Jackie Autry's June 15, 2001
Letter to Gene Autry's Friends
Fan Club Magazine
Posted June 28, 2023
Over the decades there were several Gene Autry Fan Club publications. "Gene Autry's Friends" was published twice a year from 1995 thru 2006 by Gene Autry Fan Club President Rose Marie Addison, Editor Marilyn Eldrenkamp, and artist Ray Mulley.
The Spring & Summer 2001 issue number 13 included a letter to Gene's fans from Jackie Autry dated June 15, 2001. She shares the story of how she first met Gene and their courtship. It's a charming reminiscence reflecting worth sharing again today.
To read more about Jackie Autry, visit the Jackie Autry section of the website.
June 15, 2001
As usual the Gene Autry Office has been busy and I know Karla, Maxine, and Alex have some exciting news to bring your way.
My travels have taken me to some interesting ports of call in recent months, and I've made some delightful new friends, especially one who made a great first impression. I've included two photos and I'm sure you will agree this fellow would make a big splash with just about anyone!
In mid-May I traveled to Washington D.C., together with several members of the Autry Museum's Board of Trustees, for the opening of the Autry exhibit ON GOLD MOUNTAIN: A CHINESE AMERICAN EXPERIENCE. This marks the first time one of Mr. Autry's exhibits has traveled to the renowned Smithsonian Institution. The Grand Opening and Reception was a huge success with over 600 in attendance. The exhibit closes on September 30th. If some of you have the opportunity to visit Washington, D.C., or live in the area, I hope you will plan on a visit: It's a beautiful and thoughtfully done exhibit.
A number of you have asked me to tell how I first met Gene as well as a little bit about our courtship. I was first introduced to Gene in 1963 when he acquired the Holiday Inn in Palm Springs (later named the Gene Autry Hotel). At the time I was working at Security Pacific Bank and Gene came in to open escrow on the property. I was asked to type something for him that day.
Over the years, as I moved up to Operations Supervisor and then Assistant Manager of the Palm Springs branch of the bank, Gene and Ina banked with me. In 1973, when I became the Vice President and General Manager of Cathedral City, Gene's hotel manager, Art Steele, moved the accounts there. Periodically Gene would require a notary or some other bank function and I would handle it personally. I would also see Gene on occasion at various desert Black Tie functions that I attended.
In December 1980, I attended a Black Tie event for Eisenhower Medical Hospital. It was an annual fundraiser called "Voices of Christmas". I had a date with a very nice young man. As the function came to a close, I saw Gene and went over to once again pay my condolences on the loss of his wife, Ina. He was very appreciative.
About two weeks later, I received a call from him inviting me to join him and a group of his friends for a New Year's Eve party at the Gene Autry Hotel. He told me I could bring my husband or a date. I found out later he had asked someone whether I was married or not. I actually had two other invitations for that evening. I really didn't like to go out at night on New Year's Eve; however, I felt this would be safe and pleasant so I accepted Gene's invitation. I arrived at the hotel and he sent a golf cart over to take me to his home on the hotel grounds. Joanne and Monte Hale, Alex and Ruth Gordon, Pat Buttram, and Gene's secretary, Patricia Watkowski were there at the party. Gene mc'd the show himself.
After that evening, he began calling me. Eventually I would go over to the hotel at 7:00AM for breakfast. Then breakfast and lunch. And after about two weeks it was breakfast, lunch and dinner.
After lunch one day he called me into his office and asked me to take a seat. I thought he wanted to conduct some banking business. Instead he asked me if I believed in big weddings or small weddings. I replied that I really didn't believe in weddings at all, but to the degree I did it would be very small. A few days later he invited me to go with him to the Super Bowl in San Diego as a guest on a private jet. He said he wanted his partners to meet the future Chairman of the Board of Golden West Broadcasters. After this comment and his question about the wedding, I knew he was in love and that this was Gene's way of proposing.
At the start of the baseball season, I left the bank early and drove Gene to the doctor's office and waited while he had his annual physical. Afterwards, the doctor took me aside and said that Gene wanted me to know he passed his Wasserman test. The doctor thought I also better know that Gene requested a blood test for a marriage license.
In January I had decided to retire from the bank. I didn't like the direction the banking business was taking and I wanted to do some traveling and take a little time to see what I was going to do. Gene seemed so proud of me and all that I had accomplished at Security, so I hesitated. Then on May 6th I submitted my official resignation. It took two and a half months to find a replacement. During that time Gene kept asking me what I was going to do, where I was going, would he see me again, and so on.
Finally, Gene convinced me to go with him to get a marriage license. I sat at the desk, the form in front of me, my hands ice cold and literally dripping wet. I was shaking. Gene turned to me, assessed the situation, and asked, "Do you want me to help you with your application?"
Time went on and the marriage license was set to expire on July 20th. I kept working at the bank until I was replaced on July l7th. On July 18th, Gene said, "Let's get married tomorrow." He called Johnny Grant to find someone to perform the ceremony.
On July 19th, we had breakfast at the Lakeside Golf Club where Gene was a member. Johnny Grant and Pat Buttram joined us, as they were going to stand up for us at the ceremony. Pat said to me, "When you marry you have to have something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue." Pat noted I was wearing a blue dress, let me borrow his handkerchief, and presented me with something new - a "diamond pin". It was a dime attached to a pin. As for something old, in his dry sense of humor he told me that was taken care of as I was marrying Gene.
The Reverend Larry Stamper performed the ceremony. Afterwards we had spaghetti. We spent an afternoon at the Santa Barbara Biltmore Hotel for our honeymoon. Five years later, we took our official honeymoon – a cruise with the California Angels.
I wouldn't have missed a second of being with this wonderful man with a twinkle of mischief in his eyes and a smile that could light up my world.