Passing of Wilbur Vaughn brings forth memories of the famous Bette Davis photo

Wilbur Vaughn and his wife Imogene would often visit with artist Ray Harvey during the painting of the Bette Davis mural.

Wilbur Vaughn and his wife Imogene would often visit with artist Ray Harvey during the painting of the Bette Davis mural.

Wilbur Vaughn was a young man when Bette Davis visited Cuba,Missouri in 1948. But on that fateful day the mega-star’s destiny would become entwined with Vaughn’s. He would tell the story of what happened that day many times, often with great humor. Artist Ray Harvey would paint a mural on the Cuba Free Press building that commemorated the events of that day. Journalists videoed Vaughn telling his story, and he would often show off the camera that he used to take the photo. Articles recounted his encounter with Bette Davis. Although Mr. Vaughn’s telling of the  story draws to a close with his passing, his part in our town’s history remains for all to see.

Viva Cuba would like to offer its condolences to Mr. Vaughn’s family and friends.  We valued both Mr. Vaughn’s friendship and gracious support of the mural project.  May he rest in peace.

The photo shows a young Wilbur Vaughn, his photo of Bette Davis, his camera that he used, and the Southern Hotel as it was during the visit by Bette Davis.

The photo collage shows a young Wilbur Vaughn, his photo of Bette Davis, the camera that he used, and the Southern Hotel as it was during the visit by Bette Davis.

Bette Davis newspaper article Cuba News & Review

The facsimiles of the articles about Bette Davis’s visit tell the story.

 

Wilbur J. Vaughn
(July 15, 1929 – October 29, 2012)

U.S. VeteranWilbur Jewell Vaughn was born on Monday, July 15, 1929 in Cuba, MO to Henry B. Vaughn and Myrtle Roberts Vaughn. He passed away in St. Louis, MO on Monday, October 29, 2012 at the age of 83 years.Wilbur served honorably in the United States Army during the Korean Conflict as a corporal. He was a military policeman and worked in the Criminal Investigation Division. He married Imogene Dugan on December 31, 1949 in Steelville, MO and to this union 4 children were born. Wilbur had several career opportunities during his adult life. He managed movie theatres in several states for 18 years. He was a construction worker for the Peabody Mines. At one time, he worked for the MO Conservation in Willow Springs, MO as a watchman in the fire tower. He also, was known for his photography and famous for the mural on the Cuba Free Press building featuring the picture he took of the actress Betty Davis. He was a member of the Cuba First Baptist Church. Wilbur will be truly missed by his family and many friends that loved him dearly.

He was preceded by his parents; son Bryan Vaughn; brothers Everette, Earl, Floyd, Noel, Lloyd and Elmer Vaughn and sister Mae Vaughn.

He is survived by his wife Imogene Dugan Vaughn of Cuba, MO; children Julie Ann (David) Darmon of Ballwin, MO, Roger (Margarete) Vaughn of Owensville, MO and Charlene (Conrad) Percival of Rosebud, MO; brother Charles (Helen) Vaughn of Cuba, MO; sisters-in-law Carol (Stanley) Berry of Springfield, MO and Eileen Vaughn of California, MO; grandchildren David (Andrea) Darmon, Jr. of Wildwood, MO, Ginger (Kasey) O’Hara of Fenton, MO, Joe Darmon of Ballwin, MO, and Tina (Patrick) Heidbrink of Owensville, MO; great grandsons Braden Michael Darmon and Reed Patrick Darmon of Wildwood, MO; nieces, nephews, cousins, and friends.

Visitation is Thursday, November 1, 2012 from 5-8:00PM and Funeral Service at 11:00AM at Hutson Funeral Home, Cuba, MO with Rev. Bob Knight officiating. Burial at Roberts Cemetery, Salem, MO.

Memorials may be given to Roberts Cemetery.

Arrangements are under the direction of Hutson Funeral Home, Cuba, MO.

For more on the Bette Davis story and Wilbur Vaughn’s part in it  read “Bette Davis visits Cuba, Missouri” and “Original Bette Davis articles served as mural inspiration.”

Wilbur Vaughn speaking at a Route 66 Association of Missouri luncheon meeting.

Wilbur Vaughn speaking at a Route 66 Association of Missouri luncheon meeting in Cuba, Missouri.

 

 

 

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Let’s look at those four videos again…

Bette Davis  PhotoCollage Cuba, MIssouri

The Bette Davis visit to Cuba, Missouri is a part of local history.

In July 2009, two convergence journalism students visited Cuba to film and interview subjects about the Viva Cuba Mural Project. The experience was chronicled in the blog “Public Radio visits Cuba, Missouri.” Hayes Shoe Store owner Jeff Bouse, Frisco’s restaurant owner Virginia Watson, and Viva Cuba members were among some that were interviewed. Two other local citizens Chip Lange and Wilbur Vaughn who are a part of Cuba’s mural history were also interviewed.

Recently, I ran across four short videos that the visiting students created as a result of their interviews. I did notice one error when the student said that Bette Davis visited the Cuba Hotel. It was actually the Southern Hotel. Local Wilbur Vaughn, who was the nineteen year-old photographer at the time, retells the story of what happened that night.

Another segment is about the Civil War Murals, and student Chip Lange spoke about his role in this Viva Cuba project.

Go here if you would like to see the four brief videos.

