Granny’s Basic Metaphysicals

by Judy on August 6, 2013

“Beans n’ cabbage is good fer ya, even if the neighbors don’t think so.” Yep, this is one of my ‘Granny’ character’s basic metaphysicals’.

Judy as 'Granny' at Fort Steele, BC

Judy as ‘Granny’ at Fort Steele, BC

People often ask me when Granny developed into the totally outrageous person that they watch on stage. So here is the beginning of the tale, one of many chapters …

For those who saw our shows at Fort Steele BC, you would know Granny well. She played the bagpipes, fired off a gun, led the slapstick barbershops, taught the audiences how to milk a cow, directed her own barnyard-style melodrama, danced in shindigs and tried to teach her nephew, Underarm Tom, (the loveable character played by my husband, Tink Robinson) not to be ‘sceered of the dark’. Granny brings out the outrageous spontaneity in all of us and she certainly gets away with far more zaniness than I could!

The beginnings of Granny began much earlier than you think. My first influence was my own Grandmother (we called her ‘Mammy’) who taught me elocution (speaking) when I was 9 years old. She always had some funny poems in her purse which she just happened to pull out and perform on any occasion.

Tink Mammy & Judy outside the Wild Horse Theater

Tink, Mammy and Judy outside the Wild Horse Theater

When Mammy was 80, she entered herself in the speech class for the Kiwanis Festival in Calgary, Alberta. She won over the hearts of everyone present. The alarm system went off right in the middle of her piece, so she did what came naturally and entertained the audience until it was fixed.

And you should have heard her whistle! Dad said he could hear it from the other side of town. When she laughed, she would chortle on the out-breath and snort on the intake. Mammy would have a good old ‘chinwag’ with anyone, no matter what their station in life. Once she went into the Banff Springs Hotel lobby and showed her freshly caught trout to all the guests.

Thinking back on my drama training I realize, that of all the characters I played, I loved the grandmas the most. Tink says he is lucky because now he gets to sleep with a real one!

(Back L to R) Gramma Dickens, Dora Ripples, Miss Priss, Aunt Slug, Gertrude Pots, Mrs. Blewitt

I always loved playing Grandma characters. (Back L to R) Gramma Dickens, Dora Ripples, Miss Priss (Front L to R) Aunt Slug, Gertrude Pots, Mrs. Blewitt

Gramma Butterbum

Nelly Butterbaum

At the National Theater School in Montreal, Quebec, and Stratford, Ontario, I learned from the most incredible teachers in diction, voice development, improvisation, movement and acting.  One jolly feisty character I created one summer at Stratford was called Nelly Butterbaum.

My present day Granny was created for our shows in the Wild Horse Theater at Heritage Fort Steele, BC. Tink wrote the script and songs while I notated and arranged the harmonies. We hired our cast from across the country, began directing the rehearsals in mid June and performed 12 shows a week all summer long. I would start each show as Granny, then do a complete makeup change back to me and rush to get into the Granny costume again.

Judy in a gown designed by David Lovett, Ft. Steele, BC

Judy in a gown designed by David Lovett, Ft. Steele, BC

One time I was all decked out in my 1890’s gown and wig ready to go on stage, when just at the last second, I noticed that I had forgotten to erase the blackened teeth!

After the show the cast would go outside the theater to sign autographs. Audiences could never believe that Granny and that ‘singing-lady-in-the-beautiful-gown’ were one and the same!

People who lived and worked in the east Kootenays were thrilled that we brought in major tourist dollars.

Granny and Mrs. Cox at CIBC, Cranbrook, BC

Granny and Mrs. Cox at CIBC, Cranbrook, BC

One summer season, the CIBC manager in the nearby city of Cranbrook, BC, asked me, Tink and our theater cast if we would come to the bank in costume on our day off to interact with the staff and patrons. During that busy lunch hour, Granny pretty much took over the bank. She hauled the loans officer out to the front and announced that he was giving out free money.

