To the editor:
Shirley Temple was as big a part of my elementary school childhood as Harry Potter is for my grandchildren’s generation. We three sisters — Sally, Priscilla and Betty — wanted to be Shirley Temple. We wanted her dimples, her curls, her sparkling personality, her tap dancing and singing ability. We wanted to dance up and down the stairs like Shirley did with Bill Robinson.
There were other child stars at the time, the Our Gang crew, Jane Withers, Deanna Durbin, Judy Garland, Mickey Rooney and more. None had the appeal of Shirley Temple. We did not see her earliest movie shorts, made when she was 4 years old. The first movie I remember seeing was “Bright Eyes.” She and I were about the same age. I was in first grade, so Shirley and I were 6.
On a most exciting Christmas, we three sisters each received a 13-inch Shirley Temple doll. The doll was wearing a white dress with red dots. She had white patent leather shoes and socks. And even more surprising, Santa Claus put in our stockings tiny white ice skates that just fit Shirley’s dolly feet. Later, a friend sewed for my Shirley Temple doll a full Girl Scout “Brownie” uniform with a tiny brown felt cap. We loved those dolls. In my playtime, Shirley and I were Brownies together.
In our house one memorable September, we had Shirley Temple “Captain January” dresses that our mother ordered from Montgomery Ward in Albany, N.Y. All three of us wore these dresses for the first day of school. Clearly, finances were improved in our house that fall, as these were the first dresses we’d ever worn to school that were not handmade by our mother. Sally’s dress was pastel yellow, Priscilla’s dress was pastel green, and my dress was peach. The dresses were dotted dimity, also called dotted Swiss, with brown dots and brown soutache trim. We had matching ankle socks and our lunch box colors were the same as our dresses. We felt quite elegant in our new dresses.