Yes, there really was a Frank Beardsley and Helen North Beardsley, and they really did get married (on Sept. 9, 1961) and create a family with 18 children (eventually 20). In fact, they're so real, legal trouble broke out between the YOURS MINE & OURS filmmakers and the BRADY BUNCH tv people over story rights. After Frank retired from the Navy, the family went into the bakery business with the kids helping out after school and on weekends. Helen has since died; Frank married for a third time and died in 2012.
These photos are from Who Gets the Drumstick?, the family's story as told by the mother. It was published by Random House of New York in 1965.
Check out the curved shaped of the table that lets everybody see everybody else at mealtime.
Nineteen kids (including Frank's and Helen's first baby, Joseph) wait eagerly for Christmas.
The Fortier Files"I suppose having nineteen kids is carrying things a bit too far.
But if we had to do it over again, who would we skip...YOU?"
To date it would seem that the world's leading Beardsley fan-expert is Daniel Fortier (email@example.com - he'd love to hear from family members or other fans). He has conducted extensive on-line research about the family and is pleased to have received a personal letter from Helen.
Frank's father's name was Charles Henry Beardsley (like Rusty). He was born on November 13th, 1873 in California. His mother's maiden name was Mahoney. Charles died in San Francisco at the age of 82 on August 18th, 1956.
Frank's mother, Mary Ellen Grennan was born on May 28th, 1876 in California. Note that Frank gave his daugher Mary his mom's name and he gave Susan his mom's middle name. Mary Beardsley also died in her 80's and she too died in San Francisco. She was 83 when she died on December 5th, 1959, less than 11 months before Frank's wife Frances died.
Janette, Nick, Tom, Phillip and Gerald ALL changed their names back to North! This is particularly intriguing in the cases of Phillip and Gerald, who were quite young (both under 4) when their biological father died.
Birth order changes: In the movie, it's Susan, Veronica, Mary. In real life, it's Mary, Susan, Veronica. Rosemary and Greg were also transposed and so were Nick and Janette.
Class affiliations designated for North or Beardsley children at Carmel High per http://www.carmelhighalumni.org:
Mike Beardsley 1963
Charles (Rusty) Beardsley 1964
Mary Beardsley 1969
Janet North 1969
Nick North 1970
Tom Beardsley 1971
Veronica Beardsley 1972
Phillip North 1975
Gerald Beardsley 1977
Joan Beardsley 1978
From the Fortier files:
Louise, Greg, and Rosemary graduated from Junipero Memorial High School in Monterey. Susan and Colleen attended a private convent school for gifted girls. Louse is under the impression that all the children graduated from high school. By the time Teresa, Joe and Helen graduated high school, the Beardsleys were living in Fresno. Joan may have stayed in the Monterey area to graduate from Carmel (and Teresa perhaps from Junipero?).
Here's a comparison of movie ages versus real ages. Movie ages reflect the opinions of Rebecca and Daniel. Actors portraying Beardsleys are welcome to chime in with corrections! : ) Real ages are recorded as years and months with a colon between.
As mentioned above, the family did NOT move into a new home after marrying but expanded on Frank's.
Here are links to the floor plan, drawn by Helen for Daniel Fortier, of the 5,500 sq. foot. Beardsley house.
Feb. 6, 2004: Don't know how long this link will last, but the house was put on the market. Nice find, Daniel!
Questions I'd love to ask
No one assumes that everything was perpetually hunky dory in the Beardsley/North household, then or now. Plus, one can't escape the political implications of the book. Clearly Frank and Helen were two people who loved their faith at a time when proponents of birth control and sexual freedom were accusing the Catholic Church of inhuman repression. But the raison d'être for this page is, in this insulationist, materialistic era of woefully inverted values, the Beardsleys and Norths may hold incredible insight into the process of valuing people more than physical comfort. If I could, I'd like to ask them:
John Dorn, the husband (separated) of Rosemary, says "the whole family is the most wonderful group of people I have ever met!" He also shares this tidbit, one of Frank's common sayings:
(We regret to report an email from Chuck Myer stating that John Dorn passed away November 24, 2003 in Sonora, CA.)
Speaking of lots of others, John reports that his and Rosemary's 17-year-old daughter, Monica, has sixty cousins!
