William Frank Bellais
Annapolis, Maryland, 1945
ALL THE KIDS TEASED HIM AND CALLED him Blondie. They said he looked like a girl. His blond hair curled at the top of his head and he wore it like a crown. Also, this ten year old boy wore smart clothes, usually a blue blazer with brass buttons on top of grey slacks or a man’s suit style with plaid waistcoat, white shirt and regimental tie. His shoes, always shined to a high polish, came from the best stores in New York,Washington, or Baltimore. In fact everything he wore, except his school uniform, came from the best stores in the nearby big cities. His mother had to purchase his school uniform, regretfully, at J.C.Penney’s department store.
His parents named this boy Franklyn Ellington Seton IV. His mother called him Franklyn, his father,Franklyn Ellington Seton III, says, “His name is Frank or Frankie and that’s that.” Nevertheless, the kids in school called him Blondie. The other boys, and some time the girls, say, “He looks like the lady in the comic strips.” This boy is often thought of as beautiful.
Frank Seton hates his looks and his fancy clothes. Because he has to wear a uniform as the other students do, he loves school at St. Mary’s Parish. He spends time attempting to straighten his hair but his mother, nightly, curls it for him and sends him to bed in silk pajamas.
Frank’s family wealth could be traced to colonial times in both Maryl and Delaware. His father,Franklyn Ellington SetonIII, inherited large properties as well as industrial plants in Baltimore but chose a career as a pilot in the Navy and now after being wounded in the Pacific is on the staff at the U.S. Naval Academy. Frank’s mother, equally wealthy in her own right, came from a family tracing its heritage to seventeenth century Maryland eastern shore and Delaware interests. No matter where her husband was stationed, she maintains an eloquent home on Duke of Gloucester Street in Annapolis.
It is March 17, 1945 Franklyn arrives at school in a sparkling satin green jacket, highly starched white shirt, a green cravat, black satin knickers with green stockings, and patent leather shoes. He has been dressed by his mother. The sisters at the school are stunned and send him home with a note that, although it is St. Patrick’s Day, the school uniform is to be worn. Further, the note advises, the children of the school are given green ribbons to wear on their uniforms; no special costumes are permitted.
Embarrassed, Franklyn walks to his home on the Duke of Gloucester with the note. He says to his mother, “Why can’t I just go to school without so much fuss?”
“Because you’re special, dear,” she replies.
Franklyn says, “Special? I look like a girl most of the time, the kids call me Blondie, you won’t let me play sports, and I want to be a boy; I am a boy!”
Mrs.Seton II Isent him back to school in his uniform, but Franklyn knew he would hear about it for days from his classmates. He vows he will never let some-hing like this happen again.
Two days later Franklyn leaves school but instead of going home he heads for the harbor at the foot of Main and Green Streets. He passes the elementary school in mid-block and wishes he could go to school there. Everyone there, he thinks, is just regular people.
Murphy’s Five-and-Dime Store is among the establishments lining Main Street at the harbor. Franklikes the harbor area. Oyster boats dock along with some pleasure boats and once, early in the war during a War Bond Drive someone displayed a Japanese midget submarine.
Because he gets a handsome allowance of twenty dollars a week, Franklyn Ellington Seton IV is never without money in his pocket thus allowing him to buy whatever he wants when he wants it. On this day, he goes to Murphy’s Five-and-Dime and finding the toy section Franklyn buys a set of Gene Autrycap pistols and holsters on what looks like a leather belt. What more can there be to help Franklyn become a boy than a pair of cap pistols in holsters and on what appears to be a leather belt? Of course, nothing else can, so Franklyn reaches into his pocket finds the money he needs to buy the cap pistols and the leather holsters on what appears to be a leather belt. He picks up the set stapled to a cardboard backing with a picture of Roy Rogers, his horse Trigger, and Gabby Hayes printed on it; Frankie is not pleased that Dale has been included among his cowboy heroes. The cap gun set, stapled to a placard touting Roy’s new movie picture On the Navajo Trail, makes it more alluring. Pleased, Frankie takes the cap pistol set to a clerk and buys it.
From Murphy’s he walks up Main Street and spots a barber shop. Franklyn walks in, finds a seat, waits for the other customers who have come in the shop before him, and studies the cap pistol set he has purchased and begins to day dream about being a cowboy who saves the cattle, rides a gallant steed, and sings songs about the west. “That’s what I want to do when I grow up,” he says to himself.
“Next,” one of the barbers shouts and points to Franklyn. He is not certain who is next, but the barber points again at him and says, “Yes, you, young man, you’re next.”
