Niagara Gazette


May 8, 2013

BRADBERRY: Most of all, I remember Mama

Niagara Gazette — I remember the best of times, my family as we were then, my brother, my little sisters and of course Dad. “But most of all when I look back to those days so long ago, most of all, I remember ... Mama.”

The opening lines from one of the first and most successful television sitcoms, “I Remember Mama” which ran from 1949-57 still echo.

Curled up on blankets and tiny chairs next to the couch where my mother sat braiding my sleepy pajama clad sisters hair, we probably saw every episode; we knew the characters as if they were our neighbors.

Sponsored by Maxwell House, the only coffee my Mom permitted in her percolator, the popular Friday evening CBS television comedy-drama series was often the last thing we children saw before we were whisked off to bed before one of Dad’s favorites, the Pabst Blue Ribbon sponsored Friday Night Fights came on.

Mama lulled us to safe and restful sleep, sleep, sleep ...

Kathryn Anderson McLean, better known by her pen name, Kathryn Forbes’ memoir, “Mama’s Bank Account” served well as the basis for the 1944 John Van Druten play and the 1948 film, “I Remember Mama.”

Loosely based, in part on her Norwegian-American family roots, Forbes’ story, published in 1943 was set in 1910, and told through the eyes of her character, Katrin, the oldest daughter, an aspiring author.

It chronicled the sometimes hilarious, always intriguing and entertaining saga of the Hansens, television’s version of a fairly typical, if not a tad eccentric immigrant family living in fast growing, multicultural San Francisco, kept in line by the sweet, loving, sometimes stern main character, Mama Hansen played by veteran actress Peggy Wood.

Each episode began with Katrin looking through the pages of the family album saying in a soft emotional tone, “This old album makes me remember so many things in the past. San Francisco and the house on Steiner Street where I was born. It brings back memories of my cousins, aunts, and uncles; all the boys and girls I grew up with. And I remember my family as we were then. My brother Nels, my little sister Dagmar, and of course, Papa. But most of all when I look back to those days so long ago, most of all … I remember … Mama”

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