BiographyWashington, District of Columbia, USA
Edna Skinner and her friend Jean Fish retired to the southern Oregon coast in the 1970s after both had led colorful lives and rewarding careers in everything from Hollywood movies to outdoor writing, gathering up innumerable interests and friends along the way. Settling in the North Bend/Coos Bay area, they built a house on the bay in the shape of a big boat, and restored a pioneer-era store into a popular antique shop and cafe in the nearby town of Lakeside. Read more... their annual open house in North Bend to share their prized antiques and latest acquisitions, and to talk about the home. Edna's 1978 book "The Heart of Lakeside" is available at local libraries, and sometimes found at local used bookstores or garage sales. In a quaint and often flowery style, it chronicles the colorful history of Lakeside, including a few Indian tales and some recollections of its heyday as a getaway for Hollywood celebrities. Ever the civic booster, Edna proclaimed all proceeds from the book would go into a savings account in a local bank for "nonpolitical" projects and purposes. In the book's Forward, she writes that it was a "labor of love and insatiable curiosity." Even though there were still a few old-timers around in the 1970s to share stories of the early days, she diplomatically points out that facts are often "enlarged" by the teller, and that the retelling sometimes encourages imagination. The book has many old, grainy and not well reproduced photos, with interesting tidbits of information in the captions. There are stories about how places got their names; one interesting Indian tale explains how each arm of the sprawling, twin bodies of water known as Ten Mile Lakes was the domain of a different spirit-animal. In a section called "Welcome" near the book's end, Edna shares some biographical information about herself and Jean, often writing about herself in the third person: She explains that she and Jean were of retirement age, their husbands and parents gone. Lifelong career women, Jean was part of a famed restaurant family, then gained fame herself as a model and fashion designer. She married a minister and together they had a son. Edna doesn't mention how she and Jean met. Edna writes that she was "teethed" in early life in Oregon when her father came to purchase logs for the paper mills in the small town of Fulton, New York. As a child the loggers and her grandfather took her fishing, even though she was an asthmatic child, and thought to never survive until adulthood. "Nature" with a capital 'N' was and is her therapy and survival, she writes. She doesn't share the hows and wheres of it, but she "became" a very well known actress and writer, starring in Broadway's legendary "Oklahoma" and other plays. She writes that she was also well known in World War II for organizing rallies to raise funds presumably through War Bond sales, eventually bringing in $38 million. Again without providing any details, she writes that her life took her to a ranch in Montana where she "enjoyed the hard work." Just as abruptly, she turns up in Hollywood, where she recalls being in such films as "Easy to Love," "Long, Long Trailer," and "Friendly Persuasion," along with over 48 TV films. She also mentions her several seasons in "Topper,"' "Gildersleeve" and finally "Mr. Ed" where she starred for over four years. She writes that she "retired with grace when the sophisticated and elegant comedy world drifted away." According to her book, for the next nine years she and her sister Ann were the first women field editors for an outdoor sports publication, and the two also became famous as the Skinner Sisters, appearing at major sport shows through the U.S. and Canada and, representing two large tackle companies. Along the way they presumably made trips along Oregon's beautiful South Coast, enjoying the many fresh and saltwater fishing opportunities, among other things. And so it was that Edna and her friend Jean retired there and lived out their lives. Edna was always proud of her Hollywood achievements, even though she probably would've liked to be remembered for her more dramatic roles than for Mr. Ed. But that's what most people "knew her from," and it especially tickled local youngsters in the 1970s and '80s that "Mr. Ed's noisy neighbor" was still alive and kicking and living right there in North Bend.