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Fri, July 19

Week commemorates cowboy actor

Kingman has good reason to celebrate the life and times of western actor Andy Devine every year.

The beloved cowboy, whose raspy voice and bulky frame led to fame and fortune, was a larger than life celebrity who spent his childhood and teenage years in Kingman.

Andy's father, Thomas Devine, was the Coconino County Treasurer and his mother, Amy, a teacher and a tutor before Andy was born on Oct.

7, 1905 in Flagstaff.

While working for the Santa Fe Railway Thomas Devine was injured, and with his compensation bought the Hotel Beale, the first substantial hotel in Kingman, according to information from the Mohave Museum of History & Arts.

The Devine family arrived in Kingman Nov.

16, 1906 to take over responsibilities as owners and managers of the hotel, which also served as their home.

They lived at the Hotel Beale until 1925.

During this time Thomas was also elected Mohave County's treasurer, an office he held for many years.

Meanwhile, young Andy attended grade school, and high school, in Kingman and lived life to the fullest at the Hotel Beale.

Long-time Kingman resident Mae McMullen spoke fondly of Andy Devine before her death in December 2000.

McMullen's older brother was Andy's friend, which brought her into close proximity with the then unknown star.

The Devine family, including two boys and a girl, were not what you'd call a society family, but working class people, and young Andy liked to play pranks and tease, she said.

"He was a bottomless pit as far as eating and drinking.

He was always ready," she said.

When Andy was about nine years old, he was running with a curtain rod and fell.

It stuck in his throat.

From that day on, "Andy had that gravel voice", Hazel Mulligan Ehrsam explained in, "The Other Face of Tourism" written by Kingman writer Laurette Guthrie.

A favorite "mischievous boy" story is the one about Andy, who along with his brother Tom, worked in the hotel for his father, McMullen said.

Among the clientele at the hotel were many salesmen, or drummers, as they were called in those days.

They used to park their satchels near the front door and play pool while waiting for the train.

"One time Andy took hammer and nails, nailed the satchels to the floor and then shouted, 'Train's a leavin.' The drummers made a mad dash for the door, grabbed their satchels, but left the bottoms plus contents on the floor when they hurriedly jerked up on the handles," McMullen said.

But mostly, Devine was just a regular kid, going to "The Little Red Schoolhouse," in Kingman, playing ball and marbles or playing at the Beecher's, his married sister's house, with all the other kids during the day and going to movies at night.

"Even with all his peculiarities he was a pretty nice fella," she said.

He'd do just about anything to see a movie at Lang's Theater, although McMullen said she doesn't think he had any ambition to become an actor at that time.

"I don't think there was a movie he ever missed.

He got in free.

He helped Mrs.

Lang take tickets and after the people all left the show at night he cleaned and raked out the theater.

He thought that was a big deal," she said.

Devine also liked her father's lemonades.

"He'd tell my dad some of the monkey business he did to talk dad into making a "lemonade shake," she said.

"He loved those lemonades."

Devine played football and basketball for Kingman High School and later played football at Santa Clara University in California.

He then played professional football for the Los Angeles Angels in 1925, according to information from the museum.

Before he became famous Devine worked at a variety of jobs, including telephone lineman, lifeguard and news photographer.

In 1926 Devine was in silent two-reel comedy movies.

The childhood injury that has damaged his larynx turned out to be an advantage, and he acted in close to 400 movies.

Devine enjoyed success in films, stage, radio and television playing the character, "Cookie Bullfincher" in nine movies.

He continued throughout his career playing the comic relief roles in musicals, westerns and even a couple of gangster movies.

During the making of his first "Class A" movie, Stagecoach in 1939, he became friends with John Wayne, a friendship that lasted until Devine's death.

He was also a successful TV star, most remembered for the role of Jingles in Wild Bill Hickok.

In 1933 Devine met Dorothy House, "Doagie" to her friends.

House had acted in the movie "Dr.

Bull" with Will Rogers.

The couple married soon after meeting and had two sons, Tad and Dennis.

Lora Freed, a long-time Kingman resident who knew Devine, said one of Devine's happiest childhood memories occurred February 14,1912, the day Arizona became a state.

"There was in impromptu parade and Andy carried a flag with a single star that his mother had sown, to celebrate the Grand Canyon state's admission," Freed said last year.

Front Street, in Kingman, was changed to Andy Devine Avenue on February 2, 1955 in honor of a Kingman folk hero, she said.

Devine never forgot the people he grew up with.

In October 1970, during the early days of the Mohave Museum of History & Arts, Devine donated memorabilia to the museum.

An entire section of the museum was devoted to him, and there was a banquet in his honor.

"People were eating...I said 'Hi.' He looked up, let out a roar and jumped up and kissed me," McMullen said.

"Another time when Devine was riding in the Andy Devine Parade he saw a woman he knew from Oatman and he jumped out of the car to greet her.

To her delight, he had her ride in the parade with him," she said.

Unfortunately Devine was diagnosed with diabetes in 1957 and in 1973 contracted leukemia.

At the time he weighed 358 pounds, according to information from the museum.

Andy Devine died on Feb.

18, 1977 of cardiac arrest.

His wife Dorothy died on June 14, 2000 at the age of 85-years-old.


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