September 8 is the birthday of Darwood Kenneth Smith (1929-2002) a.k.a. Darwood Kaye, a.k.a. Waldo from Our Gang.
Waldo stood out it in the series, for he wasn’t one of the regular gang, but normally played their rival, a bespectacled Goody Two Shoes rich boy who often impressed Darla by buying her ice creams and the like, essentially beating Spanky and Alfalfa’s time. Waldo bedeviled the kids of Our Gang in 21 shorts from 1937 until 1940, when the series moved to MGM. He continued to play bit roles in B movies through 1946, when he was 17, then retired from show business to serve in the army and attend college.
It amusing to learn (given how he was cast) that Smith became a Seventh Day Adventist minister in adulthood, serving as a missionary in Siam (Thailand) for over 14 years before returning to continue his ministry in Southern California as Pastor Ken Smith. Smith’s hometown, Fort Collins, Colorado was known for its buttoned-down nature and remained a dry community until the 1960s. Smith’s four sons all became ministers as well.
Smith retired from full time ministry in 1995. He was working part time at La Sierra University at his son’s church in 2002, when he was struck and killed by a hit-and-run driver. The news made headlines around the world. Was this the latest manifestation of the Little Rascals Curse? (Nah, if you took any similar number of people and tabulated the manner and timing of their deaths you’d get a similar result, although it is kind of fun). Pastor Ken’s death at age 72 was sad and decidedly premature, but no doubt he’d have been the first to tell you it was just his time.
In 2009 his memoir was published, Finding Waldo: From Little Rascal to Seventh Day Adventist Pastor. Looks like just my kind of read!
For more on Our Gang, please check out my 100th anniversary podcast episode here.