A Musical in Four Acts: FOR FOREVER

It caught up with me, as it always does.  After three days of nonstop (Hamilton reference!), there was nowhere for the emotion to go but out.  Sad that it was nearly over, overwhelmed at the huge success of it all, overcome by what it all meant. And once that tap opens, there’s no stemming the flow.  As anyone on Monday’s tour can attest to. But you knew what you were getting into with me – for most of you, it wasn’t your first rodeo.  And if it was, I did warn you. 20180423_120417_preview.jpgSony Studios tour, arranged by David.  Former home of MGM, where Shirley filmed Kathleen, and Judy Garland made musical history.  Right there – that’s a lot to cry about!

20180423_121856_preview.jpgOur tour guide was none other than the grandson of Jackie Coogan, the ORIGINAL child movie star.  Kevin (Mitchell) Coogan was a former child star himself in the 70s. It was easy to see the pride that he takes in his family’s movie history legacy.  He was fast paced, entertaining and humorous. Perfection.

20180423_121146_preview.jpgThe gates through which so many of my favorite stars passed. Words fail.












A powerful moment – the Army assembled on the steps of the Thalberg Building, where Shirley & Judy, Clark & Mickey once stood.

How I hate goodbyes.  I actively avoid them.  And this goodbye weighed heavily on my mind throughout the tour.  Yes, I know I’ll see these people again.  Yes, I’m filled with memories and moments.  Yes, I know more Shirley awaits us. But I hated saying goodbye.

What happens when reality exceeds any plan you dreamed of?  Palooza III is the answer.  David Silverman, you’ll never fully realize what this meant to us.

If you only listen to one of the four songs in this blog series, listen to this one from Dear Evan Hansen. It’s about friends.  For Forever


A Musical in Four Acts: HOW CAN I THANK YOU?

Paloozas 1 through 3 wouldn’t have happened without the cornerstone event – the annual April birthday party thrown by the Shirley Temple Collectors by Sea.  A REAL club – one that actually meets in person and everything – they spend the better part of a year planning this themed extravaganza.   And no detail is overlooked.

20180422_100738_preview.jpgThis year we celebrated Disney-style, with the theme Lollipops and Mouse Ears. The venue was a sea of black and red, and more than a few guests came dressed in the spirit of Disney.

31230484_2502835413076036_9210885324322339685_n.jpgDressed as Shirley was when she opened Disney’s Sleeping Beauty Castle 20180422_103054_preview.jpgLori and Paul, aka Cinderella and Prince Charming20180422_120940_preview.jpgTonya as Minnie

31195452_10216202689841630_4386942020379049078_n.jpgShirley Jean sports her custom made cape/scarf

The Sea members outdid themselves once again – favors, table prizes, sales tables and displays filled the room, almost too much to take in at once.   But it wasn’t just STuff….we were entertained as well.  The archivist from the Walt Disney Company presented, outlining the ST-WD connections.


The piece de resistance was our own JoAnn Peterson’s living portrayal of Ambassador Shirley Temple Black.  With style, grace and knowledge, she held us spellbound for thirty minutes – the spell was finally broken with thunderous applause and a standing ovation. A proud, proud moment.


Another Army score – Wandy walked away with the grand prize – a photo enlarged to poster size from the Black family’s own collection.

31265491_10216330283439518_5005845320483995648_n.jpgThank you, members of the STCBTS club – your creativity and efforts did not go unnoticed or unappreciated.  You put on quite a show, and I’m happy to have been in the audience these past three years.

Another thank you goes to Dave, for the entertainment of a different kind at his LA home-away-from-home, Chateau Marmont.  Yeah, my friends are high-class.  After the bustle of the day, it was nice to unwind over dinner, drinks and dessert…..and more laughs than should be legal!  Like the Sea party, we’d been planning this get-together for the last year….what’s on tap for 2019?


Act Three:  How Can I Thank You?

