||Shirley Mae Jones was born on March 31st 1934, in the small town of
Charleroi, Pennsylvania. The only child of Paul and Marjorie Jones who
named their daughter after Shirley Temple. At the age of three, the
family moved to Smithton, Pennsylvania, another beautiful, small town
only a few miles away. Smithton rests along the banks of the
Youghiogheny River. Shirley had a carefree childhood in a town filled
with friends, and family.
Shirley’s Grandfather, William B. Jones,
founded the Jones Brewery in 1907. Her father and uncle helped run this
establishment that is still in operation today. Shirley’s grandfather
also owned and operated The Jones Hotel.
Shirley attended the local schools and at the age of six she was the
youngest member of the Methodist Church Choir. Recognizing her gifted
and natural singing ability, Paul and Marjorie took their daughter to
see Ralph Lewando, one of Pittsburgh’s top vocal coaches. Once a week,
Shirley’s father was more than happy to drive her fifty miles to the big
city, for her hour-long vocal session. After graduating from South
Huntingdon High in 1952, Shirley was spotted by a scout photographer for
The 1952 Miss Pittsburgh Pageant. Shirley entered the contest and won.
She then went on to compete for the title of Miss Pennsylvania, this
time coming in as first runner up. The prize was a two year scholarship
to the drama school at the Pittsburgh Playhouse.
Shirley had planned to go on to college following her apprenticeship
at the Playhouse, but went on to New York in the summer of 1953. She was
definitely in the right place at the right time. Rodgers and Hammerstein
had been searching and auditioning from coast to coast. They wanted just
the right fresh new face to play the role of Laurey Williams in their
first wide screen motion picture adaptation of their hit musical
OKLAHOMA! Shirley Jones walked into an open-call audition and their
search was over. There have been those who have said “What luck!” Well,
not quite, more like “What talent!”