Double Life of a Little Girl.....THE CALLIOPE QUEEN
ON WITH THE SHOW
Because I am writing some of this out of sequence, I’ll “wrap up” the Beatles segment and then jump back a few years to my fond memory of being a "star!" Well, for a little while, anyway!
The Beatles DID see our enormous sign, by the way. We were among those featured in a San Francisco newspaper article which placed the photo on the front page, above the fold and on the right side! It stated that the Fab Four enjoyed seeing all the banners the fans had made. There we were, on either end of our heartfelt message, with beaming smiles amid the other well wishers. It was great!
STEPPING BACK IN TIME
There were moments of family memories which bring a smile to my face, laughter and tears to my eyes. Following is a story of us when we were still all together. I was about 7 or 8 when I was “lucky “enough to be in the limelight for an instant during that tender, young age.
Always wanting to be more than his immigrant parents; have more, do more and be recognized for this; father's every effort was to achieve just that. He was known throughout our county as the ‘go to’ man when it came to arranging events, gathering support for causes, getting volunteers for any number of needs, and, in essence, acting as the official City Greeter to visitors and VIP’s. He flourished in this role; always dead center if not just to the “right” of all the attention focused on an event, a visiting personality, or parade as well as playing a key role in philanthropic efforts for the needy and less well off. He loved to be in the spot light; loved adulation and attention; and he blossomed when in a position of both; being needed as well as garnering adoration.
At this point in time, my parents were on shaky ground but still holding together. We put our best ‘family face’ forward for our small community to see and for ourselves, too. By now, my father’s efforts to be the biggest fish in this small pond had taken hold and this meant he was even more involved in activities and events which further promoted his personal agenda as well as his social climbing.
Because of his activities and the broad spectrum in which he gave of himself, he was asked to be the Grand Marshall for two consecutive years in the annual County Fair parade which took place on the last Sunday of the fair’s running schedule. This parade was the event of the summer! Everyone in town showed up to line the streets as the proud procession proceeded down Main street to First Street as it followed a circuitous route throughout our downtown area. Included in the parade were musicians, high school sports heros, clowns, balloons, baton twirlers, unusual and odd vehicles, lots of floats depicting the fair theme of a particular year, local law enforcement officers with their cruisers, fire fighters in huge, red fire engines and horses, etc. It was a typical small town mobile celebration of itself!
I LOVE A PARADE!
Well, being the Grand Marshall meant that my father was honored with first place in front of all the rest of the participants. Riding in an open vehicle, he waved to the crowd who yelled out his name, called to him with funny remarks amid lots of smiles and laughter. My mother sat dutifully beside him looking beautiful and demure. She wore a slight smile on her face as she endured yet another of the many public appearances sought by and required of my father.
There was another perk for being in this revered and respected role! And this benefit was bestowed on my brother and me; his children.
Big Brother played piano wonderfully well! He was a natural! Still is! And he was able to use his God given talent to show off and perform ! Following the shiny convertible car in which my parents rode, was a huge wagon, drawn by horses, in which was elevated, high above the crowd, a calliope! A Steam Organ! This instrument is designed somewhere between a piano and an organ. It has pipes similar to those of an organ but sounds rather clinky-clangy; much as you would expect in a parade of this sort, in a town like ours was, during a time some 50 years ago!
Brother proudly sat on the stool facing the calliope, clanking away as we moved slowly down the streets of our small town. And this is where I come in.
ALL IS NOT AS IT SEEMS
Being one of Mr. Personalities’ kids, I got to sit in front of the wagon, high, high up, looking pretty in my very itchy, very hot and very uncomfortable lacey, tight, frilly dress! Because the fair took place in August; the hottest month of the year, and because we were out in the sun during the entire thing, I found myself completely physically irritated as I tried to keep a smile on my face while waving to the onlookers as if I were Queen Elizabeth!
OUCH! It was excruciating! Made of “starchy, stiff” material like Polyester and taffeta, the frock was a nightmare right in the middle of the day! But, the show must go on and I knew, if I appeared or acted the way I was actually feeling, I would disappoint both my brother; who was pounding away at the keys which sent shock waves of resounding reverberations through my ears and into my brain! - and my father who always put appearance above everything else.
So, like a good little sister and a dutiful daughter, I sat in the high seat, sweating, itching, squirming, and finding it hard to breath as the already snug, frilly, lacy scratchy dress was growing even more so!
This wasn’t even the worst of it, either. Did I mention that by this time, I was shy to the point of being debilitated? Having always been a ‘bookworm’ who preferred spending most of the time alone with my reading fantasies, my favorite and only companion, Snikelfritz the cat, by my side; playing the part of the Calliope Queen was just a little more than challenging!
It was getting hard to breathe for several reasons! The heat was playing with my perceptions which were already skewed due to my being an introverted child and this wasn’t being at all helped by my brother's efforts which created a wave of heavy jackhammer like vibrations which were penetrating my skull to the point of nausea! Oh.. but this show Must go on.. I Had to be a happy camper, Should be a good sport.. all wrapped up in one very heated, anguished and ill at ease little girl!
So, keeping that in my child’s mind, I tried my best to hide my discomfort as our little parade wound its way towards the final destination.
THE BEST WAS YET TO COME!
Once we survived trial by fire and burning sun, our little small town celebration ended up at the local fairgrounds in the rodeo arena. Once again, before the scheduled events were to begin, we were placed front and center; corralled in the middle of the dusty, wind blown hastily built wood stage so that everyone could stare at us as we stood there in all our glory! I couldn’t stand it! This was too much! And, for a little girl who hadn’t yet developed a sense of modesty, I proceeded to try to disrobe, right there in the arena, before all the people crowded in the stands! My father and mother kept nudging me as they attempted to control my increasingly agitated state. Try as they might, I just couldn’t stand it any longer…I had to get that darn dress Off!!! The more they tried to curb my efforts, the harder I resisted.
So, right there for all to see, I “danced” around that hot, dusty, windy sun soaked platform, animated to the point of almost hysteria. Desparately trying to tug and pull at the unyielding fabric, my failure to get that annoying thing off me only served to increase my frustration level 100 fold.
We were supposed to act dignified! We were supposed to be quiet as my father received his accolades for all the fabulous things he’d done throughout the year for his home town. We were supposed to be the perfect children of the perfect father in our perfect little town.
Not if I had anything to do with it! At this point, my brother was beginning to get mad at me, too. I was blowing his 15 minutes of fame. How could he garner any of the compliments and recognition due him if his little sister was stealing the scene? And stealing it, I was!
BANNED FROM THE STAGE
I began to cry as my gyrations escalated. People were starting to notice the commotion on stage. Laughter rose from the crowd as the unexpected entertainment commenced. Humility and embarrassment flew out the window as necessity became first and foremost in my young mind. I wasn’t at all aware of anything except getting that horrible garment off my body! Now! By this time, father, mother, brother and a few other adults were involved ! As waves of laughter filled the air, my family led me from the stage, out of the rodeo arena and into the car…where I had to sit and wait..for what seemed like HOURS while sanity was restored, important players took their rightful places and the scheduled expressions (exultations) of praise and admiration carried on…..
And I still had that cursed rag on!
Stay tuned for more of the escapades, foibles and experiences of the double life of a young girl.