"
at the time she said to save her life.
She said she received threatening "telegrams" from Prince Alfonso while on the steamer
traveling back to Greenwich Village from South America. She said she moved immediately
after she arrived back home, fearful he would trace her to her apartment.
|The story is her brother refused to have anything |
else to do with her, he disapproved of her "show business" life.
In later years, probably during the 1940s, my aunt worked in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, at one of the plants originally called the Clinton Engineer Works, a code name for the facility. There were over 400 buildings there, one wonders why it took so many buildings to process atomic materials for the atomic bomb. A far cry from her vaudeville days!
Women , monitoring electromagnetic machines at Y-12 in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, also known
as "The Secret City" during the era of the Manhattan Project. My aunt and grandmother both worked here during
The other fascinating stories my aunt told me involved women inmates. For several years during the 50s and 60s, she was the matron of the Knoxville City Jail in Knoxville, Tennessee. Oh my goodness, I have to say, the stories she told of the jailed women were as interesting as those from her vaudeville days.
My great-uncle Taylor, Minnie's husband, displaying one of his passions. What a character! He had
a collection of antique cars in pristine condition. In the late 1960s
he would drive to our house in one of his cars from
the 1920s. Taylor and Minnie were quite wealthy, I can still hear my mother
say, "they lived like misers and ate canned mackerel". ;-)
The story of my family's relationship with my aunt did not have a happy ending. The Reader's Digest version: My uncle wanted his wife to return home and came after her one day. She didn't want to go and thought my mother should have stepped in and "stood up for her." She left with him that day and never spoke to us again nor did we ever see her again. I'll always believe she was wanting to escape a bad marriage.
As we age our physical eyes are dimmed but our hindsight vision becomes 20/20. I realize now it was my grandmother's "suggestion" to my mother that her sister come out to "help" us when no help was needed. I feel my mother could not say "no" to her mother's "suggestion" that my aunt come and help when no help was needed. I have written before of the lesson of learning to say "no", it is difficult to say even at our great expense. We would rather greatly suffer sometimes than say that simple two letter word.