OKLAHOMA CITY, OKLAHOMA — He called her ‘Sweetheart’ or ‘Honey’.
She called him ‘Grandaddy’.
If Anita La Cava Swift is dancing through this section of the Western Performers Hall at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum it’s because that’s what she used to do through John Wayne’s office or on his movie sets.
Speaking of herself and the Duke’s 26 other grandchildren, Anita says, “We got to do a lot of things that not a lot of people did. We were lucky.”
Everything in one long glass case, especially the saddles, a hand-made desk, and a set of bronze sculptures are items she grew up as the oldest grandchild of a Hollywood icon.
She identifies one more item. “The Kachina doll collection I really recognize because, in his library, he had them displayed all across,” she says.
His fans still see ‘The Duke’ as bigger than life through his dozens of film roles.
Anita sees him in a different light. “He was a wonderful, wonderful grandfather.”
Another museum visitor sees his grandfather, actor Joel McRea in the same way.
“He was a great guy,” says Wyatt McRea.
He’s familiar with his grandfathers filmography and life story.
He’s also intimately familiar with the items on display in the Performers’ Hall. Wyatt points to a saddle belonging to Joel and says, “I actually rode that saddle.”
Both McRea and Swift couldn’t be happier their grandfathers’ history is preserved here.
Wyatt says, “I always come back here to look at my grandfather.”
Swift agrees. “It’s fabulous to see it here, I think, because the people enjoy it. They love to see it. It makes them feel a part of his life.”
The Hall of Western Performers takes visitors from dime novels, past the 101 Ranch, through Will Rogers time, and on to moves and television.
This fictional West is filled with characters we loved to watch, who also happened to be regular folks that a few people got to know and love.