We were just three little, sunburned girls flaunting ponytails and yellow shorts, but we imagined that we were a fabulous cross between the Partridge Family and the Lennon Sisters. Neighborhood kids thought we were wonderful, our parents thought we were crazy, and no one thought we should actually be on a real stage. That did not deter us, - we could sing! We exuberantly named ourselves The Sunshine Trio.
In the summer of 1967, my little sister, my best friend and I saw the ‘Up with People’ performance in the sweltering East Texas humidity. Upbeat and high-energy, the concert sparked an irrepressible love of humankind in our pre-teen hearts. Heated civil rights battles and immoral free love fests dominated the news; we were convinced that the squeaky-clean, cheerful image that the teen-aged performers exuded was just what the world needed. I wanted to be a part of it. If I could not be a part of it, I would form my own group. The Trio was born.
Charging twenty-five cents for admission to the shows, we served cookies and kool-aid to the neighborhood kids that were dragged into our backyard, mostly by me. Bossiness came to me naturally; I got a lot of practice bossing my four younger siblings around. When I commanded the gullible, local children to arrive at my house with a quarter for shows, I did it with an air of undeniable authority. They came.
The songs we sang consisted of every shred of the ‘Up with People’ tunes I could remember and when the tunes or words escaped my memory, I just made them up. No one seemed to mind. Included in the soulful, heart-touching numbers were lyrics like, “Up, up with people, you meet ‘em wherever you go. Up, up with people, they’re the best kind of folks we know!” Those inspiring words brought tears to our eyes.
Actually, those tears were probably caused by our ghastly sunburns. Sunscreen did not exist in 1967; as we performed from the open roof of our backyard playhouse, we turned extra-crispy. Lightning bugs provided the only illumination during nighttime concerts, but at least the late shows did not hurt quite as much the daytime ones. Hordes of Texas-sized mosquitoes certainly made the evening choreography livelier. I do not know which caused the audience more pain – the mosquitoes or our choreography. It was awful.
What we lacked in dancing ability, we made for with starry-eyed enthusiasm. In retrospect, our lyrics were embarrassingly hokey. “We’re the Sunshine Trio. We're the Sunshine Trio. We’re bringing happiness to you. We’re bringing happiness to you-hoo!” Dad spent many of our finest performance moments wincing and shaking his head, rattling the change in his pockets. We did not charge him a quarter because he paid for cookies and kool-aid. That was big of us, don’t you think?
As the summer ended, so did our chances for stardom. Our crowd dwindled down to a few dogs and our chubby, one-year-old brother, who was a captive audience in his walker. Have you ever tried to scoot a walker through thick, Bermuda grass? The trio disbanded when school started. It was painful to admit defeat, but we were getting a little tired of repeating the same five songs. Finally, we called it quits and moved on to the noble, yet difficult task of getting ourselves asked to the sixth grade dance.
The talent scouts never called and no one ever asked for our autographs, but deep in our hearts we always knew we were stars, anyway. We would someday, somehow make the world a better place.