San Diego Army and Navy Academy (Davis Academy)

1932-1937 Aunt Tenny to the Rescue - Carlsbad California

“That’s how Bob Walker found himself, next school season, enrolled as a ‘rat’ in the San Diego Army and Navy Academy, in Southern California. At the start, he hated the place. At San Diego you ate, dressed, studied, played and slept to bells and bugles. He was to live in a barracks with another roommate, wear a uniform modeled after a West Point cadet’s, was to carry himself like a ramrod and drill like a wooden soldier. This wasn’t for him, for sure.”9

All of Bob’s rebellious feelings returned, and he continually broke rules, skipped classes and did not apply himself to his studies. Things looked grim to his family back in Ogden and to his benefactor, Aunt “Tenny”.

Then a woman dramatics instructor named Mrs. Virginia Atkinson entered his life and changed the course of it forever. He signed up for her class because he thought he could drift through it with a minimum of effort, but Mrs. Atkinson saw the talent in this lanky, shy boy. She cast him in the lead of the school play and “The Other Side” was entered in the San Diego’s High Schools yearly dramatic contest. The play won the first prize, as did its star, Robert Walker. Now he was the most popular student on campus and his life had found its purpose. That night he wrote home to his family. “’Dear Mother,’ Bob wrote, ‘I guess tonight I am the best young actor in all San Diego –‘ and he went on from there. At the bottom he penned, ‘send this on to Aunt Tenny.’ He got letters back from them all. They were proud. They knew he had the stuff, and right away Bob began proving it.”10

With the success of his acting performances and the encouragement of Mrs. Atkinson, Bob took a fresh interest in his studies and became a top student, member of the school band, and President of his class. He was offered a scholarship at the Pasadena Playhouse but, with his Aunt Tenny’s help, enrolled at the Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City. Bob’s two older brothers were already living in New York – Walt was practicing law and Dick was a student at Columbia University. “Walt Walker was reading the letter postmarked Ogden, Utah, out loud, and his brother was hanging on to every word. ‘You mean Bob’s coming here?’ His gesture took in their comfortable bachelor apartment, symbolic of their nice, well-ordered lives.‘Well – to New York,’ Walt told him. ‘And we can’t let him go to the Y.M.C.A.’

‘Okay,’ said Dick, who was two years Bob’s senior and a bit on the cynical side. ‘Only what do you bet he installs a tight rope and a lion’s cage?’ It was 1937 and Robert Walker was fresh out of San Diego Military Academy, Broadway-bound and primed to set the world on fire.”11


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