Do You See What I See?


If you’re looking at a calendar, then you do.  It’s nearly August and we teachers know what THAT means.

Did you ever see this quote?

bus slate 003

Nonsense.  Because, at least in my geographic locale, school goes until mid or late June.  And once August rolls around, teachers are automatically transported into teacher-land….at least mentally.  So, maybe we have a good 5 or 6 weeks, but three months?  No way.

This year, I’m slightly more blase about what August represents than usual.   But my usual isn’t the usual usual – no surprise there.  Because August, for me, has always signaled that fresh-crayons-out-of-the box excitement.  I start making lists about what I need to do in the classroom,  take inventory of the teacher stuff I’m amassed so far this summer, and start thinking about when I can ask the school secretary for my class list and schedule.

But this year, the excitement is tempered….but not dampened.  It’s just that the euphoria that’s been the Summer of Shirley still lingers on.  There’s less room for school excitement, because all things Temple have crowded out most other feelings.


Happiness like this must be savored.

So, I’ll watch the page of the calendar turn this weekend, and my heart will beat a little less rapidly than it usually does come August.

But only a little less.  After all, I’m a teacher.

Shirley Temple on taking lessons from personal tutor ‘Klammy’, on a break from shooting scenes for The Little Princess, 1939


These Magic Moments – Part Four of Four


Wrapping it up might be the hardest part.

When filming, “It’s a wrap!” is the call to signify the end.  As in, the actors have finished their parts.  Time to celebrate at the wrap party and then go home, presumably to rest.   But that ending isn’t really an ending.  After the editing and all that goes into post-production, the finished film is ready – ready to be seen over and over again by those who find it enjoyable or interesting or compelling or entertaining.

Now that the exhibit and auction that was Love, Shirley Temple has wrapped, it needn’t be the end.  In fact, I know it is not.  Because shortly upon my arrival home, I revamped a Facebook page, now called Shirley’s Army!  And it blew up. People eager to share and relive their experiences at the auction began posting.  Individuals who participated via phone, online or prebidding weighed in.  Those who were lucky enough to have seen one of the exhibits stopped by.  In fact, anyone with an interest in the most enduring of all child stars is welcome to join our ranks.   And one week post auction, the Army is 100 members strong.   People are sharing their congratulations with the winners of auction items.  Winners are sharing photos and plans for their items.   Members of the Army are from all across the US and the world.

The members all join us with their individual areas of strength and interest.  We have doll collectors, costume collectors, collectors of rare photos and footage.  The discourse taking place daily is nothing short of inspiring.

Just the sort of thing Shirley would approve of.


So, the legacy lives on, as we always knew that it would.  Yet this time in my life, this journey with Shirley, has been a most unforgettable adventure – a period of time when nothing was as important as sharing the joy and love that one little girl embodies.   I called it the Shirley bubble.  A beautiful place to reside, even if only for a time.

For those of you who shared this journey with me – in any way at all – I thank you.  For some of you, it was easy to understand, because you share this fascination.   For others, it may have been bewildering….but if you even half-listened to me as I waxed poetically about Shirley, then you did your part.  You shared in one lifetime fan’s dream-come-true.  How often does that happen?

There’s only one way to end this.  By remembering that the exhibit was called Love, Shirley Temple.

And that’s what we’ll do.


These Magic Moments – Part Three of Four

This is a nearly-impossible task.  The recording of the memories, the feelings, the thoughts.  But the Colonel will not shirk her duty, so on I go.


I was glad to see that the theater was nearly empty of spectators when we returned from dinner, but was not prepared for the sight I did see.  Shirley’s daughter Susan and her son Charlie were there, speaking to a few people, as if it were the most normal thing in the world.  Well, not in MY world!  I knew that they would be part of this at one point, and I’d hoped I’d have a chance to speak with them….and here it was.  So with adrenaline pumping and nervous energy pushing me forward, I led the Army to where they were standing.  I had a few things I knew I wanted to say, and by the grace of God I was composed enough to do it (Army members, can you confirm??? Or did I just imagine my composure??).  Susan was gracious beyond all expectation – with the most FLAWLESS skin – and I really believe she listened as I told her that although this is something I’m sure she’s heard all of her life, I wanted to be just one more person to tell her of the happy moments her mother had given me for so many years.  It was also important for me to tell her what I thought of Theriault’s….how they were the perfect group to represent her mother’s legacy.  Boy, did she agree with that!

The conversation went on, and I’m sure I was monopolizing….it wasn’t purposeful or intended or planned.  I hope I conducted myself with SOME level of dignity and did not appear to be a crazed lunatic….again, Army members, weigh in here!

