Our Gang Was Her Gang, But That’s All I Know.

Shirley Temple died a couple of days ago at the age of 85. The news of her passing (from “natural causes”) was sad, naturally, and I spent some time that morning contemplating what I know about her life. First of all, she was one of the most famous child stars of all time, making more than sixty films (features and shorts) over a seventeen-year period. Her most famous song? This one.

After working in television during the 1950’s and 1960’s, she left show business and became politically active, eventually becoming a U.S. Ambassador.

She was a breast cancer survivor.

I posted this on Facebook, after reading about her death:

Shirley Temple

A friend asked me to elaborate on that, and I called my mom to get a refresher on the story because I didn’t recall much about it.

As it turns out, my mom doesn’t recall much about it, either. She told me that she didn’t know if my grandma knew Shirley Temple either, but that she definitely hung out with the Little Rascals (called “Our Gang” back then). The reason for that? Apparently my great-grandfather was an actor and so my grandma and her sister (my great-aunt) spent lots of time on the studio lots. They were extras in some of the “Our Gang” films. My mom said that her mom never really talked about it much, and that’s all she knows.

The thought of my grandma and great-aunt spending time on a movie set is fascinating to me, and because I have seen plenty of pictures of them as little girls I can actually visualize it pretty well. I want to know more, though. I have so many questions about this part of my family history that will probably never, ever be answered.

Back in the late 1970’s, my mom’s cousin spent lots of time interviewing family members (including my grandfather) about their lives, getting memories on tape (yes, tape) for posterity. My cousin was working on some genealogy years ago, too. I need to get my hands on that.

When my boys were little, I spent lots of time making scrapbooks so we’d be able to look back and remember our family stories. (Okay, so I was terrible at doing the journaling…but a picture is worth a thousand words, right?)

Six and a half years ago I started blogging. In that time I have written more than 1,700 posts, many of them being family stories. I even let my Dad guest post a few times so my favorite stories about his childhood—like the time he stuck a fork into his sister’s butt cheek and the one about the best tuna fish sandwich ever—would be on the record. Because I blog, I am able to remember (or at least access) lots of little things about my family life that would have disappeared through the cracks of my brain ages ago.

I’m piggybacking on Liz’s post (thanks for writing that, Liz!) which was inspired by Momo’s post (thanks for writing that, Momo!) and adding to Liz’s message that blogging is alive and well in spite of social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter that encourage brevity. Blogging’s not in any danger of dying: there are still lots of us out here who feel the need to do it. We feel the need to type out our stories, think about the details of our past, reflect on those who came before us, and document what’s going on right now. Also, we need to read the stories of others. In an age when technology makes it unnecessary to truly connect with people unless you really want to put out the effort, we need…more.

Will there be another method of recording family stories at some point? Of course. After all, word of mouth used to be the only way. Hieroglyphics came in at some point, and so on and so on with storytelling methods through history. Right now, blogging is one of the best ways to tell stories. Right now. Even with as little as I know about my grandma and the Little Rascals, I could never fit it into 140 characters or less. Blogging allows me—and you—the luxury of no restrictions as we write.

So, get to it: start writing. I want to read your stories.

Grandma and me


  • alexandra

    Thank you, Melisa. I was just thinking this yesterday. When I’m gone, my children, and their children, will always have my blog. At the end of each year, and I’ve been blogging since January, 2010, I make a Blog2Book hardcover of all that year’s posts. They’re always there, for anyone to look at. Because time marches on, and stories are forgotten. And now we have it all. Silly, beautiful, the days of life. My children love the 4 books we have so far, of my last 4 years blogging. The books sit on the coffee table, and anyone who sits on the sofa, always picks them up, looks at them and says “I didn’t know that.” or “Auggie was so little!” Blogging will never be dead, because we keep the words, alive. (I really enjoyed this)

  • Shannon

    Oh how I loved watching The Little Rascals. Isn’t crazy to think that I sat in my living room watching old episodes and maybe your grandma was in one of them as an extra?
    This is why I love the blogging world. It enhances the connections we make with each other, as humans and storytellers.

  • Samantha

    I read this the other day and love your reflection. It’s interesting how fascinated we can be with things of our past – I wish the same for my family – that we can preserve memories now so my kids and their kids will know more about us than I know about my grandparents.


  • Sylvia Joy

    Love the picture that was taken down stairs in the old village street they had. I don’t know if they still have that exhibit or not.

    It is always great to write down family stories and recipes so they will live on forever.
    Grandma W