Carolyn Cassady

Carolyn Cassady was born Carolyn Robinson in Lansing, Michigan on 28 April 1923 at 10:AM CST, the youngest of five siblings. Her parents were educators, her mother a former English teacher, her father a Biochemist. They held strict conventional values. She lived in East Lansing for eight years until moving to Nashville, Tennessee, where she spent 9 winters. Summers were spent at Glen Lake in Michigan. In Nashville, Carolyn attended the Ward-Belmont Preparatory School for Girls. She began formal art lessons at age 9, sold her first portrait at age 14, her second at 16 and continued to paint portraits the rest of her life.


At the age of 12 she joined the Nashville Community Playhouse. She won two prizes for set designs and became head of the make-up department at age 16. She continued her work there every season even after she earned a scholarship to Bennington College in Vermont. There she began studying art but switched to drama. She was allowed to live and study for six months in New York in 1943 where she worked for Dazian’s fabric company by day, studied at Traphagen School of Design by night and on weekends browsed in the basements of the Metropolitan Museum and the Museum of Modern Art for little known prints of period dress.

That was a great year in New York for her major; she was required to see as many productions of all kinds, and Broadway was awash with the famous of stage and screen. Oklahoma opened as well as others; the American Ballet Theater began, and the hotels all featured the biggest swing bands of the era. She and her roommate became air raid wardens, auxillary members of the NYPD Before they found their apartment on E.55th Street, she spent two weeks at the home of Robert Sherwood, the playwright and writer of FDR’s speeches.

At Bennington she took classes with Martha Graham, Erich Fromm, Peter Drucker, Francis Ferguson, Ted Roethke, and other noted teachers in their fields. She obtained her BA degree in Stanislavsky Drama in 1944.

Meeting Neal, Allen & Jack
After college she became an Occupational Therapist for the Army and served at Torney General Hospital in Palm Springs, California. At the war’s end, she returned to Nashville to continue at the Playhouse, paint and recover from her stressful war experiances. In 1946 she went to Denver to study for her MA degree in Fiine Arts and Theater Arts for one year while working as a Teaching Assistant. She began a Theater Arts department for the Denver Art Museum.

Whille in Denver she met Neal Cassady, Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac. She lived in a residence hotel, and Ginsberg stayed in her apartment for two weeks before finding one of his own and helped her with homework. Kerouac accompanied her to rehearsals at the University and rode the streetcars back and forth. He, Neal and Carolyn went to clubs to dance and hear music. Carolyn and Jack were attracted to each other, but Jack told her, “Too bad, Neal saw you first.”

On her last morning in Denver, Carolyn came upon Allen, Neal and Neal’s then wife, LuAnne all in her bed together. She was so shocked, she decided that was the end of that love affair, and she left for Hollywood. Here she obtained a promise of a job in the Western Costume Company when one became available. To wait for that opening, she went to San Francisco, where she had a married sister with whom she stayed until finding her own apartment and a job with Joseph Magnin’s selling jewelery.

Neal had gone to Texas with Allen and then drove Bill Burroughs to New York. Five weeks since they had parted he took a bus to San Francisco to join Carolyn. They lived happily together while Neal tried to obtain an annullment from LuAnne. This became final on the 31st of March 1948, and they were married the following day, April Fool’s Day. Carolyn, however, was already pregnant. Neal worked at various jobs, ending as a conductor on the SP railroad. The Hollywood job was offered her, but she told them she now had a family so declined.

Source: The Neal Cassady Estate

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