Friday, September 30, 2011

Why I Hated Shirley Temple

Perhaps "hate" is too strong a word. Maybe despised would be better. However, I don't think  I knew any other word than "hate" when I was such a young kid. So in my mind, that's what I said to myself and anyone else who would listen. Shirley was the "just too cute kid" of the era. All those bouncy little curls, her cute clothes, and her little tap-dancing feet that never stopped moving.

My mother loved her. All I heard was Shirley Temple this and Shirley Temple that. And while I had no idea who this Shirley person was, I put up with mom's gushing, but only to a point. When mom decided that my middle sister and I should look just like Shirley, little did we guess what it would involve. And while the middle sister didn't protest, I did--in my own childish way of yowling and howling at every brush stoke mom put through my bushel of hair.

Here is am as I was born--or at least months after. Obviously I was old enough to sit in a chair without falling sideways. Notice what kind of hair God gave me. It's important to the story. I want you to study my golden fuzz and sear into your mind that it is thin and straight as a stick. After Shirley, that hair of mine wasn't good enough for mom. No, she would find some way to make it hang in ringlets, bouncy little curls just like Shirley's that would shake just so cute when I walked.

Now I'm going to prove my case. Notice the hairdo? I don't recall when it was that mom brought the tall wooden stool into the living room for me to sit on, but I was old enough to have memories of it. Every Saturday I'd get my hair washed, rinsed in vinegar, and gooped up with some slimy stuff mom rubbed into it. I think it was called hair setting gel, but I'm not sure. Then she'd roll my hair up in pincurls and make me sleep on them all night. I absolutely was not a happy camper. I know that because I know my facial expressions and the one in the above photo is still the same one that spreads across my face whenever I am NOT having fun. Whether it was the curls or the parade costume, I'm not sure. Maybe I didn't like either.

As I grew older, I always had to get up extra early on Sunday morning because it took so long to curl our hair--my sister's and mine. Brush, brush, brush, then mom would take a section of hair and roll it around two of her fingers, then brush it into a giant curl. Each curl took a good five minutes to get it just the way Shirley wore hers. No hair spray in those days, so our instructions for the day always included to act like ladies and not run around like hooligans. I never knew what a hooligan was, but I figured it was someone with messed up curls.

The torture went on for years, even into grade school. Then came the day I rebelled and told mom I didn't want to sit on that stool one more time, just so I could have curls. For some odd reason, she released me from being a Shirley Temple look alike. My middle sister wasn't so lucky. She grew up to be a beautician. I think she liked all that hair stuff.

Author's note:

Once I didn't have to have my straight hair forced into curls, I no longer thought about Shirley Temple. I never knew what she looked like till I was old enough to go to the movies. By then, I no longer hated her--just so you know.


  1. When I was a kid, I had two aunts who used to love to put our hair in rag curls on Saturday night for church on Sunday. Also very uncomfortable to sleep in.

  2. I really enjoyed this post. I was smiling to myself the whole way through. I can relate to how you felt in a small way because I never really "cared" for Shirley Temple or the movies she made as a child, but I changed my attitude about her whenever I saw what has now become one of my all-time favorite movies, "The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer". I don't know if you have seen that or like it, but I love it. Especially whenever Cary Grant and Shirley Temple go back and forth with this riddle:

    Richard Nugent: Hey, you remind me of a man.
    Susan Turner: What man?
    Richard Nugent: Man with the power.
    Susan Turner: What power?
    Richard Nugent: Power of hoodoo.
    Susan Turner: Hoodoo?
    Richard Nugent: You do.
    Susan Turner: Do what?
    Richard Nugent: Remind me of a man...

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  4. What a cute story. I remember in the late 80's there was a Disney channel magazine with an adorable picture of Shirley Temple on it, and my mom wanted to frame it and hang it on the wall. It made my little sister very jealous, and she did not understand Shirley Temple was a grown woman at this point. She thought my mom was adopting a new little girl, which was quite amusing.