On the trail
of 'Slim' Whitaker
(Leota Whitaker Gandrau Collection)
Above is a very young Charles 'Slim' Whitaker, 1920s photo.
(Leota Whitaker Gandrau Collection)
Above is a 1930s photo of Ethel and Slim at the front porch of their Hatteras Street home in North Hollywood, California. Their neighbor was Billy Barty.
Was Slim a cook at Jerry's Cafe ?
There's two bits of controversy and both relate to information on Slim Whitaker's death certificate. The death certificate notes he was "a cook at Jerry's Cafe". Secondly, the death certificate shows the spelling of his middle name as "Orbie".
Tom Bahn's writeup on Slim went online in the Summer of 2001. Since then, he has done some further checking with family members and they recall that Ethel's restaurant was initially named "Larry's" (as Ethel married Larry a few years after she and Slim divorced). Larry later re-named the restaurant "Tiny's" (Tiny was Ethel's nickname because she was 4' 10" tall). After he retired, Slim used to hang out at the restaurant which was located in Sunland, California at the corner of San Fernando Road and Sunland Blvd. Years ago Debbie and Rose drove by the location and the restaurant had become a bar.
The 1930 census has Slim and wife Ethel working as Manager and Waitress at a restaurant. Tom suggested that may have been necessary to supplement their income as Slim's movie workload in 1930 amounted to only eight films.
Tom was unable to find any one who recalled Slim working as a restaurant cook. Confirmations on this came from several family members including Slim's grandson Chuck Whitaker who said that his grandfather never worked as a short order cook. He remembers that after his grandfather retired, he worked as a bartender at a cowboy bar in Sunland and later as a guard or a fireman. He remembered the bar because it had hitchin' posts out front. He also remembers that Slim would visit Larry's Cafe for a meal or just to drink coffee and chat with his ex-wife. According to Chuck, his grandfather was completely retired prior to his death.
Leota (Slim's daughter) also recalled that her father was either a guard or a fireman in later life.
The informant on the death certificate is Slim's daughter June, who at the time of her father's death, was having some difficulties, including the end of her fourth marriage. She may have been confused or mistaken when asked for info on her father.
Middle name of Orbie or Orby ?
As noted above, there's a bit of controversy over Whitaker's middle name being "Orbie" or "Orby".
His World War I and World War II draft registrations have his middle name as 'Orbie' and Slim also signs the registrations as 'Charles Orbie Whitaker'. And the 1910 census, Slim's death certificate, and his newspaper death notice also have the 'Orbie' middle name.
(Leota Whitaker Gandrau Collection)
No date or info on this photo which shows Slim third from the left. That certainly looks like a fire engine ladder truck in the background and none are wearing gunbelts and carrying sidearms. Closeup of Slim's face shown below. Tom Bahn writes: "At the time he may have been working for the studios as a guard or fireman. Based on the family movies I've seen, I'm going to guess that this was taken two or three years before he died."
Webmaster's note: I took the above photo and showed it to our local Fire Chief and asked him about the badge/emblem on the hats. His response was immediate - is the "Iron Cross" which has been used for years by Fire Departments everywhere.
Although some of the data is incomplete or inaccurate, the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) has information on Slim Whitaker: https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0924307/
The Family Search website (free), Ancestry.com (subscription), California Death Index, and death certificate provide more on 'Slim' Whitaker and family. I've also highlighted the middle name of "Orbie" in this color.
- 1910 census summary and census takers worksheet - living in Mount Pleasant Township, Cass county, Missouri are 37 year old Sherman W. Whitaker (born Missouri; occupation "Laborer - Odd jobs"), his 25 year old wife Velma C. (born Missouri), 17 year old son Orbie (born Missouri; occupation "Farm Laborer"), newborn son Thomas (born Missouri), and 3 year old stepdaughter Pearl Bushart (born Missouri). This was the second marriage for Sherman and Velma: https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:M2TH-LDG
- Ancestry had the September 23, 1914 Missouri marriage license of 18 year old Ethel Maze and 21 year old Charles Whitaker. Both lived in Kansas City, Missouri, and were married by a Justice of the Peace.
