‘Wizard of Oz’: Readers share their memories

08/15/2014 6:10 PM

08/17/2014 7:39 AM

As part of our celebration this month of the 75th anniversary of “The Wizard of Oz,” we asked readers to share their fond memories of the iconic film. The movie has a honored place in many Kansans’ lives. Here are some of those stories (edited for length and clarity). Find more at www.kansas.com/entertainment.

‘I am Dorothy’: When my 27 year-old daughter was 5 years old, she saw “The Wizard of Oz” on a televised broadcast. She was a little frightened by the Wicked Witch but was absolutely spellbound by the movie. We bought the movie on VHS. Friends and family can tell you that she watched the movie every day when she came home from preschool – sometimes twice a day on weekends. She had her version of Toto, the dog’s basket and the red shoes. I had a friend make her a blue and white checked “Dorothy dress” which she wanted to wear constantly. She would watch the movie – with props – sitting in the red plaid rocking chair in the family room. At one point I said, “Honey, it’s really fun pretending to be Dorothy, isn’t it?” She replied, “I am Dorothy!” She was equally mesmerized by local theater productions.

Eventually, the VHS tape snapped from overuse. I still have that tape and the dress. My daughter went on to sing, dance and act in high school and college – and remains a little nervous about tornadoes!

— Paula Smith, Wichita

Trinkets from Kansas: I’m retired from the Kansas Air National Guard. I traveled extensively during my career, and whenever I told people I was from Kansas, they quoted the movie. I started carrying small trinkets from the movie (magnets, pens, pencils) and gave them to the first person that mentioned Toto or the movie – as far away as Australia and France! Fun for me and them too.

– Kathy Allen, Wichita

Movie night at the governor’s mansion: I grew up watching “The Wizard of Oz” and love the movie. One of my most memorable times watching the movie was when I was in college at Fort Hays State University. I was a political science major, and I was involved in state politics. John Carlin was governor, and he was hosting a party at Cedar Crest (the governor’s mansion) in Topeka. I was there with several college friends. We had grown bored with the adult conversation and congregated in the study on the first floor. We found a TV and a remote control. “The Wizard of Oz” was being shown on one of the channels. We stocked up on beverages and snacks and settled into the study and watched most of the movie. We all thought it was pretty cool to be sitting in the governor’s mansion and watching “The Wizard of Oz.”

— Debi Schumacher, Wichita

Lessons from Oz: I don’t remember the first time I watched “The Wizard of Oz,” but I do remember waiting with anticipation for the annual showing of the movie on TV. I have probably watched the movie over 60 times without losing interest or getting bored. Maybe that is because I love sharing the movie and the book with my elementary students. When you enter my music room, you can tell that “The Wizard of Oz” is important to me. Sprinkled throughout the room is everything from a drawing by a second grade student of Dorothy, Glinda the Good Witch and me to a 2-foot high Tin Man made by a parent from tin cans.

My students have enjoyed learning about “The Wizard of Oz.” They marvel at the special effects and are shocked to know that they were created 75 years ago. They talk about whether the Scarecrow really has a brain; whether the Tin Man truly has a heart and what makes the Lion act like a bully. But probably the lesson they take with them from studying the movie and the book is that when people work together toward the same goal, they can accomplish great things.

— Teri G. Harpool, Sedgwick (Cloud Elementary teacher)

A day to celebrate: When I was a child, I grew up in California, and my mother was from Kansas. “The Wizard of Oz” was only on TV one time a year. This was before DVD, VHS and TiVo. When the movie was on, you had to watch it that day. We looked forward to that one day a year. Mom would make a big deal out of it, even making a scarecrow cake. We would all gather around the TV that night singing the songs and laughing together. “The Wizard of Oz” is one of my favorite childhood memories. Now that we live in Kansas, I feel pride in the movie and love watching it with my children.

