1950 Memories of Suburban Adventures

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Tippity Tap Toe

Question: What could be better than peacefully watching your favorite television program?

Answer: Getting a 3-D effect (waaay before 3-D televisions) with me dancing in front of your screen!

Aunt Mary’s favorite television program was The Lawrence Welk Show, sponsored by Geritol. I always needed an audience. Just like Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, a perfect combination was formed.

As soon as the bubble machine began, Lawrence started his orchestra’s Champaign Music with ‘ah one and ah two and ah’. I treated Aunt Mary to my semi-professional side performance. She considered it her price to pay for television time.

Dad had a wooden cane and white straw hat from Purina Checkerboard, perfect for soft-shoe tapping. I could out-dance any partner Bobby Burgess had, although I preferred to be a soloist.

Earlier dance photo of me.

Earlier dance photo of me.

Occasionally I was forced to dance directly in front of the television when Aunt Mary wasn’t attentive enough. She learned to compliment me frequently so I’d stay out of her viewing area. Aunt Mary couldn’t decide whether she loved my improvised tap or ballet best.

The Lennon Sisters (Dianne, Peggy, Kathy, and Janet) had been appearing on Lawrence Welk since I was five. Back on Dean Road, I had a paper-doll set of the sisters. My favorite was Dianne, and Mom’s was Peggy. I was too jealous of Janet, the youngest Lennon and only four years older than me, to let her be my favorite.

www.pettipond.com The Lennon Sisters: Cathy, Diane, Janet, Peggy

The Lennon Sisters: Cathy, Diane, Janet, Peggy

Aunt Mary liked the Lennon Sisters, but her favorite act on Lawrence Welk was Jo Ann Castle’s honky-tonk piano. I enjoyed Jo Ann’s music, but didn’t like her silly facial expressions while playing.

Whether singing, dancing, or performing athletic feats, I truly believed my audience heard or viewed the same spectacular vision of me existing in my mind. My dancing and gymnastics (slightly above mediocre) weren’t too bad. But when it came to my singing, an extremely large quantity of imagination was required. Unfortunately, my audience’s imagination failed to reach the staggering heights of my own.

My antics were normal for a child under the age of ten; I was fourteen.

Lesson learned: Give your children plenty of singing and dancing lessons. And give your Great-Aunt Mary her own television set.

Now it’s your turn: How did you entertain your relatives?

© 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. suzjones says:

    We used to put on plays and make our family watch them. Turnabout being fairplay and all that – I then had to go through watching these ‘plays’ with my own children. lol

  2. Ralph says:

    By being naughty and they would beat the hell out of me 😉 xox

  3. ahardrain says:

    My dad every Sunday would put on Mr. Welk and when I see a clip of him it always brings back fond memories…………..and Here’s Bobby and Sissy playing your favorite and mine (in my very best Lawrence Welk impression)…………….

  4. Sunni Morris says:

    The only entertaining of relatives we ever did was holding a Christmas program every Dec when my mother’s mother would come to visit. We practiced for weeks before she arrived and when the big day finally came, we hung a blanket or quilt up across the living room to serve as a curtain for our performance.

    We would put on a dancing and singing show, sometimes as a duet or as a group. Remember, there were seven of us. This thing went on for about two hours and was looked forward to every year.

  5. Glynis Jolly says:

    Believe it or not, my parents danced to Lawrence Welk’s music live at Elitch Gardens in Denver. Of course, this was before he was on TV. When I was in elementary school, every time my grandparents came over to babysit my brother and me, they wanted his show on. My brother and I couldn’t have cared less and would usually go to our respective rooms to do something we deemed more entertaining.

    • skinnyuz2b says:

      Wow, Glynis, that’s really neat! And every time your grandparents watched him I bet they commented on the fact that their child met Mr. Welk in person.

  6. At every family party, the tipsy relatives always requested that little old me play Danny Boy on the organ. (Yes, the keyboard instrument for all you sickies out there.)

  7. Sounds as if the nearest we had to Mr. Welk was Billy Cotton. The Billy Cotton Band Show used to be a regular favourite in the houses of my childhood. Entertaining? No. My parents were not so enlightened they would tolerate me singing (or dancing) along. I got my own back, though. I was in every school production and they had to come along, sit on the reduced size chairs and grit their teeth through all of them!

