My earliest memory is of a record player. It sat in my mother’s bedroom. Sometimes, she would play records for me.
In one particular memory, she holds me in her arms and we dance to Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass. The tune is “Girl from Ipanema.”
Then, she turns off Herb. She puts on another record. It is a childhood favorite. The album is Walt Disney World’s Country Bear Jamboree. The sound of a fiddle fills the room.
Mother and I have a Disney-style hoedown.
I don’t know how I remember this, but I do. Just like I remember Mary Ann Andrews, who once kidnapped my Teddy bear. The bear she stole was the guitarist for the Country Bears Jamboree band, Big Al.
Mary Ann’s family moved to Texas, and she took Big Al with her. I was heartbroken.
My mother wrote Mary’s family a letter, threatening legal action if Big Al was not returned unharmed. In a few weeks, Big Al arrived in our mailbox and my mother agreed not to press charges.
I still have that stuffed bear today. In fact, he sits above my desk because I was raised on golden-era Disney classics, and I would not want to live in a world without Big Al.
Anyway, my wife and I went to a concert a few nights ago. It was supposed to be fun, but it left me feeling empty. A few guys onstage attempted to see how loud they could crank their amplifiers while having grand mal seizures.
We were with friends who were younger than us. I don’t know how many concerts you’ve seen lately, but young people don’t actually watch live bands anymore. They point cellphone cameras at the stage and look at their phones instead.
Halfway through the concert, I was ready to leave.
I’d rather suffer gout than listen to music that sounds like major road construction.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. I’m only telling you what Big Al would say if he were writing this.
Like I told you, Big Al sits above my desk, and sometimes I can hear him talk. He tells me he doesn’t like what’s happening to today’s music and movies.
The other day, I watched a movie with my cousin’s children. They chose to watch an animated movie about mutant turtles who become mercenary ninjas and have all kinds of adventures with nuclear weapons.
When I told my cousin’s kids about Walt Disney’s Country Bears, they looked at me like I had primordial ooze dripping from my eye sockets.
“Country Bears?” said the oldest. “That sounds dumb.”
Lord give me strength.
Country Bears are not dumb, they are the greatest musical act a kid could ever aspire to see.
As a boy, the only thing I ever wanted was for Mama to buy a first-class bus ticket to Disneyland so we could do two things:
1. ride the teacups
2. see the Country Bears Jamboree
My cousin’s kids laughed when I told them that.
“Are you serious?” said one offender. “That sounds really lame.”
Lame? I dare any crumb-snatching adolescent shoe-licker to show me something more dazzling than a six-hundred-pound animatronic grizzly bear playing a gut-string banjo to “Blood on the Saddle.”
Sometimes I wish I could introduce today’s children to the things we once held dear. Things that are disappearing along with such classic Disney characters.
Things like radios, typewriters, record players, Saturday morning cartoons, rock-skipping, and holding hands at church picnics.
I wish kids could experience summers like we experienced. Like the summer my cousin and I learned to weave pine straw baskets.
Our neighbor, Miss Jean, gave us weaving lessons in exchange for taking care of her peacocks while she left town.
Miss Jean was an eccentric artist who had an obsession with birds. Her peacocks were devilish creatures without souls, known to attack small children who looked at them wrong.
Mutant turtles can’t compete with devil peacocks.
I wish I could show kids that there is more in this world than ear-splitting music and gross movies. There are beautiful things out there.
Music with melody and lyrics. Pine straw baskets. Kitchen phones with long cords. Gilligan’s Island. Handmade biscuits. The sound of baseball cards against bicycle spokes. Eating fried chicken on quilts outside. Boiled peanuts. Ernest T. Bass.
And of course, Big Al, leading a band of animatronic Disney bears.
The world is changing on me, and I suppose I’d better learn to love it or get left behind.
Even so, no matter how bad this place gets, it’s comforting to know that the Country Bears are still playing their show-stopping hillbilly music, and have been since 1972.
Once, I was even fortunate enough to see them. Lame? No sir. The day Mama took me to the Magic Kingdom was the greatest day of my childhood. Speaking of which.
I wouldn’t mind dancing with Mama again.
Lyn Briwn - November 13, 2022 3:31 am
Patricia Gibson - November 13, 2022 3:37 am
It is hard to accept some of the changes. I get it. I think we were lucky 💚
Sandi Krym - November 13, 2022 3:40 am
My husband and I have often talked about the things today’s kids miss. Things that make up our precious childhood memories. I’m sure today’s kids think we missed so much because we didn’t have cordless phones, much less cell phones. Cable TV with a bazillion channels….and still not finding anything interesting to watch. Plus, our first TV was black and white only, always looked like a winter scene with all the snow, and had three channels. The screen was about as big as a 4” X 6” large index card and there was NO remote control! Ah, the good old days!
