Actress Ginger Rogers bought a ranch on the Rogue River in 1940 to serve as her sanctuary from the Hollywood madness.

Actress Ginger Rogers bought a ranch on the Rogue River in 1940 to serve as her sanctuary from the Hollywood madness.

"The ranch was her hideaway and a place she could go and not wear makeup," said Roberta Olden, Rogers' former personal secretary.

When Rogers visited Southern Oregon, she put away her gowns in favor of casual clothes she could wear fishing on the Rogue River or picking blackberries to make jam.

Rogers' presence at her Southern Oregon oasis on the 1,000-acre ranch between Eagle Point and Shady Cove helped to build the region's reputation as a tourist destination where visitors could be one with nature, Olden said.

Rogers, who died in 1995, left her mark yet again Sunday when some of her most glamorous gowns and shoes were sold at a tea and fashion show to raise money for Southern Oregon Historical Society, an organization dedicated to keeping Rogers and other characters in Southern Oregon's history alive in the minds of the public.

"It helps to show that history can be very glamorous," said Allison Weiss, the historical society's executive director.

Since 1998, the historical society's budget has withered from more than $2 million to $600,000 per year due to the loss of funding from Jackson County, as well as the economic downturn. The organization relies completely on donations, grants and interest earnings. The event Sunday was expected to raise about $15,000.

Sharon Wesner Becker, wife of Jacksonville Mayor Paul Becker, came up with the idea about six years ago after seeing some of Rogers' gowns in a closet at Olden's home in Palm Desert, Calif. Paul Becker was a personal friend of Rogers for 20 years. The idea finally took form this year in honor of the 100th anniversary of Rogers' birth.

"Ginger was history here," Sharon Becker said. "She probably was one of our most famous residents."

Models on Sunday breathed life into 20 of Rogers' personal gowns and paraded them down a catwalk set up before an audience of about 300 at the Rogue Valley Country Club. Five of the gowns were auctioned off at the end of the event, and 25 pairs of Rogers' shoes were sold at a silent auction before the fashion show. One of the gowns that Rogers wore in 1981 for an event, titled "Texas Women: A Celebration of History," sold for $1,200.

Rogers bought her Rogue River ranch in 1940, the same year she starred in "Kitty Foyle" for which she won the Academy Award for Best Actress. She visited the ranch when she had time off and wanted some solitude, Olden said. After she retired in 1969, she spent summers at the Southern Oregon ranch and spent the winter in Rancho Mirage, Calif., Olden said.

She used to shop at Quality Market on Jackson Street and the old Safeway, Olden said.

Rogers is the namesake for downtown Medford's Craterian Ginger Rogers Theater. She performed in the Hunt's Craterian theater in the 1920s and later, was instrumental in securing the seed money from the Fred Meyer Trust to build the current Craterian theater, which opened in 1997 after Rogers' death, Paul Becker said.

Becker met Rogers in Los Angeles in 1978 when he worked on a radio station.

"She introduced me to the (Southern Oregon) area, and I fell in love with it," he said. She also was a draw for others to visit Southern Oregon, including stars such Clark Gable.

Rogers' magnetism also drew two women from out of state to Medford on Sunday.

Joanne Carlson of Chicago and Whitney Hopler of Fairfax, Va. flew into Southern Oregon especially for the event. Both women said the actress was their role model during difficult times in their childhood.

"She was caring, but she wasn't a pushover," Carlson said. "When there was a conflict in my life, I would always ask myself what would she have done."

Reach reporter Paris Achen at 541-776-4459 or e-mail