Southwest Oklahoma's Resource For News and Entertainment
Sunday February 17th 2019

Lucille Was Here in Lawton

Who the heck is Lucille? You have to wait. That’s the rest of the story. Depending on who is telling the story or when, Lucille was born in San Antonio, Texas, on March 23, 1905 or 1906 or 1908. The 1910 census shows her age as five years old. Texas didn’t start recording births until 1908. For reasons known only to her, Lucille used 1908 as the date of her birth in later years. One thing I can state positively; Lucille was born.

Lucille’s father, Thomas LeSueur, left her mother, Anna Bell Johnson, about the time of Lucille’s birth and Anna Bell brought her baby to Lawton, Oklahoma, Again, there is some confusion about the year.

On Fourth Street across the alley from the old City hall was the Ramsey building which contained hotel and office space, the AB Rexall Drug, and the Ramsey Opera House which usually had traveling Vaudeville shows. The Opera House was operated by Mr. Henry J. Cassin. At some time, Anna Bell was married to Henry J. Cassin and the lived at 910 D Avenue in a small but nice house which is still standing.

Lucille preferred to be called Billie and was called that by her friends and playmates whom she entertained by producing her own shows. She loved to dance and drew some of her shows from what she had seen at the Opera House.

Across the street was a boy at least ten years older than Lucille named Don Blanding. Not a playmate, Don has importance to Lucille’s story for one day she was playing in the path of a speeding car and Don told of making a football tackle on the little girl to remove her from danger. On another occasion, Lucille cut her foot badly and Don carried her to be cared for. Don Blanding became known later as The Vagabond Poet and was involved in directing some short films in Hollywood.

For varied reasons depending on the teller of the story, the family moved to Kansas City about 1916 where the family soon split up and Lucille attended public School briefly before being placed in St. AgnesCatholic boarding school where she eventually had to work for her keep. Lucille never lost her desire to dance and entertain and, with all odds against her, She became a top Hollywood Star named Joan Crawford.

In the 1930s, Lucille/Joan happened to meet an old acquaintance, Don Blanding, and asked him, “Do you know you once saved my life?” She asked Don for a poem. He wrote the following:

She was just the little girl who lived across the street, All legs and curl and great big eyes and restless dancing feet,
As vivid as a humming bird, As bright and swift and gay,
A child who played at make believe throughout the livelong day.
With tattered old lace curtains and a battered feather fan,
She swept and preened as “actress” with grubby snub nosed clan
Of neighborhood kids for audience enchanted with the play,
A prairie Bernhardt for a while and then she went away.
We missed her on the little street, her laughter and her fun
Until the dull years blurred her name as years have ever done.

A great premiere in Hollywood…the lights, the crowd the cars,

The frenzied noise of greeting to the famous movie stars,
The jewels, the lace, the ermine coats, the ballyhoo and cries,
The peacock women’s promenade, the bright mascaraed eyes…
The excited whisper as a limousine draws near,
“Oh, look, It’s Joan, It’s Joan It’s Joan” on every side I hear
The chatter, gossip, envy, sighs, conjectures, wonder, praise,
As memory races back to early prairie days,
The little girl across the street…
The funny child I knew
Who dared to dream
Her splendid dreams
And make her dreams
Come true.

Don Blanding