The magic of the Colleen Moore Fairy Castle

One kindergarten student went to the Museum of Science and Industry, loving the baby chicks as her favorite exhibit. I did too and so did my own children. But when I begin another trip in the room with the Colleen Moore Fairy Castle,I am constantly in awe. I am quiet and so overwhelmed by the intricate detail of the amazing workmanship, artistry and beauty every time I visit. Maybe I have missed something again. I always do. But one year, I finally bought a book before the Internet was a resource.

The creation is the ultimate dollhouse/castle donated by Colleen Moore to the museum in 1949. She was a  Hollywood icon and one of the highest paid actresses. She conceived and designed it with about one hundred Hollywood craftsman and designers between the years of 1928 to 1935. She spent about a half a million on the castle. It has toured the US raising over a half a million dollars to give to children’s charities. Currently, the castle has 11 rooms and wonderful stories to go with each room.

The following describes each room and the finishing touches that were fascinating to me and my children:

Kitchen: It was not just the Mother Goose fairy tale murals on the walls. The best thing I liked is the kitchen of the witch from Hansel and Gretel.

Dining Room: The tapestries on the walls are so intricate that you cannot see the stitches at and the silver ware and plates on King Arthurs table are made of gold. So many pieces are over 100 years old.

Cinderella’s Drawing Room: The floor is made from China combined with quartz and jade. There is a beautiful of mural of Cinderella. A grand piano with an illustration inside the top is an instrument I always wanted to play on. I took piano lessons for many years and taught lessons.

Great Hall: On walls, windows and the ceilings there are amazing drawings of several fairy tales. There is a rosewood table that has Cinderella’s slippers on it and the chairs of the Three Bears. Of course, the balusters throughout and the stairs are gold.

Chapel; On the prayer bench is a small bible. The smallest in the world and printed on real type. I always stared at the electric pipe organ with gold pipes and music pours from it. The stained glass windows are actually made with diamonds and emeralds taken from Moore’s brooch.

Library: Is a sea motif in beautiful blue shades. There are pictures describing the classic literature of Gullivers Travels and Robinsoo Caruso. There are over 100 real books in the library many of them handwritten by famous authors.

Princess Bathroom and Bedroom: The bath tub is silver and real water can flow from the dolphins mouths on both sides of the tub. The bed is the same that Sleeping Beauty, my favorite Disney character, slept in. There is also a golden harp instrument that I always wanted to play

Prince’s Bathroom and Bedroom: The bathroom is upstairs with a mirror filled jewels. The bedroom has a huge white bear rug with real mouse teeth that I was always a little afraid.

Attic: This is just like most attics. Things that used to be in other parts of the castle are stored in the attic.

Magic Garden: Another favorite of mine. I loved the cradle that rocked the baby and you could actually see Santa Claus all year round.

The origin of Candy Land

Candy Land has been another favorite game that I like to play. Especially with the kindergarten class during indoor recess. During the polio epidemic which many Baby Boomers experienced, hundreds of children were in hospitals and thousands quarantined at home in 1948. Strange times… like today. It was then that a young San Diego schoolteacher named Eleanor Abbott invented Candy Land. Abbott created the game inside a polio ward, as a patient herself; trying to inspire the sick children; taking them on a magical trip through Peppermint Stick Forest or Gumdrop Mountain. She wanted them to experience travels, far from this devastating illness. The game was made for them and tested by the children in the same polio wards in the hospital. They loved it and she pursued Milton Bradley. The boy at the start of the original game had a brace on his leg. The Atlantic offers a picture of the first Candy Land board courtesy of the Strong Museum.

Players had tokens which raced down a track of many rainbow-like colors. Drawing from a deck of cards, they would stop according to the card description or number of spaces suggested. Whoever finished, was the winner. According to some sources, Milton Bradley published the game as a filler to school supplies in 1949 but it then, of course, became their most popular game. Hasbro purchased the game in 1984 and at least 4 versions of the game have been made as well as many limited editions. As of 2013, Candy Land is being sold by Hasbro with a spinner instead of cards. The spinner includes all outcomes that were previously on the cards.

