by Nancy Squire
Some kids have all the luck! Like Alice Faye, Jr., for instance. Got a Baddy to cradle her in ruffles and a velvet-voiced Mom to rock-a-bye her into dreamland.
Our drama opens in the infants’ department of one of Beverly Hills’ swankiest shops. Seated here and there are happy-faced women, inspecting tiny garments and selecting crib robes, bonnets and those famous thirty-six-inch squares of white fabric. As it is just two weeks before Christmas, 1941, there is an occasional shopper investing in a singing Teddy Bear or a series of pink and white enamel building blocks.
Enter: one large, curly-haired man—alone. In what would pass for a dream walking, he wanders through the clothing section and finds himself in the junior furniture department. He begins to look like a cartoonist’s biggest rendition of a Joe E. Brown grin. He beams like the rising sun.
He buys the most gorgeous pink, blue and white crib available. It is a swish concoction of satin, lace and beauteous bows. “Deliver it the day before Christmas to Mrs. Phil Harris,” he instructs the faintly smiling saleswoman. “Er —I’m Phil Harris.
“Er—we’re having a baby in May.”
“You must be expecting a girl,” the saleswoman ventured. “Have you planned a name for her?”
“I want to call her Alice, Jr., but my wife is holding out for Jill. Then, if our next baby is a boy, we’ll call him Jack,” Phil explained. He stalled for several moments after the sale was complete. He touched the lace of the crib with great, apologetic male hands. “I beg your pardon, but do you have a jewelry department in the store?”
This direction firmly in mind, the prospective father descended to the main floor and purchased—guess what! An anklet! The smallest anklet in captivity.
doting daddy . . .
So Miss Harris’ first gifts from her father were a classy one-room apartment and an equally smart identification tag. Of course, the first thing the doctor said, when he supervised the removal of the new baby from hospital to Harris’ home was, “Get rid of that frou-frou! Not enough air, not enough light. Cushy stuff like that collects bacteria. Move it out!”
Once Phil had seen his new addition safely installed in the nursery, he hurried back to Alice. When she came out of the clouds long enough to smile mistily at him, Phil announced proudly, “She looks exactly like you, honey. She’s got the biggest, bluest eyes you ever saw!”
After a moment of silence, he added softly, looking down at Alice, “Think of the luck of a little girl, to have Alice Faye for a mother!”
Those who think of Phil Harris as having been born in a French horn and having grown up under a night club table should stop to realize that Phil is a native of Tennessee, that he grew up in a country town and learned to ride as soon as he learned to walk.
He has the deep emotional streak of the true Southerner and the intense loyalty to home. So, night after night during his tour, he telephoned Alice. Not once, but twice, three times, four times. Finally, one of the bandmen proposed an improvement. “If we have a telephone booth installed on the orchestra platform, Phil can conduct while he’s talking to Alice,” he suggested.
When the baby was six weeks old, Alice couldn’t endure being separated from Phil for another moment. She had secured a competent trained nurse to take care of the blue-eyed infant, so she flew to join Phil and complete the tour with him. “I was severely criticized for doing this,” Alice said on the set of “Hello, Frisco, Hello.”
“But, to be truthful, I’d do exactly the same thing again. After all, a young baby needs nothing but excellent physical care. There wasn’t a thing on earth that could do for the baby that couldn’t be done as well by a trained nurse.
In addition to her loneliness, Alice had another—and entirely generous—motive in leaving the baby and joining Phil. She felt that getting acquainted with the new member of the family was an adventure that she and Phil should share. She didn’t feel that it would be fair for her alone to see the first genuine smile, hear the first morning coo or witness the first discovery of chubby hands and feet. She didn’t want the baby to grow accus-
tomed to one person, a mother, and then meet a father at some later date.
By the way, the Harris family is not a trio—as you may have thought—but a quartet. Phil has an eight-year-old son, Phil Harris, Jr., who is presently a student at a Los Angeles military academy.
Ever since Phil and Alice have been married, Phil, Jr., has spent his free week-ends with them. He doesn’t miss much, but he always consults his father about a doubtful or a serious situation.
In the spring of 1942, he took his father aside one Sunday and asked, “Is there going to be a baby around here?”
Phil said, man-to-man, that there was. Phil, Jr., had nothing at all to comment, but the expression on his face was that of a hepcat given a permanent pass to the Palladium, which is Hollywood Heaven to solid senders.
big brother . . .
Phil, Jr., could scarcely wait for young Alice to get big enough for him to spend Saturday afternoons trundling her around in her pram. Whenever he is permitted, he holds her in his lap and carries on long one-sided conversations about the affairs of his school, athletic career and the condition of the world.
