Carey Cameron was running a routine errand when she happened to see Georgia Carroll, a dear friend of her late mother, gazing out at her from a file folder with the warning “an attitude is a terrible thing to waste”. Because Ms. Carroll’s daughter, Amanda Kyser (who is a good friend of Carey’s), was expected to be staying in Carey’s apartment while Carey herself was away on a brief trip, Carey purchased all the sets of file folders in the store (2) and propped them on the pillow of the guest bed. Amanda, who was delighted with the gift left on her pillow, opened the package and discovered a model she thought was Carey’s mother in the package as well.
(Carey, in a hurry to leave for her trip, had not examined the packages carefully and had assumed that the file folders all had Georgia’s image on them.) An emailed image allowed Carey to confirm that it was indeed her mother, Katharine Aldridge, musing “and to think that I’m only using one-tenth of my brain”.
Katharine Aldridge was the first of the two friends to make a life in New York.
In 1936, Katharine was eighteen years old and working as a secretary in Baltimore when her Cousin Fitz, who was traveling to New York to exhibit his prize hen in a poultry show at Madison Square Garden, read an article about modeling agent John Robert Powers and sought him out to show him a picture of his lovely cousin.
Katharine had never heard of such a thing as a career in modeling – magazines in those days were illustrated mainly with drawings – but in no time at all she was a top New York model herself!
Her beauty, her charm, and a pronounced dramatic flair (as a freshman in high school she was voted the school’s biggest “scamp”) led her on to a career in films (she signed with Twentieth Century Fox in 1939 and later made pictures with Warner Brothers and Paramount) and eventually to cult fame as an action heroine in sound serials at Republic Pictures.
As the star of “Perils of Nyoka”, her first serial, she was seriously endangered (chased, burned, knocked unconscious…) nineteen times, and she was one of only eight women to receive top billing in sound serials!
In 1945 she married Texas wildcat oilman Arthur Cameron and retired from movies to raise their four children. After her divorce from Mr. Cameron she met and married artist Richard Tucker, moving eventually to Maine, where she lived until her death in 1995.
Georgia Carroll moved to New York just months after Katharine. Like Katharine, Georgia found instant success at the Powers Agency, and became a favorite with photographers and the other models alike. Taintorette Susann Shaw remembers meeting Georgia in the waiting room of a photographer. Susann calls Georgia “the most loveable, beautiful woman she had ever met, as lovely inside as she was out, which is saying something” and she recalls that “everyone was so nice to Georgia because she was so sweet you just couldn’t be anything else”. Georgia and Katharine were often paired as models, and thus began a life-long friendship. Also like Katharine, Georgia traveled to Hollywood and became an actress, signing with Warner Brothers in 1941. On the tour bus for a USO show in which she was appearing, Georgia’s singing caught the attention of a fellow performer, band leader Kay Kyser. In 1943 she joined Mr. Kyser’s band (Kollege of Musical Knowledge) as a featured vocalist.
The two fell in love, were married the next year, and raised three children. After retirement, the couple moved to a historic home in North Carolina, where they continued to lead very active lives. Georgia received her college degree at the age of 50! Meanwhile, Kay enticed Hollywood professionals to North Carolina to help him bring Public Television (brand new at the time and designed to be educational) to his home state, which at that time had a poor literacy rate. He also raised the funds to build the N.C. Memorial Hospital to give returning veterans better health care. Such friends as Frank Sinatra and Doris Day donated their time to help Kay in his efforts. Georgia Carroll Kyser passed away in January of 2011. She will be missed.
Georgia and Katharine remained friends throughout Katharine’s life, and their daughters and granddaughters still maintain warm friendships. It is heartwarming indeed that, as Amanda says, “our mothers are together again under the same piece of cellophane.”
(Note from Anne: the amazing thing to me is that I had planned for the third folder in the series, “stop me before I volunteer again”, to be the top folder. The manufacturer made a mistake assembling the set, but I loved the way it looked and let it go. Had everything gone according to plan I might never have heard the stories of these amazing women! And I might never have met Carey and her husband Giovanni, which would have been a sad loss indeed!)