Last year, Candy Land celebrated 70 years of existence. Very little strategy is involved and that is why it sells millions of copies. It is simple; a game producing the feeling of magic and escape when you begin to play. It is easy to get lost in. Above, the board copyrighted in 1962 was different than more recent versions. But, this was my version as well as my own children since I saved that game for them. Even now as the pandemic continues and days are gloomy not being able to play with friends, we are still able to take trips with family through Lolly Pop Woods, Ice Cream Floats, always returning…on my game anyway….to the beauty of home, sweet, home. Regardless of what version you play, Candy Land will continue to take us down a colorful road of sweet surprises beyond the pain real life sometimes expresses.

 

 

Go Noodle…I’m Still Standing and Footloose

There called brain breaks in elementary classrooms which I have talked about before.  In our kindergarten, its Go Noodle kids videos and it varies from year to year what the kids really enjoy. GoNoodle is free for teachers, parents, and kids! In addition to energizing content, GoNoodle has 300+ dance videos, mindfulness activities, and super engaging videos for kids!

Last year, the popular, always requested number was Boom Chicaka Boom-Moose Tube.  A favorite both years is also Koo Koo Kanga Roo, a comic team that does a variety videos that include a funny ride on a roller coaster and weird sounds, just to name a few. This year, right before the next animated movie came out, it was Snap Along with the Addams Family. But now a new hit has become the winning choice.

As the teacher selected the hit and it began to play, I wasn’t paying attention to the kids dancing on the screen. It was the music, the song that hit before I looked up. It was Elton John from 1982 when I’m Still Standing was released and played over and over…yeah, yeah, yeah. In fact when I hear the song one time, I can’t get the lyrics to stop playing in my head. And now I’m Still Standing is recorded by Go Noodle; a top hit in another decade. But it is the dance troup that the kids follow which is two girls and a boy that perform a variety of dance moves that the kids truly take the time to figure and follow. It is amazing to watch the kids become better after each time the video is played.

After researching Noodle Television, there are more from the Baby Boomers era from this kid trio including Footloose. Footloose is a 1984 American musical drama film directed by Herbert Ross. It tells the story of Ren McCormack (Kevin Bacon), a teenager from Chicago who moves to a small western town where he lives with his mother, aunt, and uncle. Throughout the movie, McCormack is seen attempting to overturn the ban on dancing, which resulted from the efforts of a local minister (John Lithgow).

The movie received mixed reviews but the song by Kenny Loggins has been popular. Another Footloose movie came out in 2011 where city teenager, the same Ren MacCormack moves to a small town where rock music and dancing have been banned, and his rebellious spirit shakes up the populace.

Lose your blues, kick off your Sunday shoes. The video has a row, top and bottom, of dancing shoes. When it first came out in the early 1980’s, many rock and roll fans thought it was a stupid song. Not anymore. Not for the elementary students today following their favorite dance troupe.

Hall monitors and crossing guards

Beginning over 50 years ago, I am still in the position of hall monitor..at the main door of an elementary school….something that was a dream of mine at the age of 12. I took my first job in 1967 at Joseph Warren School which was an older building at the time in the south side of Chicago and I got to stand in the middle of a stairwell…three floors and two set of stairs. Students were in junior high and literally had to square their corners, walking all the way to wall and staying in a neat, quiet line when they reach the floor threshold. If they didn’t, they were immediately pulled and sent to the principal. There was always teachers in the halls to double check on your hall monitor duties. You better being doing your job and this wasn’t Catholic school. This was part of the Chicago Public School System. We need those monitors today.

Back in those days, outside crossing guards for neighborhood streets used to be patrol boys from school; many getting to wear orange belts that were place across their chests and some wore caps. The first school safety patrols were formed in the 1920s, because of growing concern for the well-being of students walking to school because of increasing accidents and injuries. Some had tennis rackets that was covered with a sign that said stop. Hammond Police offers some wonderful photos of the crossing guards popularity in the past.

