More than a generation removed from Shirley Temple in age, we watched her movies over and over again on Saturdays. First was our morning cartoon time. After that, the old movies kicked in. Heidi. Rebecca.
We saw Shirley dancing with Bill Bojangles Robinson up and down those stairs. Many times as an orphan, or searching for a father who had amnesia, or living in a boarding school, or living in a lighthouse, she was mistreated by bad people. They physically pulled her away from the people she loved. She howled. It was awful this quest for parents and happiness. The movies often ended with a beautiful and smartly-dressed young couple who would fall in love, adopt her, and the world was set straight again.
Throughout all these trials and tribulations, she had the most fabulous set of blond curls you could imagine. And the dimples. When we went to the Flaming Pit for dinner, we would order Shirley Temples to drink. My mother had a doll packed away somewhere.
This was the entertainment fare of the “Greatest Generation” during the Depression and we were their kids. The stories were basic enough, and she was cute enough, that we could step aside of the older fashions and older ways.
We continued to follow her on Saturday mornings as she aged. Was she ever “Junior Miss”? No, her teen self was not a movie success. As she changed that face remained iconic but twin sets and saddle shoes? It didn’t work. It was difficult for me to imagine Shirley that old, and it was tough for everybody. Her hair darkened.
So we kids were watching the adolescent Shirley when she was actually in her 30s to 40s. She started her career in public service in 1967, and was appointed Ambassador to Czechoslovakia in 1969. Somehow I merged her married name with the darkening of her hair and the loss we all felt as she aged. Shirley Temple got black and everything changed.