With that moment over, I crashed.  A gushing avalanche of feelings….and all I wanted to do was call my daughter.  I did.  I cried.  She couldn’t really understand me through the sobs, but she got the gist, and said to me words that I’ll cherish forever, “Mommy, I’m so happy for you.”    Sometimes it’s only real when you can share it with someone.  Someone you love even more than Shirley.  Yes, there is such a thing.


And so it was on that extraordinarily happy note that day one ended.

And then, the auction.

There were more moments of recruiting, of speaking with and connecting to people who were devoted fans, including a mother and a daughter who brought with them not only two lifetimes of love for Shirley, but a treasured photo of the original Shirley fan in their family, dressed in an official ST hat.  She was there to bring them luck.  She did.

Another moment- walking up to the front of the theater, and seeing the front row reserved exclusively for Shirley’s Army.  Our official commission.  The end seat was available, so I claimed it and was prepared to be there for the remainder of the day and night.  And for the most part I did.

Warning – I’m going to get a little braggy here.

With ten minutes to go, the auction house owner approaches me, in somewhat of a hurry, and asks me to speak to a reporter.  I join another gentleman that she chose to represent the collecting side of the story.  But for the fan side of the story – dare I say, the passionate side of the story? – she chose me.  Of all the people that were there.  I’m not really bragging…I was amazed and surprised and honored and overcome.  Me, Melissa Tonnessen from Chester, NJ.  I’ve never written a book, like some of my dear Shirley friends.  I don’t have a collection of rare and valuable items, like some of my dear Shirley friends.  I’m not an artist who has captured Shirley’s essence with her well-known paper dolls.   No, all I have is heart….and let’s face it, I do like to talk!!!  But even so, how did I qualify?  Can’t say, but  for the rest of my life, I will never get over the fact that I did.

Again, I managed to remain composed…there is video to support this, although I am loath to view it more than once.  I’m sorry to say that the doll collector’s interview didn’t appear, and they used only a bit of what I had to say, but again, the honor.  Now, THAT was a moment.


Now it’s the moment the auction begins.  Stuart Holbrook, president of Theriault’s and auctioneer supreme, spoke touchingly about his journey with Shirley.  It’s on youtube.  Watch it, if not just for that speech.  Please ignore the crying lady in dark pink on the end.  Yup, the crying began before the first item went up.  In it, you’ll hear him speak to the emotional response he witnessed day after day as the exhibit toured the country.  You’ll even hear him speak of the Army – representatives of that emotional outpouring.

And it begins.  With an item from Shirley’s beginning…her first doll, a beloved Raggedy Ann.  Never having experienced an auction, I was unprepared for the electricity, the pace and the fervor.  And when it sold, for $11,500.00, I knew I was in for the most extraordinary ride of my life.

I bet those sitting around me, however, were not prepared for my behavior.  Because as soon as they brought out the iconic red and white polka dot dress, the one EVERYONE associates with Shirley, I. LOST. IT.  Because not only was the dress displayed, but they played a clip from her breakout film, Stand Up and Cheer, where she wears it while singing, dancing and dimpling.  I. LOST. IT.  Watch the video….you’ll see it.  I had to cover my mouth with both hands so as not to be heard.  If I’d had a paper bag, I would have been breathing into it.  They weren’t tears of sadness or joy or any single feeling…they were pure, unadulterated emotion.  And each and every d**n time they played those glorious clips, whose dialogue and lyrics I knew by heart, I. LOST. IT.  Because for me, it’s always been about the films.  Even if I never owned a Shirley doll or collectible, I’d still feel close to her, as long as I could watch a film.

Blessedly, the clips stopped…there were nearly 600 items to auction, and in the interest of time, it was best to just get to it.  And in the interest of my blood pressure, it was best as well.


Fear not.  I won’t be elaborating on every moment of the nearly 14 hour auction.  Not even close.   Watch the video (again, ignoring me) if you’re so inclined.  If you do, please notice the happiness on the winners’ faces, and please hear the congratulations that other members of the house expressed when someone won.  I’ve heard some auctions can be brutally competitive; there was nothing but joy and a shared happiness here.  Even Shirley’s son remarked on it.  If you watch the video, listen to Stuart calling out “Shirley’s Army strikes again!” every time one of our ranks raised her paddle.

And it went on.  Fueled by adrenaline, caffeine and love, I sat there.  But for a few bathroom breaks, I was there for it all.  Like Aerosmith said – I didn’t want to miss a thing.

One more set of moments to record before this entry ends.   The moment I bid.  The moment I won.  The aftermath.

