Kangaroo Love: The Captain's Child Advocacy

Bob Keeshan as Captain Kangaroo and Bunny Rabbit as part of a seat belt campaign.
Bob Keeshan as Captain Kangaroo and Bunny Rabbit as part of a seat belt campaign. | Source

Captain Kangaroo On TV

The Captain, his Treasure House, and his group of friends and visitors gave children a safe, encouraging place to visit for 30 years. Parents learned a lot through watching his shows as well.

The Hero: Sacrificial Love in Death and Life

Valentine: A Roman Christian that was martyred in the Third Century AD during the persecution of Christians by Emperor Claudius II. Saint Valentine's Day remembers him and a second martyred Valentine: Bishop of Terni in Central Italy.

John 15:12-13 (The Message Bible): Love one another the way I loved you. This is the very best way to love. Put your life on the line for your friends.

Martyrs die for people and for a cause in which they believe, often defining their martyrdom as an act of love and justice. Another way to make a sacrifice of love is to dedicate one's life and work to the betterment of humankind and the earth or the sake of faith. Many individuals have sacrificed love and life in both ways.

Bob Keeshan dedicated his life to the proposition that all children be raised with love. Not only was he Captain Kangaroo (1955 - 1984) beginning in the early television era, but also a renown author and lecturer that worked for children and families until he could no longer work. However, he made it into the 21st Century and lived until 2004. He accomplished so much for humankind, that the US Air Force nicknamed a dress uniform's pockets after him.

Left to right: my old friends Dancing Bear, Bunny Rabbit, the Captain, Grandfather Clock, Mister Moose, and Mister Green Jeans (Lumpy Branum).
Left to right: my old friends Dancing Bear, Bunny Rabbit, the Captain, Grandfather Clock, Mister Moose, and Mister Green Jeans (Lumpy Branum). | Source

Grandfather Captain

Although just 25 when he began work on the concept of Captain Kanagroo as his own creation, Bob Keeshan founded the premise of the show on the richness of relationships he had experienced and seen between grandparents and children.

Grandparents can provide mature care and good stories to children, teaching them the history of their families, their cultures, and their countries. After World War II, American society became more mechanized and families began to fragment, beginning to leave older members alone in nursing homes or even homeless.

In one aspect, Captain Kangaroo, attempted to re-establish a role for grandparents in the lives of children. For those kids that had no grandparents, he became the sea captain grandfather, a little like Captain January in an old Shirley Temple film. Mr. Keeshan used to say that as he aged, he just needed increasingly less makeup than on his first show at the Captain.

Baby Boomers were the primary viewing audience in the early days and the show was done live twice each morning, to accommodate different time zones int he US. That was certainly a lot of work.

USAF Remembrance: 1949 - 1965

USAF Blue Shade 84 Service Dress Coat [1949 - 1965]. The lower pockets and the uniform's shade of blue resulted in the nickname "Captain Kangaroo pockets." US Armed Services members and families certainly know what sacrifice entails.
USAF Blue Shade 84 Service Dress Coat [1949 - 1965]. The lower pockets and the uniform's shade of blue resulted in the nickname "Captain Kangaroo pockets." US Armed Services members and families certainly know what sacrifice entails.

By the 1990s, many Boomers had become grandparents and moreover, many had gained custody of their grandchildren for any of a number of reasons. Boomers' children had fallen prey to death in war, crime, and drugs as well as via natural causes; were imprisoned, were missing - all types of reasons.

Government and Public health sponsored programs called Grandparents Raising Grandchildren were instituted to help, while grandparents were invited into our nation's classrooms as volunteers. The Captain had likely helped as a role model for some of these Boomers during their childhoods.

For abused children, Captain Kangaroo was the only spot in the day besides school time in which these kids could receive a kind word.

The Captain's theme song was railroading Puffin" Billy by Edward White, also a children's standard on the BBC Children's Favourites Radio Programme.

Puffin' Billy by Edward White - The Captain's Theme

Parents are the ultimate role models for children. Every word, movement and action has an effect.

— Bob Keeshan

Mr. Bunny Rabbit, Film Director

All For the Children

Bob Keeshan always worked with children. He was a bottom-rung assistant to Buffalo Bob on the Howdy Doody Show (originally Puppet Playhouse), entertaining the Peanut Gallery and keeping them orderly.

As the original Clarabelle on the Doody Show, he was soon downsized with a number of cast members in NBC shows during Christmastime, 1952. He had become the clown when a network exec told him to create a clown costume so he would not accidentally appear onscreen in street clothes. He did not speak on screen, because he would have to be paid more to do so. The kids were entertained by his irritable, peevish non-speaking clown and laughed their heads off - for which Buffalo Bob fired him twice before the final layoff.

After trying other work, he took part in the show Time for Fun (The Johnny JellyBean Show) as Corny the Clown with a dog sidekick. Within four months, he had a second show - Tinker's Workshop, where he was a toymaker.

The Horse In Striped Pajamas

The Captain became a combination of a toy maker and a grandfather, evidenced by all the toy making projects he conducted for kids on air. The rubber band-shooting zip gun and the sling shot were ones he had to abandon, however, as violence in America resulted in those and pocket knives being banned from school. A Kindergartner might be arrested for the rubber band gun to day.

Captain Kangaroo first aired in the fall of 1955. In 1964, Mr. Keeshan also picked up Meet Mr. Mayor; so he almost always appeared on two shows (rather like Canada's Patrick McKenna). In the Captain-Mayor circumstance, Mr. Keeshan planned to go full-time with the Mayor, who was a lot like the Captain, if his over-controlling partner in the first show's production would not sell out to him. The Captain won the fray and the hearts of children for two additional decades.

