Mary Wickes was born Mary Isabella Wickenhauser in Saint Louis on June 13, 1910. Her father, Frank, was a banker and her mother, Isabella, was a housewife. They loved people and socializing and both were active in civic activities.
    Her parents shared a passion for the theater and began taking Mary to shows at the Saint Louis Municipal Opera (the Muny) at an early age. While giving the Starbird Memorial Lecture in 1988, Mary said, “Mother and Dad were theater buffs, and I was taken to the theater as soon as I was able to stay awake and not need a nap for a matinee, but it never occurred to me that I could be one of those magical people.”
    Growing up in Saint Louis, Mary started public school at the Cupples School. She attended Harrison Elementary school from 1918 to 1922 where she showed an interest in writing and excelled at her coursework. She attended Yeatman High School her first three years and graduated from the newly built Beaumont High School in 1926, at age 16, because she was pushed ahead two years in grade school. During high school, she enjoyed the debate team and was active in Job’s Daughters, participating in charity performances that gave Christmas baskets to the poor.