Aaron G. Poff (firstname.lastname@example.org) was married to Helen's sister, Kay, and frequently visited the family. He greatly admired them, attributing their loving, grateful attitudes to their tragic sense of loss over the deaths of Dick and Frances and their appreciation for how love could heal their pain and enrich their lives. As for the movie, he observes that, while Helen had a fine sense of humor, she was never as silly as some parts of the movie suggested.
UPDATE April 27, 2005:
Veronica, if you're out there, Michelle LaPointe (email@example.com) says hello! She wrote me recently concerning the planned remake of YMO:
"I was an eighth-grade classmate of Veronica Beardsley (called 'Ronnie,' then, at least at school) when the original was made in 1968. My sister was in the same grade as Philip and Germaine. (Philip, who was quite a spirited kid, used to answer the phone 'Beardsley's cookie jar. Which crumb do you want to talk to?' I don't think his parents were too happy about that.)
"Our family went to the movie premiere they held in Carmel, along with most of our classmates and half the town (at least it seems that way in memory). Lucille Ball came and did a few days of public appearances; my mother, sister, and I went to Macy's to get her autograph.
...that Ronnie was smart, sensible, good at volleyball, and a kid you could trust
...that you could tell the Norths from the Beardsleys because most of the Beardsleys had red hair. Many members of one side of the family (I forget if it was North or Beardsley) also had a crooked little finger.
...that their house, at least the couple of times that I visited it after school, was remarkably quiet and orderly, especially in comparison to our house, even though we only had six kids. The Beardsley pantry held the biggest jar of peanut butter I have ever seen, then or since."
I think we thought of the family as interesting and unusual, but not fascinating. The big questions were logistical: how many kids shared a bedroom, how did they manage mealtimes, how many cars did it take to get everyone to church? We went to a Catholic school, so everyone knew big families - just not that big! By my age, we also knew that sometimes parents died and that the widowed remarried. Their situation was definitely recognized as being both brave and out of the ordinary but not strange.
The Beardsley kids I knew were normal, fun, interesting kids. I don't remember them being in the newspaper except for the movie stuff, although they may have. They certainly didn't behave like celebrities.
I remember being fascinated by the teenagers in the family. Very few of my friends had older siblings, and at the time I thought that anyone over the age of 14 had to be sophisticated and independent. Plus they all had jobs, which I thought was cool. And there were a lot of them.
The movie was definitely a cool experience. They didn't make it in Carmel, but they had one of the premieres there, and it was very exciting. Everybody dressed up to go, everybody was talking about it. It was one in a series of memorable events in a fairly momentous period.
Carmel was small, but not 'small-town America.' We always had celebrities in town: retired and vacationing movie stars, the spillover from the Pebble Beach Pro-Am Golf Tournament every year. In the two years I lived there, 1967 and 1968, we also had the Monterey Pop Festival, the burial of the hippie movement at Haight-Ashbury (so a lot of the hippies moved to Carmel), and a visit to our school from Governor Brown and Lady Bird Johnson, wife of then-President Lyndon B. Johnson. Monterey was also one of the jumping-off points for soldiers going to Vietnam.
The movie wasn't exactly like the family. They scrambled everybody's ages, left out most of the red hair, and set it in San Francisco, which was nothing like our town. Of the kids I knew, the one who was most different from her character in the movie was Louise, who I remember as being reserved. The kid who was most like his character was Philip. But nobody seemed to mind the differences; it was a good movie, and no one expected a documentary.
I only knew the younger kids, but the Beardsleys absolutely functioned like a single family. Without the physical differences, you couldn't tell which was which. At school, at least, they seemed just our family, only on a grander scale.
UPDATE October 23, 2005:
Judy Tripp-Neu (nee SCHLAICK) writes:
I went to school at Junipero Memorial High School and graduated with Rosemary Beardsley. I considered her my friend and shared many lunches together on the warm pavement which formed the quad for our small high school. We were taught by the Dominican Sisters of San Rafael and earned a very highly respected diploma from the school.
Rosemary was quiet and yet very introspective. Rusty was funny and given to laughter. Both had the red hair and freckles. They were good students and it was not uncommon for all of us to spend time studying together.
