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Whatever Happened
to Norma Jean?

Well, the usual answer is: Norma Jeane Mortenson/Baker became Marilyn Monroe, the famous blonde who had an amazing show business career until her untimely death at its height. Norma Jean Salina

However, the Norma Jean I'm wondering about is Norma Jean Salina.  In the mid-1940s, when she was 14 and I was 16, I was the first boy she was allowed to date.

Immaculate Heart Girls' High

Norma Jean was a student at Immaculate Heart Catholic Girls' High School in Los Angeles and I had recently dropped out of Hollywood High

We met when she was shopping in a Ralph's Market where I worked as a boxboy. 

For me it was love at first sight, and she was pleased when I finally got up enough courage to ask her to go to the movies with me.  We dated off and on until I went into the army in 1948.

Sadly, I have no photos of her, but I have found some paintings on the Internet that look as if Norma Jean had posed for them. These are a couple of images of how she looked in her mid to late teens.

I fell hopelessly in love with Norma Jean the first time she smiled at me, and subsequently had serious misgivings about joining the army.  I feared ending up somewhere thousands of miles away and not knowing if I would ever see her again.

However, making a living as a 17-year-old dropout was not easy, and my on-again/off-again married/divorced mother's unwavering determination to manipulate my life made joining the military the only viable option at the time.

Norma Jean and I wrote to each other periodically while I was at Fort Belvoir, Virginia and we had a couple of dates when I was able to hitchhike back to Hollywood while on leave.  We didn't correspond very often while I was in Korea, but we did reconnect after I was discharged in 1951.

However, my new job with Cornet Stores    Cornet Stores
took me to several different cities in the western states, and I carelessly lost touch with Norma Jean.  Letting her slip through my fingers was one of the biggest mistakes (if not the biggest mistake) I've ever made.

In a Movie...

The last time I saw Norma Jean was in 1953 when she called and asked if I would like to take her to a movie in which she had played a small part. 

    She had already done a TV commercial as the White Rain Shampoo Girl, in which she was cute as a button dancing and singing in a white raincoat while 'white rain' gently fell on her white umbrella. 
   But the movies — "Wow!" I remember thinking, "Just imagine, my Norma Jean in the movies!"    torch song

Well, the truth is she never really was my Norma Jean.  Yes, I wanted her to be mine more than I've ever wanted anything.  But at that point in time, taking her to this movie was sure to be the highlight of my young life.

    However, it turned out to be an embarrassing and uncomfortable situation all the way around.  The movie, Torch Song with Joan Crawford, was a real dud and Norma Jean's part lasted less than a minute.  She was one of several star-struck teenage girls who had flocked around "the torch singer" in hopes of getting an autograph.

    Norma Jean was actually listed in the credits as "Margaret" — so she may have had a bigger part that ended up on the cutting room floor.  In any case, the whole idea of teenage girls going gaga over a female lounge singer seemed ridiculous.  If teenie boppers were going to mob a singer for an autograph in 1953, it would have been a male vocalist such as Eddie Fisher or Tony Bennett.

    Furthermore, Torch Song was one of the absolute worst movies I've ever seen.  Norma Jean felt the same way. In fact, it was the kind of movie I normally would have walked away from during its first 15 minutes.  But I painfully sat through the whole thing only because Norma Jean was in it.  However, I could tell it was just as painful for her.

Well, that was the last time I ever saw Norma Jean — but not because of the movie.  My job with Cornet Variety Stores kept me busy in places far away from her, and I just didn't make the effort to maintain contact.

But I've never stopped thinking about her.  Now, some seven decades since out last meeting, I think about her every day — and frequently dream about her.  Some of the dreams are frustratingly happy ones, in which I find her and take her to be my own.  The frustrating part is waking up to realize it was only a dream.

Well, so much for grasping at straws in the wind.  I keep hoping she or someone she knows will see her name mentioned on this site and send me an email.  If it never happens, however, I'll have to be content with my memories and my dreams.

• First Date with Norma Jean

© — Donald Ray Edrington — All Rights Reserved

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