Chantal-de-Bruijne/ShutterstockIt was 1968, and my husband and I, along with our two small daughters, had just moved to Santa Barbara, California, from Texas. We’d sold our furniture to make the move and needed to replace everything—and quickly.
I came up with the idea of being a game show contestant. I watched every program to figure out which one had the best prizes for the least amount of mental effort. I settled on ABC’s Temptation, hosted by Art James. It was a simple game: Three players were shown three different prizes, and then each contestant had to pick a prize by pressing a button—1, 2 or 3. The players couldn’t see each other’s choices. If only one player picked a prize, that player would win it. If two players selected the same prize, they canceled each other out, and the third contestant won all three prizes. (These were the gutsiest game show contestants ever.)
I talked my cousin Darlene into going with me to the taping at the Palace Theater in Hollywood. When my husband got home from work, I was bubbling with anticipation.
“I’m going to be on a game show and win some prizes, maybe even a color TV!”
He grinned and said, “While you’re at it, why not win a vacation?”
At the Palace, which was packed, my hopes began to fade when I learned that potential contestants had to set up an interview months in advance. I slid down in my seat to watch the taping, determined to leave as soon as I could. They taped three shows at a time.
Between tapings, an announcer told jokes to keep the audience lively. After one segment, he must have run out of jokes because he peered into the crowd and asked, “How is everybody? Anyone have any problems?”
Seeing my chance, I jumped up and said, “Yes, I have a problem!”
Everyone turned to stare at me. The house lights came up. In my exaggerated drawl, I said, “I came all the way from Texas to be on this show, and I’m just not seein’ how it’s gonna happen.” (This is what it’s like to win Jeopardy.)
A man with a headset who turned out to be the director waved his hand at me like Bob Barker. “Come on up here,” he said.
I hurried to reach the aisle, mashing toes and knocking knees all along the way. I heard someone mutter, “All it takes is nerve.” Taking me aside, the director said I was the kind of contestant the show wanted, and he invited me back for the next taping.
“And bring two changes of clothes in case you win,” he added.
I was plenty nervous, but I was the big winner after five rounds and was rushed to change for another taping. I won the next two tapings and had to return on the following Thursday. That day, the producers announced that the show had been canceled and there would be only two more tapings. I won both of those for a total of almost $16,000 worth of merchandise—a grand sum in 1968. My family and friends were some mighty proud Texans.
We furnished our new house with my winnings, which did include a color TV. My husband asked for a vacation, so I won two—a weekend at a dude ranch near San Diego and a week in Las Vegas at the Sahara hotel. I got to meet one of my favorite singers, Connie Francis, backstage after her Vegas show.
We paid taxes on the retail value of my winnings by selling duplicate prizes and items we couldn’t use, such as a knitting machine and two motorcycles.