As I remember, after the Graduation Mass, our entire class was invited to the Beardsley home for breakfast. Despite their large family, they were generous and kind to outsiders and I don't remember the kids ever going without or complaining that they had to make concessions that eliminated them from any of the school activities.
The movie did not seem to change any of the family. There was some hoopla when it premiered in Carmel, but by and large, all of the family members that I met through the four years in Junipero seemed quite unaffected by it. If someone asked if they were "that family," they readily owned up to it and patiently answered polite questions.
Sister Monica Gillespie, OP, was the principal of Junipero Memorial High School the last three years that we were there, and she was very close to the family. I believe the last child, Helen, may have her name as a middle name.
UPDATE November 30, 2005
Debbie Humm-Bremser, whom the Beardsleys used to call their '21st child,' lived next door and owned Cindy, the black cocker spaniel mentioned in DRUMSTICK. "When I married in 1984, I'm proud to say that 16 of the twenty kids were there." (Missing: Collien, Rusty, Mike, Nick. Click here to see Debbie with Frank and Helen on her wedding day.)
Debbie sent in the following:
Monterey Penninsula Herald 1968 article on Beardsley nut store.
'Similar' article about the blended Frank McHugh/Eileen White family.
UPDATE July 24, 2006
Attention, infamous eighteen (or 20, rather)! Your old schoolmate, Cathy J. Fields, now Cathy Penn, would love to hear from any of you (firstname.lastname@example.org). Her dad, Chester James Fields, Jr., worked with Frank in the navy. Her mom is Dorothy Fields; siblings are John, Cindy, Cole, Debbie, Celia, Leif and Laura. Drop her a line if you want to catch up!
UPDATE October 10, 2007
Brandi Means, former step-child of Greg Beardsley and proud issuer of the nation's first amber alert (in her capacity as an employee of the State of California, Caltrans), writes to share her memories of Greg as a wonderful father who shared his Cat Stevens music with her. She loved the Christmas gatherings and insists, "Aunt Lousie was a doll. I looked up to her being a nurse. Uncle Rusty was just cool all around. Helen and Frank were great parents, as well as grands."
UPDATE February 4, 2008
Lars (Larry) Klassen, a classmate of Greg Beardsley's at Junipero Memorial High School (class of 1965) wrote from Quito, Ecuador: "I recall overnighting one time at the Beardsley place on Rio Road in Carmel. It was rather like attending a boarding school/summer camp/military barracks all at the same time. Lots of hustle and bustle. I particularly remember being impressed with assembly-line system they used for preparing school lunches; definitely the institutional food preparation approach, at least for sack lunches!" Larry has two younger brothers who also had Beardsleys as classmates. "JMHS held an all year reunion in Monterey in 1995 and my brother Rusty and I attended, but frankly, I don't remember if Greg or any of the siblings attended that year." Thanks for sharing, Lars!
UPDATE October 9, 2008
Captain Willilam "Bill" Thies, U.S. Navy (retired), wrote to share this:
"In 1938, I was stationed at the Sand Point Naval Air Station in Seattle, WA. I was attached to a PBY (Catalina) squadron of airplanes. Frank was the squadron yeoman. When the squadron would fly to other bases, Frank would insist [to] the Commanding Officer that he would pack his typewriters and files only in the plane I was going to fly...he would fly with no one else."
Later, Captain Thies lived a few blocks from the Beardsleys in Carmel, visiting frequently with his wife. One of his daughters had a crush on Rusty! Here's Bill's Web site about the discovery of Koga's Zero. He'd love to reconnect with Frank. His email is email@example.com.
UPDATE October 13, 2009
This is how history is made - or at least discovered. Leah M. Novack visited an Oroville, California 'yard sale leftovers' event she discovered on craigslist and came away with a carload of old books including a copy of "Who Gets the Drumstick?" containing several North family treasures like a photo of young seaman Dick North in uniform, Colleen's wedding invitation, and...
So odd, to think how easily history gets discarded. Thanks, Leah, for rescuing these bits!
UPDATE January 4, 2010
UPDATE March 3, 2010
Joe Hawkins writes to share this Web site about efforts to preserve an A-3 Skywarrior for the Naval Air Station at Whidbey Island:
As many of you know, the Skywarrior, or "Whale," was the plane on which Dick North was navigating during that fateful training flight that took his life. After an illustrious history of protection and service, the plane has been decommissioned; most will go for scrap unless efforts like this one succeed in creating places of honor for them.