Patricia - November 13, 2022 3:58 am
Thank you bringing back good memories. I feel so lucky to have grown up in such an amazing country at a time of peace and innocence and grieve that it seems to be circling the drain for no good reason. Play on, musical bears.
Walter Mark Buehler - November 13, 2022 4:11 am
A wonderful elegy on the importance of past treasures.
Diana Kinser - November 13, 2022 4:12 am
Sweet memories! My mama also introduced me to the musical “classics” like those wonderful Disney soundtrack records (my favorite was Mary Poppins!), the Tijuana Brass, the Lawrence Welk Orchestra, and the Ray Conniff Singers. Then there were all the wonderful church hymns that always brought tears to her eyes. Of course, there were also all the Christmas records — Bing Crosby, Mel Torme, Nat King Cole, Ella Fitzgerald, Burl Ives, Johnny Mathis, and, of course, the Ray Conniff Singers. My love for music and that precious time dancing and singing along with my mama are such a big part of who I am. I miss her so!
Sadly, this stuff” today just isn’t the same.
Karen - November 13, 2022 4:17 am
You are so talented. Things have changed for sure. I feel so lucky to have had that kind of childhood. Thank goodness it is stowed away in my heart. 💖
PMc - November 13, 2022 4:31 am
AMEN AMEN AMEN 🙏🥰🤠🐕😻
Peace and Love from Birmingham
Nazem Nassar - November 13, 2022 8:05 am
Awesome Sean, very sad truth. Young kids nowadays live in different world all over the globe! I feel that in my kids and grandkids?
I recon our childhood was healthier and happier!
I like the final words:
I wouldn’t mind dancing with Mama again.
Donna - November 13, 2022 8:09 am
Thank you for your lovely commentaries. I read them before I get out of bed each morning. The world was so much more sane during the 50’s and 60’s, or at least it appeared to be and I enjoy reminiscing about them. You are a breath of clean air in a world that has gone nuts.
Trent - November 13, 2022 10:03 am
Love dem bares! Saw ‘em the 2nd day WDW was open (had to turn car around day 1 as park was full)). I was 9. To your perfect list I submit BB gun wars; homemade bike ramps and knees with gravel; Horse, Pig and Slam; Hot Box; Water hoses; Chase; Kill the Carrier; Shirts & Skins; finding/returning bottles for $; Hee-Haw; Treasure Island LP Book; Tube socks; Snorkeling and nighttime fishing the (old – think guardrail 1 foot, the Semi) Skyway Bridge at night and Barretta. Amen!
Kathryn Painter - November 13, 2022 10:20 am
Oh Sean. You’re an old soul. I’m with you. Back in the day Big Al the teacups and flying Dumbo were every kids fantasy. For Christmas one year “Santa” bought us kids all these Disney albums including a book attached. If I only had them now. Our lives were simple back then with our dreams. Electronics are the Devil’s playground most of the time. Keep your beautiful memories. I so enjoy that you share them. Wish things could go back to simpler times. God bless
Ronald Blankenship - November 13, 2022 10:43 am
Make America Mayberry again.
Nancy - November 13, 2022 2:16 pm
Terry - November 13, 2022 11:27 am
Perfectly stated. I wonder if every generation of people feels this way at some point. Does everything old seem “lame” to a younger generation? I’ve always been somewhat nostalgic and loved older music and TV, even as a child. Playing outside with imagination instead of toys was one of my favorite things to do.
It is comforting to me when I see some of my younger friends loving classic TV, old music, and vinyl records! There just seemed to be more substance to everything, but then again, did my parents think and say the same thing as they recounted their younger days? We can still cherish and hold on to what was most special to us and embrace some of the new as well, but what I wouldn’t give to see the classic Saturday morning cartoon line-up of my childhood! Thanks for the memories, Sean!
Brenda McLaine - November 13, 2022 11:33 am
Fred Klein - November 13, 2022 11:45 am
Disney kid formerly of Biloxi… 78 years old…. Long live Big Al… He made me smile that first November when the park opened. Good to see he is still on the job… Thanks for the memories. Love your daily shares.
Charles Mathers - November 13, 2022 11:53 am
I don’t know what to say, Sean! We are so in touch with each other, it is uncanny!
Susiebelle - November 13, 2022 12:10 pm
Some music has lyrics; all music has melody. Anything else is noise. Take it from a physics instructor.
