Shirley Temple

Along with Charlie Chaplin, Shirley Temple dominated chants and rhymes for a good chunk of the 20th century. Many of these also appear as Charlie Chaplin rhymes; the two names were used more or less interchangably.

Shirley Oneple, Shirley Twople….(etc)…Shirley Tenple
(a skipping rhyme recorded by Iona Opie in 1940 and 1952)

Shirley Temple is a star
S-T-A-R

(another skipping rhyme recorded in early 50s)

Little Shirley Temple
she bought a penny doll
she washed it, she dried it
then she let it fall
She called for the doctor
the doctor couldn’t come
along came the ambulance
rum, tum, tum
(alternate ending: because he had a pimple on his bum, bum, bum)

(early 50s)

Shirley Temple walks like this
Shirley Temple throws a kiss
Shirley Temple says her prayers
Shirley Temple falls down stairs!

(1952)

There was also, all over the English speaking world:
Shirley Temple went to France
to teach the ladies how to dance
She did the _____ she did the _____
she did the ______ she did the ______

This is more commonly done with Charlie Chaplin as the star, but variations with various people have been recorded since at least 1926.

Another “Singing Game” (with the girl who was “Shirley Temple” in the middle of a circle) that emerged in Scotland in the 60s and was known to every girl in England by the mid 70s:

I’m Shirley Temple, the girl with curly hair
I’ve got two dimples and my skirts up there
I’m not able to do the Betty Grable
I’m Shirley Temple, the girl with curly hair.

I’m got a leg like nobody’s business
I’ve got a figure like Marilyn Monroe
I’ve got hair like Ginger Rogers
And a face like I don’t know

Oh Salome, Salome
You should see Salome
Hands up there, skirts up there
You should see Salome

Swing it, swing it
You should see her swing it
Hands up there, skirts up there
you should see her swing it

Opie recorded that girls loved to play this game, and boys loved to watch, since the motions that went with it involved lifting their skirts. Girls didn’t seem to mind this (I get the impression that showing one’s underwear isn’t as mortifying to kids in England as it is in America – see Roll It Up A Little More.

The “Salome” section is a bit puzzling. Opie noted that most of the girls singing it had no idea who Salome was, and that it was often changed to “salami,” which made just about as much sense. Most interesting, though, is that it seemed to come out of nowere in the 60s, years after most Shirley Temple rhymes. There’s sheet music, but I can’t picture the song. No versions exist on youtube (possibly because the motions went with it may make putting it on youtube dicey business legally). If anyone has a recording of themselves singing it, I’d be happy to put it up here.

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18 Comments

  1. Anonymous

    I vividly recall 'I'm Shirley Temple, the girl with curly hair
    I've got two dimples and my skirts up there…' this was South Street Junior School, Bedminster, Bristol, UK in the Summer of 1969.

    ixmals@live.co.uk

    Reply
  2. Anonymous

    I remember this too, although some of the lyrics were slightly different. This was in Buckinghamshire,UK, in the 1970's.

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  3. Anonymous

    The song features in 'The Northern Clemency' by Phillip Hensher and is set in the late 60s / early 70s

    Reply
  4. Carolyn Graves-Brown

    This comment has been removed by the author.

    Reply
  5. Carolyn Graves-Brown

    Frogwell Junior school, Chippenham, early 1970s. One girl was in the middle (Shirley Temple)and the others holding hands and skipping in a circle outside. Shirley skipped in the opposite direction to the others and did the hoisting the skirt action. On the 'swing it' bit she picked her successor and swung her round in the middle so that, if possible, the successor's legs lifted off the ground.

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  6. Anonymous

    Heard in Ireland in the 1970s. I'm Shirley Temple the girl with the curly hair and I go dancing in minis up to here

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  7. Anonymous

    I used to dance to the shirley temple (curly hair) song in primary school in Ireland in the 90s 😛 But we would have 2 girls in the middle dancing around

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  8. Doris Soler

    Wow, sometimes a bit of this rhyme has floated through my head (I'm 51 !) and I wondered if I had made it up ! Must have been in the 70's in Malta

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  9. Jess

    Henry Fawcett School in south London in the late '70s/ early '80s. We definitely sang 'salami' and I seem to remember the bit about Betty Grable being 'I may not be able to do the sexy cradle' (!) in our version.

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    1. Ker

      Correct! Not that we even knew what a ‘sexy cradle’ was/is and I still don’t. I don’t even remember articulating the single words: I’m not able to do the dadinsble…

      Singing this in early 1970’s Sydney.

      K

      Reply
  10. Repair Man

    They used to sing the first verse to the tune of 'Ten Green Bottles' in '67 in Lancashire.

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  11. Derek

    Trent Bridge Junior School, The Meadows, Nottingham 1977

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  12. Unknown

    As far as my memory goes, the girls at Little Thurrock School in Essex (late 60s, early 70s) sang: "I'm Shirley Temple, the girl with curly hair; two big dimples, I wear my skirts up there; but I'm not able, to do the sexy table; I'm Shirley Temple, the girl with curly hair." This was followed by the Salome section, but not the Marilyn Monroe verse. I spent decades wondering what a "sexy table" was! :O)

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  13. Malcolm Mackinnon

    As far as my memory goes, the girls at Little Thurrock School in Essex (late 60s, early 70s) sang: "I'm Shirley Temple, the girl with curly hair; two big dimples, I wear my skirts up there; but I'm not able, to do the sexy table; I'm Shirley Temple, the girl with curly hair." This was followed by the Salome section, but not the Marilyn Monroe verse. I spent decades wondering what a "sexy table" was! :O)

    Reply
  14. Ruth Sinclair

    I went to Little Thurrock primary in the 60s and I remember being put under the clock in the main hall ( a fearsome and humiliating punishment) for performing 'I'm Shirley Temple' in the gap between the boy's and girl's playgrounds. My name was Ruth Matthews then.

    Reply
  15. Annmarie Palmer

    We sang a version of the Shirley Temple song that was different in Wishaw.

    I’m Shirley Temple and I’ve got curly hair.
    I’ve got dimples and wear my skirts to there.
    I’m no able to be a Betty Grable.
    But I’m Shirley Temple and I’ve got curly hair

    I’ve got legs like Betty Grable.
    Ive got a figure like Marlyn Munroe.
    I’ve got hair like Ginger Rodgers
    And a face like a big yoyo.

    Oh Sabrina Sabrina did you ever see Sabrina.
    Hands up there skirts up there did you ever see Sabrina.

    Reply
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  17. Diana

    i was trying to remember the missing words of this song going round in my head., googled ‘legs like Betty Grable’ and now I’m happy! We sang in Glasgow ‘She’s got the legs like Betty Grable, the figure like Marilyn Munro, the hair like Ginger Rodgers but the face I do not know. Salome, Salome, you should see Salome. Hands up there, skirts in the air, you should see Salome!’

    Reply

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