“LET’S START AT THE VERY BEGINNING,” and as Oscar Hammerstein II wrote in The Sound of Music, “A very good place to start.”
Why Oscar and I? I have come to realize that my love of Oscar’s characters and optimistic lyrics formed the bedrock of my childhood identity. I, Jessie May McNall, a bona-fide cockeyed optimist, made my entrance literally on the fourth of July in the mid-20th century in Centre County, Spring Township, in the town of Bellefonte (Beautiful Fountain), PA. I grew up on Sunset Avenue in Pleasant Gap singing songs from all the Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals. As kids, we roamed the meadows and corn fields in our back yard singing “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning” and “The hills are alive with the sound of music.” We sang while climbing to Big Rock which smiled upon our village. We enjoyed picnics and the panoramic vista there which embraced our Happy Valley, USA. R&H was the soundtrack of my childhood and many others who grew up influenced by these simple and profound ideas and ideals.
This idyllic description is true for all the many kids with whom I played on Sunset Avenue. However, the defining difference from all the rest, (“you’ll forgive me if I boast”) with the exception of my brother, Lyndon, is that our grandfather, Lyndon McNall, was Maria Von Trapp’s mailman in Stowe, Vermont. Lyndon remembers meeting Maria. I was too young, but I do see this connection with The Sound of Music is “not really by chance” to quote one of Oscar’s favorite lyrics.
I’m going to be writing about the Oscar and I connection every Tuesday and Thursday. For sure, I’ll be writing about the man, Oscar Hammerstein II, the lyricist, humanitarian, my rock star. But, I’ll also be writing about the “I.” This includes the individual, collective and the universal I. After all, we all feel connected to Oscar in our own unique ways. The I of Oscar and I includes you, too. Let’s explore our love of this great man and the impact that he and his collaborator, the brilliant Richard Rodgers, have had on our lives.
There is no mistake, that this blog has begun on Valentine’s Day. For I am indeed A Cockeyed Optimist in love with A Wonderful Guy.
Below is the outside and inside cover of Maria Von Trapp’s gift to my grandparents at the celebration of their 50th wedding anniversary.