Operation Lawrence Welk

May 28, 2015


This story is included in the book: The Majorettes are Back in Town. 

Operation Lawrence Welk, Leslie Anne Tarabella
When we’re home on a Saturday evening, and everyone is scattered around the house doing their own thing, I like to slip over, grab the remote control and turn the TV to the PBS station and crank up The Lawrence Welk Show. You should see the teenagers come running out of their rooms, faces filled with horror and clamping their hands over their ears.

Operation Lawrence Welk, Leslie Anne TarabellaCleverly hiding the clicker under the sleeping dog, no one is able to change the channel, so they are doomed to watch plaid-coated, bouffant coiffed, ruffled tuxedo clad performers warble and dance their way across the screen.

The eye rolling begins within seconds and the intense whining and griping ensues. “Mom! This is horrible! Why do you make us watch this? Why are they dressed like that? How long will it be before we can watch a movie?” Oh, the sheer agony of hearing old standards like “Singing in the Rain” while fake raindrops fall on girls in plastic polka-dot raincoats is too much for their young minds to handle.

Operation Lawrence Welk, Leslie Anne TarabellaWhen I would visit my Grandparents, we would sit together in the living room and either shell peas or play a card game while Lawrence Welk was on the television in the background. The popular show, which aired from 1951-1982, features wholesome, all-American classics that everyone should know. Even though the musical program has aired in continuous reruns since its cancellation, it has never been a favorite of the teen-scene from any generation.

When a young man wearing a mint green leisure suit swings a suitcase by his side and croons, “I’m Leaving on a Jet Plane,” the conversation gets pointed.

“Why doesn’t his suitcase have wheels?”

“What instrument is that in the background?”

“How does he get his hair to do that?”

Operation Lawrence Welk, Leslie Anne Tarabella

School curriculum teaches our children classic American stories, poems and artwork, but not many schools provide an education on the rich history of American music. My wise and wonderful fifth grade teacher understood this need and helped us assemble song books we would use every Friday afternoon to belt out the likes of “Oh Susanna,” “Red River Valley,” and “Camptown Races.” Other than kickball, it was our favorite part of the week.

operation lawrence welk, Leslie Anne Tarabella

Once, on the playground, when two boys were racing to the oak tree, someone called out, “I bet my money on the bobtail nag,” and we all joined in by shouting “somebody bet on the bay!” We doubled over laughing at what clever 10 year olds we were for being able to quote Stephen Foster. (It also helped us understand what Foghorn Leghorn was singing in the barnyard on Saturday mornings . . . doo-dah, doo-dah).

operation lawrence welk, Leslie Anne Tarabella

Back in front of the TV, as the minutes tick by and chiffon draped dancers swirl across the stage, miraculously, no one leaves the room. Instead, my boy’s faux irritation turns to laughter, which evolves into more good-natured snippy comments, and then ends at the desired destination of good, old-fashioned, non-computerized conversation.

operation lawrence welk

“I need to practice my guitar more.” says one boy. “I’ll help you put on the new strings.” says the other. They run get their instruments, then return and get to work without even realizing they are humming along to “Good Night Irene.”

My sinister plan of “Operation Lawrence Welk” has worked its magic once again. Everyone is together in one room, talking, cracking jokes and having a nice evening, and at the end of the show, when the cast gathers to sing the signature farewell song that ends with, “adios, au revior, aufweidersehn . . good night!” one of the boys always says, “Hey, didn’t you sing that to us when we were little?”

Who, me? Where would I have learned such a thing?

Wait a minute, you don’t think my Grandparents had their own sinister plan to make me watch  . . .?

  • You aren’t going to believe this but…I used to watch the Lawrence Welk Show with my great-grandmother in her apartment in downtown Tulsa sitting in front of the oscillating fan on 100 degree days. (She had a window AC unit but said it made the apartment too cold.) I’ve watched it on and off throughout the years but if I happen across it these days I cannot turn away from it. I’m drawn in by those teethy grins and bubbles. Unlike you, I keep the remote in my hand to switch the channel in case anyone comes in. I think it is a throw back to having an older sister who ridiculed every move I made. So GOOD FOR YOU for being unashamed of Lawrence Welk!

    • Leslie Anne says:

      Be brave. Step up and claim your Welkness proudly!

  • When I was a little girl, I would anxiously await Saturday night for the Lawrence Welk show to come on. I would get all dressed up to get ready to play my piano along with Lawrence…..my piano was a armchair where I could sit sideways and slide my legs through the opening under the wooden arm. Then as soon as it came on with the bubbles and music, I started playing the magic keys on the arm of that chair. I would play and sing to my hearts content for the next hour. Gosh, it has been a long time since I thought about this! Thanks for the precious memories!

    • Leslie Anne says:

      What a creative young’un you were! Thanks so much for reading!