— Jennifer Nightingale. Colwich

Meet Glynnda: So my wife and I were staying on the beach in Negril, Jamaica. This room is heaven. I have to walk across the beach to the bar and get a Yellowbird. A woman, who I have never met, walks up and shakes my hand. She says “I am Glinda the Good Witch.” Being from Wichita, I said “I am the Wizard of Oz.” We have become lifelong friends. Her name is Glynnda.

— Jim Johnson, Wichita

Night of terror: I grew up in North Central Kansas about 6 miles east of Mankato on a dairy farm. I am one of 13 children (nine girls and four boys). We lived in a two bedroom farmhouse with two rooms in the basement.

We slept two to three children in a bed, plus using a couch and a window seat as beds. We had to take turns sleeping on the window seat. I was about 5 or 6 years old the first time I saw “The Wizard of Oz.” I remember being fascinated by the Land of Oz, but at the same time I was terrified of the wicked witch and the flying monkeys.

Wouldn’t you know, the night I saw “The Wizard of Oz” for the first time, it was my turn to sleep on the window seat! No matter how much I protested, I still had to sleep there that night. Needless to say, I laid there all night with my back to the window, petrified that if I turned toward the window the wicked witch’s face would be staring at me.

— Denise Kearney, Wichita

Cherished quilt: Twenty-five years ago in celebration of the 50th anniversary of “The Wizard of Oz,” my mother created an original quilt she called “The Yellow Brick Road.” She was 73 at the time. She entered it in the 1989 Kansas State Fair and received a third place ribbon. She created many of the characters. When it was complete, I asked her why she did not have the Wicked Witch of the West. Her sweet and gentle answer, “I don’t want any children sleeping under this quilt to be frightened.”

My mother is no longer living, but I cherish this quilt.

— Virginia Luty, McPherson

Dad the protector: The Yellow Brick Road is more than a path to the Emerald City. It is a connector to my past, my present and my future. My earliest memory of “The Wizard of Oz” is of nestling in my dad’s lap hiding from the wicked witch and her flying monkeys, praying that Dorothy would escape before the hourglass ran out. I knew that Dad could protect me from anything — first the witch and then other evils and challenges in my life. We watched the movie on TV together for years, even after it was my boys who were nestled safe in PaPa’s lap. When our family relocated to Kansas, Dad called every year to make sure we were watching.

After my father’s passing, my Oz collection, which had consisted of a few ornaments and other mementos, grew aided by my husband and my sons expanding to my USD 259 principal’s office. My family, staff and students continued to add items to my collection making my office friendly and inviting. I hope to continue growing my collection while instilling Oz’s lessons of friendship, adventure and goodness. Because whether it be our house, school or loved one’s lap, “There’s no place like home.”

— Tammy Alexander, Andale

Not in Kansas anymore: Three years ago, I began working in St. Petersburg, Fla., during the school year. I never get very far from a chiropractor, so my first visit to Dr. Schroeder soon followed. When she greeted me at her office wearing jean shorts, a tank top, and flip-flops, I literally said aloud, “I don’t think I’m in Kansas anymore, Toto!” It just slipped out!

— Tamara Shattuck, Wichita

Oz in color: In the ‘60s “The Wizard of Oz” was shown once a year on television. It was a big deal. Danny Kaye not only introduced it, he came back during the intermission, right before Dorothy stepped out of her house after the tornado. My grandparents were the only ones in the family who had a color TV, so each year my sister, cousins and I would go to Grandpa and Granny’s house so that we could enjoy seeing Munchkinland and Oz in color! Whenever I see “Oz,” not only do I enjoy the movie, I enjoy the good memories that come with it.

— Linda Gilbow, Wichita

Now in IMAX: As a child, I looked forward to the annual airing of “The Wizard of Oz” as that was the only night of the year that my parents would allow my siblings and I to eat our supper in front of the television instead of the dining room table.

I had only seen the movie on small screen so I was thrilled to see it last year at the Warren IMAX. I saw small details in the costumes, make-up and sets that you don’t notice see when watching it on a smaller screen. It was fantastic!

