It's a beautiful fall day in Los Angeles 1929, and Olive Barnette, who preferred to be known as Shirley, was just 17 and graduated from a "silk stocking" high school. She knew she was destined to be a movie star. Indeed she had urged her mother to move the family to Hollywood from New York. But first, she was to visit her aunt in San Francisco, a wicked city where speakeasies operated openly during this Prohibition time, and bathtub gin was free for the asking, particularly if you were a young good looking natural redhead like Shirley. She knew, because she had read about it. Yet, this trip was to change several lives in ways the 17 year old could never have imagined.
Shirley had already experimented with liquor, had read about the Hollywood 'casting couch'. and was sure she was ready. Shirley was sophisticated, at least as sophisticated as a 17 year old can be. We don't know what happened in San Francisco, but when Shirley returned to Los Angeles she found she was pregnant, a fact she tried to ignore by drinking until ignoring it became impossible. She finally put herself at the tender mercies of the Salvation Army Women's Home in Alhambra, and at 2:25 pm on June 3, 1930 gave birth to a baby boy she named Phillip Wesley, identifying the father as a 21 year old university student named George Gregor.
Shirley was to leave the hospital alone, which probably suited her just fine, while Phillip was to remain in the hospital for several days being treated for the Rickets he was born with due to lack of proper nourishment while Shirley was carrying him. Shirley never returned to the hospital, but her mother, Leone, like many mothers before and after, took the baby from the hospital and accepted the responsibility of raising another child in her later years that she had neither the finances or desire to do. Shirley, for her part, did participate in the raising of Phillip when she was sober, but would not identify him as her son to her male friends, but rather as her younger brother
--to be continued