Act Four:  For Forever

A Musical in Four Acts: A HEART FULL OF LOVE

When Friday’s Shirley cyclone came to an end, many of us said to one another, “That can’t be topped.”  And in terms of pace and pizazz, it likely never will.  But for sheer emotional impact, Saturday’s event at the Santa Monica History Museum is one for the books – a fairy tale book.

Before the SMHM party, a few of us embarked on the near-annual pilgrimage to see Shirley’s first homes in Santa Monica.   The inhabitants must know how lucky they are, right?

24t.jpg24th Street

20180421_104222_preview.jpg19th Street


Early birds that we are, we arrived at the Museum to help with the last minute set up.  A proper tea was presented, with favors and lollipops at each place setting.  Lucky guests were given crowns and scepters, a hint as to the theme of today’s party.


What’s it like to be greeted by Shirley’s own son and daughter as if you’re a member of the family?  You can ask any one of us, but I’m not sure that it can be articulated.  The closest I can get is to hum a few bars of  Les Mis’ A Heart Full of Love.


The event began with a proclamation that it was Shirley Temple Day, and after the applause died down, it was time to tell THE story.  We’ve heard most of it – we LIVED through most of it – but the impact of the one-two-three punch presentation was something you really couldn’t prepare for.


The tale began in 1988, said Tonya, when she read Child Star as a child herself.  “I wanted to be like Shirley…I wanted to be that kind of person.”  Dream realized, I’d say.  With no preparation other than living it, Tonya spoke from the heart, and in the process tweaked quite a few hearts in the room.  If you weren’t crying along with her as she told the tale of the lost Princess dress, go see a cardiologist, stat.  Everyone else, you know what I’m talking about – a story told as effectively and affectively as ever I’ve heard.  Bravo, my dear, bravo.

20180421_133429_preview.jpgAct Two was Susan’s to present, and hers was the antithesis of Tonya’s.  Clearly and carefully written, she talked of convergence.  If Tonya’s speech reflected her personality, so did Susan’s.  Steady-voiced and impassioned in her quiet way, she furthered the story.  More tears, at least on my part.

20180421_133822_preview.jpgAnd then came Charlie, to wrap it all up and tie it with a bow.  This time, I was laughing through the tears, because he has inherited his mother’s story-telling twinkle. He recounted how he swooped into the Joseff’s auction, where the Princess crown and scepter were coming up to bid.  He told us his intent was to make certain that the items weren’t lost to history, and so he raised his paddle as bidding began to slow.  We laughed as he told us how he bested the other bidder for the crown, and how “revenge bidding” came into play for the scepter.  But he – we – prevailed, and the gown, scepter and crown were reunited at last.


20180421_112557_preview.jpgThank you to our pal Woolsey, the man on the scene and the one responsible for the gorgeousness of the one-day exhibit.  You never cease to amaze me.


We took our hearts full of love and floated out of the Museum, and on down to the Brentwood Country Mart, where Shirley shopped at Hansel and Gretel for clothes for Susan.  It’s still a children’s store, now called Poppy.


One more moment before wrapping up Act Two.

We popped by Shirley’s home on Rockingham Avenue (now three separate properties), just as we did two years ago.  I remembered how the owner of one of the homes drove up that time, and asked us why we were taking pictures of her home.  When I told her we were Shirley fans, she shrugged and said ok, and drove through the gate.  Was it serendipity that the very same woman pulled into her driveway again this year?  Was it Shirley magic that this time she motioned us over to her car, and engaged in conversation with us?  Were the stars in alignment as she said to me, “Next year, ring my bell!”?  Yes, yes, and definitely yes.


Act Two: A Heart Full of Love

Act Three: How Can I Thank You?

