True North - The Shocking Truth About "Yours, Mine and Ours"
Review: True North, Book by Tom North
Book Review: Tom North Exposes the Truth About "Yours, Mine & Ours"
If you grew up in the mid-1960s, you were probably charmed by the loving family life depicted in the iconic movie, Yours, Mine and Ours, about the blended family created by Helen North and Frank Beardsley.
But how accurately was the family portrayed in the movie (which was based on Helen North Beardsley's book, Who Gets the Drumstick)?
Was the household filled with rationale parental leadership and firm, but loving guidance? Or were there dark secrets that were not mentioned in the book and that went unseen on the screen?
Tom North, one of the eight North children who were merged into one family unit with the 10 Beardsley children when Helen North married Frank Beardsley, has written a book that discloses a household he says was filled with violence and even sexual abuse after the two families became one.
As with many family violence situations, North says putting forward a good face to the public marked the code of denial and secrecy the blended family was expected to adhere to.
True North, published in July, 2013, is the sometimes heartbreaking, and very believable story of Tom North's journey from childhood memories of fear and abuse into an adulthood of recognition, bitterness, and finally of healing and renewal.
North's overriding message in the book is that those who experience childhood abuse can learn to identify their inner hurts, begin the process of healing, move forward and even forgive (as much as possible).
Scene From Movie: Grocery Shopping with Lucille Ball and Henry Fonda, from 1968 "Yours, Mine & Ours"
True North - The Shocking Truth About "Yours, Mine & Ours," by Tom North
The Real North-Beardsley Household from "Yours, Mine & Ours"
Tom North says the image presented on the screen (and in the book, Who Gets the Drumstick), does not even remotely resemble the household created by Frank and Helen's marriage.
According to North (Tom North's true story), life was ruled by Frank Beardsley's angry and militaristic personality. North provides specific, anecdotal (and believable, due to the level of detail) examples of a home atmosphere dominated by fear and abuse.
North was only six when his beloved father died. Dick North was only 30, and left behind a young widow, his seven children and an eighth on the way. Tom North's happy memories of his birth father are a shocking contrast to the life of violent outbursts and drinking he writes about in the Beardsley household.
Helen North married Frank Beardsley a year or so after she was widowed (and not long after Frank's wife died). According to her son, she spent considerable energy trying to protect her children from Frank's abusive behaviors. And insisting that the outside world should never be privy to what went on inside the walls of the home.
With 20 hungry people in the house (many of them with the voracious appetites teens are known to have), food was sometimes limited, and North says Frank Beardsley was generally accorded the best of each meal, while the children were given the fillers.
Indeed, 1968 audiences were stunned to see the shopping scene (included here) with a final grocery bill that topped $126 - an unheard of amount to pay for weekly groceries in that era.
Money was tight, stomachs needed to be filled, and everyone had to work. North says many people at the time assumed they were made rich by the 1968 movie; not so - the family received a modest lump-sum payment, and missed out on the actual revenue the popular film generated.
To make ends meet, the family acquired a donut shop, and all children who were old enough to help out (an age that was, it appears, determined by Frank rather than the law) were put to work making donuts.
Anyone who has ever stopped for coffee and a donut on the way to work eventually realizes that someone has to get up in the wee hours to make the dough and get them ready for hungry commuters.
Many of the children spent their teen years working hard nighttime or pre-dawn hours at the donut shop, at the same time they were attending school and trying to keep their grades alive.
Radio Interview With Tom North from Family That Inspired Two Movies
An Iowa University (MIU) Helps Lead Tom North Home
Maharishi International University
True North: Tom North's Journey to Heal Himself
Tom North says he developed the habit of retreating to the nearby Pacific Ocean for both escape and renewal.
His untold hours in the waves and on the beach are beautifully captured in his compelling writing, and along the way, he developed skills that proved to be useful in many ways.
North learned to fish so adeptly that his catches often fed the entire large (and growing) family, offering a nice alternative to meals sometimes planned with thrift in mind rather than nutrition.
However, he also escaped in other ways, such as the dangerous drugs so often used to avoid reality by those who lived through the 60s and 70s.
Finally, after years spent avoiding his childhood memories and escaping from life, North immersed himself into a search for inner spirituality and academics, at Maharishi International University (MIU) in Fairfield Iowa.
The small, Liberal Arts environment, combined with cold winters, open-thinking professors and students launched his recovery from the past.
One wonders, after reading North's solidly portrayed accounts of being a headstrong child and teen, and of focusing on escape for so many years, whether MIU may have saved his life.
It is certain, from reading North's passage from bitterness to inner peace, that it likely saved his heart and spirit.