Mary Spechko - November 13, 2022 12:13 pm
Love this Sean! I too, still have a teddy bear, that I was given when I was 21. It plays Brahms Lullaby. The world has changed so much in my 76 years. It is a lot tougher to be a parent today.
Marcia - November 13, 2022 12:39 pm
Thanks for stirring up my memories this morning. So many the same as yours. But I danced with my Daddy.
Tom - November 13, 2022 12:52 pm
I’m so old, I have been left behind and I like it. And oh what I would give to dance with my mother again!! You made my eyes leak, again.
Priscilla Rodgers - November 13, 2022 1:04 pm
Me too Sean. Half of my grands go to deer camp and are in the woods, building, being dirty until they get home Sunday night. The other half live up north and I would give anything if they could experience a few of those weekends!
Edward Willis - November 13, 2022 1:07 pm
Sean, me too, all of it!
Darin Hollingsworth - November 13, 2022 1:12 pm
Your writing always makes me smile and makes me think. Today, I love the bears. We must be similar in age. And I LOVE boiled peanuts!!! Thanks for sharing!
mccutchen52 - November 13, 2022 1:24 pm
Working in a shipping office on third shift for a warehouse brings different coulters along with different taste in music. From rap to reggae to blues to just about anything. Because of my age I preferred the cultural music of the 60’s and 70’s along with some 80’s splashed in for good measure. One night some of the younger group was listening to music referred to as rap. When they saw me shaking my head that said ” Whatcha got ol man.” I played something I thought they would like ” Thunderstruck” by ACDC but the ladies of the group seem to like “The House of the Rising Sun” from the Animals. I told them being musicians was an art and not just yelling in a mike with someone playing a synthesizer in the background. The only response I heard was “yea but do they drive a Lambo”?
Ann - November 13, 2022 1:25 pm
Beautiful! I wouldn’t mind dancing on my Daddy’s feet again too while listening to the Hillbilly Bears! Love this one….
Chasity Davis Ritter - November 13, 2022 1:28 pm
I was 32 the first time I got to go to Disney. My Dad took me and my daughter (his only grandkid) and the real reason we got to go is he was taking my four year old half sister. Yep you read that right my dad had a midlife family lol. Anyway I was so overwhelmed when I finally saw it that I sat down and cried. I might not have gotten to go as a little kid but I was a little kid again that day and happy to be with my dad and see things through my daughters eyes too. It was a pretty great day. Yep things have definitely changed. I laugh when I go see my own grandkids now and everyone has a phone or electronic device out and barely even look at each other. But they’re still country kids too. The soles of their feet are now sticker resistant and they have bicycles and dirt bikes and four wheelers and power wheels and a combo deer stand tree fort and well they get their outside time too. They fish and they hunt and build snow men when it actually snows here in Oklahoma. There are some things they may never understand but they still see the lightening bugs and appreciate a good dog too so I think they’ll turn out just fine. I can’t imagine what the world is going to be like when they have kiddos and I become a great grandma in the next 10-20 years. But yeah what I wouldn’t give to walk with my daddy or go fishing with him or even sit and watch a western on tv just one more time.
Nancy - November 13, 2022 2:17 pm
Did anybody ever go snipe hunting?
Lisa - November 13, 2022 2:29 pm
Wonderful ❣️. Thanks for taking me back to a childhood that was actually worth being a child
I miss our times and love your reminiscing blog
Jim - November 13, 2022 2:31 pm
Great story of some wonderful things of your youth. I’m a first issue baby boomer and the world has really changed for us. Some bad and some good. One thing I know for sure is once things are lost they are never truly regained. Enjoy them while you can.
Tom Salter - November 13, 2022 3:17 pm
Ann Rutland - November 13, 2022 3:38 pm
H. J. Patterson - November 13, 2022 3:46 pm
A different time for sure Sean but we can’t give up. The parts of our childhood are still out there, we’ve just got to look and find them, then expose the younger generations to what was so pure. And the old standard by Antonio Carlos Jobim, The Boy From Impanema is part of that and here’s the version I’m partial to so play it and give Jamie a spin.
Sybil Blanton - November 13, 2022 5:27 pm
Thank you for another sweet story. Loved the bears as a child, wish our kids could have experienced the world we did. I am 81 so I remember a lot. Thanks again.
thomas penn montgomery - November 13, 2022 5:37 pm
Sean, I am 78 and I think that everyone my age and 30 years younger had teddy bears ! I like you I still have a couple of stuffed animals !
