History Part 2

Brocks / Gottschalks


Her Story (Part 2)


THE ENDS OF THE EARTH: Out Of This World Adventures

The decision to drop the proposed TV series was quite a blow, but once again Carolina bounced back and moved on. In the Fall of 1950 she participated in an all-celebrity baseball game, called the Out Of This World Series. This was an star-studded charity event held annually in Los Angeles.

Watch a Pre-Game interview with Carolina and Dale Evans
TOP: Desi Arnaz hits one for charity, in the Out Of This World Series. The Hollywood Junior Chamber of Commerce sponsored the annual celebrity fund-raiser each summer, in the early 1950s. It brought out Hollywood's finest for a free-for-all Baseball extravaganza, at Gilmore Ball Park. Carolina participated in at least 3 of the Games. This program guide is from 1952. BOTTOM: Alaska Airlines sponsored the first commercial flight over the North Pole. Carolina was part of the big event in Fairbanks, which celebrated the placement of a real "pole" over the North Pole, on December 12, 1951. It was filled with trinkets and childrens' letters to Santa Claus. There was so much mail that the excess letters were placed in a bag, and tied to the pole.
The Games always included a "Who's Who" of Hollywood's favorites. Among them were: Desi Arnaz, Tony Curtis, Lionel Hampton, Bob Crosby, Jane Russell, Dean Martin, Jerry Lewis, Spade Cooley, Gary Cooper, Shelly Winters, Janet Leigh, Bob Hope, Roy Rogers, Dale Evans and Trigger...competing in a friendly (but outrageous) game of Baseball. Some of the players even ran the bases on horseback! Of course there were no real "rules", as it was all in fun. (Carolina was invited back to play in at least 2 more of these Games, in 1951 and 52).

By December, Carolina was honored join in her first of many Military / USO shows, called the Hollywood Christmas Caravan. Although this particular tour was not "officially" labeled USO, it still entertained our military troops overseas (see the USO/MILITARY page, for more details). This tour sent Carolina over to Europe. She was especially honored to be given West Germany's prestigous medal of Deputy Provost Marshal--the only civilian to receive this award.

Carolina stayed on with MGM Records in 1951, this time recording 4 songs with Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys, including a remake of her song "Three Miles South of Cash". They made a music video (Snader Telescription) of the tune, as well as one for "Yodel Mountain" Another TV opportunity came along, this time co-starring on KTTV's Hoffman Hayride. She also began filming on 2 more pictures for Columbia, Rough Tough West (Charles Starrett, Smiley Burnette) and the Gene Autry movie Apache Country.

In December 1951, Carolina participated in one of her most colorful stunts: placing a giant 9-foot striped pole, filled with 5000 childrens' letters to Santa Claus, and dropping it over the North Pole. This would finally give the World an "authentic Pole" up there! She and Alaska DJ North Pole Nellie took part in a big celebration up in Fairbanks. (Carolina had a lot of fun as she tried dog-sledding, and became an honorary member of the Alaskan Dog Mushers Association). The 2 girls were set to fly in the Polar Express--the very first commercial flight over the North Pole. However, the plane was scheduled to make a refueling stop at an all-male military bass en-route...where, unfortunately, women were not permitted. (Remember, this was back in the early '50s). Sadly, Carolina and Nellie were left behind. In their honor, the airmen on the flight let out a spirited yodel, as the candy-striped "Pole" fell to Earth, marking the Top of the World.

NOTE: For more about the North Pole adventure, and to hear a radio broadcast about the event, go to the Archives section...click here: Alaska and The North Pole



Back in 1951, the Naval station at Point Barrow, Alaska may have been off-limits to women. However, across the oceans, the military bases of war-torn Korea needed female entertainers. So Carolina was soon on her way overseas, with the USO. Besides Korea, she performed for troops stationed in Europe and North Africa.

Soon the familiar folks at the Armed Forces Radio Service called on Carolina, and she answered with a new show: Carolina Cotton Calls. The 15 minute programs were very down-to-earth and a welcome comfort to many a soldier, reminding them of the "girl next door", back at home. (for a photo and sample of the opening theme song, go to the Home page).

Back in the States, the Yodeling Blonde Bombshell kept up appearances at rodeos, fairs and charity benefits. Los Angeles' Miracle Mile honored her during Cotton Week, crowning her Queen of the event. And she even teamed up with a kiddie amusement park in Compton, when it was renamed Carolina Cotton's Tiny Town. (visit the Appearance page for photos and details).  Visit the official Tiny Town here:  Tiny Town Park

She released her last 2 songs for MGM: "Yodel Yodel Yodel" (revised for the Autry film, Blue Canadian Rockies), and perhaps her greatest yodeling showcase of all, "Nola".

In December '52, another USO tour to Korea was under way. Carolina really connected with the troops...so much so that she requested a return visit, a few weeks later. (This time, she performed on the front lines). As a token of appreciation, the 188th Tank Corp named a tank after her: Miss Carolina, The Cotton Special.

Carolina finished filming 2 movies with the legendary Gene Autry: Apache Country, and her final film, Blue Canadian Rockies. She also made one more Durango Kid picture, the Rough Tough West, featuring her old friends Charles Starett and Smiley Burnette.

Hear Carolina describe what it was like to work with Gene Autry
The Rough Tough West, lobby card, ca. 1952. This was one of Carolina's final films, and the 3rd featuring Charles Starrett, "The Durango Kid". It also costarred longtime friend Smiley Burnette. In this film she sang "Cause I'm In Love", backed by Pee Wee King's band.
Although 1952 was the final year Carolina released any commercial recordings or made B Westerns, she was far from stepping down from the limelight. She continued to make many TV appearances. Miss Cotton was regular on KTLA's Western Varieties, and also back in San Francisco, on a show with another familiar face...Cottonseed Clark. She made guest spots on a few radio programs. One of the most popular was the Navy Country Hoedown. She appeared on the series with Ernest Tubb, and a couple of comrades from the old days: Tex Williams, and Merle Travis. Of course she made her yearly USO tours overseas to Korea and the Far East, and numerous personal appearances within the US.