For those who may have forgotten, Whidbey was also the location of the house with the leaky roof from "Who Gets the Drumstick?"
UPDATE May 7, 2010
Colleen: Oh, why don't you get a haircut!
Art, they say, imitates life, but in the case of one future dentist, life may have imitated art. Colleen North Beardsley really did date a motorcycle-riding young man, though not until after the 1968 movie was filmed.
Jay Huffaker, DDS, a Los Angeles professional with a private practice, will soon be celebrating his 40th wedding anniversary. But he remembers a young lady from a bakery as his first serious relationship.
"Because of a union strike at the copper mill where I worked," relates Huffaker, "I moved from Utah to Monterey to live with a longtime friend, a training officer at Fort Ord. One day, I went into the Beardsley doughnut shop where a young lady caught my eye. I thought about her for a week or two before working up the courage to ask her out."
She looked different than he remembered when he finally returned to the pastry shop, but it had taken such effort to work up the nerve to ask her out that he forged ahead. That's how he came to begin dating Colleen, a relationship that lasted a full year despite his having originally been attracted to...Janette!
One can almost feel him grinning as Huffaker relates his first visit to the Beardsley household. "Colleen had told me that I'd have to meet her parents before she could go on a real date alone with me and so invited me to her home the following Saturday. I was ushered into a game room off the carport, a large room, as I recall, with a ping pong table, a pool table, and a great many young people. The boy who greeted me at the door introduced himself."
"'Hi, I'm Mike, Colleen's brother. This Colleen's brother, Greg. This is Colleen's sister, Louise.'"
As the introductions continued, Huffaker noticed something odd. The 'siblings' didn't look that much alike! He must have felt pretty clever when he finally came up with a rational explanation: "I was being duped! They had to be friends of Colleen's who were playing a trick on the new guy!"
Huffaker felt very fortune to be so warmly welcomed by the family. "Frank and Helen invited me and Colleen to drive to San Francisco to a Giants football game. Frank had me do most of the driving, and I'll never forget how impressed Helen was when I identified Grieg's 'Peer Gynt Suite' on the radio." He'd been a musician, it turned out, in the army...but the navy family didn't hold that against him. "Later that year they allowed me to take Colleen back home to Utah to meet my parents. Helen even arranged for me to take a copy of Who Gets the Drumstick, autographed by her, Frank, and all the children." Even baby Helen added a scribble.
Huffaker attended Mike's wedding at the Carmel Mission as Colleen's date. But eventually the couple, separated in age by 5 years, drifted apart. Still, he remembers Colleen fondly, a sentiment that's recalled every time he sees a delightful coincidence unspool in the movie. Remember what happens to Larry the night of Helen's frantic trip to the hospital to deliver her 19th child? No, not the fight with Mike...
UPDATE June 15, 2011
Thanks to native Pasadenean Pam Bass for sharing this recent photo of the house from the original YMO movie located at 346 Markham Place in Pasadena. You can click the newer photo for a larger version. Pam points out that the matching garage in back may have been added long after the house was built built. Does anybody remember if it appeared in the movie?
UPDATE February 20, 2012
Smokin Jim, a DJ, talk show host, and co-owner of MyKDAN 24/7 online radio, wrote to share that, "If one looks carefully during the scene when Frank and Helen leave the driveway on the way to the hospital, just as soon as the car pulls out of the driveway (going in the right direction!)," you can see the garage behind the house. He adds that this only works if you're watching the DVD, not a VHS tape. So presumably, you need a a wide-screen version of the movie, not pan-and-scan.
UPDATE March 21, 2012
22 Beardsley autographs! That's what Mary Minjares discovered when she picked up a copy of Who Gets the Drumstick? at a yard sale and looked at the front cover facing page. Who is Carolyn Wade and why on earth did she ever give up such a treasure?
UPDATE April 2, 2012
Bill Meltzer notes you can also see the garage at 346 Markham Place on the DVD in the long shot of the house at the end of the film as Mike is walking to the bus station. Again, you need the (presumably widescreen) DVD, not a VHS or 'cropped for television' copy.
