Silver Screen: The Owens-Rogers Museum

By Carla Charter

INDEPENDENCE, MO – In independence is a small bungalow which became the birthplace of one of the dancing legends of the Silver Screen. Ginger Rogers was born to Lela Owens here and the pair lived in the bungalow for four to five years, while Lela worked at the nearby Sand Company as a Stenographer and Typist.

Ginger and her mother Lela, who also spent time in Hollywood as a scriptwriter, were always involved in the theater and vaudeville scene. “By 18 months, Ginger was posing for ads in newspapers. Even at that age Ginger loved it.”

Ginger was often behind stage during Vaudeville performances imitating the steps and movements of the actors.  Lela made dresses for Ginger’s vaudeville performances and her 1927 Singer sewing machine is on display at the museum.

Ginger moved at nine with her mother and her new husband to Texas.    She continued performing and by age 14 became serious about show business, eventually heading to Broadway and Hollywood.  Over her career she performed in 73 movies and received an Academy Award for Best Actress in 1940 for her role in Kitty Foyle.

Among the 250 items on display at the museum include a pair of Ginger’s shoes, her hat and milk bottles from the Rogue River Ranch in Oregon that she owned, as well as her photos of her, as well as her purses and gloves.  The museum also has four of her gowns on display including the one she wore to the 1967 Academy Awards. There are also audio recordings of Ginger Rogers playing on their radio.

Both Ginger and Lela were also artists.  “We have an original painting by Lela and a self-portrait print that Ginger did in charcoal.

The museum has also created the Ginger Rogers international Fan Club.  “I am amazed at how many Ginger Rogers fans are out there,”said museum director and owner, Marge Padgitt.

The museum is open April 1 – September 30 on Wednesday and Saturday from 10 am to 3 pm, and other days for special events or group tours. Groups can make arrangements in advance by sending an email or call 573-271-9012.  The museumis  closing tto the public on Sept 30, 2019. After that, it will only be open for special events. More information on the Owens Rogers Museum can be found at  www.owensrogersmuseum.com.