Miss Harris listens raptly for a time, but her big brother’s voice is very soothing, and the sandman is always nigh. Phil, Jr., grinning down at her, holds the young lady while she naps.
Phil, Jr., is known in the family as “Tookie,” but for heaven’s sweet sake, don’t tell any of the kids at school. Alice, Jr., is still called The Baby.
The Baby has a great deal to anticipate from the future. A preview of her training may be gained by reporting the manner in which Tookie has been reared so far.
Phil Harris was no novice father when his daughter put in appearance; he had served his apprenticeship with Tookie. For years, Phil—who prides himself on his cooking ability—prepared all of Tookie’s meals. Formula stuff, mind you, complete with vitamin charts, caloric content and table manners.
So The Baby will undoubtedly have her diet—once it progresses beyond the slushy stage—supervised by her dad.
hobby horse . . .
Item: No matter how late he had returned from his night club work the preceding night, Phil made it a point, in pre-war days, to get up the next morning and go horseback riding with his son. Miss Harris will undoubtedly be tutored in the fine art of horsemanship.
You may count upon The Baby learning to take care of herself in the clinches, too. Tookie has already taught her how to double her fists and dish out a miniature right hook.
You may depend on it that Little Miss Harris is going to be musical, or else. At least she is going to be so thoroughly exposed that she will have to possess the iron-clad determination of a General Sherman tank to resist the lure of bass and treble clefs.
For years, Phil has taken Tookie to the Benny rehearsals each Sunday morning. Naturally, as soon as Muffett has grown up enough to enjoy it, she will be taken along. There are some uncharitable enough at this point to say that if Mr. Benny plays his violin for her, La Belle Harris is going to be early discouraged from a musical career.
The Baby’s been dozing to the strains of Mama’s super smooth lullabies for months. Another rhythmic trick of this junior miss is to pull herself up with the aid of the bars on her crib and to stand there, laughing, while she jiggles in time to the music from the nursery radio.
Before she was born, flocks of Phil’s musical friends composed lullabies in honor of Miss Harris-to-be. Not only were dozens of sheets of composition paper covered with notes intended to rival Brahms’ best effort, but a good many of the eager composers had their songs recorded and delivered to Phil and Alice.
These records have been filed away and will be brought out some day when the Baby is big enough to appreciate all the melodies cooked up in her honor. Wonder what the slang phrase meaning “corn” will be in those dear future days? Or will Father Phil allow his daughter to speak such a delicate word?
We come, at this point, to that oh-soimportant item in a girl’s life: her wardrobe. Junior Miss started out with everything one could imagine. Small knitted sweaters, caps, longies and bootees came from England, Australia, South America and from a good many of the United States. Long dresses and short dresses, some gorgeously embroidered and some edged with exquisite handmade lace, arrived by each train and plane as soon as it was known that Alice and Phil were cradling.
Yet Alice, herself, didn’t do one bit of shopping until the final two weeks of the waiting time. She can’t quite explain it. It isn’t that she was superstitious; perhaps her reluctance to solidify her vaporous dreams into something as positive as a layette was caused by a childlike diffidence.
“All my life I’d planned on having a baby some day. When the time actually came, it all seemed like a wonderful dream—too good to be true,” she told Betty Grable.
So she bought nothing until she was ready to go to the hospital, and then she secured only those things that were absolutely necessary. She hadn’t even prepared a nursery—”because I knew that, if something went wrong, it would nearly kill me to have to come back and face my broken dreams.”
safe arrival . . .
But Alice, Jr., arrived safely to claim the wardrobe supplied by admirers of her mother and father. Whereupon, Father Phil began to look around. He became very baby-store conscious in the pink department. Seems that Phil has long selected all of his son’s clothes, and now he is prepared to be expert in the daughter-dress division.
At first glance—due to all the charming circumstances listed above—it might appear that all is bliss, pure bliss in the Harris menage. Yet there is one persistent cloud forever dimming the blue. There’s a war going on.
Alice confided to a friend recently, ‘All my life I’ve wanted a husband and a home and a baby. Now I have them, but Phil is away so much of the time . . . and there’s so much to worry about. I know that other girls have far more to distress them, of course, so I don’t really mean to complain. But I do get lonely and blue.”
Lieutenant (j.g.) Harris is on Catalina Island, performing the duties of an officer in the Merchant Marine[s].
So little Miss Alice Harris, proud of her Father Phil, will undoubtedly grow up to be true to the blue, a Navy girl through and through.