Sunday, 12 August 2012

Stanley Gifford and the Hemet Dairy Farm

A great deal has been written over the years about Marilyn’s believed father Stanley Gifford, and his role in the movie business when he courted Gladys Baker.  However, what about his later life?  Here is a short article I have written about what happened to him when he decided to leave the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles, for a quieter life in Southern California.  Much of the information is featured in my book, ‘Marilyn Monroe: Private and Undisclosed’ (UK) and ‘Marilyn Monroe: Private and Confidential’ (USA.)


It had been in July 1950 – less than a year before Marilyn tried to contact him for what I believe to be the second time - that Stanley Gifford saw an advert in the Los Angeles Times, for a plot of land in Hemet, which came with a seven room house, and 120 apricot trees.  He checked out the property; liked what he saw and shortly after negotiated a deal on the $8500 asking price; moving there with his wife, Mary.

Leaving the bright lights of Hollywood far behind, Gifford worked hard with his wife to establish the Red Rock Dairy, named after the 1000 Rhode Island Red and Plymouth Rock chickens that occupied the five acre ranch.  Twenty cows eventually grew to 115 and they were soon in a position to open a retail dairy:  “Five people promised to try the milk”, remembered Mary Gifford.  “After many hours of hard work and much advertising, the business grew to three routes.”

The couple also opened a small cash and carry store on the premises, and sold freshly baked goods and ice-cream to locals who would come to taste their wares and admire the resident monkey at the front of the store.  “The kids loved to stand and watch ‘Miss America Red Rock.’ [the monkey.] There was always someone to point out which cow gave the chocolate milk,” recalled Mary Gifford.

Such was the popularity of the dairy, that friends even started writing to local newspapers about it: “Stanley Gifford, a dairyman right here in our own valley has a cow named Ramona”, wrote an excited friend in 1954, adding, “When we are in an especially nostalgic mood we drive to the dairy farm at milking time and just sit there, drinking in the total beauty of the bovine chorus.”

It seemed an odd job for someone who had once enjoyed the life of a motion pictures salesman, but Stanley Gifford settled into it with great enthusiasm.  “It was a very interesting and rewarding experience for two city people”, Mary Gifford later said.


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