Friday, September 3, 2010

"Out of the Blue of the Western Sky"...Sky's neice Penny

When I was about 7 or 8 my Grandpa Stark gave me a new wallet for my birthday. That’s a big deal for a little kid especially since it was loaded with a $2 bill and autographed pictures of celebrities. Wow!

(What I like about this photo is that my dad was in the Air Force--but he didn't sit around in uniform watching TV)

But I only kept one picture. It wasn’t the photo of Kirby Grant who was famous as “Sky King”. No. It was the picture of Penny, Sky’s niece. I mean Sky was cool, flying the “Song Bird” all over the west, stopping desparados. But Penny was gorgeous, always getting captured or kidnapped with Uncle Sky coming to the rescue. She was every 8 year old’s dream while we sat cross-legged on the floor watching in both rapt attention and rapture.

And, I know for a fact that I wasn’t the only kid who did this. Jimmy Buffett even wrote about it in his song “Pencil Thin Mustache”: “I remember being buck-toothed and skinny; writing fan letters to Sky’s niece Penny...” Yep, to an 8 year old, Penny was a dream come true.

Imagine then, my surprise this morning when I opened up the paper and a headline on an obituary caught my eye. It said, “Star of 1950s TV series “Sky King”…Lived in Vista”. I did a double take. And there was a picture of this lovely vision from my childhood. Penny. I was totally bummed out.

The biggest reason was that she lived in Vista, CA. I live in Vista. Oh man, she was a “neighbor”. If I had only known.

Yeah, if I had only known I’d have found out where and gone over to introduce myself and get her autograph. I’d have let her know just how much I loved her when I was a kid. I bet no one ever told her that before. Only about 10,000 or so times, I’m sure. Would she have looked just like she did in the 1950s? Or would she have been one of those “handsome” older women grown more lovely as they aged?

She lived right here in this city of 100,000 and I never knew! The dreamgirl from my childhood. Would she have known about all the times I sat on the floor in my tighty-whiteys slurping down cereal as I squirmed through her latest escapade with Uncle Sky? “Watch out Penny, the bad guys are hiding behind the big rock!” And they’d kidnap her and Uncle Sky and “Song Bird” would have to come to the rescue.

Except, as Mrs. CB said, “Yeah, you’d have probably ended up with a court order against you as a stalker!” Thanks dear for bursting my bubble.

The lady’s name was Gloria Winters. She was in her late 70s. She apparently lived a quiet life after a too brief career on TV.

But, more than a half century ago she was a dream to a whole generation of young boys. We grew up watching Joey and Jim (played by Peter Graves) on “Fury”, and Rusty and Rin-Tin-Tin on “Rin-Tin-Tin”. But our hearts belonged to Penny and our allegiance to Skylar King who was forever rescuing her.

Thanks Penny.

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