Johannesburg, South Africa, ca. June 1956: A group of Hollywood entertainers pose for a group shot, in between their visits to hospitals of the United Cerebral Palsy Foundation. The group also had the chance to go on "safari" at Krueger National Park. Among the entourage is Keenan Wynn, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Merle Travis and Walter Pidgeon. Carolina is in the center.



In June 1956, Carolina made one final overseas trip, with her fellow entertainers. This time it was over to Johannesburg, South Africa. Included in the group were Zsa Zsa Gabor, Keenan Wynn, Walter Pidgeon and longtime friend Merle Travis. Together they toured hospitals on behalf of the United Cerebral Palsey Foundation. Carolina really connected with the disabled children there, and told herself that if she ever left Show Business, she would do something to help such kids.

Meanwhile, Carolina had become romantically involved with LA-area musician Bill Ates--nephew of character actor Roscoe Ates, with whom she did many shows throughout her career. The two were married in August 1956 in Los Angeles. A special wedding party was held at the Silver Saddle Inn. It was a grand affair, complete with a fashion show by old friend Nathan Turk.

Times...they were a changin'. Now married, and with Western Swing and B movies becoming more of a thing of the past, Carolina concentrated more on her new home life. Yet she still made an occasional appearance here and there. She also kept in touch with her old friends, and even wrote a few magazine columns for Trail and Rustic Rhythm magazines.

The couple settled down in the San Fernando Valley, and soon started a family with 2 children: son William, and daughter Sharon. Sadly, the marriage didn't survive...Carolina and Bill had divorced in the early 1960s.



Carolina remembered her old promise she made to herself in Johannesburg, when she visited the disabled children there. She moved her family back to the very place where her entertainment career began many years ago: San Francisco. But this time, she turned her attention to becoming a teacher. Like everything else Carolina did, she gave it her 110 percent...before long, she earned her Masters Degree in Special Education (she also received a 2nd degree in general education). Carolina taught at several schools in the Bay Area.

In time, better teaching positions came along and the family relocated from San Francisco to Panama (Balboa, Canal Zone, where her sister Winifred also taught), Hot Springs Arkansas and finally back to California, settling down in Bakersfield.

Wedding Party at the Silver Saddle Inn, Los Angeles, August 1956. The guest list featured everyone from celebrities to horse fanciers, and the general public was invited to celebrate. Pictured L-R are: Lyle Williams (sponsor of the event), Nathan Turk, disc jockey Ben Hunter, and the Bride and Groom...Bill and Carolina. Part of the festivities included a Fashion Show by Turk.
Jam session at the Grange Hall in Bakersfield, ca. early 1980s. Carolina often appeared onstage with Old Time Fiddlers, Buck Funderburk, Bill Woods and others who helped create the famous Bakersfield Sound.

In the 1970s, Bakersfield was known as Nashville West, and it wasn't long before country artists there such as Bill Woods and Buck Funderburk learned that the Yodeling Blonde Bombshell was now living and teaching in their own back yard. As they say, "once a musician, always a musician"...and with her kids now grown, Carolina would occasionally join in a few jam sessions, out at the local Grange Hall.

On more than one occasion, Carolina also performed at events sponsored by the Kern County Museum, to help raise money for their Country Music exhibit. One of these shows included her old friends Joe and Rosa Lee Maphis...comrades from her days on the "Carolina Cotton Calls" AFRS Radio programs.

Western Film Caravan, April 26-28, 1984. Carolina proudly displays an award she received at the event.

The Country and Western Music community wasn't the only one to remember Carolina from the Good Old Days. By 1984, she attended the first of many Western Film Festivals, which honor and celebrate the B Western movies. These get-togethers were (and still are) quite an affair for fans and celebrities alike. Carolina enjoyed many an opportunity to mingle with old and new fans. She also reunited with a few friends she'd known and worked with over the years...people like Gloria Henry, Gail Davis, Lash LaRue, Sunset Carson and many others. Of course, no Film Festival would be complete without the Yodeling Blonde Bombshell doing what she does best...Carolina wowed the crowd with songs like "I Love To Yodel", "Lovesick Blues" and her audience-participation duet version of "Three Miles South of Cash in Arkansas".

Miss Cotton and her class at Mt. Vernon School, ca. 1994. Carolina was an innovator at the school, creating special awards and incentives to boost the morale of students. One of these programs was to have a Special Day for each classmate. Another was the "Happy Heart". On this occasion, Carolina herself was honored by the School.

Sadly, in 1994, Carolina Cotton was diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer.

In spite of enduring Chemotherapy, she carried on with the same enthusiam she was blessed with since Childhood. She not only kept teaching full-time, but kept her part-time sales job in the Housewares Department of Gottschalks (formerly Brock's) Department store. She even appeared at a couple of Film Festivals, and continued to enjoy her summer trips to Europe.

It looked like, for awhile, she was beating the odds and recovering. Unfortunately, this was not the case. By March 1997, her illness forced her to retire from teaching. She entered the hospital in mid-April, where she passed away the morning of June 10th, 1997.

Carolina Cotton lives on in the hearts of fans old and new. She is fondly remembered by those who knew her and loved her the world over. And the ongoing preservation of her films, recordings and memorabilia will ensure her works will be shared with generations to come... a fitting tribute to the lovable little gal from Cash, Arkansas.