“What time is it kids?”

“It’s Howdy Doody Time!”

“Howdy Doody” was the first TV show I ever remember watching as a very young kid.

Where do I begin? It’s incredible at times to think of how much I recall about a TV series of so long ago. It is even more unbelievable when I consider that when I viewed much of this I was about 5 years old.

It was an important part of the afternoon routine at the (can’t remember their last name) household of 1950 when they got their first TV set. The family lived caddy-corner to the Stark house on the south side of Wichita, between 1950 and 1954. I do remember, however, that the family was part Indian from the Pawnee Tribe in Kansas.

Since my dad and stepmom were not into TV, they never bought one, or wanted us kids watching TV programs, no matter how kid-oriented they were. And so I would, on occasion, sneak across the street to watch TV with the family, whom I had become friends with, and who’s TV was in a family room at the back of their house.

“Howdy Doody” was one of us kids’ favorite shows. The characters were funny, especially Howdy’s sister, Heidi Doody. Besides his sister, he also had many friends, such as Chief Thunderthud, the leader of the Ooragnak Indian Tribe (Kangaroo spelled backward) that Howdy befriended after teaching him about humanity.

I also remember that the show did a lot to promote Native Americans. And I do remember, because a recent program on Iowa Public Television, helped me. Occasionally, the characters on the show were white men dressed up as Native Americans, and were never portrayed negatively. I also believe that my exposure to that type of entertainment early in my life helped me to become close friends with a Chautauqua Indian who had become a teacher at the same boys school I taught at in the Coachella Valley near Palm Springs back in the mid ‘80s.

The show was a great teacher, in that it taught lessons about human nature, and the different kinds of people kids would encounter, as they grew older. The interaction between the cast and the puppets made the show an even greater learning lesson. I also remember watching the show on some Saturday mornings from 10 to 11 a.m. if a family member was sick and my parents were unable to take us to church. Of course I had to sneak across the street to do so.

I believe that kids need more of this type of programming today and less of the pseudo violence and political programming that is labeled as “kids TV.”

The show is not something I would enjoy today as a 77-year-old man, but it was interesting to see the principal characters again a short time ago in the IPTV show titled, “The History of Kid’s Shows.” And in watching that show, I can’t believe how the commercials they did, like Halo Shampoo and Three Musketeers candy bar, were worked into an audience-participating in them type of commercial. Instead of cutting away to a commercial, they included the products as part of the show.

Other “live” people included a star of the show, Clarabell the Clown, who I remembered a lot when seeing the IPTV show. She always made silly honking sounds, instead of speaking.

So, obviously I have some very fond memories of the “Howdy Doody Show,” which introduced me to television entertainment and later made me want to watch some of the kid shows my daughters watched as they were growing up.

The show that reviewed the early kid shows made it clear that TV was in the process of being born in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s, and was the first experiment in kid’s TV programming — the very first attempt to do a show that would entertain kids. The MC said that when the show hired Bob Keeshan — who later played Captain Kangaroo — to play Clarabella the clown, he was paid a whole $5 a week.

One of the MC’s ending comments was, “The ‘Howdy Doody Show’ was one of the most watched children’s shows of all time.” And I believe it was, because I did my best to find excuses to sneak across the street to my friend’s house and watch the show.

— Contact Allen Stark at amsstark@msn.com.

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