Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Temple Tuesday: Shirley and the Caveman

I recently acquired the puzzling photo above, which fortunately came with a caption on the back. UNfortunately it was in French. Fortunately, there is Google Translate. Here’s what it says:

SHIRLEY TEMPLE AT THE CAVEMAN HOME. As extraordinary as it may seem, there are still primitive beings in the United States who live in caves near Grants Pass, in the state of Oregon. These cavemen received a visit from the little “star” Shirley Temple, who was made an honorary member of the cavemen family, receives her identity card from the hands of little Alice Marie, the youngest cave girl, under the benevolent eye of Bighorn, the tribal chief.

Here’s a clipping from The Daily Palo Alto Times, August 11, 1936, with the headline  “Shirley now a ‘Cavewoman,’” which used the same photo shown above. Apparently, the “Cavemen” were members of a famed southern Oregon club that roamed the woods and caves of that region. Huh.

Shirley’s autobiography, Child Star, tells of the impetus for the trip:

Father had traded in his old LaSalle for a Cadillac, the first of six cars acquired during the next three years, and proposed an auto trip through coastal redwood forests to Vancouver island, Canada.…Passing through Grants ass, Oregon, we were startled to suddenly be surrounded by several dozen men dressed in pelts of deer and bear skin. Prehistoric figures, they leaped up and down around our auto brandishing gnarled wooded clubs, grimacing, and grunting. My parents quickly rolled up the windows and locked the doors. Nobody had forewarned us about the traditional local society of Oregon Cavemen, who only wished to present a scroll of welcome.

Intrigued, I reached out to Melissa (aka “The Colonel”) for more info. She informed me that the event took place on August 1, 1936. I also learned that before having their car jumped, the Temples had received two threats against their daughter, Shirley. One involved a sixteen-year-old Nebraska farmhand who got the idea of an extortion plot from the movies. The other threat came from yet another sixteen-year-old boy who demanded $25,000 to “entertain his sweetheart.” It’s no wonder the Temples were a little unsettled by the Cavemen attacking their car!

If you look closely at this additional photo, you’ll notice that Shirley is missing a tooth!

Shirley was also presented with a gladiolus bloom, which had been developed nearby and named for her. From a vintage article:

Shirley Temple, child-actress, is more interested in her tooth than in extortion notes. The tooth? It’s missing. Shirley revealed the loss when she posed with a gladiolus bloom, developed here and named for her. She posed for a single view and praised the flower. “Now a front view,” said the news photographer. “No,” replied Shirley—“see.” And tossing her ringlets back she smiled, and revealed the loss.

Below, a vintage ad for purchasing said blower/bulb:

The accompanying photo of the Shirley Temple Gladiolus:

The Temple family drove onto Eugene, Oregon, where they spent the night. From the local papers:

Dancing on her toes every minute, yellow curls bobbing about, her big dolly tucked under her arm, Shirley Temple, world idolized juvenile screen actress, arrived in Eugene at dinner time, Saturday evening, and with her parents and traveling party spent the night at the Eugene hotel. Much more adorable and attractive in real life than in pictures, Shirley rocketed hotel life to a high pitch of excitement from the moment she danced inside the door.…With eight in the party to be lodged, the travelers, but especially Shirley, kept things going at a merry pace until “the” rooms could be found, Shirley taking the time out ever so often to give “dolly a nice ride on the davenport.”…After Shirley and her parents had settled in their rooms they went down for dinner and caused nothing short of a sensation.…the first comment from Shirley was: “It’s so nice and green in Oregon.” Shirley was all aglow still from her thrill in Grants Pass where she was made a “Cave Woman” by the Oregon Cave Men. She was just as crestfallen over losing a good luck piece however!…One of the guests calling on the little La Temple was Geraldine Davis, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. George W. Davis. “Jerry” presented Shirley with a bouquet of big zinnias. One in the Temple party was “kidding” Geraldine, asking her to whom the flowers were being presented, if not to him. Upon Geraldine telling him they were for Shirley, little Miss Temple stepped forth to remark—a curl or two flying about as she put her head on one side—“Oh, let’s give him a piece of fern, anyway.”…Shirley and party go north from here. She reports back to work, September 15. Her next picture is “Stowaway,” and later she will make “Sunbonnet Sue.” After that, a jaunt to England is on the calendar, so Mr. Bishop informed us.

A vintage shot of the Eugene Hotel (which opened June 15, 1925, and is still in operation, but as a retirement community), where Shirley stayed:

In a time of Spears, Lohan, and Kardashian, it may seem incredible that an 8-year old girl (with talent, no less!) once dominated the headlines, but she did. On August 2, 1936, Shirley was also featured in the Pasadena Post, with the headline, “TEMPLE VACATION PARTY IN OREGON.”