Today, no universal regulations exist that describe who may be a crossing guard, where crossing guards are stationed, or for what purposes a crossing guard may be employed. This person may be paid or volunteer; the person may be a school employee, a member of local law enforcement, a city employee, or contracted privately. Many elementary school crossing guards are assisted by older students, known by a variety of titles such as “safety monitor” and “safety patrol.” These do not have legal responsibility for the safety of children. Junior safety patrol is a voluntary group of crossing guards involving older students helping younger students cross streets in elementary and middle schools across the United States.

Many now wear vests which is the most common. We were the same vests when we are directing buses and monitoring recess at our school. But my favorite position is inside at the main door hallway, though when buses come early, we have grades kindergarten through second grade sit in our large multi-purpose room just beyond the main door. Not, however, squaring corners, making perfect lines and being quiet. My position is giving hugs, high fives, and taking deep breaths to those who are just beginning their day and know that there is always someone they can trust. Much better than my first job in 1967.

 

American Girl

It was Samantha Parkington that was all the rage for many.  My daughter loved the doll and got one along with a look alike doll. I loved the books. But it was the Bitty Baby that truly brings back special and sometimes emotional holiday feelings. Christmas 2000 my daughter really wanted the Bitty Baby and under the tree on Christmas morning, there was nothing with the excuse told to her that we just couldn’t afford it. Later that morning, we traveled to the nursing home to see my Mother who would die later that summer. She handed my daughter the wrapped box and still had no idea the Bitty Baby was inside. She thought when first looking at the box that it was just too small for a baby doll. She was hoping up until the last minute that the doll would be hers forever; still is in a neatly wrapped storage box along with Samantha.

American Girl is an American line of 18-inch dolls released in 1986 by Pleasant Company. The dolls portray today eight- to twelve-year-old girls of a variety of ethnicity, time periods of origin, faiths, and social classes.Originally, the stories published into books focused on various periods of American history, but were expanded in 1995 to include characters and stories from contemporary life. Aside from the original American Girl dolls, the buyer also has the option to purchase dolls that look like themselves.

Bitty Baby was an American Girl line of 15″ infant baby dolls for children ages 3 and up. Bitty Baby’s arms, legs, and head are made from vinyl. A precursor to the line called Our New Baby was first released in 1990,which consisted of Caucasian (with blond hair), African-American, and Asian-American variants. The dolls were marketed as a way to get children to adjust to having a young baby in the house. The dolls were gender neutral, unlike the later Bitty Baby; it was expected that the doll could be a younger boy or girl.

The American Girl series, by various authors, is a collection of novels set within toy line’s fictional universe. Since its inception, American Girl has published books based on the dolls, with novels and other media to tie in with their dolls. The books follow various American girls throughout both historical eras and contemporary settings.The historical novels that have corresponding dolls are referred to as the Central Series such as Samantha Parkington, Kirsten Larsen, Molly McIntire.  And I read them all even trying my hand at writing one and sending it to the publishing company.

A related series entitled History Mysteries, also known as Mysteries Through Time and/or Mysteries through History was released by American Girl in 1999 and discontinued in 2004. The series comprises a total of 22 books by various authors and forms a companion series to the popular American Girl books; unlike Girl of the Year and other lines, they do not come with any doll or toy and acts as a stand-alone novel set in a particular period in American history.

Today, all dolls purchased actually come with a book. For 2020, American girl has a new doll with a hearing loss. She is a competitive surfer that lives in California named Joss.

And the dolls of my daughter’s childhood are now considered antique and worth some money. Just like mine. One Samantha doll with her original outfit and accessories recently sold on eBay for $400. And the original Bitty baby can be found right now for under $50 dollars with only a few scratches.

