Margaret Hamilton will always be remembered as one of the most frightening witches of all time in the 1939 classic, "The Wizard of Oz." At the annual meeting of the Southport Historical Society June 10, facing more than 100 enthusiastic listeners, guest speaker Hamilton “Ham” Meserve painted a very different picture of his mother as a classy, kindhearted lady who loved children and had a sense of humor.
According to Meserve, Hamilton grew up in Cleveland, Ohio and caught the acting bug when she landed a lead role in a high school play. The next morning, during breakfast, she announced she was going on the stage. Without missing a spoonful of oatmeal, her mother responded, “Ladies in Cleveland do not go on the stage.” But then being a concert pianist herself she relented by saying, “You’ll go to college first to learn how to make a living.”
Hamilton was sent to Wheelock College in Boston then opened a kindergarten back home after graduating, while acting at the Cleveland Playhouse. Meserve said Hamilton got her first break in 1932 when she was offered a part in a play on Broadway called, “Another Language,” that got rave reviews and became a smash hit. Hamilton was described as the ingénue of the play, which led to Hollywood and acting in the movie that was to become one of the most watched films in history.
Meserve said Hamilton was in 77 movies, 100 plays (summer stock and Broadway) and countless radio shows and commercials but never lost her dedication to the care and education of children. She appeared on a segment of the Mr. Rogers show and at numerous other engagements to reach out to young minds. She read Christmas stories to children at FAO Schwarz in New York City for many years while she lived in the Gramercy Park Hotel.
In conclusion, Meserve said, his mother was a traditionalist and a repertoire actor who could play any part. She was loyal to the public and her family by always being there when they needed her. She always dressed to the nines when going out and never refused to give an autograph, signing her name as “Margaret Hamilton, WWW.”
Meserve and his wife of 58 years, Helen, now live full time in Newagen across from Cape Island, the island they bought with Hamilton so they could vacation together in the summer with the three grandchildren. They did until the end of her life, in 1985 at age 83.