Erbzine.com Homepage
Official Edgar Rice Burroughs Tribute Site
Since 1996 ~ Over 15,000 Webpages and Webzines in Archive
Volume 1104
JOAN BURROUGHS PIERCE
Part III

The voice of Ed Burroughs speaks all through this narrative...
just as it did when it was the guiding light through Joan's lifetime.



Courtesy the Danton Burroughs Family Archive
Jim and Joan Burroughs Pierce
 
Near the end of their Tarzan radio contract Joan became pregnant.  The producer, afraid of potential production delays that the pregnancy and birth might bring on, decided to replace Joan. Jim wouldn't do the show without her and resigned, to be replaced by Carlton Kadell.  They were able to live off royalties for years but the glory days seemed to be over. This downturn of events was counteracted by a very happy event, however:  the birth of their second child, Michael. The birth of a son to Tarzan and Jane was a newsworthy event that made the papers across America.

FIRST TARZAN HAS A SON
Daughter of Edgar Rice Burroughs Is Its Mother

Associated Press Release: Hollywood, Cal., August 14 (13), 1934 -- A son was born today to James Pierce, the original Tarzan of the movies, and his wife, the former Joan Burroughs, daughter of Tarzan's creator, Edgar Rice Burroughs. The father entered motion pictures in 1927, and played the part of Tarzan in "Tarzan and the Golden Lion." Pierce also played in "Ladies of the Mob," "Fast Company" and other pictures.



In the early '30s, Joan's father got the flying bug. His longtime interest in aviation eventually resulted in his taking flying lessons to obtain a private pilot's license. His first lesson was at noon, January 5, 1934 from instructor Jim Granger in a Kinner Security low wing monoplane at Clover Field (Santa Monica). Originally he had his permit made out to "Mr. Smith" (age 58, weight 189, height 5' 9 1/2") so that Emma wouldn't find out and be unduly worried. Soon, however, Joan was about the only member of the Burroughs family who wasn't caught up in his excitement over this new hobby.  After Ed made his first solo flight on February 12th, the other members of the Burroughs family, Jim, Hully, Jack and even Emma, signed up for lessons. Ed went so far as to buy a plane for the family to use. The aircraft was a new Security Airster -- a side-by-side, single-wing, open cockpit craft with the ERB doodad painted on the tail.  It was relatively slow and stable -- supposedly an ideal choice for novice pilots.
Ed's Doodad: Security Airster plane
Kinner Security Low Wing Monoplane
Ed's Doodad: Security Airster plane


On February 10th Edgar Rice Burroughs received delivery of his new aircraft and on February 12th his diary entry was “Soloed Perfect. Got My Wings. Great Thrill.” His son Hulbert also soloed and on February 15th the staff and pupils of The Pacific School of Aviation held a Solo Dinner for Hulbert Burroughs and his father Edgar Rice Burroughs at the Hollywood Athletic Club 1934. 

Unfortunately, on Feburary 16, Hully crashed the plane while landing into a strong cross wind. 

Their flight instructor, Jim Granger, was killed in a crash on October 3 when his brakes locked on landing.


 
Unfortunately, on February 16,  twenty-five-year-old Hully, while attempting to land in a strong crosswind, lost control of the craft and crashed into an adjacent golf course. He suffered minor injuries but it effectively put an end to the family's interest in flying. Another tragedy struck when their instructor, Jim Granger, was killed in a plane crash.
LETTERHEAD: Edgar Rice Burroughs ~ Tarzana, California ~ August 20, 1934
Dear Joan,
Hulbert tells me that you and Mike are doing well and I am glad to know this. He also says that Mike cries most of the time but that the **** saves the situation. Am enclosing a couple of clippings I thought you would like to have. There is nothing exciting going on. I am working hard interfering with Hulbert's and Ralph's work. I imagine they breathe a sigh of relief when I take myself elsewhere.

Am going over this afternoon to watch Jim Granger test his new ship that he is to fly in the London-Melbourne race in October. 

