Recently, I read in the entertainment news that Frances Reid, known to millions as Grandma Horton on the long running soap, Days of Our Lives, had died at the age of 95.
I was saddened. As I had grown up with Grandma Horton. My summer trips to stay with my own grandmother were marked with quiet afternoons sitting with her to watch her stories. These were sacred times. And unless the house were ablaze, my brother and I knew not to speak a word when Days was playing on her tiny 13 inch Magnavox.
I continued watching during off-school days with my mother. Who greatly resembled Julie Horton Manning Williams when she wore her long chestnut fall. A “fall” was a type of half-wig, set apart by a braid wrapped about ones head. My mother could also recreate Jackie O. and Sophia Loren with her “fall.” I also tried that look, but my dishwater blonde tresses always gave me away. The only look I could ever recreate was that of Pippi Longstocking.
All of this was back before technology gave us a means of recording our favorite television shows. So during the school year, I would have to rely on my mother’s recounting of the antics of Doug, Julie, Mickey, Bill, Laura, and of course Sister Marie (lowers voice to a whisper), who was in a family way.
I reveled in the Christmas Horton tradition of hanging ornaments bearing the names of family members on the Christmas tree. And I cried bitter tears the year after Addie died, when her ornament was sadly positioned on the tree by Grandma Horton.
I went on to add the Young and the Restless, and finally General Hospital to my soap opera watching venue in the early 70’s and 80’s. After college, I became a closet soap opera fan. As it was no longer in vogue. My own mother had stopped watching soaps. She quit cold turkey when 3 of her favorite soap opera characters were unceremoniously killed off in the span of a week.
She couldn’t take it anymore. And she never looked back.
I had the opportunity to shake hands with McDonald Carrey (the elder Dr. Horton himself) at a Los Angeles show business event in the early 90’s. Just a few years before his death. Wherein I characteristically embarrassed myself when bits of a stray breadroll flew from my mouth and landed on his lapel. And I relished those moments when I would spot a hapless soap opera actor innocently pushing their grocery cart around a Hollywood Mayfield, or Ralphs. If I had a picture taking cell phone back then, you can be sure I would be posting pictures! And possibly would have served jail time for stalking.
It’s now a rare day when I tune in to a soap opera. Mostly on account of my husband’s mockery soon after we were married. Occasionally I’ll turn on my little kitchen TV during lunch and quietly catch 5 minutes of Y&R or Days. But honestly, Days lost me way back when Marlena became possessed, and was then later found to be the Salem serial killer. Murdering her way through nearly every cast member, including Grandma Horton, and well, that was the last straw. Except that they weren’t really dead, and I don’t know how they explained that away. Something about a hoax. It was too late. I couldn’t bear to tune in again.
But still, when I learned of the passing of Frances Reid, a million happy memories of watching DOOL with my Nanny and my mama washed over me. Rest in peace, Grandma Horton. Your work touched many. Like sands through the hourglass, so are the days of our lives.
Frances Reid, 1914-2010