UPDATE June 4, 2012
Amy Shepard reports that her father was one of 18 children in a family from the Pacific Northwest that competed on a 1950s television showed called You Asked For It. The prize? A contract to represent a bread company in their publicity compaign to promote their bread (a fine product to accompany the gameshow's sponsoring product, Skippy Peanut Butter!). The winners? The Beardsley family. Keep your fingers crossed and maybe hwy61media or another YouTube channel provider will find and post the episode one day!
UPDATE June 22, 2012
Had a lovely interaction recently with Cesca Holmbo, whose father, a general contractor named Frank Lucido, helped build the addition to the Beardsley home on Rio Road. Cesca attended Junipero Serra School with Jeannie, becoming her best friend in 5th grade. "I remember visiting and couldn't believe the bedrooms with five beds in each." The Beardsley kids had chores they had to complete before they could play, Cesca recalls. The two girls used to walk to church together and worked for a short time at the Donut House in Monterey.
One summer, Cesca got to accompany Jeannie and a handful of other Beardsley youngsters (possibly Veronica and Germaine) on a month-long vacation at a cabin in Clear Lake, California. "I don't know if the cabin was owned by the Beardsleys, but it was very large, two or three stories high. We all rode up in the back of a bread van." Cesca was the only non-family member present. Rosemary was the 'adult' who took care of the five younger children and did a wonderful job, Cesca remembers, though she eventually had to call home when they almost ran out of food. Cesca remembers Rosemary being about 22 at the time; the vacation may have taken place in 1968, which would have made Rosemary 19 or 20.
"It was a beautiful mountainous area to spend a vacation," Cesca relates. The cabin had all the modern amenities and the children spent their days swimming, berry-picking, singing (Jeannie and Cesca especially loved the Royal Crown commercial jingle), and meandering down to the general store that showed weekly movies including a Paula Prentiss/Richard Benjamin film (possibly He Said, She Said).
A wonderful bunch of people, Cesca summarizes. "I had great respect for this family."
UPDATE December 2012
UPDATE July 2013
Press coverage has begun concerning Tom North's autobiographical book about his childhood, True North: The Shocking Truth about "Yours, Mine, and Ours." Here is some of what he had to say in a radio interview in June.
In studio, Cynthia Fernandes with Tom North
Saturday, June 22, 2013
KRXA 540AM, Carmel Valley CA
Summarized by Rebecca Webb
Tom's life with his biological parents was blissful. He was six when his father died and he remembers him well. Dick was gone a lot for work (navy aviator in post-Korean War era). He would send home films of far eastern tourist sites that the kids loved to watch, especially when Dick got in the picture and the kids would all yell, "There's Daddy!" Tom remembers him as a wonderful human being, a fun man who delighted his children and taught life lessons. Helen was wonderfully in love with him.
When Dick, a flyer of experimental aircraft, learned his wife was pregnant with his 8th child, he asked his commanding officer for a desk job. He was denied and died six weeks later, testing the A3D fighter bomber for aircraft carriers. Tom was devastated by the loss and became physically ill for months.
Helen was affected, too. Unable to cope with the loss, she withdrew. Tom tried to be close to her, but she was no longer an affectionate person. She was well-intentioned but not nurturing. A conversation with a younger brother revealed that neither he nor Tom could remember ever receiving a hug from Helen.
Unlike Dick, Frank was a person of extremely negative energy, according to Tom. Other expressions he uses to describe Frank include mentally unstable, emotionally unstable, quick-changing, violent, and psychotic, a man who found excuses to abuse people. "I'd be walking down the hall and he would knock me across the room." When Tom would ask why he was being hit, Frank would reply, "Just for drill." It was a 'get tough or die' environment, a domestic situation Tom describes as "seriously insane." He tried running away at seven but the family's bulk food items proved too heavy to put in a child's backpack.
Later in life, Helen shared with Tom that she married Frank Beardsley because she was afraid he was going to kill his children. Being a dutiful Irish Catholic woman, she was certain she could and should protect his kids and save him from himself. She brought a breath of fresh air into the lives of his children but lost control of the situation, abandoning her own kids to a dangerous environment. Her siblings, particularly Bob and Kay, had seen what was happening and tried to discourage the marriage. Eventually, Frank banned them from the household.
