Pinky Pie

It’s Howdy Doody Time, comfort TV & Me

Posted on: January 12, 2010

Howdy Doody campaign button

How could I not develop a heavy TV habit when I had a daily diet of Howdy Doody in the 1950s and 1960s?

Andy and I sat in front of that television watching the test pattern until the show signed on as the first program of the day. Howdy Doody was the first show to target advertising to kids, a reason Andy and I were devotees of our peanut butter sandwiches with Welch grape jelly on Wonder bread – two of the sponsors.  Yum.

Oh, how we wished we could have been in the Peanut Gallery  just once. Buffalo Bob began the show each day with a question to the 40 chosen little peanuts: “Hey Kids, what time is it?” We’d yell as loud as any kid in New York that it was “It’s Howdy Doody time!”

And it was Howdy Doody time for an astounding 2,543 episodes between December 1947 and September 1960. I turned in sometime in the mid to late 1950s.

My early interest in politics may have come from Howdy Doody, who ran for president in 1948 for the first time. The show offered campaign buttons in 1948 for Howdy as “President of all the Kids.”

Somebody at NBC produced 10,000 – there were 250,000 requests, an indication of how politically motivated children can be. Or, an indication of how little kids television there was or that kids really liked the show.

I was not born for the first campaign or in time for the second in 1952, but he ran again in 1956 and naturally won. Here’s the campaign song from http://www.tvparty.com/50howdy2.html:

Howdy Doody, for president,

He’s America’s choice.

Howdy Doody for president,

the favorite of all the girls and boys.

Howdy Doody for president,

He’s the fellow for me.

Howdy Doody for president,

Let’s sweep him on to victory.

He also penned another campaign song as well, which Buffalo Bob sang and the peanut gallery shouted their answer:

BUFFALO BOB: I’m for Howdy Doody, are you?

PEANUT GALLERY: Yes, I am!

BUFFALO BOB: I’m for Howdy Doody, so let’s all give him a hand.

I’m for Howdy Doody, are you?

PEANUT GALLERY: Yes, I am!

BUFFALO BOB: I’m for Howdy Doody, the finest boy in the land.

You can look all night,

look all day,

look from Maine to Californ-eye-ay,

ask each boy and girl you see,

you will find they all agree that they’re for Howdy Doody.

Are you?

PEANUT GALLERY: Yes, I am!

Howdy & Matt

By the way, Eileen, my friend and personal historian buddy, suggested working in Howdy Doody into this blog. Little did she know that I once owned a book about the making of the program and some of the controversy. She also didn’t know that my son, Matt, once owned a Howdy Doody figure that he found in a catalog. He was nuts about Howdy without seeing the show.

When I started college at Michigan State University, I had many majors before settling on communications and later journalism at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. I loved learning about the impact of the media on society at Michigan State and what we were saying with our body language. Of course, my father wondered how I would make a living with such studies. That’s why I switched to journalism – the practical application of communications theory.

Dad also questioned my career choice when I announced I was going to drop out of school to sell waterbeds. I had just started dating this guy who was selling them while going to school. I bought a waterbed from this guy for $60, emptied out my dorm room and set it up without any blankets, sheets or a heater.

He told me what a great opportunity it would be for me to sell them as well. My dad did not agree when I flew home to St. Louis to discuss this business idea.

You can imagine how comfy that was in Michigan to sleep directly on an unheated waterbed.  We  humans like our comfort, a reason that I decided to get rid of that waterbed. And when I tried to empty it in the dorm, the valve tore. You can imagine how grateful I am that people down the hall came to help me empty it bucket by bucket.

Back to television, there is something about old shows that just feel good, a reason there are so many marathons of old favorites on TV – the annual or semi annual replaying of old Twilight Zones is a favorite now that I’m much braver. I love watching Leave It to Beaver reruns, as well as Dick Van Dyke show and I Love Lucy.

DVD collections of TV programs sell  well because they bring us back to something earlier in our lives. The beloved oldies of television  – just like the beloved oldies in music – are often based on when we grew up.  Either way, many of us seek out comfort television and music just like we love our comfort food. And old television has been comforting for me during chemotherapy.

I remember the first time I saw the title, “professor of television,” under a  talking head on one of the morning shows. I had no idea that television could be a topic of professoring. There was Robert Thompson 
Professor, Director, of the Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture at Syracuse University.

It makes sense that there should be such professors since television permeates everything we do. It is entertainment, information, news (but only sort-of with the 24-hour news channels), companion and background noise to our lives.

Thompson spoke on Wisconsin Public Radio today about the 20th anniversary of The Simpsons. I was in the car and recognized his voice before his name was given. I guess that means I watch too much television about watching television.

Of course as a writer, I should be above it all. I should never admit that I love television. But the truth is I do enjoy the tube and I still read and write books, often at the same time.

When my childhood friend, Jean, came to visit us in La Crosse in our first house she took one look at the matching swivel rockers aimed toward our television and made some comment like, “At least you’re honest.”

Those chairs were butt ugly; we did not realize how bad they would be until they arrived. Believe me, they were ugly.  They were orange. Really. We bought orange chairs to match a sofa that had brown and orange in it. Had we completely lost our minds?

I’m not sure how Jean’s chairs are arranged in her Manhattan apartment today, but she did go on to a very successful career as head writer for daytime dramas, AKA soap operas.

As for us, we relegated the orange chairs to the basement, dumping them as quickly as we could afford new ones. Brown ones, long since gone as well.

Being the natural interior decorators that we are, we still aim some of our living room furniture right at the TV. I wanted to be honest about that.

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4 Responses to "It’s Howdy Doody Time, comfort TV & Me"

Loved your extensive knowledge of Howdy! I’ll bring my Howdy Doody DVD collection and you bring your book to APH conference and we can trade for awhile!
Take good care of yourself!
Eileen

Hi Sue,

I have been MIA over the holidays, caught up today with your blog. I have a very important question…… What kind of peanut butter did you and Andy use in those peanut butter and jelly sandwiches?

See you soon, the Oscar’s are March 7th!

Chris

Oh, how I loved Howdy Doody. I asked for a Howdy Doody puppet when I was 5 and got Clarabelle instead. I still have him!

There is once a cartoon named Howdy Doody and the Magic Hat. Buffalo Bob Smith hated the cartoon so much, that he burned a copy of it. Fortunately, it does exist in the Library of Congress in Washington, D. C. This cartoon is like the Humor Risk (Groucho Marx) of the Howdy Doody. Groucho himself hated the movie so much, he burned the negatives of the film. People would have asked Buffalo Bob, “the cartoon you destroyed.” Buffalo Bob would have said, “Forget about that one.”

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