    • skinnyuz2b says:

      Fred, I didn’t know you were a famous actor!
      My oldest son was so excited as he told me he had the starring role in a school play. He was dressed as the sun and rotated across the stage for half a minute. But as he pointed out, the rest of the cast -planets, stars, etc. – were nothing without the sun!

  8. C. Suresh says:

    Hahaha! Mary! I NEVER could imagine myself dancing BUt singing? My antics there are also normal for a 10 year old – and I am 50 🙂

  9. Started watching that show from the onset. Loved it. We used to entertained our relatives by singing, and playing our instruments. So much fun. Some times we would charge admission. Great times. Good read. Brings back great memories. Blessings.

    • skinnyuz2b says:

      Thanks, Johnny, I’m glad you enjoyed it. We used to sing and play instruments together, too. Our big money maker was ‘Farewell Performance’ found in Chapter 7.
      I wish more kids nowadays had these kinds of memories.

  10. The Fool says:

    Ha Ha! Interesting read. I had attempted to tell stories to an audience one or two times. I myself got so bored mid way but had to labor on till the end to a silent audience to the clap of audience celebrating the end of both our miseries.

    • skinnyuz2b says:

      Oh I’m sure your stories were not boring. I love biographies and have often said that a book about anyone’s life would be interesting, not just famous people.

  11. spunkybong says:

    Lovely read, as usual. Lawrence Welk? The same guy with that ‘Hatari’ theme number ‘baby elephant walk’? I never knew he had a show. And that ah one and ah two reminds me of the Tony Brent number ‘One and ah two and ah I love you’. Had a 78rpm disc of it and listened to Tony’s voice turn deep baritone if someone didn’t keep winding up the gramophone. 😀

  12. notquiteold says:

    I also had the Lennon Sisters paper dolls! Of the Lovely Lennon Sisters (I can still hear Lawrence Welk’s voice announcing them), I like Cathy. I thought she was beautiful.

  13. kbroby2444 says:

    MB – my mom and dad loved baseball. They loved it that I read the encyclopedia from A-Z too, but I know that they were amazed by it, they were always in the stands for the game. Sharing just another story…

    It is a warm July day and our team starts to show up for a practice the day before our game against Fair Oaks. We beat them back in June, and I scored the winning run by running over their catcher and causing him to drop the ball. I don’t know how I did that because Carter is a big stocky kid for just being twelve years old. I’ve heard around town that he is out to get revenge for that embarrassment. He may get a chance for that since I’m playing catcher for us tomorrow, but I’ll be ready for him.

    The Fair Oaks team disrespects us, because we are just a ragtag group from the Gardens neighborhood. Our houses are a lot smaller than theirs, our cars are a lot older, and almost all of us do work like paper routes, sorting produce for the grocery store, or picking walnuts. Do you know how to pick walnuts? The foreman drives up to the tree with a tractor that has this extension on it, it wraps around the tree like a big hand, and then it shakes the tree like crazy and all the walnuts fall to the ground. We grab a burlap sack, crawl around on our hands and knees, and scoop up walnuts into our sack. A full sack pays $2. Beating the Fair Oaks team again will be a whole lot easier than picking walnuts.

    Our coach shows up a bit late and we get to practicing. I see my older brother walking in from the parking lot. He helps out with coaching the team when he can get away from his landscaping job. He knows the game, played a lot of ball himself, but had to give it up when he blew out a knee. He gives me a nod and a wave and I give him the same back. I’m glad he’s here today, Coach really doesn’t know much about the game, and we always seem to play better when my brother is around.

    My brother and his buddies have heard the talk around town about Carter’s plan for revenge, and they have been giving me advice. They tell me if he tries to run me over at the plate I should crouch down low, put a hard grip on the ball in my catcher’s glove, keep my hands together and when he hits me push up hard with both hands and toss him over my shoulder. I listen to them but think to myself, that Carter is a big kid, how am I going to toss him? We finish up practice as I continue to think of an answer to that question. My brother tosses my bike into the back of his old Plymouth and gives me a ride back to the house. I have the afternoon paper to deliver, so I get right to work folding them and filling up the bag that fits over my handlebars. It’s time to go to work now, pedal and toss, pedal and toss.

