Eileen Grubb has never shied away from a camera.
The 94-year-old Maple Pointe resident was recently posing for a marketing photo to promote the assisted living facility, an activity that many of the seniors there enjoy doing from time to time. But the photographer noticed that Grubb was especially good at sitting and smiling for pictures, so the person inquired as to why she was so much at ease during the shoot.
“Well, I was a Powers model,” she revealed.
Grubb was referring to the John Robert Powers School and Agency, which was founded in 1923 and represented such famous actresses as Diana Ross and Grace Kelly. She was with the agency as a teenager for about a year in 1940 after a friend at Hunter College in New York City encouraged her to apply. She was accepted following an interview.
One of her more memorable print ads was promoting bail bonds for World War II. The shoot took two hours on a hot July afternoon in Central Park while she was wearing a dress and a big red hat.
“It was just for an every day commercial to buy the bonds,” she recalled. “The people kept walking by.”
She also remembered wearing a yellow dress for an Oldsmobile ad, jumping into a swimming pool to promote bathing caps and appearing in another car commercial with Tippi Hedren, the mother of actress Melanie Griffith. In 1963, Hedren starred in the Alfred Hitchcock classic “The Birds” and had an iconic scene where she was attacked by the flying creatures in her home.
“I was thrilled because I knew her,” she said after seeing Hedren in that movie. “She was nice.”
Not long before starting at Powers, she met her husband, Bill, who was also a model, at the World’s Fair in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park in Queens. But not everything was going well for Grubb at that time because her father, Henry Donnelly, condemned her career choice.
“My father was very, very angry at me for leaving school,” she recalled. “He’s very strict, but a good father.”
Grubb and Bill joined the Harry Conover Modeling Agency in 1941, but, she said, the pressure from her father became too great for her to continue modeling. She returned to school a year later and soon married Bill, who was about to go overseas for the war after being drafted, on her 21st birthday, Oct. 29, 1943. They had the first of their nine children about nine months later and she never finished school.
She later enjoyed a 11-year career as a receptionist for William Paley, the founder of the CBS television network. She remembered meeting “The King of Swing” Benny Goodman as his music, ironically, was playing over the speakers in the office as he walked in, and Lucie Arnaz, the daughter of Lucille Ball and Dezi Arnaz.
“That was a wonderful job,” she said. “It was very flattering for me. Mr. Paley was very polite and very nice.”
Grubb lived in Rego Park for over 60 years, but Bill died of a heart attack while sleeping in their bed in 1971. She now has 26 grandchildren and 22 great-grandchildren.
Grubb had a stroke in 2015 and has been living in Maple Pointe for a little over a year. Pictures of her late husband, her father, and all of her and relatives sit in frames throughout her small apartment. Because of that, she always felt “blessed” about how her life turned out, even if she was a model for only a brief time.
“I lived my life through Bill,” she said. “I had a really good life.”