As always, remarkable stories reveal themselves in the least likely places. This unique and sweet story about my mother is a recent discovery that transpired in the course of a few days, coming from a tiny niche in southern California that, in my eyes, is a big surprise.
Imagine yourself living during the time from the late 1940’s through the 1950’s. You are an employee at St. Joseph Hospital located directly across the street from the Walt Disney Studio’s in Burbank, California. Before 1955 Disneyland existed only in the mind of Walt Disney (I can’t comprehend that at one time there was not a Disneyland). My mother was one such person working in administration, registering incoming patients. Back in those days most hospital employees participated in one form or another in caring for patients and this is certainly how mom developed her impeccable nursing qualities.
My mother standing on the lawn at St. Joseph Hospital (circa, late 1940’s).
St. Joseph Hospital and Disney Studio’s had a very special relationship. Mr. Walt Disney, and his animators, made regular visits to the children’s ward at the hospital and mom met them all several times. At one point my younger brother was a patient there, suffering from dehydration. During one of Walt’s visits, mom told us that he lifted Scotty right onto his lap, and after talking to the children and said his goodbyes, he gave a gentle kiss on Scotty’s forehead…I don’t know how I would describe this experience in words and my brother doesn’t remember that day. Walt Disney passed away at his beloved St. Joseph Hospital on December 15, 1966, ten days after his 65th birthday.
When I was young, from the top shelf in the closet, mom would bring down her box of prized possessions she had collected since her childhood. At one particular time, she brought out a simple pencil sketch of her drawn on the back of a blank patient registration form from St. Joseph Hospital. Honestly, I don’t remember the full story behind the drawing except that a friend stopped by and doodled while they talked. Over the years I had forgotten about it until she passed away in 2005 when I brought it out from her box and preserved it in a special place to protect it from damage.
Recently I shared the drawing in a closed group on FaceBook and noticed the artist’s signature was quite prominent. It’s always been there but this time there was something about it, and the components of the drawing, that captivated my attention; the softness of my mother’s eyes as if she is in deep contemplation, her hair uneven, her beautiful lips, on the back of a registration form of all places.
My mother, drawn and signed by Duff Tweed (circa, late 1940’s or early 1950’s).
It was time to research this artist so off to Google I went, typed in Duff Tweed, and hit the jackpot. To my amazement I discovered that he was an extraordinary wood carver and that’s where I found the perfect lead to finding who this person was behind the signature. Of course I emailed Joe, a true Duff Tweed collector, right away and asked to verify it. He acknowledged that Duff’s signature and the drawing were indeed original. On his blog he shared the drawing (dufftweed.blogspot.com) and noted:
“I verified this is an authentic Duff Tweed pencil drawing after having seen enough to recognize his signature and style. This drawing does look different, but Duff drew with emotion, and depending on the subject matter and time in his life, each drawing shows a different level of focus and detail. It’s his work. He always paid the most attention to detail in the eyes; for his illustrations and carvings.”
Duff Tweed was not only well known for his wood carvings, he was one of Walt Disney’s original animators; known for Alice in Wonderland, Lady and the Tramp, and Cinderella, just to name a few. This is very exciting because in some small way my mother was a part of Walt Disney and his dreams come true. And I have been drawn into this dream through Duff Tweed’s illustration. The drawing has been framed and is hanging on the wall for everyone to enjoy.
Thank you my dear Mother for your contribution to a very special moment in California’s history.
Please stop by Joe’s blog and learn more about Duff Tweed and his incredible art: dufftweed.blogspot.com
Photo courtesy of dufftweed.blogspot.com