A Musical in Four Acts: NO DAY BUT TODAY

News flash:  I’m a planner.   To borrow a line from another RENT song, “I make lists in my sleep, baby!”  Palooza III was in the planning stage almost as soon as I landed back in NJ last April, but it reached a whole ‘nother level about five months ago.  I received an email from the curator at the Santa Monica History Museum on December 1st, asking me if I’d reach out to someone who was researching one of Shirley Temple’s homes.  First of all, how nuts is it that I’m the one the curator contacted – I’m just a dumb schoolteacher from New Jersey who suddenly, happily, found herself leading a troop of incredible people who have joined forces to continue Shirley’s legacy.   But a colonel takes command, and I contacted one David Silverman, recruiting him into our Army.  He had no idea what he was in for….and neither did we.  A kindred, OCD spirit, I think it’s safe to say he was swept up in the Shirley whirlwind, and once he discovered that some of us made our way to CA each April, he began to plan a long weekend of events for us.  I’ve said this a million times, to anyone who will listen, but I will say it again – he did not have to do this.  He did not know us, he did not owe us, but he went out of his way…for us, for Shirley.  Let that sink in for a moment, please.

Now remember, I’m a planner, so the countless emails, calls and lists, lists, lists were pure joy for me.  Kinda going through withdrawals now, if the truth is to be told.  But as I was stuffing my purse with paperwork on the way to the airport, I promised myself that now would be the time to enjoy it.  Be present. Stay in the moment.  No day but today.  And as much as is humanly possible, I think I did it.  It means I took less photos, posted less social media updates, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.  So, here are a few highlights of the whirlwind that was Friday, April 20th.


Nobody gets in to see the Wizard….not nobody, not no how.  That’s the way it was with the campus of Harvard-Westlake, formerly Westlake School for Girls.  Not generally open for tours, David, aka King Midas, connected with Eric the archivist, and managed to get a small group of us in.  While the original buildings are no longer there, it wasn’t hard to imagine Shirley on these grounds.  What was initially supposed to be a 45 minute tour  lasted nearly 90 minutes….guess Eric was caught up in the magic of Shirley too.



There wasn’t one part of Palooza that I wasn’t excited for, but visiting the Fox lot….high on my list, to be sure.  Eating in the commissary, where Shirley’s enormous birthday parties were held? Check.  Visiting the Shirley Temple Dining Room, known in Shirley’s day as the East Dining room, where she held private luncheons? Check.  Matching photos of Shirley in these locations? Crying copious amount of tears? Touching the walls of the stages where she filmed those movies I know by heart?  Check, check and check.


But if anticipation could be measured, what I felt about returning to the Fox archives would have broken the thermometer.  No photography was allowed, so I summoned all of my mental power (such as it is) and tried to capture the hundreds of photos displayed in binders, many never before seen, and commit them to memory.  Wish I could stick a flash drive into my brain and download them all.  A tremendous thank you to Heather, who was patient and gracious, and who didn’t warn me not to get tear stains on the photos.  I appreciated the hug too.

20180420_143213_preview.jpgShirley’s bungalow – may not look the same, but it’s still hallowed ground to me.

20180420_133343_preview.jpgThe Fox Commissary

“Oh….can I show you what I’m proudest of?”  This Hamilton lyric should be David’s, because Friday’s gala was unparalleled.  The venue – a gorgeous home, opened to us for this event.  The guest list – the family of the famed Nicholas Brothers, child actresses Cora Sue Collins and Marilyn Knowlden, Shirley’s original stand in, Marilyn Granas, Danny Selznick, son of producer David O. Selznick.  Plus entertainment, presentations, and impromptu singalongs.  A breathless, beautiful evening.


Unimaginable.  Unbelievable.  Unforgettable.  I took a total of one photo (and borrowed these), because I could not absorb it all otherwise.  I will return to this evening in my memory many, many times.

31062214_2499453513414226_4589325419330879717_n.jpgMarilyn Granas and Mary

As the evening wound down, I found myself in a conversation with the hostess.  There was no way to adequately express my thanks to her, but I certainly tried.  And although she didn’t really know me, she said words to me that I’ll treasure forever.  I write them here so that I can remember and revisit them.  “Melissa, I can tell you’re a great teacher.  If I had to do it all over again, I’d move East and have you teach my children.”  Or maybe I dreamed that….it was late, after all.  But if it all turns out to be only a beautiful dream, let’s keep on dreaming.