She even went behind the counter to check that the tellers were doing their jobs. Granny greeted patrons as they entered and was ‘tickled pink’ to meet a little 94-year-old lady called Mrs. Cox. Granny took her all the way up to the front of the long line, introducing her to everyone along the way.

People waiting to enter the Wild Horse Theatre to see our shows formed huge lineups

People waiting to enter the Wild Horse Theatre to see our shows formed long lineups

T&J Ft. Steele 1976 color photo 2

Tink & Judy at Fort Steele, BC (1976)

In 1989, we resigned from Fort Steele, but Granny and Underarm Tom continue on. We still use these characters in our workshops and Life-Lifts. In the early 90’s, we brought our characters to schools, entertaining children from kindergarten to K6. It was these young ones who inspired us to write and record ‘KIDS (for all ages)’.

For three more summer seasons in the mid 90’s, Tink and I wrote, directed and performed with students and children at the Carriage House Theater in Cardston, Alberta. We have never seen so many talented musicians, actors and dancers all in one small community!

Cardston Hijinks at the Carriage House Theater (L to R) Kevin Redford, Jaelan Petrie, Granny, Underarm Tom, Tim Ruggles, Alethia (Hague) Schnoor, Karma (Hancher) Olsen

Cardston Hijinks at the Carriage House Theater (L to R) Kevin Redford, Jaelan Petrie, Granny, Underarm Tom, Tim Ruggles, Alethia (Hague) Schnoor, Karma (Hancher) Olsen

The songs we wrote and recorded for ‘KIDS (for all ages)’ teach universal messages through lively rhythms, catchy tunes and humor. Granny and Underarm Tom sing four of the songs on the CD and Tink and I do the rest. Learning through music and rhythm improves many life skills such as coordination, creativity, cooperation, self-worth and concentration.

Judy and Tink as Granny and Underarm Tom

Judy and Tink as Granny and Underarm Tom

Judy Armstrong as Granny

Judy Armstrong as Granny

One of the popular songs from this recording is “I Know Enough to Know That I’m OK”, a real confidence builder with a message for kids from 2 to 92.

We get everyone involved adding props and movement. There is nothing like singing, dancing and having a good old belly laugh to lighten the mood!

As Granny would say, “Life goes by quicker, if ya jest learn t’ snicker, and don’t git yer knickers in a knot!”




To listen to a clip of our song, “I Know Enough to Know That I’m OK” –  CLICK HERE  Or to download a copy of the song for yourself,  GO HERE


KIDS (for all ages)
Click on Cover to download the whole CD

Want to  Hire a Granny?  CLICK HERE

P.S. Check out my brand NEW ‘From Spirit to Story to Song’ Website Home  for more fun and inspirational stories. 

While you are there, download my song and FREE Gift for you, “Give Yourself Love”.


© Judy Armstrong 2013


{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

Gay Forstbauer August 6, 2013 at 7:44 pm

Love your blog Granny. THe best times at The Fort were the summers I sat in the theatre while you rehearsed….many thanks for those hours.


Judy August 6, 2013 at 8:09 pm

And thanks so much for reading it Gay. Yes, those were awesome times! Treasure your friendship and all the times we spent at the ranch too!


Jennifer August 6, 2013 at 8:22 pm

Absolutely amazing Judy! Love this. So fabulous to hear the story about the granny who enlightens my boys and lifts their hearts. Thank you for sharing your story…you are a true inspiration and brilliant light in the lives of so many. xo jenni


Judy August 6, 2013 at 9:08 pm

Thanks so much for your comments Jenni. Granny always reminds me to lighten up! Hugs, Judy


Flo Harvey August 7, 2013 at 1:02 am

A true entertaining duo. I loved seeing you. It reminded me of when I was little and got to see a performance in school. Keep shining.


