A Tribute to The Captain

Can you hear the music playing as the keys jingle in the Captain’s hand?  It’s in the memory
banks of most of us who grew up a few decades ago.
On and on the music would play and then it would stop the moment that
the keys came to rest on a nail on the Treasure House wall where they belonged.

It was Captain Kangaroo who unlocked the Treasure House door and we
would come running to watch when we heard the theme song begin on our television sets.
Just as small children wait to see what surprise Daddy has for us in his pockets when he comes
home, in the same way, we waited expectantly to see what the grandfatherly Captain Kangaroo
would extract from his oversized marsupial jacket that he wore.  He brought out such outlandish
things as large mirrors, bunches of bananas, and even music stands; and we all held our breath apprehensively as he absent-mindedly laid a bunch of carrots on the counter because
the greedy Bunny Rabbit was known to snatch any carrots away
in a split second and we were never disappointed.

When we first saw the show, we didn’t know the Captain wore a red jacket or that
Mr. Green Jeans really did wear green jeans because we didn’t have color TV then
but it didn’t matter.  We simply loved Captain Kangaroo with his walrus shaped mustache
and haircut that looked like someone had simply turned a bowl over on his head and
trimmed around it with a pair of dull scissors.

We learned to laugh at the antics of Mr. Moose who entertained us with his jokes and
would trick the Captain usually by telling a “Knock, Knock” joke
which went something like this:

“Knock, knock,”
“Who’s There?”
“Justin who?”
“You’re Just in time!!!”

At those words, hundreds of Ping-Pong balls would fall on the Captain's head. I often
wondered who had the job of picking up all those Ping-Pong balls. Surely it
should be Mr. Moose since he caused it to happen!
Who can ever forget Mr. Green Jeans and his inventions!  In one episode
I recall laughing uncontrollably because of a huge alarm clock
strapped to his wrist.   He excitedly informed the Captain
of his latest invention, the wrist clock!

One of my favorite activities on the show was waking up Grandfather Clock.
The Captain would tip toe quietly over near Grandfather Clock, who was always snoring,
as he whispered instructions to the TV audience:

(Tip toe, tip toe, tip toe), …
“All together now: One, two, three…”

Grandfather Clock would make a lot of noise fluttering his eyes as he awakened.
Why we tip toed and whispered I never quite understood since it took all of the children
watching the TV to yell, “Wake up Grandfather!” to rouse him from his napping.
However, Grandfather always woke up, and in a good mood I might add,
to recite a poem to us and then quickly fall back asleep again.
Captain Kangaroo would read stories like Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel,
Mary Ann, or show films of,  “Simon In The Land of Chalk Drawings.”
The song began, “Now you know my name is Simon and the things I draw come true,”
as Simon and his chalk drawings came to life.

Another favorite was the cartoon portion of the show, “Tom Terrific and
Mighty Manfred the Wonder Dog.”  Tom Terrific wore an upside down funnel
hat that could change him into any object to help him defeat the villainous
Crabby Appleton who sang:

“My name is Crabby Appleton,
I'm rotten to the core.
I do a bad deed every day
And sometimes three or four.”

As in all good children's stories, Tom Terrific would put the evil Crabby Appleton
in his place and proclaim honors upon his lazy and perpetually hungry dog,
Manfred, who hadn't a clue about what had happened
as he curled up and went back to sleep.
Captain Kangaroo aired for many years so my own children learned from these same
characters on Captain Kangaroo with new additions to the show such as
Bill Cosby and “Picture Pages” and Slim Goodbody
who taught children about health and nutrition.

We were not only entertained but also educated by Captain Kangaroo.
It was great to have the interaction with real people who were
good role models for us on television.

We learned a lot from the Captain and his friends. We learned to appreciate music
as we danced with Dancing Bear; a good work ethic and stewardship of property
and the care of animals from Mr. Green Jeans, (who looked suspiciously a lot
like Bainter, the Painter); Poetry from Grandfather Clock; and we learned
not to be like greedy Bunny Rabbit who wanted all the carrots!

Perhaps one of the best lessons we learned was how to laugh through
the “knock, knock” jokes and the descending Ping-Pong balls because no matter
how hard the Captain tried, he would end up getting caught by the falling
Ping-Pong balls.  Yes, life is like that sometimes.  No matter how hard we try,
“Into this life a little rain (or Ping-Pong balls) must fall.”

Captain Kangaroo taught us about the importance of reading and learning but
perhaps more importantly he taught us courtesy and respect for others by
teaching us to say the magic words, "Please" and "Thank you."
He also taught us respect for our parents when he would say at the
end of the show, "It's another Be Good to Mother Day."

On January 23, 2004, at age 76, Captain Kangaroo (Bob Keeshan) passed away.
Within a year's time we have lost both Bob Keeshan and
Fred Rogers of Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood.

Now the Treasure House is empty and the neighborhood
will never be quite the same.

By Pamela R. Blaine,
© January 2004