In the dustbin of our cultural history

I was on one of those when I was about five. It was a local show, not a national syndicated show.

I went to a taping of the Ramblin’ Rod Show, Portland, Oregon’s local, thankfully sans-clown kid’s show. This must have been early 1980s. I had to look up the name, but damn, the Google results triggered a ton of memories.

I attended “Bozo’s Circus,” the long-running Chicago version of the show, in '73. The wait list for tickets for the show was historically long – my mother and my aunt had put in for a big block of tickets shortly after I was born (I was eldest in my family, but at that point, my aunt had five kids), and by the time we actually got tickets, I was eight. We had enough tickets to bring half of the neighborhood with us.

The televised version of the show was a mix of live-action comedy and games, and cartoons; in the studio, they didn’t show the cartoons, so instead, we got more comedy from Bozo and the other clowns. I remember the studio feeling far smaller than it had looked on TV.

My understanding is that the Chicago show, on WGN, ran for far longer than the versions in other cities, and that they still had kids in the studio audience into the late '80s or early '90s.

Oh, sorry, I misread that as “into their late '80s or early '90s.”

The local Popeye cartoon show in L.A. was hosted by Tom Hatten. He used to do a squiggle contest for his two kid guests. Each has an easel with a pad of paper with an identical squiggle drawn on the top page. The kids had to turn the squiggle into a picture. I wanted to do that so bad!

And then there was the Red Light Green Light milk drinking game on Engineer Bill. That didn’t interest me, but he di dhave some of the most exquisite cartoons. There were some that were animated silhouettes and others based on Russian folk tales. I have fond memories of those.

Growing up in Wisconsin, the Chicago “Bozo’s Circus” was the archetype of clown shows. We often heard whispered rumors of how Mikey McGirkey’s cousin from Skokie got on the show and stepped on a clown’s shoe, no wait he tripped the clown! Yeah, all the cool stuff happens in Chicago…

That might be a real tear-jerker of a nostalgia show. Get a bunch of interested oldsters to attend a careful re-enactment of a Bozo show as it would have been filmed back then. Same cameras, same lighting, same hokey sets, same period skits and lingo. And watch their reactions as the memories or imagined “memories” come flooding back.

IIRC kid shows with kids in the live studio audience got going around 1950 in the early markets (LA, NYC), maybe 1955 in other major markets. So somebody who attended at age 5 would’ve been born in 1945 or 1950 and would be 70 to 75 today at the oldest. Somebody who attended at age 10 would be 5 years older, coming up on 80.

That’s not quite ancient enough to get the effect I’m looking for. We’ll have to try this idea in 2030-2040; 2021’s just too soon.

I remember Engineer Bill. I had one of his Milk classes, where the more you drank, the higher you train “rank” was, from Gandydancer to Engineer, iirc That mights be the same Red Light Green Light milk glass.

My neighbor (trainman) explained that however, the Conductor was the real boss of the train, altho of course Engineer was considered by kids to be the coolest.

We must have been neighbors growing up. I grew up on Tom Hatten/Popeye and Engineer Bill too (Bozo never did interest me that much).

Engineer Bill had “Bad Habit Breaking” exercises – Each week, he’d choose a common childhood bad habit to break. A model train had to climb up an inclined ramp, pushing a block representing the bad habit. The train would make a little progress each day, and finally by the end of the week it would (usually) reach the top and push the block off into a wastebasket.

But never mind all that. I just watched Tom Hatten and Bill and Mouseketeers for the cartoons. E-Bill had an odd series of cartoons: Colonel Bleep, unicycle-riding space alien spy from afar, assigned to Earth of gather intelligence on our nascent Nuclear Age, which threatened the safety of the whole Galaxy.

You can still see episodes of Engineer Bill and Colonel Bleep on YouTube. Whoda thunk somebody somewhere recorded those (who had videotape recorders in those days?), kept them all these years, just to post them on YouTube?

Colonel Bleep! I forgot all about him.

Do you remember Webster Webfoot? He was my favorite when I was about 3.

There’s a science fiction story that postulates that the first use of faster than light travel is to carry aging baby boomers far enough out into space to see “Howdy Doody” and other shows that were broadcast live and not preserved: “What Time is It?” by Jack Haldeman II (Joe’s brother).

Here’s another Colonel Bleep cartoon. The point being: These were made in the late 1950s, and some of them had a clear, overt, unmistakeable Cold War propaganda theme to them. Here, Bleep and his sidekicks battle a Sauron-like evil robot who has designs to conquer the galaxy universe with weapons of destruction:

I don’t think I want to see them again. They stay wonderful in my memory, instead of cheesy in the re-viewing.

Let’s not kid ourselves. They were cheesy the first time. That’s how I remember them. As in: So cheesy they’re funny. ETA: Definitely “dustbin of our cultural history” material.

P.S. Sorry, no, I totally missed Webster Webfoot. Don’t remember that at all. But I remember Calvin And The Colonel. Look that up on YouTube yourself if you dare.

OTOH, Rocky and Bullwinkle was a real winner of a cartoon series.

His theme song

I remember wgn’s bozo and a lot of Indiana Illinois and Michigan cried when Mr Frazer passed … I also took an appreciation of old movies because Mr Frazer would walk from the bozo studio to a faux library corner with a working fireplace and show one of the old Hollywood classic movies

and what even was more amazing is they weren’t kids movies usually except for the lassie movies in the 30s/40s (because they were his favorite as a kid allegedly)

And popeye lasted into the 90s until some controversy caused Hatten either to be fired or quit and he too was a mainstay on KTLA’s “family theater” which ran all day Sunday … at one point I think there was a shortened weekday morning version of popeye with the HB popeye cartoons shown

actually you can add the whole “saturday morning cartoons” along with morning and afternoon cartoons on non cable stations well MEtv runs some of the theater shorts these days …

Growing up in Indiana, I watched Chicago’s Bozo Show regularly, and was surprised to see how long it actually lasted–into the 2000s! I even remember that traumatic time when Bozo’s voice mysteriously changed (actually, when Bob Bell retired from playing him, and was replaced by Joey D’Auria). I was a bit past the prime age for watching Bozo by that time, but I was still aware of it happening.

But Bob Bell’s portrayal of Bozo lives on. According to Dan Castellaneta, Krusty the Clown’s voice is based on Bell’s raspy-voiced Bozo.

Related to phone books, we’ll probably stop seeing companies pick names to get them first listings, like AAA Septic Service or A1 Auto Repair.

Google doesn’t care about the alphabet.

He was a large puppet duck. Looked enough like Donald Duck that Disney would have probably sued. His birthday was February 31st!