Arts’ Watch: A Brown-Proctor wedding

Published 9:20 am Saturday, January 6, 2024

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By Bill McCann


For many people, Winchester may be a place to grow up before moving on, or perhaps for two artists to get married while practicing their art at the local high school. Indeed, one young couple who married while passing through Winchester had no discernible connection to the community except that they wanted to get married.

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They were young—he was not quite 20, she was 21. They were New York actors doing shows for children. The Winchester Sun of Oct. 5th, 1948, mentioned that their troupe was in town to perform” Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, “sponsored by the Winchester Business & Professional Women’s Club at Winchester High School. The curtain for the show was 8 p.m.

Yet following the show in the ballroom of the Brown Proctor Hotel, the couple, Harold Beckenholdt and Jean Speegle, were married in a simple ceremony. She wore her Cinderella costume as a wedding dress. A friend sang. A wedding supper, complete with a three-tiered wedding cake the company manager managed to arrange on short notice, was followed by dancing to the hotel’s jukebox. The next day, presumably, the theatre troupe left town. So who was this couple? Well, their names may not ring a bell but the names of their children might—Ron Howard and Clint Howard!

I stumbled across this unexpected connection to Winchester while reading “The Boys: A Memoir of Hollywood and Family (2021”) which Ron and Clint Howard co-wrote. They may each be best known for their child performances as Opie Taylor and Richie Cunningham (Ron) and for performances in the Gentle Ben (Clint).

To kind of clarify things a bit—Jean Speegle, a native of Duncan, Ok., became Mrs. Rance Howard when her husband changed his legal name to Howard (for professional reasons) sometime after their Kentucky wedding. Both Duncan newspapers claim the marriage took place at 11 p.m., though “The Boys” implies that it took place on the morning of the fifth with the

celebration lasting into the late afternoon.

Whatever all of the details may be, one thing is certain—Ron, Clint, and Rance Howard were seen on television across this county and Kentucky many times over the years. Later, when Ron became a director, some of his early films no doubt were shown at the Leeds.

Bill McCann is the author of “God Hires Gardeners” which is available locally, at brick-and-mortar bookstores in Lexington, and online.