We know, for instance, that Elizabeth Short, one of the women most associated with Hollywood, was actually born in Boston in 1924. She was raised in Medford, MA. Her father was a miniature golf-course builder until he lost his fortune in the stock market (the windmill holes are always the first luxury to go). In 1930 he abandoned his car by the side of the road. People assumed, as was fairly common during that time, that he’d committed suicide. He certainly disappeared.
But it turns out, while they might look approximately the same, a disappearance is very different than a suicide. Cleo Short wasn’t dead at all! He sent Elizabeth’s mother, Phoebe, a letter some years later begging for forgiveness, and to come home. Phoebe did not forgive him.
That doesn’t mean it was easy for her being a single mother. She found work as a bookkeeper. Elizabeth was asthmatic and fairly sickly, and spent much of her time at the movies. She desperately wanted to be an actress. And so, unsurprisingly, she moved to LA. Her father was living there and was, at first happy to take her in.
For a while, anyway. The two quickly began quarreling, and Elizabeth set off to make her own way.
Elizabeth began work on a Naval Base when she was 18. She was arrested for drinking with sailors, and picked up by a policewoman named Mary Unkefer. Mary said that when she found Elizabeth “she was very good looking, with beautiful dark hair and fair skin. She dressed nicely and was a far way from being a barfly.”
Mary claimed she then took Elizabeth back to her own apartment, where Elizabeth lived with her for 9 days. Then Mary put her on a bus home. She later received a note from Elizabeth which read “I’ll never forget you – thank God you picked me up when you did.”