Judy August 7, 2013 at 2:33 am

Hi Flo, you would remember Granny from the Winnipeg event a few years ago. I loved hearing from you, Judy


David Christopher August 8, 2013 at 2:47 am

I appreciate all you did to entertain many including my parents George and Dorcas, who on several occasions drove to BC in their car or truck and camper to see and hear your many great shows. Thanks both of you and your many alter-egos.


Judy August 8, 2013 at 4:59 am

Yes I remember well all the times your folks traveled to Fort Steele to see our shows. It was a treat for them but also for us. What fun we had visiting with them in the campground after the shows. Your Dad would give me a reflexology treatment … sigh … such great memories. I will keep them forever in my heart.


Gay Forstbauer August 10, 2013 at 4:13 pm

I think I want to hire a Granny for a birthday party in the spring…don’t know when or where yet but Matthew and Jorja both are spring things. Have to talk about this..


Judy August 10, 2013 at 7:44 pm

Hi Gay, now that sounds like fun. Granny loves birthday parties (me too). When the time comes, let me know.


Carolyn Cooledge August 12, 2013 at 7:35 pm

Those were the days my friend! I miss them so much. I’m the blessed one getting to know you, Tink & the other folks who performed each summer at Fort Steele. You gave me an appreciation & love for theater. I’d LOVE Granny & Tom to come to Sask. to my home on Aug. 14, 2013. It’s a BIG birthday for me :)


Judy August 12, 2013 at 8:12 pm

Yes Carolyn, didn’t we all have fun! We’re blessed to know you too! Wow, your special birthday is on the doorstep. Sorry we can’t be there in person, but we’ll beam you lots of energy! Have fun! We’re both sending hugs!!


brnda forsey August 23, 2013 at 3:22 am


I remember you in that beautiful gown, onstage at Fort Steele, singing a wonderful song, and the clarity and tone was so beautiful I was spell bound for hours! You looked so beautiful on stage signing your heart out, so regal, and I felt pure energy radiating from you…what a beautiful show you and Tink, and the cast put on every year. I met you there in my heart and have been so blessed to meet you in Nanton those few years ago…and I am doubly blessed. Your Granny that you play kept my family in stitches, our sides were so sore from laughing, my children remember you though they were so young when we took them to see your show. It was the highlight to our holidays!

You and Tink are a wonderful team of light beams, reflecting the light for everyone, holding the light for those of us that cant see it ourselves…helping everyone with your open heart and loving arms…you are a beautiful light worker, and the world is so blessed by your LOVE.

Love your story!

Warmest Hugs


Judy August 23, 2013 at 1:18 pm

Hi Brenda, yes we have wonderful memories of the Wild Horse Theatre shows in beautiful Fort Steele. My ‘Granny’ character was so much fun to develop. She teaches me so much about living right now, seeing the funny side of every situation and giving us all permission to be totally ourselves. Love hearing that your children still remember the shows!
Thank you for seeing your own light reflected in me. What a time to be living on planet earth! Love and hugs, Judy


brnda forsey August 23, 2013 at 3:23 am

Oops…I meant singing your heart out..i just reread my letter! When I think of Forte Steele I see you in that scene, and here you have posted the photo in this blog…wow! Beautiful!


Judy August 23, 2013 at 1:19 pm

I still have many photos of all the scenes. Will introduce them in future blogs. xox


Namaji November 1, 2013 at 2:12 am

Just wanted to thank you for your gift of music and humour Judy.
I loved to hear “Give Yourself Love” and to remember granny again.
What a marvelous newsletter and website you have shared.

Bountiful Blessings of Love & Light to you and yours, with hugs, Namaji


Judy November 1, 2013 at 4:31 am

Hi Namaji, how wonderful to hear from you! Glad you enjoyed the song, newsletter and website. I’m having great fun writing blogs – one each week since mid-July. ‘Granny’ remembers getting you up to sing at Heartland. Have pictures to prove it too! Lots of hugs and love beaming back to you both from both of us, Judy


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