Original Bette Davis articles served as mural inspiration…

Bette Davis artist Ray Harvey

This was a piece of preliminary artwork of Bette Davis by Route 66 artist Ray Harvey.

Bette Davis, award winning actress, and her husband cruised into Cuba on Route 66 in their Packard Station Wagon. The actress would dine at the Southern Hotel and her husband would engage in a footrace through the streets of Cuba with a local newsman/photographer Wilbur Vaughn. Vaughn’s photo that sparked the footrace would appear that week in the Cuba News and Review.

These articles chronicle the events when Bette Davis visited Cuba, Mo.

The events of that day were the inspiration for one of Viva Cuba’s 12 outdoor murals by Route 66 artist Ray Harvey. When Viva Cuba learned of the story, the beautification organization knew that it would be a perfect mural for the new Cuba Free Press building. Below, read the real time chronicle of the events that occurred during that fateful day in 1948.

Wilbur Vaughn, the young photographer who took the photo, still lives in Cuba and often tells the story of his race to get the news of Bette Davis to the people of Cuba, MO.

Cuba, Mo Bette Davis Mural

The mural is appropriately placed on the Cuba Free Press building, home of Cuba's present newspaper.

Read  a previous entry “Bette Davis visits Cuba, MO.”

East End Square had it going on…Rt. 66 and Cuba, MO hotspot…

The East End Square (now home of the East Office Bar & Grill) was a happening place back-in-the-day. From the Joe Sonderman photo collection.

The East End Square (now home of the East Office Bar & Grill) was a happening place back-in-the-day.

from the Joe Sonderman Photo Collection

I don’t know about you, but I love to look at old photos, especially ones with old signs, cars, and buildings. The above photo has it all.

One can see the  Cuba Theatre where Wilbur Vaughn and others from Cuba use to work.  Probably a lot of budding romances took place while viewers watched Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, and other silver screen greats.  In 1948, Bette Davis herself would visit Cuba. When Wilbur took her photo, her male companion chased Wilbur down the street. Wilbur managed to escape his clutches and printed the photo in a darkroom closet of the theater.  The photo was in the Cuba News and Review the next week.  And the incident would be depicted in the Cuba Free Press Mural.

The Gilbey’s Gin salesman’s delivery van is priceless. Because of the old gangster movies,  I thought that style of vehicle was just used for bank robbery get-away cars.

The ever-present Coca-Cola sign in the Cuba Drug window is a slice of Americana. Susie’s Cafe probably served Rt. 66 travelers a lot of blue plate specials, pie, and coffee.

Today, the East Office Bar & Grill still serves up some pretty good food to Rt. 66 travelers and locals alike at this location. You can probably still find a bottle of Gilbey’s Gin inside.   The theatre is dark now although you can still see the old ticket window. The Wagon Wheel Motel up the street is still open, and people still travel Rt. 66 looking for nostalgia.

Local artist John Bland painted this after 9/11.  Today, this flag mural painted by local artist John Bland adorns the front of the East Office Bar & Grill. Maybe generations to come will be looking at this graphic to see what Cuba was like in 2009.

Local artist John Bland painted this after 9/11. Maybe generations to come will be looking at this graphic to see what Cuba was like in 2009.

If anyone remembers any facts or old stories about these locations, sign in and leave a comment. What kind of business was the Red & White next to the theatre?  Sometimes history is written not in the books but in the conversations of the people who lived it.

Bette Davis visits Cuba, Missouri…

Bette Davis visited Cuba, MO in 1948

Bette Davis visited Cuba, Missouri in 1948. She dined at the Southern Hotel above, and her photo was taken by young Wilbur Vaughn.

In 1948, traveling Route 66Bette Davis pulled up to the Southern Hotel in her Packard station wagon, and the town has never forgotten it.  The memory remains in large part because of the photo that then nineteen year-old Wilbur Vaughn took as the academy award winning actress was leaving the Southern Hotel where she had dined.

Wilbur Vaughn still lives in Cuba and often tells the story. He says it was a cold, rainy Monday night, and he waited outside the Southern Hotel until Miss Davis came out. He then snapped a photo which he had been forbidden to take earlier in the evening by Miss Davis’s male companion.  The companion was so angered that he chased Wilbur down the street, cursing all the way.  The fleet-footed young photographer dodged behind a gas station and heard a “thump” behind him. He turned to see the man face down in the mud. Wilbur escaped to the nearby local theater where Wilbur worked.  He developed the photo in the darkroom there.  It was then printed in the Cuba News & Review the next week.

Vaughn still owns the camera that he used.

When the Cuba Free Press built its new building, it seemed a natural spot for a mural commemorating the visit.  Artist Ray Harvey painted the mural that highlighted the event.

The mural commemorating Bette Davis's visits draws many tourists to continue to take her photograph.

The mural commemorating Bette Davis's visits draws many tourists to continue to take her photograph.

During the 3rd weekend of October, Viva Cuba offers narrated tours of the murals aboard a 1904-style trolley. Here the trolley pauses to hear the story of Bette Davis's visit to Cuba.

During the 3rd weekend of October, Viva Cuba offers narrated tours of the murals aboard a 1904-style trolley. Here the trolley pauses for passengers to hear the story of Bette Davis's visit to Cuba.

For more on Cuba’s murals visit www.cubamomurals.com.

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