Oh boy, the Grinch

The week after Thanksgiving it began..a kindergarten boy wore a t shirt with a sketch of the Grinch on it; handmade by his Mom. I wanted it! But when I was his age I was afraid of the Grinch. I loved having Mom read the Dr. Seuss book How the Grinch Stole Christmas and loved reading it to my own children. The first animated movie was telecast in the United States on CBS on December 18, 1966 and has been a holiday favorite ever since. The special also features the voice of Boris Karloff as the Grinch and the narrator; a 26 minute cartoon with Cindy Lou Who that everyone loves. My children were fascinated by the cartoon and one Christmas, my son got a talking Grinch doll. We still have the box. I am sure the doll is somewhere in our present garage mess.

According to Grinch Mania, the musical adaptation of How the Grinch Stole Christmas started in Minneapolis in 1994, where it also showed in 1995 and 1998 to enthusiastic audiences. In 1998, the musical began playing in San Diego, where it has shown every year since then. The production hit the big time and Broadway in 2006 where it quickly became the hottest ticket on Broadway.

As my children got older in their junior high years, their true and everlasting love story with the Grinch came out in 2000How the Grinch Stole Christmas is an American Christmas fantasy comedy-drama film directed by Ron Howard and written by Jeffrey Price and Peter S. Seaman. Based on Dr. Seuss’s 1957 book of the same name, it was the first Dr. Seuss book to be adapted into a full-length feature film. The film is narrated by Anthony Hopkins and stars Jim Carrey in the title role, along with Jeffrey Tambor, Christine Baranski, Bill Irwin, Molly Shannon, and introducing Taylor Momsen as Cindy Lou Who. And according to box office statistics, one of the most successful films.

In 2018, The Grinch was released and distributed by Universal Pictures in the United States on November 9, 2018, in RealD 3D, a computer-animated Christmas comedy-drama film and played at select IMAX theaters produced by Illumination. It grossed over $511 million worldwide, so far obtaining the highest-grossing holiday film of all-time.

In the kindergarten classroom last week, we watched both cartoon from 1966 and the 2018 movie since the movie starring Jim Carey is a little scary for 5 and 6 year olds..a little scary for me. Though I must say I was positively memorized by the 2018 film….. finding the Grinch more funny than frightening.

Ultimately, as a mature adult…sometimes mature…., I love the Grinch as a doll, a picture on a box, musical renditions performed on stage, cartoon form, or any movie. It was his heart growing three sizes that day for all generations to remember…. that maybe Christmas doesn’t come from a store, maybe Christmas means just a little bit more.

 

Christmas Tree Shimmer

By Caryl Clem

Communities across America kick off the Christmas Holidays with Tree Lighting ceremonies. This tradition was almost short circuited. A pastor lit a Christmas tree in the late 1890’s in a small town in Pennsylvania. The tree was torn down by townspeople who feared evil spirits had possessed the tree. First, Boston held a tree lighting ceremony on December 24, 1912. Chicago was a leader in spreading the idea of Christmas festivals starting with the grandeur of a giant shimmering tree. Mayor of Chicago, Carter H. Harrison, Jr. held the first official Chicago Tree Lighting in 1913 in Grant Park. Attended by 100,000 enthusiasts, the festival was planned by the President of the Art Institute, Charles L. Hutchinson according to Glessner House website.  The first President, Grover Cleveland, had an electric tree in the Oval Room for his granddaughters.  Ten years after the grand Chicago affair, President Cleveland presented a 3,000 bulb tree in the Ellipse on Christmas Eve. The magic of illuminated trees overcame the original mistrust of using electricity.  New York City in Rockefeller Center celebrated their first tree lighting ceremony in 1933.

Edison’s business partner, Edward H. Johnson invented the first string of white, red, and green bulbs in 1892 which he proudly displayed on his tree in a parlor window overlooking Manhattan in New York City. The first lit Christmas tree emerged. Johnson resourcefully hired a reported to take pictures. Only the rich could afford to hire a wireman (labor $1,000) to install a string of bulbs ( $300-$350 each).  General Electric was offering bulb strings for sale in 1903. The prices dropped after World War II, increasing the popularity of Christmas lights.

