The Story of an Irish Linen Tablecloth

walter light

A little bit of history is recorded as each famous autograph is added to a fine old Irish linen Tablecloth. This unique hobby was started in 1929 by Olga "Joy" Light, whose husband Walter M. Light was a highly successful motion picture salesman on "Film Row" in St. Louis. Joy purchased the finest linen tablecloth available, and as a conversation piece to compliment her husband's film profession, she began collecting famous autographs onto the cloth and then meticulously embroidered each name exactly as it was signed to preserve it.

Joy's original thought was to invite only movie stars to autograph the cloth, but that was short lived. As a big baseball fan, she decided to add signatures of a few outstanding St. Louis Cardinal players, including the old "Gas House Gang" starring the great "Dizzy" Dean.

Soon, World Heavyweight Boxing Champions were added to this growing variety of Legends including, Joe Louis, Jack Dempsey and Jess Willard, who signed between 1935 and 1937. Nationally renowned orchestra leaders were also added. Paul Whiteman, Russ Morgan and Ted Lewis were among the early signers in the 30s. Then followed by tennis stars such as Paulene Betz, Bitzy Grant and Bobby Riggs.

Joy Light passed away in 1944 after collecting seventy-seven autographs on her Tablecloth, leaving it to her son Walter, Jr. (Wally) and for nearly forty years it lay in a drawer undisturbed. In 1983 Walter took it out of the drawer, dusted it off and gave the badly discolored cloth a careful dip in the bathtub, returning it to it's original beautiful luster. Rediscovering what a marvelous and unique treasure he inherited from his mother, he was now caught up in the moment, knowing he must certainly continue in her footsteps and tradition by making every effort to add more autographs to The Tablecloth.