Today's post covers our visit to John Wayne's birthplace right here in Winterset. He was born Marion Robert Morrison on May 26, 1907, the son of Clyde and Mary Brown Morrison and weighed in at a whopping 13 pounds. By the way, we learned that even though he reached a height of 6'4" or more, his shoe size was a 9-9 1/2! Interesting :)
His father Clyde was a pharmacist who worked on the south side of Winterset's town square. In his youth, Clyde attended nearby Simpson College in Indianola, Iowa. John Wayne described his father as “the kindest, most patient man I ever knew.” Wayne’s mother Mary was of Irish descent, and Duke said “she was a tiny, vivacious red-headed bundle of energy.” Wayne's family moved to Palmdale, California, and then in 1911 to Glendale, California. A local fireman at the station on his route to school in Glendale started calling him "Little Duke" because he never went anywhere without his huge Airedale Terrier, Duke. He preferred "Duke" to "Marion", and the name stuck for the rest of his life.
Located just a block from John Wayne Blvd., the modest four-room home the Duke resided in until the age of 3 has been restored to reflect the way it might have appeared in 1907. An impressive collection of John Wayne memorabilia includes unique items such as the eyepatch worn in the movie True Grit, a hat worn in Rio Lobo, and a prop suitcase used in the film Stagecoach. Hundreds of rare photographs of Duke are on display as well as letters from Lucille Ball, Gene Autry, Maureen O’Hara, Jimmy Stewart, Kirk Douglas, Bob Hope, Ronald Reagan and George Burns. Unfortunately, no photos are allowed inside the home although they do allow as many as you like on the rest of the property. I especially liked a note pertaining to an autographed copy of "The John Wayne Story," a 1972 biography in which he inscribed:
Haven't read this yet. Hope I won't regret signing it.
Although he enrolled in a cancer vaccine study in an attempt to ward off the disease, Wayne died of stomach cancer on June 11, 1979, at the UCLA Medical Center. Since its opening, the childhood home of John Wayne has been visited by over one million people, including many celebrities and dignitaries. On November 3, 1984, President Ronald Reagan commented that the John Wayne Birthplace is an inspiring tribute to a good friend and a great American. In fact, his signature is in the guest book right above the Governor of Iowa's.
The tour lasted about 20 minutes and the cost was $6 for seniors. The property is run by a non-profit organization and there are plans to build a museum very soon. We understand they've almost reached their financial goal. 93 year old Maureen O'Hara, was on hand this past Memorial Day weekend for the ground breaking for the new John Wayne Birthplace Museum. In one of today's pics, Aissa Wayne is behind Maureen. Nice that she has maintained a close friendship with the family. There is a wonderful bronze of 'The Duke' just around the corner from the house. We enjoyed ourselves and if you get in the area it's worth a visit. Dad would have loved it!