Sunday, 11 March 2018

Daddy Day

On the Jack Benny radio and TV shows, Dennis Day was a naïve young single man. In real life, Dennis Day was married with (eventually) ten children and, by all accounts, a fairly savvy businessman.

Just after Dennis’ ninth child was born in 1963, columnist Bob Thomas of the Associated Press caught up with the singer (the photo to the right accompanied the article). That wasn’t easy as Day was performing in Vegas and other spots around the U.S., pulling down money that could easily support a family of ten.

How he and his wife cope with that many kids? Here’s the answer. It appeared in papers starting June 7, 1963.

Dennis Day Stays Busy As Dad

AP Movie-Television Writer
HOLLYWOOD (AP)—The father of this or almost any year in Hollywood appears to be Dennis Day, Jack Benny's madcap tenor who has made a serious business of raising a family.
"We've never been out of diapers at our house," says Dennis, who seems somewhat astounded himself at the size of the Day (McNulty) tribe.
Here's how they will line up on Father's Day Sunday June 16.
Patrick James, 14.
Dennis Eugene, 13.
Michael Joseph, 11.
Margaret Mary, 10.
Eileen Maria, 8.
Paul Thomas, 7.
Thomas Francis, 5.
Mary Kate, 2.
Daniel Gerard, 6 weeks.
During a rehearsal break at the Jack Benny Show, Dennis rattled off the names and numbers with confidence—until be arrived Thomas. He made several stabs at the middle name before arriving at Francis. I checked with his wife later and discovered he was correct.
How do they manage such a crowd scene?
"It's my wife Peggy who gets the credit," said Dennis. "The burden is on her, because I'm out of town six months of the year; that's the way it is with performers nowadays."
"We have one live-in help and a day girl, but we've never had a baby nurse. Peg has done it all herself. Nine babies, and every one of them has had the colic for the first six months! We're tried every formula and every preparation that is made. You name them and we've had them."
Dennis admitted that the logistics for a family of nine children can be staggering. They manage to find room for sleeping accommodations in their expanded Mandeville Canyon home—now five bedrooms. The three oldest boys board at military school in Anaheim, so that's a help.
When the family goes for a weekend at their Palm Spring house, it's a regular caravan. Sleeping bags are a must.
Outfitting the nimble nine is a major operation.
"Shoes!" muttered Dennis, shaking his head. "We're always buying shoes. I got the boys shoes with a guarantee the soles couldn't wear out in six months. Know something? They beat the guarantee.
"I was in New York recently, and I looked up some wholesalers I know—I haven't worked for Benny for 24 years without learning some tricks. I went through the racks of girls' dresses and said, 'I take this and this and this.' That's the way we shop."
Dennis was one of six children, who have now produced 31 of their own-sister-in-law Ann Blyth has five. "I think large families are closer," said Dennis, an obvious advocate.
Any hazards to rearing children in Hollywood?
"It's no different from other towns," he said. "You can't let other people raise your children. You've got to know your kids and keep the lines of communication open.
"I tell mine if they ever have any problem to bring it to me; I won't belt them if they've done something wrong. So far we've done pretty well on that system."

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