Walt Disney Kid

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 months ago—seems like years ago now. 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.

Not long ago, 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.


  1. Kathy Jackson - April 16, 2020 7:21 am


  2. Cathi Russell - April 16, 2020 10:04 am

    “…Souless creatures known to attack small children who looked at them wrong.” My grandmother had a cat like that once! I’d forgotten all about that cat until I read that line & I’m now gonna be thinking & laughing about it all day. Thanks Sean for the memory!

  3. CK Deitch - April 16, 2020 11:44 am

    Your comment about Saturday morning cartoons brought back a memory from a couple of years ago. I was subbing in a class of 2nd graders on a Friday. Towards the end of the school day, I mentioned that tomorrow was cartoon day. They looked at me like I had two heads. So, I said, ok, tomorrow is Saturday. That they understood!

  4. Tim Peace - April 16, 2020 11:48 am

    Concerts: I don’t understand why you pay good money to go to a concert, and then sing at the top of your longs along with whomever – and you can’t hear who you paid to see. Same thing when listening at home. My wife likes to sing along – and I can’t hear what I wanted to hear to begin with…the instruments, the background vocals, the harmonies, the little nuances that make it music…the things I relish in listening to, the things that sometimes makes goosebumps on my arms and the hair on the back of my neck stand up. I realize I’m a minority. But like you, I’m also a fan of little things…country smells, memories of simpler times…and besides being a Christ follower, I’m also an Andy Griffith Show disciple. Preach!

  5. ere - April 16, 2020 12:01 pm

    long summer days and not coming home till dark
    Sunday church pot-lucks
    playing in the creek
    chasing fire flies and putting them in a jar
    canning season and all the fresh produce
    pimento cheese sandwich with a fresh garden tomato
    Bugs Bunny and Road Runner, Fog-horn Leg-horn on Saturday morning
    Hee Haw on Saturday night
    Church Sunday morning
    Then Sunday lunch at Grandmother’s house

    Thanks Sean!

  6. Curtis Lee Zeitelhack - April 16, 2020 12:39 pm

    If you are lame, sir, a passel of us are lame with you.

  7. Dianne - April 16, 2020 12:43 pm

    Loved today’s message! Kids of today are missing out on so many things and on so many levels, too. As Bob Hope always said “Thanks for the memories”!

  8. Peggy Savage - April 16, 2020 12:45 pm

    I love your ability to spark long ago memories in your readers. Cartoons on Saturday morning, long summer days playing at the nearby park, and catching fire flies are just some of those treasures stored in my memory bank. I especially love the memory of catching fire flies with my cousins at my Grandmother’s house in the early evenings on a hot summer night. We’d catch them in a jar…run inside and turn out the lights and watch them light up the room. Then we’d run back outside….let them out, and start catching new ones. We had so much fun. Thank you Sean for the nemories…..

  9. Sandra - April 16, 2020 12:50 pm

    My favorite cartoon on Saturday morning was Mighty Mouse. 🐭 Those were the good old days!!!! 💕

  10. Teresa Tindle - April 16, 2020 1:17 pm

    I love you Sean! I wish my grandchildren and all children could live one year as i did or as my children lived. They will never know the joy of just being children. Catching lightning bugs, playing basketball, eating ice cream, your mama just made. And you got to sit on that old hand cranked freezer. There are so many things they will never have the pleasure of experiencing. I guess I got lost in the good ole days. How I wish they were still here.

  11. Jane - April 16, 2020 1:25 pm

    Does anyone remember Saturday morning TV’s Winkie Dink……drawing (as directed by the show) with special crayons on a sheet of plastic put on the TV screen? You cleaned off the drawing to do it again the next week. My husband doesn’t either!

  12. Judy Tayloe - April 16, 2020 1:36 pm

    June, I remember Winnie Dink! You are not alone!

  13. Melissa Williams - April 16, 2020 2:02 pm

    It might warm your heart to know that (thanks to my husband’s love of Mayberry passed on to my son) my grandsons, ages 9 & 7, can quote Earnest T Bass chapter and verse. There is hope for the world! Thanks be to God!!

  14. BeBlue - April 16, 2020 2:17 pm

    “There are beautiful things out there.” Question for the TMNT era kids – “what do you find beautiful?”. I’d love to hear the answers.

