birth name: Fern Hazel Baker
married name: Mrs. Fern Carter
born March 13, 1893, in Sedelia, MO
While still Fern Baker, she began her teaching career in St. Louis circa 1910. She married George Carter, gave birth to Grace Ivadell Carter on Jan. 7, 1914, and the three of them moved to California in 1918. At this time, Fern's sister worked at a studio where Will Rogers was making films. Before long, George got a job at Ben Wilson Studios.
Durng this year, Fern gave birth to her second child. A nurse at the hospital told her about a job opening for a movie studio that needed a teacher for their child actors. She applied with the Board of Education and took the position.
At some point, Fern taught Mickey Daniels, so when Hal Roach was looking for a teacher to instruct the Our Gang kids, Mickey's father suggested her. She joined the Roach studio the week ending September 16th, which means she probably started on Monday the 11th. She remained for the next sixteen years. Mrs. Carter, as she was known to her pupils, soon established a reputation for being a strict disciplinarian, and ensured that the kids always received their legal minimum of three hours of schooling per day, even if it meant closing down the set for the day. Apparently, no amount of coaxing from the filmmakers had any influence on her. This mainly applied to the regular Gangsters, as the long-term players were called. Other kids on the lot for just a day or two (or 'extras' as the studio called them) were generally taught by other teachers. During her years with the Gang, Fern produced what might be the most valuable of all Our Gang collectibles. Over the years, she had each Our Gang regular sign a quilt that she had made, eventually ending up with a piece of memorabilia that had all of the Our Gang autographs, signed during childhood no less!
Mrs. Carter's name is missing from the payroll summaries starting the week ending July 7th, and returns the week ending September 15th. Clearly, the kids didn't have to go to school during the summer, and apparently, their teacher went without pay for the duration. This means that she was absent on the last day of filming for "Stage Fright" (no. 19) and for all of the summer retakes for "Sunday Calm" (no. 19). She also would have been absent for the entire filming of both "Derby Day" (no. 21) and "Tire Trouble" (no. 22).
Mrs. Carter's name is missing again from the payroll summaries starting the week ending June 28th, and returns the week ending September 13th. This means that she was absent during the main shooting for "The Mysterious Mystery!" (no. 33).
This year, Mrs. Carter received her salary during the summer. However, it seems likely that the kids still had their summer vacation from school, with their teacher simply enjoying the benefits of an improved contract. It's likely that she was absent during the making of "Your Own Back Yard" (no. 44) and "One Wild Ride" (no. 45).
Mrs. Carter again received her salary during the summer, but it's likely that she was absent during the making of "War Feathers" (no. 54).
Mrs. Carter received her salary during the summer this year as well, except for four weeks during July when the studio was closed. She was probably absent during the making of production K-24, which was either "Playin' Hookey" (no. 65) or "The Smile Wins" (no. 66).
This year, Mrs. Carter received her salary during the summer, but not during the studio closure of late March and April. It's likely that she was absent during the making of "The Spanking Age" (no. 80), "Election Day" (no. 81) and the retakes for "The Ol' Gray Hoss" (no. 78).
This year, Mrs. Carter went without her salary during the first week of the year, and for five weeks in late July and August. She was probably absent during the making of "Bouncing Babies" (no. 93).
Starting this year, the payroll summaries aren't available. It's likely that Mrs. Carter was absent during the making of "Helping Grandma" (no. 103).
It's likely that Mrs. Carter was absent during the making of "Shiver My Timbers" (no. 109) and "Dogs Is Dogs" (no. 110).
It's likely that Mrs. Carter was absent during the making of "Free Wheeling" (no. 117) and "Birthday Blues" (no. 118).
It's likely that Mrs. Carter was absent during the making of "Wild Poses" (no. 125).
It's probable that Mrs. Carter was absent during the making of "Little Sinner" (no. 140), and perhaps the films on either side of it.
It's likely that Mrs. Carter was absent during the making of "Bored Of Education" (no. 146) and "General Spanky" (no. 150).
It's likely that Mrs. Carter was absent during the making of "Framing Youth" (no. 159) and "The Pigskin Palooka" (no. 160).
When the Our Gang moved to MGM around June of this year, Mrs. Carter went with them, and remained their teacher for another six years. It's likely that she was absent during the making of "Party Fever" (no. 171), "Aladdin's Lantern" (no. 172) and "Men In Fright" (no. 173).
It's likely that Mrs. Carter was absent during the making of "Dad For A Day" (no. 185).
It's likely that Mrs. Carter was absent during the making of "Fightin' Fools" (no. 196).
It's likely that Mrs. Carter was absent during the making of "Helping Hands" (no. 202).
It's likely that Mrs. Carter was absent during the making of "Unexpected Riches" (no. 211), "Benjamin Franklin, Jr." (no. 212) and "Family Troubles" (no. 213).
The last Our Gang film finished shooting in November 1943, but apparently, Fern remained their teacher into 1944, perhaps to finish off the current school year.
By this time, Mrs. Carter had returned to the Roach studio to teach the kids who starred in the 'Curley' series. This was no doubt a very temporary situation, since the series lasted for only two films. At some point, she was working at Paramount, but I've yet to learn any details about that.
1952 brought about the first of two Our Gang reunions attended by Fern Carter (not counting the ones in the thirties when she was still their teacher). This year, it was a reunion of the silent-era kids on the TV show "You Asked For It."
At some point, Fern became the teacher of the "Father Knows Best" kids, presumably after it moved from radio to television. The show debuted Oct. 3, 1954, and its last original episode aired on May 23, 1960. If filming for the series ended in 1959, then that might have led to Fern's retirement.
1955 brought another Our Gang reunion in which Fern Carter was involved, this time for a TV Guide article. She was interviewed for the article, but does not appear in the photographs. Reportedly, Alfalfa Switzer went on a verbal tirade against his former teacher during this reunion.
Fern Carter retired during this year and died two years later.
©Nov. 16, 2007, by Robert Demoss.
2008 updates: 7/6, 11/9.