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Letters from the Heart: L

etters between Betty Blake and Will Rogers from January 1900 — a month or two after they met — are Letters from the Heart: Betty and Will Rogers, told in a one-wom- an, multi-media show written and performed by acclaimed New York actress Laurette Willis.

Willis will be performing on Friday nights July 8, 15, 22 and 29 and August 5 at 7 p.m. Tickets are $10 each and can be purchased in the museum store, 1720 West Will Rogers Blvd., or by calling 918- 343-8115 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The show has appeal for all ages.

War veterans and active duty military personnel will be honored July 8 and be given free admission with a paid ticket. As part of a Blue Star Museums program, they will also be given a 10 percent dis- count in the Museum store anytime be- tween May 23 and Labor Day. Veterans and active duty military are asked to identify themselves when they reserve a ticket so they can be properly identifi ed and honored at the July 8 per- formance.

Letters between Will, his father and sisters (another girlfriend or two) and finally the Arkansas girl he met at the Oologah depot, were kept. Betty Blake, who became his bride Nov. 25, 1908, ap- parently secreted them away.

Betty proved to be a reluctant, but cer-

tainly interested girlfriend. Much of their courtship was through letters sprinkled with an occasional visit.

Letters, many reproduced in Will Rog- ers: Courtship and Correspondence, 1900-1915 by former Will Rogers Memo- rial Museum Director Dr. Reba Collins, demonstrate the tenor of his desire that Betty be more than a friend. They go from “Dear friend,” signed by “Your true friend and Injun cowboy” to “My Dear Bettie,” written two months later and signed “I am yours with love.”

During their eight years of correspon- dence, Will traveled the world. From Eng- land to Buenos Aires, Brazil, Uruguay and South Africa.

By 1906, he became more serious, sign- ing off with “By, By, my darling” and in 1907 was calling her “Dearest” and sign- ing off as “Billie.”

In the year before they married, let- ters were longer and by January 1908 he professed his undying love. By October, a letter indicates Betty has pledged her al- legiance to Will and on Nov. 11, 1908 he greeted her with “My intended wife” and “My almost wife.” Will made letter writing a true art form and the play covers their fi rst meet- ing through Will’s Wild West shows, his trek around the world and his hits on the Vaudeville circuit.

Find out how he wooed and won the Serving Oklahoma for 33 years.


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Letters between Will Rogers and Betty Blake read by acclaimed artist at Will Rogers Memorial Museum

belle from Arkansas in their “Letters from the Heart.”

Original songs by Willis are enhanced by videos of vintage photos, newsreel footage, movies and rope tricks from Ropin’ Fool produced by Will Rogers. Will’s words evolve in song and words. His letters are read in his own voice (Will Rogers Memorial Museum Will Rogers interpreter Andy Hogan).

Claremore is an exceptional location for a day out with museum visits, dinner and theatre, or a pleasant drive for the theatre.

About Will Rogers Memorial Museum and Will Rogers Birthplace Ranch:

The magnificent museum of native limestone, overlooking the city of Clare- more and honoring the famed Oklahoma humorist and philosopher, was opened Nov. 4, 1938 on land donated to the state of Oklahoma by Will Rogers’ widow. The museum, also source of a vast library and archives, is filled with art, saddles, memorabilia and interactive ex- hibits including radio replays and con- tinuous playing of his motion pictures. Children can enjoy the hands-on Chil- dren’s Museum. Will, his wife, three of their children and a daughter-in-law are interred in the tomb set in a beautiful sunken garden. About 12 miles north of Claremore, on the banks of Oologah Lake sits the



Acclaimed artist Laurette Willis reads Will Rogers’ love letters to his bride.

1875 house where Will was born in a log- walled room. Goats and a burro roam the grounds, just waiting to be petted. Picnic under the trees and watch the Longhorn cattle and horses roam and chickens and ducks scatter as children romp in the shade.

Will Rogers Memorial Museum and the Will Rogers Birthplace Ranch are open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., 365 days a year. Ad- mission is by donation. Visit the website OL WORLD’S 1ST Just load a DR®

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