All my love, my dear, Papa
(Side note: Jim Granger died in same ship. Brakes locked & he crashed on October 3rd)

Joan ~ Tarzan, the Sheepdog ~ Jim
Photo by Hulbert Burroughs ~ January 1, 1935
 
Ed and Emma had shared many hardships in the early years of poverty and child raising and she had travelled with him on his impulsive wandering and search for riches through so many years. They had survived it all and she had been the inspiration behind the man during his climb to success as one of the world's most popular writers. On June 10, 1914 he had written in Emma's copy of the Tarzan of the Apes book:

My dear wife: Do you recall how we waited in fear and trembling the coming of the post for many days after we sent the Tarzan mss to Metcalf?  And will you ever forget THE morning that he finally came? Not even this, our first book, can quite equal that unparalleled moment. That we may never have cause for another such is the wish of your devoted husband.  Edgar Rice Burroughs

Sadly, their newfound success and fame brought insoluble problems. The main problem was Emma's increasing dependence upon alcohol -- and the rift grew as Ed developed new interests and an almost obsessive desire to stay youthful and to enjoy the company of younger people. Joan and her brothers observed this happening but could do little to remedy the situation. Jack explained, "My father was sensitive and idealistic about women. He want them to be like his heroines, fine and virtuous. The idea of his wife as a victim of alcohol was difficult for him to accept. His generation thought that drinking by women was immoral."

Ed had known actress Florence Gilbert for many years, first as one of Joan's best friends and then as the wife of his business partner, film maker Ashton Dearholt. As both their marriages dissolved, the relationship between the two gradually grew stronger -- despite the great age difference. (The relationship is detailed in the Florence Gilbert Biography in ERBzine 0890) Eventually, both divorced and were married in Las Vegas on April 4, 1935 after which they went on a long honeymoon in Hawaii. Joan was devastated and had refused the wedding invitation. She cut out a picture from a Los Angeles newspaper, showing Mr. and Mrs. Edgar Rice Burroughs, formerly Mrs. Ashton Dearholt, aboard a ship just before sailing for Honolulu. Below it, she inscribed, "They look like a couple of convicts."


Ed with Florence and children: Caryl Lee and Lee

Ed and Emma's breakup was of great concern to the Burroughs family -- especially Joan who felt that her friend Florence had used her to get to her father and was the cause of her parents' divorce. Although Hully and Jack made a show of trying to accept Florence, Joan never spoke to her again. She had been very close to her father and still kept in touch with him through letters and phone calls. Ed tried desperately to be the mediating middle man. The following letters are a few of countless unsuccessful efforts to try to patch things up:

Feb 14 1936 ~ Darling Joan: Another paving stone for Hell. I wanted to send valentines to Joan II and Mike, and here it is Valentine's Day and nothing done. What a mind! If I ever get a spare hour in town we'll. have lunch together again. I am pretty sure I can make it next Tuesday. Will you get hold of the boys and ask them!    We can meet at The Berries at 1 o'clock. If that is not a good hour for you, telephone Ralph, or drop me a line addressed to Tarzana.   If, for any reason, you or the boys can't make it next Tuesday, let me know in the same way....



August 30, 1937 ~ Mrs. James H. Pierce ~ 
10458 Bellagio Road, Bel-Air ~ Los Angeles, California.
My dear Joan: I am so sorry that you can't come Wednesday, and I know that Florence will be when I tell her. I can understand, though, how difficult it is for you to get away and leave the children. With lots of love to you, Yours,   Papa

September 20, 1937 ~ Mrs. Joan Burroughs Pierce ~ 
10452 Bellagio Road, Bel-Air ~ Los Angeles, California.
Dear Joan: Sorry that I was not at the office when you came. I am working at home now because I seem to be able to accomplish more there, and save the time of driving back and forth. Am certainly anxious to see you.   I hope that we can get together soon.

Jim and Jack Burroughs in their flight suitsJim posing for brother-in-law JCB's painting for the Oakdale Affair dust Jacket 1937Jim Pierce 1941 with Travelair aircraft

 
Hully's accident did nothing to dampen Jim's love for flying and he went on to earn his commercial license. To supplement his dwindling income from acting he leased a large hangar at the Van Nuys airport in the San Fernando Valley and opened a flying school. The hangar also housed a licensed repair station, rental space, and his dealership for Interstate aircraft. Promotion for this enterprise and Jim's other aviation-related activities led to his writing and directing a short aviation adventure serial for radio. Jim and Joan, along with many guest stars such as Harold Goodwin and Jack Leamley, starred in the show.

