Friday, January 2, 2009

Part II: False Leads and Dead Ends

A couple years ago I tried out a new search engine of scanned newspapers from all over the country that went back nearly 100 years. Of course I couldn't help myself so I punched in Enoch Bolles, and what comes up but the curious article to your right. In it we learned that the Mayor of Odgen, Utah wrote to Film Fun magazine expressing his admiration for the girl on the cover of the October 1934 issue, and was subsequently given the original cover painting! My heart started beating faster. Might this painting still exist? A few Google clicks later I learned that the Pioneer Days rodeo was still going strong, that our Bolles girl was adopted as the official mascot of their annual rodeo and renamed the Whoopie Girl. In fact a close copy of the original image was plastered all over anything even remotely related to the rodeo as these examples show. So that got my heart really pounding. There seemed a real chance that the painting was still around and what a huge prize it would be to get a photo of it for my Enoch Bolles book project (more about the book in another post). So I started making cold calls to various people in Odgen and a week or so later was on the phone with the grandson of the mayor who was given the painting. He said the painting was in storage and that he had made a poster of the image. A few days later I got a mailing tube and practically tore the thing apart getting it open. No dice. The painting was clearly based on the Bolles girl but it was not done by Bolles. Another phone call or two (or three) and the mayor's grandson recalled that they had hired an artist to do an updated rendition of the original painting, which he now thought could have been lost in a move years ago. My heart sank. I'd been thorugh this before, coming close to finding a long lost painting only to have the trail go cold or learn that it was missing or stolen. But a few days later I got a call from a woman who told me a curious story, that her mother, Lorene Donaldson was the original Whoopie Girl. Lorene posed for a photograph in a cowgirl outfit she made herself and at some later time the painting, which became the official image of the Whoopie Girl was done using the photo for inspiration. Lorene's daughter graciously shared photos of her mother and other archival material with me and as you can see, her mom,-all of 14 at the time-was a ringer for the Film Fun cover. This story was pretty much the official version of the Whoopie Girl story and it seemed that only I knew the Bolles image came first (actually Enoch swiped the outfit from one a girl wore in a W.C. Fields movie...I'll try and dig up that image), but that was until I got in contact with Judy Anderson, a local historian who was writing a book on rodeo mascots. And it was Judy who set me back on the trail of the painting.

Next-Part III: Lost and Found!


Joakim Gunnarsson said...

Great detective work.
And given the title of the next post I guess you've found it? :)

Anyway, thanks for posting all of this great Bolles artwork.

Jack R said...

Hi Joakim,
Check out my most recent entry. You'll see that the story gets more complicated.
Glad you're here.

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