Television and I grew up together and back in the infancy of TV programming are some of my fondest memories. Being a kid was great back then if you were lucky enough to have a television set. We were the lucky ones in the neighborhood and never had a scarcity of people who wanted to watch; no matter what was on. I fortunately was an only child and had the privilege of the television all to myself when children’s programming was on. On Saturday morning I got to see Kukla, Fran and Ollie. Fran Allison was the real person of the trio and Kukla and Ollie were hand puppets. They were created by the puppeteer, Burr Tillstrom and they had lots of adventures of good versus bad.
Another puppet show was Paul Winchell and Jerry Mahoney which was geared a bit more to children older than toddlers. Paul Winchell was the ventriloquist who was the voice of several of the puppets on the show including Jerry Mahoney and Knucklehead Smiff. Puppets Rootie Kazootie was a puppet who wore a baseball cap and had a club called the Rootie Kazootie Club with its share of good characters and a villain called Poison Zoomack, I remember using words and phrases with “ootie” at the end designating that you were a member of the club and I sure was “yessirootie”. Do you remember Andy’s Gang starring Andy Devine; a veteran of western programs. He was a round-faced jovial leader of a group of puppets and characters. We would all yell “plunk your magic twanger, Froggie” and Froggie the Gremlin; this rubber frog would jump up out of a puff of smoke. There was Squeaky the Mouse and Midnight the Cat. There was storytelling and lots of enjoyment for our young imaginations.
Probably the most memorable of all the puppet shows was Howdy Doody which had to be the favorite of all the kids in the Peanut Gallery which was the audience of children in the studio and also referred to as the place where we all sat at home. There were several human characters which included the famous Buffalo Bob, Chief Thunderthud, Princess Summerfallwinterspring and who could ever forget Clarabelle the clown. The marionette puppets were Howdy Doody the freckle faced little cowboy and star of the show, his friend Dilly Dally, the mean mayor of Doodyville; Mr. Phineas T. Bluster and a pet made up of many different animal parts called Flub-a-Dub. They had different adventures each week and we Baby Boomers sat there every week mesmerized by the goings on in Doodyville. The best part I remember was Clarabelle who squirted people with a seltzer bottle and although she only spoke once on the very last episode, she would honk a bicycle horn as her method of communication and carried a box at her waist which harbored that seltzer bottle. We would all squeal with glee at the unsuspecting victim receiving a shower of seltzer. Those innocent days are long gone but memories do give us lots of reasons to smile. Hope this brought a smile to your face and a tweak from your memory bank too.