WOSTER: When it comes to moms, life can be better than artMargaret Anderson played a mean mom (and I mean that in a good way here), for sure. But so did Donna Stone. That was the name of the character played by Donna Reed, the mother on “The Donna Reed Show,” also a popular offering when I was young. Mother Stone wore what seemed to be a string of pearls everywhere, and her aprons set off the gleaming pearls nicely. For my money, Harriet Nelson was the all-time greatest television mom.
When I was a kid, a popular pastime on Saturday afternoons as we walked home from the movie matinee was “Who is the King of the Cowboys?”
In those days, of course Roy Rogers and Gene Autry were the cowboys we saw often on the screen and heard on radio. My dad used to make up long, sometimes complex bedtime stories about Roy and Dale — not so much about Gene Autry for some reason — so I guess I leaned toward Roy Rogers in the argument. A better argument for us youngsters almost six decades ago — and an argument appropriate to Mother’s Day tomorrow — might have been “Who was the Best Television Mom.”
Those were the days when Jim and Margaret Anderson and their three kids were a big hit on “Father Knows Best.” Jim was a pretty sharp old dad, all right, and most of the time he had a pretty good handle on what was going on with the family. Margaret, though, played by Jane Wyatt, was awfully sensible about life, and like as not before the final curtain fell on any episode, she displayed that common sense in a quiet way that made the best-knowing father raise his eyebrows.
Margaret Anderson played a mean mom (and I mean that in a good way here), for sure. But so did Donna Stone. That was the name of the character played by Donna Reed, the mother on “The Donna Reed Show,” also a popular offering when I was young. Mother Stone wore what seemed to be a string of pearls everywhere, and her aprons set off the gleaming pearls nicely.
For my money, Harriet Nelson was the all-time greatest television mom. She played herself, opposite her real-life husband, Ozzie, in the long-running series “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet.” I was checking some stuff on the Internet and found a site that claims “Ozzie and Harriet” remains the longest-running, live-action sitcom in U.S. television history. Wikipedia claims the program aired in 1952 and lasted into 1966.
Some of the program’s staying power had to be the star power of Rick Nelson, the younger of the two Nelson sons. Rick was one of my early guitar heroes, probably because 1) I saw him play guitar on the television show, and he made both the strumming and the singing look easy, and 2) I bought my first mail-order guitar shortly after I saw Rick Nelson sing and immediately after I read in one of my big sister’s fan magazines that the young star practiced chords until his fingers bled.
That sounded pretty heroic when I read about it in the magazine. I was almost 14. After I’d had my first guitar a while and practiced the first couple of impossibly tricky chords for a few days, I showed my mom the deep grooves the strings were forming in my left-hand fingertips.
“What fool thing are you into now?” my real-life mom asked me. There was a hint of exasperation in her voice, I noticed. She scurried to the pantry and produced some sort of skin cream. I had to dip my fingertips in the cream and keep them there for 10 or 15 minutes while the grooves from the strings gradually softened.
As I did that, I explained how I got the fool idea. Well, surprisingly enough, my mom was a big rock ’n’ roll fan. She loved Elvis, liked the way Jerry Lee pounded the piano and could sing along to a lot of Pat Boone’s ballads. She thought Rick Nelson belonged on a family television sitcom, not a rock ’n’ roll stage.
I dried my hand and went off to practice my two chords. My mom put the cream away and told me I should use some common sense with “that guitar of yours.”
It would have made a great sitcom episode. I can see Harriet Nelson playing Marie Woster.