By 1941 the Pierce fortunes had improved sufficiently for them to design and build a new home in Van Nuys (now Sherman Oaks) about six miles from Hollywood in the San Fernando Valley. The Spanish-design home was quite innovative for the time with a kitchen done in knotty pine and a living room with a large rustic, used-brick fireplace.


THE WAR YEARS
America's entry into WWII after the Pearl Harbor attack brought a major setback to the Pierce aviation business. The government closed down every airport and grounded planes. Owners were ordered to dismantle all planes or to fly them out of the 150-mile prohibited zone along the coast. Jim moved his operation inland to the Arizona desert -- first to Quartzite and then to Nogales down by the Mexican border. After Jim got settled Joan rented out the Sherman Oaks home and she and the two kids arrived on "The Burro" -- a slow moving antiquated train that stopped at Nogales on its way from Tucson down into Mexico. The family moved into a rented home in the largely Spanish speaking wild west town -- a major culture shock as it was a far cry from what they were used to back in California. The reunion did not go smoothly. The children were enrolled in the local school where they were frightened and miserable and begged to return home.

Unfortunately, because of wartime price restrictions the tenants in the Sherman Oaks home had a right to stay there until the war was over.   By this time Joan's father and mother had divorced and Emma was living alone in a large home in Bel Air. Her broken marriage had left her in a state of depression and her problems with alcohol had worsened. The logical decision was for Joan and the kids to move back to California and to stay with her mother at the Bel Air home. Jim moved into a Nogales hotel.  Soon after Joan's arrival at Bel Air, Emma had a bad fall resulting in a skull injury and a brain hemorrhage. Sadly, she did not live long after this accident. She died on November 5, 1944.

Emma Burroughs during the latter part of her life.
Emma Cenntennia Burroughs 1876-1944
Joan took her mother's death very hard as even though the lady had lived a sad and tormented life in her later years, she had been a strong stabilizing influence over the years and had been the mainstay of the family through so many difficult times in the past. The tragic circumstances in recent years did not seem to diminish the affection shown between father and daughter. He never held it against Joan for not accepting Florence. They had always felt that they both belonged to what they jokingly called a "Mutual Admiration Society."  Perhaps the only other thing they really disagreed on was politics: both Joan and Jim were Democrats while Ed, along with the rest of the Burroughs family, was a staunch Republican. The love and support they gave each other is evident in the multitude of letters that passed between father and daughter during the war years while Ed was in the Pacific Theatre. These letters are a great legacy and are remarkable documents that relate the activities of the Burroughs family during those years (see ERB: The War Years for samples of the letters). They corresponded regularly even after his divorce, although Joan never lost the bitter feelings toward Ed's second wife Florence, whom she regarded as a gold digger who had broken up their parents' marriage. She and Florence had been best friends before she "broke up the Burroughs family" and Joan felt betrayed and used by her ex-friend.  This did not stop her, however, from staying in touch with her father.
MariposaLurline
Joan saw Ed off to Hawaii on the Mariposa (Florence and the kids had left for the islands on an earlier voyage aboard the Lurline). She was disappointed when she wasn't allowed on board for the send off because she sensed that she would not see her father for a long time, if ever again. Ed arrived in Honolulu on May 1, 1940 and from then on they wrote each other a steady stream of letters which reveals much about both Joan and her father:

War Time Correspondence Between Father and Daughter
Highlights of some of the letters featured in
Edgar Rice Burroughs: The War Years

