M-I-C-K-E-Y M-O-U-S-E!

Mousketeers with Jimmie Dodd

Mousketeers Around the 1950s

It all started in 1955. Not that it was the first TV show for kids—the Howdy Doodie Show beat it by eight years—but it was the first kids show featuring kids. I am referring, of course, to the Mousketeers of the Mickey Mouse Club.

After a morning doing tax returns at work, I acceded to Martine’s request to drop in at the Paley Center for Media in Beverly Hills. While Martine was watching some of her faves, I decided to see two episodes of the Mickey Mouse Club show, one from 1956 and one from 1957.

I saw at once why the show was a success. Not because I was entertained the way when I was a kid, but because Walt Disney had so much material lying around in film cans that there wasn’t as much of a burden to come up with new material for every show. Every show ended with a quarter hour cartoon segment from the vaults, and there were regularly repeating cartoon intros for the opening and many of the segment categories.

The live portions included the talents of the Mousketeers, including singing and dancing, and visiting a training center for firemen. They also featured local talent such as an archery champion and two yo-yo experts, all of whom were in their teens.

Of course, I watched the show religiously until I deemed myself too old and sophisticated and no longer in love with Annette Funicello with her dark hair and flashing eyes.

A Club for Kids

Every Boy’s Sweetheart:  Annette Funicello

Every Boy’s Sweetheart: Annette Funicello

On October 3, 1955, I walked over a mile to Warrensville at the corner of Northfield Road and Van Aken to see a movie; but I was more interested in what was going to be on T.V. when I got home. Although I ran at what for me at the age of ten was top speed, I only missed a few minutes of “The Mickey Mouse Club.” I did not make that mistake in days to come: there were kids like me, cartoons, special guests, and various other little daily features.

And there was that ultimate sexpot of the 1950s.No, not Marilyn. The shorter one: Annette Funicello. In darkened living rooms all around the country, little boys were sighing as their hearts went pit-a-pat.

Disney really made it happen for me. That same year, he was going to open a theme park in Anaheim called Disneyland. It was to be an unattainable place of dreams.

Unattainable, at least, until the tail end of 1966, when I came out to Southern California to go to graduate school in film at UCLA. Our old neighbors from Cleveland, the Gurals, took me to a ball game in Anaheim to see the Cleveland Indians lose to the (then) California Angels, after which we went to … DISNEYLAND!

I am not one of those people who are too old and too sophisticated for Disneyland. Granted, the greasy kid stuff at Fantasyland is de trop for me, but I still love New Orleans Square and, nowadays, Toontown. I have yet to visit the Calfornia Adventure theme park next door, but I will eventually.