  15. Phil S. - April 16, 2020 2:21 pm

    My only visit to Disney World was when our kids were 6 and 4, respectively. They are now 47 and 45, so do the math. My wife has been several times since, chaperoning youth groups. The Country Bear Jamboree was one of my favorite things. Tex Ritter lives on every time they sing “Blood on the Saddle.” I find myself trying to imitate Big Al once in a while. My wife just rolls her eyes and groans. Anyway, keep jammin’, Big Al, and keep writin’, Sure-shot Sean.

  16. Mary Irwin - April 16, 2020 2:25 pm

    Well, at least record players are back; there is that. Nice column- enjoyed it with my coffee this am, as always- 😊

  17. studiosound3 - April 16, 2020 2:30 pm

    Pink Panther, Road Runner, Mr Magoo, Go Go Gophers, & the mighty fearless Underdog!

  18. Ala Red Clay Girl - April 16, 2020 2:51 pm

    How about Deputy Dawg and Wally Gator cartoons, The Three Stooges and using a phone booth to make a call?

  19. Clara Martin - April 16, 2020 2:51 pm

    “There was blood on the saddle, blood on the ground, blood on the saddle, blood all around”. I liked Bi Al, too, with his deep baritone voice! I miss Bugs Bunny and Tweety and Sylvester cartoons, too. Kids today miss out on a lot of things that we enjoyed and don’t get it when we try to tell them what it was like.

  20. Tammy S. - April 16, 2020 3:02 pm

    Loved every word in this piece. As always you make us laugh “Her peacocks were devilish creatures without souls, known to attack small children who looked at them wrong.” Lol And as always you saved the best line for last!!

    And you’re right about kids and their need for a more innocent childhood. We have our grandson every other weekend and we tell him all the time, “when you come here, you’re just a 7yo kid and we are gonna treat you that way. Now go pick out a board game for us to play then we are going to the creek to look for turtles and snakes!!” I love when he grumbles through a round of “Guess Who?” and begs to play “just one more time Mima!”

  21. Sheila - April 16, 2020 3:07 pm

    Do it Sean. Dance with your mom. A radio on the porch, doesn’t matter. Do it while you still can

  22. Angela Lane - April 16, 2020 3:14 pm

    We love the Country Bear Jamboree! My son is 11 and he still thinks they are a hoot! (Especially Blood on the Saddle!)

  23. Helen Taylor Andrews - April 16, 2020 4:06 pm

    This is one of my favorites, Sean! Where did the world go wrong? One day everyone was childlike, innocent, The next thing we know 4 year olds know more about having a baby than me. No joke. I have 3 grandkids and they TELL everything. I yearn for those simpler days myself and your story is such a good reminder. How do we get back there? Perhaps the virus ‘ordeal’ will enlighten some to the simpler days before cell phones sucked everyone’s brains out. Love you & miss you and Jamie! Hugs!

  24. Tom - April 16, 2020 4:26 pm

    I’m a tad older than you but you pretty much nailed it. You mentioned getting left behind, at this point, I enjoy being left behind with this music and movies they are putting out today.

  25. Patricia Gibson - April 16, 2020 4:26 pm

    I am a Disney lover and love Big Al! Kids today miss a lot of the fun things of a lazier time. Take care Sean

  26. Linda Moon - April 16, 2020 4:28 pm

    I like Big Al. I wish my Sloop bear had recovered from the washing machine incident from years ago, but he didn’t. I agree with you and Big Al about music and movies, but I’m surprised that your choice of riding Tea Cups at Disneyland was #1. Please don’t ever change and leave the 1972 times behind, Sean, because I believe after all these years, Big Al would tell you to go dancing with your Mama real soon! And he’d probably forgive you for coming in 2nd!!

  27. Gary - April 16, 2020 4:33 pm

    Yep, me too !

  28. Tom Harris - April 16, 2020 4:57 pm

    One more thing on summer entertainment. Catching a “JUNE BUG” and tying a thread to its leg, then watch him fly for a while before turning it loose. Simple pleasures indeed.

  29. Pam Thompson - April 16, 2020 5:05 pm

    Blood on the Saddle is a great song. Someone should do a new version of it.

  30. Jenny Young - April 16, 2020 5:26 pm

    Ok…I will agree with you on all of this except the boiled peanuts…you can have my share.

