Shirley Temple pictures were shown at The Metropolitan, a huge midtown movie palace full of lofty halls, archways, wide impressive staircases, and lots of gilding and red velvet. In the various rooms and corridors, as we made our way to the auditorium, I once counted five grand pianos. The show, which always started with a newsreel, included a stage show – dancers down there doing boring formations on the brightly-lit stage.
But the movies! Never, as I remember, was there any double feature with Shirley Temple, no additional B movie needed to bring us in. She was a fine actress, and they started mining standard children’s books for stories. I was only two years older than she was, completely spellbound by the plots, which like most good children’s classics more or less eliminated the parents. There was often a gruff old curmudgeon, the child’s grandfather or a wealthy neighbor, to be won over by adorable little girl --which she was -- in time for the happy ending.
By the time I was 10, though, I began to resent the way screenwriters mangled the classics. “Heidi” wasn’t all that bad, but Kipling’s “Wee Willie Winkie” was supposed to be a
for Pete’s sake. And how did that
tap-dancing, and the wheelchair-bound Queen
get into “The Little Princess”? And
where was the original title, “Sara Crewe”? Victoria,
I remember only a single birthday party during the 1930s. My folks had other things to worry about, and I had little chance to make friends: I went to kindergarten in Lowell, first grade in Buffalo, skipped (they did that in those days) second grade, third grade in Lynn, fourth grade in Malden, eighth grade in Everett, ninth grade in Penn Yan, tenth grade in Rochester, don’t ask!
That party was in Malden, for my tenth birthday,
and the gifts were just what I’d hoped for -- a box of Pick-Up Sticks (they cost 10 cents) and not one but two books of Shirley Temple paper dolls! It took days to cut out the dolls and the dresses with those tricky little folding tabs.
I still remember one dress with a wide full skirt because I had a copy of that dress and so did my little sister – the only time we ever wore sister dresses.
My cousin in
had a blue glass Shirley Temple mug, which came as a premium inside a box of Wheaties. Only the one rich cousin in Buffalo, though, ever had a Shirley Temple doll. Maine
The 30’s were a great time for little girls – we had not only Shirley Temple to obsess about, but also the Little Princesses in
, and in England , the Dionne Quintuplets. Without any resort to Google, I can still tell you their names – the strong ones were Yvonne and Annette, who were identical; Cecile was sort of in the middle; Marie and Emilie were the frailer ones (and, years later, the first to die.) Canada
My friend Dottie’s family drove, one summer during the 1930s, up to
. The Province had taken the quints away from their French Canadian family and set up a playground hedge through which tourists could view the tots at play. Callendar, Ontario