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as real as the family doctor.

Some sixty miles out of Manhattan, across New Jersey and just short of the Pennsylvania border, one thousand feet up, on the very summit of a mountain, are twenty-four acres containing a vast amount of trees and a handsome fieldstone house. This is Autumn Hill. This is Les Damon's home. Across the horizon is Schooley's mountain range, below in the valley is a village of five hundred homes, on the hillsides cows and sheep graze. Les Damon is proud of his home. He has worked hard for its ownership, he has spent much time and labor in converting the house to his needs, he commutes fifteen to twenty hours a week to enjoy this home, which he shares with his wife, Gingr, and two boxer dogs. Gings is a vibrant, beautiful woman, blonde with gray-green eyes. She's a rare person, a cosmopolitan actress completely at ease in a rural setting. She is buoyant and zestful, yet sophisticated in a real sense.

"You can measure the years of our marriage by my anniversary flowers," Gingr says quietly. "Each year Les has given me a dozen red roses plus a yellow rose for each year we've been married. This year I got a dozen of each."

Gingr knows Les as a remarkable artist, sensitive and brilliant, as well as a remarkable husband, considerate, good and very, very sentimental. She points to an unusual ring he had made for her out of a tiny wristwatch she once treasured. In the center is a turqoise, her birthstone, circled with diamonds and in the case are several grains of their wedding rice.

Les and Gingr met in Chicago some fourteen years ago, but it took them about a year and a half to discover how much they had liked each other. During this time, Les discovered Gingr had been raised in a small town, Kinderhook, Illinois, in the heart of Mark Twain country - her grandfather was a friend of Twain's. She remembers her childhood with pleasure, and it took her into the big city and away from small-town life, which she loved. (It was bad handwriting, scribbling her name "Gingr," that resulted in the "e" being dropped when she had her first billing.)

Les, on the other hand, grew up in the city of Providence, Rhode Island. As a youngster, he worked hard. He was always fascinated by the theatre. "I always hung around the theatre, the Albee, one of the best stock companies in the country," he recalls. "But I had to get a job and I was very lucky."

He was employed as private secretary to a public utilities chief. His boss, impressed by Les' theatrical ambitions, made a deal. " I don't care how much time you spend at the Albee or what kind of hours you keep here," he told Les. "Just see that your office work gets done."

Les would show up at seven in the morning and pound the typewriter until ten-thirty, then take off for the theatre. He stayed on, if there was a matinee, but was back at the office in the early evening. He rushed back to the theatre for the night performance and afterwards returned to the office to work until one or two in the morning. Les did this for eight long years, and the hard-earned apprenticeship paid off. He was sponsored to further training at Stockbridge, Massachusetts, and then spent a year at the famous Old Vic Theatre in London.

He came back to a couple more seasons of stock in the U.S, then broke into the big time. Among his Broadway successes was the role of Baby Face Martin in "Dead End" and, the part of Curly in "Of Mice and Men," touring the country.

In 1938, when the daytime serial center was in Chicago, Les happened to be there in a play and took on a couple of mike assignments. Then calls began to snowball and he found himself a busy radio actor. And that was when he and Gingr met. Both were working on Lone Journey.

"We didn't really pay much attention to each other for a long time," Les recalls. "Not until we were notified the show was moving to New York." Gingr was doubtful about making the move and asked Les for advice. Out of this one serious session grew a succession of dates. Gingr decided against New York but Les went.

"But we kept on dating between Chicago and New York," she says. "Both of us were flying back and forth constantly and finally had to decide between getting married or buying up the airline. We couldn't afford the airline."

Gingr came to New York with her Great Dane in tow. It was a case of marry-me, marry-my-dog. Les was short of being enthusiastic about dogs, and his attitude didn't improve much in the first years of their marriage. The apartment he had was adequate for two, but not three, and they finally wound up in a penthouse, mostly for the sake of the Dane.

"But that will give you the wrong impression," Gingr says quickly. "Les is easy to live with. He actually surprises me with his lack of annoyance when he has a right to be upset. For example, if I spend money on something we don't really need, or if I'm late as a hostess when guests are arriving. He shows not a trace of annoyance."

In twelve years of marriage, he has never failed to notice something now she is wearing and he always comments favorably. He understands, too, that Gingr, like many women, enjoys little surprises.

"How about a dinner and theatre date next Friday evening?" he asks and Gingr never knows where they will dine or what show it will be until she arrives on Les's arm.

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Often when she sits down to dinner, Gingr finds a package by her plate, and it may be a bracelet or perfume or a piece of costume jewelry.