– John Dalton-White, Wichita

A frightening experience: In mid 1960s, our daughter was 4 years old when we watched “The Wizard of Oz” in black and white on TV. The scene of the wicked witch along with the monkeys and tornado sent the youngster into a state of hysterical fear. My wife and I explained it was all Hollywood make believe before the child returned to normal. There is no doubt in my mind that children’s thinking is affected by what they see and hear on TV and at the movies. At age 55, my daughter clearly remembers that scene. What were your thoughts when Bambi’s mother was shot on the silver screen?

— Jackie Foster

A fan in Scotland: Several years ago we were in Scotland on vacation when we stopped at a gift shop in a small town. I made a purchase and took it to the cashier. The cashier was a young lady about 18 or 19 years old. She could tell that I was from “across the pond,” as she put it. She asked where I was from, and I told her Kansas. She was so excited that I lived where Dorothy was from. She was a big fan of “The Wizard of Oz,” and had seen it many times. In fact her parents had purchased the video of it for her. It was such a fun experience that I almost wished that my name had been Dorothy.

— Sandra Childs, Wichita

No place like home: I was born and raised in Wichita, and I was about 3 when my parents took me to the theater to see “The Wizard of OZ.” I remember I loved everything about the movie, but the old wicked witch and the flying monkeys scared me!

I now live in Oklahoma and I miss Kansas very much so my favorite line from that movie is “there is no place like Kansas”.

—Vicki Mobley, Tulsa, Okla.

Mesmerized by ‘Oz’: To paraphrase the prologue to “The Wizard of Oz ” movie: For nearly 115 years, this story has given faithful service to the young in heart; and time has been powerless to put it’s kindly philosophy out of fashion. To those who have been faithful to it’s return and to the young at heart I dedicate this essay.

The words “Wizard of Oz” spark so many memories, the largest of which is that special Friday night movie event each year. I would be found on the floor or couch mesmerized, from the opening music and the Kansas farm fading in, clear to the final words “There’s no place like home.” Minutes into the movie, I would be singing along with “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” or mouthing along with my favorite lines.

Although I never left my house, I truly traveled down the Yellow Brick Road. I learned that all you really need in life are good friends, a brain, a heart, courage, a good pair of shoes, and a great set of directions to find your way home again.

Most of all “the dreams that you dare to dream really do come true.”

— Stacie King, Wichita

A family tradition: My name is Rebecca and my five brothers and sisters grew up and have lived in Wichita all of our lives. I don’t know what year “The Wizard of Oz” began appearing on TV, but we were all there in front of the TV watching, from start to finish, no matter how many times we’d seen it. I still watch it now whenever it’s on. My brothers, sisters and I and our spouses love this movie so much, we all have costumes for the various characters. I have attached a photo of us preparing to attend the Boo and Brew a few years ago. We won first prize for Group Theme. If it works into our schedules, we’d love to attend a screening of the movie at the Orpheum, all in costume. We’ve even chosen to include “Over the Rainbow” as a musical selection for recent family funerals. It means a lot to all of us.

— Rebecca Kinsch, Douglass

Back then: One Saturday afternoon in the year 1939, I saw “The Wizard of Oz” movie. The cost was $.25. And for a nickel, I had a box of candy. Not only did I see the most wonderful movie ever but also a second feature, news reel, cartoon weekly chapter and coming attractions. You could enter the movie or leave at any time or sit through it all again. This was in Newark, N.J. I have lived in Kansas twice. The second time for 25 years. Little did I know that one day I would live in Oz. The movie started off in black and white, as most were then, and then the big shock of color. I have seen it many times in my life but never dreamed I could see it in my own home on tape or just off the TV screen. I remember all the key comments and have used everyone of them . I loved the actors. I had never read the book, so it was all new and wonderful. I can even finish the actors sentences. I saw it with my children, my grandchildren and my great grand children. All have enjoyed it with me.

