Small Town Boy Makes Good in Showbiz!
A Hollywood screenwriter could not have written it better. Col. Barney Oldfield, with his roots firmly in Nebraska topsoil, made it big in Hollywood, and paved the way for many young dreamers.
Storytellers Beginning back in the early 1930's, Barney and his wife Vada, in their movie reviews, radio shows and interviews with Hollywood royalty became a connection to the world of showbiz even before they left Nebraska. With his reports for Variety and his appearances in Ripley's Believe It or Not and on Lux Radio Theatre from California, Barney began to get a taste of Hollywood from the inside.
Both the Oldfields were important communicators for the military during World War II, Vada as teletype operator and Barney as a parachuting press relations man who among other things started the infamous Berlin Press Club.
The Oldfields' lives after the war took them to 81 countries and every continent, and friendships with movie stars, Presidents and Heavyweight Champs, but they never lost track of their Nebraska roots. In the 1950's, they settled in Beverly Hills, and began focusing on helping young people through educational philanthropy. The Oldfields' generosity is creating scholarships and other opportunities for hundreds of new communicators and storytellers for centuries to come. Their "Living Memorializations" are innovative links between the future and the past that ensure that Nebraska heroes will never be forgotten.
Still at Work
Vada died of Alzheimer's in 1999 and Barney passed on recently, but their work continues even today through the Vada Kinman-Oldfield Alzheimer's Research Fund and the numerous scholarships/grants they established. Even though their recognizable, physical forms have dissapeared from our presence, they have a left a Living Legacy that will continue for generations to come. If you'd like to assist Barney and Vada with their work from 'The Great Beyond', please see the donation information in the Contact area.
Arthur Barney Oldfield was born in Tecumseh, Nebraska, on December 18, 1909, the first of three sons to Adam Willam and Anna Ota Oldfield. His father selected the middle name, Barney, on purpose. He reasoned that every Oldfield since the famous mile-a-minute racing driver received that nickname, so his son might as well start with it.
William Oldfield's fate was sealed by a straying mule that had wandered away from the farm on which he worked. As he went knocking on farmhouse doors asking about "mule sightings," one of the doors was opened by Anna Ota Fink. He forgot about the mule and focused on the girl.
For the Oldfields, it had been a long courtship. William had a penchant for risky jobs - Colorado forest ranger, plain clothes detective in Denver's roaring "red light" district, Pinkerton who rode the trains, and he was in the emergency police contingent sent to San Francisco in the looting aftermath of the earthquake and fire. Then came a much-forwarded letter from Anna Ota saying that she must get on with her life, and was he going to "gypsy about forever - if so..." The message was well received and he went back to Johnson County and married the girl. They later had three children, the first of which was Arthur "Barney" Oldfield.
After the Oldfield family moved to Lincoln in 1928, Bill worked as a policeman, bailiff, and detective at the Cornhusker Hotel. Anna Oldfield ran a boarding house for university students.
"There was a University there, I was in it, and there were two brothers both in need of an education in my parents' eyes. My father became house detective at the old Cornhusker Hotel and the uniformed authority figure for the "knothole section" of Memorial Stadium. He was a notorious soft touch for those kids who yearned mightily to see the fabled Cornhuskers play but were without the dime for admission. He was hired as an overseer, but he overlooked a lot, too. My mother was a sort of University annex - she ran a college boarding house and always said she helped to educate 143 kids other than her own. She had her own personal 'alumni association.'"
"My brothers and I all benefited from Johnson county, Nebraska, elementary schooling. Arden became an aircraft and boat builder in California. Lester never worked for anybody else in his whole life, and was a job creator as long as he lived.
When attending the University of Nebraska, Lester lettered two years as the (then) Big Six backstroke swimming champion with 64 college starts and came in with 64 first place gold medals. He was talked of as Olympic Games potential, but Adolf Hitler got in the way and the 1940 games were cancelled. He became a pilot and flew gasoline up to General George S. Patton's tanks as they soured across southern Germany."
In their memory, two scholarships were created at the University of Nebraska.
Barney did not go by his famous nickname as a boy. "Arthur" received his first four years of schooling at Elk Creek in Johnson County. After his family moved to the country, he went through eighth grade at the county's Long Branch District School
Barney attended small Elk Creek High School, with only eleven boys in four grades. Nevertheless, the school fielded baseball and basketball teams and participated in track meets. Barney lettered in his sophomore, junior and senior years.
Barney's future as a writer and consultant in the aerospace industry was strangely foretold in his 1926 English composition. It told the story of a death row convict going on a test rocket flight in space.
Barney graduated from Elk Creek High School in 1928. His graduating class consisted of two - himself and Earl Tucker. This event is commemorated today on the outfield wall at the Elk Creek ball field.
Barney's 1st grade teacher, Lucy Phelan Meeboer, encouraged him to do "something bigger than just sticking around Elk Creek." Her words would prove prophetic.