Several years ago I stumbled upon a book called “Whatever Happened to Baby Peggy?” It was a very intriguing autobiography by a child star of the silent era who was the precursor for Depression Era Shirley Temple. At one point, when she was about my age now, she lived in Guanajuato raising her only, late in life, child fathered by her ex-priest husband.
A decade ago she came to the North Carolina Museum of Art to show one of her movies (co-starring then teen aged Clara Bow) with live music they used in the 1920s followed by a question and answer section. I took my kids to meet her, knowing she is likely the last of the silent stars living, and she was very interesting well into her eighties. Even the movie aged well having been based on my mother’s favorite childhood novel of the 1920s.
When I started to learn how to dance in group classes I was thinking of Baby Peggy frequently. Part of what she wrote about was how, as a child before she could read, she would place the movie script on walls and walk around it to absorb the information she really couldn’t understand. She called it learning in the round.
So while using dance classes to improve my Spanish often I didn’t get a fraction of what was said, but I tried to circle the teacher all the time when he taught something new. Since verbal directions eluded me; I needed to see what he was doing from all angles. So, I too, was now learning in the round. Gracias, to Baby Peggy for planting the idea in my head!
Then a few years later when I am now teaching dance we were celebrating graduation of all the classes taught at the Cultural Center. The teen salsa class did a routine to song that repeatedly states “Baby Peggy, Baby Peggy, Baby Peggy”. I was astonished and appreciated her efforts once again!
At 98 today, she’s got to be both the last silent star alive and one of the most interesting ex-pats Guanajuato ever hosted!
Joseph Toone is the Historical Society’s short-story award winning author of the SMA Secrets book series. All books in the series are Amazon bestsellers in Mexican Travel and Holidays. Toone is SMA’s expert and TripAdvisor’s top ranked historical tour guide telling the stories behind what we do in today’s SMA. Visit HistoryAndCultureWalkin