Act One:  No Day But Today 

Act Two:  A Musical in Four Acts: A HEART FULL OF LOVE



“I’m Happy, Too!”

Some things are just worth it.  Dealing with scheduling, battling the noise of the lunchroom, corralling kids who may or may not be interested in what you’re saying…..all in a day, right?

For the past seven years, our second graders have taken part in an international dance residency.  Joanna Pang Atkins brings grace, style, knowledge and talent to our school, and at the end of the two weeks, those qualities have rubbed off on us too.  At the first lesson, some kids are eager, some nervous, some reluctant, some frustrated.  But you’d never know it when they are dancing their hearts out on that stage at the final performance.


This year one student struggled through the first two practices. “My body’s just not made for dancing!”  Yes, that’s a direct quote.  By lesson three, it was coming more easily.  “You’re king of the box step!” I told him.   At the dress rehearsal, he had the highest kicks  this side of the Rockettes.

After today’s performance for the families, several people were lavishing well-deserved praise upon our dance teacher.  When the applause died down, this child turned to me and said, “Everything they said is true.  I would not be a dancer without Mrs. Atkins.”  Yes, that’s a direct quote too.   And finally, when I pointed out how happy the dance teacher and her assistant were with the flowers and gifts the students made, he smiled and said, “I’m happy, too.”

I think he spoke for us all.


What a Winter!

Yes, we’ve had A LOT of winter ’round here….with more on the way.  But what do they say? If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.  Scroll for a fun winter activity!


Stay inside with the snowman that won’t melt and have fun with this Snowman word scramble worksheet. For more engaging spelling  activities, go to Education.com!

Click on the links for a Snowman wordscramble and answer key!


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I Don’t Know

I don’t know a lot about a lot.  I don’t have many answers, never mind all of them.  But I do know most answers are complicated, because the issues are complicated.  That results in tons of talk that goes round and round and ends up nowhere.  It’s happening right now in the wake of the most recent school shooting.  “Most recent.”   What a phrase to have to apply to “school shooting.”  In fact, when I reread this in a few months’ or a year’s time, I may not recall precisely which shooting prompted me to write this.  Unfathomable.  I am sick to my very soul.

Here’s one thing I do know.  When I am huddled in a corner of the classroom during our next lockdown drill, I will reassure the child that asks, “This is fake, right?” just as I did during the last drill.  Because someone always asks.  What I hope they don’t ask is, “Could this really happen?” But I know what I’d do in that case – I’d say, “No, honey, you’re safe here.”  That response would fly out of my mouth as fast as the opposite thoughts swirled in my head.  Training.  Instinct.  Love.  It trumps reality in the classroom.

I don’t know much, but I know what I believe.  We are a country desperate for answers.  There are many and varied ones, I know.  But gun control has to be one of them.  You can’t have a school shooting – or many, many, many school shootings – without guns.  You can’t.   So pray, yes.  Act too.


It ain’t over till it’s OVER

Alternate title:  Did you ever?

The roller coaster that’s been the missing costumes saga has been journeying upward since the recovery of the Princess dress.  Sure, it would seem as though the ride should have ended, with passengers exiting, all wobbly legs and wide grins.  But there was one last peak, which would wrap this story up in a great big Shirley Temple bow.  And that involved the Princess crown and scepter. 23621708_10210123486349774_603868760565481440_n.jpg

While Shirley retained the right to keep her film costumes, Joseff’s of Hollywood did not give her the same option when it came to their creations.  Thus, the gilded crown and scepter worn during the Princess dream sequence returned to Joseff after filming, and remained in their collection.

Until they decided to bring their pieces to auction.  Announced earlier this year, Tonya was determined to reunite them with the dress, which at that time, was safe in her possession.  But then Princess disappeared.  And reappeared – quite literally in the nick of time. Now that the gown was safely home, what better conclusion could this chronicle have than to reunite the crown and scepter with it?


In the days between the Princess’s return and the auction at Julien’s in California, we were riding high.  Jubilant, expectant and incredibly hopeful, we laser-beamed our good vibes toward Tonya.

