Visit the birthplace of the most popular figure on the Hollywood screen from 1936-1960. Clark Gable was born in Cadiz and grew up in Hopedale, Ohio. See his humble beginnings at the Clark Gable Museum in Cadiz…the only Clark Gable Museum in the world.
The museum came about after a deejay from Illinois called the Cadiz postoffice on February 1, 1983, and asked them if they knew whose birthday it was. The postman said he had no idea. The deejay told him Clark Gable and asked him what they were doing to celebrate his birthday. That was the last time “nothing” was the answer.
William Clark Gable was born on February 1, 1901, on 138 Charleston Street in Cadiz. His parents felt he was the apple of their eye. But unfortunately, his mother died when Clark was ten months old and his father then moved down the road to Hopedale, where their home is today a private residence.
His stepmother played piano and gave Clark lessons at home. He picked up brass instruments as a result and was the only boy in the Hopedale Men’s Band at the age of 13. Also, at this time he had a deep interest in literature and enjoyed Shakespeare’s sonnets.
His father insisted he engage in some more masculine activities so Clark became very adept at fixing cars. When they moved to Ravenna a few years later, his father wanted him to help on the farm. Clark went to work at Akron Tire and Rubber Company instead. But he seldom worked a full day as he would leave to go to the theater. Even if he went as an usher, at least he was where he loved to be.
Clark worked his way west from Ohio by riding in boxcars and worked in the oil fields in Tulsa, Oklahoma along the way. He ended up in Oregon working as a salesman of ties in a department store.
But that was a good stop for him as he met his first wife there. Josephine Dillon, his wife and coach, saw that beneath his uncultured look there was the potential for a strikingly handsome man. So she had his bad teeth fixed and strengthened his undernourished body. His voice was rather high-pitched and she coached him how to lower it to a deeper resonance.
Clark went on to Hollywood to begin his career there as an extra in silent movies. He eventually appeared in 67 talking movies and was called The King of Hollywood. Some of his movies include “It Happened One Night,” “Call of the Wild,” “San Francisco,” and the immortal “Gone With the Wind,” which won the Academy Award for Best Picture in 1939.
So it seemed strange that his birthplace of Cadiz, Ohio would not have a display of some kind to acknowledge this famous celebrity. For years, the only things existing on the location where he was born in an upstairs apartment were a garage and flower garden. The house had been demolished years before.
Once the town decided to honor Clark, the first thing to be erected was a monument at the place of his birth. Then in 1998, the house was reconstructed. It has been furnished in the style of the day and has several of the King’s belongings on display.
Carole Lombard, Clark’s wife, is honored with a large display that was provided by a fan of hers, Norm Lambert. When Carole died in a plane crash while returning from entertaining the troops during WWII, Clark decided he would enlist in the Army Air Force as a tribute to her.
During WWII, Clark Gable served as an aerial cameraman and bomber gunner in Europe with the Army Air Force. He enlisted as a private in August 1942 and was relieved from active duty in June 1944 at his request since he was over-age for combat.
Inside you will find Clark Gable collectibles as well as “Gone With the Wind” displays. Books and pictures are on display from his childhood to stardom. In the garage, you will even find one of his cars, a classic 1954 Cadillac de Ville.
Since it has been opened, over 150,000 people have stopped by to share their stories and see the treasures. They are made welcome by Nan Mattern, the director, and a dozen ambassadors who help with tours of the facility.
A lady from Portland remembered seeing Clark in his first performance on stage in Oregon. A man recalled his dad telling him the story of riding in a boxcar with Clark Gable as he headed west. His dad had given Clark five dollars for food. Years later Clark came back to that town and wanted to repay him for what he had been given. Many heartwarming stories are shared.
Clark Gable was always humble about his good fortune. He commented, “I’m just a lucky slob from Ohio who happened to be in the right place at the right time.”
Clark Gable Museum is located at 138 Charleston Street in Cadiz. It is closed December through February, except for Clark’s birthday. The remainder of the year it is open Wednesday through Friday 10 – 4. But if you wish to stop down at a different time or have a group that would like to visit, contact them for an appointment. Call the museum at 740-942-4989 or Nan at 740-942-2505.
Join the Clark Gable birthday celebration on Saturday in February when the museum will be open from 10 -2 and serve light refreshments. Clark Gable’s birthday will not be forgotten in Cadiz.
Clark Gable Museum is at 138 Charleston Street in Cadiz, Ohio. It is near the intersection of US 22 and US 250. Watch for signs directing you to the museum or follow your GPS. It’s not far from downtown Cadiz.