  • One Sunday afternoon years ago, several of us grandkids were sitting around my grandmothers’ kitchen table. We were talking about a teacher we had in school that no one liked. Suddenly, out of the blue, my nanny says, “I love Lawrence Welk!” To this day when someone says something that doesn’t make sense or fit into the conversation, my sisters and I look at each other and say, “I love Lawrence Welk!” It’s become a family joke, but endearing at the same time. She loved baseball and Lawrence Welk! Nanny was a well-rounded lady!

  • I have always loved Lawrence Welk and watched his show at every opportunity! This is a fascinating and thoroughly enjoyable post. Thank you so much for sharing.

  • Thank you for this trip down memory lane! We always watch the Lawrence Welk Show. It always reminds me of the organ store that was in our shopping mall! (You don’t see too many of those now days.) The carpet was green. Matter of fact, everything was kinda green under the florescent lights. The salesmen wore 3-piece suits. My sister and I loved flipping all the gadgets on the organs. It was wonderful to hear the organ music playing in the background–because it reminded us of the Lawrence Welk show!!

    • Leslie Anne says:

      Organs in the mall!!! Oh yes, I remember those stores. I wonder how many kids take organ lessons these days? I took piano, but my husband actually had to take organ lessons! Our church needs a new organist now, and it’s nearly impossible finding one!
      And the green carpet . . .

      • My grandmother was a piano, organ and voice teacher. She taught the lady who plays the organ in our church. Mrs. Carolyn has been the organist for more than 50 years! Unfortunately, I don’t see anyone coming up behind her. : (

  • Great memories of watching ‘The Lawrence Welk Show’ with my grandma! Thanks for sharing, Leslie!

  • My daughters have such wonderful memories of being at their grandparents home on Saturday night and watching LW. It was a time set aside and nothing interfered. It almost makes me sad when I watch old reruns and realize how American culture has changed.

    I taught elementary school retiring in 2000. I too had memories of classroom singing and wanted that for my students. I was fortunate to have an old upright piano that I painted yellow and although I couldn’t play well, my students were forgiving and loved it. Today when I see former students all they seem to remember is the yellow piano and the fun we had.

    • Leslie Anne says:

      Everyone should have a teacher like you!

  • I’ve been busy and just now catching up on some reading and I absolutely love this! My parents and grandparents were devout fans and I too have spent many a night with Welk as our entertainment! Thanks for the smile!

  • David, ??? played with, LW band was from Fairhope the one with horn rimmed glasses. Can’t remember last name…the old songs…all of them& the dancers

    • Leslie Anne says:

      Now that you say that, it seems I remember there was a LW band member here in town. I’d love to meet him if he’s still around.

  • Nancy Maners says:

    I have a Lawrence Welk Record Collection in my antique booth in Fairhope. If you are interested in it, contact me!

    • Leslie Anne says:

      If I could only find my record player!

  • Well…doo-dah, doo-dah…I’ve never seen the LW Show, so next time you visit, you can control the TV remote. But I had the same type teacher who led our class in “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” “A Bicycle Built for Two,” and other ole-time favorites that I’ve never forgotten. Such wonderful memories!

    • Leslie Anne says:

      GET OUT OF HERE!!!!! NEVER???????? NOT EVEN ONCE?????
      Lord, have mercy!
      I’ve got my work cut out with you.

  • I grew up in a home where my parents watched this every Saturday evening. We often danced with Bobby and his partenr whose name escapes me right now, but my older sisters said he was a Mouseketeer. My grandfather even appeared in the audience dancing at the end of the show once. I am a 5th grade teacher and often sing the sing-off song to my studnets…they think I am crazy. Love this post…”goodnight, sleeptight and pleasant dreams to you.”

    • Leslie Anne says:

      Lucky students. They won’t know where it’s from until they hear it again someday, and you’ll be remembered fondly!

  • I listened to every Lawrence Welk show wit my Grandmother…I thought it was corny then but now it brings back such great memories of just good ole music and family time!! Thanks for sharing!

    • Leslie Anne says:

      So glad I’m not the only one!

    • Leslie Anne says:

      Memories of old music or tricking your kids? Ha!

  • You have an amazing memory. Thank you for sharing that with us in your usual entertaining and humorous way.

    • Leslie Anne says:

      It’s hard to forget Lawrence Welk!

  • We dvr The Lawrence Welk show and have a great time watching it (one of our favorites was the debut appearance of “little country singer just in from Nashville, Tennessee” Lynn Anderson). I’m always amazed by the costumes, and I’m positive they had ladies in the back who sewed up the entire Butterick pattern book every year. And while I have my favorites–I’m partial to Guy and Rolna–I must say that 2 Sisters/Twin Brothers group sorta creeps me out.

    • Leslie Anne says:

      My husband always thinks the twin brothers are the Osmond brothers and won’t believe me when I tell him they aren’t!

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