Who Gets the Drumstick by Helen Beardsley is a book written by a widow with eight children who married a widower with ten children in the early 60’s. It is possible that some of you are familiar with one or both of the movie versions of this autobiography entitled Yours, Mine, and Ours.
Helen North was happily married to a Navy pilot who tragically lost his life leaving his pregnant wife and seven children behind. Frank Beardsley, a Navy man as well, lost his wife, leaving him with ten children to raise. A twist of fate brought Helen and Frank together and they courageously married, merged their families, and added two more of their own to the mix! After reading this autobiography, Lucille Ball became interested in the family and made the first fictionalized movie about their unusual lives.
Much of the book is devoted to parenting decisions Helen and Frank made based on their faith, careful planning, and organization techniques which many times were learned by trial and error. The story as told by Helen, is uplifting and basically light in tone. What grieved me while reading it was the knowledge that many years later one of Helen’s original eight children wrote a biography of his own recounting his experiences as an abused child. Having not read that book, but knowing the original story of a picture perfect blended family made me read between the lines.
With those thoughts and many others I have with regard to the effects of celebrity on innocent children and child abuse, I came away from this book feeling sorry for the children in this story who were victimized by time, circumstance, and parents who were in way over their heads. I chose to read this book without remembering the updated version which told a much different, painful story. In retrospect, I wish I hadn’t read this autobiography.