Blanchie Mae stands along the Ohio River, near where she and her sister Thelma (Pud) once played with Rosemary Clooney and her sister Betty. When they were children the river bank extended almost to where the large ice piers are located.

Rosemary Clooney's
Maysville, Kentucky

On a beautiful day in the middle of summer, Blanchie Mae Chambers, Rosemary's best friend for more than 60 years, graciously led a guided tour of Rosemary Clooney's Maysville, Kentucky, for this website and all its visitors.

After seeing Rosemary, and this quaint little town along the banks of the Ohio, through the eyes of Blanchie Mae, it is easy to understand why a world-famous movie/singing star did not distance herself from her humble beginnings, but instead embraces and honors them, for it was in this little town that Rosemary's dreams were born, the seeds of her faith planted, the will and strength to survive were role-modeled, and the loving and nurturing relationships that would last a lifetime and transcend all boundaries were cemented.

Throughout her autobiography Girl Singer, Rosemary employs the metaphor of the river to symbolize her life, her dreams, and her continuing journey. Here is where it all began.....

Indicates Quotes from Girl Singer

From the porch, the river looked smoky brown sometimes, rosy and lavender when the sun was going down, then slate gray, just before it turned pitch black. From the porch, the lights of the Island Queen beckoned, like reachable stars. From the porch, the river promised better times coming, faraway places just around the bend. From the porch, the river was a wide tranquil ribbon, no hint of a dangerous current. All you could see from the porch were possibilities, not perils.

These are the beautiful murals that now adorn the flood wall along the river in Maysville.
When Rosemary and Blanchie Mae were children, these walls didn't exist.

But it is somewhere on the other side of these walls and along the waters they hold back,
that many of the stories that Rosemary recounts from her childhood took place.

One very cold winter day, when I was five and Betty just about two, we got dressed up in one of our aunt's long dresses. "Now we have to go down to the river," I told Betty, "because we're going on a long trip, and we have to wait by the river till the boat comes." Somehow we managed to sneak down the stairs and out of the house without being seen. We scurried across Front Street, clutching the folds of our long gowns. We were standing at the edge of the river grading, and I was looking upriver, pretending I could just see the boat coming, when Betty skidded down the slick grading into the river. The dark water closed above her head. I leaned over, grabbed her hand, and dragged her out. She wasn't crying, just coughing and sputtering. I got her home and into the bathtub and then dried off, all by myself--my mother had told me I would manage, I would be able to do whatever had to be done.

[W]hen [Daddy] was around--when he was sober--he'd take his ukelele and walk with Betty and me down to the riverbank, where we'd sit under a willow tree and sing ["Five Foot Two, Eyes of Blue" and "Home on the Range" and "The Old Covered Bridge"].


The first stop on the tour was this house on East Second Street, where Rosemary lived for a time with Grandma Guilfoyle.

They lived in the part that is now painted white, but when Rosemary lived here, it was still red brick.

About six blocks from the house above is one of Maysville's oldest businesses (150 years), Hutchison's Grocery. This is a place where Blanchie Mae and Rosemary ran to a few times for whatever treats and surprises that the owner of the store, Grandpa Hutchison, would give them from his candy supply. Above you see Sissy behind the counter. Rosemary still gets good things from Hutchison's, just last Christmas, one of Rosemary's relatives had Sissy ship a country ham to her in California for the holidays. Give Sissy a call at 606-564-3797 and have a ham shipped to you!

This is the Opera Theatre on Second Street where
 Rosemary performed as a youngster and won a competition or two.

Go east on Second a ways and make a right onto Market and you will eventually
end up here at the fountain on the corner of Third and Market Streets.
On your way you will have passed a little diner on Market Street called Delites.
This is where Rosemary ate her Coneys with everything on them and stills love them that way today!

Make a left on Third Street
and you'll be sure to notice this sign.

It appears on the Marquee for the Russell Theatre
which is pictured on the right.

Click on the Marquee to learn more about the Russell, see pictures of the interior and learn how you can help Rosemary "RESCUE THE RUSSELL" and
EVEN BUY A BRICK in the Walk of Fame!

I made my first public appearance when I was three, on the stage at the Russell Theater, the downtown movie house with twinkling stars on the ceiling...and sang "When Your Hair Has Turned to Silver (I will Love You Just the Same)."

It was here in this theatre that Rosemary and Blanchie Mae came to watch first-run movies. At the time things were still segregated and Blanchie Mae was required to sit in the balcony. Ever the faithful friend, Rosemary went to the balcony with her, rather than be separated from her. Rosemary won contests here and performed on this stage many times, once even as the wicked queen in St. Patrick's school's, operetta version of Snow White. According to Don Buckley, former classmate of Rosemary's and committee member of "Rescue the Russell," Rosemary very much wanted to be Snow White in the play, but Sister Geraldine saw Rosemary's talent even then, and insisted she play the more challenging role of the wicked queen. (Don played Dopey in this same production!)

In 1953 Rosemary selected this theatre for the world premiere of her first movie "The Stars are Singing." It was a grand affair of Hollywood magnitude. There was still segregation in 1953, but this time Rosemary insisted that Blanchie Mae be with her.

At the Russell Theater, I would have liked to sit back and enjoy the movie [premiere], but I was hustled onstage to sing. I didn't sing "Come On" or any other song people might expect. I chose songs in honor of my grandparents. For Grandma Guilfoyle, in a prime aisle seat, I sang "Moonlight and Roses." For Papa Clooney, I sang "Home on the Range," the song I'd sung at his Rotary lunch when I was five years old.

