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Thursday, February 26, 2009

Sad Day in Oz

It's a very sad day in Oz today. Our dear loving (August)Clarence Swenson died last night around 7;00 p.m. I am told by the "Everything Oz" Yahoo Group and to make matters worse it was also his wife's birthday the same day.

Clarence was the very last of the Munchkin soldiers from the 1939 MGM production of "The Wizard Of Oz" starring Judy Garland among others.

Born August 29, 1917 in Austin, Texas he was the smallest of five brothers and one sister. Four-feet-six inch Clarence nicknamed "Shorty" began his career in show business when he appeared at the Dallas Texas Centennial of 1936.

In 1937 he supposed to be in Stanley R. Graham's All Midget Circus in San Antonio working with the elephants, as well as playing the saxophone and drums with the band. After nearly eight weeks of rehearsals they opened for a day and a half before they were shut done because of the monsoon rains.

Not long after that, he hopped a train to Hollywood to appear in "Terror of Tiny Town"; and a few months later landed the role of a Munchkin Soldier in the Wizard of Oz. Directly following that he worked in an ape costume in "Tarzan Finds a Son". During this time Clarence was around four feet tall.

When World War 2 broke out he went to Kelly Field Air Force Base in San Antonio where he worked for four years as a radio technician. Clarence married his sweetheart, Myrna Myrle Clifton in 1945. Myrna is most unusual as she is the offspring of midget parents. The two do have children, grand children and great-grandchildren.

It was not until 1989 that Clarence made the step to reunite with fellow munchkin cast members at Oz festivals. Many people have such fond and warm loving memories of the man who was the last of the Munchkin soldiers.

Sadly by the time I learned of these events Clarence was way to ill to travel but I am sure he along with all the other munchkins who have passed away. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family and may we all strive to leave a legacy as LARGE as Clarence did.

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