Over the past 45 years, while in and out of film and television, in and out of Hollywood and New York, and in and out of two marriages, Ms. Dennison has written parts of her autobiography. . She finally released it herself in September. She called it “Find my little red hat” – because, as a homeless child, she had worn a red felt hat for courage when she went to a new school and faced another. class of aliens.
“There was a definite Dickensian side to his story,” his son said, but his life, even the early years of hardscrabble, “was absolutely filled with wonderful characters.”
Jo-Carroll Dennison was born on December 16, 1923 in a men’s state prison in Arizona.
At the time, his parents owned and operated a traveling medicine show in Texas. When her mother, Elizabeth (Brownd) Dennison, was about to give birth, her father, Harry Arthur Dennison, decided he wanted his child to be born in California, which he considered more glamorous than Texas. So they started to drive west. In Arizona, her mother was in labor and they stopped in the small town of Florence. The only help they could find was the prison doctor, who delivered Jo-Carroll in the prison infirmary.
They continued on to California in what Ms. Dennison called their main car, a Ford Model T with a truck bed. She quickly became a part of the medicine show, in which her parents lured people in with entertainment and then sought to sell them essences. As a child, Jo-Carroll sang, taped and performed skits.
When she was 7, her father left, which upset her.
After concerts during the Depression with a circus and carnival – she rode ponies and roped steers – she and her mother returned to Texas, first to the small town of Hale Center, then to Waco, where they signed up with another medicine show. In her autobiography, Ms Dennison wrote that when she was 12, the snake oil salesman who ran the show sexually assaulted her.
She and her mother returned to Hale Center, where Jo-Carroll graduated from high school in 1940. She then moved in with an aunt in Tyler, east Texas. She had enrolled in business school to become a secretary when the banker asked her to participate in the beauty pageant. She had no interest in parading in front of the audience again, but he persisted – and offered her a free swimsuit.