Donald Benson Blanding was an American poet who loved the climate of Hawaii and was sometimes described as "poet laureate of Hawaii".
Don Blanding was born on November 7, 1894, in Kingfisher, Oklahoma (in the period as a territory prior to that state's creation). He trained between 1913 and 1915 at The Art Institute of Chicago is where he trained between 1913 – 1915 as a journalist, author of prose, illustrator, and a speaker.
During World War 1 he enlisted as part of the Canadian Army's predominantly American 97th ("American Legion") Battalion, training for 8 months for trench warfare. He left this service for reasons which were not clear a few days before the unit shipped out to Europe in 1916. A year later he joined the US Military but made no reference to his previous experience in the Defence Forces.
Blanding soon became fascinated by Hawaii and travelled there, staying for the year until his enlistment in the U.S. Army in December, 1917. Entering as an infantry private, he underwent officer training and was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant before being discharged in December, 1918, soon after the Armistice Day.
He returned to his studies in 1920, in Paris and London, travelled in Central America and the Yucatan, and resumed living in Honolulu in 1921. Working as an artist in an advertising agency, he was to spend the next two years writing poems which was published daily in the Honolulu Star Bulletin for an advertiser. These featured local people and events, and became well known and popular. The popularity of these ad-poems led Blanding to publish a collection of his poetry in 1923. When his privately published 2000 copies quickly sold out, he followed it with a commercially published edition the same year, and with additional verse and prose books. Vagabond's House ( his best-known work) , was reviewed promptly by the New York Times, and was a great commercial success. By 1948 it went through nearly fifty printings in several editions that together sold over 150,000 copies.
While he remained strongly attached to Hawaii, his connections to the world of celebrities drew him often to the mainland, and his income made hotel life and multiple residences feasible. During his high-school years in Lawton, Oklahoma, he is said to have saved the life of a 7- or 8-year-old neighbor, Lucille "Billie" Cassin, by picking her up and telephoning for a doctor, when she had jumped off her porch and deeply cut her foot on a broken milk bottle. Cassin eventually took the stage name of Joan Crawford, and their reacquaintance in 1936 on the set of "The Gorgeous Hussy", which starred her, suggests the level of his own celebrity.
Blanding married Dorothy Binney Putnam (described as a "socialite") on 13 June 1940, and they lived in Fort Pierce, Florida. They divorced in June of 1947, and he had no descendants.
Blanding was strongly affected by U.S. entry into World War II, including the knowledge of his island paradise as a military target, the reactions of those he met on his lecture tours, and the fall of Bataan. Bataan surrendered April 9, 1942, while he was on tour, and he wrote "Bataan Falls", 16 emotional lines in response. On the 25th, he enlisted as a private, at the age of 47. He served eleven months in the 1208th Service Corps Unit, Infantry, and was discharged as a corporal.
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