Child Actress and Parents Said En Route to Astoria.

GRANTS PASS, Ore., Aug. 1. (U.P.)—En route by auto to British Columbia, Shirley Temple, child star of the movies, and party, passed through here this afternoon. lIt was believed their itinerary would take them by way of Astoria.

Back to the Caveman! I found this fun background into/update in a Seattle Times article from April 18, 1999:

Has City Evolved Past Its Caveman? -- Grants Pass Debates 18-Foot Figure's Effect On Image, Tradition

Standing guard at the entrance to this southern Oregon city is an 18-foot behemoth that some people would just as soon forget - the Caveman Statue.

Although most agree he isn't pretty, he is part of a tradition that dates back to 1922, when local business owners formed the Oregon Cavemen club to promote the Oregon Caves National Monument and everything else the area has to offer. "A lot of us posed for it," said Hank Geiske, 64, one of the six remaining active club members. The sculpture was made at International Fiberglass Co. in Venice, Calif., in 1971 for about $10,000. Hauled from Los Angeles by truck, the statue received a lot of stares as Geiske and pals erected the hulking Neandertal. He was dedicated by then Oregon Sen. Eugene "Debbs" Potts on Memorial Day weekend. There the brute stands to this day, like it or not. He stands as a reminder to the Cavemen, billed as the "world's most unique booster club." Renowned for their antics, members dressed in animal skins and carried clubs, making surprise appearances when officials or celebrities came to Grants Pass. Shirley Temple and presidential candidate Thomas Dewey were both ambushed by the Cavemen. President Kennedy, his wife, Jacqueline, and brother Robert have also been greeted by the burly boosters. As late as 1977, Ronald Reagan was made an honorary member of the Cavemen. In its heyday, the group marched in 100 parades a year throughout the West, promoting Grants Pass. But as time has marched on, interest in the group has waned. Furthermore, the statue seems to be trying to hide. The Caveman used to greet all travelers as they entered the city from the north Interstate 5 ramp. But now, five evergreens hide him from the front. In the summer, deciduous trees obscure him almost completely. "There are some people who believe it gives us a Neanderthal image," said Dwight Ellis, executive director of the Grants Pass and Josephine County Chamber of Commerce. "They would rather hide it or move it to some other location." Ellis' feelings are different, however. "I like it," he said. "It gets people to come and take pictures. It's good for Grants Pass."
Among the naysayers, Gary Dalrymple said it was time for the statue to go. "It's an ugly Neandertal," he said. "It's antique and too old, and it does not go with our down-home image. But you can't take it away from the old-timers. It's a touchy subject."
Among the people who like the big guy, Dewey Counts said the towering knuckle dragger is not getting his due. "You can't really see him anymore," Counts said. "The trees should be cleared out so people can see it." Some suggest moving the statue to Grants Pass High School, where Cavemen sports continue to rule the day. School officials are cool to the idea. "It was not made for the high-school campus, to my knowledge," said Kerm Bennett, Grants Pass School District superintendent. "The new campus is not designed to accommodate a statue of that size." Bernard Conrad, a local sculptor, said the city obviously has not come to grips with its conflicted relationship with the Caveman. "I just think it is interesting that it is being relegated off to a little grove of trees," he said. "We're not throwing it away, and we're not keeping him - just throwing him in the closet, so to speak."

It appears the Caveman’s future is at risk!

And now back to Shirley: filming on “Stowaway” began in late September 1936 (photo above). “Sunbonnet Sue” never happened; Shirley’s next film was “Wee Willie Winkie.” I can’t blame Zanuck for changing his mind; “Sunbonnet Sue” doesn’t sound very exciting. The proposed vacation to England didn’t materialize either. Instead, Shirley’s next big vacation was across the country in the summer of 1938.

See more Shirley Temple photos at my main website.


Fifthrider said...

Well I am glad your article later explained why those "cavemen" existed. Today if a bunch of guys dress like that and flag down a car with a child in it, I suspect we're all thinking other motives are involved. Also, nothing says "caveman" like having an ID card. I complain about "you kids today with your stupid hobbies" and yet forget that 100 years ago we had "cavemen." It's a timely topic that's come full circle, especially since there people in today's society tunneling under freeway overpasses ( I-15 & National Ave ) to set up a cave dwelling. We could host that statue down here if need be. Chances are, someone will live inside of it.

Daveland said...

There is probably already a government funded program (paid for with our taxes) to create such a statue!

Fifthrider said...