Afterward, I was swept along to Mayor Hord's house...for a reception in my honor...From the [Mayor's] porch, the Ohio was just visible in the moonlight, its surface on opaque, faintly luminous gray that could signal stormy weather. The river...looked swollen with early winter rain and the leaves and earth the rain had washed away, but that was the river's nature. It still looked like a route to possibility more than peril. And to me, it still looked navigable.

In recent years the theatre has fallen into a serious state of disrepair. To assist in the efforts to restore this theatre, Rosemary participated in the "Rosemary Clooney Music Festival," which is a day-long music festival on the streets of Maysville, capped off by Rosemary's own concert. The profits from the festival go to help in the restoration drive. To learn more about the festival or the Russell Theatre and ways you can help visit

Down the street a little ways you see beautiful St. Patrick's Church where so many significant and meaningful experiences in Rosemary's life have taken place. Not only was this the place where she was baptized and received her first communion, where in the adjacent school, Sister Geraldine instructed her on the proper etiquette and dress for meeting the hierarchy of the Church, but this is also where she and Dante were married on Nov. 7, 1997, a day that saw much joy and many tears of happiness.

I was baptized there, made my first holy communion there, walked to grade school there in my itchy wool jumper with white collar and cuffs, red tie and knee socks....When people wondered why I hadn't married in New York or Beverly Hills, I wondered why they would think I'd marry anywhere except my hometown church. As a kid, on the way home from school, I'd sometimes stop in for a while--I found a kind of peace there, without even knowing what I was looking for.

Two Maysville locations that hold some of the most significant memories for Rosemary and Blanchie Mae no longer exist, except in memory. But here are their locations on Market.

Pictured on the left are the buildings which used to be adjacent to the New Central Hotel, where Blanchie Mae's mother worked. Located almost directly across the street on the spot where Blanchie Mae is standing was Rosemary's Papa Clooney's jewelry store.

It was when Rosemary lived above the store with Mawley and Papa Clooney and Blanchie came to the hotel to wait for her mother that the two girls spent most of their time together. It was in the apartment above the store where Grandma Clooney would fix the girls little sandwiches for them to eat while they played with the beautiful, huge doll house located in the equally huge dinning room. And it was also there, that Blanchie Mae would play conductor on the double swing, one time causing Rosemary to fall off and cut her chin. For more on Blanchie Mae and Rosemary's friendship visit Best Friends, Always.

Located up the hill a ways from where Grandfather Clooney's store was, is another of the houses that Rosemary lived in with Grandma Guilfoyle and which she talks about in her books.

It is this house which is designated in the National Registry of Historic Places as Rosemary Clooney's childhood home.

It was up on this hill in this huge red brick house that Grandma Guilfoyle could see the river, but longed to live right by it.

This sign appears on the rear of the house.

Now that house on West Third Street, high above the river, is spruced up, glistening white, with window boxes full of scarlet geraniums and trailing ivy, listed in The National Register of Historic Places. The side street leading down to the river is named Rosemary Clooney Street. Then it was a rented house, well-scrubbed, but the linoleum on the kitchen floor was peeling, curled up at the edges. There was no central heating, just little potbellied stoves and a fireplace with a grate where my grandmother cooked when the bills hadn't been paid and the gas was turned off. On winter days, my sister Betty, my brother Nicky, and I licked the ice that formed on the inside of the kitchen window.

But my grandmother loved that house, loved sitting in her high-backed rattan rocking chair on the porch, where she could look down at the river rolling by. She loved to cook--floured chicken pieces with lots of salt and pepper, fried to the crackling stage in bubbling hot Crisco; green beans boiled with a chunk of country ham; piles of cole slaw. Once she made strawberry shortcake on the fireplace grate. She loved listening to her daytime serials on the big Zenith console in the living room, always tuned to WLW in Cincinnati: "Stella Dallas," "Backstage Wife." She loved her little garden beyond the porch, with its straggling hollyhocks and snapdragons, late-summer rows of the juiciest tomatoes, the twisted hackberry tree at the far edge of the yard.

The porch which holds so many memories for Rosemary
and was so important to Granda Guilfoyle, as you can see,
sits high above the streets and gives you the view of the
river pictured on the right. Notice the mailbox located
on the other side of the street.....

The mailbox pictured above is the same one
that is now to the right of Blanchie Mae and
the street sign which designates this
Rosemary Clooney Street.

Rosemary dedicating the street sign in 1953
and Blanchie Mae today.

If you travel about twenty miles up the river
you will come to the town of Augusta
where Rosemary now has a home.
There she has the view of the
river that Grandma Guilfoyle always wanted.

Just outside her front door Rosemary
can see this view of that same river that carried
her childhood dreams on to reality.

From the porch [in Augusta], I can smell the river,
keen and fresh. I know now that the faraway
places the river suggests are not just around the bend,
but faraway beyond imagining--knotted places
in the mind and heart.
But I can always follow the river safely home.

And at the end of the tour Blanchie Mae
wanted to know all about this Internet
website where Rosemary fans gathered
and where she and her "million dollar tour
of Maysville" were soon going to be featured.

So here you see Blanchie Mae after she'd
browsed the Rosemary Clooney Palladium
website and the electronic information about her friend, sharing her own information, but in traditional paper form!!

Thank you Blanchie Mae and
God Bless!