CHILD PRODIGY ...the 1930s
Theresa Breuer was born in Toledo, Ohio on May 7, 1931 - the first child of a glass inspector for the Libby-Owens Company and his homemaker wife. Neither of Teresa's parents possessed a particular aptitude or interest in music or performance, and none of the four younger brothers that would eventually make up the family pursued vocal music, but it was clear from early in her life that Teresa was a natural talent.

Recognizing her young daughter's remarkable abilities and drive, Mrs. Breuer auditioned Teresa, just over two years old, for radio station WSPD's "Uncle August's Kiddie Show". Teresa performed on the show, singing Take Me Out to the Ball Game, for pay consisting of cupcakes and cookies from the show's sponsor, the Lutz Bakery.

As a child, Teresa sounded much the way she later did as an adult. Mrs. Breuer had said, "People who heard her on the radio didn't believe that she was just a baby. Some even phoned accusing me of lying about her age." Success on the "Kiddie Show" whetted the appetite of the child star. Teresa took dance lessons and excelled as a strutting tap dancer but, surprisingly, Teresa never took singing lessons. An energetic Teresa would sing and dance whether or not she had an audience, and she enjoyed performing tricks with her voice just as much for her own entertainment as for the listener's.

At age five, Teresa sang in a talent competition at Toledo's Paramount Theater. Soon after, her rendition of Ol' Man Mose helped her win a contract to perform on national radio and tour with one of the Major Bowes production units. Teresa's life revolved around her singing and dancing and it all came naturally to her. She required little instruction about when to smile, how long to bow, or how to make the most of an audience's applause. For the next seven years, she sang and tap danced as a regular on one of the country's most popular radio shows, "Major Bowes Amateur Hour," and continued touring the country with the Bowes unit at the same time.

Teresa always travelled with her Aunt Mary, beginning with her days as a child performer -- and continuing until she married Bill Monahan in 1949. Teresa was devoted to her Aunt, and the two remained close. In her later years, Aunt Mary lived with Teresa until her death in 1993.

  • TERESA: "WE TRAVELED BY BUS SOMETIMES, BUT USUALLY BY TRAIN. THE UNIT WOULD RENT A WHOLE TRAIN CAR, BUT NOT A SLEEPER. WE'D TAKE THE SEATS APART AND EVERYBODY WOULD MAKE BEDS. SOMETIMES WE ATE OUR MEALS IN THE CLUB CAR, BUT USUALLY WE COULDN'T AFFORD IT. I CAN'T REMEMBER EVER GETTING AN ALLOWANCE. I GOT PAID A HUNDRED DOLLARS A WEEK, WHICH WAS QUITE GOOD FOR THAT TIME. IN FACT, THEY PAID ME MORE THAN ANYBODY ELSE IN THE UNIT. WE USED TO SEND HOME ABOUT $25 AND LIVE ON $75. THEY MUST HAVE PAID SOME OF THE EXPENSES BECAUSE SOMETIMES THE ROOMS WERE REALLY DUMPY." SHE DIDN'T TOUR CONTINUOUSLY. "IT WAS LIKE TWO WEEKS AT A TIME. I'D COME BACK HOME FOR A MONTH OR SO AND THEN GO OUT FOR ANOTHER TWO OR FOUR WEEKS. WHEN YOU DID THE SHOW IN NEW YORK, YOU'D SEE MAJOR BOWES. OTHERWISE HE HAD DIFFERENT PEOPLE HANDLING THE DIFFERENT SHOWS HE SENT OUT. TED MACK (OF "AMATEUR HOUR") AND STUBBY KAYE WERE EMCEES, AND THERE WERE A FEW OTHERS."

  • TERESA ON ONE MAJOR BOWES CHRISTMAS PARTY: "THEY SAID EVERYBODY HAD TO GET UP AND ENTERTAIN. I USED TO STAND IN THE WINGS AND WATCH EVERYBODY'S ACT. THERE WAS A BLACK GROUP, A DANCE TEAM WITH SKATERS - JUST LIKE A CIRCUS. FOR MY THING, I GOT OUT AND DID THEIR WHOLE SHOW. AFTER THE DANCERS SAW ME DO THEIR ENTIRE ROUTINE THEY SAID TO THEIR MANAGER, 'SHE'S NOT ALLOWED TO STAND IN THE WINGS ANYMORE. WE'RE NOT PAYING A LOT OF MONEY TO GET A ROUTINE TOGETHER TO SEE THIS LITTLE BRAT STEAL IT!' THEY WERE FURIOUS. AND THEN I GOT OUT AND DID THE GOSPEL GROUP'S NUMBER AND THEY LAUGHED. THEY WERE SO NICE!"

When Teresa was twelve, her parents decided that she should curtail her touring and traveling and return to Toledo to concentrate on her school work. Teresa studied at Toledo's Holy Rosary School, the Birmingham School and Waite High School as she was growing up.

However, even while going to school and having a somewhat more normal home life again, Teresa continued to keep active as a performer. She performed on local radio shows, including a featured spot on the "The Pick and Pat Show" and eventually starred in her own local program, billed as "Toledo's Miss Talent." Ultimately, Teresa quit school before finishing her education at Waite High School.

  • TERESA: "I QUIT TWO MONTHS BEFORE GRADUATION BECAUSE I COULD NOT STAND IT! AND TO THIS DAY EVERYONE IS STILL SAYING 'HOW STUPID COULD YOU BE!' WHAT WOULD I LEARN IN THOSE TWO MONTHS? ALL I'D HAVE IS A SLIP OF PAPER. THEY SAID THEY WANTED TO GIVE ME AN HONORARY DIPLOMA. I SAID 'KEEP IT, WHO CARES?'"


Continue to Next Chapter