February 11, 1958 – The First Episode of the “Annette” Serial Premieres on the Mickey Mouse Club
“All I know is the necklace is gone and that McCleod girl was the only one left in this room when we went out to supper!”
On February 11, 1958, the first episode of the “Annette” serial premiered on the Mickey Mouse Club. The serial was based on the novel Margaret by Janette Sebring Lowrey (known for Pokey Little Puppy), and was adapted by Lillie Hayward. It was renamed “Annette” to capitalize on the popularity of Annette Funicello, who played the lead role. The serial was filmed on the Walt Disney Studio lot; the animation studio served as the front of the high school. The serial was directed by Charles Lamont, and stars Tim Considine as Steve, David Stollery as Mike, Roberta Shore as Laura, Richard Deacon as Dr. McCleod, Sylvia Field as Lila McCleod, Mary Wickes as Katie, and Judy Nugent as Jet.
The first episode, entitled “An Introduction,” has the McCleod housekeeper, Katie, introducing the story of Annette and how she came to stay with the McCleods. Dr. McCleod lives with his sister, Lila, and they both are surprised one morning when their niece, Annette, arrives from Ashford, Nebraska. Katie explains that the McCleods had no idea that they even had a niece, as they had lost touch with their brother years ago. Although Dr. McCleod wasn’t too sure about having Annette stay with them, as neither he nor Lila knew anything about raising children, he changed his mind and allowed her to stay instead of shipping her off to boarding school.
As she settles in, Annette begins to meet people and make friends in the town. She had met Stephen Abernathy, the most popular boy in town, as she was on her way to the McCleods and asked him for directions to the house. Annette makes a friend in neighbor girl Jet, who provides the McCleods’ food from her family’s farm. When Lila takes Annette shopping, they meet Mrs. Abernathy, Lila’s best friend, and Mrs. Abernathy’s daughter, Val. Mrs. Abernathy invites Annette to Val’s party so she can meet other kids her age. Although Mrs. Abernathy decides to send Stephen to pick Annette up for the party, Stephen already has a date with his girlfriend, Laura, so she sends another boy named Olmstead Ware, who is nowhere near as polite as Stephen, and cares more about food than anything else in life. He asks Annette to swing by the malt shop, where they meet Mike, who becomes one of her closest friends.
The party is a success, until Laura’s necklace goes missing, and she immediately blames Annette for its disappearance, but Annette had left the party before the necklace had disappeared. Even at school, Laura continued to spread the rumor that Annette stole the necklace, partly because she was jealous of Annette being the new girl in town. Annette, hurt by the continuing attacks, decides to run away back to Nebraska. Katie then stops the story there, saying that she can’t reveal any more, but hopes that everyone will tune in again to find out what happens.