My Childhood Idol


Nobody ever loved Shirley Temple more than I did.  When I was a kid a local TV station played one of her movies every Sunday afternoon and I never missed one.  There played the same 20 movies over and over.  As the world around me was rocking out to Janis Joplin I was singing, “On the good ship Lollipop.”  It used to drive my father crazy that I would sob uncontrollably as the sweet mop top little girl would face adversities like being an orphan or losing her beloved grandfather.  “It just a movie,” he would tell me trying to consol me, but annoyed at the same time with my Shirley obsession.


Shirley Temple toped the movie box office for three years in a row during the height of the depression when movies were the major form of entertainment with little competition.  I watched her feel happy flicks during the turbulent late sixties and seventies.  Like people during the depression I was blocking out things I did not understand like the war in Vietnam and hippies.


I think I used Shirley Temple movies to learn history, like the Boer War in The Little Princess or the civil war in The Littlest Rebel.  It is amazing I ever went to boarding school myself after watching how Shirley was treated in Captain January and The Little Princess.  I also thought that I was an unusual girl since I had both my real parents, neither sang nor danced for a living and the mob was not after us.


Life in Shirley Temple movies was either more glamorous or more destitute than my suburban Connecticut upbringing, but I was addicted to those stories and that sweet girl.  I loved when she would look right in the camera and say, “Oh my goodness.”  She was clean cut, sometimes sad, more times joyous and so cute.


One of my dear friend’s Tricia and her husband Danny bought Shirley Temple’s Potomac, MD house where she lived during her years in Foreign Service.  I always felt that going to their house was almost like getting to meet her.  They had a room size safe and I imagined what important mementos she must have stored there.


Shirley Temple is the child star all child actors need to emulate.  The day she was given her junior size Oscar award, she said “thank you Mr. Whoever gave it to her,” turned to her mother who was always by her side and said, “Mother, can we go home now?”


Shirley Temple has gone home, but she will always live forever on the big screen and in my heart.  I never was embarrassed that as an adolescent I loved Shirley Temple and her living a superlative life she has never let me down.



One Comment on “My Childhood Idol”

  1. Janet Carter says:

    Awe…sister D…I totally thought of you when I heard the news….I bet you are so sad today

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