The Half-Circle G Ranch included most of what in now called East Los Angeles

It was a working ranch, that stabled horses, raised some livestock, grew some vegetables, had a few pigs, chickens, donkeys, and lots of rattle snakes.

Dorothy Hales Gary was born on that ranch, and raised there for about 12 years. She had a brother who went to the Los Angeles Military Academy. She went to Westlake School for girls in Thousand Oaks, which was the most posh finishing school west of the Mississippi. It had its own Blue Book. It had girls sports, riding, archery, field hockey, track, swimming. It had dancing, and all kinds of ways of putting social graces in the girls.

At age 16, she became a Lux girl. Lux was a kind of facial soap. Her face was on billboards all up and down the coast. She danced on the chorus in Hollywood and met Mr. Greathouse who was an inventor. He invented the harp for the standing electric light. The harp is the part that goes around the bulb, and has a screw thing on top to hold the lampshade. It’s a small piece of brass that can be stamped out a formed quite cheaply, but there’s no substitute for it. Greathouse owned the patent. So Edison was selling the bulbs, somebody was making the lamps, and Greathouse was providing the harp to go around the bulb and hold the lampshade on top.

Two years later she married Mr Hales who was a furrier with silver fox farms in Wisconsin. She took over running one of his farms and marketing the pelts to big stores in New York City. The middle class could not afford mink, but loved fur coats and silver fox was all the rage in the 1920’s, and 1930’s.

In 1942 she joined the Army Red Cross as a nurse/ambulance driver in France, where, on the field of battle, she met my dad, a spy, and resistance combatant. They were madly in love. In 1946 they married in Grasse (Provence) France. They were dancers, painter, writers, and romantics. I was a result of this love. She never spoke French, he never spoke English, but somehow they understood each other.

I was born at Lenox Hill Hospital on 79th and Lexington Avenue, delivered by Dr. Ernest Kulka and a large staff. Mom was 39. alone, a high risk pregnancy in those days. But I came out fine. I never saw mom and dad together in a room. But I spent a lot of time with Jean Duval (dad) on holidays from school (Rosey) in Switzerland. He took me everywhere. Monaco, Monte Carlo, Cannes, St. Tropez, Juan les Pins. He was a rifle instructor (sniper), so we shot out a lot of streetlamps together, he taught me range, windage, and breath control. He was Legion D’Honneur with cluster so nobody bothered him. He made a living by contract bridge and casino gambling. He taught me how to watch a wheel, and remember the numbers. I saw him make a lot of money at the bridge table. He had a villa in Cannes, and a lovely apartment in Paris, and traveled widely around Europe, painting and playing bridge. In those days contract bridge was a big deal and he was a ranked player, so he always found a foursome.

After that Ted Gary was married to mom for five years. He was a telephone man. His family owned the rights to the Strowger (an early version of the telephone dial. It had no substitute, so Bell had to lease the rights from Ted Gary. The Gary Group became powerful in the telephone business, eventually telephones replaced the Pony Express, the Telegraph, and Air Mail. Today the Strowger technology is a thing of the past. It’s in museums.

She did four art photography books: Sun, Stones, and Silence; Spendors of Byzantium, Splendors of Asia, and Morocco. They filled the windows at Rizollis and other bookstores when they came out. The retired King Edward and Mrs Simpson came to a reception party for Sun, Stones, and Silence.

Mom was OSS during and after the war, just a business information source, not a case officer. But her product was valued because of extensive contacts in the worlds of: Business, Art, United Nations, and the White Russian Emigre Community in NYC. Mom was de-briefed twice a year but never assigned to collect any specific bit of information. But she did know everybody, and her party A list was second to none in Rhinelander 4 territory. She took me to the studio of Hans Hofmann when I was a kid. He showed me how he made his paintings. She bought quite a few, and gave some to museums. She also had Paul Klee, Afro, and Modigliani.

She died in New Hampshire, while celebrating at her 94th birthday party. She walked to the ambulance, but did not make it to the hospital. She drove an ambulance. And died in one.

Her life was a very earnest search for something to believe in. It was a quest to Behold the Spirit. She made sure I was baptised and confirmed as an Anglican. She was enthralled by Russian Orthodox Christianity, and Greek Orthodox as well. Having done a book on Byzantium and visited the palace at St. Petersburg. She admired all forms of spiritual seeking, and did a book on Egypt and a book on Morocco. She was way ahead of her time as a woman in full.


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