clark gable akron ohio

In 1918, Clark Gable grew bored with farm life in rural Palmyra and was intrigued by the rubber tire boom happening in nearby Akron. Against his father’s wishes, he dropped out of school and headed there to start anew.

clark gable akron ohio

Akron near where the Miller Tire Company used to be

Clark worked as an office clerk in the Firestone plant before moving to the Miller Tire and Rubber Company.  He rented a room from a couple on Steiner Avenue, a short walk from work.

clark gable akron ohio

Firestone

clark gable akron ohio

Firestone

Here’s what Steiner Avenue looks like today…not exactly an area we felt safe hanging out in for a long period of time:

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One night after work at the factory, Clark went to The Akron Music Hall and saw a performance of The Bird of Paradise. It was that night that changed the course of his entire life. Seeing that performance was all it took for Clark to want to be an actor. Persistent Clark started running errands for the company, sweeping the stage–anything he could do to be a part of the company. He finally appeared on stage for the very first time as a spear-carrier in one night’s performance.

The Akron Music Hall was a beautiful building that stood on East Exchange Street in Downtown Akron.

clark gable akron ohio

Sadly, this stately building, the site of Clark’s first acting job, was wrecked down in 1929 and in its place was built the local newspaper offices, now the Akron-Beacon-Journal.

Pictures of the building today:

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Soon after, the theater company left town and so Clark had to join his father on an oil rigging job in Oklahoma. He never would return to his home state of Ohio.

That concludes my trip to Ohio! Thank you everyone for your support!

In 1917, Clark’s father Bill Gable packed up his family and moved from the little town of Hopedale north 50 miles to the rural outskirts of Ravenna, Palmyrna Township.

The area is still very rural and quaint, with houses far apart and cows and horses visible from every yard.

Here is Alliance Rd, where the Gables moved to:

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And here is the house, modernized and added on to, but still standing!

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Clark was not happy in Palmyra and missed all his friends from Hopedale. He attended Edinburgh High School, which has since burned down, but a new school was built in its place:

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In 1920, Clark traveled back to Palmyra Township when he received news that his beloved stepmother was ill. She died in her room at the farm on January 11 and was buried just up the street in Palmyra Cemetery.

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It took us a little while to find her. The cemetery is not extremely large but is packed with graves dating back to the Civil War!

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It was a cloudy, dreary, bittingly cold morning when we visited. And me without my coat! The cemetery is well kept and is still the town cemetery, as there were recent plots and room for many more on the far corners. Despite the weather, we wandered for a while gazing at the headstones, many a hundred years old or more.

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Clark and his stepmother Jennie Dunlap

 

Jennie is sadly all by herself. Although there is a space for him here with Jennie, Bill Gable was cremated and is interred alone in Hollywood Forever Cemetery in California.

clark gable jennie dunlap ohio clark gable jennie dunlap ohio clark gable jennie dunlap ohio clark gable jennie dunlap ohio clark gable jennie dunlap ohio

Teenage Clark Gable in Hopedale

Teenage Clark Gable in Hopedale

After Clark’s mother Adeline died in her hometown of Meadville, Pennsylvania, in November 1901, his father left him in the care of Addie’s sister, brother-in-law and parents, and went back to Ohio to continue oil drilling. In the small village of Hopedale, he met Jennie Dunlap and became instantly smitten. Everyone was surprised that she returned the rough Bill Gable’s advances and accepted his proposal. They were married on April 16, 1903. Soon afterwards Bill went back to Meadville to collect his son. Addie’s family was not happy to give up the boy and many tears were shed, but Bill was his father and had found his boy a mother.
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Childhood in Hopedale was happy for young Clark.  The new family moved into a small home on Church Street and attended the Hopedale Methodist Church.
 
In 1911, Bill built a house on Mill Street.  This house has the honor of being where Clark spent the happiest years of his childhood. It still stands today as a beautiful home.  It has been added on to and now has a detached garage.  Different from Clark’s time certainly, as it is now across from a food mart.
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It is said that Clark would often walk up the street to Hopedale Mill, which was just by the train tracks. Well, up the street were train tracks and some abandoned coal cars, which I believe signifies where the mill used to be.
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Some pictures around Hopedale:
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We drove from one side of Hopedale to another in under ten minutes. Not exactly a thriving metropolis, but a quaint little town, the kind where everybody knows everyone else’s business. My friend and I stood out like sore thumbs, walking around and snapping pictures. People stopped and stared at us. (Oops)
On the way, we passed the Hopedale Cemetery and stopped in to visit the Dunlaps.
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Maria was Jennie’s mother, Lizzie, Lucy, Edson, John and Mary were her siblings.
 
In 1916, the family fell on some rough financial times and Bill was forced to sell the house in Hopedale. Much to young Clark’s chagrin, Bill decided to move the family to a farm near Ravenna, which is over 100 miles north of Hopedale.
That is up next!

baby clark gable

A brief little post here on our trip to Dennison.

 Dennison, Ohio is a little town of about 3,000 people about 23 miles from Cadiz. Our sole purpose for visiting was the Immaculate Conception Church.

clark gable baptism dennison

 Clark Gable’s mother, Adeline, was a devout Catholic. She was very ill after his birth and had psychotic episodes and seizures. In one of her lucid moments, she pleaded for her only child to be baptized Catholic. There was no Catholic church in the little town of Cadiz at that time, so a neighbor named John Conway and his wife took baby Clark to the closest church—Immaculate Conception in Dennison. He was baptized there on July 31, 1901. Father Patrick M. Heery officiated, and at first balked at baptizing the infant without his parents and was irritated that little Clark had gone nearly six months without being baptized. He apologized for his complaints when he was apprised of the situation.

clark gable dennison baptism

 Built in 1871, it is still a beautiful church. Across the street is the Catholic elementary school, and we could hear children reciting Bible verses through the windows as we walked by!

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clark gable baptism dennison clark gable baptism dennison clark gable baptism dennison clark gable baptism dennison


clark gable baptism dennison

It was a weekday and no one was in to open the doors for us, and so I only have pictures of the outside.

 
Next up: Hopedale, where Clark spent his childhood!

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Let’s begin our walk in Clark Gable’s footsteps through Ohio at the beginning, shall we?

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Cadiz City Hall

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.

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clark gable general custer cadiz

Some pictures around Cadiz:

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Cows, lots of cows

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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.

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Clark Gable Birth Home Museum

clark gable cadiz

Clark Gable Birth Home Museum

clark gable cadiz

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.

clark gable baby cadiz

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.

clark gable cadiz

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).cadiz29w clark gable cadiz

 

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.

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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!

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clark gable cadiz dearmrgable.com

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.

clark gable cadiz dearmrgable.com

How do you put gas in this car? By opening up the tail light! Who knew?

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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.

clark gable cadiz dearmrgable.com

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:

Butterfly McQueen

butterfly mcqueen cadiz

Ann Rutherford

ann rutherford cadiz

Cammie King

cammie king cadiz

Fred Crane

fred crane cadiz

Rand Brooks

rand brooks cadiz

 

Patrick Curtis

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Daniel Selznick (son of David)

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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!