Barry McGuire: A Decade Later

It always amazes me to receive notice that one of you had done the search, found the first blog post about Barry, and left a heart-warming comment. (See The latest comment asked for an update on our resilient friend. Barry and I decided it was due. Perhaps overdue.

“Give me a pot and a bit of soil.”

Fully immunized and boosted, Barry has weathered the Covid outbreak with little effect on his general health. He remains in the country cottage where we moved him after his disappointing move to New Jersey, holed away in a reclusive existence. He no longer drives, but “gets by with a little help from my friends.” And his nearby friends are delighted to assist with his living needs.

For a year, he’s enjoyed a furry little roommate, a cat he named “Miss Kitty.” (With a nod to Gunsmoke.) As the Covid months lingered on—and on—he started hosting a trusted friend now and then. With a pizza dinner, topped off with his favorite cherry pie, a few of us helped him celebrate his latest birth anniversary, #92! And he’s still going strong. Mental calisthenics keep his mind hopping, even if his legs won’t cooperate, and he corresponds via email with faithful friends across the country. He has sadly bid a final farewell to some of those longtime friends as they made the final checkout in recent months.

The computer and his Roku connections on television are his window to the world and he keeps up with all the global news and trends. Every few days we take a walk in the local park, weather permitting, and he keeps his bones moving. His health is generally good for a nonagenarian. He’d be as spry as a thirty-something if it wasn’t for his arthritis and his hearing loss. He prepares all his meals, and is a superb chef. Once in a while he will accept invitations for restaurant fare, or allow friends less-adept in the kitchen to share meals with him. (Like me.)

At this honorable age, we couldn’t let his special day in March this year go by without some kind of celebration safe in the confines of his 3-bedroom abode. With that in mind, I issued an invitation to his faithful friends to suggest a good title he might use if he were to write a memoir of his remarkable life. The suggestions are a world of entertainment themselves. To extend his celebration further into his 93rd year, I share them below.  Enjoy!

On stage with Lois Smith

Possible titles for a memoir:

  1. Gentleman Rebel: The Life and Times of Barry Edward McGuire
  2. A Bus to Broadway
  3. Joy in the Moment
  4. My Life Before an Audience
  5. The Art of Taking a Bow
  6. A Man for All Seasons: Magician, Puppeteer, Actor, Director, Poetic Gardener, Theater Builder, Tourism Promoter, and All-around Neat Guy
  7. Prudent, Patient, Persistent: Savoring a Life
  8. Magic in the Desert, Flowers in the Town—Bringing Enchantment to My Little Corner of the World
  9. How to Talk to Geese—and Keep Them out of Your Garden and Away from Your Strawberries
  10. No One Gets Through the Forest of the Blue—How Puppets Saved Santa’s Village

    Cripple Creek, Colorado
  11. Give Me My Walker and Watch Me Go! I May Be Stooped but I’m Not Slow—Staying Active in Your Golden Years
  12. Typewriters and Toasters—The Fun to be Had With Classics
  13. Baking Bread with Barry
  14. I Danced with Debbie Reynolds! My Life on Stage and Screen
  15. Surviving the 7th Day Adventist Missionary Visits. Know Your Bible and Have Some Fun
  16. A Life of Adventure and Love—The Places I’ve Been and the People I’ve Known
  17. It’s Been One Hell of a Ride! Things I Know Now I’m Glad I Didn’t Know Then
  18. Barry McGuire’s Garden of Life
  19. From Stage and Screen and a Zen Monk’s Mail Route to Rescuing a Great Plains Town
  20. Barry McGuire’s Magical, Amazing Life Played in the Key of Kindness
  21. Waters Run Deep and Wide at Little House in the Woods
  22. Barry McGuire: the Entertainer, the Music Lover, and the Friend
  23. A Diamond Found in Kansas
  24. Barry McGuire: the 20th Century Star and a Good Friend of Mine
  25. To Follow a Dream
  26. Life is What You Bake It
  27. The Barry Magic of Barry McGuire: Dancing With the Stars and Entertaining Young, Old, and Everyone in Between

    Dancing with Debbie
  28. Life with Man’s Best Friend: The Cat
  29. Finding Life’s Truth Through Characters on Stage
  30. 57,718 Million Miles and Counting: Adventures on Spaceship Earth Through 92 Revolutions
  31. The Multitudinous Achievements of Barry McGuire, or What Happens When You Unleash One Creative Kind o’ Guy in Southeastern Kansas!
  32. A Magical Life . . . All and All

Visiting Friends from Home in the Nation’s Capital

Lester with his 7-year-old brother Paul.
Lester with his 7-year-old brother Paul.