Lanikai, Oahu, T.H. ~ June 12 1940: In a letter acknowledging a much appreciated Father's Day radiogram from Joan and the kids, Ed wrote that he was tickled to death to learn how quickly Joanne and Mike learned to swim and dive from uncle Hully's lessons.  He thought it was wonderful that they had such a great opportunity and he was sure that Hully was getting a big kick out of instructing such apt pupils. Ed confessed that he had been trying to learn for 64 years. Even now he would just go into the ocean with the children and jump up and down as the rollers came in and was too scared to swim out.  His fear was probably justified as step-daughter Caryl Lee had been poisoned twice by Portuguese Men-o-War and their next-door-neighbor was continually catching sharks in his net, practically in front of their house. He was glad that Joan was getting film work and he was looking forward to seeing her in Deana Durbin's Spring Parade and Boys From Syracuse with Martha Raye and Allan Jones. He was also glad that Jim was doing so well and hoped that Mike would stick to the piano until he was sufficiently proficient to give pleasure to himself and others all the rest of his life.  He always regretted that he could not play the piano, lamenting that his fingers were too damned big. Otherwise, he thought he was quite musical. It was about this time that young Joan's name was changed to Joanne to save confusion. Grandfather Ed didn't entirely approve but understood the reasoning behind the change.

In January of 1941 Ed again expressed pleasure in hearing that Joan was doing some film work and that Jim was working on being accepted as a flying instructor. Joan was always one of her dad's most avid fans and was always supportive of his novels. He never failed to send her a personalized copy of his latest novel for her collection. They joked about their lifelong Mutual Admiration Society. He boasted that she was the one audience he could always count on.

In Joan's letter of Feb. 27 she told Ed that they were building on a tract of land not far from Tarzana (on 3714) and would probably move into it sometime in April.  These plans got Ed thinking that perhaps it would be a good idea for ERB, Inc. to get a loan to build some inexpensive houses on some of the vacant lots held by the company. One advantage would be that he would have a place to live that was not far from the office. Ed was somewhat annoyed to hear that Tom Scully, the friend who had introduced Joan and Jim so many years before, had just built a ten-room house on Mulholland Drive. Apparently Scully still owed Ed $10,000 from a past loan -- one of many people who still owed him money.

Realizing the rift between Joan and Florence, Ed still found himself in the role of intermediary and seemed always to be trying to present each of the women in good light to the other. Through the years he and Joan confided in each other and shared many of their problems but he spoke very little of whatever problems he might have been having in his marriage.

In March of '41 Ed saw The Lone Star Raiders and The 3 Mesquiteers and noticed that Joan's old beau, Rex Lease, was in the cast but "couldn't identify him among all the horses."

In April Ed was delighted learn that Jim, after much effort and expense had finally received his transport commercial pilot's license. Joan and the family seemed quite relieved that Jim was probably too old to enter into combat service. Ed reflected on the expense of pilot training, remembering that it had cost himself about two thousand dollars for the 30 hours he had flown.

That summer Joan wrote that Jim's father had visited them in their new home, Joanne had attended summer camp, and Mike had taken a trip to Mexico. Ed mentioned that there could be a job for Jim in Honolulu but wouldn't recommend their moving to live there because of threats of war. It was obvious in Joan's letters that the family was concerned over Ed's health and state of depression following his recent divorce from Florence. Joan seemed to be instrumental in the decision to have Hully travel to Hawaii to be with their dad. The decision overjoyed Ed who had been effectively estranged from the family for seven years and was now more isolated than ever in Hawaii. In his letters back home to Joan, Hully expressed nothing but admiration for his father.

Jim, Joanne, Joan, and Mike Pierce in front of their Sherman Oaks home.
On February 9, 1942, a disappointed Joan wrote Ed that they felt they had to sell their new home because of financial pressures. Ed wished that he could buy the house but that this was out the question in view of his financial situation. The war had cut down the corporation's income and taxes were mounting. He did, however, suggest that Joan talk the situation over with Ralph who was a master at solving knotty financial problems for the Burroughs family. He predicted that Jim's aviation business venture in Nogales should be successful and that he was behind them 100 per cent. He also reflected that when he was in Nogales 45 years ago it wasn't much more than an aggregation of saloons separated by an International Boundary line. The rest of the family and friends, however, were not too supportive of the Pierce's plan to move to Nogales. Ed advised them to not take the family's objections to moving too seriously because if the family hadn't been so fond of them, they wouldn't have given a damn as to where they moved. He admitted though that it would be especially hard on Emma. He reflected that they wouldn't be far from the area where he had once chased Apaches on the Gila River near Duncan. He also remembered that he had helped load a trainload of Mexican cattle at Nogales for Sweetzer & Burroughs of Yale, Idaho. He thought it would be natural for Emma to take over the home in the valley as she had been complaining about the Bellagio home being much too large. It turned out that Jim went to Nogales alone, leaving Joan and the kids in California for most of the time.

