“You have this young boy, who has a sickly father, and they move west to the Mojave Desert to try to farm. That’s a rough place to farm, and they fail, and he has a very hard- charging mother,” Ethan says, recounting his father’s upbringing.
“It’s tough on the father and he’s never satisfied. And they end up in Glendale—which, at that time, was in another small, rural environment, and the father was social, and the mother was kind of a taskmaster. And I think he [John Wayne] found solace in school and relationships in school.”
At Glendale Union High School, the future Western star excelled in academics and sports. He ran the school newspaper, was on the debate team, the dance committee and in drama club. As captain of the football team, he led his teammates to a championship season, and earned a football scholarship. As a student at the University of Southern California, he dove into college activities with the same enthusiasm as he did in high school, but when a body surfing injury ended his football career, it also ended his scholarship. Unable to afford tuition, he left school to work.
Surely, he must have been disappointed, but he didn’t see a setback; he saw an opportunity, and soon the listening, organizational and planning skills he developed through all his school activities would serve him well.