— Annabell Mead, Wichita

First memory: I remember very well the first time I saw “The Wizard of OZ” in 1939 when I was 8 years old. My aunt and uncle took me to lunch at Innes Tea Room and then we went to see the movie at the Miller Theater. I got sick and missed some of the movie, but have seen it many times since. It was at the IMAX Theater the last time that I saw it.

— Beverly Chance, Wichita

Great granddaughter in ‘Oz’: I watched “The Wizard of Oz” movie starring a young Judy Garland when I was also a young girl in the 1930s in Wichita. I loved the story then, and have enjoyed seeing, reading and telling the story to my children – then grandchildren and great grandchildren. In July, I watched my great granddaughter Laura Koerner play the role of Dorothy with the Maize Community Theater – complete with the witches, scarecrow, Tinman, Lion, Toto, Wizard and the Yellow Brick Road. It was an enjoyable performance!

I loved her beautiful voice when I first heard Judy Garland sing “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” and adored her in many more movies as I grew up with her through the years. It was a special pleasure at my age of 87 to hear my great granddaughter Laura sing the song.

“The Wizard of Oz” is a story whose characters fulfill our children’s imagination and helps all of us to learn that when home is where we have love and those you care for, then “there is no place like home.”

– Donna Littleton, Wichita

Glued to the set: It was 1959 or 1960. I was about 8 or 9 years old. My sister, Joanne, and I would eat our supper, rush to get our bath and hair washed. Mom would plop us in front of the TV waiting for “The Wizard of Oz” to start. We would sit quietly while mom would brush our long, wet hair out. Then the movie started.

Joanne and I were always busybodies and into trouble. But when “Oz” came on, we were glued to the set. Both of us sitting side-by-side, not moving or talking. My No. 1 memory was I thought the change from black and white to color in the movie was because the TV people had just invented color TV. I thought this was the truth for many years. The next memory that really stands out is how terrified I was of the monkeys who picked up Dorothy and Toto. I would have trouble sleeping for many nights, just thinking about it. We had an old tree outside of our bedroom that Joanne and I would imagine contained some of the monkeys. I was petrified. Of course, all ended well.

– Marilyn Stewart, Wichita

I must have been about 5 or 6 around 1965 or so when I saw “The Wizard of Oz” on TV for the first time, back in the days where it was actually introduced by a host. I’d never heard of it before, and a while later I got Baum’s original book, “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.” It became the first large (non-picture-book book) I ever read all by myself. Since then, I’ve read most of the other Oz books L. Frank Baum wrote and have become a published fantasy writer myself .

— Jeff Baker, Wichita

Call me ‘Dorothy’: When “The Wizard of Oz” movie came out in 1939, they were showing it here in Wichita at the Crawford Theater located in the 200 block of South Topeka street. I was 3 years old, and my mother took me to see it. When the wicked witch came on the screen, I started crying very loudly and my mom had to take me out to the lobby. I finally quieted down, and we went back to our seats, then the flying monkeys appeared, and I started crying again (loudly) and finally she just took me home.

When I was on a bus trip in Europe there were several Australians on the bus. They asked me where I was from, and I said Kansas, and one of them pointed at me and said “Dorothy” and that is what he called me the rest of the trip!

— Theresa Bishop, Wichita

A dog renamed Toto: I’ve loved “The Wizard of Oz” from the first time I saw it in 1939, 7 years old, and oh, the new glory of Technicolor was breathtaking. Later on, watching it with my husband and him remembering being terrified of the marching monkeys.

Much later getting our first two grandchildren, now in their 30s, hyped up to watch — I’ve lost count of the many times I’ve seen “The Wizard of Oz.” But I always get a thrill when Dorothy sings “Over the Rainbow.”

Our little dog, Taz, always got called Toto when people found out we were from Kansas.

— Nancy Brandenburg, Wichita

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