Their only differences are over the furnishing of their home. "It's unusual, too," Gingr admits, "for Les never infringes on my personal privacy, never tries to influence my ideas on other matters."

But once they maintained a three-day silence over whether or not a table should be moved a few feet to the left or right. As insignificant as this sounds, it's based on the intense interest they've taken in the conversion and furnishing of their home. And their home is a masterpiece in the art of good living.

The living room, pine panelled, has a roof-high, peaked ceiling. An enormous fireplace takes up a third of one wall and runs up to the arch. The windows on one wall overlook the valley. The furnishings are mostly Early American and represent much hunting and shopping by Gingr. Shelves against two windows are filled with beautiful pieces of glass and porcelain. Above the staircase is an old Amish hanging. A nearly complete set of Copenhagen date dishes flanks the front of the staircase. The lamps are converted beer-steins and a very old oil lamp.

"In order to maintain peace," Gingr confesses, "we finally decided to specify our responsibilities. I was given charge of decorating, and Les took over structural changes."

All bedrooms were on the ground floor until Les began to get ideas, good ones. He had a stairway built to the attic and then put in two bedrooms. The master bedroom he built himself, from dormer windows to papering, and it took him a year.

He converted a rear open stone porch into a dining room. This he did as a surprise for Gingr, who was in the West Indies for a month. (Nearly any time she is absent more than a week she comes home to find something new in the house.)

To do the home justice would require a detailed description of every room: The handsome pine chests and dry sinks finished down to a beautiful grain, the distinctive but cheeful wallpaper, the warmth of the lighting.

This handsome room, which seems about as far removed from New York as you could get, short of the moon, came about in a rathrer unusual way. Gingr, of course, had been raised in a small town and didn't have to be sold on country living. But Les had always lived in a city and had never entertained the thought of living anywhere else. And then came the war.

Les spent part of his service in Burma and it was very quiet there. "No noise, no frenzy," he remembers. "No subways, no taxi horns, no one jamming you in an elevator. And I liked it."

He got home on the eve of his wedding anniversary. He met Gingr with a load of roses, an Indian ring set with a ruby, and an idea about living in the country. Claudia Morgan, who stars in Right to Happiness, was a close friend and talked about the wonders of the New Jersey countryside. So the Damons began investigating.

"I remember the first time we saw the house," Les recalls. "The agent drove us through the town and pointed at the top of the mountain. It looked too good to be true. When we got on the property and walked through the house, we felt as if a million wouldn't be too much to ask for it. Luckily, it turned out to be something we could afford!"

Living in the country has had a noticeable effect on their lives. For one thing, they've had the opportunity to really enter into community life. The community is the little town of Califon at the foot of their mountain. Last winter, with the assistance of Gingr, Les staged a play which was so successful that local business men are considering the idea of building a permanent theatre.

During the Yuletide season, Les told the Christmas story at the Methodist church. It was so warmly received that, the following Easter, he and Gingr did the story of the Resurrection in the candlelight service. For weeks after, townspeople would approach Gingr and ask, "Can't we make your husband into a minister?"

"You know Les works five or six days a week in the city and seldom gets home before eight in the evening," Gingr notes. "It is hard on him to take on community jobs, but in spite of this, he manages."

The summer of 1952 was a full one for both Gingr and Les. In the beginning, Jackie Gleason moved into their farmhouse for a month. (The 110-year-old farmhouse is better than a football-field length from the Damon home, and Les renovated it himself.) THen Les worked in a summer theatre production of "Come Back, Little Sheba," and did such a terrific job that the Broadwa producer regretted Les wasn't in the original production.

In July, Gingr got a wire from Gleason asking her to fly out to Chicago to play the part of Alice in The Honeymooners. The actress, who had been playing the part on TV and the road, was ill.

"I almost didn't take that part," Gingr remembers. We had arranged for two children to stay with us as part of the Fresh Air Fund's activities. I didn't want to disappoint them."

"Why can't I take care of them?" Les demanded. So Les had two little children all to himself their first week in the country.

"They were having a delightful time," Gingr remembers. "Les had taken them all over the countryside. There were picture puzzles, toys and white shoe polish all over the place."

To the Damons, it is a real sense of loss that they have had no children. Gingr, in particular, believes Les would have made such a wonderful father.

She points to his devotion to their two boxers. "In spite of the lack of enthusiasm for our Great Dane," she says, "I knew Les would love dogs, given the opportunity."

The boxers, brother and sister, are called McGinty and Reffie. McGinty is the clown of the house and Les tells dozens of stories about his escapades. Their one other pet, a parakeet, is titled Joshua and he is quite a voluble bird, inclined to upstage either one of his owners.

