The scene opens with chic Aunt Louise greeting Paula and Jane who are disembarking from a vintage TWA flight, probably Amarillo, 1951. Home in Higgins, Cousin Michael chases mud-mouth Baby Marilyn. Dapper Daddy drives up in his Ford woody. Jane, Susan and Paula spill out of the back seat. Daddy, flashing his gold front tooth, scoops up diapered Boo for a twirl. Mamma walks the big girls, Paula and Susan to school. At an outdoor festivity in the neighborhood, we see Grandma Hurn, baking queen, and Shugg, her dog. An unknown man sets up a bow and arrow for an unknown boy. Jane tries to get the cat to sit in the doll’s high chair. It seems to be Marilyn’s first birthday party, with a cake and games, and much more of adorable toddler Marilyn rolling around and playing on the sidewalk. Next we got your three sisters in matching dresses, fashion by Clara.
Fashionable Aunt Martha appears with chubby baby Richard in matching tennis whites with navy piping, and Uncle Dick. This must be Sinclair Reunion with Uncle John and Aunt Maxine with Cousin “Davis,” Donna and the Knapp brothers, the Downing “twins” with Aunt Edith and Uncle Tom, and Grandpa Sinclair. You might recognize others in the flurry of camera pans of camera-shy persons.
The next scene jumps forward about 3 years, Grandma Hurn proudly gathers the three sisters in another set of matching dresses. Martha, Dick and Richard are back, Richard now a toddler. Daredevil bike riding is performed by Paula, Marilyn and Jane. No stunt doubles for these talented, hard-working stars. Aunt Louise appears with Polly Goetche, and some other neighbor ladies, all of them unusually rakish for small town America on a Tuesday. Diane Goetche joins the sisters (and most of the neighborhood, it seems) on the playground that Clara built in our back yard. Grandma Hurn holds Baby Joann, and the big sisters are dressed for school, circa fall, 1954.
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Baby Joann and Mamma are going to the circus! Ringling Cousins Hurn and Jenkins bring you the Show of the Century! The show opens with the whimsical antics of Marilyn the Clown under the careful choreography of the mustached Ringmaster, Paula. Jane and Susan dazzle the audience their daring high trapeze act. Pan to rapt audience of six, their heart obviously in their mouths, except for the little girl in the front row whose mouth seems to be filled with popcorn. Onward to the zoological portion of the circus experience: dangerous exotic animal that are, thankfully, caged. A quick pan of the neighborhood shows the Goetche’s new house.
The film proceeds with vignettes of newly bipedal Joann, Higgins, circa 1955. Toddler Joann shows off the highest fashion of the times: First, a delicate puffed sleeved frock with lace trimmed diaper cover; Second, anachronistic MC Hammer pants (always ahead of her time in fashion, thanks to her seamstress, Clara); Third, minimalist mode in diaper with hiking boots; and, finally, a navy corduroy jump suit. Woven into the background of this Fashion Show on Hind Legs, is the touching drama of newly dethroned Marilyn coming to grips with her new station in life. Vacillating between shedding tears in Mamma’s skirt and auditioning to be a co-star in Joann’s movie by offering her a pull-toy, Marilyn poignantly portrays the dilemma of every older sibling’s struggle. Don’t despair, in sixty short years after this film was made, Marilyn forgave Joann for being born and they lived happily ever after. Aside: sporting the MC Hammer pants, Joann shows her self-invented technique of hiking downhill to prevent a fractured hip in case of future osteoporosis.
Arts and crafts in the front yard with the neighbor kids, Higgins, circa 1955. Paula has a cast on her arm. Flashback to pans of the neighborhood and circus follow. Jump to an igloo made of snow that fit all four sisters, who dramatically emerge one by one.
The next section frustratingly shows The Hurns in Sunday bests, Joann with Franz Broz and the Rodeo Parade (Scottsdale circa 1957) in op art split screen format.
Back to traditional filming, we see 2211, newly built and occupied in 1957 or 1958. Camera man Daddy surprises glamorous Paula sunbathing in back yard on camping cot, with Cookie in her shade. (You can lip read her admonition!) We see all the Hurn girls in the back yard on a summer’s day at 2211 with Cookie.
Jump back in time to a birthday cake carried by Michael. It seems to be Jane’s 5th or 6th birthday, with guests Linda (?girl with curly dark hair), Paula, Susan, Michael, Cousin David, girl with braids and Marilyn missing front tooth.
Next we have another family gathering in Higgins (possibly same as “an outdoor festivity on the neighborhood” from Film #1) with the Hurn family including Grandma, Aunt Louse, Uncle Warren, (a shot for posterity!) Michael and Susan.
Where is this social gathering and who are these people? I recognize Marilyn and Cousin “Davis,” from the same era as Jane’s birthday party. But I have no idea who these other people are, or why they are gathered. Church or school picnic?
Next, in a swimming pool we find Paula toting Joann in an inflatable ring, and Jane in red polka dot bathing suit, showing off her strokes. (I remember growing into both the red suit and the blue one Paula is wearing!) We are all sporting trendy bathing caps, and Paula has the essential swimming accessory around her neck: nose plugs.
Next we are transported to a large lake surrounded by mountains. The Hurn sisters emerge from a hike, Joann, age about 4, in the lead, adorably dressed in summer vacation attire. But her haircut is the obvious source of a lifetime of short bangs trauma. Mamma, what were you thinking?! Speaking of lifelong fears, we next find Paula left alone at the bottom of a fire tower in unnamed National Park. Scenes of resting deer and the Grand Tetons precede Baxter’s apparent attempt to reinforce river crossing skills in four his young campers, despite there being a perfectly good bridge just behind them. We end with a boat ride and the time trusted eruption of Old Faithful.
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