And The Oscar Goes…

A Fine Education


I grew up in a home with a father who restricted my television viewing. I was almost a teenager before I realized we had a color TV. I am not that old and the tube had been around a long while before I was born. Dad wasn't a PBS subscriber, and to be honest I don't know if public television was even around then, and if it was, if we watched it. He wasn't a Harvard professor or even in a white-collar profession, he was a Latin man who married out of high school and worked long hours to support his young family, but he had educational passions that he pursued his entire life.

He had grown up during a time when it was standard business practice to employ ushers in movie houses. It was the usher's job was to show the moviegoers to their seats. This job shaped his love of the arts. He saw all of the movies, from the A-list all way down to the bottom of the B-list. By the time, I came around and was out of diapers and prime for higher learning he made sure I saw them too. He considered film viewing critical to my education, and since he felt the California school curriculum lacked in the fine arts department, I was home-schooled in the arts. The syllabus included music—all varieties, with a fondness for real Country-Western, which included club hopping in Hollywood, literature, and of course, movies 101 and higher. The list of books he read, or read to me, including poetry, seemed endless to me back then, but it was like my restricted television viewing-I read and was read to, from an exclusive but restricted list

Each subject in the home schooling program is a chapter in itself, but the motion picture classes were by far my favorite. My namesake is taken from one of the first Jane's in the Tarzan movies that stared Johnny Weissmuller—winner of five Olympic gold medals—her name was Brenda Joyce. (Dad had a burning schoolboy crush on Brenda he told me when I asked how I came by the name.) We'd watch black and white movies on the weekends, and he'd explain who was who, which studio it was filmed in, and what it was like to see the movie in the picture houses, and he'd included his review on the movie we were watching, too. When the family budget permitted, we'd see the old movies in the theaters around Hollywood. We were regulars at Grauman's (known as Mann's) Chinese Theater on Hollywood Blvd.

The Oscar's in my house was like a Thanksgiving or Christmas holiday. He made sure that we had seen the movies nominated, or at least the ones I could see, or that he wanted me to see, and then we'd discuss their merits before the big night. As I matured, our opinions deviated, but he respected my failings, as he'd say, and allowed me to root for my own favorites. The day before the Oscars, we'd each select our choices for the major categories, a secret we'd keep from one another until the big night. We'd dress for the occasion, and have our own party on the night of the Oscar's. Instead of the standard three-course meal, we have cheese and crackers, sliced deli meats, Dad might have a couple cold Budweiser's, and I’d have an Orange Crush; something out of the ordinary in honor of the movies. The Oscar's were a big event.

I took my tutelage for granted. I assumed every kid’s father read Somerset Maugham and Edgar Allen Poe aloud, sang along with Eddie Fisher, and passed the tissues as you cried the first time watching Spencer Tracy in Captain Courageous. But they didn’t. It wasn’t until venturing out on my own did I discover and appreciate my privileged education. It’s shaped who I am and influenced the way I look at the world. I have passed along this same education to my own kids bar singing along with Eddie Fisher. Rob Thomas is my favorite.   
And this past year, in honor of my Dad who is no longer with us, we kept with tradition when we watched the Oscars. We dressed for the occasion, enjoyed a crusty baguette, brie, some Spanish ham, wine and sparkling cider. I couldn't help but wonder if Dad and Louie Mayer were watching from Cloud and Vine, smoking stogies, and forgiving me all my failings.
What stands out from your childhood?
“Today I’m participating in a mass blogging day! WOW! Women On Writing has gathered a group of blogging buddies to write about Special People We Know and Love. Why? We’re celebrating the release of Joanne Lewis’ and Amy Lewis Faircloth’s debut novel. Wicked Good (Telemachus Press, LLC, 2011) is about the unconditional love between a mother and her adopted, special needs son and the adventure that brings them closer together. Visit The Muffin at to read what Joanne and Amy have to share about their special people and view the list of all my blogging buddies. Then be sure to visit to learn more about the authors."
"If you comment on today's post on this blog or any of the other blogs participating in Everybody's Talking About Wicked Good People, you will be entered to win a print copy of Wicked Good by Amy Lewis Faircloth and Joanne Lewis. To read about Amy and Joanne's Special People and view the list of participating blogs please visit The Muffin" (I will forward the permalink that morning)
About the Authors
One day two sisters decided to write a book together; what began as a blog became an award winning novel! Wicked Good is the first in the "Wicked" series.
Amy is the older sister and a full time family law attorney. She loves her 2 sons and nephew, dogs, volunteering at the Bangor Humane Society, being outdoors when it’s nice outside and indoors when it’s not.
Joanne is the younger and a full-time family mediator and Guardian Ad Litem. She loves her 3 nephews, her grey poodle Frisco, anything to do with the Italian Renaissance, and spending time with her friends and family.
Please visit them at