I do not know what the future holds but the way things look it will not be as good as we had it dropping handkerchiefs with rocks tied from each corner like parachutes from the top of a garage that Momma told us not to climb !
GARY - November 13, 2022 6:35 pm
Leigh Amiot - November 13, 2022 7:33 pm
Check out the cartoon movie “Sing”, Sean. I believe you’ll love it.
From imbd: “This movie features over 85 hit songs from the 1940s to 2016.”
A Sing 2 has been made, but I haven’t seen it yet. If it’s as good as the first, it will be phenomenal.
Stacey Wallace - November 13, 2022 8:41 pm
Sean, thank you for writing this column. You are 100 percent correct. I looked up your age. I knew you were a lot younger than I, but I wanted to see your exact age. In December, I will turn 60, and you will be 40, the Good Lord willing. I love that you are an old soul even though you are a young man. As I tell young people, “I have underwear older than you.” Please never stop writing. We need people like you. Could you please tell us your mailing address? I’m a 20th century woman trapped in the 21st, and I still love snail mail, or as I call it, real mail. Thanks! Love to you, Jamie, and Marigold.
Ingrid B Whigham - November 14, 2022 12:15 am
Amen. You’re much younger than I, but you were lucky enough to “get in” on the good stuff.
Carolyn - November 14, 2022 12:43 am
Although I am years ahead of you, I still relish those same sweet memories!
Dennis - November 14, 2022 10:44 am
Wow. After so many home run columns along with triples, doubles, and singles it is a “wow” moment to read today’s column. You struck out on three pitches. Might as well write “Hey, kids! Stay off my lawn!” There is this thing where you can listen to a group’s music. Check it out before you go to any concert. While on this thing look up a guy named Ted Nugent. He said “If it’s too loud, you’re too old”. You write well. Nobody bats a thousand.
Angela - November 14, 2022 2:50 pm
My son was 5 when he first saw the Country Bear Jamboree. Nothing like a 5 year old singing “Blood on the Saddle”! He is now 13 and he still insists that we visit the bears every time we go.
Brant Riley - November 14, 2022 2:53 pm
Sean, I was an adult when I saw Big Al and heard Blood in the Saddle. Loved it! Where has all the music gone?
Dub - November 14, 2022 4:48 pm
I do not know anything about pine straw baskets but I want my music to have melody, lyrics and harmony.
Dale Parsons - November 14, 2022 6:51 pm
“And a big, red, pooool, of blood on the ground.”
LIN ARNOLD - November 14, 2022 7:26 pm
You know you’re getting old when it’s your own kids that tell you that they wish THEIR kids could experience the fun times that they had when they were growing up … like playing in the woods behind the house for hours, riding their bikes down the dirt road to play in the fields and creek with their friend, watching their favorite “shows” on DVR on the TV, loving to go to the children’s and teen’s activities at church, and on and on. I worry that the children growing up now will just miss out on the simple joys of childhood.
bycarey - November 14, 2022 8:11 pm
“You loved the Country Bear Jamboree, you thought they were real’, Mama says. As a child, my paternal grandmother, Mamaw took us to Disney World several times (my brother was 5 yrs older, I reaped the benefits) and many of us from Carrollton, GA. invaded Fort Wilderness every Spring Break until I was about 15 yrs old! That is when Epcot was new! Teacups were a favorite, It’s a Small World, Mr Toads Wild ride scared the bejesus out of me, I thought that train was real too! and the monorail, the electric light show on the water and breakfast with “Goofy” (and friends) at the Contemporary are still fond memories. It was magical!
I have never taken my children, as my husband did not appreciate the consumerism that it promotes, but they know Pippi and her gang, the Castaways from Gillians Island, the magic of a flying car in Chitty, Chittty Bang Bang! I did the best I could while they were young. I guess the trade off is that they have been blessed with Summer Camp, serving on mission trips in the States/Panama and traveling the world. Those are life-changing experiences as well. The world likes to hurry, doesn’t it?
April M - November 14, 2022 8:23 pm
Oh, Sean, you speak to my heart. I have always adored County Bears Jamboree and at 67 years of age that is a long time to adore something. Big Al was always my favorite (probably because my Dad was named Al). Thank you so much for making every morning so special with your blog. It truly makes my morning to read it. Just purchased your most recent book and am looking forward to reading it over Thanksgiving weekend. You truly are a marvelous human being and a really good soul.
Carol - November 16, 2022 9:41 pm
Me, too, Sean, Me, too….
Lisa Loew - November 30, 2022 2:22 pm
Love your columns and Ernest T Bass !