Baby Boomer Memories: When Howdy Doody came to town – Berkshire Eagle

Facebook
Twitter
LinkedIn
Pinterest
Pocket
WhatsApp

Clarabell greets children during a visit to Jim’s Department Store on Tyler Street in Pittsfield in August 1952. At right is store owner Irv Shulman, the writer’s father.
Clarabell, the clown from the “The Howdy Doody Show,” holds his famous selzer bottle, which he famously used to spray other characters on the show, during his visit to Pittsfield in 1952.

Clarabell greets children during a visit to Jim’s Department Store on Tyler Street in Pittsfield in August 1952. At right is store owner Irv Shulman, the writer’s father.
Clarabell, the clown from the “The Howdy Doody Show,” holds his famous selzer bottle, which he famously used to spray other characters on the show, during his visit to Pittsfield in 1952.
Many of us can recall meeting a celebrity as a child, a memory we rarely forget. I was about 8 when I was with my folks in Boston and met Rocky Marciano in an elevator. I even got his autograph, but I must confess that at the time, I had no idea who he was. But I knew he must have been a celebrity.
Over the years I’ve had chance encounters with many more celebrities, but none so colorful as one that visited Pittsfield in 1952.
Back in the 1950s an early evening ritual for Pittsfield youngsters was to sit in front of a small screened black and white television for a half hour at 5:30 p.m. weekdays and watch “The Howdy Doody Show” on the only station, WRGB.
A charismatic Buffalo Bob Smith would ask us, “Hey kids, what time is it?” In unison along with a live audience of kids in the Peanut Gallery, we’d shout out, “It’s Howdy Doody Time!” Then we’d all sing, ” It’s Howdy Doody Time” to the theme of “ta-ra-ra boom-de-ray.”
And in no time we’d be transported to the mythical western town of Doodyville, the home of a handful of marionettes and several real adults.
The chief marionette was Howdy Doody an easy going freckle-faced youngster dressed in jeans, western shirt with a bandana and cowboy boots. (Howdy had 48 freckles, one for each US State at the time.)
Each day Buffalo Bob and Howdy would encounter some local Doodyville crisis, often interspersed with antics from the town characters, an inspirational ditty, a movie (like the Three Tons of Fun) or an advertisement for Ovaltine, Tootsie Rolls, Wonder Bread of Poll Parrot Shoes, for example.
Among the marionettes were the town’s curmudgeon mayor, Phineas T. Bluster, the big-eared Dilly Dally, Flub-a-dub composed of eight different animals, the beautiful Princess Summer-fall-winter-spring and Howdy’s sister, Heidi.
One of the more memorable adults was Chief Thunderthud, head of the Ooragnak (kangaroo spelled backward) tribe who gave us the word, cowabunga! But my all-time favorite was the clown in a striped outfit with a box of goodies, horn and a seltzer bottle that he’d use liberally on the other adult characters. He never talked, but honked his horn to communicate. This was Clarabell the clown, and the celebrity I met at age 7.
Jim’s House of Shoes, formerly called Jim’s Department Store and located on Tyler Street, sold Poll Parrot Children’s Shoes in the 1950s. The shoe company was one of key sponsors of the Howdy Doody Show, and as a promotion, the Poll Parrot Co. would have Clarabell visit the vendors of its shoes.
On Aug. 14, 1952, Clarabell came to Jim’s, where a line of children and parents, nearly two blocks long, awaited an opportunity to meet the clown. Clarabell arrived on time and stopped traffic with antics in the street and then came into the store. He proceeded to greet the youngsters and their parents holding their Kodak cameras set to capture this critical developmental moment in their children’s lives.
The crowds were let into the store in groups, and the owners, Irv (Jim) Shulman and Murray Levine, helped the star with the handouts and moved the crowd along.
Each child got a free lollipop and picture of Clarabell. I felt really special as I got to meet Clarabell after the day ended. Wow! I saw him without his costume. He actually could talk and even gave my mom a peck on the cheek before leaving.
What a treat to meet this celebrity. Even more of a surprise was that many years later, I learned that Clarabell was played by Bob Keeshan. Yes, the same man who for nearly 30 years was none other than Captain Kangaroo… cowabunga!
Jim Shulman, a Pittsfield native living in Ohio, is the founder of the Berkshire Carousel and author of “Berkshire Memories: A Baby Boomer Looks Back at Growing Up in Pittsfield.” If you have a memory of a Berkshire baby-boom landmark or event you’d like to share or read about, please write Jim at jesjmskali@aol.com.

Get up-to-the-minute news sent straight to your device.

source

Facebook
Twitter
LinkedIn
Pinterest
Pocket
WhatsApp

Never miss any important news. Subscribe to our newsletter.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.