Summer talent show

by Sherrie Kenyon

Who says there isn’t any spunk in our young children?  Who says they can’t, under their own steam, work up recreation and entertainment and keep themselves out of any and all trouble?  If you have any doubt about how you’d answer these questions, take a run up to the Eastside, around the Fairview Street area, and find out what the young boys and girls have done this summer for fun, recreation and entertainment. (The Daily Olympian, August, 1955, by Mike Contris)

What do kids do during the summer?  We had no organized sports or transportation to get to special summer activities, so my mother was the self-designated organizer.  The kids always gathered at our house because there was a baseball game in the street, a taffy pull at the kitchen table or planning a sleep out in the backyard.

This summer in 1955, my mother gathered all of the neighborhood kids together to check out how much talent was available.  “Charles can sing” we shouted out.   “Florence, Charlotte and I can do a dance.  I’ll teach them!” my sister, Diane, offered.  I raised my hand to do the hula.  And so it was, a smattering of talent stepping up, but there were other kids sitting there with blank looks on their faces.  What would they do in the show?

The other day they had a big neighborhood show in the Crosetto basement on Fairview Street.  When the parents, relatives and neighbors gathered in the show site, it was packed, with standing room only.  But the biggest surprise was to be proved in what those kids had cooked up in the way of entertainment.  “Simply astounding”  was what adults repeated as they marveled at what had gone on among their neighborhood children.

Sheets were hung over a clothes line in the basement.  The curtains were drawn by the cast of characters in the show.  Everyone was kept busy, either on stage, opening and closing curtains, or getting ready for the next act.

The popular show on television was “This is Your Life”, so we adapted the concept into our own show.  Don, Diane’s friend, was the subject of the life show.  One after another, each of the neighborhood kids would come in and tell a funny story about Don, pretending to be long lost people in his most interesting life.  This skit did not require any special costumes, so it was easy to pull off.

Charles sang not one, but two songs.  Diane and her girlfriends did a skit, adding a few dance steps.  I did the hula.  The rest of the talent was carefully choreographed to our record player.  Gary, Gordon and Tom pantomimed ‘Mr. Sandman’.  Each wore a skirt. A bandana was wrapped around each young masculine head.  Add a little lipstick and they almost pulled it off, except it was hard to control the laughter that came from the audience.

But that isn’t all. To one side, in a separate part of the basement, the children had set up exhibits of their hobbies:  rock collections, salt-and-pepper shaker collection, paintings, dolls and similar items.  No show, of course, is complete without popcorn and stuff to munch on while the arts are going on.  So the children, for several days before, prepared a quantity of popcorn and such for sale during the show.

A nickel here, a dime there and the money started to add up.  In all, we made about $15.  That money was used a couple of weeks later as my mother took all of us, 10 kids, ages from 10 to 17, camping at Millersylvania Park.

What a summer it was.  We laughed as we practiced, each encouraging the others to be even better.  We surprised all the adults with our talent and creativity.  And, it seemed like a professional show to us.  Our prize was not only the satisfaction of putting on a good show, but all going camping together.  Oh, the summer of ’55.