Phyllis Mc Ginley - Life


Phyllis McGinley was born March 21, 1905, in Ontario, Oregon, the daughter of Daniel and Julia Kiesel McGinley. Her father was a land speculator and her mother, a pianist. McGinley moved to a ranch near Iliff, Colorado, when she was only three months old. She didn’t enjoy her early childhood on the ranch where she and her brother felt isolated and friendless. At the age of 12, her father died and the family moved again, to Utah to live with a widowed aunt. She studied at the University of Southern California and musical theater at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City where she was a Kappa Kappa Gamma, graduating in 1927. After selling some of her poems she decided to move to New York in 1929. McGinley held an assortment of jobs there, including copywriter for an advertising agency, teacher in a junior high school in New Rochelle, and staff writer for Town and Country.

In 1934 she met Charles L. Hayden who worked for the Bell Telephone Company during the day and played jazz piano in the evening. They married on June 25, 1937, and moved to Larchmont, New York. The suburban landscape and culture of her new home was to provide the subject matter of much of McGinley's work. McGinley had two daughters. Daughter Julie Hayden was the author of a favorably reviewed collection of short stories entitled The Lists of the Past.

In 1956 Phyllis McGinley published a rhymed children's story called "The Year Without a Santa Claus" in Good Housekeeping magazine, and the piece generated enough positive interest to facilitate it being printed in book form the following year. In 1968 actor Boris Karloff recorded a narrated version of the story for a promotional Capitol Records LP which also featured various Christmas songs from the label's catalog on the flip side. Karloff's reading is warm, vibrant and perfectly nuanced, and very similar to the feel he brought to his classic narration of the How the Grinch Stole Christmas television classic. It was also one of Karloff's last performances—he died a few months later in February 1969.

Phyllis McGinley died in New York City in 1978.

The Phyllis McGinley Papers can be found at the Special Collections Research Center of Syracuse University. The collection comprises personal and business correspondence, writings, and memorabilia. Spanning 1897 to 1978, the collection reflects not only the professional career of the American humorist and Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, but also the wide scope of her audience. Writings include, for any given title, any combination of work sheets, manuscripts, production records, and published versions for McGinley's books, essays, interviews, lyrics, poetry, reviews, scripts, speeches and stories. Memorabilia consists primarily of financial, legal, and printed materials, photographs and scrapbooks.

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