Marvin See

Look at the man standing about in the middle of the crowd with his arms crossed and a hat on. That’s our Marvin See. This is a shot from a silent movie.

The next place and time for Marvin K. See is Aug. 27, 1929. Sadly, this is the date Marvin was admitted to the US National Home for Disabled Soldiers. This home was in Los Angeles, California. I haven’t a clue as to how he came to be in California nor where he had been living and what he had been doing in the five years between the last discharge in Mar. of 1924 and his admission to the home in Aug. of 1929. From his admission information, we learn several things. His “Domestic History” states that he was 30 years old, born in Atlanta, Mississippi, 5’ 8” tall, ruddy complexion with brown hair and eyes. He can read and write and his occupation is listed as “clerk”. In his medical information from the National Home, it is stated that the reason for his discharge from the Navy was “EFS”. An online search reveals this condition was “Experimental Febrile Seizures” which I understand to mean (with absolutely no medical knowledge) that perhaps Marvin, as a child, suffered from fever so high that it set in motion conditions that would cause Marvin to suffer from epilepsy. Another notation in his chart at the Home was “OBS Mental Detraction”. This is a general term that describes decreased mental function due to a disease other than a psychiatric illness. These conditions of course could be the reason for his discharges – and with his repeated admissions to the military one would think that the discharges were not of Marvin’s choosing. Another heretofore unknown layer of information we have peeled back on Marvin See.

In 1930 and again in 1932 Marvin was listed as a registered voter while at the National Home for Disabled Soldiers. He listed himself as a Republican and as retired.

For some reason, Marvin was discharged from the Home on Dec. 2 of 1930 but readmitted almost immediately afterward on Dec. 24 of that year. Then, discharged on Mar. 16 of 1931 then readmitted on April 14. Perhaps like in today’s world of medical dos and don’ts, one could only stay so long before having to get out, then there had to be so many days before being readmitted. Records at the home revealed that Marvin See received a military pension of $50.40 per month.

Now, be prepared for your mouth to drop open again with what else you are about to learn about Marvin See. By the way, all of the photos in this article were made available to me by Marvin’s niece, Sally Easom. When I saw the full photo of Marvin in hat, suit and tie, the first word that came to mind was “dapper”. I’ve heard of that word all of my life, but now I was “seeing” that word. The next thing that piqued my interest was the photographer’s name in the lower right corner. Obviously the photo was made by a professional and I was curious as to whereabouts of his studio. The name Witzel seemed Jewish and my first thought was perhaps Memphis or Mississippi Delta country. So, I Googled it of course, and I found that Albert Witzel was a photographer in Los Angeles and not just any photographer, thank you! It seems Witzel was the photographer of choice for the early Hollywood stars of the silent screen such as Norma Shearer, Greta Garbo and the like. Taking a photo of our Marvin See! Now you may close your mouth. From this new information it is not a giant leap to expect the next heretofore unknown bit of Marvin See’s life.

The large photo made by Witzel was probably Marvin’s “publicity shot” for his trying to get a start in a movie career. Obviously Marvin failed to make the big time as they say, but take a look at the photo. Look at the man standing about in the middle of the crowd with his arms crossed and a hat on. That’s our Marvin See. This is a shot from a silent movie.

Sadly, we will never know the name of the movie nor the stars that acted in it. But it’s kinda cool to know our Marvin See had a part in it. I wonder if Marvin ever talked about these years in Los Angeles? Did he mention that he had lunch with so-and-so or was in such and such movie with another so-and-so? If he had mentioned it, would we folk here in Chickasaw or Calhoun County believed him or would we have just laughed it off as one of Marvin’s tall tales?

Marvin was still in Los Angeles at the time of the 1940 census, living on South Hope Street. There is a question on that census asking where the informant was in 1935 and he responds that he was in Calhoun County at that time. Also Marvin states he had three years of college. I at first sort of assumed that he might have attended Mississippi A & M (MS State University) but was not able to verify this. I would be very interested in this and what his major at the time was.

Marvin’s mother, Ora See, passed away on September 18, 1957. I have talked to several local people who remembered her teaching at the Vardaman school. She taught music there and perhaps other subjects as well.

I would guess that in the ensuing years, Marvin spent most of his time in this area – but he was still hitchhiking here and there. James Estes, local pharmacist, remembered one Friday when he left pharmacy school in Nashville, there was Marvin on the side of the road with his thumb out. James picked him up of course and the two came on home to Chickasaw County.

Unfortunately Marvin See’s life ended on January 20, 1974 in Crittenden County, Arkansas. He had walked across the Mississippi River Bridge from Memphis and was on the frontage road on the Arkansas side when a semi hit him. It was ruled an unavoidable accident. Marvin was taken to John Gaston Hospital in Memphis where he died.

This story, other than being interesting and a bit shocking, has re-enforced several truths to me. One being that when we look at our fellow man, what we see on the outside sometimes is a far cry from what’s on the inside, and also that looking at the outside man, we have no clue as to what this person has endured in his life – the good and the bad and how it has shaped him into what he is in the present. I hope you have enjoyed this peeling back the layers of information on this man as much as I have enjoyed finding out what was beneath each layer.

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