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Sunday, 21st of April 2024


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Grandma has tea with Mary Pickford


Grandma Machek

In another tale from the past I mentioned that my Grandmother owned the town movie theater. I also mentioned my Mother played the piano for the silent movies that were shown there. My Mother continued to play the piano, beautifully, for the rest of her life and enjoyed it more than anything else. But I'm not sure my Mother really wanted to learn to play the piano in the first place. Knowing Grandma, it just may have been a business decision.

You see, Grandma was a lady well ahead of her time. The grocery store that Grandpa owned was his, the ice cream store and theater were Grandma's and never the twain would meet. She was an early day entrepreneur and her own woman.

My Sister was pressed into collecting tickets for the theater and every time her boyfriend (later husband) would come to see her, Grandma would make him buy a ticket to get into the theater just to talk to my Sister. My Uncles Louie and Vince were the projectionists and, although I was only six or seven years old, I turned out the lights, if I was still awake.

When I was nine years old Grandpa passed away, the boys (my Uncles) and my Mom took over running the store and Grandma shut down the theater and moved to California. Grandma's sister was out there already and she reported gold was lying in the streets for an entrepreneur like Grandma.

This was a time when the sun was setting on the golden years of Hollywood. Anti-trust legislation forced the studios to separate the business of making films from the business of showing them. As a result, the big studios lost their stranglehold on what people were allowed to see. Also, television was emerging as a viable contender for the attention and wallets of America. The stars that had made their mark during the twenties and thirties were still on top though. Hawkers on street corners sold maps to tourists so they could find the mansions of the stars, stand outside and just wonder what was happening inside that world.

Grandma didn't live in Hollywood but about sixty miles away. She was close enough to visit and she did own a black, four-door Chrysler that made it look like she belonged there. Of course she didn't drive so she would sit in back while Uncle Joe, her brother-in-law, drove her wherever she needed to go.

So one day Grandma ordained that they would travel to Hollywood and take a look around, after all, she was in the picture business. Uncle Joe told us what happened then.

Somehow, Grandma and Joe drove up to the mansion-like home of Mary Pickford and actually pulled into her driveway. Today, not many of you may know who I'm talking about but then, Mary Pickford was still one of the most famous stars in Hollywood. She was known as "America's Sweetheart," "Little Mary" and "the girl with the golden curls." She was an Oscar-winning motion picture star and co-founder of United Artists in 1919.

Grandma got out of the car and told Joe to follow her up to the door. She rang the bell and waited. As one would expect in that day and age, a maid, wearing the traditional black and white outfit opened the door. She looked at Grandma standing there dressed to the nines in her black dress with a fox stole hanging around her neck. Then her gaze moved to poor Uncle Joe, standing there with hat in hand but, probably looking like something akin to an actual chauffeur! The maid said; "Yes, may I help you?" Grandma answered; "I would like to speak to Miss Pickford." Just like that! Apparently the maid was taken aback and asked if Grandma had an appointment. Grandma told her she didn't but thought she would drop by to see if she could meet Miss Pickford. After all, she was in the entertainment business, had shown all of Miss Pickford's movies and thought she would like to meet her.

Uncle Joe said the maid just stood there looking at Grandma not knowing what to say. I suspect she was about to slam the door when down this grand staircase behind the maid came the lady herself, Mary Pickford. She asked what was happening and before the maid could answer, Grandma repeated her story.

Without batting an eye, Mary Pickford invited Grandma in and asked if she would like to have a cup of tea with her. Joe's mouth was still open when the maid invited Grandma in and closed the door on him saying; "Not you!"

So that was the day that my Grandma had tea with the famous Mary Pickford. She never mentioned this to any of us but she never stopped Joe from telling the story either. That's the reason we never knew what they discussed but, I'm positive Grandma held her own in that conversation.

Eventually we followed Grandma to California and helped her open another business venture, a small grocery store next to her house. She was getting on in years and that was all she could handle but she was still in business.


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WW said:

Josephine M I thank you for the memories as well. Love you.

WW said:

I never thought of the drums for the silent movies but, my Uncle Louie did play the drums as well. I wonder...

Josephine M said:

that story was wonderful and well done....Many memories
Thanks xoxo

Josie said:

Walt, my father played the drums at the silent movies here in the Tivoli Theatre in Karangahape Road, Auckland...many years ago!!! However he did not own the theatre.

WW said:

Could be Susie but, knowing Grandma, she probably told Miss Pickford what she thought was wrong with United Artist Studios.

Susie said:

Great story Walt. Too bad you never found out what they discussed. Must have been so wonderful she filed it away in her memory and didn't share for fear of losing part of the treasure.

Sis said:

Way to go....brings back all sorts of memories of Gramma....and all those tickets I collected!


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