Marcy writes about American life, holidays, politics and other topics. She has written hundreds of articles for online & print publications.
Review: True North, Book by Tom North
Book Review: Tom North Exposes the Truth About "Yours, Mine & Ours"
If you grew up in the mid-1960s, you were probably charmed by the loving family life depicted in the iconic movie, Yours, Mine and Ours, about the blended family created by Helen North and Frank Beardsley.
But how accurately was the family portrayed in the movie (which was based on Helen North Beardsley's book, Who Gets the Drumstick)?
Was the household filled with rationale parental leadership and firm, but loving guidance? Or were there dark secrets that were not mentioned in the book and that went unseen on the screen?
Tom North, one of the eight North children who were merged into one family unit with the 10 Beardsley children when Helen North married Frank Beardsley, has written a book that discloses a household he says was filled with violence and even sexual abuse after the two families became one.
As with many family violence situations, North says putting forward a good face to the public marked the code of denial and secrecy the blended family was expected to adhere to.
True North, published in July, 2013, is the sometimes heartbreaking, and very believable story of Tom North's journey from childhood memories of fear and abuse into an adulthood of recognition, bitterness, and finally of healing and renewal.
North's overriding message in the book is that those who experience childhood abuse can learn to identify their inner hurts, begin the process of healing, move forward and even forgive (as much as possible).
Scene From Movie: Grocery Shopping with Lucille Ball and Henry Fonda, from 1968 "Yours, Mine & Ours"
True North - The Shocking Truth About "Yours, Mine & Ours," by Tom North
The Real North-Beardsley Household from "Yours, Mine & Ours"
Tom North says the image presented on the screen (and in the book, Who Gets the Drumstick), does not even remotely resemble the household created by Frank and Helen's marriage.
According to North (Tom North's true story), life was ruled by Frank Beardsley's angry and militaristic personality. North provides specific, anecdotal (and believable, due to the level of detail) examples of a home atmosphere dominated by fear and abuse.
North was only six when his beloved father died. Dick North was only 30, and left behind a young widow, his seven children and an eighth on the way. Tom North's happy memories of his birth father are a shocking contrast to the life of violent outbursts and drinking he writes about in the Beardsley household.
Helen North married Frank Beardsley a year or so after she was widowed (and not long after Frank's wife died). According to her son, she spent considerable energy trying to protect her children from Frank's abusive behaviors. And insisting that the outside world should never be privy to what went on inside the walls of the home.
With 20 hungry people in the house (many of them with the voracious appetites teens are known to have), food was sometimes limited, and North says Frank Beardsley was generally accorded the best of each meal, while the children were given the fillers.
Indeed, 1968 audiences were stunned to see the shopping scene (included here) with a final grocery bill that topped $126 - an unheard of amount to pay for weekly groceries in that era.
Money was tight, stomachs needed to be filled, and everyone had to work. North says many people at the time assumed they were made rich by the 1968 movie; not so - the family received a modest lump-sum payment, and missed out on the actual revenue the popular film generated.
To make ends meet, the family acquired a donut shop, and all children who were old enough to help out (an age that was, it appears, determined by Frank rather than the law) were put to work making donuts.
Anyone who has ever stopped for coffee and a donut on the way to work eventually realizes that someone has to get up in the wee hours to make the dough and get them ready for hungry commuters.
Many of the children spent their teen years working hard nighttime or pre-dawn hours at the donut shop, at the same time they were attending school and trying to keep their grades alive.
Radio Interview With Tom North from Family That Inspired Two Movies
An Iowa University (MIU) Helps Lead Tom North Home
True North: Tom North's Journey to Heal Himself
Tom North says he developed the habit of retreating to the nearby Pacific Ocean for both escape and renewal.
His untold hours in the waves and on the beach are beautifully captured in his compelling writing, and along the way, he developed skills that proved to be useful in many ways.
North learned to fish so adeptly that his catches often fed the entire large (and growing) family, offering a nice alternative to meals sometimes planned with thrift in mind rather than nutrition.
However, he also escaped in other ways, such as the dangerous drugs so often used to avoid reality by those who lived through the 60s and 70s.
Finally, after years spent avoiding his childhood memories and escaping from life, North immersed himself into a search for inner spirituality and academics, at Maharishi International University (MIU) in Fairfield Iowa.
The small, Liberal Arts environment, combined with cold winters, open-thinking professors and students launched his recovery from the past.
One wonders, after reading North's solidly portrayed accounts of being a headstrong child and teen, and of focusing on escape for so many years, whether MIU may have saved his life.
It is certain, from reading North's passage from bitterness to inner peace, that it likely saved his heart and spirit.