    All of this really cool stuff is still there if we’ll introduce our kids to them. This past week I made a snail house with my grandson…..some of my friends said it was really lame. But he is a very happy & well loved snail. I told everyone I made it for my grandson but really I made it just for me.

    This morning I took my grandson to the lake to skip rocks….just like we do every weekday when he stays with me. We skipped rocks, poked sticks in holes, carried may apple leaves above our heads for umbrellas, picked wildflowers (weeds) & stomped through mud puddles. We road a swing in an oak tree up as high as we could go & climbed under a huge cedar tree…looking up through the branches, whispering to each other & listening to the doves coo.

    I think I’ll get my grandmother’s record player out! I have some Disney records I can play.

  31. catladymac - April 16, 2020 8:12 pm

    I dunno Sean – complaining about ear-splitting noise and then waxing nostalgic about peacocks is kinda counter-intuitive. My cousin raised peacocks. They scream like they are being murdered. So when my Mom was in the hospital dying of cancer and the woman across the hall was screaming , I managed to convince my Mom she was back at Cousin Carl;s and it was just the peacocks screaming.

  32. Becky Souders - April 16, 2020 9:53 pm

    I think “sounds like major road construction” is being kind.

  33. turtlekid - April 16, 2020 10:57 pm

    You can’t be as old as I am, but your nostalgia for older things makes me happy. New music, new tv shows, new concerts, new clothes, new church songs, anything NEW leaves me empty. I love being old, and having old memories. Thank you Sean Paul, for touching my heart.

  34. Dawn A Bratcher - April 17, 2020 12:38 am

    We don’t have to like loud music or any of the other things that bother us, just like our parents didn’t. We have our favorite things that are comforting down to our toes! I really enjoy music from the 40’s, 50’s, 60’s, 70’s, but I never heard the 80’s because I had my babies & all we had on was Mr. Rogers and Sesame Street! When my girls got a little older, I discovered M.C. Hammer from them! However, sadly, I find that America & patriotism isn’t what it was when the Baby Boomers were growing up. The world is changing around us at a very quick pace. I don’t move that fast, nor do I change my moral values and ethics for anyone, but my Lord. Sean, enjoy what you love and don’t fill your mind with rubbish. 😊

  35. Dawn A Bratcher - April 17, 2020 12:41 am

    Oh, you are a wonderful grandmother!

  36. Anne Swinson Godwin - April 17, 2020 3:17 pm

    This pandemic has changed lots of things in our world. Some of the changes can be used for good. On our walks, we’ve met more neighbors in the last few weeks than in the last 28 years we’ve lived here. Everyone is home instead of working so much. When the grands come over, they bring their devices, but we still play board games, take walks down the street, pick dewberries near the RR tracks, dig in the dirt, forage in the woods around our home, draw with crayons and pencils, etc. On our walk in a park yesterday, a grandson started eating smilax tips. Something new I’ve recently learned. Thanks for your reminders of the good things.

  37. Heather Miller - April 18, 2020 2:48 pm

    I love the country bears! And, I understand wishing kids today could experience what we found as fun, and actually enjoy it as much as we did.
    I loved my clamp-on skates. Climbing trees was a favorite, and clod fights in the corner dirt lot was a must. Mother hated clod fights. I have a long list of enjoyables that will never happen, because my grandgirls skipped through their childhoods doing things with electronics. I wonder what they will share with their children.
    Thanks, Sean, for all your memory sharing.

  38. Teresa - May 28, 2020 2:13 am

    I enjoy your writing very much. This piece is my favorite one so far. Country Bear Jamboree is also one of my favorite things at Disney. I have very special memories of my first trip there. My favorite aunt and uncle took me and my brother with them in 1970. It was one of the most magical times in my life.

  39. Gail - May 28, 2020 3:03 am

    The Disneyland Country Bear Jamboree was replaced by Pooh in 2001! It is still at Disneyworld.

  40. Kimberly Wedgeworth - May 29, 2020 1:40 am

    Yes sir, you are correct!

  41. Dean - February 1, 2021 3:02 am

    Thanks for sharing your memories. That is almost all i have left to enjoy. I still get up every morning and do the best i can but it is hard when I don’t have a lot to look forward to


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