I was out of my league. There were MAJOR collectors in this room, online and on the phone.  There was MAJOR money being spent.   I quickly realized I would not be very active in this auction….even the item I’d hoped to get – a memento of Shirley’s relationship with her teacher – was unapproachable.  But when I saw an opening, a little item that hadn’t even been on my radar, my paddle went up.  Someone else bid, and up it went again.  I don’t know how long it really went on, but before I knew it, Stuart was calling my name.  The Army members were cheering.  I was shell shocked….even had to be reminded to show my paddle number.

Ever experience that drop when the adrenaline rush fades?   When I regained consciousness, I removed myself for the first time all day.   This time Mr. T got the hysterical phone call, followed by another one to my daughter.  Followed by a long, long cry in the bathroom.   Yeah, that happened.

It’s nearly the end.  In the next and final post on this topic I hope to sum things up and put a nice little bow on it.  If that is even possible.

These Magic Moments – Part Two of Four

It was supposed to have ended with the exhibit in Morristown.  Because what more could I hope for….I had just seen those beautiful costumes, those exquisite dolls, those like-minded uber-fans.  Shirley (ouch!) that was the end – the glorious, happy ending.


Prior to the exhibit, I never considered going to the auction.  I’m not a big-time collector.  I’m not a big-time traveler. It never occurred to me.  Until the next moment.  That moment when auction house president Stuart Holbrook asked, “Are you going to the auction?”  I can’t explain why, but it felt like a rhetorical question.  But I answered no, I would watch online and would be more than happy with that.  And then there it was.  Among the exhilaration, the thrill, the joy – there was a niggling feeling of….what?  Disappointment?  I wouldn’t be able to see the ENTIRE collection, and it’s been pretty firmly established that I am not one who likes to miss anything.  Regret? That I wouldn’t be part of a once-in-a-lifetime, never-to-be-repeated event celebrating the star I’d loved for 40 years?    Yeah, all that and more.

Several moments go by….returning home and asking Mr. T if he’ll take me to the auction.  Begging Mr. T. to take me to the auction.  Demanding Mr. T. take me to the auction.  Telling Mr. T. I MUST to go to the auction. (If Mr. T sounds unresponsive, he wasn’t. I am just choosing not to include those moments here!)  And then a watershed moment.  A member of the yet-to-be-named Shirley’s army contacts me, and together, we figure out a way.  Arrangements are made, flights are booked.  Once again, THIS IS REALLY HAPPENING. #howmanytimeshaveisaidthat?


The next set of moments have been pretty well chronicled in a previous post – Ya Never Know.  It went like this: Digital catalog is posted.  Thorough examination of said catalog.  Communication with the auction house.  Feeling a part of something. Receiving the actual catalog and that simple piece of paper – the addendum – that represented the unbridled joy of that day of research, of working to solve some Shirley mysteries for an awfully good cause. Yeah, THAT moment.

I’ll brush past the moments of anxiety concerning flying alone and a delayed flight.  I’ll gladly skip over the moment when, in a panic, I contacted Stuart from the airport to ask, “What if there’s a line to get into the exhibit and I have to wait and I can’t wait because I’m having a heart attack as it is and I don’t want to miss even a moment of this?”  Yeah, that happened too.  I didn’t say all moments were gems.

But then I’m there.  The Little Theater in Kansas City, MO.  A breathtaking, built-in-1934, Art Deco building, perfectly suited for what it was exhibiting.  But it was nothing compared to what was inside. Costumes, articles, artifacts and pictures everywhere. Clustered in large groups, simply because of the sheer volume of items – nearly 600.


My first inclination was to document it all.  But I was stopped in my photo-taking tracks.  Because what happened next was a surprising series of moments.  I started talking (that is not the surprise, I assure you.)  Talking to the people at the preview.  Overhearing their stories and popping in, uninvited yet very welcome, to sympathize and connect.  I started recruiting for Shirley’s Army.  Because that was yet another moment.  Just prior to the auction, Stuart started referring to this group as Shirley’s Army – a collection of superfans he met as he toured the country.  And it was real – he reserved the entire front row for us.


I’m circulating, talking, kvelling.  What I’m not doing is taking photos….the conversations trumped that big time.  I was able to locate the Army members who had planned to be there, those of us who made arrangements through social media.   And although most of us had never met face to face, there was an instant connection.  I don’t know how many times I said kindred spirits that day.  It probably wasn’t enough.

The afternoon passed all too quickly – I was in a world where all that mattered was what this one little girl represented to everyone gathered here. Where all that counted was reliving and sharing our Shirley stories.  I had not planned on this, not really.  I knew I’d meet like-minded people, but I never for a moment thought anything could overshadow the collection.  Wrong again.  But so happily wrong.