In Ed's letter of June 25, he praised Mike for buying Victory Stamps and Joan for planting a Victory Garden. Ed felt that even if she didn't get anything but weeds, exercise, and fresh air out of the Victory Garden, that she would still be ahead of the game. He was sure that she would recall his own futile efforts to make Tarzana Ranch self-supporting 20 years before. He was still waiting for his potatoes to come up. He lamented that the Angora goats they had inherited from General Otis required two full-time guardians with Winchesters and dogs to protect them from mountain lions and after all that they left all their expensive Angora fleece on the sage brush and chaparral in the hills. And the pure-bred Guernsey cows gave birth to nothing but bull calves - worth about $2.   Nevertheless he thought it was worth it for all the exercise, fresh air, tan and excitement the family had gotten out of it. He did brag, however that he was once successful in growing strawberries at the Mecca Avenue Place -- but the quail came in and ate them all -- and he confessed that he would never shoot them. Because of the unpredictable times during the war years Ed suggested that they rent their home rather than sell it. He went on to predict that they would enjoy the dude ranch they expected to move to in Nogales -- especially the joys of riding over the scenic countryside in the area. He expected that the Pierces would be going to the inaugural ball after Jim's father was elected Mayor of Shelbyville.

It seems that Joan and the family were always on Ed's mind. He sent home what money and gifts he could and often mentioned how he bragged about the family and showed his family photos to everyone: "My daughter used to be leading woman in a stock company and my son is an artist - he illustrates all my books, etc., etc. Of course I have to tell them what a lovely trained voice you have." A love of singing ran in the Burroughs family. Both Joan and Hully had excellent voices and performed in public many times over the years.

In April 1943, Ed sent a package of souvenirs to Joan and the family from his travels as a war correspondent in the Pacific: beads, tortoise shell carvings, coins, etc. He was quite proud of the war club he sent to grandson Mike. He'd wrangled it from native headhunters who met their ship in Suva Harbour on the Fiji Islands. Joan often made a point of encouraging her father to keep a diary of his Pacific adventures.

In August of 1943, in response to Joan's pressing financial problems, Ed sent $100 to help tide her over and offered the following financial advice: "There is just one rule to follow: Buy nothing for which you cannot pay cash."

An interesting letter form January of 1944, praised  Mike for his achievements in the Bel-Air Rangers in which the boy had achieved the rank of First Lieutenant. Ed went on to share his own recent visit to a jungle training unit of commandos. A later letter expressed his pleasure with Mike's having joined the Scouts den at Sherman Oaks, adding that he thought it was good training for boys and that it would helpful to him all through his life, besides being a whole lot of fun.

A September 1944 letter indicated that Joan was in Chicago and was having a great time for a few weeks, for which all the family were very glad as they believed she had a lot of good times due her. There are numerous hints that things were not going well between Joan and Jim during this period of time. In a letter to Jack, Ed wrote: "Was not surprised to learn that J is running true to form.. He is a bum and a heel of the first water. If he gets too belligerent, all the other J would have to do would be to sock him one and he'd yell uncle. He's yellow."


THE POST-WAR YEARS
Family gathering 1945
At the end of the war, Joan and the children were finally able to move back into their home, but Jim stayed on in Nogales to sell the aviation business and to work for the new owner for awhile. When he returned to California it was to find that the Van Nuys Airport lease he was supposed to get back after the war had been given by the government to Lockheed so that they could convert military cargo planes to commercial use. Work in Hollywood was minimal although he did get a small role as a doorman in Showboat.

Jim realized that he would have to find a more reliable means of employment to support the family. Noticing that the real estate business was booming he took a night course to qualify as a licensed real estate broker. He soon had his own company operating in the San Fernando area but a major contract selling new homes to returning servicemen under a GI programme necessitated a move to Sacramento. Joan and the family stayed back in their Van Nuys home, driving up to Sacramento for the occasional visit.

