Clifton and Clinton Bittle are going to Hollywood.
Some 72 years after Myrtle Louise Stonesifer-King moved to Tinseltown, the brothers are tracing her steps as part of their ongoing effort to document the life of one of Littlestown's most notable individuals.
The Bittles, both students at Shippensburg University, will leave Saturday and spend a week in California interviewing some of the few remaining people there that knew Stonesifer-King and her then-husband Jeron Criswell King. They'll also visit The Orient Room of The Hollywood Inn where she performed.
An avant-garde writer, playwright and musician, Stonesifer-King spent 29 years in Hollywood before moving back to Littlestown in 1969.
"There are people that are out there that knew her or lived with her and associated with her," Clinton said. "The major thing we're going to do is bring things back to Littlestown that people have kept of her."
The trip is being funded in part by a $2,000 grant the university has provided the brothers. They plan to stay in a time-share outside Hollywood.
"They told us this was the most exciting and interesting story that came through as for research," said Clinton, who is an education major.
The trip is the latest venture for the brothers, who began researching the life of Stonesifer-King more than a year ago. They became intrigued with her after they found an unpublished collection of her short stories while helping organize items for Redeemer's United Church of Christ's 150th anniversary celebration. It was a compilation of stories about people in Littlestown up to 1914.
Since then, they have pieced together a detailed portrait of the woman who danced, modeled, and wrote plays, books, and music. They have interviewed Stonesifer-King's friends and relatives and collected items associated with her, such as scripts, sheet music, letters and photos.
Last summer, they visited New York City, where Stonesifer-King studied at the American Academy of the Arts in the early 1930s. They saw the hotel where she lived and used as the backdrop for her play entitled "Women's Hotel."
The Bittles presented their findings in show form during a Littlestown Area Historical Society program last summer entitled "Littlestown Meets Hollywood: The Many Lives of Myrtle Louise Stonesifer-King."
This July they have planned a second act to that program, with information from their California trip, musical numbers and other performances.
By then, the brothers will have filed paperwork to form the M.L.S. King Living Legacy Guild, a nonprofit dedicated to preserving her memory through the dramatic arts, education and historic preservation. One of their goals is to turn her former home on South Queen Street into a living history museum.
Already, there is a Hollywood Walk of Fame-type star in the works for the sidewalk in front of Stonesifer-King's former house at 14 South Queen. The brothers are within a few hundred dollars of the $4,000 they needed for the star.
"Our next step is to perform her plays, possibly at the high school," said Clinton, who notes that Stonesifer-King formed a local acting troupe in Littlestown at one point.
Creating a local theater company would be a spark for the community, they say.
"Our goal is not only to help people but revive the community to the way it used to be," said Clifton, who is studying drama at Shippensburg.
The brothers have a background in history and drama. Their family dates back to the early days of Littlestown and they have been involved in productions at the high school and at Shippensburg.
"We feel like we parallel her so much in our lives," Clinton said.
The Bittles are not going to California alone. They are traveling with two of Stonesifer-King's cousins and her friend Herb Sell, who played piano during the brothers' presentation last summer.
Sunday was a special date for the brothers. It marked what would have been Stonesifer-King's 107th birthday, and the brothers plan to announce at their church their plans for the guild, the trip and the date for their second presentation.
"We're so confident in what we're doing. We know this is going to happen," Clifton said. "We feel that Myrtle is guiding us."