Les and Gingr have to be early risers. There's that two-hour haul into Manhattan for both of them. Even Gingr is in town a few days each week. She was on the Beulah TV show a year ago. She played the lead on Cavalcade of America recently and generally free-lances. She's a very active woman and, a couple of summers ago, actually found herself in the jelly business. She and her housekeeper, Vi, put up 1700 jars of jams and jellies that season.

"It all started when Eddie and Cathy Byron were out," she tells you. (Eddie produced Mr. D.A.) "They had some of our preserves and the next day Cathy called and said she'd like to buy a case."

After that, orders began piling up and, when they approached the two-thousand mark, Les made her call it quits. It was just too much with her professional work.

"There are always plenty of projects going on around here," he says, "and we do like to relax once in a while."

They seldom finish dinner before eight-thirty. And cooking for Les is a real pleasure. He likes food, particularly cheese souffles, Welsh rarebit, southern friend chicken, and is always ready for a good steak. After dinner, they may play some backgammon or read quietly.

Weekends usually find four or more house guests on Autumn Hill. Informality is the note, but not by accident. No business is ever conducted on weekends and the Damons invite only people who like freedom of action. Everyone does just as he please. Guests get up at their own choosing and often make their own breakfasts. They can plan ping pong or go sledding or just sit around and talk.

"Les is a wonderful host," George says. "Everyone feels at ease here."

Gingr admits there are men who are probably easier to describe than Les. Complex and reserved he may be, but definitely not lacking in the virtues that make him a credit to his profession and the human race.

"No, you can't tell much about Les by the parts he plays. He's much too good an actor," she says. "On the other hand, he's too much a man to be anything but modest."

Of course, as it turns out, a man who is respected and admired by his wife and friends doesn't have to toot his own horn. Everyone else does it for Les Damon.

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I just watched it.

Because I am too young to have had a real soap patriarch to look up to like Alice Horton was my matriarch, Larry Haines is just so easy to adopt as a grandfather figure. Hands down my favourite soap actor of all time.

Does anyone know what the Bergman family tree would look like?

Suzy was related or close to Jo, right?

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Stu was married to Marge and they had a daughter, Janet, and a son, Tom. I think at one time Tom was retconned into being their nephew, but I can't remember. Janet had a daughter, Liza.

Jo was Suzi's aunt.

It's nice to see more of Linda Gibboney, and Susan Scannell.

There's a Daytime TV letter from around this time bitching about plastic trees and how they don't care about jungle nonsense with Warren.

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Stu and Marge had a son Jimmy when the show started and a daughter Janet,who was around the same age as Jo's daughter Patti.

Jimmy was seldom seen and then in the early 60's it was stated that Jimmy was actually Stu's nephew.His mother,Stu's sister Monica arrived and wanted him back. I think she was successful and that was the last we saw of them.

Later,in the 70's when Jo got involved with Greg Hartford,it was stated that Stu blamed Greg for the death of his sister Louise many years ago.I think this was the first mention of her.

Stu's mother Jessie came on and married Jo's father late 50's/early 60's.

Stu and Marge had a late in life son Stuart Jr.He later became known as Tom.

Marge died in 71 and 5 years later Stu married Ellie.

Janet's first husband was Bud,Jo's cousin.They had a son Chuck. She then married Dan Walton and left town.When she returned she now had two teenage children Liza and Gary and there was no mention of Chuck..Later they had a son Danny.Dan died and Janet married Wade Collins,who also died.

Liza had a son with Travis, her second husband and Gary had a son with Laine Adamson,Sunny's sister.

Suzy was Jo's niece from Eunice's marriage to Doug Martin.Doug died and Eunice married John.Eunice died and John married Stephanie.John died and Jo and Stephanie fought for custody of Suzi.

Edited by Paul Raven
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Thanks. I didn't realize that Jimmy never appeared again after the 60's.

Larry Haines was such a wonderful actor yet also so warm and comfortable to watch. His scenes with Jenny were terrific. I wonder if the show was thinking of pairing them. Either way, that's the type of basic conversation, talking about loneliness, that makes a soap. It is much better than the airplane stuff, which is OK, just not that good.

I don't even know who Brian was. The show had so many younger guys who cycled through the last six years.

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Is it true that Suzi died some time in the show's final year? I remember hearing that somewhere and was wondering. The show was a little before my time but I got to watch some of the episode back when AOL posted them all and really enjoyed SEARCH. I know the reaction to the McClearys was mixed but I really liked them and didn't see them eating a show.

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