Another icon of my youth kicks the bucket
I didn't have all those colored puppets and magic choo-choos and whatnot. I had the black and white stylings of Captain Kangaroo.
And now, let us bow our heads in a moment of reverence for the newly deceased Bob "Captain Kangaroo" Keeshan.
The Cap was a simple kind of guy. He spoke in soft tones, in a voice that made you believe he was talking only to you and you were his very favorite child in the whole world. Platonically speaking, of course. He wore this really ugly jacket with wide lapels that were embroidered at the edges so he looked like a cross between a carnival barker and a train conductor. I suppose it was the goofy hat that gave him the train conductor look. I know, I know. Captain. It was a captain's hat. I was three or four. Maybe five. I hadn't quite figured out that whole logic thing yet.
I tried to summon my memories of the captain's show without Googling it and came up with vague recollections of ping pong balls and treasure. At least I think that was Captain Kangaroo. It could be one of those sordid high school memories I try to keep supressed.
What I remember clearly is Mr. Green Jeans, who I used to call Mr. Green Beans. Either the show swtiched to color after a while or my father coughed up some cash for a color television, because I clearly remember seeing Mr. Green Beans in green clothes. He would bring live animals on the show and teach us all about the care and feeding of farm animals and I swore that some day I would be a farmer and raise pigs and cows and chickens until it dawned on me that most of my dinners came from those animals. After that, any time Mr. Green Beans brought a farm animal onto the show I would automatically start drooling and chant mmmmmm.....sides of beef.
The Captain also entertained the kiddies by showing a great cartoon called Tom Terrific. Tom was a swell, super boy who had a great imagination and could turn himself into anything he wanted. He wore a funnel on his head for some reason. When I was older I remarked that it looked like a boobie with a really big nipple. That went over well. Anyhow, Tom had a goofy looking pink dog (maybe I never did watch the black and white version) who never seemed to do anything but hang around while Tom transformed himself into superhero after superhero. I remember thinking that Tom's power would be a great thing to have because if I had to go to the bathroom I could just turn myself into a toilet bowl. And then I realized that meant I would have to piss on myself so I concentrated on becoming Superman instead.
Hold on. I was eulogizing Captain Kangaroo, wasn't I? Well, the captain hails from Long Island, which made him a big hit in our house because my mother, even though she was originally from Brooklyn, has this weird Long Island pride that causes her squeal in delight everytime an actor or sports person from the Island shows up on tv. And then she'll say it over and over again, each time: Did you know he's from Long Island? Sigh. Yes, mom. We know.
I often wished that Captain Kangaroo was my grandfather. Who wouldn't want a grandpa like that? Cool mustache, charming demeanor, great storyteller, patience of a saint and his friend Mr. Green Beans brought him animals each day that he could keep and then when the show was over he would kill them and serve them for dinner while he told funny jokes, unlike my real grandfather, who drank too much wine and every night told us the same story about how he met Jimmy Rosselli. Then again, I'll miss grandpa more than I'll ever miss Captain Kangaroo. There's a lesson in there somewhere. Probably something along the lines of "Captain Kangaroo wasn't a real person, jackass."
I'm still not sure what I learned from Captain Kangaroo. I don't think it was the alphabet or numbers or the capital of Wisconsin. Ok, so I learned how to love meat. And I learned that a man who perpetually looked like a grandfather will cause much surprise when he dies at the age of 76, almost 40 years after you thought he was already 86.
Update: I forgot to mention that Bob Keeshan was on the school board in West Islip, Long Island and is pictured in my mother's high school yearbook. Just a bit of useless trivia. Or not so useless.