Snow White Memories
A Swampscott resident recalls her summer of song, technicolor and Snow White.
I read in the paper that the Walt Disney “Snow White” movie is seventy-five years old. That item triggered this happy memory from my childhood.
My parents went from Dennisport, on Cape Cod, to Brooklyn, New York, for the wedding of my Aunt Sunny and Uncle Gil. It was 1939. New York was a very long drive and they’d never before left the four of us kids, who were all under twelve years old, in the care of others, for a whole week. But Aunt Sunny was Mother’s beloved younger sister and this was a very important occasion.
While in New York, our parents went to see the Rockettes perform and they also saw the very first new technicolor full-length cartoon movie “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.” They were enchanted. When they came back home to Cape Cod, they told us about the wedding and that Aunt Sunny made a lovely blonde bride wearing a traditional Norwegian headdress and veil. Then they told us about seeing the movie. They promised us whenever “Snow White” finally got to Cape Cod, they would take us to see it. A very exciting promise, as we four kids did not get to a movie very often.
We eventually did go see the movie “Snow White” on a Sunday afternoon, when it played at the Hyannis theater, nine miles away. We ‘d seen our first technicolor in “Snow White” and next we saw technicolor in the “Wizard of Oz.” Technicolor was invented by Herbert Kalmus. His ex-wife, Natalie Kalmus, controlled the movie color process, and she was a radio customer of my Dad’s. Color at the movies was still a rare treat.
During the summer, a young artist stayed in the barn out behind the house next door. For a quarter, he drew Snow White characters on our ecru canvas “beer jackets.” They were much like today’s denim jackets. Using black India ink, he decorated the pockets and the backs of our jackets. Each one of us chose different characters for him to draw. I wanted “Dopey” on one pocket of my jacket. He was such a lovable dwarf. I had him draw “Grumpy” on the other pocket. I had Snow White on the back. We loved and wore those jackets until we out-grew them.
All that summer we happily sang all the songs from the show in our back yard.
“Some day my Prince will come”, “Heigh-ho, Heigh-ho, It’s off to work we go.” We sang, “With a smile and a song, “ and “I’m wishing,” and our very favorite, “Whistle while you work.” We sang and whistled up a storm, no doubt off -key, but surely we were full of joy.
That fall, at a Halloween party, I won a prize, but though I have forgotten how I won it, I remember well the prize. It was an eight-inch tall ceramic figure of Snow White. Oh, happy day! I was thrilled to have won such a lovely figurine. I put it on the shelf right beside my favorite rocks and shells.