Growing up in a musical theater family was a special kind of torture


Gif of grumpy goblins singing were happy when were sadI grew up in a household headed up by two musical theater enthusiasts.

My mother–who had gone to Goodman School of Drama in Chicago before dropping out to marry my father–was a director. And my father, with his beautiful tenor voice, was on stage.

This meant that music and theater were often at the center of our lives. I whiled away many a happy hour turning pages for piano players in darkened theaters, or playing dress up with costumes back stage. And there was always singing, lots and lots of singing.

It also meant that car trips were ALWAYS filled with songs and that my parents had a song for every occasion that should arise. And sing they (we) did.

There was a song for EVERY occasion

Spot the mountains on the way to Western Maryland to visit family? That called for a rousing round of “The bear went over the mountain.”

Headed home and the moon peeps out from behind a tree? In unison they’d launch into “Oh, Mr. Moon.”

Spot some ivy growing up the side of a building and it was “Tell my why the ivy twines.” (Phew, that one was challenging to find. Here’s another version.)

Dragging out the croquet set at the grandparents meant “Playing croquet” was soon to follow.

It was a great way to grow up.

But it did mean that even when you weren’t in the mood… when you were feeling grumpy and grumbly and you simply refused to participate… you got sung too.

Gloomy Gus? They’d sing, “We’re happy when we’re sad”

One of their favorites to sing when any one of us was being a gloomy Gus was “We’re happy when we’re sad.”

The lyrics went like this…

“We’re happy when we’re sad!
We’re always feeling bad!”
“How are you?”
“That’s fine!”
“We’re happy when we’re sad!”

Of course, apparently no other single solitary soul in this universe has ever heard this song before. Something I quickly learned upon entering “the real world” and being greeted by strange looks whenever I quoted… or gawd forbid sang… it.

A special kind of torture

And until I remembered it today and did some searching I had absolutely no clue where it even came from. For all I knew my parents had made it up simply to torture us (in the most spectacularly fun way possible that I can now sincerely appreciate as an adult, but was a special kind of torture when I was a kid).

But some digging this morning turned up this awesome artifact. An animated short from 1935 called “The Sunshine Makers.”

It was directed by Ted Eshbaugh and Borden picked up the tab. In it a group of grumpy goblins attack a village of sunshiney gnomes, the source of a happiness elixir.