Every child hears stories of Christmas Magic. I was convinced these stories must be true after one glance at “bubble lights” on our family Christmas tree. I could sit and stare mesmerized by the bubbling glow amidst the popcorn strings, dangling cookies and bright tinsel.  After the introduction of “BUBBLE lites” by the NOMA Electric Corporation in 1946, competitors produced similar lights with the names Kristal Snow and Sparkling Bubble Lamp. The idea for bubbling inside a light was inspired by 2 popular selling items from the Montgomery Ward’s store. An accountant, George Otis combined the traveling light action in an illuminated Juke box with the shape of a Glow Light Candle. He filed a patent in 1935 that he later sold to NOMA. He was hired as a designer who played an active in improving lights in the years to come. The founder of Ward’s was a Chicagoan,  Aaron Montgomery Ward starting his business  in 1871 with the idea to sell to rural farmers the goods too far away for them to normally purchase. By 1923, the business had expanded to 244 stores in various states.

By the light of a shimmering tree, feel inspired by this year’s holiday magic!

Over the river and through the woods

For me as a child, it was a combination of singing the song in elementary school. It was a tune that could not be forgotten easily and once sung…the song would be constantly playing in your mind as a Thanksgiving celebration throughout the next holiday season. I also read the poem in a book partnered with an illustrated painting by Grandma Moses. At a young age, I was always fascinated by her story that she became famous artist as a senior citizen. Her primitive paintings were always something I thought I would copy….even today I try…since I loved her country scenes. When I was nine, I received my first book of her paintings.

The poem was originally published as “The New-England Boy’s Song about Thanksgiving Day”  and written in 1844, Lydia Maria Child. And it was not about going to Grandmas house but Grandfathers.The poem was eventually set to a tune by an unknown composer.  Lydia was a well known author during the time leading up to the Civil War. She wrote a periodical for kids and popular books for housewives with tips to help manage their households. In 1835 she wrote The History of the Condition of Women in Various Ages and Nations that was later an inspiration to women suffragists.

In 1833 she published An Appeal in Favor of that Class of Americans Called Africans, which called for the immediate emancipation of all slaves which did not make her popular.

According to Wikipedia, the original piece had twelve stanzas, though only four are typically included in the song. The verses in bold are the ones I and my family remember:

Over the river, and through the wood,
To Grandfather’s house we go;
the horse knows the way to carry the sleigh
through the white and drifted snow.
Over the river, and through the wood,
to Grandfather’s house away!
We would not stop for doll or top,
for ’tis Thanksgiving Day.
Over the river, and through the wood—
oh, how the wind does blow!
It stings the toes and bites the nose
as over the ground we go.
Over the river, and through the wood—
and straight through the barnyard gate,
We seem to go extremely slow,
it is so hard to wait!
Over the river, and through the wood—
When Grandmother sees us come,
She will say, “O, dear, the children are here,
bring a pie for everyone.”
Over the river, and through the wood—
now Grandmother’s cap I spy!
Hurrah for the fun! Is the pudding done?
Hurrah for the pumpkin pie!

The following verses appear in a “long version”:

Over the river, and through the wood,
with a clear blue winter sky,
The dogs do bark, and children hark,
as we go jingling by.
Over the river, and through the wood,
to have a first-rate play.
Hear the bells ring, “Ting-a-ling-ding!”,
Hurrah for Thanksgiving Day!
Over the river, and through the wood,
no matter for winds that blow;
Or if we get the sleigh upset
into a bank of snow
Over the river, and through the wood,
to see little John and Ann;
We will kiss them all, and play snow-ball
and stay as long as we can.
Over the river, and through the wood,
trot fast, my dapple-gray!
Spring over the ground like a hunting-hound!
For ’tis Thanksgiving Day.
Over the river, and through the wood,
Old Jowler hears our bells.
He shakes his pow, with a loud bow-wow,[1]
and thus the news he tells.

What ever happened to sky blue?

