The Mouse and Me by
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Watching with my sister Marcy, 1956.

The Mickey Mouse Club featured cartoons—with Mickey and Minnie, Donald, Goofy, Pluto, and the gang—but that’s not why I watched it. Nor did I have a crush on Annette, since I was only five when the show premiered, years away from any interest in girls. The Mouseketeers I identified with were Karen and Cubby, whom I eagerly awaited in the “Mouseketeers’ Roll Call—count off now!” They were closest to my age, although even they were four years older.

As an added bonus, Jiminy Cricket taught me how to spell "encyclopedia."

In addition to the cartoons, they ran serialized dramas. My favorite was “The Hardy Boys.” It surprises me now to learn from Wikipedia that there were only two of these, “The Mystery of the Applegate Treasure” and “The Mystery of Ghost Farm.” I thought I remembered more. But they got me hooked on Hardy Boys mysteries, and I read a host of the books.

“Spin and Marty” I could take or leave.

The Mouseketeers, 1956. Public domain.

Every day was a different theme. My favorite was the “Talent Roundup” on Friday, where one of the Mouseketeers would perform—they could all sing and dance—or they’d bring in an invited guest. When I started taking piano lessons, I fantasized about appearing on the Talent Roundup. I’d play a sonata or something, and then they’d serenade me. “Step right up!” Jimmy, the host, would intone. “Here’s your ears!” He’d present me with my own pair of official Mouseketeer ears. And then they would all sing, “You’re an honorary … Mouseketeer!”

What I would have given for that.

Of course, I had my own ears, bought at Kresge’s or wherever my mom found them. Because The Mickey Mouse Club was more than a TV show. It was a club. And by watching—wearing my ears—I could feel like a member of that talented, lucky group. I was “as welcome as can be.” I could belong.

“M–I–C,” the Mouseketeers sang at the end, and Jimmy said, “See you real soon.” “K–E–Y,” they continued, and Jimmy said, amping up the sincerity, “Why? Because we like you!” I knew there were millions of kids out there, and they weren’t actually talking to me. But it didn’t matter.

Looking back, the show was firmly anchored in the values and mores of the 1950s. All the kids appeared white and clean-cut—although I am now surprised to learn than two were Hispanic, three Jewish, and several more (like Annette) Italian-American. It existed to sell toys and sugar-laden food and vacations to Disneyland. And Roy, the co-host and “Big Mouseketeer,” was pretty creepy.

But I watched it because it was my club. Forever let us raise our banners high!

Profile photo of John Zussman John Zussman
John Unger Zussman is a creative and corporate storyteller and a co-founder of Retrospect.


Tags: Mickey Mouse Club, Mouseketeers
Characterizations: right on!, well written

Comments

  1. rosie says:

    John
    I never even thought about that show when cartoons came up as a prompt. I used to sit with my best friend and we often watched it. I liked the stories the kids acted out and the cartoons as well. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us.

  2. Betsy Pfau says:

    Yes, watched and loved it. Can sing the theme song right along with you and Jimmy right now. I’m sure my brother and I had our ears too. I had a crush on Bobby and loved Zorro (was that on the day-time show, or the evening show, or its own show?) I agree, Disney really had us all hooked with this one.

  3. Marian says:

    Your story is just how I remembered the Mouseketeers. I, too, could take or leave Spin and Marty. My family has a terrific photo of my younger brother at about 18 months, sitting in his high chair wearing the mouse ears. Interesting that the kids were more diverse than you would have thought, thanks for doing the research.

    • John Zussman says:

      Thanks, Marian. I recently received—and just edited my story to feature—a photo from 1956 of my sister and me wearing our mouse ears. I’ll bet almost all of us has (or had) one like it! I’d love to see yours as well.

  4. Marian says:

    Love the photo, that is so sweet! I wish I knew where my photo was, but I’ll look in some obvious places. It’s possible that it resides in my brother’s garage, but I’ll add it should it show up.

  5. Love the photo of you and your sister wearing your Mickey ears!

    There is something to be said for growing up, as we Boomers did, in those innocent years!

  6. Laurie Levy says:

    What a great picture, John. You guys were so cute! Like you, I was a Cubby and Karen fan. Too bad you never earned your ears on Talent Roundup. And yes, Roy was creepy. Great trip down memory lane.

  7. Suzy says:

    I somehow missed this story even though it has apparently been up twice before, judging by the dates on the comments. It’s very sweet, and I love the picture of you and Marcy! Wish I could remember more of the show than the song and the roll call, but I don’t, as you will see if you read my story.

  8. Oh, cutest picture, just priceless, John! Count me as a Karen and Cubby fan as well, and yes, “Forever let us raise our banners high,” and then we’d shout “high, high, high!”

  9. Wow, does your story bring back memories! And what a great photo. It’s touching to think that you fantasized about being on the Talent Round-up. As I recall, you certainly were talented enough.
    Many episodes, or portions of them, are now available on YouTube, and several times, I dragged my kids over to the computer to see what had captivated my generation. It’s hard for them to imagine a time in which virtually every child was watching the same show, because there were only three major stations.
    Annette was my favorite, because she had dark curly hair, like mine. I see that your sister and I had that on common. And I love the fact that her ears had a bow on them—probably pink.

  10. Risa Nye says:

    Looks like we could form our own Karen and Cubby Club! Am I alone in liking “Spin and Marty”? Anyway, I enjoyed reading your memories about this beloved show from a much more innocent time. I just wrote about it too and included a link to an article about a few of the Mousketeers. I also ran across an article from last October with sad news about Karen. Great photo!

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