When I was a youngster growing up in South Central Los Angeles, this cowboy made it possible for my mother to buy me some new shoes for Catholic school.
, isn't it? They hooked my sophisticated, college-educated mother up with an agency to contact so she could make some extra cash money on Saturdays working for a Hollywood wife. One day, Mom came home and told me that she'd gotten an extra job. The woman who hired her, she calmly revealed, "...is married to Stoney Burke."
rodeo cowboy Stoney Burke on ABC! Mom gave me that "hold your horses" look and told me this was news to keep within the family. I do remember Mom calling me on a Saturday after finishing her part time work. She told me to be ready. She'd drive home, get me and take me to Thom McAn's to buy me new shoes for school. My mother is now in her 80s and recovering in a good facility from a fall in her house. She had leg problems and another health issue. I visited her last weekend. Odd to see the nurse convalescing in bed and in need of a nurse's care. Mom and I talked for hours. It was a wonderful visit. She was healing and in great humor. She brought up her brief time being employed by Marie Lord, Jack Lord's wife. Mom liked her and appreciated her very much. She said that Jack Lord "...was very particular about how he wanted his shirts ironed. Starch in the collar."
Like my mother, I'm older now too. I had to crash through some of the same color barriers that my mom -- and dad -- did as a black person in America. I have so much more respect for my mother taking that job with no trace of ego or vanity. In fact, in order to make that extra household money doing someone else's laundry, she tried to play down her educational background and skills. My mother had assisted doctors in surgery. To get the job, which paid cash, she tried to seem less educated than she was. Apparently, Mrs. Lord caught on when -- during casual talk about movies -- Mom gushed about how much she loved Simone Signoret in Stanley Kramer's Ship of Fools. Not only that, Mom thought it was one of her best performances since Room at the Top, the British film that brought the French star the Oscar for Best Actress of 1959. Mrs. Lord knew immediately that there was more to this woman who was ironing her clothes. This black employee was, in a way, playing a part. She was acting the role of a minor character in a Hollywood home. Mom said that they then "just talked like a couple o' women" and she explained to Mrs. Lord that she was a newly-divorced working mother of three. Without alimony. And two of her three kids were in Catholic school. Mrs. Lord offered my mother a different job. More upscale, with more money. Mom said, "She wanted me to be her social secretary but I felt I just couldn't do it with three kids to raise." Life was changing for our mother. Life would soon change for Mrs. Lord and Mr. Lord. "We're moving to Hawaii," she told Mom one Saturday. The job of ironing Jack Lord's shirts came to a comfortable end because he had to move. Jack Lord had booked a new acting job. He was relocating to start a new TV series for CBS: Hawaii Five-O.
The rest is TV history. The star of series is part of our Rivers Family history. I loved that tropical cop show. I'd watch Jack Lord as Detective Steve McGarrett. Every time he said "Book 'em, Danno," I'd think "Wow, my mom used to iron his shirts. His wife was really kind to my mom." And my mother was really kind to do that extra work for us kids. She tried to make herself seem less than she was so she could do more for her children.