The attention Idyllwild lavished on Ernie Maxwell during his centennial last year was well deserved. But it left his wife, Betty, the other half of the Town Crier’s founding editorial duo, in the shadows.
Born in Missouri in 1906, Elizabeth Beeman grew up in luxury in New York City. By her own account a born actor, she appeared professionally at age ten and later studied drama at Bennett College, an exclusive two-year girls’ school, graduating in 1926.
After seven more years on stage in New York, she headed west to California with her husband in a marriage that didn’t survive the land of sunshine.
Then she met Ernie by chance when mutual friends offered him a ride in their rumble seat and Betty happened to be sitting there, too. That encounter led in due time to a 1938 wedding embellished by orange blossoms (one flower to which she happened to be allergic). At the time she was 32, he was 27.
The Maxwells settled into Los Angeles. Betty continued her career in acting and directing. But her life was gradually moving in a new direction, as she found herself serving as general-purpose secretary to friends, composing letters for job applications, to mend broken love affairs, or to hit up their families for loans. This drive to help others would blossom into a career as a “metaphysician,” as her business card put it, lecturing, teaching, and counseling.
The Idyllwild Area Historical Society archive has obtained a voluminous collection of handwritten notes and printed programs from Betty’s lectures and courses in Hollywood and San Francisco during the years 1939-1951. She first joined the teaching staff of the Unity Metaphysical Center in Hollywood, then became director of the Hollywood Truth Foundation.
After Ernie shipped off to the Army Air Force in 1942, Betty moved for a time to San Francisco, where she counseled and taught regularly at the Metaphysical Library and Book Shop.
At war’s end, our mountains seduced the Maxwells into settling in Idyllwild. But Betty continued her career with seminars in San Francisco and talks to Los Angeles area women’s clubs and the Institute of Religious Science.
Affiliating with the Association for Research and Enlightenment, an organization created to spread the teachings of reputed clairvoyant Edgar Cayce, she was a featured speaker at the group’s Western Conference in 1950 and 1951. She worked briefly with Cayce’s son, Hugh Lynn Cayce, on reincarnation and extrasensory perception.
Subjects of her teaching ranged from the ethereal (reincarnation, ESP) to the practical (meditation, healing, “Developing Dependable Intuition,” “Preparing for Plenty and Managing Your Wealth”), with all manner of “living metaphysics” in between.
She offered individual counseling for “wholeness of mind, body, and affairs.” Some of her topics appear a bit obscure (“World Blessing Class,” “Victory Singing”), but testimonial letters from students and clients were effusive in their praise.
Here in Idyllwild, Betty resurrected her experience editing a school newspaper to team with Ernie as co-editors of their newly launched Town Crier. Beyond that, she was a Chamber of Commerce officer, directed the community campfire program and a little theatre group, and offered spiritual living classes for Hill residents.
But she loved nothing more than getting away on horseback to back-country spots like Tahquitz Meadows. And when Ernie got stressed out and would inevitably launch into a few mournful bars of “You Always Hurt the One You Love,” Betty would cut him off, intoning “Thank you, dear, that will be quite enough of that.”
Sadly, death took Betty Maxwell from Ernie and the Hill community in 1977. But her memory lives on as one who helped give Idyllwild its extraordinary character.