Joan Burroughs PierceJoanne Pierce (Joan II)
In Ed's final years after the war, his grandchildren -- the offspring of Joan and Jack -- were a great source of joy. He seemed to live for visits from all of them: Joanne, Michael, Johnny, Danton and Dian. One of Mike's fondest memories was the help his grandfather gave him on his Sherman Oaks paper route. Ed would help him fold the papers and then drove him around the route with Mike tossing the paper out of the car window. Later he would visit Mike's military school to watch his battalion on maneuvers and took great pride in watching him receive awards. Mike became his grandfather's official projectionist for the Burroughs private film showings on Saturday nights and on special occasions such as during the 71st birthday party that Joan held for her dad on September 1, 1946. As with most of their family gatherings they showed old movies and Laurel and Hardy comedies.
Joan serving the cake at Ed's birthday party, September 1: Joan, little Joanne, Ed, Jane, Jack, Marion, Mike
Ed ~ Mike ~ Joan ~ Studley's daughter ~ Jack ~ Jane
Joan, Marion and ERB ~ 1946
ERB, Inc. Directors Meeting
 
By the late '40s Ed was pretty much confined to his home on Zelzah Avenue after having suffered numerous heart attacks and contracting Parkinson's. He phoned Joan every day and invited her over for their private cocktail hour during which they talked about old times, family and the war. He often said, "Joan understands me and loves me dearly. I would rather have her near me than anyone I know." He was a boxing and wrestling fan and the early days of television featured many matches. He knew how phony the wrestling matches were, but he got a big kick out of watching Baron Leonie, Gorgeous George, and the other actors ham it up. Through watching these matches with her dad Joan became somewhat of a fan herself and attended many local matches with Jim..

One of her dad's last public appearances was a visit to the set of RKO's Tarzan and the Slave Girl. There was a great flurry of excitement and picture taking when Joan and Michael wheeled him into the studio. The much publicized photo with Burroughs Bibliophile Vernell Coriell, Lex Barker and Mike Pierce was taken at that time.

Ed died on March 19, 1950 while reading the Sunday comics in bed. He was an agnostic and did not believe in funerals so he had requested a cremation with no public services. The family gathered for a private service at Jack's home in Tarzana. His ashes are buried beside his mother's under the large tree in front of the Burroughs building on Ventura Boulevard in Tarzana.

The Final Appearance of Ed Burroughs on the Tarzan movie set

Vern Coriell ~ Mike Pierce ~ Ed Burroughs ~ Lex Barker
Vern Coriell ~ Mike Pierce ~ Ed Burroughs ~ Lex Barker

 Jane Ralston ~ Joan Burroughs ~ ERB ~ Lex Barker

 
Edgar Rice Burroughs
1875-1950

REFERENCE SITES
Burroughs Camp Names ~ 1916
Visitors to the Burroughs Camp 1916 - Page 1
Visitors to the Burroughs Camp 1916 - Page 2
The Danton Burroughs Family Archive
ERB Dedications to Joan Burroughs
Those Burroughs Kids
The Tarzan Radio Show Premier
Tarzan Radio Show
The Edgar Rice Burroughs Online Bio Timeline
A Meeting With Jim and Joan Burroughs Pierce in Tarzana 1971 ~ Part I
A Meeting With Jim and Joan Burroughs Pierce in Tarzana 1971 ~ Part II
The Pierce Grave site in Shelbyville, Indiana
The Battle of Hollywood by the Oldest Living Tarzan ~ James H. Pierce
A Visit to Old Los Angeles

THE JOAN BURROUGHS STORY

I: The Early Years
II: Marriage and Career Years
III: Years of War and Turmoil
IV: Family and Laurels


. WEBJED: BILL HILLMAN .
Visit our thousands of other sites at:
BILL AND SUE-ON HILLMAN ECLECTIC STUDIO
Some ERB Images and Tarzan© are Copyright ERB, Inc.- All Rights Reserved.
All Original Work ©1996-2004/2016 by Bill Hillman and/or Contributing Authors/Owners
No part of this web site may be reproduced without permission from the respective owners.