Theodore Was Here / Theodore Was Here Again
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Dave Gregory and Grace Puls

....Hello! This is Dave Gregory, Professor Emeritus at Mountain View College, Dallas County Community College District. My wife, Joyce, is a retired elementary teacher and librarian. Her years of experience with children's literature contributed greatly to the production of this book.
....Grace is a retired speech therapist and the creator of the original poem about Theodore. She wrote it to include developmental word patterns to help children in speech therapy.
....This newspaper article from the Duncanville Today Newspaper, tells you more about the creation of Theodore.

Duncanville Today

People Today section
Thursday December 4, 1998
By David D. Waller

The Christmas spirit found in the heart of a child, or the child-at-heart, is the kind that makes you laugh whenever you see "Ernest Saves Christmas" or cry with joy when you watch George Bailey's life divinely renewed for the umpteenth time on "It's A Wonderful Life."

Christmas is fundamentally a revered and auspicious occasion, teeming with deeply spiritual meanings. However, it can also be a time of fun for anyone willing to look beyond their modern cynicism.

That Christmasy fun inspired the myth surrounding Santa Claus, his elves and reindeer. It is due to this same kind of fun that we modern-day moviegoers have newer flicks like "The Santa Clause" or "Jingle All The Way."

Several years ago, a Duncanville man got together with two others and formed yet another new Christmas character and gave him the name "Theodore." This one, a mischievous little elf, was cut from the same fanciful dream-stuff as Frosty, Rudolph - and, yes, even the grinch.

"Theodore Was Here" began as a song, written by local guitarist Dave Gregory and poet Grace Puls. Later they grew it into a 28-page child's book, marketed with a tape of the song and sound effects that make children giggle and squirm.

Gregory promotes "Theodore" at book-signings and school performances, like the one at Merrifield Elementary Dec. 3. Gregory demonstrated his ability to play, sing and work with children. He seemed very much in his element as the chords flowed from his guitar on the raised stage, raising smiles and giggling sing-a-longs in the audience of children from a twiddle called "I'm Going to be Happy Today."

Cut-outs of snowflakes and other Christmas things dangled from thread above the stage, not quite brushing Gregory's head as he sat on a high stool."How many of you think maybe I was an art teacher?" he asked the kids, opening his performance with a little teasing. He led them through two more wrong guesses, before coming to his

true profession - rather, his former profession."How many of you think I taught P.E., taught boys and girls how to play?" The subtle inflection in his voice cued the kids' perceptive minds that this was the right answer. A wave of enthusiastic hands answered in unison, and the children laughed at the singer's little game.

Then they really kicked up a storm of excitement while dancing a variation of the Macarena, which he called "Christmas-a-rena," to his song "Theodore Was Here!" Those words bounced off the walls like canon-fire as a couple of hundred young chords shouted them at full lung capacity, challenging the decibel meter at a Metallica concert. Gregory went on to talk about his partners in the writing of "Theodore," Puls and illustrator Vuthy Kuon (pronounced Wooty Kwon). He told them Puls was actually the one who knew about one of Santa's elves, whose name was Theodore, and she wrote about him. He immediately apologized that Theodore himself could not come to see them. "Santa wanted him to stay at the workshop and make toys." That's okay, Mr. Gregory. Everyone knows Santa probably can't spare any of his able-bodied elves during the Christmas rush.

He explained to the children that Kuon came from another country when he was only three years old. The Cambodian boy showed a proclivity for art and pursued that as his life's profession as he grew older. Kuon, now 27, is a professional artist settled in the Houston area, with five of his own books to his credit. Kuon will be doing book shows in the Duncanville area this spring.

Born and raised in Temple, Gregory left his hometown after graduating high school. He earned his degrees at Southwest Texas Univerisity and North Texas in physical education, education and counseling. Gregory now teaches part-time with the physical education epartment at Mountain View College, and still writes songs in his spare time. "It's a hobby for me," said Gregory. "That's really my advantage, I think." He said he can imagine how difficult it must be for folks who write songs and stories for a living.

Since Theodore was printed through "vanity press," the writers and their artist do their own promotional work. As his life is now, and with retirement coming up within a few years, Gregory can line up book promos to fit the rest of his busy schedule. His most recent promotions for Theodore since Merrifield were performances at

Duncanville's Central Elementary and Smith Elementary, Dec. 14, and book-signing events at Grapevine Mills and a second in Texarkana.

In Gregory and Puls' story, Theodore is a mischievous and curious elf who couldn't resist playing with some of the toys that Santa delivered on Christmas Eve, like noisy electric train sets and bubble-making machines. He was always a nuisance. But in spite of himself he wound up Santa's No. 1 elf. "We gotta do the best we can," Gregory told the kids, explaining the theme of his story. "(Even though) sometimes we end up being a little Theodore." Gregory said the story is self-published under the company name Theodore Publishing.

Gregory and Puls began their collaboration while both were teaching at Seguin. A chance meeting in the teacher's lounge in 1966 led to a conversation over coffee. He learned she was a poet and told her that he played guitar and wrote songs. Their most successful work so far has been Theodore.

Puls, a speech teacher, had already made up several diddies about Theodore for her class exercises. These included the train sounds used in the story: "huff, huff, huff" and "clink, clink, clink." "She wanted to use speech pattern development words," Gregory said. "She wrote alot of little verses that would be interesting to children. That's how they came into the verses of the song." Gregory wrote the intro music and the arrangement. Puls is retired and still lives in Seguin.

But this one work has been rising to some modest level of recognition in the southern Dallas area and the Houston area.

Theodore is a child's fantasy with magical characters doing larger-than-life things. "There's a little bit of magic inside all of you," Gregory told the kids at Merrifield.

In these darkened times of rising crimes, Theodore is just one story that reminds children - and maybe a few adults - that Christmas can be fun and somewhat magical, by virtue of involking the spirit of fun in everybody who wants it.

Theodore Was Here Theodore Was Here Again
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