1950 Memories of Suburban Adventures

Farewell Performance

No childhood stardom for me. The world was deprived.

No childhood stardom for me. The world was deprived.

I could have been a famous child star, but my uncooperative parents refused to move to New York City where I’d surely get discovered. They would have made great stage parents.

I settled for wowing my neighbors with my impressive talents. Irritatingly, I had to include their kids before they’d sit and behold moi.

Kathy, Connie, David and I headed down Aunt Mary’s driveway, tossing around ideas of what to do. We meandered into the barn and climbed the steep stairs leading to the loft. It hadn’t held hay for a long time and was used for storage. An old spinning wheel sat in a corner, its usefulness long obsolete. Time to give it a new life.

“Let’s put on a play about Rumplestiltskin,” I suggested.

Luke-warm enthusiasm greeted my idea.

“We can get an audience and charge them money to see us,” I added.

“Who gets the money afterward?” asked Kathy.

“We all do,” I answered. “We can buy tons of penny candy and split it.”

Enthusiasm picked up.

To ensure a larger audience and more candy money, we created a zoo inside the garage. We set up Aunt Mary’s card-table and laid boards across empty buckets to hold display cases for our zoological specimens. An open shoe box displayed two butterflies scraped from the grill of Dad’s car. Their stilled wings rested on bird feathers, most of which I pulled from my old Indian head-dress. Glass mayonnaise jars with air-holes poked through the covers contained live insects such as grasshoppers, ladybugs, and one gigantic praying mantis.

Wolfy and Sparky, leashed to a cement block, refused to growl like the wild dogs they were billed as. They whined and poked their runny noses into our displays, so we ended up setting them loose. Aunt Mary’s Sandy Cat, stuffed inside a cardboard box, scratched and snarled like a baby orange lion. However, he wasn’t a willing zoo participant. I made a sign warning not to poke fingers in the peepholes; blood would be drawn.

David supplied the main attraction–almost all of a genuine shedded snake skin. Five cents was a cheap price to see such a hastily assembled collection of wonders.

The guard discovers Rumplestiltskin's name.

The guard discovers Rumplestiltskin’s name.

Preacher marries King and breathtakingly beautiful princess. Spinning wheel in background.

Preacher marries King and breathtakingly beautiful princess. Spinning wheel in background.

King and queen live happily ever after with an instant baby. Guard bannishes Rumplestiltskin.

King and queen live happily ever after with an instant baby. Guard bannishes Rumplestiltskin.

All morning and early afternoon, we improvised and rehearsed our lines. Kathy played the king, and David the guard and preacher. I generously let Connie have the leading role of Rumplestiltskin, which left me playing the beautiful maiden and soon-to-be princess.

We designed costumes from bathrobes, old gowns, and play clothes. Crowns of aluminum foil-covered cardboard were ready to grace Kathy’s and my heads. The inspiration for our play, the antique spinning wheel, occupied center stage in the middle of Aunt Mary’s front lawn.

After touring our zoo (Mom refused to pay for baby Susan) our audience seated themselves on folding chairs arranged in a curved line. We thoughtfully let Aunt Mary watch for free since she was old and it was her lawn, garage, chairs, bathrobe, aluminum foil, and spinning wheel.

Our mothers, siblings, and a few neighbors clapped and cheered. I now suspect a portion of the clapping wasn’t as much for our farewell performance as it was the knowledge I would soon be relocated to a farm in another town.

Mrs. Kill didn’t realize I was like a boomerang (or maybe a bad penny) that keeps showing up.

Lesson learned: I should have worked harder at getting my parents to move to New York City while I was still cute, because a seven year ugly stick was poised to clobber me.

Related Posts: Pandemonium Trail/Basement Gorilla

Now it’s your turn: Were you in a neighborhood production?

© Mary Norton-Miller and 1950s Suburban Adventures, 2012 forward. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Mary Norton-Miller and 1950s Suburban Adventures with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


  1. Donna Ingalls says:

    Love your histories — very entertaining. Although believe Rumplestiltskin is the correct pronunciation and spelling of the age-old fairy tale character…

  2. Haha, this made me laugh! An entertaining account, as always..:)
    This reminds me of the time my friends and my brother enacted a slightly more action-packed version of the three billy goats gruff (I now forget what we had called it.)

    My brother was one of the goats..my mother had dressed him in a bright red jumpsuit which had previously belonged to me, and had somehow attached some very floppy horns made out of rolled socks to his head. I’m now beginning to think that the applause we enjoyed was not exactly in appreciation of our godly acting prowess, and was more because of the ludicrous sight of watching a bunch of ten year old kids leap around on stage in jumpsuits and ram each other with cardboard headdresses.

  3. Elle Knowles says:

    Love the pictures! They are priceless. No plays for me, but we had plenty in the family to produce one. Wonder why we never went down that road? Have missed your posts for a couple weeks!

    • skinnyuz2b says:

      Elle, I’m sure you went down other roads that were just as much fun.

      Thanks for noticing my absense. I hosted two large dinner parties for 21 and 9, I found out I’m (finally) going to become a grandmother, and my husband had an operation (he’s okay).

  4. e m bahnsen says:

    I remember putting on skits in our garage. Since I was one of five, it was easy to find ‘extras’. I directed everyone. I was the main actress. Then, when showtime came, I was too petrified to perform. I believed my parents were the worst. They didn’t see the wisdom of putting me in the movies.

  5. grassroots08 says:

    I guess you could call it a neighborhood production as my mother decided this one year to dress me all up as this beautiful young girl at Halloween. She did me scarf and rouge(SP) and ruby lipstick. The dress was a gas, to formal for the occasion, if you ask me.

    When I left she said, “Just keep smilin’.” I made it all the way to one house my first. The woman of the house promptly scolded me and said, “Young lady, go home and put on a costume, or no treat for you on Halloween.”

    You bet I tore out of there as I screamed back at her. “I’m a boy, lady, a boy!!!” Today I am a man, but I still get, “Hello Ma’am,” on the phone, since I have a high tenor voice. But that I;m okay with since I love to sing!

    That night my mom got a good scolding from me, “What were you thinking.”
    Today they call it drag or something and guys get paid good money to impersonate girls or ladies of the evening. LOL Cheers, Don

    P.S. I did make a beautiful girl though, a regular class act.

    • skinnyuz2b says:

      GR, that is so funny! At least your mother did a good job.

      Everyone thought my oldest son was a girl until around 10 yrs old. He had a cherub face and curly blonde hair in a mullet (in style at the time). This even happened when he was dressed in camo.

      My worse Halloween costume was a pig outfit my mother made. It was not close to the princess dress I wanted.

      I hope you re-use your mother’s costume idea for any Halloween parties you go to now. And your childhood (hope it was during childhood!) story will be a big hit.

  6. spunkybong says:

    (Mom refused to pay for baby Susan). Ho Ho. As if you really expected her to. Skinny you are hilarious..

  7. grassroots08 says:

    “she had eyes and she was watching.” LOL I’ll bet those eyes were big as saucers, at that age they usually are. Don

  8. skinnyuz2b says:

    Ohhhh, Spunky and GR, I love private clubhouses. Just refer to ‘Skinny Legs’ and ‘Rock Pee-ers’ (ch. 3) for proof. And those dumb boys that wouldn’t let me up in their treehouse (Runaway Parade, ch.5) will be sorry.
    Oh boy, we can form our own runaway parade. GR already knows what his costume will be, ha ha!

  9. grassroots08 says:

    “GR already knows what his costume will be, ha ha!” You are the only laughing! Se why they never let you into their club? Smiles, Don

  10. As they say; This show will run and run.

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