I was born on August 30, 1909, in Newton Center, Massachusetts. My mother was English, a poet and a musician. My father was the dearly beloved Dean Burton of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology . . . their first dean and only dean until he retired in 1921.
My memories of early childhood in Newton Corner consist of English folk songs and English folk dancing around a Maypole . . . celebrating Twelfth Night when everyone dressed up in costumes and the neighbors came in to sing and dance and "wassail" the old apple trees. On other holidays our parents put on marionette shows for us and our friends. Our old barn was converted into a school, and I believe the first Montessori System in this country was taught there. Dad, instead of giving us toys for birthdays and Christmas, gave us beautifully illustrated children's books, which he would read aloud to us. I am sure my interest in picture books stemmed from this.
We lived in Newton Corner until I was about eight. The New England winters were getting to be too much for my mother's health, and as it was about time for my father to retire, we moved to California. We stayed one year in San Diego and then moved up the coast to Carmel-by-the-Sea. Carmel was then a simple unspoiled small town inhabited by retired and semi-retired artists, writers, and musicians. There were three theaters and a little old two-room schoolhouse. Always there was a play or an operetta in rehearsal going on and everybody took part. To be sure it was all amateur, but it was a lot of fun. My sister and I loved dancing and studied at every opportunity (of which there were many) and appeared in the local productions.
When I was sixteen and a junior in high school, where there was a good art teacher, I happened to win a state scholarship to the California School of Fine Arts in San Francisco. In my senior year I was editor of the school annual and, on the side, started a dancing class of my own.