TV game shows have been a reality of broadcast television for over seven decades. Sharon Smith remembers a neighbor who attended a popular show and won. Shared Stories is a weekly column featuring articles by participants in a writing class at the Norwalk Senior Center. Bonnie Mansell is the instructor for this free class offered through the Cerritos College Adult Education Program. Curated by Carol Kearns.
By Sharon Benson Smith
The Danielson family lived directly across the street from us. We kids always referred to them as them as the “rich people” on the block. They had the loveliest home (both inside and out), the nicest cars, a rental behind their home, and a separate structure in their front yard that housed a bar that was fully stocked with liquor plus non-alcoholic beverages.
Mr. Danielson, Fred, was a conductor for the Santa Fe Railroad, so they were able to travel a lot too (most likely for free). His wife, Ruth, was a homemaker, and came to visit our mom quite often to have a cup of coffee from her 20-cup aluminum percolator.
One day, Ruth came to ask Mom if she would take care of her boys, Fred Jr. and Gary, while she went to the “Queen for a Day” show to, hopefully, become a contestant. Mom was pleased for her, and agreed to watch the boys.
It was a very popular show at the time, hosted by Jack Bailey. The premise of the show was that whichever contestant needed the most help, (or had the saddest story), she would be chosen as Queen.
Ruth’s sad story was that the foundation of their home had been in desperate need of repair for several years because when it rained, puddles formed inside the house, the boys would splash in it, and come down with bad colds, often requiring a trip to the doctor’s office.
As the Danielson’s luck would have it, lo and behold, she won Queen For A Day, and that meant prizes galore! Among the prizes was a mangle – a large machine for ironing sheets or other fabrics, usually when they are damp, with heated rollers.
Ruth taught me to operate the machine and I earned 10¢-25¢ per flat piece that I ironed for her. Boy, was I glad when I got a “real job” and didn’t have to “mangle” anymore. Additional prizes included all new kitchen appliances, mainly one brand spankin’ new electric stove.
Ruth didn’t need a new stove, so Dad bought it from them for our mom. Dad’s heart was in the right place in getting Mom a new stove, but it became such a thorn in her side - it was electric and she preferred gas, saying the heat was just too difficult to control - it got too hot, or not hot enough, etc.
Mom had that stove until our home sold in 1961, and they moved to La Mirada where she was cooking with gas once again. She was so happy to be rid of that electric stove that Ruth Danielson won on “Queen for A Day.”