After she was thrown out of Cleo’s house, Elizabeth moved about like a transient, living here and there for a time. Once a family found her sleeping in a movie theatre and taking pity on her they took her in. However, they too became frustrated with Elizabeth’s slovenly habits and after only a few weeks, told her to leave. Perhaps Elizabeth didn’t care. Or maybe she was delusional enough to think she deserved to be treated like a princess, just because she was young and pretty. At any rate, Elizabeth was homeless again. Elizabeth arrived at Camp Cooke on January 29, 1943. She found work in the post exchange, where Inez Keeling, the manager of the PX, said of her later, “I was won over all at once by her almost childlike charm and beauty. She was one of the loveliest girls I have ever seen- and the most shy.” Elizabeth was voted Camp Cooke Cutie by the GI’s. It was a fun-filled but short stay in her life.
It was Elizabeth’s dreams of stardom that sealed her fate and sent her to Hollywood in search of screen success. How many hundreds of girls a year did the same, only to be disappointed, turn around, and leave again? Young hopefuls like Elizabeth don’t consider such facts when they think of themselves. Elizabeth decided this wouldn’t happen to her because she was beautiful and special, at least that was what every boy in her small town of Medford always told her. It’s no surprise that the majority of young women who flock to Hollywood have been cited the prettiest girl in the class in their yearbooks, or have won beauty contests. These small, personal victories that make a girl a big fish in a small pond are the center of their world. It’s only after arriving in Hollywood, experiencing several rejections, and coming to realize that they and 1,000 other beautiful young women are seeking stardom, do most young women abandon their dreams and seek a more realistic lifestyle.
Not Elizabeth. She was determined to become a movie star but she made a brief pit stop in Santa Barbara. Here as in every place Elizabeth went, she made friends and boyfriends. She loved to stay out and party and finally this resulted in Elizabeth getting arrested for underage drinking. At the time Elizabeth probably thought this was the end of her world. She must have been relieved her father didn’t find out about it. Even Elizabeth’s mug shot, showing her delicate profile, is as pretty as can be, something that certainly doesn’t happen to most people. After one night in jail, Elizabeth, much shaken, took to the road again This time she completed a circle and returned to Miami, possibly staying with relatives.
It was 1944. Elizabeth met the most important man of her life (well, in happy terms); the charming Major Matt Gordon, an air force officer
in a unit called The Flying Tiger. Who knows if it was just one of those things or if Elizabeth was actively seeking a husband? That seems unlikely because of her vague Hollywood ambitions but whatever the case, Elizabeth now saw stars of a different kind. For her it was love at first sight. This time, even her dreams of Hollywood paled in comparison to her new plan: marriage. She and Gordon spent as much time together as they possibly could before he was station overseas again. When he had to leave Elizabeth was desolate but Gordon assured her when he returned they were to be married. At least Elizabeth told friends that she and Gordon “discussed” it. One letter Short wrote to Gordon read:
I’m so proud that I’m
afraid I’m going to cry. Forgive me please, I didn’t plan to cry at all. I simply can’t help myself, and when you come home I’m never going to let you go, Darling. I’m not trying to frighten you really. I just love you so, and it’s real love because I haven’t had you out of my thoughts since we met.”
For his part, Gordon wrote a letter from India to his mother dated May 5, 1945, asking if she thought Short loved him. “It kind of looks like she does. In 11 days she wrote me 27 letters.” Mrs. Gordon replied. Sadly in 1946 Gordon died while testing an airplane the night before he was to return home and into Elizabeth’s waiting arms. Mrs. Gordon sent an odd telegram to Short stating “Matt killed in plane crash on way home from India. Our deepest sympathy is with you. Pray it isn’t true.” Matt was only 26 when he was killed. Devastated, Elizabeth was again alone in the world. She didn’t return to her family in Medford. Perhaps she decided she
couldn’t go backward and could only move forward with her life. Perhaps the idea of returning to Medford was humiliating. Certainly Anne Toth, a roommate she would meet in Hollywood, felt that Short “wanted desperately to be a movie star, to prove She may have bragged to friends that she was moving to Hollywood to become a movie star. Whatever the reason, Elizabeth wandered about aimlessly again and returned to California, this time to Long Beach. She found an ex-boyfriend who was willing to take her in for a time. Clearly she wasn’t in love. Elizabeth was the type to land on her feet and she simply needed a place to stay. However her “ex” and she got along fabulously and they lived happily ever after. Obviously not. It wasn’t long before they quarreled and Elizabeth was again thrown out. Something tells me that refusing to shoulder her share of the household chores and sleeping the day away caused the rift between the two sending her out on her own in the world yet again.