Shirley Temple Inspired Two Generations of Girls With Her Talent

Shirley TempleI just got back from visiting my Mom in Florida. It was a good visit.  We talked about lots of things, past and present, and the subject of Shirley Temple’s recent death came up.

Mom and Shirley were contemporaries, born in the same month, a couple of years apart.  Mom had a Shirley Temple doll, a piano sheet music book of all Shirley’s songs, and took tap dancing lessons at school.  Remember this was in the 1930’s long before there was a tie-in for every movie on earth, long before movies were made specifically to sell action figures, stuffed puppies, Legos, or other toys to kids. So Shirley was indeed A BIG DEAL!! There is a cute picture somewhere of Mom in her tap dancing garb before a performance with one of her school friends. She still has fond memories of those occasions.

Which brought me to my own memories. In the late 50’s or early 60’s, I can remember loving Shirley Temple movies and learning to play the songs from Mom’s book on the piano. The Good Ship Lollipop was my favorite.  For a girl like me who loved music, was learning to play the piano, loved to sing, and even took a few tap dance lessons, Shirley was a role model. At that time, even though her movies had an “old” look about them, I thought Shirley was still a little girl, but of course, she was an adult by then. And I wanted to be as just as talented as she was.

On Saturday or Sunday afternoons, Shirley Temple movies were a big favorite on TV. By then, my younger sister even had her own Shirley Temple doll. I remember loving all the movies, but I specifically remember the whole family, Mom, Dad, 2 sibs and myself, lined up on the sofa intently watching a Shirley movie.  It might have been Heidi we were watching and it was a tear jerker. We were all crying and even my Dad wiped a tear away. I was shocked. Dads didn’t cry. Not ever.

Shirley’s appeal in the late 1950’s was just as strong as when my parents were kids, and the world needed something to cry about other than the economy, banks failing, and people on relief. I can’t imagine that many of today’s child stars will leave that kind of legacy. Shirley Temple gracefully moved from her fading movie career into her life as a wife and mother, and then into her diplomatic career. Somehow I can’t quite see Justin Bieber or Miley Cyrus being able to do the same thing. I may watch them in later years, and I may cry, but it will probably be because they OD’d or it’s still just too sad to watch them.


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