In Memoriam - Bob Keeshan
There is news today that Bob Keeshan died this morning at his family home in Vermont at age 76. Keeshan was the original Clarabell The Clown on The Howdy Doody Show but he was much better known to most as Captain Kangaroo.
Captain Kangaroo ran for 30 years on CBS when it was discontinued to make way for a morning news show to compete with NBC's Today show. It then ran for 6 more years on PBS. During that time, the show won six Emmy Awards, three Peabody Awards and three Gabriel Awards.
Keeshan was a staunch advocate for giving kids positive, developmental activities in their play and, it seems to me, tried to make his show as mentally interactive as he could rather than just fill time with visual candy. He, along with Fred Rogers, was critical of the current state of children's programming.
With his cadre of friends, Mr. Green Jeans (Hugh Brannum), Bunny Rabbit, Grandfather Clock, The Dancing Bear and (my favorite) Mr. Moose, Captain Kangaroo presented stories, jokes, animated shorts and comedic sketches that, as kids, we totally bought into. He was like a grandfather to us - reading us books and acting kinda silly now and then - all the while looking out for our best interests.
It is one of my great laments that there are no more shows like Captain Kangaroo and Mr. Rogers Neighborhood. It's hard to explain but these are people that, as children, we came to know because we saw them every day. They were as familiar to us as our parents and we loved the time we spent with them. And best of all, they showed us in no uncertain terms that we were important to them. Somehow I doubt today's kids get that from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
As for me, the memories will live on in my head and my heart. Who could ever forget the thought Bunny Rabbit continually tricking the Captain out of a bunch of carrots (although I never understood why he always had carrots in his pocket in the first place) or the sight of hundreds of ping pong balls falling on his head, undoubtedly after a lousy knock-knock joke by Mr. Moose.
Thank you, Bob Keeshan, for your enduring contribution to my childhood - and that of millions of others like me.