Chapter 2, Part 1 - MY FATHER
Before talking about the second boarding school I attended, I wanted to tell a brief history about my ancestors. There is little I know about my family tree but want to write down what I do know so it is documented here for my descendants.
My grandparents on my father’s side were all born in the USA and were descended from England. I know nothing about my great-grandparents. My grandparents lived in Hardwick, Massachusetts, a very small town. My grandfather was a barber and the town lamplighter. The street lights were gaslights and needed to be lit every evening. This was prior to electricity. My grandmother’s name was Maude. Other than that, there is nothing else I know about them.
My father was born in Hardwick on July 5, 1897. He had three brothers and one sister. I don’t know the birth order but I do know his sister was the youngest. Their names were typical of the times and I find them amusing. They were Charles Stanley (Rogers), Arthur Oswald, Clarence Ralph, Waldo and Gertrude. (I don’t know the middle names of the last two). My father hated his name because at the time there was a newspaper cartoon about a dufus called “Clarence the Cop”. As soon as he was old enough he legally changed it to Ralph Clarence Rogers, or Ralph C. Rogers. He tried to never divulge that his middle name was Clarence. He also always told everyone that his birthday was on July 4th. He said “the entire nation celebrates my birthday!!!”
All three brothers grew up to be successful. Each one of them owned their own business. They all moved to New Jersey when they were adults. Waldo owned a paint store and was also a painter. His claim to fame was he had a contract and was the one who painted the gold ball on the top of the Lightning Rod at the very tip top of the Empire State Building. Gertrude married a man who owned a large tile company and his claim to fame was that his company tiled the Holland Tunnel. Gertrude never had children and she lived very extravagantly with marble floors, expensive imported furniture, lots of fur coats, gold and diamonds. I don’t remember what my other uncles did for a living.
Ralph was the “black sheep” of the family. He learned early on that he had a very wealthy aunt who lived in Victoria, Canada. She was a widow and her husband had founded a very prominent candy company called “Rogers Chocolates” which she inherited. She had no children. Her name was Leah Rogers. As soon as he was able, Ralph moved to Victoria to visit his poor, lonely aunt to keep her company.
He arrived in Canada during the Depression. He convinced his Aunt Leah to accompany him on a trip that took them all over England and Europe. They were gone for over a year. In those days, there were no airplanes so to go to Europe so you had to take a boat. They sailed on the Cunard Lines. There were two main cruise ship companies, The Cunard Lines and White Star Lines. The Titanic was one of the White Star Line Ships. I still have a trunk full of memorabilia from his trip including 16 mm films he took with a movie camera.
Naturally, his Aunt paid for everything and he was her “escort”. I was told once that she really didn’t know she was paying for it until sometime after the tour was over.
Something happened that turned his aunt against him (I think it was because he was spending all of her money and lying to her) and she kicked him out. As a result she disinherited him, his mother and his brothers and sister. For this he was black-balled from his own family and asked to never return to New Jersey.
While he was living with his aunt he became quite the “man about town” hob-nobbing with the elite rich. Somehow he even hung out with the, The Duke and Duchess of Windsor; Prince Edward the eighth, Prince of Whales, and his wife Wallis Simpson. The Prince had been King Edward and he abdicated the throne to marry a divorced woman, which meant he could no longer be King. I have a picture of my father with the Prince. I also saw at one time a trunk full of old newspapers with many articles about Ralph Rogers, the “socialite”. The trunk got stolen sometime in the 1960’s.
Ralph claimed to be a cousin of Will Rogers and I have a picture of them together. It was taken at the airport in Seattle just hours before Will Rogers’ plane crashed. He was killed along with his pilot Wiley Post. I have never been able to verify that they were actually related. Ralph said his father and Will Rogers’ father were brothers.
I also have a picture of him with Jean Harlow and I don’t know how he met her. He was close friends with and hung out with Jimmy McLarnin, who was a two-time World Welterweight Champion Boxer. I met Mr. McLarnin when I first moved to Hollywood, where he lived at the time. I was able to verify that he was indeed a close friend of my father’s.
After being kicked out of his aunt’s house, he moved to Seattle, Washington. He lived in the Washington Athletic Club which was a high-end exclusive apartment/club for men. It was required that you be a member in order to live there. It is still there in Seattle and still very expensive and exclusive. There are also shops, restaurants, work-out rooms and a pool along with living quarters. It is rather like an expensive hotel. I will tell how he met my mother after I tell you about her upbringing and what brought her to Seattle.