Interestingly, educator Bill Cosby appeared on the Captain's show from 1980 - 1984, to assist with reading segments.

Captain Kangaroo liked Pee Wee Herman's Playhouse.

The Captain Visits Flippo the Clown in Columbus OH

Kangaroo Integrity

After the Captain went off the air, Bob Keeshan hosted CBS Storybreak, using stories to offer children enrichment into what he hoped would become lifelong learning before it was a popular phrase.

Throughout his children's programming career, Bob Keeshan was successful in reaching children to create a better life through education and with a sense of humor. Through his actions, he taught their families to insist upon fair wages for fair work and this remains vital today.

He also was able to stand up to over demanding advertisers that might have compromised his service to children. He soon refused ads he felt inappropriate and his cast members stopped delivering commercials, even fun ones like Silly Putty®. Switching the show to the Public Broadcasting System (PBS) eventually proved more suitable.

Bob Keeshan taught creativity, service, and integrity as well as the importance of an effective education. Reading was a hallmark of every show, from what are now classic children's stories,including No Time for Ducklings, and the Mike Mulligan series. Music was also an important element that included folk songs, children tunes, classics, and even the WWII number Flat Floot Floogie and Hernando's Hideaway.

The Banana Man

Captain Kangaroo (June 27, 1927 - January 23, 2004)

Source
Good Morning, Captain: Fifty Wonderful Years with Bob Keeshan, TV's Captain Kangaroo
Good Morning, Captain: Fifty Wonderful Years with Bob Keeshan, TV's Captain Kangaroo

I read this book at least once every year and still miss Captain Kangaroo.

 

Publications

  • 1989: Growing Up Happy
  • 1996: Good Morning Captain: 50 Wonderful Years with Bob Keeshan, TV's Captain Kangaroo.
  • The "Itty Bitty Kitty" children's book series.

After his television career, Bob Keeshan became an active children's advocate on a speaker's circuit and spoke about children in a number of media outlets. He was inducted into the International Clown Hall of Fame in 1990.

Quotes from Captain Kangaroo

  • One of the big secrets of finding time is not to watch television.
  • Parents are the ultimate role models for children. Every word, movement and action has an effect.
  • From A. Robins, the original Banana Man: There is a reason for everything that I do. I don't just pull out the broom. No. First, I slip on a banana peel. I get very mad. Then I pull out the broom and sweep it up, so. There must be some sense in clowning. It must be crazy, but there must be some sense in it, just the same.
  • From Mr. Moose :Restaur-ant, restaur-ant -- But no place to rest your dear old uncle!

Kangaroo Slideshow Tribute with Theme Song

© 2009 Patty Inglish

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Comments 15 comments

Georgiakevin profile image

Georgiakevin 7 years ago from Central Georgia

Captain Kangaroo was my favorite show when i was 4-6. I remember him fondly. Thank you for renewing a glimpse at fond memories!


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 7 years ago from North America Author

I found a lot of things that I had forgotten on the surface, when I wrote this. Glad you enjoy it.


G-Ma Johnson profile image

G-Ma Johnson 7 years ago from NW in the land of the Free

Yes this was a great re-cap ..My kids loved this show as well as I did...and I also liked the reference to  'Saint Valentine'  ...as we seem to forget these days are for a reason other then cards and candy and gifts...Thank you very much...G-Ma :o) Hugs & Peace


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 7 years ago from North America Author

Thanks G-Ma! Always good of you to visit. :)


MrMarmalade profile image

MrMarmalade 7 years ago from Sydney

I have never heard of this Magic name. I will like him from now on.

For a short moment when I saw Kangaroo, I thought you had sneaked down to Down Under for a little visit. Alas that was not my luck.

Thank you frank


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 7 years ago from North America Author

Welcome MrMarlade - Happy New Year! When I DO sneak down to Australia, I will be sure to let you know. It would be wonderful to meet fantastic people there as well as to see the land and cities.


Susan 7 years ago

Wonderful post. I too loved Captain Kangaroo- you could feel his love through the television screen. I found comfort in him. Starnge, but true.


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 7 years ago from North America Author

I know what you mean, Susan. One Monday at work first thing, the radio played his theme song and I had a relaxed, productive, overall great week.


Correen 7 years ago

This was a great trip down memory lane. What I liked most about Captain Kangaroo was his soft voice, calmed the storms in my life as a child.


Sandy 7 years ago

Great tribute to Bob Keeshan. I enjoyed watching hiim growing up.


Heartaday profile image

Heartaday 7 years ago

Captain Kangaroo was my morning babysitter when I was a toddler. Don't know what I would have done without him. The only downside is I grew up thinking the world would be like that. I'm still not over the disappointment that it's not. :)


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 7 years ago from North America Author

Correen - I often felt much the same.

Hi Sandy! - Thanks for visiting here. Glad you liked it.

Heartaday - I feel a little like that myself. But we do the best with can with it, don't we?


Ben Zoltak profile image

Ben Zoltak 6 years ago from Lake Mills, Jefferson County, Wisconsin USA

Lots of great memories for me and the Captain, I remember his kind voice well. I especially enjoyed your observation on how Bob Keeshan was trying to recast Grandparents roles in a newly industrialized society and his success in that area. Very heartwarming article, thanks Patty.

Ben


favored profile image

favored 24 months ago from USA

I don't remember all these characters and really didn't know much about him until I was an adult. He knew how to relate people, not just kids. A good program with values.


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 24 months ago from North America Author

I agree with everything said - and I still miss the show and the Captain.

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    Patty Inglish (Patty Inglish, MS)6,755 Followers
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    Over 25 years successful experience in Medicine; Health- and I/O Psychology; STEM, STEAM and other education, research, and sports training.



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