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Spin, Marty and W&L

Alumni (and others) of a certain generation will remember Spin and Marty, the eponymous heroes of a 1950s television series that was part of the original “Mickey Mouse Club.” Washington and Lee librarians Elizabeth Anne Teaff and Carol Blair recently illuminated the connection between that series and W&L in the latest issue of “Folios,” a newsletter for the Friends of the Library.

The series, which ran from 1955 to 1957 on the “Mickey Mouse Club,” was based on a 1942 novel, Marty Markham, which Lawrence E. Watkin wrote while he was a professor of English at W&L. Watkin, who joined the faculty in 1926, had written two previous novels. His first, On Borrowed Time, became a Broadway play and a Hollywood film. His second, Geese in the Forum, was set on a small college campus that he called “old Beauregard” and featured some wonderful lines about college life, including this question that a faculty member posed about the college president’s trips: “How many miles must you get out of a college president before you can turn him in?”

Marty Markham tells the story of a wealthy New York City boy who learns to adjust to life in rural Virginia. Although the TV series is set “out West,” the inspiration for the Triple R Ranch, where Marty spends the summer, was the real-life Broadview Ranch, which is just south of Lexington. Tex and Virginia Tilson ran the ranch, and the Tilson family still owns it. Watkin thanked the Tilsons on the dedication page of Marty Markham.

After he left W&L, Watkin joined the Walt Disney Studio, where he wrote several screenplays, including a 1950 adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island, and also produced “The Great Locomotive Chase,” a 1956 film that was based on a true story from the Civil War.

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