Dakota Datebook

The Gable Connection

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

 

The idea that everyone in the world is separated by six degrees or less has been around for a while, although Kevin Bacon helped to popularize it.

 

On this day in 1948, several North Dakotans remembered and reported their own link to one of the most remembered, influential young actors of the time: They were connected to “The King of Hollywood” himself, Clark Gable, the actor perhaps most recognized for his work as Rhett Butler in “Gone with the Wind,” or for his Academy Award-winning role in “It Happened One Night.”

 

Clark Gable never came to North Dakota, and, as a Hollywood heartthrob, he lived in a very different world, far removed from the plains of our prairies.

 

However, his father, William Henry “Bill” Gable was deeply rooted in the midwest. He was an oil driller in Ohio, soon to be a single father after Clark Gable’s German-Irish mother, Adeline Hershelman, died. He remarried a small-town girl named Jennie Dunlap, who helped raise his son into a well-kept young man.

 

After his second wife died, Bill decided to turn to farming, and moved to Ravenna. Clark eventually left home, uninspired by agriculture. Bill, however, moved around some more, “following the harvest from Texas northward.” He traveled north clear up into North Dakota, and for a few years, Bill Gable lived and worked in Buchanan, North Dakota, as a truck gardener in Stutsman County.

 

He didn’t stay very long, and when he left in 1938, his North Dakota neighbors lost track of him. When his August 4 death in California, caused by a heart ailment, was reported in Jamestown, his old neighbors began to reminisce.

George Beaumont, the assistant Jamestown postmaster, said that Bill Gable had worked for his brother, Harry, sometime around 1932. When he left, they had all assumed that he had gone to work for his famous son as a gardener, but that didn’t work out, and he moved to Oklahoma. After that they lost touch.

 

He said Bill Gable didn’t talk much about his son, and what little he did say “had to be dragged out of him.” Not everyone believed that he was father to the famous Hollywood star, but another resident, Harold Knight, said that “Bill showed (him) pictures of Clark when he was a boy,” asserting that “No one but his father could have had them.”

 

Perhaps the best memory was that “the elder Gable” said he “found folks to (his) liking” in Buchanan.

 

It really is a small world.

 

Dakota Datebook written by Sarah Walker

 

Sources:

Bismarck Tribune, Friday, August 6, 1948, p.1

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clark_Gable

The Jamestown Sun, Saturday, August 7, 1948

The Jamestown Sun, Thursday, August 5, 1948

 

This text and audio may not be copied without securing prior permission from Prairie Public.

Dakota Datebook is a project of Prairie Public, in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, with funding from the North Dakota Humanities Council.

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