Pam Webb

a writer's journey as a reader

Clowning Around as a Kid

I feel fortunate to have grown up in the golden age of television. Walter Cronkite fathered us through the news. Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore broke ground for weekly family shows, Carol Burnett entertained us, and Captain Kangaroo and other grown ups clowning around got me giggling.

Here are some of the TV babysitters I remembered. For that’s what they did while Mom did what she had to do around the house.

Captain Kangaroo

It was like having a trusted grandfather telling me delightful stories… image: Wikipedia

The show ran for nearly thirty years, from 1955 to 1984. I don’t remember much except Mr. Greenjeans and something about ping pong balls and a moose.

Soupy Sales

I have since learned Soupy Sales was a bit of a bad boy, always pushing those censor buttons. But, hey, as a kid, did I know this? I remember lots of pies and Fang.

Those were the national shows I remember. I was fortunate enough to have had  several local talented hosts to kept me amused. If you grew up in the Greater Northwest area you might remember:

Wunda Wunda

She was calm and reassuring and she did indeed add a bit of learning to every show.

Stan Boreson

Memories of a guy playing the accordion, a catchy theme song, and a basset hound.

Brakeman Bill

Trains. I mainly remember trains and his sidekick donkey. Oh, here’s a fun fact. Brakeman Bill was invited to my wedding reception. I’m still not sure how and why I would have known him. My mom invited a lot of people. My brother was ecstatic having been a Brakeman Bill Booster when a youngster.

My personal favorite…

JP Patches

I was not just a fan. I was a Patches Pal. image:


Did I say this was my favorite show? I still get girlish gigglish when I think how I stood in line with all the other kiddos to meet my favorite clown. I even have a photo of me with my morning/afternoon icon (yes, I got doses in the morning and afternoon–two hours of fun everyday!) As you can see JP collected buttons. I remember my last visitation as a preteen and standing in line to shyly hand him a button for his coat collection. I felt a little embarrassed since I was a bit older than the other kids there. But a dedicated fan is a dedicated fan.

The show’s format featured Gertrude, a loud obnoxious “woman,” as in the Shakespearean sense, who was JP’s girlfriend (the Gertrude actor actually played a total of about 18 roles). Even though JP lived at the dump he had class. He had great rapport with the TV audience and owned an ICU television set. He would tune in and personally wish that viewer a happy birthday. I remember wishing my birthday would be called out. Never happened *sniff* He also had a villainous counterhero on the show named Boris S. Wart, whose sole goal was to takeover the show. I believe he did once. Boris tried appearing with JP once; however, some overzealous Patches Pals beat him up. Honestly, I was not part of that particular Patches Pack. Other memorable non-human characters: Tikey Turkey, Griswald, Grandpa Tik Tok, Esmerelda. Even if you did not grow up in the Puget Sound (I’ll try not to feel sorry for you) I’ll let you partake in Patches fun by clicking to the best ever website I spent most of my Saturday morning watching bits and clips of my childhood.

So–what great children’s programming did you grow up with?


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11 thoughts on “Clowning Around as a Kid

  1. The only one I recall is Captain Kangaroo and Mr. GreenJeans. I recall their clock, too. And I do believe that Tom Terrific was part of the show. Ah, memories.

  2. JP Patches has a lot of flair. He could wait tables at just about any brass and fern restaurant in the country.

    My childhood television viewing consisted of The Big Three: Sesame Street, The Electric Company and Mr. Rogers. I love all three shows just as much now as I did then.

    I also was a fan of The Magic Garden, a local show that appeared on WPIX 11 and featured two hippie girls that traipsed around a “garden” made mostly out of cardboard. They also had a puppet friend, a pink squirrel named Sherlock. The show was not all that great, but I was in love with Carol, the prettier of the two hippies, so I watched loyally.

    There was also a stop-motion animation TV show, Davey and Goliath, that aired on Sunday mornings at dawn. The show, sponsored by the Methodist Church, was religious in nature and terribly written. I’ve often attributed that show to my becoming a writer. “Hell,” I thought, “If this crap can get on TV, maybe I can get my stories on TV, too!” Then I would turn off the set and reach for Dad’s typewriter.

  3. That clown looks creepy, it was a different world back then to be sure and although I have never come across any of the people you mentioned except Dick Van Dyke, I still felt that familiar sense of nostalgia sweeping over me.

    • I’m not one for the full out clown make up because it does seem creepy, yet as a kid I didn’t think of JP as a clown–he was a part of my daily routine. I wonder if the generation after me feels that way about Big Bird or Oscar. Now that’s weird. Giant yellow canary and a green garbage can critter.

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