- October 2, 1915 Los Angeles birth certificate of Leota Bell Whitaker to 22 year old Charles Whitaker (born Kansas) and 19 year old Ethel Macy [sic] (born Kansas). They live at 924 East 45, Los Angeles and his occupation is "Chauffeur": https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3QS7-89SX-QSF2?i=883&cc=2001287
- May 2, 1917 Los Angeles birth certificate of June Whitaker to 23 year old Chas. Whitaker (born Missouri) and 20 year old Ethel Maze (born Kansas). They live at 1631 1/2 Cherokee, Los Angeles and his occupation is "Chauffeur": https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3QSQ-G9SF-LLMV?i=1234&cc=2001287
- World War I draft registration dated June 5, 1917 - 24 year old Charles Orbie Whitaker lives at 1631 1/2 Cherokee, Los Angeles, California, and is married with a wife and two children. He was born July 29, 1893 in Missouri; occupation is "Chauffeur" for A. J. Middleton, La Vita Terrace and ???: https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:KZVN-KL6
- November 28, 1918 Los Angeles birth certificate of a stillborn female child to 25 year old Charles Orbie Whitaker (born Missouri) and 22 year old Ethel Belle Maze (born Kansas). His occupation is "Chauffeur - Drives and Repairs Automobiles": https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3QS7-89SJ-K977-3?i=1371&cc=2001287
- September 11, 1920 Los Angeles birth certificate of Charles O. Whitaker, Jr. to 29 year old Charles O. Whitaker (born Missouri) and 24 year old Ethel Belle Maze (born Kansas). They live at 3817 Clinton Street, Los Angeles and his occupation is "Motion Picture Actor": https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3QSQ-G9SF-G9BW-Q?i=873&cc=2001287
- 1920 census summary and census takers worksheet - renting on West Sixth Street, Los Angeles are 25 year old Charles Whittaker [sic] (born Kansas), his 23 year old wife Ethel (born Kansas), 4 year old daughter Leola [sic] (born California) and 2 year old daughter June (born California). His occupation is "Chauffeur - Film Co": https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MHQK-PR6
- 1930 census summary and census takers worksheet - owning their home at 414 N. Florence Street, Los Angeles are 35 year old Charles O. Whittaker (born Missouri), his 32 year old wife Ethel B. (born Kansas), 14 year old daughter Leota B. (born California), 13 year old daughter June J. (born California), and 8 year old son Charles O. (born California). His occupation is "Manager - Restaurant" and Ethel is "Waitress - Restaurant". And Slim answered "No" to the are you a veteran question: https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:XCFJ-W4N
- 1940 census summary and census takers worksheet - 45 year old Charles Whitaker, 43 year old wife Ethel, and 8 year old son Charles own their home at 11414 Hatteras, Los Angeles, California. Whitaker lists his birth place as Kansas; occupation as "actor - moving picture industry"; and in 1939, he worked 24 weeks and earned $1200.00: https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/K9HL-2PW
- 1942 World War II draft registration - Charles Orbie Whitaker lists his birth date and location as June 29, 1893 in Keytesville, Missouri. He and wife Ethel B. Whitaker live at 11414 Hatteras, North Hollywood, Los Angeles. Whitaker is about 6 feet tall, 210 pounds, and his occupation is "Free Lance Actor in Motion Pictures": https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-1-16371-30087-84?cc=1861144&wc=MMRW-1VV:1818083642
- Death certificate - 66 year old Charles Orbie Whitaker was born July 29, 1893 in Missouri to Sherman Whitaker and Bell Shepered. He lived in Newhall, California; was divorced; occupation was "cook at Jerry's Cafe". He died from a heart attack and atherosclerosis on June 27, 1960 at Cedars of Lebanon Hospital, Los Angeles. Pierce Bros. Van Nuys was the funeral director and burial at Valhalla Cemetery. Death certificate informant was daughter June Paris of Sylmar, California.
- California Death Index mirrors the death certificate - Charles O. Whitaker was born July 29, 1893 in Missouri, passed away June 27, 1960 in the Los Angeles area, and his mother's maiden name was Shepered: https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:VGR6-3PG
Jim Tipton's Find-A-Grave website has info on the final resting place for Slim Whitaker at Valhalla Memorial Park, North Hollywood, California: https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/5823509
(Courtesy of Debbie and Tom Bahn)Slim is interred at Pierce Brothers Valhalla Memorial Park, North Hollywood, California.