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Temple’s words still ring true

Before Miley Cyrus was Hannah, before Ron Howard was Opie and before Patty Duke was identical cousins Patty and Cathy, there was Shirley Temple.

Born in 1928, she began acting when she was 3. America instantly fell in love with the little girl in curls.

Shirley Temple Black died recently at 85 at her home near San Francisco.

Classic movie fans and those of us giving away our ages fondly remember Shirley Temple. Always Shirley Temple.

As America dug out from the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl years, Shirley Temple brightened spirits with her singing, tap-dancing and just being so darned dimpled cute. From 1935-1938, she was the box office star. Not Crosby, Gable or Cooper.

Though Franklin D. Roosevelt’s domestic programs led the nation out of the Depression, the president once said, “As long as our country has Shirley Temple, we will be all right.”

When she turned 8 — she actually was 9 but 20th Century Fox didn’t want her to age — it’s said she got 135,000 presents.

She was so famous that a drink was concocted and named for her — a glass of ginger ale with grenadine (a deep-red syrup), topped with a maraschino cherry. Tempted though they were, boys passed in favor of the more manly Roy Rogers — cola replacing ginger ale.

But as it was then and still is today, her popularity waned as she grew older. She stopped making movies at 21 and went on to other things instead of trying to reinvent herself as a star, such as Miley’s efforts to distance herself from her Hannah Montana years, or to live missed teenage years out loud, as Justin Bieber is doing.

No twerking or racy photos.

No street racing or pot smoking.

Shirley Temple went on to raise a family and to become involved politically. She held diplomatic posts and was serving as ambassador to Czechoslovakia when communism collapsed in the late 1980s.

She never won an Oscar, though the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and other organizations honored her work as a child actor and her achievements over a lifetime, and rightfully so.

The American Film Institute in 1999 ranked her No. 18 among its top 25 actresses.

“On the Good Ship Lollipop” pales in comparison to what we hear sung now, but Shirley Temple’s song was popular for generations.

Her encouraging words, spoken more as a quip in 2006, rings true for kids, actors — all of us — today:

“I have one piece of advice for those of you who want to receive the lifetime achievement award. Start early.”

— Abilene Reporter-News