    I roll out of bed the next morning and smell gravy cooking. Dad must be making my favorite breakfast for a game day. I wander into the kitchen chasing that smell and sure enough there is pan gravy on the stove, bacon in the frying pan. Dad grins and asks me if I want a fried egg too. Sure do Pops. He smiles at me and says have a good game today son, I’ll be there if I can get away from the store. Dad works at an auto parts store and they tend to be very busy on Saturdays. I sit at the table and dig into my breakfast, just the egg, the bacon, and the gravy over two pieces of white bread. My brother wanders into the kitchen and tries to take my plate, but I push his hands away from it. He laughs at me and tells me to make sure I protect home plate today in the game as much as I protect my breakfast plate.

    I ride my bike out to the ball field early, just pull up into the outfield, sit in the grass, thinking it looks greener today. Today is going to be a big game, we’re tied for first with Fair Oaks and today’s winner will likely get the league championship. I’ve never won one of those; we always seemed to just finish in second place. It would be good to win one for a change, win one for the Gardens, one for the underdogs. The rest of the boys start showing up and sit with me out on the grass. I can see that most of them seem kind of quiet and nervous today, except Hank who is always loud, never stops talking and is generally so obnoxious that he is funny. I look around at us and think to myself how in the world is this sloppy bunch going to beat Fair Oaks again?

    Coach shows up, late again, and we all start getting warmed up. The other team seemed to all drive up together, walk into the dugout together like they are an army instead of a ball team. I look around, hoping to see my brother, but he probably had to work today. It’s almost game time now and I put on my catcher’s gear and look up into the stands and see Mom, I knew she would be here; she always is for game time. She gives me a wave and a smile, and then points out toward the parking lot. I look in that direction and see both my Dad and my brother walking towards the field, thinking to myself that they both managed to get off work for this game? We’re going to win, I know it.

    Fair Oaks has the best pitcher going for them today, and we are having a hard time getting any hits or base runners. Stevie is pitching for us today and doing his best but they are hitting him hard. However the guys have been great in the field, catching everything, making every throw, and now in the last inning the score is still zero to zero. Joey drops down a bunt and is safe at first, finally we have a runner, and our best one, and he’s faster than a cheetah. My brother is coaching at third and gives Joey the steal sign, safe at second. Joey doesn’t hesitate at all on the next pitch and steals third without getting a sign. Unfortunately, he was stuck there while our next two batters struck out. That Fair Oaks kid can really throw the ball. It is my turn at bat; I step up and hear Carter saying through his catcher’s mask – “You Gardens bums are going to lose”. I step out, ask the umpire for time, look at Carter and tell him “I don’t think so”. I quickly get down in the count with a couple of strikes, but the next pitch is way outside and Carter misses the catch, the ball rolls all the way to the backstop and Joey races home to score. I strike out on the next pitch, but we are now winning and just need three outs.

    Stevie is doing his best, but I can see he is getting tired. He gets their first batter out, but then Carter gets a hit. Davey, our third baseman, fluffs on a ground ball now they have two runners on base with just one out. I call for time and go out to the mound to talk to Stevie, all I tell him is that we are not done yet, and we can do this. He nods, and then smiles and I know he agrees. He gets the next batter out on strikes and we need just one more out. But then, their next hitter drives a single into left field, Bobby goes to the ball quickly, but as I watch I can see Carter already rounding third and heading right at me like a freight train. Bobby’s throw into home comes to me on a hop, in plenty of time to make the catch, put my hands together, crouch low, and when Carter runs into me I push up just like my brother said to do. Carter flies over my shoulder and lands on his back in a cloud of dust. The umpire says out, and as I walk off the field, I think that’s one for the Gardens.

  14. kriskkaria says:

    My dad loved Lawrence Welk and the whole family watched.

    • skinnyuz2b says:

      Kriskkaria, we often watched as a family, too. Then my audience was larger, but more vocal in their complaints to get out of the way.
      I’m glad you have great memories of his show, too.

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