Art Linkletter, Thanksgiving and Me!

Thanksgiving party, antiqueOh so many years ago I was on “Kids Say the Darndest Thing” with Art Linkletter. I was a student at Franklin Avenue Elementary School in the Los Feliz area of Los Angeles and one day my principal called me into her office. Being a young child who was so good all the time I was slightly terrified that I had done something REALLY wrong. I was terribly relieved that Miss Hunt told me that I had been selected, along with another boy, to be on Art Linkletter’s “House Party” to take part in the “Kids Say the Darndest Things” segment.

All the children that were on this longtime program in the 1950s had to be recommended to the production staff by their principal. I’m not sure what the qualifications were but I guess I qualified as I was on it……………….twice!

I still remember, all these decades later, standing on the long walkway that led to the curb waiting for the car to pick me up. Around the corner came this long black stretch limousine. Surely that wasn’t for me and the other student but, of course, it was. It was so exciting and so off we went. The staff members took us to the famous Brown Derby restaurant where we joined two other kids who would also be on the show. We ate lunch at this famous Hollywood restaurant and the staff explained a little bit about what would happen during the show and a little bit about Art Linkletter himself.

As our segment of the show was set to start the three of us children took our seats on the riser that was set on the stage. It was terribly exciting but of course we were all a bit apprehensive. The studio seemed huge. The big black curtain that went from the stage to the rafters above us was huge. Everything was huge….we were, after all, so little. The fact that our parents were sitting in the audience made the experience a little less “scary”…..that is until our portion of the show began. Art Linkletter was so charming and as he moved from child to child I began to get really nervous. I was only in the third or fourth grade, I think, and I am sure the other kids were scared too. Since it was the Thanksgiving show he asked each of us whether we would like to live today or in the days of the pilgrims. Each of the other children responded but I have absolutely no memory of what they said. As he came to me, with his wonderful broad smile, he asked me whether I would rather have lived in the days of the pilgrims or today. Thinking quickly I loudly said, “Today!” He asked me why and that’s when I said, “They didn’t have Pillsbury Cake Mixes in those days!” I thought he was going to fall on the floor laughing along with the audience. Once he could stop laughing he asked me, “Did anyone tell you to say that?” I responded and told the absolute truth. “No,” and they hadn’t. I will always remember, until the day I die, the audience laughing. At the time Pillsbury was their only sponsor.

After my “initial success” on the show they asked me right back again. Eisenhower was president at the time all this happened and when he came around he asked a question about the president but I can’t remember what I said. I do know it was something funny and it involved something my parents had said that I heard at home. If you said something really funny that would embarrass your parent he would go out into the audience and find them which is what he did with me. Until the day I die I will always remember him standing next to my parents who were seated in the audience and asking me, “Are these your parents?” I remember answering in a rather meek voice, “Yes.” The audience was laughing so much so whatever I said was really funny and embarrassing to them.

For my being on the show our school got a set of encyclopedia’s and I got Ship and Shore blouses. Because I was on twice my family got a case of Hires Root Beer and Vanilla Ice Cream so we could make root beer floats.

It’s always so much fun for me to remember back, so many, many years ago to that wonderful experience I had with Art Linkletter. Wasn’t I lucky! When this time of year rolls around I look so fondly on those great memories.

Take a little time this holiday season to look back on great events in your life. We all have them and sometimes we have to “look” for good times but they’re there…back in your memory. Do yourself a favor and look for them…..and celebrate. After all that’s what Thanksgiving is all about…being grateful for life’s lessons and experiences.

Have a great holiday everyone and take a bit of time to look back on cherished Thanksgiving memories and give thanks to those who made them possible!




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