Friday, May 20, 2022

Insight: Fascinated by the magic of storytelling

David Stollery, left, and Tim Considine were the stars
of 'The Adventures of Spin and Marty,' a serial that
aired during the "Mickey Mouse Club" on television
in the late 1950s. COURTESY PHOTO  
By Ed Pierce

Managing Editor

It’s probably not a coincidence that I became a storyteller after many of my formative years were spent with books, movies and watching late 1950s television serials.

I can vividly recall sitting on the floor of my parent’s home watching many black and white TV programs that prompted me to think and imagine and uncover the mystery being told.

One of my favorites was of course, the Mickey Mouse Club, but it wasn’t because of its star, Annette Funicello. Instead, I loved the old-fashioned serials that were shown, including “The Adventures of Spin and Marty” and “The Hardy Boys.”

The first series of “Spin and Marty” consisted of 25 episodes lasting 11 minutes each. The plot was about two boys, Marty, a wealthy orphan played by David Stollery, and his friend Spin, an athletic and popular young man played by Tim Considine.

The boys became friends at a Western ranch called the “Triple R” under the oversight of ranch counselor Bill Burnett, played by Harry Carey, Jr.

Each carefully scripted “Spin and Marty” episode was created by veteran screenwriter Jackson Gillis, the writer behind many of the “Perry Mason” and “Columbo” mysteries of the 1950 and 1960s.     

The serial was such a hit with kids that a second season of 23 episodes called “The New Adventures of Spin and Marty” was made with Funicello and Disney star Kevin Corcoran (Old Yeller) as the mischievous “Moochie.” A third season featured Mouseketeer Darleen Gillespie.

There was plenty of Western music and songs and the writing for “Spin and Marty” held my attention and always prompted me to think about what would happen next or who the bad guy might possible be until the next episode aired.

Another Mickey Mouse Club serial that I followed was “The Hardy Boys” which tied in with the book series I was just starting to read at the time. A neighbor of ours was going to college and gave me all his old Hardy Boys books, and I read each one several times over.

Like “Spin and Marty,” one of the stars of “The Hardy Boys” serial was young actor Tim Considine, who portrayed Frank Hardy. His brother Joe Hardy was played by Disney actor Tommy Kirk.

The first “The Hardy Boys” serial consisted of 19 episodes running 15 minutes each and it was called “The Mystery of the Applegate Treasure” although from having read the book, I knew it was based on the first Hardy Boys novel called “The Tower Treasure.”

A second serial featuring the Hardy Boys was called “The Mystery of Ghost Farm” and it was an original story that kept me on the edge of my seat throughout.

When no further “The Hardy Boys” serials were made I asked my father if I could write a letter to the producers of the Mickey Mouse Club suggesting what book could be turned into a third season. I mailed the letter to Walt Disney Studios in Hollywood but never heard back from them. 

Years later though I did receive an autographed photo of actor Tim Considine in the mail when I sent him a fan letter for his work as the eldest brother Mike on the CBS-TV comedy “My Three Sons.”      

Mickey Mouse Club aired other serials, but none captured my attention as much as “Spin and Marty” and “The Hardy Boys.”

There was another Mickey Mouse Club serial I watched called “Corky and the White Shadow” about a 12-year-old girl named Corky portrayed by Mouseketeer Darlene Gillespie, her father played by Buddy Ebsen, and her dog, White Shadow. Ebsen was a widowed dad and the town sheriff and was filmed on a ranch in the San Bernadino Mountains of California.  

I don’t remember much about watching another late 1950s television show for kids called “Shirley Temple’s Storybook” but I do recall that one particular episode of that series truly frightened me.

It was based upon the Washington Irving tale “Rip Van Winkle.” Not sure if that story is still read by students in school but it was about a villager in upstate New York before the American Revolution who meets some mysterious Dutchmen who are playing nine pins or an early form of bowling, drinks some of their liquor and falls asleep in the Catskill Mountains for 20 years, thereby missing the Revolutionary War and not recognizing the world he has awakened to.

My mother had given me the companion book of stories and fairy tales from the television show for Christmas and I remember how intrigued I was by how the story unfolded. What scared me the most was how at the end of the story Rip Van Winkle tells the village children that the sounds of distant thunder that they are hearing are the Dutchmen he met playing “nine pins” up in the Catskill Mountains.

To this day I can still see the imagery of those Dutchmen bowling when I close my eyes and that’s something that’s stuck with me for more than 60 years just from watching one episode of a long-ago television program.

Very effective storytelling in my opinion and prompted my interest in writing that persists to this very day. <

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