Each of my grankids is a talker. Reed is the thinker, at seven years old more inclined to talk when he can get my full attention. Maddux, 5, is our question-man. He wants to know what’s going on and why. Then there’s Savannah, recently turned 4. The little girl can talk the paint off the walls. If she’s not talking to us, she’s talking to herself or one of her dolls, especially Nick, who’s a Cabbage Patch Kid that was once my daughter’s. When we were at the Grand Canyon last weekend, she kept repeating a phrase … it sounded like, Volcano made a boom-boom. We asked Reed, Is that what she’s saying? Yes, said Reed. It’s from Good Luck Charlie. Good Luck Charlie is one of those annoying pre-adolescent Disney shows that Reed likes to watch. It used to be Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and Higgleytown Heroes when he was little. Muri and I would both rather have Savy watching those shows but Reed is the only one that really watches TV. Besides, we’re not the Mommy. At least it’s not Spongebob Squarepants. Our kids grew up in the heyday of Mr. Rogers, Sesame Street and Electric Company. Now those were kid’s shows. The best thing about Sesame Street was that a parent could watch with the kids and there was enough humor directed at adults that the experience was enjoyable. And when our kids did get to watch cartoons like Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck, they were funny. These days, Mickey and Donald are so busy being educational … very SLOWLY educational, explaining freaking everything … it’s mind-numbing. No wonder Reed wants to watch Good Luck Charlie.
Me? I was around when it started. The first kid’s show I can remember was Howdy Doody, complete with host, Buffalo Bob, the water-squirting, horn-honking clown, Clarabelle, and the incredibly politically incorrect, Chief ThunderThud. We also loved The Buster Brown TV Show with Smilin’ Ed McConnell and his Buster Brown Gang, which we simply knew as The Buster Brown Show. The assortment of characters included Froggy the Gremlin and Midnight the Cat. But perhaps the most innovative show of the time was Winky Dink and You. Yeah, dumb name but it was the first interactive TV program. It presented the adventures of a boy named Winky Dink and his dog, Woofer. For fifty cents, Mom could purchase a magic viewing screen and special Winky Dink crayons. The magic screen would be placed over the TV screen (held by static electricity) allowing a kid to draw on the screen. During the course of Winky’s adventures, viewers would complete connect the dot pictures that helped Winky out, for instance, a bridge to cross a river or an axe to cut down a tree. Secret codes could also be deciphered by tracing successive images on the magic screen. Here’s a bit from one of the original shows in which the host, Jack Barry, shows how it worked. Scroll ahead to 2:00 minutes into the video.
Yeah, Younger Eyes, it looks pretty low-tech to you, but this was 1953. Televisions still ran on coal. And it was a lot of fun, as long as Mom and Dad were willing to send away for the magic screen kit … or until the magic screen got all gooey and made a mess of the TV. Then it was good-bye Winky.
What TV shows did you grow up on?