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Profile of Sam McKim
Page 1 of 3

by Scarlett Stahl
February 13, 2003
A profile of the life and career of Imagineer and Disney Legend Sam McKim.

sam.jpg (16859 bytes)
Scarlett, Sam and Dorothy

The Disney Imagineers
Sam McKim

by
Scarlett Stahl

After spending an afternoon at the home of Disney Legend Sam McKim and his gracious wife, Dorothy, I learned that Sam is a man made of "The Right Stuff. " Whether in his military career, acting career, artistic career or personal life, Sam always gave more than 100% and did the right and decent thing, whether he received credit for it or not!

December 20, 1924, Sam McKim made his entrance into the world in North Vancouver, British Columbia. He was the second son in a family, which grew to five children. His father, Walter, was of Scottish descent and was working for the government, estimating the taxes on timber when he met Lydia Edwards, the girl who would become his wife and the mother of his children. Sam‘s father was a kind man, who would borrow money to help his fellow Scots from Canada. He worked as a wood finisher and as a farm worker. Unfortunately he was misdiagnosed as having tuberculosis after they relocated to the States and as a result was forced to live away from his family except for visits. The truth was not discovered until after he died and an examination was done which revealed severe bronchial problems but no tuberculosis.

Sam’s mother was a freelance photographer and homemaker, who cared for her five children with the help of her parents. She and her parents were from Cardiff, Wales, and had moved first to the States and then to British Columbia for her father’s health. He had picked up mustard gas in World War I and was told to live in a cold climate. When she and her husband left Canada for Seattle, her parents came with them. Her mother passed away in Seattle before they moved to Los Angeles but her father, whom Sam called Gramps, came with them. He was a dominant man, who became a strong influence on their lives. He worked as a writer for the Chamber of Commerce and acted as a manager for all five children, who became child actors.

When they first moved to Los Angeles, Gramps took Sam, who was only 10 years old, to visit a cousin by marriage at his home in Beverly Hills. The cousin wasn’t home but a neighbor gave them directions to MGM in nearby Culver City, where he worked. While Gramps visited with the cousin in his office, Sam waited outside with the secretary, where an associate casting director noticed him with his millions of freckles and mop of hair and asked if he was in pictures. Sam replied "No, but I’d like to be!" The casting director wrote a letter to Central Casting recommending him as a good character type, which he gave to Sam’s grandfather. Several days later his grandfather took him down and registered him at Central Casting and thus began his career as an actor, where he worked mainly in Westerns with such luminaries as John Wayne, Gene Autry, George Montgomery and Rita Hayworth, among numerous others. He was scheduled to star in a new serial but the studio and his grandfather couldn’t agree on an increase in salary so that fell through. However he still continued with his career and with an increase in salary.

When World War II started, both Sam, who was not yet 18 years old, and his older brother, David, both tried to enlist but as they were born in Canada, this was not allowed.

However shortly thereafter they were both drafted. Dave was a nose gunner sergeant on B17’s in the Army Air Corp and Sam was in the Army, joined the 89th Infantry Division and became a 2nd Lieutenant of Infantry by the time he was only 19 years old. His nickname was "Eager Beaver" at OCS and true to his nickname, he volunteered for the Pacific when the War in Europe was coming to a close, as he wanted to see combat before the War ended. He was shipped to the Philippines but the war ended before he was in combat. Sam went with his Division to Japan for occupation duty and joined the 11th Airborne Division, making 6 parachute jumps before leaving for home. He had been in the Army for 3 1/2 years.

 

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