A heavenly dancer?

The next few days might be a let down for readers, but a bonus for me. Why, you ask? Because apart from Sunday, if you’re lucky, one blog will cover both versions! Tonight, because of the event, and next week, because of the holiday. But for now…

113 years ago today, in a small part of Pottawatomie county, Oklahoma Territory (as it was then, only became a state in 1907), a baby girl was born, to, I assume, a Mr and Mrs Johnson. They seemingly named her Clara Elaine, and the rest, in terms of Hollywood Chorus girl duties, and the like, are history.

Maybe one day, I’ll do more of a dig on Ancestry.com, and discover what her parents names were, and if there were any more brothers and sisters, as well as her. The only tentative suggestion (apart from the lack of birth control back then) that there was more than 1 child, was one of her actual film credits, when there was also a Peter Johnson listed in the cast. Of course, that might simply be a name coincidence, though her 1930 Los Angeles census record did mention 1 brother, so I am inclined to suspect it was probably him.

All I know of the early history is that she moved to LA from Texas in 1925, but when the move there, from Oklahoma, no idea. I need a long enough period of time to really work on Ancestry.com to dig into that sort of matter, and also I need the funds to buy a subscription for a few months at least, that I can get to really use to dig for info. So probably wont happen until I’ve finished working, whenever that is, but then… Even then, I suspect I’m only going to have the 1910, and 1920 census details, so unlikely to find exactly when the Texas moved happened is still going to be vague.

The other thing that needs a major digging through, is a list of marriages in the LA area in the late 30’s (most likely, as her work career seems to stop around 37/38), or perhaps the beginning of the 40’s, because for now, thats where my trail goes cold, with the lack of her married name. Given that her daughter she mentioned would now be in her 70’s, if still alive, it might be fascinating to follow the family tree from there. Probably grand children, and great grand children by now! I wonder if any know, or wonder what Grandma/Great Grandma did?

As I say, if I survive to retirement, and I’m mobile enough to still do it, I suspect it might be my post retirement challenge to try and find out more. I guess that nowadays, I could do a lot from the comfort of a computer at home, anyway?

I must admit, one thing I’d love to do, just once, especially at my age, is do the whole chorus girl thing. My dancing wouldnt be great, I’d probably look less than graceful in one of those flimsy outfits, but my attitude is, just once, I dont care, I want to do the whole Clara Johnson thing! I have 2 lovely friends who are trying to work on making that happen, so who knows, but I hope so?

Anyway, given this was the first year I actually have known her birthday, before the big day, I wasnt going to miss this chance. Its funny to think though, she had all the glamour of working in Hollywood, without any of the fame!

So, happy heavenly birthday, Clara Elaine Johnson, and hopefully, maybe one day, we can get to actually meet, though not in this world.

OK, video time. I have seen her dancing in numerous musicals of the late 20’s, and through the 30’s, including many of the famous ones. For all that, back then, unless they went on to make it, chorus dancers didnt normally get credits. One that Clara did, was a film named Strike Me Pink, though seemingly she was working under her middle name at the time, probably because Clara was a little ‘old fashioned’ name by 1936? Its also the best sighting of her, because she fills the screen between 4:13, and 4:17 in this clip

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Soon be living in a brand new state

When I first started trying to find out more about Clara Johnson, it was a case of being in the right place, at the right time. That place, of course was Los Angeles, and a chance to look at the historical 1930 census, or the Los Angeles section of it at least.

And there she was, a certain Miss Clara E Johnson, living in town of course, and even without her giving her occupation as an actress, I might have suspected it was her. It gave me some details which I’ve posted before, the fact that she was born in 1905, in the state of Oklahoma (though it wasnt a state back then, not until 1907, was a territory before then), and that she had moved to Los Angeles, from Texas, in 1925.

I’m delighted to say that last year, I actually managed to find a few pictures of her, firstly from about 1934, then on Christmas day, some more from 1929! It was probably the latter, and some spare time over the holidays that inspired me to try another hunt for details. Remarkably, yes, it worked. Though full birth records didnt start before Oklahoma was a state, basic records were kept, and on one of the State history sites, putting her name, and year of birth into the website, and…bingo!

I now know she was born on 6th September, 1905, and I know she was born in Pottawatomie County! Unfortunately, as to where in the county, no idea, they didnt keep full records there until 1908! I managed to discover the 1920 census, and found 11 Clara Johnson’s living in Oklahoma, and Texas at that time, born in 1905. I assume the others were either born outside of Oklahoma (quite possible for the Texas ones), or their births werent registered properly (or at all), equally possible back then, before officially a state. Snag, Ancestry.com want a fee to see the details, though there is a free option, which might do for me, but its time limited, so I might do something when I’m off in a fortnights time. Hopefully, a date of birth might help to work out which one is her, but no idea if thats recorded, until I try! It wont tell me much more, other than telling me whether she moved to Texas before, or after 1920, I suspect. Parent names might enable me to see if there were any other children, I guess?

Funnily enough, my dear friend Kate is from Oklahoma! She has told me I might be underwhelmed by modern day Pottawatomie County, and I suspect she’s right. I doubt Clara would recognize it either! But yes, a lot of it would be the chance to stand in her footsteps, just once. So maybe next year, I might yet do that, but not before then, for sure! I know, she’s not really an ancestor, but she’s just so special to me, because well, she was me, in one sense at least.

The video? The most obvious Oklahoma one possible, just maybe?