After our lunchtime snack had ended with a cup of tea (and yes, Hexie insisted on reading our tea leaves!), my mother then pulled out her trusty little 3-ring notebook and started the “formal interview.” Of course, the first question she asked Hexie was… “So tell me – how did you become Oscar Hammerstein’s sister-in-law?” “Oh,” she said with a dreamy look in her eyes, “Reggie and I met across a crowded room! Actually, it was a crowded theater! In 1943, I was living outside of Chicago and, as a former “Powers Girl” (Hexie, known as Mary Manners in those days, had attended the famous John Robert Powers modeling and acting agency) lots of doors had opened for me, both in modeling and on the stage – but theater was always my passion. Oklahoma had just opened on Broadway and more than anything, I wanted to play the role of Ado Annie. I got in touch with my good friend, Harry Stockwell, who at the time had the lead role of Curly in the Broadway production and I said, ‘Harry, you’ve got to help me out here – and, don’t say no! I’m dying to audition for Ado Annie.’
“Harry suggested that I wait for the touring company to come to Chicago. ‘Hammerstein will be there,’ he said. ‘You can do your audition for him.’ Well, I knew there was an Oscar Hammerstein, but I didn’t know that he had a brother in the theater business, too – so this was all news to me. (Reginald Hammerstein was the General Stage Manager for Oklahoma.)
“One night I ended up going to see the show with a girlfriend. The two of us sat down and started flipping through our programs. The theater was buzzing with anticipation and all of a sudden I felt a tingly sensation roll over me. I looked up and noticed a tall man standing in the wings across the stage. I had no idea who he was, but I felt drawn to him immediately. At the time I was divorced and had absolutely no intention of getting married again, but I took one look at this stranger and immediately knew that he was ‘the one.’ I nudged my girlfriend, Rae, and said ‘See that man over there? I’m going to marry him!’ Of course, she thought I was nuts! She just shook her head and said, ‘Mary, you’re crazy! You don’t even know him!’
“Something else extraordinary happened that same night. Standing next to this tall strange man (who turned out to be Reginald Hammerstein), I noticed a little blonde girl. The child never appeared in the show so I was curious to know who she was. Later on in the evening, I asked Reginald about her. He looked completely puzzled and said, ‘What on earth are you talking about? There was no little girl standing next to me.’ Now I know that the child I saw that night was the daughter we were to have. Regina (nicknamed “Reggie” after her father) is a tow-headed blonde and the spitting image of her dad.” Needless to say, Hexie never auditioned for the part. The stranger she spotted across the crowded room proposed to her that very same night.
After giving us the details about her “fairy-tale” encounter with Reginald Hammerstein, Hexie then went on to expound on her Wiccan beliefs. She was a firm believer in the power of thought. “We create our lives with every thought, every minute of the day. People don’t realize that thoughts are like powerful magnets. We need to wake up and become aware of what we’re thinking and what we’re attracting.” Twirling strands of her waist-long red hair as she spoke, the animated Mrs. Hammerstein went on to explain the Law of Threefold Return. “It’s simple. Whatever you give out, good or bad, will be returned to you three times over. So, that’s why I try to entertain only those thoughts and feelings that contribute to my own happiness and to the betterment of the world.”
What an entertaining and thought-provoking afternoon it had turned out to be! When my mother and I left her “Sky Island” estate (named, of course, because Hexie felt that one’s dreams and visions should be as high as the sky!) we both felt uplifted and, dare I say it – enchanted – by our visit with this extraordinary woman.
By Lynda Elizabeth Jeffrey To be continued…