Chateau Retirement’s “Reflections” series highlights the rich life experiences of our residents. This month, Dottie Fields reflects on her eventful life journey.
I discovered my passion on stage for it was on stage that my heart sang.
I was born in 1923. My dad, Mort Taylor worked as the district manager for the Seattle P.I. and the Seattle Times and then enjoyed a 50-year career with State Farm Insurance. He died at 103. My mom was a stay at home mom who cared for my sister and me. She passed away when she was only 72.
My first life was when I was five and taking dance lesson; ballet and acrobatics. I left dancing when I got to high school and started singing. After HS I started singing with bands in Seattle and sang with Wyatt Howard’s band at the well-known Town Ranch night club for two years.
I went to John Muir grade school and Franklin HS. We lived in the Mt. Baker neighborhood, one block from Franklin HS in a home my parents built. When I was in the 8th grade, my grandfather, who lived in Rainier Beach died. One of his friends was Fred Hutchinson who lived just down the road in Rainier Beach proper and was well known in the community. My grandfather owned a sawmill at the top of Jackson St. and before WWI, when my father was a young child, the mill slid down the hill in a 75-acre mudslide and was never rebuilt.
After my grandfather died, my parents made the decision to move into his old house which they fixed up and then rented out the Mt. Baker house. We lived there all 4 years of my HS career. Now school was a trolley ride away instead of a short walk away. Eventually the trolley tracks were removed, the street was widened and busses replaced the trolley.
In HS, I sang with the band when they played a selection that had lyrics. On one occasion, Benny Goodman, the famous clarinetist and band leader was invited to our high school to hear our band. He came, and also directed a couple songs. I was standing at the rear of the assembly hall with my friend Martha Wright, a soon to be Broadway star. I heard Mr.McClellan, the HS band director who had taken the microphone say, “Is Dorothy Taylor in the auditorium?”
After hearing my name, I started walking up to the stage. Reaching the stage, Mr. Goodman put out his hand which I shook and then prepared myself to sing. The band played the introduction, “Wham Rebop Boom Bam” and I began to sing. At the end I took my bow and proceeded to exit the stage but not before tripping over an electrical cord. Yes, I was nervous but it was a thrill.
Just after Disneyland opened, July 1955, my older sister Betty auditioned and won the role of Slue Foot Sue at Disneyland’s Golden Horseshoe Review, till the Review closed in 1986. She was Slue Foot Sue for 31 years. Walt Disney was a familiar face in the audience and when he would show up for a performance, employees at the front gate would call and say, “Walt’s in the park” which prompted the staff to save Walt’s box seat.
One notable evening when he was in the audience, Betty started singing and the mic was not on. She excused herself to the audience, backed up a few feet and said, “Oh Bobby, would you please turn on my mic?” Then turning to her backup singers, she said, “Okay girls, let’s try it again” and the show went on. After the show, she changed her clothes and went out into the park. Waiting for her was Walt and his entourage. Laughing he said, “Betty, you’ve got to leave that part in your act. It was great.” Of course, she did not. Betty died about 4 yrs. ago and coincidentally the comedian that worked with her passed away the day before.
I was married in 1943 to Lt. Lloyd F. Fields an airman stationed in Spokane. We met when my cousin from Montana and I went to see the stripper Sally Rand at the Show Box. It didn’t seem to register with us that we shouldn’t even have been there since both of us were underage. Lloyd, sitting at a table close by, came over to our table and said, “Would you and your friend like to come join me and my friend for a drink?” We did.
My cousin had the car and after the show we took Lloyd and his friend back to McCord. It wasn’t long and I received a letter from Lloyd to which I sent a response. An invitation to visit Spokane followed. It was not long and he was transferred overseas to England and flew 24 missions over Germany before returning to the U.S. We were married a year later.
Our first station was Walla Walla. Lloyd was a well-liked squadron commander and I enjoyed military life. We had 3 children, 2 girls and a boy, Sharon, Steven, and Shelley and they made friends with other military children. We moved approximately 10 times, living in Columbus, Ohio five years, the longest of any place. I was fortunate enough to be elected president of The Wives Club, a club that provided community within the base to military wives, helping them make friends and providing social opportunities.
Lloyd began having problems with his eyes and the diagnosis was retina pigmentosa, a rare degenerative eye disease in which the back wall of the eye is damaged. Lloyd was slowly going blind. No longer able to fly, he became involved with missiles following our move to an English Air Base, 20 miles north of London. We were there two years.
Lloyd was sent back to the U.S., this time to Vandenburg AF base. There I got into a little theatre group. The first play I was in was “Anything Goes”, the second was “South Pacific”, in which I played Nellie Forbush. I had a blast on stage and began to find my place. During the last performance, while I was singing “I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair” at the end of the first act, the nurses on stage took the cold bucket of water and drenched me. The cast and the audience alike broke into gales of laughter.
Lloyd was a career Air Force pilot and ended his career as a Lt. Col. after 28 years of service. After Lloyd got out of the service, we moved to Mercer Island. He went to work at my father’s State Farm Insurance office, and I started working at the Bon Marche.
Two years later I went to work for I. Magnin where I was a top seller and had a 23-year career in the cosmetic department. Occasionally my friends and I would connect at the end of the day and visit a nightclub where I often recognized the guys in the band and following their break, they would invite me up on stage to sing a number with them.
Life on stage and life in the cosmetic department were good to me and I loved every minute of it.
Chateau Retirement Communities are based in the Seattle, WA area. Chateau Retirement offers Independent Living, Assisted Living and Memory Care living options. Contact us today to learn more about our family owned and operated communities, or schedule a tour.