Kitty Frank — a researcher, historian, scriptwriter and actress — took on the role of the paternal grandmother of historical figure Charles Curtis during a presentation Monday night at the Dorothy Bramlage Public Library.
Frank acted in the role of Permelia Hubbard Curtis, who loved to talk about her grandson and talked about his life through her point of view.
Frank described Charles’ mind as a “rolodex,” and said he did much work behind the scenes. Charles was born in 1860, just one year before Kansas became a state. When he was three years old, his sister, Elizabeth, was born. Elizabeth had blonde hair and blue eyes, while Charles had a dark skin tone and dark hair that went down to his collar. Charles spent a lot of his time growing up in Council Grove, and was known for being a jockey. His mother taught him how to swim, and helped him expand on his love for horses; he learned how to ride them in the process. In fact, his first words were “Giddy up.”
After the Cheyenne Raid, Charles and his sister went to live with his grandmother in Topeka where they invested in horses. In 1871, Charles and his grandfather, William, went on a trip during which they won a lot of money on horse races and gambling. Charles was eventually paid $50 per month to ride horses competitively, and took home 10 percent of the prize money from races.
Eventually, Charles grew too big to be a jockey, and his grandmother encouraged him to give it up and pursue an education. Charles ended up completing one year at Topeka High School, and Frank said the last good thing he had left was his horse, which his mom left him when she died.
Charles was eventually offered an opportunity to clean law offices in exchange for his use of their resources of books and other things to help him learn on the spot. It was a luxury he was committed to, and he gained more responsibility as time went on.
Charles eventually passed the bar exam at the age of 21, and became a county attorney at 24 during the prohibition era. Charles went on to serve nearly 20 years in Congress, and as vice president under Herbert Hoover from 1928-1932.
Considering everything Charles went through and accomplished throughout his life, Frank said she believes more people should know his story and share it.