Ginger Rogers and My Dad

4 Nov

I recently noticed that in April, the Ginger Rogers Museum in Independence, Missouri, closed.  Based in the home where Ginger was born in 1911, the museum only opened in 2018.  But due to the pandemic and lack of interest of the public, the owners decided to close and put the house on the market. That news saddened me.  I really wanted to see her home and memorabilia.

Why?  Because I met Ginger Rogers once in New York City at my father’s office. 

She was involved in the fashion industry in NYC, doing some designing for J.C. Penney. My Dad knew her and worked with her on a project.  He owned a company that sold prints to designers. These prints were then turned into fabric and sold to make bathing suits and lingerie.   That was my Dad’s niche.  (See blog below.). I worked for my Dad one summer.  And that is when I met Ginger Rogers.

I had grown up watching Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire movies. I loved them.  I loved the dancing and the songs and the fashion!  I always remembered the saying that Ginger danced better than Fred because she did everything backwards and in high heels!  And it is true.

When I met Ginger Rogers, I had that young and lithe image in my mind.  However, when I met her in the 1970s, she was in her 60s and I was in my early 20s.  And though still an attractive person, she was not the same person I had seen in the movies.  But even though she did not look like the Ginger Rogers in the movies, she did have basically the same voice.  I appreciated that she took time to visit with me before meeting with my Dad. 

After she left, Dad told me that Ginger Rogers was a smart business woman, and that he really enjoyed working with her.

Three of my scarves from Dad.

As part of his job, my dad traveled to Europe several times a year to search for designs and inspiration for new patterns that his artist then modified into patterns for prints that could easily be made into clothing.  As samples, my father would buy silk scarves and bring them back to the USA. 

He also purchased other scarves as gifts! My sister, mother and I had scarves from all over Europe, but Mom had the best collection.  We wore our scarves over our coats and to enhance a sweater. People ask me all the time how I learned so many ways to wear a scarf.  I had years of practice! I still have several scarves my Dad purchased, even though my Dad’s business has been gone for over 30 years.

Note from Ginger Rogers!

Among the people Dad purchased and presented a scarf to was Ginger Rogers.  I know this, because I have her thank you note written on stationary from The Carlyle on Madison Avenue in NYC.  The Carlyle is one of the most exclusive hotels in NYC.

“April 11, 1974

Dear Don –

What a super surprise upon my return from Springfield, Mass. To find your very lovely present of that scarf. Just love it and I adore hand-rolled scarves – and especially one that represents thanks in return for naming a fabric. Hope you kept the name Treadaro? I’ll be interested in its name acceptance!”

(The letter goes on to discuss their business with choosing a print to use in a J.C. Penney’s product. The ending made me happy, because my Dad was a kind soul.)

“Thanks again for this lovely scarf and for your genuine kindness too.

Ginger Rogers”

I love the letter.  When we were cleaning out my parent’s home, I had to keep it.  It is a memory of working for my Dad and meeting Ginger Rogers. 

Even to this day, whenever I watch an older Rogers and Astaire movie, I see her in my mind’s eye.  And during my many years of taking ballroom dancing lessons with my husband, it is Ginger Rogers talent that inspired to keep trying. Whenever we danced a foxtrot, it was Ginger Rogers I was envisioning and trying to emulate. And whenever a song from the that era plays, it is Rogers and Astaire and my parents I see dancing in my mind. (See blog below.)

It is also a memory of the many scarves that arrived in our home.  There were others who received gifts of scarves over the years. But this is the only thank you letter that my Dad saved.

So the closing of the museum touched my soul. I lost my chance to connect one more time with Ginger Rogers.

https://zicharonot.com/2015/01/15/working-for-my-dads-firm-in-nyc-lead-to-my-love-of-lingerie/

https://zicharonot.com/2014/05/03/ballroom-dancing-relaxation-reflection-and-exercise/

7 Responses to “Ginger Rogers and My Dad”

  1. Sharon November 5, 2020 at 1:31 pm #

    What a wonderful memory! I remember scarves – they were a staple with my mom and yes worn every way possible. That one scarf in the middle, cranberry and teal looks very familiar to me. Enjoyed your post 🙂

    • zicharon November 5, 2020 at 1:53 pm #

      Thank you. Yes scarves were an important part of dressing!

  2. Amy November 6, 2020 at 6:41 am #

    This is such a wonderful, heart-warming story—just what we need right now. Thank you for sharing. Those scarves are gorgeous! Your dad was obviously very talented. And I love that Ginger Rogers was coming from Springfield, Massachusetts, when she wrote that note. I live in a suburb of Springfield. I can’t imagine what she was doing here!

    • zicharon November 6, 2020 at 6:46 am #

      Thank you. I needed a happy memory as well. And I had been looking for that letter. I believe she had a home in Springfield, but my memory of that fact might be wrong.

      • Amy November 6, 2020 at 6:48 am #

        I will have to check! I wasn’t living here back then, but I have friends who are lifelong Springfielders, and I bet they will know.

      • zicharon November 6, 2020 at 6:48 am #

        Thanks. I would like to know as well.

      • Amy November 6, 2020 at 6:56 am #

        I’ll let you know!

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