25 thoughts on “And The Oscar Goes…

  1. Robyn

    Love This!
    I was raised in California also and, yes, they lacked considerably in the Arts education. Your dad was a wonderful person–I love the way he made those times together special –like dressing up for the Oscars. Thank you so much for sharing!!

    • Thanks, Robyn. My dad was a stickler for teaching us about the finer things in life. I shudder to think how I would have turned out if not for this super-charged education.

  2. I remember driving around a Christmas time just to look at the houses all lit up and decorated. The whole family did it and we'd chant "Ooh, ahh, ohh." At every house. It was silly but we all loved doing it.

    • Kelly, it's not silly if you remember it so fondly. It has meaning as will the traditions you create for your daughter. What I find interesting is learning from my kids what they love and cherish. It's not what I would expect.

  3. And I had no teaching about the arts from my dad . . . but that was OK. He taught me lots of other things. I love your post, Brenda. Thanks so much for sharing all of these memories of your dad. I'm sure he's looking down and loving what you're doing in your family!

    • Ah, thanks, Sandy, for visiting grrlguide and reading my story. I like to think he is keeping and eye on us. My kids think I am crazy but then again, last night my daughter was skyping me from her dorm room and told me she had just finished watching Funny Face, staring Audrey Hepburn.Made me smile.

  4. June O

    Brenda, I'm awed by what you and your father shared (I'll forgive the country western) and his special way of educating you. My parents were incredibly dysfunctional–I'll spare you the details, lest I depress you–so there was absolutely nothing like that. The first time my mind really opened up to new things was in college. To this day, if I could, I'd be a college student for the rest of my life. I have so many interests, although writing leaves little or no time to pursue them. Even finding time to read can be tough. But if I think about it, none of my interests were instilled by my parents. I guess I'm fortunate to have developed my own passions. Above all, love of the written word.

    Thanks so much for sharing this. I was truly fascinated. It's no wonder you turned out to be such a special person.

  5. jcnierad

    Brenda, I loved reading about your tradition. And like some other commentators, I am jealous of your awesome arts education. My family has its own traditions, but this sure sounds like a fun party! Very special, thank you for sharing.

  6. monicastangledweb

    Hi Brenda, I stopped by at Bella's recommendation, and I'm glad I did. I love your memory of the education in cinema your father gave you. I am a big aficionado of film, so I can appreciate what he was doing. I love how you didn't even know you had a color TV. When I was little, we had a black and white set (in the early '60's) and I'd get to stay up late watching old movies–Cary Grant, William Powell, Myrna Loy, Humphrey Bogart, etc. Those are some of my favorite memories.

    Great post!

    • Hola Monica, many thanks for stopping by and to the lovely Bella for remembering me. She's a peach and more. I am delighted to hear you share a love of movies. I LOVED the Thin Man movies with Myrna and William, the best ever. Clearly, these are good memories for me, too. Hope to see you again.

  7. Hi, Brenda!:

    That made me misty! WoW — I'm so jealous, haha! Seriously. And I see you even better now that I know this little piece of your history …

    Your description of your father and his love for movies reminds me of 'Cinema Paradiso'.

    I have no such soft focus memories of my father. That seems a little sad when I just say it like that. But, really it just is what it is, right?

  8. I really enjoyed reading this. Your dad must have been a really special man. He sure did love you. What a great arts education! With my dad, it's all about music. He always had a new album to play for us, and I'm sure this is why I love music so much today.

