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Mr Gable comes to town

That was a Free Press headline that greeted Winnipegers 81 years ago, on September 24th, 1938. But it was a case of “Sorry girls, he’s been and gone in the sub-head, for the heart throb of millions of screen fans that had slipped quietly through the city on his way to a hunting holiday at the Delta Marsh.

Sporting a green hat, red neckerchief, a plain brown suit and a big smile, the Hollywood star swept into the Canadian Pacific Railway station, drawing a chorus of admiration from some 40 women and teenage girls assembled to greet their hero.

But ducks, not women, were his main interest in the Manitoba visit. He had come for weeks shooting as the guest of Jimmy Robinson, a former Winnipegger than living in Minneapolis. Mr Gable was in the city for just an hour before leaving for Portage La Prairie.

Ready and affable in granting interviews during his brief stay in Winnipeg. He requested no fuss and no formality. He was just plain Clark Gable with nothing of the movie idol about him.

But he was puzzled as to how the women found out he was to be in town. It was the first time he had been spotted during the trip. Nobody knew how they found out, but they had been waiting for a long time for the train to arrive.

“Isn’t he handsome! He’s so wonderful”,l they exclaimed as he posed the camera shots and signed autographs, then strode off into the Royal Alexandra Hotel.

“He’s a fine fellow and very easy to meet”, declared CC Sparling. Who had travelled part of the way with Gable

By the time Mr Gable reached Portage La Prairie the news had spread, and about 100 people, including some 20 young girls, were on hand when he stepped from the train.

With his pipe between his teeth and smiling happily to star walked unflinchingly, directly into the path of a battery of cameras and declared he didn't care whether people knew he was in Canada or not. Several of the bolder members of the crowd asked the for autographs and he obliged with a smile.

A few minutes later, accompanied by friends, he walked into beer parlor at the Leland Hotel, quenched his thirst, then set them up for everyone in the house.

In the welcoming party where his host, Mr Robinson, -sportsman and former newspaper writer, Bill Longeway - Minneapolis sportsman and Telf Miller - proprietor of the hotel.

At the lodge on the Delta Marsh, everything was in readiness for the guest. Mr Robinson had spent the previous afternoon papering the spare room, which Mr Gable would occupy during his stay. They knew it wasn’t necessary, as they were old friends of the star, but just thought it was a nice thing to do. Press photos showed the small, non-modern cabin, which didn’t faze the distinguished guest. He was out for a holiday and didn’t mind a little roughing. He hoped to bag some ducks, mainly wanted to rest and relax. To ensure his privacy, a high fence topped with barbed wire had been erected around the Robinson property.

Most of those allowed to enter the confines were Minneapolis sportsmen and a few reporters who found him very affable and declared him “a real fella who swears a bit, smokes a lot, (mostly pipe), drinks a bit and doesn’t eat dessert”.

He hated prunes and confided to a Free Press reporter as they sat together on a homemade trunk and just couldn’t seem to get used to what he turned the Canadian custom of eating them for breakfast.

The reporters felt that one reason he was so affable was that many years before he had worked briefly on the newspaper in Portland, OR. “But they didn’t seem to pay very much” he joked. “Perhaps not quite what you were getting.” was the reporters reply.

Shortly after lunch at the Robinson Cabin, Mr Gable took part in an impromptu baseball game, doing a good job of fielding and later batting out flies. His guns were a disappointment to some of the reporters who had heard stories of pearl and diamond studded weapons used by other movie stars. “They are only ordinary guns”, he said, “I use them to shoot with. I don’t need gold plated artillery”.

He proved he didn’t when he and Mr Robinson and guide Rod Ducharme went out that evening in the boat. Before long, he had realized his ambition, he had bagged 12 canvasbacks, the limit for a single day.

During his stay, Gable sent telegrams to Carol Lombard, one from Winnipeg, one when they arrived in Portage and others later. But he didn’t want to talk about that.


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