At the time of Helen's and Frank's marriage, the combination of two large families was a public interest item that made national news. Lucille Ball saw the story in the newspaper, called Helen, and told her, "I'd like to make a movie about your family." It was a time of 'Ozzie and Harriet,' 'Leave it to Beaver,' 'My Three Sons,'... "the era of the white American suburban family," Tom asserts. Lucy asked Helen to write a book and so they could make a movie based on the book. She came to the house to study Helen in preparation for playing her onscreen. After a couple of hours, Tom saw her approach Helen and demand, "You keep that man [Frank] away from me." She was a very good judge of people, Tom says, sharp and alert.
The movie got the logistics of running a large household correct, but the rest was a complete fantasy. Frank was portrayed as wise, loving, caring, and sensible, the man who gave the speech insisting they become one big happy family. After a family therapy session decades later, several of the Norths promised each other they would never again support the fantasy that was "Yours, Mine, & Ours."
UPDATE August 5, 2013
My review of True North
Whether you're a fan, friend, pop culturist, sociologist, or fellow traveler, Tom North's True North: The Shocking Truth about 'Yours, Mine and Ours,' proves a convincing and compelling read. An autobiography describing North's recovery from the abusive, incestuous, malnourished and neglectful household of the celebrated Carmel family, the book also provides an absorbing look at baby-boomer childhood in a semi-rural, hippie-riddled community of suburban California.
Fans will enjoy the fleshed-out stories about life and death with Dick, working in the donut shop, and growing up in the Beardsley household. But be warned. Most of the tales involve pain and suffering.
North is direct and open in his allegations and takes full responsibility for making them. The book blatantly acknowledges that he's only telling one side of the story; there's not a single specific reference to a biological Beardsley child, not even half-siblings Joe and Helen. He assigns blame intentionally and repeatedly to overly large families (and the institutions that encourage them), autocratic attitudes (and the institutions that encourage them), and obsession with fame and appearances.
This last accusation may be the most difficult for some readers to handle. Disclaiming the fairy tale of Yours, Mine and Ours seems to have proven fundamental to the recovery of affected family members. And we've been warned for decades (by films like Network and Broadcast News) about the dangers of using news and reality as entertainment. But the Turner Classic Movies station (TCM) shows the film regularly, and hundreds of new fans flock to the Internet after each screening, seeking more information on this legendary family. Can the myth and the legend co-exist peacefully, even productively? Perhaps it depends on how people use the information this time.
The real "Yours, Mine and Ours" family website
UPDATE October 25, 2013
Thanks to Alex Bogue for this shot of the Beardsley clan from...the 1980s? Can you identify any of the kids or provide any info? Click here for the guesses so far. Note the fancy clothes and Helen's corsage. An anniversary party? It looks to have been taken some time AFTER Debbie's 1984 wedding. 25th anniversary celebration in 1986, perhaps? Interesting, that two of the girls are touching Frank but no one is touching Helen.
UPDATE April 28, 2014
Received some wonderful material about the young North family yesterday from Jim Lester. All emphasis is mine.
"My family lived next door to the North family from 1959 through 1960 plus a few months, on Whidbey Island. We were also a Navy family and I was in the 1st and 2nd grade at the time. I played with the North boys but mostly with one boy who was around my grade; I believe Nick and younger brother Tom. I can still picture their house. Our house was to the left of theirs looking from the street. Their grandfather was often there and had a garden and as kids we were sometimes troublesome. The old fellow was afraid of snakes and I had several toy snakes. I left a bamboo one in his garden once and later found it destroyed by a garden tool. That ended that game! They also had a big dog that lived in a large, nice dog house outside. The doghouse was nearly as tall as me.
"The lot after mine was wooded and had a long-dead tree, half fallen down with its root still attached. Us boys used to climb that tree and imagine it anything but a tree.
"I remember when Mr. North crashed and died. My mother discussed it with me and wouldn't let me go over and play with the kids that day so I understood something serious had happened. Play next door was more somber after that.
"Navy families move every 2 to 4 years depending on sea duty or land duty activity. Parents tend to stay in contact with other parents for years but young kids lose contact with friends quickly every time they move and seldom develop lifelong friendships. So Navy kids' only lifelong friendships tend to be with their siblings which probably helped the North/Beardsley merger work."
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