Franklyn jumps up into the barber chair with the cap pistol set in his hand. Seated he holds the pistols in his lap. As the barber wraps the tissue around his neck, pushes his collar down, and then wraps him in the white sheet to catch hair as it is clipped from the head, the barber says, “What can I do for you, son?”
Franklyn says, “Cut it all off.”
The barber objects, “You don’t want it all cut off. Let me just fix you up so you look like a little man.”
Franklyn agrees and a few minutes later he leaves the shop with his blond hair trimmed and combed and he feels grown up with cologne splashed on him; He smells adult as well as looks adult.
From the barbershop, he walks up Main Street to the Republic Theater and sees a poster announcing that on Saturday Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, along with Gabby Hayes will be in the new movie called Along the Navajo Trail advertized on his cap pistol set. He decides that he will spend Saturday afternoon in the Republic Theater with his cap guns strapped to his waist. All he needs, he thinks, is a cowboy hat.
Franklyn Ellington Seton IV walks back to Murphy’s Five-and-Dime to search for a cowboy hat. He finds an entire cowboy outfit complete with hat, vest, and chaps. He is ecstatic; buys the outfit and then hurries home to try it all on.
Franklyn’s total expenditure is seventy-five cents for the cap guns and the holsters with the belt that looks like leather, a quarter for the haircut, and then for the cowboy costume and hat he has spent three dollars. Four dollars is a lot of money, but he does not have to work for it and spending money is Franklyn Ellington Seton IV’s major occupation other than school. He is good at both.
At home his mother is devastated. Not so much about the cowboy suit and hat, the cap pistols, the holsters and the belt that looks like it is made of leather, or the money he has spent, but instead by the loss of the crown of golden blond hair. Frank’s father is very well pleased that now he has a ten year old son who looks like a boy and is excited about the “boy” things brought home; namely cap pistols, cowboy suits and hats, and holsters that are attached to a belt that looks like it is made of leather.
Franklyn’s mother insists he take the cowboy paraphernalia back to Murphy’s Five-and-Dime. The other skill Franklyn has is throwing a fit. He does just that; throws a very good fit or tantrum. Franklyn Ellington Seton III intervenes, persuades his wife, Mrs. Seton III, Franklyn’s mother, that the boy can keep his new attire, and encourages Franklyn to wear it around the house. Franklyn’s mother objects because a cowboy suit, hat, cap pistols, and holsters on a belt that looks like leather do not blend well with the colonial décor of the home. Frank’s father then says, “He can wear this stuff in the back garden.”
Franklyn does and plays cowboy in the back garden every evening after school and on Saturday morning. He plays the cowboy game by himself but when Saturday afternoon arrives he plans to play the game with Roy, Dale, and Gabby at the Republic Theater. In the back garden Franklyn practices quick draw, fanning the pistol, and then he runs and dodges around various obstacles to avoid the outlaws or the Indians, whichever game he is playing.
Saturday afternoon, his big moment, arrives. Franklyn dons his cowboy vest and chaps, straps on the belt that looks like it is made of leather and the holsters, and his cowboy hat. He places one of his six shooter cap guns in each holster and heads for Main Street, only a two blocks from his home on Duke of Gloucester Street.
At the Republic Theater Franklyn finds he is not early enough to be first in line. Twenty or so boys are there first. Some girls are in line too, but he does not bother to count them. He walks to the end of the line holding his head high and tipping his hat in cowboy fashion as woman walks by. The boys snicker, the girls giggle, but Franklyn is proud of his appearance. Besides, he is not there for the riff raff in the theater line he is there to be a part of the “Navajo Trail” adventure with Roy, Dale, and Gabby.
The box office opens and as his turn comes he pays eighteen cents for a ticket. The cost is actually fifteen cents but there is a three cent “war tax”, which he is proud to pay. There is no refreshment stand only a candy dispensing machine. He buys two boxes of Milk Duds and makes his way to the front of the theater. He chooses to sit in the middle of the second row; he needs the first row for cover when the outlaws begin shooting.
What a day it is for Franklyn Ellington Seton IV. He wants very much someday to go to Arizona and defeat outlaws trying to steal from the silver mines, or whatever they steal. Instead he goes to Severna Preparatory School, then to Princeton for a degree in Philosophy, and then to Harvardf or a Masters in Business Administration degree. On completion of his studies he takes over the family businesses in Maryland and Delaware and becomes very rich and becomes one of the outlaws.