Tidewater Times August 2021

Page 99

Another DelMarVa Diva by A.M. Foley

Bernice Frankel’s 3,000-mile journey ~ from the West End of Cambridge to Brentwood in L.A. ~ wasn’t a smooth trip, but the onceunhappy little girl won many accolades and scored many triumphs along her way. Bea Arthur (nee Frankel) came to Maryland’s Eastern Shore from Brooklyn in 1933, when her parents moved south to open P. Frankel’s clothing store. The distinctive personal fashion sense Bea later displayed on All in the Family, Maude, and The Golden Girls may have been honed on Fifth Avenue and Rodeo Drive, but it originated on Race Street. The middle child among three daughters, Bernice was a pre-teen when her father remodeled a downtown Cambridge site from a theater into a store. Now Craig’s Drug Store, the site originally housed the Grand Opera House, an ornate backdrop where World War I doughboys had posed before shipping Over There. Seeing its exotic facade transformed into P. Frankel’s must have caused considerable comment around town. Entering school, Bernice found herself among students whose families had lived along the Choptank

River for generations. Her Brooklynese must have struck local ears as a foreign tongue, and vice-versa. Small wonder that shy Bernice felt a misfit in her new surroundings. Adding to the language barrier, her Jewish family attended neither Zion Methodist Church nor what was then officially Grace Methodist Episcopal Church (South). By the time she entered Cambridge High School, Bernice had attained her adult height of fivefoot-nine and towered over classmates. The shy teenager spent every available hour with her head in Photoplay Magazine or in the Arcade Theater. “My dream was to become a very small, blond movie star like Ida Lupino and those 97

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