The other day some of the kindergarten students were drawing a hopscotch game on the playground. When you get to the giant circle that was the number 10, somebody said they thought you die and go to heaven. No…I had to correct them even though now there are tons of different rules and regs for hopscotch. When you reach the circle, you yelled sky blue. I don’t know about others but when I am reminded of this game, the only words I can think about is SKY BLUE. But the children of today did not buy it.

Many neighborhood friends when I grew up played hopscotch together. When I was little, like 4 or 5 years old, the older kids would draw the chalk games on the sidewalks in front of our homes. Using a rock to roll to the basic numbers of 1 through 10 and skipping on each number with one foot but picking the rock up with your hand on the block(number) you rolled to. Now, we did not get creative as the game does suggest today. The rules can include   calling out “one foot”, “left foot”, etc. Children also have to hop backward to return, which requires the reversal of numbers. Depending on the rules of play, children may need to call out the numbers as they land on them.

An ancient form of hopscotch was played by Roman children in the 17th century. The original courts were much longer.There are many other forms of hopscotch played across the globe. And in some games, sky blue becomes plum pudding or cat’s cradle according to the English.

Make a cardboard game for indoor fun and by doing so in the example, you actually separate the letters with longer spaces in between to help build coordination and fun. Its a wonderful way to learn how to hop on one foot or two which is exactly what kindergarten students are learning in physical education classes. You can actually purchase indoor hopscotch games.  Learning Carpets 79” by 26” Hopscotch Play Carpet is available on Amazon in different patterns. No chalk required! Toss a stone, coin or bean bag and hop your way through the numerical maze.

The next time I see a hopscotch diagram being draw on the playground, I am just adding sky blue in the top circle whether they like it or not. That is why I am one of the playground supervisors at recess!

The Addams family: Through the decades

Morticia was my favorite Halloween costume and growing up in the 1960’s, the original series was just fun. Watching madly in love, Gomez, speaking in Italian, kissing his wife’s arm, was my first opportunity to watch true love between a wealthy monster couple. Far more realistic than the Munsters. Gomez and Morticia,along with their children, Pugsley and Wednesday, were human with crazy cousins and horrifying looking servants like Lurch. In 1964, a live-action television series, starring John Astin and Carolyn Jones, premiered on ABC , only airing for two seasons.

Subsequently, the series inspired a 1977 television film with the original cast. Another Addams Family movie was created in 1991;  American supernatural black comedy film based on the characters from the cartoon created by cartoonist Charles Addams and the 1964 TV series produced by David Levy. Directed by former cinematographer Barry Sonnenfeld in his screen directing debut, the film stars Angelica Huston, who was nominated for a Golden Globe for her performance as Morticia Addams. In 1993, Adamms Family Values was another sequel film featuring many of the same cast members as in 1991. Both received nominations for Academy Awards, BAFTA Awards, and Hugo Awards. The films inspired a second animated series (1992–1993) set in the same fictional universe but with Astin reprising his role as the voice of Gomez. It was nominated for four Daytime Emmy Awards, including one for Astin.  In 1998, the Adamms Family Reunion was launched. In 2010, The Adamms Family also become a Broadway musical.

Currently, an Adamms family video is creating a stir among millions of little ones. The video is sponsored by Go Noodle, a collection of videos for children recommended by child experts that engages movement and mindfulness; at home or at school. My current kindergarten class absolutely loves the Adamms family video and asks for it constantly; following the dance moves they see. That is where Wednesday and Pugsley dance to the same silly song as I did in front of the television set, snapping their fingers. My group really tries to snap along with them; some choose clapping instead but they do show me when they are successful snappers.

On October 11th, The Addams Family (2019) will be available; an upcoming American 3D computer-animated comedy horror film based on the comics of the same name by Charles Addams. The film is directed by Conrad Vernon and Greg Tiernan, and will star the voices of Oscar Isaac, Charlize Theron, Chloë Grace Moretz, Finn Wolfhard, Nick Kroll, Snoop Dogg, Bette Midler, and Allison Janney. Gomez, Morticia, Wednesday, Pugsley and Uncle Fester square off against a reality television show host.