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, Pa., 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. Fortunately, she took
a fateful trip to New York City 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!
When Shirley Jones walked into an
open-call-audition to try out for a chorus part in their Broadway musical "South Pacific" the search was over. There have been those who have said
"What luck!" Well, not quite,
more like "What talent!"
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