Tuesday evening   September 29 – 1942

Dear Paul

I enjoyed your letter very much and I can imagine that you had a lot of fun on your train ride and at the fair too.  My train ride to Washington was fun but coming back it was very chilly on the train.  I never did get to see the white house as it rained nearly all the time I was there.  I had quite a time to find a room but another sailor and I finally got a room together.  It is almost impossible to find a place to stay in Washington.

After getting the room I called the girls at Mrs. Eaton’s.  Irene answered the phone but she didn’t know who I was.  Mrs. Miller had told them that I had asked for Anne’s address but they weren’t really expecting me.  I talked to all of the girls for awhile but didn’t go out to see them as it was raining. Irene and Anne were going bowling while Alice was expecting a call from another boy.  Alice had to work on Sunday so Irene, Anne and I planned to see the sights, go to dinner then pick up Alice after work and go out to Cobbs.

The next morning it was still raining so we cancelled the tour.  I went out to the house about two o clock to get the girls. Who should open the door but Alice.  She had gotten off work at noon.  It wasn’t raining right then so Anne took a picture of Irene, Alice and myself.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOn our way out to Cobbs, it started to rain.  We were riding the street car but got off so that Ann and Irene could buy a couple of umbrellas.  We finally got out to where Cobbs live.  They live about fifteen miles from where the girls stay.  We rode the last ten miles or so on the bus.  Walter lives about half a block from the end of the bus line.

When we got there it was raining cats and dogs so the bus driver let us off right at the gate.  We ran up on the porch but the door was locked.  It was only a small porch and the wind blew the rain right in on us.  I went around to the back and the door was open so I called the girls and we went inside.  Our shoes were wet so we took them off and left them on the kitchen floor.  I forgot to tell you that no one was home.

The bus had already gone and it was half an hour until the next one so we made ourselves at home.  We closed the windows for them then made ourselves at home.  They had some Cappers Weekly and Kansas Farmer papers which we enjoyed.  We missed the first bus but Walter and Mildred came soon after the bus went so we were glad that we missed it.  They were surprised to see us and especially to see me.  Floyd Cobb had been with them but he joined the navy on Wednesday.  We left them about a quarter til seven, went downtown and finally found a place to eat supper, then went to the show “Holiday Inn”.   We saw the Three Little Pigs too.  I think it was the same as you saw in Council Grove.  We got out of the show at midnight so I took the girls home.  It was one o’clock when I started back to the station.  I got on the train to leave at one fifty but it didn’t leave until three.  The train was so cold I couldn’t sleep and it was after six when we got into Philadelphia.  I came on board at a quarter til seven.

Lester and high school classmates. Alice is in the upper right hand corner.
Lester and high school classmates. Alice is in the upper right hand corner.

Mom, you asked what I could use for Christmas.  Well I can buy nearly all my clothes cheaper than you can but I could use a pair of black leather gloves.  We don’t have to conform so closely to regulations now.  Also I could use a thin, small pocket knife to carry in my dress clothes.  My whites fit so tight that I can’t carry a regulation knife.  All of us are supposed to carry sheath knives.  Even the captain carries one on his belt.  I can buy that myself, though.  It looks as though we will be getting winter clothing after all.  We were told we wouldn’t need any woolens but I think we will be getting some.  The woolen sweaters cost two dollars which is less than you would have to pay, I imagine.  I had my shoes half-soled and heels put on for a dollar and a half a pair.  The laundry has finally started to function so I don’t scrub many clothes any more.

Mom, I don’t suppose I’ll get off to get a present for your birthday but I’ll be thinking of you and I wish you many more happy birthdays.

You mentioned that the club intended to send packages to the boys.  May I suggest that they don’t send food unless it is certain to be delivered immediately as it would no doubt be stale by the time the boys would get it.  Probably most of the boys would appreciate cigarettes as much as anything.  There really isn’t much we need.  What do you folks want for Christmas?  You know, I believe I would rather have a shower of letters than any gifts the community might send.  It wouldn’t cost them much and would be a lot of fun for me.

It is getting rather chilly back here but not too cold.  I like it better than when it is so hot.

I forgot to mention the states I went thru over the week-end.  I was in Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia.  In the buses in Virginia there was a sign directing all negroes to sit in the rear of the bus and whites in front.

I can’t think of anything else right now so will write again later.

Love to all.


P.S. I won’t be able to send you a picture of me in whites as we are wearing blues all the time for liberty now.  Sorry.