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Another ‘Secret Lives’ outtake: The neighbor who knew L. Ron Hubbard and his first wife

SenatorRobertFordAnother day, another treat here at the Underground Bunker. We have another previously unseen interview that was recorded for Channel 4’s excellent 1997 documentary, Secret Lives — L. Ron Hubbard.

This time, we get a glimpse of a time period that rarely gets much treatment — Hubbard’s first marriage, to Margaret “Polly” Grubb, as witnessed by a neighbor who got to know the Hubbards pretty well.

Previous segments that we’ve released from the Secret Lives files have featured Hubbard’s literary agent, Forrest Ackerman, his press assistant and lover, Barbara Klowden, one of Hubbard’s fellow science fiction colleagues, Arthur Jean Cox, the former mayor of Clearwater, Florida, Gabe Cazares, Hubbard’s former medical officer, Jim Dincalci, archivist Gerry Armstrong, and former Los Angeles Times reporter and postwar Hubbard roommate, Nieson Himmel.

Now, we have another interview that was filmed for the documentary, but never aired. Meet Washington State Representative Robert MacDonald Ford, who represented the Bremerton area in the 1940s.

In 1938, he met Hubbard’s mother, May, when he sold her some insurance, and that led him to getting to know Ron and Polly. He describes helping Hubbard put together some bags of gravel as ballast for the new boat he’d just bought.

“He was a very charismatic and interesting person to talk to,” Ford says about Hubbard. “We’d play chess until 3 in the morning. Drink some of the whiskey he’d gotten from the Blackfeet Indians.”


Ford says that Hubbard had a little writer’s studio, and they’d go there to play chess or shoot air pistols and generally blow off steam. “We just hit it off very well,” he says. “He told lots of tales. Some of which you believed, some of which you discounted considerably, and some you didn’t believe at all.”

Ford says that Hubbard wrote stories “when he had to, when the grocer got really demanding.”

Ford then describes a really significant episode, one he also described to journalist Russell Miller for his book Bare-Faced Messiah. Miller says that Hubbard had been trying to get a commission in the US armed forces for years, and what finally helped him get one in 1941 was a letter of recommendation that Ford wrote. But Ford admitted that he handed Hubbard a piece of official state letterhead and said, you’re the writer, write it yourself.

Ford also got to know Polly well too. “Polly was a great girl. She cooked and she gardened,” he says. But Hubbard left her alone for months at a time as he went to New York for work. Hubbard had a couple of girlfriends there, and one time, he says, Polly found in their mailbox a couple of letters that Hubbard had written to them. So she exchanged the names on the two envelopes.

“Then she told him after the mail got picked up,” Ford says. It caused a row.

Ford says that he didn’t see Ron for several years, and then after the war found that he was married to a second wife, Sara Northrup. “I think he was a bigamist at that time. It wasn’t my business,” Ford says.

As for the war, Ford doubted that Hubbard had been injured. “He was complaining about a lot of things that were wrong with him.”

At one point, Ford and his wife drove down after the war to Los Angeles with Polly. Ron drove up from San Diego to meet them.

“He was never wounded. He might have had some complaints. He was trying to tie down a pension,” Ford says.

The interviewer asks him if it was true that Hubbard complained that Polly wouldn’t take him back after the war because of his wounds. Was that true? “Probably not,” Ford says.

“He was a fascinating fellow to know, but you had to use your discretion, and just don’t take everything (you’re) told true,” he sums up.

Ford is especially interesting because he never really had a falling out with Hubbard, and has no axe to grind. What’s your impression of the man Ford describes? Let us know in the comments.



Bonus photos from our tipsters

The gang’s all here! (Is that the lobby of the Super Power Building?)


Scientologists are using social media more than ever. Drop us a line if you spot them posting images to Instagram or Facebook!


Posted by Tony Ortega on March 18, 2015 at 07:00

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