External Photo Clues:
Box 3, Photograph #16
Always the life of the party, this is a photograph of Lorne Hughbert doing his best Red Skelton impersonation. I took this on the evening of December 31, 1958 at my New Year’s Eve Party celebrating the ringing in of 1959. We were in the basement room at my home on Chautauqua Avenue. Lorne attended the party with my friend Paul Noth, who is in the dark suit, laughing along. At midnight the boys pretended to dance a tango together, Lorne with a long silk rose in his mouth. Everyone laughed at the antics of these confirmed bachelors.
From what I knew, Lorne grew up in Norman, and was from a long line back to the Land Run. After he graduated from the High School he attended the University of Oklahoma, where my late husband, Dr. Buchanan, had served as fourth President in the 1920’s. Lorne worked toward a drama degree as he wanted to be in the movies. Sadly, Lorne’s father passed away after a lengthy illness and Lorne had to quit college and go to work to assist his mother, with whom he lived on Miller Avenue. He told me once having to end his college career was one of the darkest points of his young life. He took a job as a projectionist at Sooner Theater, working nights and weekends, and soon grew to enjoy it. He told me over lunch once that he loved to sit in the Projectionist Booth and watch the movies. His favorites were the Spaghetti Westerns and the big costume dramas like Cleopatra. Betty Davis was his favorite actress and he could do a spot on imitation of her.
Lorne met Paul at Sooner Theater, after Paul came five times to see Giant. They immediately became the best of pals. Paul worked the counter at Rexall Drug Store, just down Main Street from the Theater at the new Shopping Center. He served up ice cream and cokes to shoppers and the kids of the Eagleton neighborhood, where I live. I had met Paul at the Rexall, and had been so taken by his dashing charm that we became fast friends. Once the boys met, they began attending my cocktail parties and the two of them would come and lunch in my garden and tell me the funniest stories until I could just not stop laughing. One afternoon we even drove to Sulphur and took a dip in the cold springs.
The boys had a falling out in early 1965, after Paul wanted Lorne to share a house with him, but Lorne was reticent to move away from his mother. And in a fit, Paul moved to Dallas to work in a shoe store. At first both boys kept up with me with letters and Christmas cards, but they both seemed distant. Lorne came over that Easter and we lunched on the patio, but he just didn’t seem his old self without Paul there laughing at all of his jokes. Lorne admitted that they had originally fought because his mother did not approve of Paul. Lorne also said he had not spoken to Paul since Paul had moved. This made me sad for both of them. I lost touch with the boys sometime after that Easter.
A few years later I read in the paper that Lorne’s mother had passed away, and I sent a lovely spray of Asiatic lilies to the memorial. And then in the following year, what to my surprise, I ran into them both shopping at Sterr’s Grocery Store on Main Street! Apparently since the funeral they had made up over their old differences and Paul had moved back to town and was now living with Lorne in his old family home.
And they have lived there ever since. We still visit when we can, now having luncheons in their beautiful garden. The boys have never seemed happier, and let me tell you, Lorne can still do the funniest Bette Davis impersonation you have ever seen!
Mrs. Dr. James S. Buchanan, 1976
About The Author:
Jeffrey M. Wilhite is an Oklahoma academic with an interest in creative writing. He is the author of the blog, Frankie Goes to Home Depot, which presents a series of stories about Michael and Thad, a middle aged gay couple in Oklahoma who are coming to realize that the highlight of their once fabulous social life was now a Saturday night trip to Home Depot.
About The Imaginary Family Project:
The 2011 Imaginary Family Project is a year-long collective art endeavor coordinated by occasional amateur artist Quentin Bomgardner and co-sponsored by The Red Dirt Chronicles. This project is based around “lost” vintage photographs, which have been acquired at flea markets, garage sales, estate sales, and eBay – heirloom collections, with no heir. Every week a different author will “find” one photograph by creating an imagined history around one of its subjects. At the end of the year, the collection will be compiled and presented as a group.