On the good ship lollipop.

When I was a kid, I lived in the country. The closest neighbors, a sweet older couple named Doc and Lynn, were probably half a mile away – up the dirt driveway from my house to the main road and then a short stretch of asphalt over and down a hill.  Lynn introduced me to the wild side of peanut butter and jelly, mixed furiously together in a bowl and eaten by the spoonful.  She also had delicate little dollhouses – with all the household props to scale – on which I would spend hours of imagination.  My memories of Doc are more vague.  He reminded me of a professor, before I even knew what a professor was, and I like to remember him wearing a cardigan and smoking a pipe – but I can’t be sure that the image is accurate.

Tucked into the entertainment center, under a boxy TV, was an outstanding collection of old, black-and-white VHS movies.  Long before the days of blue ray and HD, those tapes were entertainment to be borrowed.  On many a summer day, I would pull the receiver from the phone hook on the wall and dial Doc and Lynn, twirling the long, tightly coiled cord between my fingers as the connection was made over the hill.  I’d introduce myself – first and last name – I’m certain, even though there was probably no need for such formality, and I’d ask to borrow a tape or two.  They’d consent, and I’d hop on my purple 10-speed bike and pedal my way up the dirt road.  Once I reached the highway – two lane and not heavily trafficked – I had to travel facing the oncoming traffic – per my mom’s instruction.

Once at Doc and Lynn’s, I’d settle down in front of the VHS tapes and run my fingers across the worn paper cases and the hard, black plastic of the tape.  I’d carefully choose a few to take back with me – and Shirley Temple always made the cut.  She was engaging and colorful in a way that even dim, black-and-white film couldn’t hide.  Bouncy blonde curls, dimples, and a voice that I was sure I could imitate to the most perfect pitch.  (I couldn’t.)

Since her passing two weeks ago, Shirley Temple has been on my mind a fair amount.   She was a strong female character – as the precocious child star in old movies and in her adult life.  As I read a little about her, I realized that Shirley Temple Black was more than just an ambassador to Ghana and Czechoslovakia – she was an ambassador of optimism – to me and countless others.

“I don’t like to do negatives. There are always pluses to things.” – Shirley Temple Black


Have you watched any Shirley Temple movies?  Do you have a favorite?  What was your favorite past time as a child?


9 thoughts on “On the good ship lollipop.

  1. Such a beautifully written story, Amy. Although I do not recall any Shirley Temple movies, reading this makes me wish I was able to do so.

  2. Shirley Temple has always had a special place in my heart because from as early as I can remember, people would rave over my curls and chubby cheeks and say how I looked just like her. At first I hated it because I didn’t like my curls, but as I’ve gotten older, I know what a compliment it was. Unfortunately I only got the looks and not so much the talent. ;) Also, your story is absolutely precious. I bet that couple loved you being there. You brought back so many memories for me – from the ten speed bike to the VHS tapes to the corded phone. I remember twirling my fingers through it just like that too. :)

  3. I love Shirley Temple. She is such a ray of sunshine! I was surprised to find out how politically involved she was. She definitely lived a full life!

  4. such a beautiful story- and it reminds me of my own childhood. my sister and i use to watch shirley temple somewhat endlessly (the tapes would break and we’d have to buy the same movie again) and we came up with fun dances to the songs in her movies :)

  5. Aw Shirley Temple! I was obsessed with her. I’ve seen all her movies and my mom was just telling me the other day she watched Heidi with my grandma when she went to visit her. Did you ever see the version of Heidi with Shirley Temple? So good! Thanks for the happy throwback. :)

  6. I adored Shirley Temple growing up! I used to have the round chubby face and tight ringlets, so people used to say that I looked like her. Ha, ha. (I never could dance though, so the resemblance ended there). ;) I just watched the video of her signing, and it brought back so many memories! Really, Hollywood doesn’t make’m like that anymore…

  7. Great story, Amy.

    I was in France and the Czech Republic when she passed away and we just baaarely heard about it. (There was a scroll on BBC news and that’s pretty much it that we saw). Kind of a shame, eh?

    I really want to do something in my life to encourage kids to be awesome. I feel like humans often waste so much time from birth to mid-twenties just wishing they were older when they could be doing so many cool things and so much good in the world; being young isn’t a brick wall — it’s a huge advantage! Shirley Temple’s attitude and positivity is definitely inspiring. Thanks for sharing this :)

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