Debbie Reynold’s El Paso Grandmother

The date of this article is August 16, 1954, and it appeared in the  El Paso Herald-Post

Debbie Reynolds, Movie Star, Possesses 100 Dresses; Her El Paso Grandmother Helped to Make Some of Them

Actress Born Here Earns $1250 Weekly, Saves Money, Lives on Budget, Likes Mexican Food

By Virginia Turner

Clothes worn by Debbie Reynolds, the movie star, are made by her mother, Mrs. Ray Reynolds.

Debbie’s grandmother, Mrs. Owen Harman of 2219 Wyoming street, helped Mrs. Reynolds put hems in Debbie’s dresses when she visited the family in Burbank recently.

Mrs. Harman estimated that Debbie had “more than 100” dresses and at least that many pair of shoes.

Debbie was born in El Paso and attended Houston School. She moved to Burbank with her family when she was eight. At 18, she entered a beauty contest in a pageant, “Burbank on Parade,” and won first place and a movie contract

They Are Proud of Her

Warner Brothers changed her name from Mary Frances to Debbie.

Now under contract to MGM Studios, she has appeared in a number of films including “Two Weeks With Love,” “Singing in the Rain,” “I Love Melvin,” “Athena,” and her latest, “Sunset Slept Here.”

Mrs. Harman has a collection of Debbie’s photographs.

“We’re proud of her,” she said. “‘I was proud of her before she ever was in the movies.

“She used to be a regular tomboy. She wanted to be a gym teacher. she loved to play ball, tennis and climb trees. She was a Girl Scout and now is a Girl Scout counselor. She likes to play tennis.'”

Earns $1250 a Week

Debbie earns $1250 a week.

“She saves a lot of her money,” Mrs. Harman said. “She lives with her parents in Burbank in a three-bedroom home with a guest house in back. She drives 23 miles to work every day in her new Mercury. She is on a budget and allows herself $20 a week for spending money.

“She is very fond of home cooking and when I go out for a visit about the first thing she asks is that I make her some spaghetti and meat balls and Mexican food.

“She and her parents take her job very much for granted. Debbie loves her work, of course. Maxine-my daughter and her mother-takes courses in sewing so she can make all her own things. That saves money and she has nicer clothes that way.

Dresses Simply at Home

“You’d never think she’s a movie star around the house. She wears jeans, plaid shirts and a bandanna around her head. She doesn’t talk much about her job. She is very critical of herself. Her success had not gone to her head. She works hard. She takes ballet and dramatic training all the time. She plays the accordion, the piano, sings popular songs and dances.

“Debbie is 22. She hasn’t been that serious about boys so far, but I think she has a crush on Eddie Fisher right now. She met him this summer and they have been going together since June.”

Debbie is a petite five feet, one and a half inches tall and weights 104 pounds. She has medium brown hair and blue-grey eyes.

Has new Machine

Mrs Harman has a new radio and sewing machine. Both were presents from Debbie who received them for posing for pictures with them.

The lat Mr. Harman, a retired railroad foreman, saw his granddaughter in”Two Weeks With Love,” just a few hours before his death on Feb. 7, 1951.

“We saw the show and he was so thrilled about Debbie,” Mrs. Harman said. “She is a lot like he was, it was the first time he had seen her in the movies. We got back to the house about 9 p.m. and at 10:30 p.m. he passed away with a heart attack. But I’ve always been grateful that he saw the movie before he died.”

Debbie’s father, Ray Reynolds, worked for the Southern Pacific Railroad here and was transferred to Burbank. In El Pas he was a catcher on the Peyton Packing Co. baseball team and played in the Industrial League.

Debbie’s brother, Bill, has been working at Lockheed Aircraft Co. and studying engineering. He is also a baseball player and “not much interested” in movies, Mrs. Harman said.

Her Little Uncle

Mrs. Harman has lived in El Paso 28 years. She has another daughter, Mrs. Mary Wynn and two sons, Owen D and Hugh, all of El Paso, and a son, Wallace, in Santa Fe. Another son, Pat, was killed while he was serving with the Marines in World war II. Mrs. Harman has seven grandchildren and one great-granddaughter.

Two granddaughters, Linda Harman, five and Irma Jean Harman, 11, daughter of Owen Harman, resemble their famous Aunt.

Hugh Harman is a sophomore at Texas Western College, where he plays fullback on the college football team. He was an outstanding player at Austin High School. Debbie calls him “my little uncle,” Mrs. Harman said.

Mrs. Harman keeps busy with her grandchildren and crochets as a hobby. Local stores sell her crochet booties. She also crochets for Debbie. Mrs. Harman has arthritis in her hands and finds that crocheting is an excellent therapy.

She likes to visit her famous granddaughter, but has no plan for moving to California.

“El Paso is my home,” she said.

Since 1954 the El Paso County Historical Society has been a driving force in the historic scene of El Paso. EPCHS strives to foster research into the history of the El Paso area; acquire and make available to the public historic materials; publish and encourage historical writing pertaining to the area; and to develop public consciousness of our rich heritage.