Toxic Parents: Susan Forward's Book on Child Abuse
The North Family Heals From Shocking Years of Abuse
North's book is so filled with interesting experiences that it could easily have been three books rather than the one (very well-written) volume he has published.
Toward the conclusion of the book, after he has allowed his own soul to heal, Tom North describes his efforts to create peace between the children in the family and Frank Beardsley.
Frank Beardsley, as described in the book, clearly had issues with inappropriate behavior to some of the children, as well as with anger and violence.
Tom North coordinates with his siblings to arrange some group meetings with any of the family members who choose to attend.
While the meeting doesn't appear to have forged lasting familial ties, North describes an emotional scene of forgiveness toward Frank that any victim of domestic abuse can, perhaps, relate to - either through a similar experience, or for longing for one.
Still later, the North siblings meet at their mother's gravesite, where emotions also run high. Anyone who has read Toxic Parents, by Susan Forward, knows that parental abuse generally includes the abuser and the 'silent partner' - the one who allowed things to happen and did not prevent them. The emotions this creates in an adult victim of child abuse are conflicting and difficult to handle.
Book Review and Recommendation of True North - The Shocking Truth About "Yours, Mine & Ours"
True North is definitely worth a read, especially for any person whose childhood included abuse, and who lived in a household where that issue was sidestepped and denied.
North's forthright discussion of his own journey can help those who have survived abuse but perhaps not healed or forgiven identify pathways within themselves to their hurts, and ways to deal with the pain and start the recovery process.
As with those who are addicted to alcohol and drugs, those who have longtime soul-injuring hurts will probably always be in recovery.
Tom North tells the reader this is okay, and 'you are not alone.'
North's writing is engaging, entertaining (and even funny at times), and keeps you turning the page. He is a good story-teller, and I recommend this book to those who want to find themselves, and who want to know the truth behind the fairytale movie.
In an effort to help others, Tom North continues to blog about his experiences and the process of healing. He says his goal is to help others recognize their inner pain from childhood trauma and abuse, and to move on.
Cast from 1968 Movie, "Yours, Mine & Ours"
1968 Movie of "Yours, Mine and Ours"
For those who might be unfamiliar with the 1968 classic film (starring Lucille Ball and Henry Fonda), the movie captured audiences of all ages with its almost formulaic depiction of a couple who met after each was tragically widowed, fell in love, and merged a total of 18 children into one family.
According to the 1968 version of Yours, Mine and Ours, a war zone developed between the children in the two families (laced, of course, with screen-worthy humor), and the tension was straddled and overcome through loving, tender, but firm parenting from Frank Beardsley and Helen North Beardsley.
While the on-screen conflict between the children in the two families was undoubtedly exaggerated, even more exaggerated, according to Tom North, was the atmosphere of love and support, and the manner in which his mother depicted Frank Beardsley's personality in the book on which the movie was based.
The movie, of course, ends in typical 'happily ever after,' with Helen and Frank welcoming the first of two additional children they would have as a couple.
By the time child number 19 is born, all 18 blended children had (movie-style) begun to relate well as acquired siblings, love their respective step-parents, and life was generally good.
Some Notes on 2005 Version of the Movie:
Just to clarify, for those who may have seen the 2005 movie version, starring Dennis Quaid and Rene Russo, the 'remake' of the 1968 family classic is even more removed from the true story, the book, and even from reality.
The 2005 version of Yours, Mine and Ours defies logic in its absurd stunts and predictable fiascos. Quaid is his usual oh-so-cute romantic lead (no complaint here), and Russo is adorable as well, but the movie does not do justice to the original 1968 film.
In this version, Quaid has eight children (all his own), and Russo has 10. To be politically correct, and, apparently to appeal to the widest audience possible, several of her children are adopted, from every possible ethnic group the writers could cram into one story. This is fine, but seems to exist mostly for superficial reasons rather than to explore the depth such a blended family could inspire on the screen.
Oh yeah - there's the pig. I am not sure why they included a domesticated pig in the plot or cast, but there you go.
The original Yours, Mine & Ours is one of my all-time favorite movies. It captured a happy and loving family life that I never knew as a child. I have watched it many times, and I still enjoy it (Tom North acknowledges it is a fun movie, too). But as with many others, I bought into the fiction, too. It offered a glimpse of what might have been in a family other than my own.
I still love the 1968 movie, and I have somewhat enjoyed the schtick in the 2005 version. But I am glad I learned of and read Tom North's book. I can now replace the longing I have known for the 60s movie family for the comfort of knowing there's a way to grow and heal after abuse, and we are not alone.