Friday, September 14, 2012

I learned everything I needed to know from Captain Kangaroo

I grew up in front of the television. Even though my face is not visible in the picture, I assure you it is me. I recognize the drool (LOL!). I actually have memories of being in front of the TV in that jump-chair. Captain Kangaroo debuted in October 1955 and I had made my debut 14 months earlier. I was so fortunate that my mother learned I would be quiet if I was parked in front of the tube. I so remember every gag they used on Captain Kangaroo. The theme music did not stop until Captain Kangaroo hung up his keys. He would often play with it by lifting the keys and feigning the movement to hang them again. It was always good for a laugh. I can’t remember what the Captain had to say to Mr. Moose to start the ping-pong balls dropping, but I laughed each time.

 What did I actually learn from the Captain? I could recite the Pledge of Allegiance at the age of 3. By the time I started kindergarten I knew all of my colors and could count to 10. The alphabet was a snap!  I also learned “The Magic Words” please and thank you. I did think the TV was interactive and so I thought my shouting “Grandfather” actually woke up the Captain’s old clock. I used to watch Romper Room too, but that teacher lady never saw me through her stupid magic mirror. For that reason I refuse to give her credit for teaching me the alphabet.

For Christmas 1956 I received a Captain Kangaroo hat and keys. Even though the music stopped when the keys were hung up, the hat had to be hung up first. So it was that the Captain’s hat and key were packaged as toys and I wanted them! I wore them every day that I remembered where I had left them the day before. (I was a little slower in learning to put things away as the Captain tried valiantly to teach me.) I absorbed as much as I could from my television leader with the large pockets. When I got home from school on my first day of kindergarten, I announced to my family that I was a genius and had no need to finish kindergarten. To my surprise my mother put me in the station wagon that delivered me to McDonald Elementary School the next morning. (My sister Zoe never let me forget my announcement. I swear she would tell total strangers just to embarrass me.)

My family was deeply in love with television. I was permitted to stay up late on Friday nights to watch “The Twilight Zone” and “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” and my brother would spend Saturday nights watching the monster movie shows.  I desperately wanted a color television by the mid-1960s. The first time I ever watched anything in color was “Johnny Quest” and it was at my godmother’s home on a very badly tuned set. Everything seemed to be in purple and green. I still thought it was the most magical thing I had seen.

The day that cable television was installed in our home, my father went to Western Auto and bought a color television, which was so he could watch “Bonanza” in color.  The cable television of 1966 was very different from what we have now.  We lived in the Ohio River Valley, so the only stations that could be received by a fixed-position antenna were Steubenville and Wheeling and when the weather was good, we might be lucky enough to get Pittsburgh. With our cable connection our world expanded to include Youngstown and Cleveland! Now I even had National Educational Television!  I am just sorry that it was too soon for Sesame Street.  That was my son’s domain or as he pronounced it “Sesester Street”.

What my son also had that I did not were 200 channel cable television and video tapes. He had his favorite TV shows which he did watch very faithfully and video tapes that he would watch until he and I, could recite them line-by-line. He could read by the time he went to school. He didn’t realize it, but I sure did. The picture of him with the TV was taken when we were on vacation. There weren’t any vacations from television.

My son is now a father and his children will never know a world without game systems, cell phones, tablets, home computers and the Internet. My granddaughter has taught me most of what I know about using my iPhone.

Every generation has an invention or program that they feel they can “own”. I suppose my mother’s may have been the radio programs and Works Project Administration and her mother’s may have been the Tennessee Valley Authority and the rural electrification program. I feel like I am a part of the space race generation. With the leaps and bounds that technology has taken since the beginning of the 20th century, I can’t even imagine what my grandchildren will feel is the major contribution of their generation or what their children may invent.

No comments:

Post a Comment