Star reporter Petti Fong checks out Zelda Fitzgerald's house in Alabama
Zelda Fitzgerald died in a fire at the mental hospital where she was about to undergo electro-shock therapy treatment on this day back in 1948. Here's a post from Star travel correspondent Petti Fong, our Western Canada reporter.
Montgomery, ALA. -- Before she became the world's most famous flapper, she was known around her hometown as Zelda Sayre, a spoiled, strong-willed and attention-seeking young girl from Montgomery, Alabama.
The youngest of six children born to a prominent southern Alabama family, Zelda was named after two stories published in the late 1880s: Zelda's Fortune and Zelda: A Tale of the Massachusetts Colony. Zelda's ancestors included senators, newspaper editors and jurists.
Her father, Anthony Dickinson Sayre, was on the Supreme Court of Alabama and a leading jurist in the state. One thing I've always wondered about was whether Zelda's father knew Nelle Harper Lee's father, A.C. Lee, the model for Atticus Finch in To Kill A Mockingbird.
Nelle Harper Lee's upbringing in Monroeville, Alabama was markedly different than Zelda's in Montgomery, about 100 miles away.
One thing Zelda and Harper Lee shared was famous childhood friends. In Zelda's case, she was a childhood friend of Hollywood starlet Tallulah Bankhead, while Lee's childhood companion was Truman Capote. Lee never married but Zelda became famously known for her marriage to F. Scott Fitzgerald who she initially rejected because she was afraid he wouldn't make enough money to support her.
She was attracted to his promise that he would become famous and after he showed her a chapter from is book This Side of Paradise, she showed him her personal diary which he used verbatim in his novel.
The Fitzgerald home in Montgomery, Alabama considers itself the only museum dedicated to Zelda. The Fitzgeralds lived in the house from October 1931 to April 1932 during a period when he was working on Tender Is The Night and Zelda began writing her only novel, Save Me The Waltz.
The brick home on 919 Felder Avenue was leased because it was close to Zelda's parents in a leafy, established neighbourhood in Montgomery. A month after moving in, Fitzgerald was heading westward to Hollywood after accepting a screenwriting job leaving Zelda behind with their ten-year-old daughter Scottie.
She wrote daily letters to Fitzgerald, some of which are on display inside the couple's former home. "I think you're here when I wake up...your room is warm and fuzzy with you and I sit and look where you left mags."
She also described a parade outside but she didn't go, preferring the deserted streets. "The weather here is a continual circus day...smoky with the sun like a red balloon and soft and romantic and sensual."
The museum's executive director Michael S. McCreedy said his favourite piece in the house is a childhood book owned by Zelda. With a careful hand, he unlocked the cabinet and took out the tattered and yellowing book. Turning the front cover, he showed the faint writing made by Zelda herself.
"Please take care of this book. This is a splendid book - this book is wonderful!" and signed simply "Zelda."
Her paintings are also inside the home, which had been used briefly before becoming a museum for university students. The front room remains much the way it would have been when Zelda lived there and glance out the front window and except for the cars, the street has the same look as it would have almost seventy-five years ago.
This is how Zelda described Montgomery which she called Jeffersonville in her short story Southern Girl, written in October 1929.
"Every place has its hours...So in Jeffersonville, there existed then, and I suppose now, a time and quality that appertains to nowhere else. It began about half past six on an early summer night, with the flicker and sputter of the corner street lights going on, and it lasted until the great incandescent globes were black inside with moths and beetles and the children were called in to bed from the dusty streets."
On March 10, 1948, Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald died in extremely tragic circumstances. She was locked in a room at a mental hospital in Asheville, North Carolina where she was awaiting electroshock therapy when a fire broke out in the facility. Nine women, including Zelda, died.