Let’s begin our walk in Clark Gable’s footsteps through Ohio at the beginning, shall we?
Cadiz, Ohio is a small town, with no mega-malls, no Starbucks, not even a supermarket–just a Dollar General and a convienence store. It does indeed seem like it’s in the past–I have no doubt that many of the buildings that are there now were there when Clark’s parents moved there.
The homes are all older and mostly unassuming, with some Victorians here and there. The most impressive building is the looming city hall, pictured above, that was built in 1894, so Clark’s birth would have been recorded here. Cadiz-ians are quite proud of their hometown boy and they will also be quick to tell you that General Custer was also from Cadiz.
Some pictures around Cadiz:
William “Bill” Gable and his new wife Adeline “Addie” Hershelman Gable left their home in their native Meadville, Pennsylvania and traveled by train to Cadiz in early 1900. Cadiz at that time was quickly drawing new residents because of a new oil field erected there. Bill Gable always went where the oil was, and so on to Cadiz it was. Booming with oilmen, rental space was hard to come by, but the Gables soon rented a house near Charleston Street, which was not far from the center of town. Addie was described as “odd” by many of the townspeople and the local doctor, Dr. John S. Campbell examined her for diagnosis of a “behavioral disorder.” His prescription? To have a baby (I’m serious.) Addie heeded his advice and soon became pregnant. After heading back to Pennslyvania to spend a few months with her parents, she returned home to Cadiz.
Clark Gable Birth Home Museum
In the fall of 1900, the landlord of the Gables’ little home decided to re-plaster the walls. Rather than endure the hassle of that process, the expectant parents decided to move. Tom and Jennie Reese, friends of the Gables, told them that the apartment above theirs on Charleston Street was vacant. So in the Gables moved, to the top floor of a charming two-family house. To reach their apartment, one had to navigate a rather steep outdoor staircase, which was especially hazardous to pregnant Adeline in the icy and wintery months, so she hardly left the house. The apartment was quaint, with a kitchen, a walk-in pantry, bedroom, nursery and sitting room.
On January 31, 1901, Adeline asked the iceman to make sure to bring ice for the icebox the next day as her baby would be arriving. And right she was. She was in labor for over 15 hours, but at 5:30am the following day gave birth to William Clarke Gable, who tipped the scales at ten and a half pounds.
Adeline never recovered from Clark’s birth and could not care for him very well. Modern biographies list her terminal condition as being everything from epilepsy to schizophrenia to a malignant brain tumor. She suffered convulsions and exhibited psychotic behavior. As her condition deteriorated, the new family of three moved to another home on Lincoln Ave, then eventually back to Meadville, Pennslyvania, so the ailing Adeline could be with her parents and siblings. It was there that she died, on November 14, 1901, leaving behind her husband and ten month old son.
The people of Cadiz were not quick to latch onto being known as the hometown of Clark Gable. In fact, it was not really something that most people knew until February 1, 1984–what would have been Clark’s 83rd birthday. A radio talk show host called the Cadiz post office and asked them if they knew it was Clark Gable’s birthday and what was his hometown doing to celebrate it. When the answer was no, they had no idea and the town was doing nothing to celebrate its native son, the town decided that was shameful and decided from then on to celebrate its place in Hollywood history. The next year, February 1 was declared Clark Gable Day in Cadiz and the Clark Gable Foundation was formed to preserve his memory. By the following year an inscribed granite monument was installed in the empty lot on Charleston Street where the house he had been born in used to be (it was demolished, without fanfare, in the 1970’s because it was unsound for habitation).
Some years later, a local woman left $300,000 to the Clark Gable Foundation in her will, which allowed them to rebuild the birth home of Clark Gable using the original floorplan. The museum was opened to the public on January 30, 1998 by his son, John Clark Gable.
The bottom level of the museum is the gift shop, with many Clark Gable items for sale–everything from t-shirts and mugs to vintage magazines.
The upstairs is the actual museum, in what would have been the Gables’ apartment. There were no pictures allowed upstairs so forgive me (can’t say I blame them, why would you visit if you could see all the pictures on the internet). Jackie was our guide for the museum tour and she could not have been nicer. She seemed relieved that we didn’t need a retelling of Clark’s birth story and instead we chit chatted about each item and she told great stories about where they had come from and how they had acquired them. Some of the items in the museum include:
Original pitcher that Adeline had given to a neighbor as a gift
Clark’s pajamas with his initials embroidered on them
Original signed photographs, letters and checks
Original report cards and school records
Clark’s pipe and standing ashtray
Letter signed by Josephine Dillon Gable
The pantry area has been devoted to Carole Lombard, with several original photographs, her compact with her initials engraved on it, one of her beaded hairclips and pieces from her plane crash.
And the biggest item in the museum is outside in a nearby garage: Clark’s 1954 Cadillac Coupe de Ville. Oh what a pretty car!
Typical of Clark, this car had all the modern conveniences for the time, including a foot pedal to control the radio and even air conditioning.
How do you put gas in this car? By opening up the tail light! Who knew?
Jackie told us that it does indeed still run perfectly and they keep it in working condition.
Outside the museum is the original well, where the Gables would have gone to get their water.
And beyond that are a few concrete slabs where some of the Gone with the Wind co-stars who have visited over the years have left their names and handprints Grauman Chinese Theater-style:
Daniel Selznick (son of David)
When Clark returned to Ohio with his father and new stepmother in 1903, it was to the nearby town of Hopedale, where he would spend the majority of his childhood. Coming up next!