Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Queenie

"Winner of a prize in the Mitchell Hill Owners Hill Climbing Contest
and Scene at Start," San Francisco Call, July 4, 1908

You were “Queen Marion Walcott” in the emergency passport application dated 1924. But two decades later your death certificate from the town of Villeneuve-Loubet, France, stated that you were “Marion Queen Walcott.” And in 1895, when a reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle described how you rode a bicycle “so blithely over the smooth park roads,” he referred to you as “Miss Queenie Walcott.”

What on earth were you doing in Villeneuve-Loubet in February 1944? The French General Philippe Petain, a hero of the Great War (the “Lion of Verdun”), went to live in this Mediterranean village soon after the Versailles Treaty was signed. He considered it his home through World War II when, as a Nazi collaborator, he served as Prime Minister of the Vichy government. 

It looks like Queenie may have died of a communicable disease; perhaps she went south for a cure.

Why else might she have left Paris, where she moved in the early 1920s to teach wealthy young women how to ride horses? It made sense; for years she worked as a riding instructor at the Del Monte Hotel in Monterey, California. That was after a decade spent racing up and down the Pacific Coast in a Mitchell roadster, winning first prize in 1908 and 1909 for finishing a mile in one minute, 34 seconds, at Arum Rock in San Jose. Her stenography business also drew attention. "She incidentally solicits a large part of her business with the help of an attractive automobile of silver hue,” the San Francisco Call reported. 

It’s interesting that Queenie, figuratively born on wheels, ultimately devoted herself to the animals that cars replaced.  

She was the youngest of four children born to John and Rebecca Josephine Butterfield Walcott, New Englanders who moved to the farm town of Magnolia, Illinois, and then to Santa Barbara because the weather would improve the health of their oldest child, Earle. (See November 4 post.) Earle, twenty years older than Queenie, pursued life as a writer and civic official. His sisters – who ended up being the ones who died young – became teachers. Queenie, who arrived in 1879 when the three eldest were preparing to enter Berkeley, would not be . . . well, bookish.

Someone deposited her at the Irving Institute, a boarding school for young ladies in San Francisco, but she did not complete the course.

By the time Queenie died, only her nephew remained to be notified. I wonder whether Willard Walcott Beatty, an eminent progressive teacher and administrator with a deep understanding of child development, ever reflected on how his aunt educated herself. 


Queenie's death certificate, France 1944

See also: November 4 + 29, December 2, 2015; January 12 + 16, 2016 posts.

http://www.throughthehourglass.com/

3 comments:

  1. I like imagining her "stay" at the Irving Institute. Restless in class but smarter than the teachers, getting in the other girls in trouble, and finally pretending to be sick one day only to slip out to explore San Francisco, quite unapologetically unchaperoned.
    That would have been the final straw, no doubt.

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  2. I just found you. I need to know more. I also followed this story this far, to Southern France. Where to begin? It starts in Santa Barbara...
    When she left roadstering for a horse-job at Del Monte, it seems she met a British sailmaking baron with cattle interests in the United States, as her British arrival papers show her destined to visit him, a man who had been at Del Monte years before. When in Paris, she was guiding ladies through the Bois de Boulogne, before fleeing to Nice, where she died of an unknown illness, and her neighbors received her radio and shoes. John Walcott was not her father, but I don't think she ever knew that. WDHollister

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    Replies
    1. Queenie left a tantalizing trail. Email me at claudiajkeenan@gmail.com and we can share more information and questions.

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