Saturday, November 18.  We rallied around computers and smartphones, trying to keep up with the bidding.  Main man Woolsey, pictured above, was there in person – our Army representative.  The crown comes up to bid….and the price skyrockets.  And it’s lost.  No sense bidding on the scepter without the crown, but that too shoots into the stratosphere.  All we knew when it was over was that they would stay together (a mild yay), as they were purchased by a person in the room (as opposed to an internet or phone bidder).  But they didn’t belong to Tonya….or to us.

Just as we were ready to alight from the ride, this time with dispirited faces to go with the wobbly knees, the coaster lurches forward.  IT IS NOT OVER.  Whaaaaaa?

I won’t keep you in suspense.  Woolsey informs us that they have been purchased with the sole intent of being exhibited at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Museum, slated to open in 2019…..the very place Tonya was planning on bringing the Princess in first place!  And NOW the ride can end – with passengers leaping from the cars, screeching their disbelief, their surprise, their unbridled joy.


It was Shirley magic, pure and simple.  Or Shirley spirit.  We have seen it before, over and over and over again.  During the Depression, they called her Little Miss Miracle.  There was a reason.

Thanksgiving came when the dress was found; now it’s an early Christmas.




There’s No Place Like Home

July 2015.  The proverbial hammer comes down on THE costume from The Little Princess, and every one of us in the front row that day shared the winner’s joy.  Her words to the auctioneer: “The first Shirley doll I ever had was in the dress – from the Danbury Mint!”  It took several people to carry it out – train, cape and all.  I’ve got to admit – I was in shock.  I mean, I knew Tonya was one cool chick – didn’t she write THE book on ST dolls and collectibles?  But now she OWNED THIS?!  Mind blown.  Wouldn’t be the first time.


Fast forward a bit – Tonya’s now acquired quite a few costumes – film treasures of Hollywood’s past.  They’d make a mini museum themselves, yet Tonya’s plan in acquiring them was to display them for the public, in the name of continuing Shirley’s legacy.  And she lived up to that promise – several key pieces made their way to the Santa Monica History Museum in 2016.  Next stop, a Hollywood themed doll convention in Albany, NY in late summer, 2017.

Yeah, we all know what happened next.  In a nutshell: the box of five costumes never made it to its destination after being shipped via UPS; instead, four pieces were sold at an auction warehouse in Kansas City, MO just about two weeks later.  That buyer, after media pressure, finally relinquished them, and they made their way home.

But Princess didn’t.


 Now,  here’s the REAL story.  Shirley’s Army mobilized like nothing the world has seen before.  We announced to the masses – via social and traditional (is that what TV and print are now?) media.  It was due to our coordinated attacks (and a weird, unbelievable, and immensely lucky series of events) that the first four costumes were returned.   But like Sara/Shirley in this very film, who never stopped looking for her presumed-dead daddy, we didn’t rest.


Just this week, Tonya received a call from UPS that the dress had been located, and it was in their possession.  Seems Cargo Largo, the auction warehouse, received the dress – after announcing a $5,000 reward for its return.  The details are unknown at this point – Cargo is carrying on some type of investigation – and we may never know where she’s been for more than two months.

But we know where she is now.  Home.


I think we can all agree that we would rather not have had this happen, but it did….and it brought out the very best in people.  Tonya’s dress was our dress, her heartbreak our heartbreak.  And now, we share in her exhilaration, and in her gratitude for all the forces that brought her back.

Thanksgiving came early this year.  XOXOXOX

Fall in!

Sometimes, it’s just a bunch o’pics…other times, it’s a bunch o’pics AND a fall fun skillsheet.  We don’t do triple digit subtraction until the spring, but here’s an autumn version!

Incorporate subtraction and the change in season with this fun Autumn worksheet. For more math worksheets, go to Education.com.


Here come the pics!


Sponge painted fall leaves and Johnny Appleseed facts



Learning about bodies of water



Identifying the beginning, middle and ending of a story





Family trees