Precisely at 5:00 (or however that translates to military time – too lazy to figure it out), the Army marched to our dinner destination.  After refueling, we returned to the theater.

I need energy to blog about the next series of moments….energy and emotional stamina.  Stay tuned.

These Magic Moments – Part One of Four

I had several titles in mind for today’s post, including a paraphrase of Rite Aid’s slogan – “With me, it’s personal.”  So what you’re about to get, if you dare to read on, is a collection of personal moments related, naturally, to the Summer of Shirley.  This won’t be nearly as coherent and articulate as my friend-in-Shirley’s blog Kel’s Musings.  Not even close.   I’ll will try to keep them sequential, so as to create a timeline, but I make no promises.


The moment it all began.  That day in March (?) when I received a casual text from my brother, “Hey Mel, they’re auctioning off Shirley’s stuff.”  Dropped the phone.  Ran to the computer and found the link to Theriault’s.  THERE IT WAS.  It was really happening.  AND ONE EXHIBIT WAS TO BE IN MORRISTOWN!  How’s that for kismet?  20 minutes from me – in my own backyard. Ran back to the phone to secure a sub for the day.  Because even though the exhibit would be open on the weekend, there was no way in H-E-double hockey sticks that I wouldn’t be there when the door opened.  Ran to the phone a third time, to secure my daughter for the day.  I knew I’d need a chaperone.


That moment when I found the Love, Shirley Temple Facebook page.  Someone was posting updates and photos of the preparation for the traveling exhibit.  I started to see glimpses of the COSTUMES…dear lord, the actual garments that she sang and danced in.  It can’t be real, but yet here’s proof.   And then there were photos from the exhibits themselves, with personal stories attached.  Whoever was maintaining this page was my new best friend.  It will not surprise you to know that I spent HOURS looking at the pictures and identifying each costume and artifact, knowing soon that I would actually be in their presence.  This was REALLY happening.


Then there was a moment when my friends at Love, ST announced that there would be a special preview for museum members the evening before.  It took me 4.5 seconds to obtain that membership….I hesitated only slightly (see a previous post and an obnoxious confession).   Secured a membership for my daughter, as well as her availability to chaperone. Yes, I’d been to the museum many times before….but when I tell you I needed emotional support, I am not kidding.


The moment we arrive for the preview – tres early, of course.  Heart beating – as in, I think people can hear it.  I can’t hear anything but the pounding in my ears.  Overreacting?  Have you met me?  Another moment, as we enter, glimpsing the life size Japanese Bride Doll.  Nervous breakdown?  Right this way.   Entering the exhibit proper, meeting who I assumed was just some guy who was saddled with the job of overseeing all of this.  Discovered he was president of the auction house and would be giving the tour, so I had another moment.  Walking up to him and introducing myself, “Hi, I’m Melissa.  I’m the biggest Shirley fan in the world.”  Yes, I really said that. How obnoxious. But yet this guy didn’t roll his eyes – the usual response when I say things like that.  And I often say things like that.  He gets brownie points, I think at the time.  Clearly, I had no idea.


Now the moments come fast and furious.  The moment I see a costume that for a minute I cannot identify. I must’ve made a scene, because before I knew it, the president came over and solved that mystery.  It wouldn’t be the last time he talked me off the ledge.  The moments when I give information – solicited and un – as he is giving his tour.  A key moment when it suddenly dawns on me that this guy is GOOD.  He knows what he’s talking about, and more importantly, seems to actually care about it.  The next day the moments continue – people stream through the exhibit, and I witness such joyful and emotional reactions.  I connect with fellow fans.  I watch three of her films with those fellow fans.  Even after three days at the exhibit, I want to remain in this world. the world of Shirley.  But when I have to leave, I know that the memories will linger. What I didn’t know is that the Summer of Shirley wasn’t ending there.

But this blog post is.  I realize I’ll need several posts to get it all down, so this seems like a good stopping point.  Because as unlikely as it seemed to me at the time, the best was yet to come.

True or False

Something different today.  Feeling too lazy to write a legitimate post today, so here are a few ecards.  Some apply.  Some most certainly do not.  Your job, should you be bored/interested enough to try it, is to figure out which is which.

Here’s a clue, but hardly a surprise.  I ain’t your regular teacher.

1.  10543609_946673062095613_2645271201857506724_n

2.  MjAxMy00NTEzMDBiOGUzODcyYzYx

3.  p

4.  MjAxMy1iMzFiYTM5YzEyZTgwZTFm

5.  3566338e7a7c4ed67a65bee468796aad

6. teacher-humor-quotes-meme69

7.  1350595209859_4167608

That is all.  For the moment.