Shirley's Story

Born in the early 1900’s, in log cabins in Kentucky, my parents always had the pioneering spirit. We had crossed the Ohio bridge, between Indiana and Kentucky together so often, I never said good-bye to anyone—just “See you later!”

Location has often determined who I met and what happened next. After I had transferred to Indiana University from Western State College, Bowling Green, Kentucky, Fall of 1956, I met a member of Alpha Xi Delta during rehearsals for the annual 1956-57 Jordan River Review and was invited to be a member…..That was a simple decision! Many wonderful experiences happened anytime I met an Alpha Xi Delta member in college and After college.

An example of location happened before I graduated high school, May of 1954, when the Horace Heidt Show had offered me a job as a dancer. I had performed a tap routine on May 7, 1954, with the Horace Heidt Orchestra. My first dance teacher, Peggy, was at the piano, during that talent contest at Central City, Kentucky. After the show, Mother and I had been told to be in the parking lot early the next morning to meet them and travel to California with them, (where they always prepared the show for the next winter season at the Horace Heidt HH Ranch in San Fernando Valley, California. We were handed a brochure that had several pictures, including one of the swimming pool and were told that performers could swim between rehearsals and have all expenses paid but not to be late! Because they would be leaving for California very early. I was very interested in going, to see my third cousin in California and to learn to swim. I had loved to tap dance since Peggy sold me my first pair of tap shoes while I was in 8th grade for $.50. They had belonged to her in college.

But how could anyone make that decision overnight?

In March 1962, I had already joined the Screen Actor’s Guild in Los Angeles, California, when Warner Brothers Studio hired me to be a Hollywood blonde in Gypsy. My parents and I had traveled to San Diego where I performed a role in a production at Circle Arts Theater and met several members of Gamma Alpha Chapter of Alpha Xi Delta. They invited me to join them for ceremony laying the cornerstone for their new chapter house at San Diego State College. What a thrill!

Most recently on April 7, 2018, I had the pleasure of meeting several current Theta Pi members from Indiana University and other Alpha Xi Delta members celebrating our 125th anniversary. I was presented a beautiful pink rose in honor of my own 60 year Alpha Xi Delta membership. How fortunate I was that I had waited until after college graduation to explore a career in the film industry! Now I have three grandchildren in California and three in Indiana and understand why my parents had suggested attending Indiana University. That was where they could see me without a more than 2000 mile trip—especially when the unit production manager of Raintree County had suggested that I transfer to college like UCLA in California where the center of the film industry existed and where I could obtain a film related career! When I obtained a theater degree at Indiana University, I gained much more than a diploma. I had gained the friendship of my sisters in Alpha Xi Delta, that will always be in my heart.

As a life member of Dance Educators of America, SAG (Screen Actor’s Guild), AFTRA, AEA (Actor’s Effort Association) and AGVA (American Guild of Variety Artists) and as a performer with the USO on tours for 5 months, performing tap specialty acts in a real jungle in South Vietnam in March 1964, I realized how fortunate and lucky I am to be alive and have such wonderful memories—and friends!

I realize one of my most precious memories was the weekend before college graduation June, 1958. This was at Nancy’s home in Seymour, Indiana, beside the lake with 4 of my Alpha Xi Delta Sisters. It was where we rode in the boat, played Bridge, and had several delicious cookouts and a lot of fun!! When I left them, I said “See you Later!”