Television was a relatively new thing, and in our house it was a large, brown, wooden box with a 10-inch screen. There were, at most, five or six working channels, and to change stations, you actually had to get out of the chair and turn the dial.
I remember sitting in a little rocking chair (which I still have) about three feet from the screen of that 10-inch television and watching the Howdy Doody Show every night. (Check out the site. It’s great). The show was named for the “star,” Howdy Doody, a marionette, who appeared each night with his pal Buffalo Bob Smith, who served as the master of ceremonies. Howdy lived in Doodyville with his friends Dilly Dally, Flub a Dub (a creature that was an amalgam of eight separate animals), and the grumpy mayor of Doodyville, Phineas T. Bluster.
Also appearing was Clarabell the (gasp!) Clown, who only spoke by way of tooting horns on the peanut box he wore around his waist. The original Clarabell was Bob Keeshan, who later went on to become Captain Kangaroo (although he spent time an apprentice undertaker between his Clarabell and Captain Kangaroo gigs). Other humans appearing on the show were Chief Thunderthud (who invented the exclamation, “Kowabonga!”), and the Indian Princess Summerfall Winterspring.
The program ran for thirteen years, for a total of 2,343 episodes and was broadcast live before approximately 40 children, who sat in the “Peanut Gallery.” Without calling itself “educational television,” the program always contained valuable lessons for young children, which were cleverly hidden in stories, songs and sketches that kept us spellbound each and every night.
I also remember being a regular viewer of the Rootie Kazootie Show. It starred Rootie Kazootie (a puppet rather than a marionette) and his dog Gala Poochie the pup (whose original name was “Nipper,” but had to be changed because that was the name of the RCA Victor Dog). Also appearing were Rootie’s girlfriend, Polka Dottie, who, not surprisingly, always wore a polka dotted dress, and the villain, “Poison Zoomack,” whose goal in life was to steal Polka Dottie’s polka dots.
It was great stuff.