Virginia Patterson Hensley walked out the front door of her little white house and, with her mother, went to New York City to become a star forever known as Patsy Cline.
Arthur Godfrey predicted it after she sang “Walkin’ After Midnight.” And he was right. The pretty, dark-haired country singer made three other hits— “Crazy” and “I Fall to Pieces.”
She won America’s heart—and then was gone too soon, killed in an airplane crash in 1963.
Winchester still loves their native daughter. The little white house her mother rented when Patsy—always known as Ginny to family and friends—is open to tell the singer’s short but fascinating story.
The house, built as a long cabin in the 1800s, is modest: living room, dining room and minuscule kitchen that looks out on a postage-stamp-sized back yard, and an L shaped bedroom upstairs that mother, daughter and son shared. A blanket hung on a line between the girls’ beds and the boy’s.
The bathroom was squeezed under the stairs on the first floor. There was no tub.
This house is no Graceland. Yet, even though it is so modest and small, the story told here is powerful. Patsy Cline was a young woman of talent and drive with the support and encouragement of her mother.
Only a few family items remain in the house. Some pieces of clothing and sketches Patsy drew for costumes her mother made are proof that Patsy had terrific fashion sense.
Docents present the country singer’s story
with great love and admiration and include a recording of her appearance on Arthur Godfrey’s program in 1957. I left impressed with her determination to success and a little mournful that her life was cut short when she was so young.
Even though she’s been gone more than 50 years, her story continues to inspire. There have been movies and books and plenty of honors since her death.
My visit here took no more than an hour. I combined it with a tour of Glen Burnie, a historic house and gardens about a mile and a half away, to get a sense of Winchester’s history.
I came to Winchester for a MATPRA conference and I determined to see Patsy Cline’s house. I’m always thrilled to see a place where greatness is nurtured.
Ⓒ Text and photos Mary K. Tilghman