  9. How fortunate you were Brenda to have such a wonderful father. I cannot really imagine what that would be like – it meant he cared for one thing, to invest so much time and effort into educating you. Sheer indifference is a difficult stone to move. Thanks for sharing something so lovely and encouraging Brenda!

  10. Wow, Brenda! What a great story! Your Dad sounds like a wonderful man. My love of the arts, and writing in particular comes from her reading to me. Poems were my bedtime stories. She also sang with the radio or records and taught me all the old songs. Sometimes people twice my age ask, "How old are you?" because I know all "their" songs!
    I think one of the greatest gifts we can give our children is a love for the arts. The arts are food for the soul, without which we will perish.
    Thanks for coming to my blog so that I could meet you and enjoy your beautiful tribute to your Dad.
    Blessings, Linda

  11. Feeling totally jealous, only not, because you described this so poignantly I felt like your dad was a favorite uncle or something.

    I was named for B-movie star Beverly Garland, or so I'm told.

    • Bev-he was a goodie most of the time, although there were moments when I wondered if having a dad like all the other kids on my block would have been easier. Thank for the lovely words, and the hook up today. I am finally home with some breathing space to figure out the how to.

  12. Carol Apple

    I am truly impressed by your Dad! I can see what an enriching influence he had on you. I will add him to my list of great fathers in history. Everyone should have such a caring creative and inspiring father, but as you mentioned, not everyone is so blessed.

  13. Brenda, this was so nicely written that I melted into it. What wonderful memories you have of your father…and what a great man he was for giving you his undivided attention and exposing you to the arts. I am glad you have kept the tradition alive for your family. The awards are a special night filled with glitter and glamour. Each year I watch the red carpet in hopes of viewing some of the biggest stars in Hollywood. A fabulous read!

    • I am glad you enjoyed, Annie. I do enjoy writing about my family. As wonderful as we are, we are a tad crazy as mos Latin families can be. We are all opinionated and have VIEWs on things like movies, music, and those silly things that make up a life.

  14. Vidya Sury

    Brenda, this is a very beautiful post. I am blessed too, because, thanks to the absence of a father, I had the love of my maternal uncles and my wonderful Mom. Came over from your lovely comment at Kim's blog (My Inner Chick). So glad I did, and looking forward to visiting often.

  15. Hi Brenda, sounds like your dad was an amazing and intelligent man. (Lately I think sacrificing the TV is a smart move. Will up the reading lots.) I've also learned about Artistic taste from my Dad. He loves to make things: he made us girls a wooden table and painted elephants in a circus on it. He does carpentry work for a Taoist event every year, and this year my sister and I helped him paint the stones onto a wooden shed (cos he wanted to go for the stone house appeal). I feel very blessed, too, to have such a father. =)

  16. aig63

    Brenda, I share my lunch hour with you today… so glad I stopped by. What a poignant tribute and an inspiration. I grew up in a house with TV, but so rural we had access to CBC English and CBC French… until we moved to a much more metropolitan city with cable. I was my Dad's public library buddy though for years and years, and I can draw analogies with your 'education'. Despite my best efforts, I've managed to raise only 1 avid reader…. but I still read out loud to the other 2 once in a while (… presumably they're listening?). Thanks for sharing !

  17. Hey Brenda, thanks for your kind, kind words. My father's more artistic than me. I can't paint well, though I enjoy looking at paintings. (Oh, and the illustrations for our books are done by illustrators I worked with, not by me. I just convey my ideas to them, and through writing.)

    Unfortunately we can't even find photos of that table now. But my sisters and I can all remember it very well (we played faux-mahjong on it …). As for the Taoist temple event, I'll be posting some pictures on my personal FB account, so if you're interested, you're most welcome to pop by: I'm Gueh Yanting, Claudine (by the way).

    Thanks for always dropping by CarryUsOff. I really appreciate your comments. Have a good weekend, ok?

  18. Wonderful story! I spent a good deal of my early childhood in movie theaters, as my mom was employed at three different ones during that time. It really was magical. Also, just had to say, we do a snack dinner-type celebration with the Oscar's, as well, including brie and crusty bread. Yum!

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